This article is part four of the series “Trip diary: Three weeks on the road in Florida”Teaser: New series starts this week Introduction: A three week road trip around Florida, June-July 2013 Hotel review: Park Inn Oslo Airport Flight report: Lufthansa New Business Class Frankfurt to Miami First impressions – a Limey driving in the USA Hotel review: Hilton Miami Downtown First impressions – an Anglo-Nordic family in Miami Hotel review: Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, Orlando Three theme parks in three days – Day 1: Walt Disney World Three theme parks in three days – Day 2: Wet ‘n Wild Three theme parks in three days – Day 3: Universal Orlando Resort Hotel review: St. George Inn, St Augustine Historical Florida – St Augustine Hotel review: Hampton Inn & Suites Amelia Island Fourth of July in the USA Hotel review: Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast Old Florida – Cedar Key Hotel review: The Birchwood, St. Petersburg Dali Museum, St. Petersburg Hotel review: Island Inn, Sanibel Cruising to Cabbage Key Great road trips of the world – Highway 1 Hotel review: Orchid Key Inn, Key West The other Florida – Key West Hotel review: South Beach Z Ocean Hotel, Miami Beach
An early night, a comfortable bed and a quiet hotel room – in theory the groundwork was laid for a good night’s sleep even if we did have to wake up before 5 a.m. In theory…in practice excitement and anticipation kept us from making the most of our layover at the Park Inn Oslo Airport and it was a struggle to get moving in the pre-dawn chill. Luckily we managed and were soon back in the terminal building to check in for the real start of our holiday.
As I mentioned briefly in the introduction to this series Mari Anne’s mum had not flown long-distance before and being able to enjoy the extra space and comfort of Business Class made it easier to convince her to join us. I’m sure we could have twisted her arm to get her to fly in Economy if that was the only option but a special offer from Lufthansa made the difference in price easy to swallow.
The German flag-carrier regularly has good deals on its Business Class fares which are definitely worth looking out for if you are planning a long-haul flight in the future. As I’ve written before, make sure you sign up to the email newsletters of the major airlines so that you hear about these deals first – we got word of the reduced fares to Miami about four months before we planned to fly out. Availability was excellent and I secured return tickets from Oslo to Miami via Frankfurt on the 747-400 (below) for NOK 17,666 each.
Image (c) Lufthansa (Photographer - Ingrid Friel)
By way of comparison, the same flights in Lufthansa Economy were around NOK 12,000 per person. Obviously there are cheaper options too – if you are prepared to fly Aeroflot via Moscow and don’t mind a 33-hour journey time you can probably knock several thousand Kroner off the Lufthansa rate. Less masochistic alternatives are available too but we figured that the price premium was worth paying for some high-quality German efficiency and a manageable length of time spent getting to Florida.
I have to admit that I didn’t really know exactly what to expect from Lufthansa Business Class but in late May I received an alert from Worldmate (an application I use – and highly recommend – to manage my travel plans) with the rather alarming title “Your flight to Miami has been cancelled.” Fortunately I had finished my morning coffee at the time or else I would probably have spat it onto my kitchen wall.
However when I opened the app I found that while this news was indeed true, Lufthansa had in fact just changed the type of plane on the Frankfurt to Miami route and we needed to reserve our seats again as the configuration of the new plane was very different to the former aircraft. It was only at this point that I began to realise how lucky we were – our outbound flight would now be on the very new 747-8 (below) which features the latest version of Lufthansa’s Business Class seating.
The “Dash 8″ is the latest – and possibly the last – version of the classic Boeing 747 and is the longest passenger aircraft in the world, stretching some 5.6 metres further than its predecessor. The plane has space for 362 passengers in a three class configuration.
Image (c) Lufthansa (Photographer - Jens Goerlich)
I’m sure we would have been more than happy with the old product, given that we had only flown Economy before, but this looked like a major upgrade. Okay, I did of course have that frequent flyer splurge in First Class in 2012 but that was a one-off. Apart from that time to Bangkok, which was, er, a couple of weeks before this trip. Anyway I mean we’d only ever flown together in Economy, okay?
Basically this is what the old Lufthansa Business Class looks like:
Image (c) travelvirtuoso.wordpress.com
Comfortable enough, but those ‘ski-slope’ seats are not really in the same league as the new product:
Image (c) Lufthansa
The new Business Class seats raised a few eyebrows when they were first unveiled due to the unusual V-shaped layout. Instead of two seats parallel next to each other these ones converge at the feet end. There is a fixed divider between both footrests so you don’t have to worry about encroaching on your seatmate’s extremities if travelling alone and it works well; you get a lot more privacy by being further from your neighbour at the shoulders too. It doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping right next to a stranger and it’s much easier to step over their feet to reach the aisle if you’ve got that coveted window seat.
Furthermore your monitors face away from each other so you don’t have to be distracted by the other guy watching some godawful romantic comedy.
This video gives you a good idea of the setup:
So all we had to do was hope that the return flight would be on the new aircraft too; apparently we would be informed one way or the other about 10 days before the departure date. In the meantime, we had a plane to catch. The first leg was to Frankfurt and was also in Business Class but the experience in premium cabins on short-haul flights is not such a step up from Economy. It was nice to get a decent enough breakfast and a bigger seat, and I do enjoy being trusted with metal cutlery again but that basically sums up the main differences from the cheap seats.
Oslo to Frankfurt took just over 2 hours and we then had a bit of a trek from one side of the huge airport to the other to reach the gate for the Miami flight. It would actually have been nice to have a little longer in Frankfurt to make the most of the lounge access that is a definite perk of Business Class but we managed only to have a look round and a quick coffee before Flight 462 was called.
When we got to the gate we were able to use the priority boarding lane to skip the far longer queue for Economy passengers. The feeling you get as you separate from the pack and meet the ill-concealed irritation in the eyes of your fellow travellers is quite odd and I’m sure it changes the more often you experience it. I think for newbies like us it’s some weird cocktail consisting of a generous measure of embarrassment, a dash of awkwardness and a thin sliver of righteous entitlement. I also believe that the proportions in this heady cocktail change with the frequency it is enjoyed – and clearly intend to do as much practical research in this field as possible.
After having our tickets scanned we joined the rest of the passengers in the line to the plane, until reaching the point of no return and waving a final goodbye to those on the wrong side of the curtain.
Okay I didn’t really wave to them, that was a metaphor. As was the ‘curtain’ thing there, as it turns out that our seats were on the upper deck which is Business Class only. The main deck has First, Business and Economy Class cabins and while it has the same seats the Business Class section has a 2-2-2 configuration on the main deck and 2-2 on the upper deck. This was the first time I’d ever had the chance to be upstairs on an aircraft so I made sure I reserved seating there and I highly recommend you try to do the same if possible, but the word is out and competition is intense for these places. For a better understanding of the layout of the 747-8 see the seat map here at SeatGuru.com
We were greeted by a couple of charming Frauleins who showed us to our seats which turned out to be arguably the best on the plane – row 83. The window seats here offer full floor space and side cabinets big enough to stash pillows, blankets, wallets, purses or in fact a briefcase and of course no aisle traffic. These can also be used as extra side tables. Even with the amount of hand luggage we were dragging with us there was no problem finding space to stow it; the overhead bins are huge and there are plenty of other options too.
There are two storage spaces beneath the seatback monitors; one containing the inflight magazine and safety information and the other a bottle of water and amenity kit. One of the armrests flips up to reveal the tray table which swivels neatly to one side so that you can leave your laptop or dinner on it when you get up. It also houses the wired remote control and noise-cancelling headphones. There’s space to keep your phone or compact camera here too and you’ll also find a USB plug so you can put your gadget on charge at the same time.
A quick inspection of the Business Class amenity kit found it to contain socks, sleep mask, earplugs, toothbrush & toothpaste, and lip balm. We found the sleep mask to be particularly soft and comfortable and Rebecca still uses it every night…
Having settled into our very comfortable seats we were offered a drink before take-off and a chance to make our choice from the menu. You can’t really go far wrong with champagne, can you?
I’m not a great believer in photographing every meal as I find the time is far better used enjoying the food – but here’s a section of the menu just to give you an idea. The dishes change regularly and the food was excellent; there’s no doubt that this feels a world away from Economy Class.
Given the time of day Business Class is served a three-course dinner with drinks and dessert with a light lunch a couple of hours before landing.
The fact that my favourite beer was included didn’t hurt, either. That would be the last one, not the ‘genuinely alcohol-free’ option second on the list
Take off was on time and very smooth – it soon became clear that the decision to fly in comfort was the right one as my mother-in-law settled in to enjoy the experience.
About 20 minutes into the flight the seatbelt sign was switched off and service began with the distribution of hot towels and collection of our meal orders. It didn’t take long before we were getting used to the rarified atmosphere of Business Class, as you may be able to tell from the quick video clip below.
Yes, I added the music and slow motion effects, but you get the general picture.
As for the service, this was excellent – that much-anticipated German efficiency coupled with a friendly attitude is a wonderful combination. What’s more the plane was spotlessly clean and still had that ‘new plane’ smell. The lavatories were light and fresh with a few extra amenities like mouthwash and hand cream to differentiate them from Economy.
Travellers decide to fly Business Class for different reasons but one of the main ones is the potential to actually get some sleep on a long flight, arriving a lot more refreshed than after having struggled to catch a nap in a cramped seat in Coach. The problem I have is that I can’t resist making the most of the in-flight service which accounts for several hours of journey time when you have all that food and drink to get through. Then you have the entertainment system – you have to give that a try too.
Image (c) Lufthansa
Actually the choice and range of entertainment is about the only area Lufthansa could improve upon – I found the selection of films and TV series a little limited compared to other airlines. You can of course bring your own tablet or computer and with the power sockets in each seat you won’t have to worry about the batteries running out either but it still seems odd that they are behind the competition in this area. It still kept me occupied for a while though…
Anyway you can see how my wife and I differ in this regard from the picture below:
Having said that, I did manage to get a quick nap and the fully-flat beds are certainly inductive to proper sleep at 30,000 feet. If you can resist the fifth round of wine and that film you’ve heard so much about, of course…
A couple of hours out of Miami lunch was served and we all reflected on how quickly the time had passed. As we packed our belongings and prepared for landing a little later it felt like the flight was almost too short, which I guess is the best testimonial Lufthansa could ask for.
On the other hand we did have a 3 week road trip round Florida to look forward to, so we were also keen to disembark…
Flight report – vital statistics Lufthansa Flight 462 Frankfurt (FRA) – Miami (MIA) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 Class flown: Lufthansa New Business Class Departure time: 09:55 Arrival time: 13:50 Duration: 9 hours, 55 minutes Business Class configuration: 32 seats on upper deck in 2-2 layout. 60 seats on lower deck in 2-2-2 layout. On board-internet: No. To be installed in the 747-8 fleet in the future Type of seat: 180 degree fully-flat Seat width: 26″ Lie-flat seat length: 6′ 5″ (2 metres) Monitor size: 15″