If you’re taking a short business class flight to, from or within Germany, there’s a good chance you’ll be flying with Lufthansa, which offers an extensive network across Europe as a member of Star Alliance.
Australian Business Traveller took one of Lufthansa’s newest short-haul aircraft – the Airbus A320neo – for a spin from Frankfurt to Rome to put one of the airline’s latest European business class service to the test: but as with most business class cabins in Europe, the experience is best-described as "business class in an economy seat".
The concept isn't unique to Lufthansa: other major airlines like British Airways and Air France take a similar approach, which certainly makes you appreciate the roomier seats we're accustomed to on Australian domestic flights: but when in Rome (quite literally), here's what the journey entails.
- Frequent flyer program: Miles & More, but being a Star Alliance airline, passengers booked on eligible fares can earn miles in any other Star Alliance scheme as well, such as with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, United MileagePlus and others.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x8kg bags up to 118cm each (126cm for foldable garment bags).
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg.
- Priority airport services: Lufthansa operates a dedicated business class check-in area at Frankfurt Airport, where I had my boarding pass in-hand in no time, followed by access to the priority Gold Track lane at security screening, priority boarding and baggage delivery. However, given this flight both departed from and arrived at a remote stand, being the first on and off the plane was moot, because you wind up on the same bus as everybody else to and from the terminal.
Lufthansa operates a staggering 14 lounges at Frankfurt Airport, although being a ‘Schengen’ flight – that is, a journey between two countries participating in the Schengen Area – you’ll need to choose from the lounges in Terminal 1 Concourse A.
A business class boarding pass gets you into the main Lufthansa Business Lounge just beyond duty-free, where you’ll find the usual amenities…
… along with a separate Lufthansa Business Lounge near gate A26, which is better-located for travellers departing from gates A26-42, and features sweeping airfield views:
Star Alliance Gold cardholders, and passengers connecting from Star Alliance first class flights, also have the option of the Lufthansa Senator Lounge back near duty-free, which is a little bigger and has a wider food and beverage selection at the buffet – although no tended bar or barista coffee…
… and if you’re connecting onward from a Lufthansa or Swiss first class flight or hold top-tier HON Circle status in the Miles & More scheme, there’s a Lufthansa first class lounge in this terminal as well:
In Europe, the standard experience is to take an economy seat, guarantee a vacant seat next to each passenger, and sell that as business class: and Lufthansa’s new Airbus A320neos are no exception.
Accordingly, the cabin is arranged in a 3-3 (ABC-DEF) layout with the middle seats left vacant, so passenger-wise, it’s really 2-2 (AxC-DxF):
European airlines do this to give them the flexibility to grow or shrink the business class cabin on each individual flight as demand dictates: so if there are more business class passengers than normal and economy isn’t full, the curtain can be moved back to add an extra row or two of business class seats.
It’s no surprise that each seat provides a tray table, either folding out from within the armrest in row one…
… or tilting down from the seatback in front of you in the other rows…
… although unlike British Airways’ short-haul business class (Club Europe) cabins, Lufthansa doesn’t affix a cocktail table to that vacant middle seat: it’s just a spare seat, although if you want to conserve the available room in front of you, you can always deploy the centre seat’s tray table:
Each seat comes 'pre-reclined' at a 20-degree angle, nudging back a further six degrees as desired, although I found it comfortable enough to leave the seat in its standard position for the duration of the flight.
That said, taller travellers may prefer to sit in rows 2 and beyond to stretch their legs out underneath the seat in front...
... because with the bulkhead in front of row one, there's not as much space to do the same here: but again, despite being 6ft tall, I didn’t find the front row uncomfortable on this short intra-Europe hop.
If you must sit in the front row and desire extra space, aim for an aisle seat, which can provide a little more legroom:
Storage-wise, there’s a seatback pocket in front of you: and again, if you need more space, you can utilise the one from the vacant middle seat.
Unfortunately, there are no AC or USB power outlets to recharge your gadgets, and it's a similar situation on many of Lufthansa's other short-haul aircraft types too.
With a near-midday departure, lunch is served promptly: as soon at the seatbelt light is switched off, meal trays appear from the galley.
There’s no printed menu, although on this flight the meal was a fresh octopus and pesto salad with melon and prosciutto, with a selection of bread, a coffee cake topped with cream and jam, and chocolate biscuits:
There’s a full bar service as well – I selected the white wine, with a glass of water:
Entertainment & Service
With no in flight entertainment beyond the Lufthansa magazine, you’ll want to keep your tablet/smartphone and headphones handy, or some other reading material to help pass the time.
Being a flight between Germany and Italy, cabin announcements are made in German, Italian and also English – so fear not if you don’t speak the local lingo.
If you do want to practice some German though, all you really need to know is guten Tag (good day), danke schön (thank you), Ich möchte (I would like...), ja/nein danke (yes/no thank you) and Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye).
All in all, a quick journey across Europe with a meal, no fights over the armrest thanks to the guaranteed ‘shadow’ seat, an array of pre-flight lounge options and ample room to work on board, even if we are accustomed to bigger seats back home.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Rome as a guest of Star Alliance and Lufthansa.