by Vinay Bhaskara
Earlier this year, I took a trip to Switzerland on Lufthansa. The first part of this trip report was published during my time at FlyerTalk’s The Gate blog, so this part covers the return trip (a review of the lounges at both Zurich Kloten and Frankfurt will be published at a later date).
As I mentioned in the first post, we chose Lufthansa for convenience of schedule. The carrier was not the cheapest option, but the other options required super-lengthy layovers in Amsterdam and other European hubs.
After a great time in Switzerland, I got all set for the return leg. We arrived at Zurich Airport a bit late, and as such, I was unable to check out the observation deck (though I did browse some models at the SWISS shop), and I had not properly planned ahead in order to try out the Zurich Airport Tour.
Security was quick and painless, as the Star Alliance hub in Zurich allowed for my family (which was traveling with a Star Alliance gold card) to pass through the expedited security line.
Upon entry to the secure area, I spotted a SWISS business class lounge, and decided to try it out (as we still had about two hours before departure) with my father. The lounge, without giving anything further away, was simply fantastic.
After about 35-40 minutes in the lounge, we headed back out to the gate area. I was delighted to find a wide selection of newspapers for free. This is an amenity that shows a touch of class severely lacking at US airports, though the culture is certainly different in the US
Leg 1: Zurich-Frankfurt
The first leg of my flight was a short one, just 47 minutes long. The route was operated on an Airbus A319, wth no major interior differences from my earlier flight on the 737-300. This was actually my first flight ever on an Airbus A319, as I have previously flown mostly on Continental Airlines in the US (with its fleet of 737s). Seat width was a manageable 18 inches (I’m big but not huge), and pitch (legroom) was a decent 31.5 inches, so I remained relatively comfortable throughout. But the real differentiator was the service.
The short flight was done flawlessly by the professional and classy Lufthansa flight crew. It was interesting to me to note the difference in service quality between short haul flights in Europe and the US. We were given Cadbury eggs upon boarding and offered a glass of water or orange juice. Once the flight reched cruising altitude, the flight attendants managed to give the entire cabin (the flight was about 90% full in economy class) its drink plus an additional snack within 15 minutes.
Lufthansa’s superb service on short haul service was a refreshing contrast to short haul flights in the US. Continental was considered one of the best US carriers in terms of service on domestic flights and Lufthansa absolutely blew them out of the water. The fact that I was flying economy class makes me savor the thought of flying their European business class as well.
Transit in Frankfurt
Right now, transiting in Frankfurt can be painful; you are often required to navigate a maze of different concourses and security checkpoints. But that’s mostly a function of ongoing construction work at and restrictions placed on Lufthansa by Frankfurt Airport. Airport employees were efficient, though their English skills left something to be desired. Obviously, the biggest thing about the transit experience was the business class lounge, but that’ll be covered at a later date.
Leg 2: Frankfurt-Newark
Our return flight to Frankfurt was on an Airbus A340-300. Lufthansa has configured these aircraft with fewer seats than most other airlines. As such, the seat pitch was quite good in the window seat I had scored (32 inches). Seat width was a standard 17.5 inches, but overall my flight was comfortable.
One of my only frustrations with Lufthansa’s onboard service is that the IFE (AVOD) system doesn’t function properly. While there is a decent selection of movies and TV available, the cursor used to select these movies tended to shift on me, causing me to spend 10 minutes or more, just to click on the correct movie. The play-pause functionality lagged, and overall the AVOD system seems a bit poorly designed.
Regardless, the overall flight experience was still good. The cabin crew was good, though not as efficient as those on the short-haul flight (a function of fatigue?). Meal service was interesting, as I got a good helping of Indian food as the vegetarian meal. Lufthansa carries a lot of transit passengers between India and the US, and maintaining a good quality of Indian food is an important draw for these passengers (especially those flying with their older parents).
As a whole, the trip experience on Lufthansa was quite positive. Connections in Frankfurt have some complications, but as the airport completes its new A380 pier and new runways, some of those issues should get hammered out. I definitely want to try Lufthansa again (hopefully in Business Class)