REVIEW: Lufthansa Business Class Kuala Lumpur - Bangkok
I recently wrote about my experience flying with Egyptair on their Boeing 772 fifth freedom tag flight between Bangkok (BKK) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL). As I mentioned in that post, Southeast Asia is a fantastic location to try out the premium cabins of airlines you otherwise wouldn’t be able to fly. These tag flights are relatively short and often priced at very competitive rates. As a pretty loyal oneworld patron, I rarely have an opportunity to fly on Star Alliance carriers, let alone in a premium cabin. That’s why Lufthansa’s (LH) tag flight between KUL and BKK caught my eye – it was a short 2 hour flight with business class seats being sold for around $220 one way. I was going to be in KUL after spending time viewing the Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia, and quite frankly didn’t want to spend more than a few days sightseeing in KUL, so I was looking for another location to visit. The cheap fare to BKK was exactly the motivation I needed to get out of KUL for awhile. I booked the ticket directly through LH’s website and after I received my confirmation began the slow countdown until my flight departed.
Check-in for my Lufthansa flight was actually pretty annoying, but that’s entirely my own fault. I was flying from Siem Reap to KUL on a separate Malaysia Airlines ticket before continuing on to BKK (a bit of an odd routing, admittedly) with Lufthansa. I was pleasantly surprised in Siem Reap when checking in for my flight that the agent was willing and able to interline my bags between the two carriers, meaning I wouldn’t have to collect my luggage and clear immigration in order to catch my Lufthansa flight.
Since Lufthansa only has one flight a day departing from KUL, staffing for the airline is limited to certain hours. While KUL has a transit desk where different airline reps will issue connecting tickets for you, LH’s rep only showed up approximately 3 hours prior to departure. My flight from REP landed approximately 5 hours before departure, which meant I was stuck wandering the terminal at KUL for about 2 hours with little to do. Admittedly I’d be doing the exact same thing had I not interlined my bag since Lufthansa check-in also would not have been open, only I’d be stuck landside instead of airside. So in the grant scheme of things, it still worked out in my favor. I simply should have done some better planning when it came to timing my flights.
Once check-in opened for LH’s flight at the transit desk, I was quickly issued a boarding pass without any hassle, they confirmed that my interlined bag had been received, and then directed me to the Plaza Premium lounge on the 2nd floor (which is where all lounges at KUL are housed). There’s a Thai Royal Silk lounge at KUL which Lufthansa apparently now uses for its premium passengers instead of the Premium Plaza, but that change had not taken place when I took this flight. Despite not being an official Star Alliance lounge, the Premium Plaza was actually a decent offering and I was pleased with it. I’ll be covering that portion of the trip in a separate report though.
SEAT & IFE
LH’s KUL-BKK route is operated on an older Boeing 744 featuring the German airline’s older business class product.
I was welcomed aboard the plane by an older flight attendant who, in what I consider typical German behavior, greeted me in a rather brusque fashion (but with a smile) and directed me to my seat. I had pre-selected 1A, which on this 744 mean I had one of the four business class seats in the nose of the plane on the ground floor. It doesn’t matter what airline I’m on, I absolutely love being in the nose of a 747. It’s a travel thrill that never seems to fade over time.
The cabin was relatively empty on this sector of the flight, only carrying about 10 passengers from what I could see. The seat next to me remained empty after the cabin doors were closed. This iteration of LH’s business class seat perplexed me a bit. I’ll admit, despite the semi-gaudy look of the bright blue and white, I was rather pleased with the overall aesthetic. My initial reaction is to dislike the color palette, but when you’re in the moment and standing in the cabin, it really doesn’t seem all that bad. Despite never having flown on a Lufthansa flight, I’d seen pictures of these seats quite often so it definitely struck me as distinct and I knew immediately that I was flying on a Lufthansa plane. So I suppose say what you want about the color choices, they’re certainly memorable.
At each seat was a small pillow, though I didn’t see a blanket anywhere nearby. Perhaps these are only hauled out once the plane departs from BKK on its longer journey back to Frankfurt? The seat width was decent, falling somewhere in the middle of the road when I compare it to other business class products I’ve flown. It felt neither spacious nor too narrow. It was just average in that department. The padding on the seat was firm but in a comforting way. Like a firm, supportive German hug.
I reclined the seat to it’s full bed position and found it a bit better than the other lie flat options I’ve experienced to date. It was definitely more comfortable than AirBerlin’s sad offering and the American Airlines business class seat on their 772. Since my flight was only two hours and I spent the majority of it eating dinner, I’ll leave my commentary on the bed mode of the seat at that snapshot look.
Where the Lufthansa product really started to baffle me is when I turned on the in-flight entertainment. The system prompted you to select a language and then jumps into a fairly standard entertainment selection screen. All the programming was on demand, so no concerns about looped content. It was the fact that LH’s offering featured so few actual options that soured my puss. On this flight there literally were only three movies and four television shows. And to clarify, those television shows were individual episodes, NOT four TV shows with entire seasons to view. Four. Television. Episodes. Full stop.
Not only was the amount of programming completely sad, but the quality was extremely poor. The top left corner option in the above picture is an episode of Sex and the City from its very first season. May I remind you that Sex and the City debuted in 1998? The top right hand option is an episode of Glee, which is a bit more recent, but sadly that episode was also 2 years old at the time of the flight. I ended up watching the single available episode of How I Met Your Mother, which is a show I pretty much hate. That should tell you how I felt about LH’s IFE – I watched a show I hated because it was the best option. If I didn’t have a giant tray of food in front of me for the majority of the flight I’d have reached for LH’s in-flight magazine to pursue through. Once dinner was finished I quickly put the IFE away and grabbed my Kindle for the remainder of the flight.
Perhaps Lufthansa offers a limited selection for the short hop between KUL and BKK, but the FA indicated that this was indeed the full offering. Either way, I was a bit shocked at how poor the options were and really think Lufthansa would be better off just pretending the system was broke for the entirety of the flight. Shut off the lights, show’s over folks.
The only good thing about the IFE is that the remote control which was placed in the arm rest of my seat was easy to use and understand. It controls the function of the seat’s recline as well as allow the passenger to make entertainment selections on the IFE without using the touchscreen. There was an internet button on the controller but there was no access to wifi on this flight as far as I could tell.
Going into this flight I’d heard pretty negative things about LH’s catering. Critiques varied from “high-browed and lacking flavor” to “salty goop”. I’m usually pretty easy to please on an airplane though, so I was walking into this flight with an open mind.
While boarding was still being done, the stern yet friendly FA swung by my seat and offered me a choice of pre-departure beverage. The tray featured orange juice, champagne, and water – all in real glasses with the Lufthansa logo. I selected the orange juice and was happy to see that it was chilled and flavorful. It’s likely from concentrate but it still tasted pretty “fresh”.
Shortly after take off the FA returned and passed out menus to the few passengers scattered around the cabin. I cracked open the menu and took a quick look at what was on offer:
Lufthansa offers an abbreviated meal service on this short leg, which is quite understandable. They’ll provide a much larger meal service on the departure out of Bangkok since that’s the lengthier leg of the trip. Still, for a flight that’s just under 2 hours, Lufthansa was offering a solid meal. I selected the curry as my choice, and the FA took my drink order for the flight. I requested a diet coke, and it was presented with a packaged “refreshment towel”.
The use of a packaged towel seemed a bit cheap, but that just might be due to my frequent trips on AA having conditioned me to expect actual hot towels at the start of any meal service. No warmed mixed nuts, packaged or not, were offered by the FA. Due to the short length of the flight, the FA dropped off my entire meal on a single tray and asked that I enjoy the offering.
Due to the light load in business she was back almost immediately to offer me a selection of hot bread from a basket. Being on Lufthansa, I had to select the pretzel roll, and I was quite happy I did. It was likely the best tasting bit of food on my tray that evening.
The prawn and potato salad starter was just a bit too heavy on the mayonnaise for me to enjoy. I’m a chubby guy, and you’d think I’d love a big glop of mayo on most things, but that’s not really the case. I find the product a bit overwhelming and gross, so any salad made with the stuff is usually not something I’m keen to ingest. The lonely little prawn did manage to make it’s way into my stomach though.
I hadn’t been reading the menu very carefully when I ordered and so I was a bit surprised when I started to eat this dish and discovered it was the vegetarian offering. That being said, Lufthansa did a decent job with this curry. The sauce was flavorful and held it’s heat index to a level that anyone could enjoy. The vegetables were a bit overcooked and mushy, and the kale lacked any identifiable flavor. The rice, surprisingly, was cooked well and tasted a bit like chicken. The dish was pretty much what most people would consider standard airplane food – somewhere between “Meh” and “Hmmm”.
The bread pudding dessert with fresh fruits and vanilla sauce followed in its big brother’s foot steps. The fruit was fresh, but the pudding lacked flavor. The vanilla sauce was weak and tasted like one had stewed a vanilla-flavored tic tac in some cream. While the food wasn’t horrendous, I didn’t end up finishing most of it. I remember thinking that I was lucky I would be landing in Bangkok soon as that’s a fantastic city to make up for LH’s culinary shortcomings.
I wish I had more to say on this section but it will be, unfortunately, rather short and to the point. The FAs on this flight ran like a well-oiled German machine. From greeting to deplaning, everything ran smoothly and without any issue. The FA who worked my side of the cabin seemed like a veteran. She was a bit older and appeared to have a routine for the cabin that was very comfortable for her. She provided excellent service and smiled at all the right times, but it all seemed a bit … hollow. I’m fully aware that for many FAs I’m just a cog in the wheel, and I don’t mind knowing that. I just don’t enjoy being allowed to feel that way, particularly when I’m paying cash for the premium cabin experience.
It was a bit funny to me that this is how I ended up feeling after my first flight with Lufthansa. So many frequent flyers level criticism against many of the Asian carriers for essentially hiring models to provide robotic service, and yet as someone who has flown on quite a few of those airlines, I don’t often get that impression. But here I am on my first flight with a titan of the European airline market and I walk away feeling like just another part on the assembly line.
Now realistically I’m willing to chalk much of this up to the relatively short amount of time we were in the air. The flight is blocked for about two hours but at that time of night we seemed to be well ahead of schedule. If the business cabin had been full (or even twice as full as it was that night), I can definitely see the need for some efficiency to make sure all customers were taken care of on that leg. Yet we had so few passengers I can’t really say that seems like a good excuse. Perhaps the FAs are used to a fuller cabin and simply go on auto-pilot. Either way, my first Lufthansa experience left me a bit disappointed from a personnel standpoint.
I started off with high expectations, and that’s typically a way to guarantee you’re disappointed. While the business class cabin and the actual seat were quite nice and stacked up well when compared to other angled lie-flat seats I’ve flown in before, the service provided by the FAs left me feeling less than “wilkommen”. This seat is now considered an older offering as Lufthansa is slowly rolling out an updated seat, yet given the choice I’d likely still fly with Lufthansa with these seats if the price was right.
Catering was largely disappointing – from the overcooked entree to the weakly flavored dessert.
Flight attendants were efficient yet relatively soulless. Rosie from the Jetsons would have given more feeling to the service.
LH’s in-flight entertainment offering on this leg (or perhaps in general) was abysmal and outdated. Giving passengers four television choices, one of which is almost 15 years old, is just pathetic.
The angled lie-flat seat stacked up well when I compared it to similar style business class seats Definitely in the top half of airlines.
The seat had the right mix of comfort and firmness that I’m looking for when in a premium cabin. I didn’t once think about needing to adjust myself due to discomfort on the flight.