After a few short days in lovely, overcast Munich hanging out with the Vice President of the United States, it was time for me to finally start the journey back to Chicago. At this point in my trip I had left Chicago and arrived in Munich through Tokyo, Frankfurt, Berlin, and Budapest. My flight back to the US of A was departing from Berlin though, so I needed to find a good way to get back to Tegel Airport (TXL). Being a oneworld devotee the obvious choice was AirBerlin (AB). I’m not always the most loyal of lovers though, and I was feeling a bit frisky in the aviation department around the time I was solidifying transit options for this leg of the trip. I brewed up a strong cup of hot tea, put on my tightest pants, and sat down at my computer ready to cheat. After a quick perusal of the products on offer I decided that I’ve always had a hard time turning down some quality time with a German, and ended up booking a short direct flight with Lufthansa (LH).
I’d flown on Lufthansa previously for a short hop between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in business class on their older 747 product, so this wouldn’t be my first experience with the carrier. I thought buying a cheap ticket on this leg would allow me to compare the LH product to the AB product I’d just flown a little over a week prior. Both planes were flying on similar short haul intra-German routes. Additionally, I had recently applied for and been approved for an elite status match through Turkish Airlines’ Smiles & Miles program, which mean that I could utilize LH’s business class lounge prior to departing that day.
The day of travel I decided to leave my hotel near Arabella Park in Munich (MUC) and simply take a cab to the airport. MUC is accessible by train from the city but I simply wasn’t in the mood to lug my suitcase around and decided to spring for the luxury of a direct, chauffeured route. Check-in for Lufthansa at MUC was a bit confusing. I’m not 100% sure whether it was simply bad signage/layout or the fact that I was still recovering from my near-death experience with food poisoning, but I ended up meandering around the check-in hall for a good five minutes before I figured out where I needed to go to get my boarding pass. Much like the signage, LH’s economy check-in lines were a bit of a mess. There seemed to be quite a few people heading off on holiday as the line was full of folks sporting giant pieces of luggage and pasty German legs peeking out of short-shorts. When I finally did make it to the front of the line and received my boarding pass, the agent was less than friendly but very efficient. I suppose that type of attitude is necessary when faced with the daunting task of greeting an endless line of Germans headed off on holiday. She was able to add my Turkish Smiles & Miles account to my ticket (I’d neglected to add it to the ticket when I booked) and directed me toward the priority security checkpoint.
Wham, bam, thank you fraulein.
I was the only passenger attempting to use the priority security lines for some odd reason, so I was through in less than a minute. My first, and so far only, quick and painless transit through security at a German airport to date. Prior to this, and since, all my experiences at German security checkpoints have ended with me being directed to the side where I’m subjected to additional screening. When I was a teenage boy praying late at night to be felt up by a variety of German men, I guess I should have been more specific….? Any how.
I had arrived almost two full hours prior to departure, so I decided to give my newly awarded status match a test drive and headed to the closest Lufthansa lounge. I had done some research online ahead of time and saw quite a few options, but at the end of the day I just ended up hopping into the Lufthansa Business Class lounge closest to my departure gate. The two lounge attendants that greeted me at the door looked over my boarding pass with a great deal of suspicion but after a minute decided it passed muster and allowed me to walk into the lounge.
My first impression of the lounge? Dark and gloomy. I can see the aesthetic appeal on some levels. The mood lighting, dark leathers, gloomy wood pieces, accents of chrome here and there …. it’s all very modern and I suppose if that appeals to your sensibilities you’d enjoy it. Not to say that all lounges with a darker color scheme set me off – I’ve been in a quite a few other lounges that have a similar styling but still give me the impression of being welcoming. I just personally was not a fan of this design as it honestly reminded me of some sort of dank doctor’s office. All it needed was a subscription to some children’s magazines and some pamphlets on anemia to complete the transition.
The lounge concentrated the majority of the seating in a large square off of a hallway from the entrance. A buffet of drinks and food lined the far wall while a smaller seating area shot off to the left in the back corner near the buffet, though during the time I was there very few people headed off to the smaller side seating area.
I have to apologize for the quality of the lounge pictures because as soon as one of the staff members saw me snap a photo they stormed over to me and started raising a fuss in very fast, angry German. I don’t speak German but I picked up on the fact that she was not pleased with my photography very quickly. Everything from that point forward in the lounge was snapped in ultra covert mode. ;)
The food spread was decent. I arrived at the lounge at the breakfast/lunch time cusp, so the food offerings seemed a bit odd as they were likely in transition between the two meal times. I ended up getting a few different options to try out.
I ended up with a diet coke with lemon, some odd soup I was never able to identify, the veggie curry, some pasta salad, and a slice of salty meat which I also could not identify but decided was pork (mostly for piece of mind). Not bad for a business class lounge on a domestic flight to be honest! Nothing I ate was outstandingly good, but nothing was poor quality either (other than the mystery soup). When given the choice I wouldn’t have preferred to have bought a meal somewhere in the terminal, which is pretty much my mark for whether a lounge is “acceptable” or not.
At the end of the day the Lufthansa business class lounge was exactly what I expected – a slightly calmer location with solid food and beverage offerings that made waiting for my flight departure much better than hanging out at the departure gate. No better and no worse than the majority of oneworld’s lounges I’ve relaxed in across the globe.
Soon enough it was time to head out to my departure gate to catch my flight back to TXL.
One thing that was immediately a plus over the AB flight I had was that Lufthansa actually used a jet bridge for the boarding process. AB had used a bus to take us to the middle of the airfield. That might be because of the space constraints present at TXL vs. at MUC though. Either way, getting to walk onto the plane with ease instead of trekking across the tarmac made the process a bit easier.
Boarding was quick on this flight as the load was light. I’d estimate about 50% of the cabin was full. I had selected a seat almost at the very back of the plane and I was blessed with no seatmates as well as a sizable section of the plane to myself as a result. Privacy was not an issue today.
The seats were slimline style and upholstered in leather. My overall impression was that it was just another economy class seat – nothing stood out about it as impressive, nor did anything really stand out to me as a huge negative. I suppose that’s the theme of my review so far for just about everything I’ve discussed – average.
The seats were comfortable for a short one hour flight, though I’m not sure I’d want to sit in them for anything longer than 2-3 hours. The cabin was extremely clean and well-kept. It was difficult to guess the relative age of the plane because everything was so immaculate. I wouldn’t expect anything else from a German airline though!
The early morning drizzle that had been present all morning finally seemed to peter out by the time we were fully loaded up and the doors were closing. With relatively little traffic in front of us we were taxiing to a runway and taking off toward TXL in less than 10 minutes.
With a flight time estimated to be just under an hour, the flight attendants leapt into action as soon as the captain had given them the indication it was safe to do so. While they made their way toward the back of the plane, I took the time to take stock of some of the other elements of the cabin and seat.
I did spend some time thumbing through LH’s inflight magazine and found it well put together. I actually ended up reading two articles during the flight based purely on my interest and not out of sheer boredom as is often the case when I travel.
Another thing that was definitely a plus on this flight was that they provided individual air nozzles to help regulate your temperature. While fairly standard on carriers within the United States, having an individual air nozzle can be a hit or miss proposition on a foreign carrier. Thumbs up to Lufthansa on having this available!
Just like my AB flight, the FAs offered me something sweet or something savory. I opted for something sweet and immediately regretted the choice as I was presented with this chocolate candy bar. As I’ve mentioned in passing in other trip reports, I cannot eat chocolate as it makes my hands swell and gives me hives. I thought about asking to switch for the savory option but honestly the flight was more than half finished at that point and I wasn’t even that hungry so I just kept it.
A beverage was also provided and my request for both a glass of water and a cup of hot tea were met with a smile. No issues with only getting one drink per passenger on this flight!
Service was provided by the FAs with a smile throughout my short time on Lufthansa. Unlike AB the LH flight attendants wore traditional uniforms – no dark blue denim jeans like their oneworld counterparts. Not that it mattered as the service on both flights was exactly the same – friendly and efficient.
Before I could even down the remainder of my tea it was time to prep the cabin for landing and the FAs made their way down the aisle collecting garbage and asking people to bring their seats upright. Descent into TXL was immediate without any need to circle and in less than an hour after taking off from MUC we were pulling up to our gate.
The baggage collection process in TXL for Lufthansa was just as much of a train wreck as it was for AB when I arrived the week before. I won’t be sad to see this airport get shuffled off to the annals of history once the Brandenburg facility finally gets up to code and operating.
Overall my experience with Lufthansa on their intra-Germany service was good, though not really any better than what AB had offered to me either. The only notable difference that seriously impacted my ability to enjoy the flight between the two carriers was LH’s use of a jet bridge to make boarding a bit more convenient, though again that is likely a result of TXL’s limitation rather than AB’s refusal to spring for a jet bridge (or not, who knows?). If you removed the color palette on the planes and the jeans on the FAs, I couldn’t really tell you the difference between the two carriers at all. They both offer solid products that are essentially the same. As I move into a period of airline disloyalty (more on that in a future post!), I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fly this route with Lufthansa again. Though I also wouldn’t prefer it.