Review: Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal – is it still the world’s best lounge?

This is my review of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.

There are some perks to being the boss.  Whilst Anika got the review trip to New York covering Norwegian Premium (which she liked, let’s be clear!), I had been out there the week before in Lufthansa First Class.

And Lufthansa First Class is very, very good.  Forget all the claims from the Middle Eastern ‘big three’.  If you want real First Class quality, you should look to Lufthansa, SWISS and apparently – although I’ve not tried it – Air France.

Any trip in Lufthansa First Class should, if you’re doing it properly, begin in Frankfurt at their dedicated First Class Terminal.

For many people, the First Class Terminal is the pinnacle of airport lounges – mainly because of the exceptionally high level of service and the fact that they will drive you to your plane.  I can’t deny that I have been hugely impressed on previous visits.

However …. is time catching up with it?  The lounge opened in 2005.  I probably first used it a decade ago and I think this was my fifth trip.  That said, the last time I was there was 2013.  It hasn’t had a major refurbishment over those 12 years.

(For those of you who don’t remember the BMI Diamond Club loyalty scheme, it had exceptionally low redemption rates for Lufthansa First Class.  Coupled with 2.5 miles per £1 on the Diamond Club MasterCard, it was a dream period!)

For clarity, my trip was self-funded using Miles & More miles.  A one way ticket from Frankfurt to New York, or anywhere in North America, is 85,000 miles plus £261.

I specifically chose the daily 747-8i service to JFK.  I thought it might be my one and only chance to ever fly a 747-8i (the new stretched version of the 747-4) as a passenger.  Only Lufthansa, Air China and Korean Air have bought it, after all.  I wrote about the history of the failing 747-8i programme here.

Getting to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal

Lufthansa is reportedly not too keen on transfer passengers using the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt. It is meant for people starting their trip in Frankfurt, who can be dropped off literally at the door.  And, given that – on foot – it involves a very un-first class walk through the taxi drivers car park and past their cafe – you can see the point.

There is, after all, a First Class Lounge in the terminal that is very similar.  You don’t get driven to your plane from there though, and where is the fun in that?!

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 1

The First Class Terminal does what it says. It is a fully self contained building just for First Class passengers.

If you fly from London on Lufthansa and your entire trip is on one ticket, you will be picked up  by a car at the steps of your arriving plane if it is on a remote stand.  You will then be driven to the main building, where you can use the First Class Lounge or go airside and walk to the First Class Terminal.

If you fly BA, as I did, you need to make your own way airside and either use the lounge there or walk down to the terminal through the taxi park.

You enter and are greeted by a host, who takes your ticket and passport. You then pass through the usual security scans and enter the lounge. The host has responsibility for getting you onto the plane, so you can take it easy.  They will come and find you when it is time to go.

Inside the First Class Terminal

What you have inside a very classy, very calm, very German luxury experience. You have baths and showers, you have private rooms if you want a nap, you have a few offices, you have a bar as good as any 5-star hotel and you have a restaurant.

I should stress that this really is a discreet environment.  It is the sort of place where you feel obliged to talk in whispers.  If I turned up here with my kids I think they would go into panic!

This first picture is a stock photo, as the lighting in the lounge is poor.  You get a lot of glare through the huge glass windows with little overhead lighting to offset it.  The rest are mine, and they are not the best because of the lighting issues.

It’s also worth noting that, despite the huge windows, one downside of the First Class Terminal is that you can’t see the runway from it, or any planes at all for that matter!  Stick to the First Class Lounge in the main terminal if you want to see planes gliding past.

Lufthansa First Class terminal Frankfurt review

Let’s start with the dining area, which would be top right in the photo above.  The good news is that presentation, as you can see, is excellent.

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 2

However, overall, I wasn’t as impressed as I have been in the past.  The selection is huge – ludicrously huge, when you think that no more than a couple of hundred people a day pass through the lounge, and even fewer will eat lunch.

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 3

Here are just a few of the deserts:

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 4

And you won’t be seeing one of these in the British Airways Concorde Room anytime soon:

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 5

And yet …. it didn’t work for me this time.  I ate around 1pm and the hot items I took from the buffet were not very warm by that point.

I had also failed to understand the menu.  You get a very large menu given to you.  It is large because every item on the buffet is listed – and there are a lot of those.  What is not obviously clear is that, in among all the listed items, are certain ‘cooked to order’ dishes.

They are not broken out separately.  You get a section on ‘local specials’, for instance, and two items will be sitting on the buffet whilst another will be ‘cooked to order’.

When you know what you’re looking for, it is clear (the ‘cooked to order’ dishes will say ‘beef, cherry tomatoes’ whilst beef on the buffet would just be listed as ‘beef’).  However, no-one explained this to me and it was only after I had eaten that another guest was served a plate from the kitchen.

It is a shame, because I used to rate Lufthansa First Class lounge food as the best anywhere, full stop.  I can’t say that any longer.  I hand the title to the Qatar Airways lounge in Heathrow Terminal 4 (review here) which has never failed to impress me.

Off to the bar ….

I decided to get myself a drink and do a bit of work in one of the little offices provided.

You won’t go thirsty here:

Lufthansa First Class Terminal review bar

What you can’t see from the picture, although you can guess from the number of bottles, is that they do have a very wide quality selection of items.  I took a random photo of some of the whisky and there was a 12-year old Tomintoul, a Kilbeggan, Tullamore Dew, a Japanese one called King Car ….. the list goes on.  If you know your drinks then you could pass a very pleasant afternoon here.

Cigar Lounge

I am genuinely surprised that, four years since my last visit, the huge Cigar Lounge is still there.  It takes up a disproportionately large percentage of what is not a very large lounge.

(Germany has a more laid back attitude to smoking than we do – tobacco advertising is not restricted, for example, and it is always quite surprising to see the huge billboard ads wherever you go.)

The only reason to go in is that the cigar lounge has its own bar which is self pour.

The showers

If you don’t know what this is:

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 6

….. you don’t read enough frequent flyer websites.  (This is not necessarily a bad thing!)

A bizarre cult has built up around the Lufthansa First Class Terminal rubber ducks.  Every month, Lufthansa brings out a new one.  They are not available anywhere else except the First Class lounges in Frankfurt and Munich.

I decided to leave them behind ….

I did have a shower, because I’d got up at 4am and needed one.  The facilities are hugely impressive.  There are also baths available if you want one.

The shower rooms are huge.  This is just the ‘circulation’ area, the shower itself is on the other side.  Toiletries are by Etro.

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 7

And that’s about it.

There isn’t much to do here, apart from eat a good meal, do a bit of work in the office cubicles, have a cigar (if you smoke) and take a shower.  There is no spa, no Virgin-style games, no music room, no Virgin-style jacuzzi (no great loss, sharing a mixed jacuzzi in an airport lounge never really worked for me) ….

It is just a quiet and classy way to pass a few hours.  You’ll know by now if this is the sort of place that you’d like to visit or not.

Off I go ….

45 minutes before my flight was due to depart, my host came to find me. We took the lift down and I showed my passport to an immigration official.  I jumped into my Mercedes van and was driven across the tarmac to my 747-8.

To be honest, this was a bit of a letdown for two reasons.  They have Porsche transfers but, because I only ever fly busy routes like New York, I’ve never got one in five visits – I always get a shared van.  The 747-8 had also been parked very, very close to the First Class Terminal so we didn’t drive far at all!

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 8

You can never get bored of walking around the tarmac staring up at something as huge as this though:

Review Lufthansa First Class Terminal 9

We parked next to the plane, we all hopped out and went up a lift to the airbridge.   The driver then accompanied us onto the plane.  You can’t ask for better than that.

747-8 First Class flight review to follow …..

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Comments

  1. Sanjay says:

    So Rob….is the lounge the best, in your opinion? From the review, it appears not (you said the food goes to Qatar in LHR, but food is only one aspect).

    Virgin? Qatar F in Doha? Somewhere else?

    • JamesB says:

      The Best will mean different things to different people, and will vary over time for one individual, depending on what they are looking for. For me, prior to a long flight Thai First Spa was unquestionably the best. Love Lufthansa though, need to find my way to flying them again somehow, I have a 100% complimentary uograde success with them between FRA and BKK/KUL from my *A days, including one of only two double upgrades in my lifetime.

  2. Have they changed the policy? I thought remote arrivals from London saw you chauffeured to the main terminal to make your own way to the relevant FCL?

    Also note that they will drive you from the FCL to the plane, presumably depending where it is located.

    • Erm… did you read the article?

      As Rob says “If you fly from London on Lufthansa and your entire trip is on one ticket, you will be picked up at the steps of your arriving plane if it is on a remote stand. You will then be driven to the First Class Terminal. However, I had flown in on British Airways and had to make my own way via the taxi drivers car park”.

      And then later “I jumped into my Mercedes van and was driven across the tarmac to my 747-8”. There’s even a photo of it!

      • Yes, because when I have done this route on one ticket, I’ve been taken by car from the steps of the plane to the main terminal to use a lounge there.

        Rob states “If you fly from London on Lufthansa and your entire trip is on one ticket, you will be picked up at the steps of your arriving plane if it is on a remote stand. You will then be driven to the First Class Terminal.”

        Suggesting they now drive you to the FCT.

        • If I am totally honest, I cannot accurately remember where they drove us. It was 7-8 years ago.

        • A quick google shows other recent blog posts (late ’16) suggesting that they still drop you in the main terminal, so you then have to exit & walk yourself if you want to get to the FCT.

        • Ta, will amend in that case

  3. Thanks for the review…. does seem a little dated, but would love the experience of being driven up to the plane at some point.
    I rate the food in the SQ private room above qatar T4! Dunno if anyone else agrees…

  4. I get a VIP service every time I fly through Frankfurt airport – any airline, any class. I just pay for it using Frankfurt Airport VIP service.

    And occasionally, you make a statement to your fellow passengers.
    Last June, my BA LCY plane was at a remote stand. The coach-load of passengers were waiting by the plane to board the flight while the crew completed cabin preparations. My large black BMW 7 series pulls up. The car door is opened for me but I do take my two cabin bags from the boot myself. I climb up the stairs, wish my FRA escort to good-bye before heading in, knowing full well that all eyes in that bus were on me. If only there was a video of this!!!

    Then the coach opens its doors and everyone gets out and board walking past me in seat 1C on the way in.

    There is less ceremony when arriving a bridge. You get whisked off in a lift a the start of the bridge and never make it into terminal itself. The lounge facilities (lounges, security, etc) are based on Terminal 1 (LH terminal). The one catch is that you need be in a Superior Suite or better if you want to shower. However, the real down side is “no rubber duck”

    • Back in the BMI days I flew in Dubai with 3 mates in LH F from London using a very modest number of miles!

      We flew from London – this is pre-APD – and our plane parked on the tarmac, not a gate. A van drew up to the plane and the driver hopped out with a placard bearing all our names. The look on the rest of the guys faces as they went down the steps, expecting to be jumping on the bus, was priceless.

  5. Lufty can’t hold a candle to Air France’s La Premiére lounge (unless you must have a cigar) or
    their best First Class cabin in B777-300ER.

    • The Air France La Premiere experience does look like the best (I’ve only tried BA and AF). Why does Lufthansa have a buffet in a lounge that’s not so busy that it’ll just get cold? Even the CCR doesn’t do that!

      The Air France lounge had excellent table service restaurant and although I don’t think the bar was as extensive as pictured there it certainly was a decent selection.

      Just like the LH terminal (and unlike the CCR) you have someone allocated to ensure you’re informed about any flight developments and make sure you’re taken to the aircraft on time, so no need to screen watch or even pay attention to the time.

      The thought of the first class terminal did impress me one time, but after experiencing AF I have to say I can’t think of any way that the Lufthansa experience can beat the Air France one.

  6. Thanks for this review, Rob. Brings back good memories of my business trips to PEK and PVG via FRA a few years ago. I was lucky to get the Porsche each time and one time just for me. I do agree that there is something special being driven out to your aircraft and looking up at these big beasts is so exciting – you can forget when you use an air bridge just how huge these things are. A couple of things I recall are that I was not permitted to open the car windows for security reasons else we had to return to the FCT and start again – no big deal due to good air con in the car but unusual. Another was that the whisky list included The Macallan 18 year old which I rate very highly as a great single malt and which you don’t tend to see available that often. You mention you took a picture and I wondered if it was still available. Looking forward your review of LH F. I have always rated it very highly and I’ll be interested to read your views.

    • The only bottles in the pic were the ones I named, but there were plenty more.

      You still can’t open the windows!

  7. Ronster says:

    Good morning all.

    I do enjoy BA’s F

    However, I often thought how BA’s kudos would increase by making such an investment in bringing it up to an AF F OF LH F level.

    From a seperate First building to even adding Curtain’s to F on their planes. (How simple but very effective this has been for AF).

    Or having a dining experience run by a firm like Claridge’s?

    BA could use the “Best of British” in all the above.

    However that would take money and a different mind set when it comes to long term investment.

    Leaving the mountain of bad jokes aside what are people’s thoughts?

    Thanks

    R

    • Nice idea, bit not gonna happen anytime soon. On last F flights they (still) only loaded one of the blueberry muffins for breakfast, and also only loaded one prawn curry (which on a flight out of SIN is going to be the best dish).

      Qantas lounge in SYD staffed by Sofitel staff, CX lounges in HKIA use Peninsula hotel chefs (maybe waiters too). So there is a standard there if BA want to try and emulate.

      • Peninsula contract with CX was ended over a year ago, all CX lounge catering were taken over by Plaza Premium.

    • It’s easier for the likes of Air France and Lufthansa as they run fewer flights with an F cabin. BA still seem to run the majority of their flights with F and those in F all have access to the Concorde Room. Space at Heathrow for a dedicated terminal is non-existent.

      If BA decided to reduce the number of route with first class, they’d have fewer users of the Concorde Room and could do something more imaginative with the space. Reducing the amount of first class would make it more exclusive and if they raised the quality they could likely get away with charging more. It would be bad news for Avios redemptions though.

  8. “There is, after all, a First Class Lounge in the terminal that is very similar. You don’t get driven to your plane from there though, and where is the fun in that?!”
    There are two First Class Lounges in the airport – plus the FCT. All three are more or less similar, though, the Non-Schengen has some kind of Spa and a Wii Activity Room 🙂

    • That’s true, there are too. I tried the lounge once but it lacked the pizzazz of the FCT.

  9. I think King Car is actually Taiwanese rather than Japanese.

  10. I’m at Frankfurt Hilton airport in a few weeks so is lunch better in the Lounge or in the Hilton would anyone say?

  11. Thank you for the review Rob. The drive to the aircraft in a van – better than first lounge at LCY?

  12. zsalya says:

    Here’s a way to get a couple of extra aspects, even when flying Business: Royal Air Maroc.
    Arriving at CMN from FRA on Saturday I was the only passenger in Business and was met by a van for one.
    He even lifted my handcarry into and out of the van.
    Of course I arrived at the baggage belt long before my bags did.

    When leaving the next day (for GRU) I had been told that there were three of us in Business.
    I reached the gate, and walked through the clear priority lane for passport check.
    Out the other side there was just a ‘bus which Economy passengers were boarding.
    I turned back to a staff member, and asked “Do I get a special van or do I go on that ‘bus?”
    An enquiry, not a demand.
    “Wait here” she said.
    A minute or so later a van arrived for me, and made no attempt to find the other J passengers, although I did have to lift my own bag this time.
    One feature one presumably does not get at FRA: my van overtook the previous ‘bus, by ignoring the borders of the painted road.
    As with Ken, everybody in the long queue watched me walk up, except that many of them were on the stairs to door No.2 – I had my own staircase.

    All the other passengers in the cabin (ten, in the end, presumably some operational upgrades) came in from behind, so it seems that the two other paying ones did not know that one had to ask to get the private transport and private stairs!

  13. Richard says:

    so has time caught up with the lounge as the story mentioned at the start? it’s not clear what they should alter apart from making the cook to order items more obvious in the menu. Isn’t their USP that you don’t have to enter the main terminal AT ALL when taking a first class flight from FRA and that would seem to trump most of the other things like swimming pools and game rooms that the FCT is missing.

    • It simply doesn’t feel very 2017. Pop into any upmarket furniture store and it doesn’t look like the FCT. The Cigar Room should go. I would waiter-service the restaurant (you can tell the staff now what you want but it isn’t strictly waiter service). Offer tablets for guest use. Get a table football table.