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Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt: how does it compare to BA CityFlyer?

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This is a review of Lufthansa CityLine in Business Class, flying from London City Airport to Frankfurt. CityLine is Lufty’s equivalent of BA CityFlyer, operating smaller aircraft from smaller airports.

As my nearest airport, I try, as much as possible, to fly from London City. Not only does it take about half as long to reach as it does Heathrow but I also find it one of the smoothest, hassle-free airports to use.

In part, this is because they now have two next-generation 3D baggage scanners where you can keep liquids and laptops in bags rather than having to unpack and repack your bag every time you go through security. This will increase to four – 100% – by Easter, which means you’re guaranteed a faster security experience.

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

When Lufthansa invited me to Berlin to see the unveiling of their next-generation Allegris business and first class seats, I asked to fly from London City. (Totally bizarrely, there are NO direct flights between London and Berlin on any Lufthansa Group airline, even Eurowings, so either way I had to connect in Munich or Frankfurt.)

Like British Airways, Lufthansa owns a small subsidiary called Lufthansa CityLine that operates flights with smaller aircraft such as the Embraer E190 to smaller airports such as London City.

As this was my first time on CityLine I thought I’d see how it compares to BA CityFlyer, which obviously dominates the airport.

Lufthansa CityLine – ground experience

I was travelling light and with just a backpack. Armed with my mobile boarding pass, which I downloaded to Apple Wallet from the Lufthansa App, I headed straight upstairs and through security.

Some passengers had already decanted their liquids and laptops only to be told they didn’t need to, so there’s definitely some educating that needs to be done. I imagine will ramp up once all of London City Airport’s scanners have been upgraded.

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell whether your security queue has a next-gen CT scanner, you can normally tell by looking at it. They often look more high-tech and tend to be clad in white plastic versus the older boxy stainless steel scanners. They’re also noticeably larger.

Within five minutes I was through and into the gate area, which is currently undergoing some refits as it rejigs the space to create a handful of bigger restaurants and retail options. Another five minutes or so and I was at my gate just as boarding started, and all within arriving at the airport just 30 minutes before my departure.

Of course, one trade-off is that there are no jet bridges at London City and you have to board via the open-air stairs. This isn’t always the most pleasant experience, depending on the weather.

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

Business class on Lufthansa CityLine

Lufthansa CityLine operates the Embraer E190 to London City Airport. This is about as big as it gets at the airport, with 100 seats – only the A220-100 is bigger, with 125 seats. SWISS flies these if you want to try one out.

Seats are in a 2-2 configuration, so even if you’re in economy you’ll get a guaranteed window or aisle seat. In business class, Lufthansa Cityline blocks the neighbouring seat so it is effectively 1-1. This is better than BA CityFlyer, where both EuroTraveller (economy) and Club Europe (business) are in a 2-2 configuration.

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

Next to each seat is an interesting metal side table:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

I’m not sure what the point of this is, apart from to block the space, as the top surface is not level, so you can’t exactly use it for drinks or food!

Legroom is great:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

…. and you also get large, square windows:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

After boarding the cabin crew came round and handed out small bottles of water, which I appreciated. After a quick safety demonstration and taxi a couple of metres down to the runway we were off, with a typically steep ascent out of London City Airport.

Service onboard Lufthansa CityFlyer

Average flight time between London City and Frankfurt is just a hair over an hour, so it’s not a long flight. The crew were up as soon as the seatbelt signs were off and delivering the meal service.

As is standard for Lufthansa’s shortest routes, this is a cold meal and there’s neither a menu or a choice. If you have any dietary requirements you need to order these in advance.

Of the four flights I took with Lufthansa over two days, three of the meals were fish based (one fish, two prawn) whilst the other featured pastrami. On this flight I had a cold prawn salad which reminded my of the Skagen toast I had in Stockholm:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

It was fine for what it was, although the meal offering is clearly a lot weaker than on BA CityFlyer where you can at least expect choice of hot meals.

It also came with a bread roll brought out by the crew as well as a small cheesecake for dessert.

To accompany the meal I enjoyed some German sparkling wine. There is no champagne on board. The crew were very attentive at proactively topping me up – I didn’t have to ask for a refill once and even declined them once or twice!

After the meal, the crew also came round offering the classic Lufthansa chocolate:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

As well as an apple in a mini paper basket, which was delicious:

Review: Lufthansa CityLine from London City to Frankfurt

Before I knew it, we were landing in Frankfurt.


Like BA CityFlyer, I find Lufthansa CityLine an upgrade over the mainline fleet simply because of the lack of middle seats and the size of the aircraft, although you do have to contend with smaller overhead bins and the lack of jetbridges.

Whilst the seating experience is superior to BA CityFlyer thanks to the “Ihr Freiraum” empty seat, the food and drink offering is weaker with only a cold plate on offer.

The crew were very attentive and overall it was a good experience. My only complaint is that Lufthansa only operates these flights to Frankfurt, and doesn’t have any direct flights at all between London and Berlin!

Comments (102)

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  • IslandDweller says:

    Being an utter pedant here…. The E190 model can seat more than 100. LOT fly them to LCY, configured with 106 seats. Many airlines (BA Cityflyer included) deliberately choose to limit the seating to 98, with two reasons. 1 – In BA case, there is (or was) an union scope clause that Cityflyer could only operate planes of less than 100 seats and ,2 – being less than 100 seats mean it can be legally operated with only two cabin crew. I assume LOT must run with 3 cabin crew, which must affect the economics, only able to sell a few more seats but always one extra crew to pay.
    I agree with Rees though, the 98 seat configuration is great for us taller folk, as it means using an E190 out of LCY guarantees better legroom (even in the cheap seats at the back) compared to A320 series or 737 services

    • Richie says:

      Being a pedant… isn’t spelt as Rees.

      • His Holyness says:

        Because crew are cheap in Poland and LO don’t just use them on LCY. Plus, LO have dedicated crew service for C.

        • newbie says:

          Interestingly, LOT only flies them from Vilnius (Lithuania) to LCY. Shame the WAW-LCY route hasn’t come back after the pandemic.

      • IslandDweller says:

        Being a pedant… isn’t spelt as Rees.
        My bad. Huge apologies to Rhys

  • Bernard Lavelle says:

    Re Berlin, I got both LH and BA operating on this route during my time in charge of route development at LCY. The challenge is that Berlin has always been a low yield city (historic reasons) and so it was always hard to make it work from LCY as both airlines needed really high load factors to break even. The yield issue has also been exacerbated further by the LCCs which has driven the yield down further. It’s a shame as Berlin is such a wonderful city. I was lucky enough to fly into Tempelhof on a couple of occasions. That was a true city to city operation.

    • RussellH says:

      My only visit to Tempelhof included fake knights in armour jousting inside the former terminal. Travel to Berlin was MAN-MUC-Tegel. I was lucky enough to get a declassified club seat on a wide body plane into Tegel.

    • Bervios says:

      I remember back in 2006 I flew eurowings from LCY to Templehof in a BAE146 IIRC. It was my first trip there and I was hooked, although it’s changing slowly but surely. Over the years LH has chopped and changed its service, They did have a base at TXL at one point and offered direct TXL-LHR services , I think BMI then took it over with a BMI liveried aircraft and Lufthansa seating. Eurowings cut their service from LHR a couple of years ago so now BA has the LHR and LCY market to itself.

    • Craig V says:

      Tempelhof was lovely. I was there for the PanAm A310 entry into service.

  • cin2 says:

    “This will increase to four – 100% – by Easter, which means you’re guaranteed a faster security experience.”

    This has to be one of the oddest sentences ever written in fhd English language.

    • cin2 says:

      the* (obviously).

      • jim says:

        I understood what Rhys meant. Four scanners is 100% of all four scanners. However, I do take issue with the bit about being ‘guaranteed a faster security experience’. The number of false positives coming out of these machines across the board is high. It is one of the reasons why some airports did not roll them out earlier after testing, because it means more manual bag searches needing to be done. And at a very badly designed security search area, such as Edinburgh, it will make matters much worse

        • Rhys says:

          Never had a false positive, and I probably have more experience with these than most…!

          • The Original David says:

            Have you done them in the US, Australia or New Zealand? The screen operator always seems to take much longer examining each bag than with a normal scanner, so the whole security process gets backed up with the queue of trays. I would have had time to unpack and repack my laptop and liquids 2 or 3 times while I was waiting, so the fancy new scanners were no help overall…

          • Bervios says:

            If HEL has them just now , I also had to wait and have my bag manually checked. That’s the first time in years that that’s happened.

      • Jim says:

        I understood what Rhys meant. Four scanners is 100% of all four scanners. However, I do take issue with the bit about being ‘guaranteed a faster security experience’. The number of false positives coming out of these machines across the board is high. It is one of the reasons why some airports did not roll them out earlier after testing, because it means more manual bag searches needing to be done. And at a very badly designed security search area, such as Edinburgh, it will make matters much worse

        • JDB says:

          In addition to the increased number of false positives, the in service experience of these new machines is that have a higher breakdown rate than the traditional machines; not huge but enough to make a difference to the passenger experience.

          • meta says:

            Happened to me at HEL recently. First almost everyone’s bags were selected for manual check, then they decided that the machine is broken and took it out of action. I was lucky that they were just finishing with my manual check.

  • Matthias says:

    Another interesting airline to try from LCY is ITA Airways to Milan, or shall I say German Airways operating the flight on their behalf.

    The onboard experience is pretty standard (though they have bigger seats in Business from memory, I haven’t tried it) but it’s mildly surreal being greeted by a bunch of Germans in semi-casual ‘uniform’ flying from the UK to Italy.

    Every time I book I’m mildly worried that ITA will run out of cash to pay German Airways so my flight will be cancelled, but for now they’re still running.

  • Nick says:

    ‘Totally bizarre’ for a business-focused airline not to serve a business airport (on a non-hub route) where it’s very well known there’s no money or major economy? Only in blog world where authors are completely divorced from the reality of running an airline. Sorry, maybe harsh but true. Even BACF only runs BER as a leisure route, not for business.

    • Rob says:

      Could have sold Berlin ten times over yesterday! I am typing this in Alexanderplatz.

      That’s a very narrow definition of ‘business’ – what you actually mean is ‘banks’. No shortage of businesses in Berlin and it remains ahead of London for start ups. There are arguably a shortage of businesses who are happy to pay £800 for a 60 minute J flight.

      • patrick C says:

        Correct. Itnis really about Berlin not being a financial centre. Thus less “urgent” last minute meetings.
        Brexit probably killed off some gov related travel…

      • RussellH says:

        My German bank is headquartered in Berlin, but it is, primarily, a “low cost” bank primarily focussed on the personal retail market.
        Though they are changing – new customers are being charged, but not legacy customers.
        They do also run a few credit cards, including the German Hilton CC.
        But the likes of Deutsche Bank + Commerzbank do not feature significantly in Berlin, nor, I think, any of the large insurers or large industrial companies.

        • Kurt says:

          Then please tell your bank to clean up its customer service process. They seem unable in spite of 2 applications, numerous calls and emails to process the HH partner card for my wife. But the card itself is great. Beats the former UK Barclays HH card as you get Gold instantly. A major benefit.

        • Kurt says:

          And to add. No banking presence in Berlin to speak of. Apart from Frankfurt it is really only Munich and otherwise very limited. Bit like London Vs Birmingham or Bristol with their backoffice centres.

      • RussellH says:

        I would guess that part of being a successful start-up is not being prepared to pay €850 for a 60 minute J flight.

      • Nick says:

        For ITB? Yes there’s money to be made there, and I do actually think it would have been worth LH’s while freeing up an aircraft, slot and crew especially for that. But on a year-round basis there just isn’t anything like the money in BER that there is in FRA (for example). It’s a huge shame for the city but that’s the economics.

        I do think it’s surprising that Eurowings hasn’t returned from LHR though (they can’t do LCY as they don’t have the right aircraft or trained pilots). That was one of the few bmi routes that made any money and they were surprisingly strong. I wonder if easyJet has eaten their lunch while they’ve been away.

    • RussellH says:

      I assume that BER does have the capability of handling longhaul aircraft?
      I would assume that neither Tegel nor Tempelhof could have done.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        Somehow I don’t think DL will be using an A319 on it’s NYC route, UA on EWR or QR on its DOH!

        And QR and UA operated out of Tiegel.

      • Bervios says:

        No they have capability, Norse and Qatar (even BA this month on selected flights) operate widebody jets onto BER. As did Air Berlin and the US lot at TXL.

      • Alex McWhirter says:

        THF is now closed but TXL used to handle flights to the US East Coast and the Gulf. No issue with BER taking long-haul flights (before the pandemic non-stop flights to Asia were mooted but these would have used Russian airspace).

        • Mark says:

          Indeed. We flew to Abu Dhabi from Tegel back when it was a sweet spot for Air Berlin Avios redemptions, before the switch to peak/off-peak pricing and all partner redemptions being priced as peak.

        • Bagoly says:

          Scoot fly between Berlin and Singapore – that started pre-Covid, and has returned.

      • Bagoly says:

        Long-haul from Tegel was a squeeze – there was only one departure lounge sort of big enough. And it was always ‘bus rather than jetbridge, which was a nuisance when flying Qatar in the winter to the tropics, because one couldn’t put one’s coat in one’s suitcase.

    • Jonathan says:

      Berlin airport(s) is seemingly half forgotten about a number of the large carriers EK doesn’t fly anywhere near there (not within Germany at least) but flies to Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich

      In the mid 1970s my father lived and worked in or around Bremen and used Lufthansa (direct) flights to come home for weekends, they’ll now only fly you direct to their two hubs

      • Bervios says:

        The middle east carriers can only fly so many flights into Germany. If they started BER they would have to give up another German flight or destination.

      • Alex McWhirter says:

        Under the current ASA Emirates can only fly to four cities in Germany. Emirates wants to operate to Berlin but it’s not prepared to give up one of the cities it already serves.

      • marcw says:

        EK and EY can only serve 4 airports in Germany.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      Yet I’ve seen plenty of business folk whenever I’ve flown LCY/BER. Ditto LHR

    • Alex McWhirter says:

      I also find it strange that no German airline links two of Europe’s main capital cities. I can understand why LH mainline only wants to operate international flights from its hubs but one would have thought EW would have returned to the Berlin-London LHR route.

      • J says:

        EW used to fly this route – I guess it was more profitable for LH to use the LHR slot on a more profitable route?

  • cin2 says:

    Plenty of countries where that’s the case…

  • lumma says:

    I’ve used the new security scanner once at LCY and for the first time in around a decade I had to have my bag checked by security. I’d rather take my laptop and liquids out than wait in a queue to have my bagged swabbed

    • Rhys says:

      Some of that will be down to training, and some of it down to random checks. I’ve flown a couple of times from City in the past few months and have never had an issue.

      • lumma says:

        Maybe it’s improved. I think this was August last year

      • pauls1 says:

        Last September and November I flew through LCY and each time almost all the bags were being selected for secondary after going through the new scanner. I suspected at the time it was for training purposes because all they were doing was swabbing inside the bags and comparing some items with what they could see on their screen, presumably to make sure it was working as intended. Glad to hear the situation has improved though.

  • Michael Jennings says:

    >This is about as big as it gets at the airport, with 100 seats –
    >only the A220-100 is bigger, with 125 seats. SWISS flies these
    >if you want to try one out.

    I tried to do that. I booked a weekend in Switzerland last December flying home on a Swiss flight from Zurich to LCY that was supposed to be on an A220-100. A little while after I booked, Swiss cancelled that flight and put me on an “operated by Helvetic Airways” flight instead. (Helvetic use Embraers, while Swiss mainline use the A220). That was slightly disappointing but I went for my weekend anyway. Then the second flight was cancelled on the day due to bad weather, so I got routed to Frankfurt on Lufthansa instead, with a flight back to Heathrow the next morning. So it all went well….

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