Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flying to Europe to Get to Asia Part 4 - the A380!

  1. United First Orange County to San Francisco andUnited International Lounge
  2. United Business San Francisco to Frankfurt
  3. Lufthansa First Class Lounge
  4. Lufthansa First Frankfurt to Tokyo
  5. Tokyo for a Day
  6. ANA Business Tokyo to Frankfurt
  7. Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport
  8. United Flight Frankfurt to San Francisco
  9. United First San Francisco to Orange County
  10. Trip Summary

Lufthansa #710:  Frankfurt (FRA) to Tokyo (NRT)

Lufthansa Airbus 380
Seat:  2K
Cabin:  First
Date:  02/17/12
Scheduled Departure:  1:25pm
Actual Departure:  1:40pm
Scheduled Arrival:  8:35am +1 day
Actual Arrival:  8:40am +1 day

I will say this upfront – I am now spoiled for life and never want to fly economy again.  Was the flight that good?  Yes, by a long shot.  It was a combination of the aircraft itself, the hard product, and a great soft product too. 
First Class Cabin

Upon entering the aircraft I headed to the far aisle and my window seat in the second of two rows of seats in first class on the A380.  The cabin interior had a great design with fine stitched leather along the seats, side panels, ottoman, and seat shell.  Instead of the normal plastic sidewalls in the rest of the plane, in first class they are covered in suede.  The TV screens are not mounted flush into the seat in front, but rather stand out mounted on a finished plastic board which provides an extra feel of space and depth within the cabin.  While the leather does look great, it shows off previous stains or spills easily.
Side View of Seats

My Seat

Stairs Down to Coach

Only 4 of the 8 seats were occupied on the flight.  One flight attendant took my jacket even before I had got into my seat and then showed me the closet I had for storing my carry-ons.  There are no overhead bins in the cabin so each seat has its own closet wide enough for a roll aboard bag and tall enough to hang jackets and pants without getting wrinkles.  The two window seats in row 1 have closets in front of their seats while all the others are located behind the cabin. 
Airy Atmosphere

The purser came over and addressed me by name, as did all of the flight attendants, and welcomed me on board.  She asked if this was my first time on an A380 and that she hoped she could make the flight as enjoyable as possible.  She was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in why I was flying and what she could do to make my trip that much better.  After our conversation she handed me the menus for the flight, one for the food, and another with all of the wine. 

Once I placed my items in the closet and a few other items like my computer in the ottoman at my seat, I enjoyed the pre-departure Champaign, still water, and nuts.  No plastic cups this time, all glass.  I’m not a huge Champaign drinker but this was good, and it was the real stuff too. 
Champaign and Nuts

The A380 has external cameras that you can watch throughout the flight.  The tail camera is one of the better views as the plane pushes back from the gate as you can see all the activity in front of the plane and on the tarmac as we taxied to the runway.  There is a slight delay in the camera feed which bothered me a bit.  We only taxied for a few minutes and once we were on the main runway the engines revved up and we were rolling and then in the air.  This takeoff was one of the quietest I’ve experienced to date since the first class cabin is on the upper deck in front of the engines and Lufthansa added extra sound insulation into the cabin. 
Tail Camera

Lufthansa provides first class passengers with pajamas for the flight and to keep.  I was offered a set of large or extra-large and went with the large.  They ended up being a little tight so next time I will up the size.  I went into the bathroom to change as soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off.  The bathroom on this plane is very cool.  It is much larger and nicer than the typical airplane bathroom we are all used to.  There is an area to sit and change your clothes, places to hang shirts and jackets, drawers stocked with brushes, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste – the bathroom even has a urinal.  All of this was designed to provide more space to passengers where it was always lacking.  Most planes have the same bathroom in first class that economy has, but not here.  Even the lavatory faucet was motion activated and there was a nob to the left that you turned to adjust the water temperature, when rotated red or blue LEDs light up above the faucet so you can see just how hot or cold you are making the water.  Even the floor of the bathroom is refined with stone pavers in place. 

Seating and Changing Area

Toilet and Urinal (the Curved Panel Closes to Hide it)


The seat itself is very comfortable.  You just sink into it a bit.  The controls are hidden behind a panel on the armrest.  I fooled around with the buttons and you can get yourself into some uncomfortable positions so the buttons are not that intuitive, at least for me.  Even the ottoman has a setting to bring it closer to the seat so anyone can put their feet up on it. 
Seat Controls

My first choice of white wine wasn’t actually on board so I settled for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay which was a good creamy white wine.  It had a little more color and a light aroma.  One of the first food items passed out is an amuse bouche, a small piece of food where you taste everything in one bite.  I’ve read in other blogs that most of the time these items are terrible, but the one served on my flight was tasty.  It was a slice of dried tomato over some kind of mouse and tomato gelatin.  The pesto sauce on the side helped to kick it up a notch. 
Wine with the Lufthansa Logo

Amuse Bouche

The flight attendants walked through the cabin with a whole cart full of the appetizer options available.  They had both western and Japanese options for us to select from and I, surprisingly, asked for caviar with the traditional fixings and some sort of cold beef appetizer.  The caviar was served with a lime and chopped onions along with some egg and toast.  I actually ate it, and enjoyed it on the toast and some onion.  I was a bit surprised I could actually eat fish eggs but I doubt I will ever get carried away with caviar in the future.  The beef dish was not as enjoyable.  I couldn’t tell from what part of the cow the meet came from, perhaps the cheeks, but it was on the fatty side.  The pickled salad underneath wasn’t good either.  As my appetizer items were being placed on the pull out table I chatted with the flight attendant about the plane, why I was flying to Tokyo for less than a day, and what routes she flies.  I figured that the flight crew would only be flying the A380 but they are all qualified on three other types of aircraft and rotate around to keep their schedules interesting.  She used to fly on the A380 to SFO in the summer and will most likely again when the season schedule picks up that flight.  She also, weird enough, lived in Costa Mesa for a time working with a capital group.  Since I was so interested in the A380 she went to look for some memorabilia for me to take home and returned with some playing cards, postcards, and a tin box with the A380 on the front. 
Appetizer Course

The next course was salad.  It had plenty of arugula which gave it some spice and a decent balsamic vinaigrette.  The mushrooms had to go though. 
Salad Course

I switch to red wine with the main entrĂ©e course.  I selected a very tasty Chateau Dassault Saint-Emilion which had a bit more pepper on the tongue than what I expected.  It did go well with the beef dish.   I think the beef on my previous United flight tasted better, but the oyster sauce that came with it was tasty.
Main Course

Another cart rolled through the cabin after dinner with a variety of cheeses and desserts.  I asked for a sampler plate of all the cheeses with some grapes and a green tea layered wafer cake for dessert.  All of the cheeses were good except for the swiss and one of the soft cheeses.  The dessert was actually very tasty and I probably could’ve gone for another two three.  The best part of this final course was the dessert wine.  There was Port on the cart, but I noticed in the wine list a reference to dessert wine and I had to try it out.  It was delicious – a nice golden colored wine with hints of either a late harvest picking or botrytis as it had a syrupy mouth feel with all of the sugar.  Light notes of honey and apricot came through on the finish.  On my second glass I asked to look at the bottle to take a picture of it.  If anyone knows where I can find this in the States, let me know!  My glass was refilled two more times before I went to sleep. 
Cheese and Dessert

Help Me Find This Wine!!

All you need to do is let the flight attendants know that you are ready for sleep and they will convert your seat into a bed.  The seat goes completely flat and they place a mattress pad down to give a little more cushion.  A pilot and blanket are provided and a privacy screen is raised around the seat so you don’t have to see the other passengers or crew walking around.  I think the operable screen is a great idea as it keeps the cabin open and airy when they are lowered and provides the right amount of privacy when wanting some sleep.  The bed itself was, quite frankly, amazing for a plane.  It was very comfortable and again I sank into the padding and seat.  I couldn’t find an uncomfortable position on my side or back, and the foot space available lets you sleep in whichever position is best for you.  Out of the 10-hour flight, I probably slept for four hours and woke up refreshed and alert.  It was one of the best sleeps I have ever had on a plane. 
My In-Flight Bed

It was still dark outside of the plane when I woke up about 5:30am Tokyo time.  I brought my seat back into an upright position and turned on the AVOD.  One low point of the flight for me was the lack of variety and number of programs within the video system.  I felt that better and greater numbers of movie and TV options were available on my United flight. 

Breakfast was served about an hour outside of Tokyo with a few different offerings.  Again we had the choice of a western or Japanese style breakfast.  The fish cake for breakfast did not sound appetizing so I opted for some yogurt, fruit, and croissant.  We also had the option of cooked to order scrambled eggs with chives or bacon.  I decided on both and the eggs were excellent.  If only all other airline eggs could taste like this versus being too greasy or rubbery.  
First Class Butter

Fruit, Yogurt with Fruit and Nuts, and Fresh OJ

Freshly Cooked Eggs with Bacon

Morning broke and light started to fill the cabin.  The windows on the A380 have two sets with the first being a translucent white which diffuses light and then an opaque shade can be brought down to block all the light.  We had some great views of scenery out the window as we were landing, even Mount Fuji in the background of our approach into Narita. 
Good Morning

Over Japan

The landing was as smooth as the takeoff and we were at the gate shortly.  As I was packing my suitcase up, the purser came by to ask how my flight was and make sure I had a great time.  That level of attentiveness was great to see.  She even noted on how much I enjoyed their wine selection on board, particularly the dessert wine.  

All in all, I can’t wait to fly this product again.  It was a great experience, and it was definitely worth the award miles used to book the ticket.  The crew was excellent, the product was great, and it was an enjoyable experience.  I’m glad that I will be flying first class on this plane again in August (along with another trip to the First Class Terminal). 
On the Ground in Tokyo, and Yes That is Snow


  1. Wow. I can see that the excitement was completely worth it!! Sounds amazing - I will have to try one day to get on that plane - looks wonderful!! Great job on the blog :)

    1. I highly recommend trying it out. The award availability is hard to find since Lufthansa can be stingy, but it is worth it!