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Flying on the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight With Lufthansa

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is one beautiful aircraft. Here she is seen after her first flight in DC.

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is one beautiful aircraft. Here she is seen after her first flight in DC.

It has been a long road from the conception of the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to the first passenger flight on June 1, 2012. Being based in Seattle, I have had the privilege of watching Lufthansa Airlines first 747-8I go from a few parts to a revenue-making machine. I felt beyond lucky when I was invited by Lufthansa to take part on their inaugural flight from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

It was a whirlwind trip; leaving Seattle on a non-stop flight to Frankfurt, arriving at 8am local time and about 24 hours later, leaving on the 747-8I (I will write a future story on my 24 hours in Frankfurt). Fifty-eight hours and 12,000 miles after I left, I was back home in Seattle — well worth the adventure.

A look at Lufthansa's First Class on board the Boeing 747-8I.

A look at Lufthansa's First Class on board the Boeing 747-8I.

There has been plenty of prep work by Lufthansa to train their crews on the new aircraft type. Currently, the airline has ten pilots qualified to fly the 747-8I, but soon they will have many more. Pilots trained on the 747-400 only need a three-day training course and a flight on the new plane to be qualified. Since Lufthansa just recently acquired the 747-8I, it hasn’t had many opportunities to allow pilots to fly it, but that will now change.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the delivery ceremony, so I was excited to get on board my first Intercontinental. During my 24 hour blitz in Frankfurt, there was a special unveiling event allowing me to preview the new 747 and to get access to First Class.

Lufthansa Airline's new Business Class product, which has debuted on the 747-8I.

Lufthansa Airline's new Business Class product, which has debuted on the 747-8I.

For the average passenger, he/she might not notice that the 747-8I is something new. From the outside, one might notice the raked wingtips versus the winglets of the 747-400 or the larger upper deck, but it most likely will take the trained eye of an avgeek to see the difference. Inside, there are features, like LED lighting, improved overhead bins, and a feeling of space, that have become familiar on the 787 Dreamliner and 737 with new Boeing Sky Interior.

Not only is the 747-8I a new aircraft for Lufthansa, but it also debuts the airline’s new Business Class. I had seen photos previously, but photos do not do it justice. The new product is much more spacious, cleaner and just plain (or should it be “plane”) better in person.

The new Business Class looks classy and has all the bells and whistles that high end fliers have come to expect.

The new Business Class looks classy and has all the bells and whistles that high end fliers have come to expect.

The new business seats are unique to Lufthansa and will not be found on any other airline. They are in a V-shape 2-2-2 layout with each seat having the feet angled towards each other. I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out and worried that I might have ended up playing footsies with my seat-mate. Luckily, that was not a problem.

The pair of seats in the middle of the aircraft  have an advantage over those by the windows — they have more room. With these biz seats, passengers might actually prefer the center seats, although I felt my seat had more than plenty of space.

Lufthansa has its Boeing 747-400 configured with 344 seats and its Airbus A380 with 526 seats — both in a 3-class layout. The new Intercontinental is configured with 362 seats with eight in First Class, located in the nose of the aircraft, 92 Business Class seats, with 32 on the upper deck and the remainder on the main deck, and 262 in Economy class, all found on the main deck.

Lufthansa will continue operating the 747 on more premium routes, since they have a higher percentage of premium seats versus the A380.

Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz says a few words before we depart. FYI: "Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental" in German sounds amazing.

Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz says a few words before we depart. FYI: "Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental" in German sounds amazing.

Before departure, there was a ceremony at the gate’s Business/First Class lounge with executives of both Lufthansa and Boeing present. After a glass of champagne and some applause, it was time to board the sparkling 747-8 Intercontinental.

Even though I was on the same plane a day earlier, the energy is entirely different when you are just checking out the interior, versus when you are able ready to take flight. “Epic” and “giddy” would probably be appropriate words to describe it.

Time to load up. Lufthansa has gate lounges where folks in premium cabins can board directly from the lounge. Keep it classy people!

Time to load up. Lufthansa has gate lounges where folks in premium cabins can board directly from the lounge. Keep it classy people!

I had seat 10K — a window seat in Business Class, located on the main deck. I quickly got settled in and was ready to start on an historical journey.

This inaugural flight was unique since there were only 75 invited guests and media and the rest were paying passengers. Most airlines won’t have “normal” passengers on inaugural flights, so it was great seeing all the people (some who had no idea) enjoying the experience.

And we have lift off!

And we have lift off!

How was the flight? Amazing, unforgettable, awesome (insert your positive adjective here). The Intercontinental is not only a beautiful aircraft, but one that flies very well. During take-off, it was music to the ears hearing the four GEnx engines spool up. The large aircraft used a good chunk of the runway before lifting off and once airborne, the aircraft was quiet and allowed you to easily talk to the person next to you.

I was seated right in front of the right wing, which provided great views. I could easily witness the wings flex up, similar to the 787, but not quiet as dramatic. I was actually happy when we hit a pocket of turbulence, because I was able to watch the engines and wings do their dance.

It might take some training of the flight attendants to reassure worried passengers that the wings are supposed to do that.

The upper deck of Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

The upper deck of Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

Moving a few times from the main deck to the upper deck, I  noticed that up top was a bit louder due to wind noise. It is not enough that a passenger would choose the main deck, but enough that it could be observed.

I know many of you are wondering; how does the Airbus A380 compare to the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental? Well, it is not an easy comparison to make. I haven’t flown on an A380 in a while and without back-to-back flights, it is hard to award an overall winner.

In a beauty contest, hands down, the 747-8 takes the crown. The A380 is a cool looking machine that functions well, but it doesn’t have the grace (nor history) that the 747 has. In the noise department, I think the A380 probably wins out.

The A380 and 747-8I are both great aircraft with their own benefits, but have different missions. Really, with how Lufthansa configures their aircraft, the Airbus A340-600 probably competes more directly with the new Intercontinental than the A380 does.

Down we go! it might not be the spiral stair case of the historical 747's, but it does the job.

Down we go! it might not be the spiral stair case of the historical 747's, but it does the job.

During the flight, I had ample opportunity to put the new Business Class to the test. It is a huge improvement over the old product — which isn’t too shabby, but it is starting to show its age.

Each person is given plenty of room, a larger screen and a lie-flat seat. There are additional nooks to store things, an easier to use in-flight entertainment system and one of my favorite things that probably will go unnoticed:  the ability to put down your arm rest to have more room sitting or sleeping.

The in-flight entertainment system will be familiar to frequent Lufthansa flyers, but it is much crisper and quicker. There are additional viewing choices, but I would still like to see more. I am able to forgive the lack of choice, since the IFE offers a camera view looking forward and down from the front of the aircraft.

The center arm rest holds your head phones, remote, tray table, but you have to make sure your arm doesn't hit those buttons.

The center arm rest holds your head phones, remote, tray table, but you have to make sure your arm doesn't hit those buttons.

For me, the biggest drawback with the new Lufthansa Business Class is the placement of the seat controls. They have been moved from the remote to a prominent location on the front of the arm rest. On more than one occasion my arm would accidentally hit one of the buttons and my seat would start to unexpectedly move. Asking others who also made the flight, they didn’t seem to have the same issue, so maybe it was just me (and my muscular arms getting in the way — okay probably not).

I was planning on staying awake the entire flight to absorb the entire experience, but after a few celebatory cocktails and my lack of sleep kicking in, I crashed for about one and a half hours. Since the sleep caught me off guard, I did not put the seat in the lie-flat position, but I rested comfortably without waking up in the half-way position. I have to say that the new pillow and blanket are a positive improvement and it is sometimes the little things that count the most.

It is rare to get two water canon salutes, but FRA gave us one leaving and this is IAD's one to us when we arrived.

It is rare to get two water cannon salutes, but FRA gave us one leaving and this is IAD's one to us when we arrived.

When we started our descent, I wasn’t ready for the flight to end. The touch down was smooth and our welcome was warm. We had a water cannon salute at the gate and a group of media, guests and employees taking photos from the tarmac. We were escorted through customs and brought to an arrival party at the main terminal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay long, since I had to be off on my flight back to Seattle.

This 747-8I inaugural flight was much more than just a flight. It represents all the hard work (and patience) of all the people who worked so diligently to make it possible. I know that it sounds cliche, but I think this aircraft has been well worth the wait.

Lufthansa is planning on taking delivery of four more Intercontinentals before the end of the year and Boeing has stated on the flight there are other airlines (even ones in the US) that are showing interest in the 747-8.

The photo doesn't do a great job showing the wing curve -- you will just have to go see it for yourself.

The photo doesn't do a great job showing the wing curve -- you will just have to go see it for yourself.

I am happy to celebrate the new Queen of the Skies initiation into revenue service. It starts with only one flight and one airline, but it won’t be long before millions are hopefully able to enjoy the benefits of the historical and new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

SEE ALL 51 PHOTOS FROM THE LUFTHANSA BOEING 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL INAUGURAL FLIGHT

Learn, Read, See More on the Flight:
* Photos on AirChive.com
* Video, photos and story on Jaunted.com
* Story on Wi-Fi on Lufthansa’s 747-8I via APEX blog
* Shots of us landing at IAD from @RacingWinds

44 comments to Flying on the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight With Lufthansa

  • David,
    Excellent story and wonderful photos.
    Rand

  • GJGalik

    Lovely report, and felt like I was right there enjoying the festivities. I’ll excuse your typo’s and chalk it up to jet lag! I would have liked to have heard more about econo class seating, service, and can’t tell if LH offers premium economy – which is the only way I travel these days.

    • Yes. I ended up going through a few more rounds of edit after I received some rest. Lesson learned not to post a story with almost no sleep in 30 hours :).

      I didn’t spend too much time in the back. From what I hear, the seats are a little tight, but you still have the same in-flight entertainment system, which isn’t too shabby.

      David

  • Kentaro Yamaguchi

    Thanks for posting excellent report! I enjoyed very much as if I were on board!
    According to other articles, the size of her window are much more bigger than ever.
    Did you find the difference??

    p.s As I post my comment on your photo, if you allow me, I would like to share your photo on my FB cover photo..

  • Oyster Engineer

    When I fly internationally, it is for business & my employer usually buys Business Class tickets. And, I always wear a jacket (frequently a suit), shirt & tie. Your photographs show you wearing a blazer, shirt & tie. I’ve observed that these days, many business travelers significantly dress for international business travel. Maybe you can discuss this in a posting some time. Also, what brands & models of jacket & slacks do you use to avoid wrinkling?

    • I would love to learn that myself. I find that my slacks are always wrinkled.

      When an airline is paying for me to fly in Business Class, I always try to dress up. If I am doing an event, normally jacket and tie. It is a bit scary what people wear back in economy :)

      David

    • You ask David about the slacks and how to avoid wrinkles I personaly wear Dickie slacks a the never wrinkl and there cost is very low usally no more than $30 a very good deal in my mind

  • mawestpac

    My favorite B747″Jumbo Jet” I have flown various type of B747 past 40 years and just love it. I feel more comfortable being on B747 than any other airplane. Hope to adapt oval type of window like B787 will give much brighter in cabin above 39,000 feet. Hope more airline order B747-8 passenger version. It has same engine as B787-8 so fuel efficiency far more than previous -400 series. Someday, I will be the airplane.

  • The 747-8 is the benchmark of perfection.
    Boeing building the best airliners in the sky.

  • milton

    Excelente report…………very nice pic. congrats

  • diamant kalonji

    c’est jolie good job

  • jose carbonell

    I enjoyed your article very much I love Boeing aircrafts.Looking forward to flying it soon

  • Harshal

    More advanced plane compared its previous models.

  • Nerino

    Excellent Article David had fun reading it, thanks for sharing it, hoping to fly that bird one day. Cheers mate.

  • Paul Lrenem

    Awesome report, love Boeing :-)

  • John Deeks

    Hi David .. down here in Australia the 747′s opened the world to the masses .. I have flown 380′s out of Melb to LAX but I hope that Qantas gets some 8s into the fleet . Doubt it but still the sexiest thing in the air ~ !

  • Jean-louis Delezenne

    Great Article and complete coverage of that first flight. thank you for taking us with you !

  • Colin

    Great trip report David! Always love reading them.

    In looking at the picture from first class, it looks like the windows may have some sort of auto dimming feature, like on the 787, rather than the traditional pull down shades. Is that correct? Looks similar to whats on the 787 but not quite the same.

  • Jon

    Great photos of this incredible A/C. Saw the 787 on the Dream Tour and it too is a marvel in aerospace technology. Especially the new windows on the 787. Well reported

  • I cant wait to fly on the 747-8. The 747-400 has definately gotten older, but I am very happy that the 747 legacy still lives on!

  • I agree with you 100% David that the A380 merely hauls people and that the 747 hauls people with beauty! Well said…I am looking to create a real “747 Club” – which I have created on Facebook. David, what do you think of expanding this club? Email me and let’s be in touch. Thanks.

    mbaexecutive@yahoo.com

  • ilona selmeczi

    When I see the improvements Lufthansa makes for it’s passengers, now as before, I regret not working any longer for the company. I have been a advertising and PR-manager for Lufthansa for almost 20 years and I keep admiring the airline’s policy, always offer the very best for it’s customers!

  • Gracias por enviarme esa belleza de avion en verdad es extraordinario..

  • Senchingo

    hi david,

    at first: thanks for sharing that, you never stop to make me go “wow” when posting stuff like this. been searching for some inside stuff of the 747-8 but yours is the first to make me feel satisfied (don’t get it wrong though).

    still can’t really get warm with the whole LH product (even though i’m german). for me, the best thing they could do was their domestic/european new eco seats, which feel like sitting on a plastic BBQ-chair but hey, better than before and beats all other eco seats i’ve seen so far.

    looking at the 747-8 (and A380) first class, i can’t help but think of a “business plus” product. if i (or my company) would pay for a first class ticket, i’d be disappointed to get in there i think.

    the new business class (where other airlines also use V shapes) looks pretty neat. nice material and lots of gimmicks, but i have to say: this new v-shaping trend makes me puke. looking in my neighbours direction and having the thought of “my gosh, we’ll have a footsie-session all night” plus wondering how the heck i’ll get outta the window seat without touching the asle-guy makes me get the shivers.

    to end here: great report (don’t know how you can survive such a trip, cause i can never sleep on board). 747 remains the queen of the skies. LH’s strategy/planning is great, but the product remains a so so.

  • R kloepper

    Are the folks still crammed in back in economy?

  • Awesome! Good to hear it flies well and is mostly mundane, functional for the jaded flier/non-avgeek – that’s good too, and is mostly in the hands of the airline. Their biz class looks quite alright

  • David
    Nice work!!! thank you for sharing with us
    Regards from MEX
    JB

  • Rajiv

    I traveled by LH 760 Boeing 747-8 yesterday from Frankfurt to Delhi in economy class. My view is that for a economy class passenger it was OK flight and nothing very spectacularly different from the earlier flight. I see following improvement areas.

    - the touch screen is very hard, bit cumbersome for non-techies and soft little hands

    - the Lufthansa entertainment content is outdated

    - window @ row # 33 was shattering and made annoying noise

    i understand that the experience for business and first class passengers may be different. hope this will help.

  • Chris

    David, I just read your (translated) article on the September issue of the Japanese aviation magazine Airline. Congrats on expanding your media outlets; I was pleasantly surprised when I found your post on the magazine!

  • Dorai

    Looks like the seat comfort Economy class in Lufthansa still remains 31″ seat pitch in the new 747-8

    This is very poor comfort standard. For anyone over 5.8″ tall this is going to be very uncomfortable. Hope Lufthansa takes note of this.

    Dorai

  • Courtney Stolsig

    i always do some business travel at least once a week from time to time. i always do some air travel.;

    Brand new content on our very own online site
    <img src="http://www.foodsupplementcenter.com/carnosine-side-effects/ “>

  • Jimmy

    Not sure why other airlines are not jumping on the 747-8 bandwagon. All I hear are positive results from the 747-8 operations.

  • muy buena li aerolinea viaje de caracas a berlin y es muy eselente congratuletion

  • ALESSANDRO LARA

    Vuelve el Majestuoso 747 a toma lo que le pertenece y aunque nunca he viajado en avión recuerdo cuando me llevan al aeropuerto de mi ciudad natal Guadalajara,Jalisco México y me emocionaba al verlo aterrizar o despegar. Enhorabuena 747

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