Lufthansa's First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport.  Is this the ultimate in Airline Lounges?

Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport. Is this the ultimate airline lounge?

Every major airline in the world tries to ensure that their hub lounges are the best that there can be.  I am lucky enough to have visited a few of these in my life.  From the Singapore Krisflyer Lounge to the Qantas First Class Lounge.  However, there has always been one lounge in my sights that I never thought I could attain – one lounge that seemed unreachable.

So many people have visited it and raved about how amazing it was.  Surely, I could find a way to visit it once in my life.  What am I talking about, you are probably asking by now?  That would be Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal (FCT) at their Frankfurt hub.

A ray of hope in the darkness of European flying sitting on the ground at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A ray of hope in the darkness of European flying, sitting on the ground at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

No matter where in the world, when you fly economy on a small turboprop, you likely are not going to have high expectations. This will just be some basic transportation to get from point A to point B. I was shocked when I recently flew an Air Serbia ATR-72-500 from Prague to Belgrade.

Often, flying in Europe can be an even-less-pleasant experience than flying in America. When I landed in Europe, after my not-so-stellar international experience, I said to myself, “I bet you Air Serbia can beat this.” And they did!

Come fly with Lufthansa! 1955 & today - Photo: Robert Schadt & Lufthansa

Come fly with Lufthansa! – Photo: Robert Schadt & Lufthansa

Roughly sixty years ago, on June 7, 1955, Lufthansa commenced long-haul service with a flight from Hamburg, Germany to New York City. To celebrate the anniversary, Lufthansa recreated a series of classic photos from throughout the years.

Safety first! Demonstrating life jackets, 1956 & today - Photo: Robert Schadt & Lufthansa

Safety first! Demonstrating life jackets – Photo: Robert Schadt & Lufthansa

How much has changed over the intervening six decades? Here are some fun facts, according to the airline:

  • What began as two long-haul flights a week from Germany to New York, taking 20 hours for the trip (including a stop in Dusseldorf and a refueling stop in Ireland), has evolved and expanded over the years into the present 104 Lufthansa long-haul flights to 77 destinations worldwide, per day.
  • With its four Super Constellations, Lufthansa carried 74,040 passengers in its first year of long-haul operations, with 18,420 of them crossing the North Atlantic. Today, Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet consists of more than 130 state-of-the-art aircraft, which carry over 15 million passengers per year – more than two-and-a-half million of them to and from the U.S.
  • At the equivalent of approximately three month’s salary, the price of a transatlantic Economy Class ticket, back then, kept the experience of flying with Lufthansa exclusive, only possible for a small and affluent circle of people. Today, a round-trip Economy Class ticket for a flight with Lufthansa to the eastern United States can cost as little as one-third of a monthly salary.

Check out some additional historical photos, brought more up-to-date…

Aviation enthusiasts pose with a Virgin Atlantic A-340. Photo Courtesy Dan Palen

Aviation enthusiasts pose with a Virgin Atlantic A340 – Photo: Daniel Palen

As an avid plane spotter, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the curious/uninformed public, skeptic law enforcement officers (LEOs), airport staff, and even airline employees. Typically these exchanges go positively and, with luck, without missing out on any good shots: “Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you taking photos in a post-9/11 world?” To which I respond: JL Johnson, frequent traveler, airline reporter, and, most importantly: AvGeek.

Typically I tell them about my passion and how [whatever organization they represent] is generally supportive (or at least tolerant) of such activity. It’s not uncommon that I pull out an iDevice and show the inquirer samples of my work and/or tweets endorsing or acknowledging spotting from various institutions (I keep a list of tweets handy for this very reason – you should too).

While doing homework on the environment in advance of spotting is key, I find that the more geeky and passionate I make the conversation the quicker a situation is defused. Apparently geeks can’t be bad guys. For whatever reason, people respond better not to fact, but passion/emotion. So I bring both.

Plane spotting- Even toddlers do it! Photo: JL Johnson

Plane spotting – even toddlers do it! Photo: JL Johnson

That’s the typical interaction. Alas, my attempts to convince folks that I’m not a terrorist and that my telephoto lens doesn’t shoot plane-crippling ray-gun beams are not always successful. I had one such interaction recently at Chicago’s Midway Airport (MDW) which I’d like to detail if only to clear the air about what’s generally allowed vs. not, how to handle these encounters, and to assure my AvGeek brethren that it’s typically OK to take photos of publicly-visible property from public areas. But…your results may vary.