My ride for the next 9 hours, a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter
I recently received an invitation to join some friends that were headed to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Given that I consider myself a bit of a beer drinker, I knew I had to join them. I wanted to challenge myself to make the trip as economical as possible, while still traveling in style. I had some points burning a hole in my pocket, and there are often good, premium award options available through some travel partners.
I knew I would have enough points to get me home in business class (because after an eventful Oktoberfest, who would want to fly in coach?), so I needed to find an option to get me to Europe. I ended up booking a direct flight from Seattle to Frankfurt on Condor for a very reasonable $445. The crew on this flight was very friendly and the overall experience was good; just be prepared for a small 30-inch seat pitch on a long-haul flight.
Flying upstairs on a 747 has always been a bucket list item for me – and I was finally able to accomplish it! In my search for award travel, I was able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines MileagePlus. From there, I booked the flight I wanted: Business Class on a Lufthansa 747-8I. I knew Oktoberfest would be the trip of a lifetime, but I was honestly even more excited at flying upstairs on the ride home.
As I arrived at the Munich airport for my short hop to Frankfurt, I noticed that my flight had been canceled. When I checked with the Lufthansa staff, I found out they had re-booked me on a direct flight from Munich to Chicago.
Now this just wouldn’t do, as that was on an Airbus A340. Most travelers would be happy being on the direct flight, but I asked them to re-book me on another flight so I could still fly on the 747-8I. After some confused looks, I was back in business (pun intended) and booked on the 747.
Not an angle that one sees often of a Boeing 747-400
“We actually don’t do that work here. For that kind of thing, we have to ship it out to Lufthansa Technik in Germany.” If you talk to a great number of airline maintenance employees around the world, you’ll probably hear that line a few times. Many airlines are capable of doing their own aircraft maintenance, but few locations in the world take MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) to the level Lufthansa Technik does.
Airlines around the world send their aircraft to Technik for jobs ranging from a mandatory C check to a nose-to-tail cabin refurbishment. Recently, I was invited to tour Technik’s facilities in Hamburg, Germany, which is just one of their multiple full-service locations around the world.
One of the black light inspection areas in Lufthansa Technik Engine Shop – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Our first stop on the Engine Services center. Engines are, by far, some of the most expensive parts on any aircraft. Most airlines perform only minor maintenance on their engines, but in the Engine Services center, several engines were completely torn down for a total rebuild.
One of the pilots cleans the windshield of this three-engined beauty
When I got the invite to head to Hamburg for a few days to check out Lufthansa Technik, I was interested. When I saw that part of the trip involved flying on a Junkers Ju-52 that was built in 1936… I was sold.
The Lufthansa Ju-52 sits at Hamburg Airport
Over the years, I have been able to fly on many airliners, but most were built in my lifetime. I haven’t had the privilege on flying on any real classic aircraft like this, and given that it is a three-engined, well-maintained beast, I just couldn’t help but be giddy.
My ride to Newark — the first Boeing 747-8I (D-ABYA) to enter service commercially. Seen here from ground level!
I have been lucky enough to fly a few different airlines in first class. I am referring though to international first class here, not domestic “first class.” An airline that I have been obsessed to fly in first class is Lufthansa.
My flight on Lufthansa would be two firsts for me: flying their first class and being a passenger on the updated Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. Having one first is normally exciting enough as it is, but two? Yes… one could say that I was excited!
Lufthansa first class seats 1A & 1K, in the nose of a 747. Can’t get any far farther into the pointy end than this.
The benefit of departing Frankfurt with a first class ticket starts when one arrives at the airport. I was given access to their first class terminal, which was amazing. When it was time to board my flight, I was driven in a Mercedes Vito van that took me on a quick ride across the tarmac to my gate in the A/Z concourse.
Riding along at ground level and looking up at gate after gate of 747s is pretty special. When we pulled up to our gate, the very first 747-8I (D-ABYA) was looming above me. Being able to step out onto the ramp and snap a photo is nice. Being ushered all the way up to the aircraft by our driver is even better. Even though boarding was already underway when we arrived, our driver created a hole in the crowd and had us at the front in mere moments. Now THAT is service.