My 747-400 Awaiting Departure in Seattle – Photo: Colin Cook
In late 2016, my girlfriend Molly and I began planning a 2017 trip to Europe, with the goal of using points and miles to fly in a premium cabin. After considerable research, we ended up flying on a British Airways 747-400 to London, and on a Virgin Atlantic 787-9 home. This first post will review our British Airways first class experience, and the second will review the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product.
One of the items on my AvGeek bucket list has been to fly international first class. I’ve had some wonderful experiences flying international business class (Air Canada 767, Lufthansa 747-8, and British Airways 777-300ER), but I’ve never had the chance for the best of the best. That all changed with this trip. I was already excited to be flying in first class, but I also unlocked another AvGeek desire: I was able to make the coveted “left turn” upon boarding the aircraft. When I have flown in a premium cabin previously, I have always boarded from the front left door. Sure, sure, there are benefits to both, but if you’re a passionate flyer, you can probably understand my excitement.
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.
Korean Air’s new 747-8I glistening during delivery – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter
Earlier this week, at the Everett Delivery Center, Korean Air and Boeing celebrated delivery of the airline’s first of ten 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft. The delivery marked Korean becoming the only carrier of both the freighter and passenger variant, with Korean already operating seven freighters. We were invited to attend the delivery ceremony and it certainly did not disappoint.
Arriving about an hour prior to the ceremony beginning, I had the opportunity to do a little light plane spotting and to chat with some other members of the media. As you can imagine, security is tight at events like this and we had to go through a couple security checks. Once in the delivery center, I was allowed to step out onto the terrace to watch the big 747-8I be towed up to the Delivery Center. As the plane neared, the Korean Air pilots were also outside on the terrace with us. You could tell how excited they were to be a part of this event and to fly this beautiful plane home.
Front part of Lufthansa’s special retro livery on the Boeing 747-8I – Photo: Lufthansa
Lufthansa was the first airline to fly the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and now has 16 of the type in service. Over the history of the airline and the 747 program, Lufthansa has been a very good customer. They have operated the 747-100, 200, & 400 (with a good portion of those 747-400s still flying).
The airline, as a whole, has been around since 1926 (in some form or another), during which time they have been through a number of liveries. What better way for an airline to receive their latest aircraft than to paint it in an retro livery?
Lufthansa is now flying the Boeing 747-8I to LAX from Frankfurt. Photo by Brandon Farris / AirlineReporter.com.
This week Lufthansa Airlines (LH) upgraded its Frankfurt (FRA) to Los Angeles (LAX) route by swapping it from the 747-400 to the 747-8 Intercontinental. Los Angeles becomes the second US Destination to be served by the aircraft, fourth overall and first destination on the west coast. Lufthansa is currently the only 747-8I operator in the world
’œThe selection of Los Angeles for our new flagship aircraft demonstrates the market’s critical importance for Lufthansa, which has had a presence in Southern California since 1960,’ said Juergen Siebenrock, Vice President, The Americas for Lufthansa. ’œThe FRA-LAX route connects the world’s two largest and most influential consumer markets for entertainment products- Hollywood and Germany. LAX is also an active gateway for pharmaceutical, IT, automotive industry and defense contractor industries, all of which are important customer segments for Lufthansa.’
BONUS: AirlineReporter.com takes the inaugural Boeing 747-8I flight
When I arrived at LAX, you could tell that there was excitement in the air. At the LH ticket counter there was a gigantic sunrise colored Boeing 747-8I model. Standing next to the model were some people from Boeing. They joked and gave me a hard time about my LH A380 tag on my bag from the A380 launch last year at San Francisco — oh well.
After I received my badge I was allowed to proceed to TSA where, even though we weren’t flying, they still wanted to put everyone through the body scanner. I politely opted out where I was able to enjoy a nice pat-down.
Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8I (D-ABYA) at LAX. Photo by Brandon Farris / AirlineReporter.com.
At Gate 123, where the event took place, Lufthansa put on an amazing spread for everyone to snack on, from roast beef to smoked salmon, pretzels and little cookie airplanes that said Lufthansa 747-800. During the celebration, we received word that the aircraft was running a little late due to snow in Frankfurt, but nothing could wipe off the smile off my face.
As soon as stepping outside, we all looked up and noticed that the 748 was on downwind to land and at around 13:10 PST she touched down in LAX for the first time. Applause broke out from all of the VIP’s on hand while other members of the media clicked away as D-ABYA, named “Brandenburg,” threw her reverse thrusters on and came quickly to a halt. As she taxied to the gate, the LAX fire department completed a water canon salute and after parking at the gate, we headed back inside to listen to some of the invited guests speak.
BONUS: Video of Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8I coming into LAX via SpeedBirdHD
After the speeches, it was time to board the plane. My heart raced with excitement as this was only the second 747 that I have ever stepped foot on. Once on board we were told we had about 7 to 10 minutes before they had to prepare the aircraft for its departure. It was a little bit of a mad rush to get through the airplane, I sadly missed the first class cabin, but managed to get upstairs which was one of my goals. Sadly the flight deck door was closed, so I wasn’t able to see the all new advancements.
The Lufthansa 747-400 is a regular at LAX. This one has a bigger upper and lower deck. Photo by Brandon Farris / AirlineReporter.com.
The 747-8I adds an extra 18 seats for the daily flight that will help increase capacity by 17% overall. First class is configured 1-1 with the exception of the last row that is 1-2-1, business class is 2-2-2 and coach is 3-4-3. The new product on the LH 747-8I is the business class lie flat seat; there are 92 of these on board the -8.
’œWe integrated our customers very closely into the development of our new Business Class so we would be able to offer a product that was totally in line with their wishes and requirements,’ said Jens Bischof, member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board.
The aircraft generates a 30% smaller noise footprint that the 747-400 and brings double digit improvements in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions per passenger. This makes it one of the industry’s most fuel-efficient aircraft and key to Lufthansa’s commitments to sustainable reduction of carbon emissions. The 747-8I fuselage is 253ft 2in long which is 18ft 4in longer than the 747-400. This allows LH to carry 26% more cargo volume.
The aircraft also features an all new state-of-the-art wing for the 747 with improved aerodynamics and raked wing tips: all new fuel efficient General Electric GEnx-2B engines that contribute to a reduction in fuel burn, emissions and noise and thus giving customers the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large passenger airplane: and fly-by-wire technology.
It was hard getting off the plane, but I hope to be back on one soon enough.
||This story written by…Brandon Farris, Correspondent. Brandon is an avid aviation geek based in Seattle. He got started in Photography and Reporting back in 2010. He loves to travel where ever he has to to cover the story and try to get the best darn shot possible.
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