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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
I recently received an invite to head to Germany for about 24 hours before turning around and taking the first passenger flight on-board the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. How could I refuse?
I will be leaving Seattle (SEA) on a Lufthansa Airbus A330 non-stop to Frankfurt (FRA) before grabbing a seat on the inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Washington DC (IAD) on flight LH416. You better believe I will be sharing this experience as much as I can. Follow on Twitter and of course on the blog.
This is exciting for a number of different reasons. One of which is I have already taken a ride on one of Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s and I look forward to comparing that experience to the Intercontinental flight. It won’t be that easy, since the 747-8I is debuting Lufthansa’s new business class product, where the A380 I flew had their older product.
If you have the means (and an open calendar), I just checked this morning and there are still a few tickets left to make the inaugural flight yourself. You also have the chance to win two tickets on a future 747-8I flight on Lufthansa via their Intercontinental mini-site. Be careful though. That mini-site will make you easily burn some time with the 3D 747-8I tour, videos and more.
Lufthansa Airbus A330 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) waiting to go to Frankfurt (FRA).
Recently I had the opportunity to fly from Seattle (SEA) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) on a Lufthansa Airbus A330 in Business Class. This was my first Lufthansa A330 flight and figured it is time to do a review. I was flown to Germany by the airline to experience the first Airbus A380 flight from Frankfurt to Miami, but getting there is half the fun.
I felt a lot of pressure to get some rest on the flight over to FRA since I was only spending 24hrs there before heading back to the US. Flying in a premium seat better prepares a passenger to arrive well rested and ready to go — something I needed, but never got. The down side of flying in a premium seat, at least for me, is I want to enjoy the experience and I fight sleeping through it.
On the day of the flight, I decided to leave home early to get to the airport. Although Lufthansa does not have their own lounge at SEA, they share one with British Airways in the S-Terminal. I was able to hang out in the lounge for about three hours with free drinks and snacks until my flight was ready to board — never a bad way to spend an afternoon.
What flight can be complete with out a winglet shot?There are so many business class seats, they go to the wing.
Lufthansa flies from Seattle to Frankfurt daily and is the only flight they operate out of Seattle. The great thing about only operating one flight per day is the aircraft was already sitting at the airport and we boarded and departed right on time. I remember the days when an Airbus A340 flew the route (not exactly sure of the dates) but today they have the A330. Luckily for us aviation nerds you can still catch the Air France A340 that flies to Seattle.
Once you get to cruising altitude on a wide bodied airliner, it is easy to forget you are flying. Most people shut their window (even me, I know, I know) to better view your in-flight entertainment screens . A flight on a wide body airliner is just a different experience, even in economy, allowing less of a closed-in feeling. Half way across the ocean, I couldn’t help but stop and realize how amazing it was traveling from Seattle to Frankfurt in just under ten hours. To think what that trip would have entailed just 100 years ago to accomplish the same task makes me happy that airlines offer a much better solution.
The seats provided quite a bit of room and there was a pretty good selection of entertainment, but I wished there was a bit more privacy between me and the person next to me. I have no problem sleeping in economy in standard seats, but when I am lying flat, I feel a bit more exposed and would enjoy more privacy. I also wish the TV screen was closer, since, when lounging back, the screen got smaller. I ran out of movies I wanted to watch on the flight over there, but luckily my flight back was on the A380, which had additional options for me to enjoy.
Yum! This was one of three courses. Being served in glasses with the airline's logo is a nice touch. Yes, I was watching a movie with Matt Damon.
Up in Business Class, one has ample choices for food during your long trip. There is an appetizer, entree and desert and for each category, you have three choices. I decided on the, “chilled honey roasted Chicken Breast with water crest salad and cranberries, then Zinfandel braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and baby carrots and finally finished it up with sage derby, gruyere and cambozola cheese.” The food quality is what would be expected from an international business class experience. I only wish there were more offerings of German in nature. If possible, I prefer to have the cuisine of the airline’s home country versus standard fare. Back in economy, they didn’t have it too shabby either. They didn’t have all the choices, but at least they were still getting meals that looked pretty decent for airline food and it was all free (well included in the price of the ticket).
I know this is silly and really not a reason to choose an airline, but Lufthansa’s warm wash cloths that are handed out at the beginning of the flight and before the meal, smelled amazing. I can’t even tell you what the smell was like, but if they made that into an air freshener I would definitely get it.
After meal service almost everyone in the front of the plane went to sleep. I tried, but it just wasn’t happening. I even took part of a sleeping pill (something I do not usually do while flying), but I never got tired. This was bad news because when we landed it was midnight my time, but 9am local time and I had a full day of events to participate in. I welcomed jet-lag with open arms.
One reason I think I couldn’t sleep was it never got dark outside. The concept was pretty cool, but not getting any sleep wasn’t so cool. Yea, sure, the shades were all down, but mentally, I knew the light was there. Even the eye mask can’t stop the mental sunlight getting in.
When arriving in Frankfurt, we had to take a 10 minute bus ride back to the terminal.
Once we landed I was confused when we started taxiing away from the airport. I had forgotten that Frankfurt has many airline parking spaces where buses take people to and from the terminal. This was a bonus for me, being able to de-plane on the tarmac, then taking a five minute bus ride through the airport, but I could see how that would be a huge annoyance for people who are not into planes. I really wouldn’t want to ride an airplane for 10 hours, then get stuck on an even more crowded bus. You better believe the first class passengers are not riding the bus; many get a private Mercedes or Porsche to take them to the terminal.
Lufthansa also has an arrival lounge at FRA, but I was tired and in need of a shower, so I headed out of the airport and to my hotel. The flight went quick and was a great combination of comfort, high-end service and entertainment. I can’t wait until the next international flight.
CHECK OUT MORE PHOTOS OF THE TRIP
The massive Technik hangar makes the large Airbus A380 look small.
How do you make the Airbus A380, the world’s largest airliner, look small? Put it into the Lufthansa Technik Hangar in Frankfurt Germany that’s how. While in Frankfurt for a 24 hour spiel to celebrate Lufthansa’s first Airbus A380 flight from Frankfurt to Miami, I had a chance to go check out where maintenance is done on the A380.
The Airbus A380 actually sits relatively low, but has lots of wheels.
At the time, I have seen the A380 at a distance and even got to tour the inside. But this was my first opportunity to walk around the aircraft on the outside. It is surreal how tall it is standing next to it, but how at the same time it is so close to the ground. I am 6’1″ tall and my head was touching the bottom of the aircraft when taking the photo above. Closer towards the main landing gear, there is even less head room. From ground to tail, the A380 is about eight stories tall and just the fuselage is about three.
This A380 (D-AIMG) was just having minor work done and I saw her back at Frankfurt Airport the next day ready to fly.
Lufthansa Technik Group is compiled of 30 companies world-wide that help keep Lufthansa and many other aircraft operational. Lufthansa Technik has the ability to perform checks at 60 airports around the world and they are organized into six different operational groups which serve about 750 customers worldwide: Maintenance, Overhaul, Component Services, Engine Services, VIP Services and Landing Gear Services.
- Three “out holes” for the A380. The larger ones vent out air, the center will vent liquid.
Before Lufthansa took delivery of their first Airbus A380, two large facilities were built for Lufthansa Technik to handle the new aircraft. One was in Frankfurt and the other is located in Beijing. The facility in Frankfurt was completed in December of 2007 and measures about 590 x 460 feet. The hangar is large enough to hold two Airbus A380s and one Dreamlifter as was proven not too long ago.
Can you tell where the fuel tanks are located in the wing of the A380?
Obviously the Airbus A380 can hold a lot of fuel — about 85,000 gallons worth. Unlike most other aircraft, no fuel is stored in the fuselage and it is all stored in the wings. During the tour I was wondering how I had dripping water on my head and realized that I was being rained on via the condensation from the fuel tanks in the wings.
How would you like to climb around the A380 tail? I wanted to, but they said something about liability.
Buying the aircraft and building the hangar is just part of the process. Lufthansa Technik also had to get the tools, parts and people to make it complete. The facility has more than 70,000 parts in their inventory ranging from screws to engines. Outside the hangar there is a jet testing area, which was in use during our visit (but could not take photos since it was a non-Lufthansa aircraft).
This is where the pilots can get a little shut eye during flight.
During the tour of the facility we were able to get on board D-AIMG to take a look around. Since I was about to take a 10 hour flight in an A380 in a few hours, I decided to hang out more in the front of the aircraft by the cockpit. Lufthansa’s A380 are designed so there is an external door that leads to a crew sleeping area and lavatory for the flight crew. The crew rest area was actually the largest I have seen in an aircraft and didn’t feel as claustrophobic as others.
Where all the action happens. Hard to believe this large aircraft is controlled by a little joystick.
Some folks think first class is the best seat in the house. Although they are nice, they cannot compare to the seats in the cockpit. The cockpit is very roomy and it is hard to get a feeling of the true size of the aircraft. The flight deck is located in the middle of the aircraft, which doesn’t give it the sense of height that the cockpit in the Boeing 747-400 has.
CHECK OUT ALL 19 PHOTOS FROM THE LUFTHANSA TECHNIK TOUR