A Lufthansa 747-8 departing Frankfurt for LAX – Photo: Brandon Farris
I recently flew aboard two Lufthansa Boeing 747-8s. In doing so I was able to cross off a longstanding item on my AvGeek to-do list. Like most (all?) AvGeeks, I have long had a passion for the 747. Sure, there are plenty of great planes flying today, but there’s something about the Queen of the Skies that is inexplicably special. Despite having admired the 747 for the greater part of my life, this was the first time I flew aboard one. Did I mention it was upstairs in business class, both ways? This is the stuff AvGeek dreams are made of. I had extremely high expectations from years of envy and admiration. Let’s discuss how the queen held out, shall we?
Main business cabin on the Swiss 777-300ER
On June 10, Swiss International Air Lines officially inaugurated its new Boeing 777-300ER (77W) on its first regularly scheduled daily service to the United States. The debut flight took off from Zà¼rich/Kloten Airport (ZRH) and arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 77W is the first Boeing product in Swiss’s mainly-Airbus fleet, and carries 55% more passengers than the Airbus A340-300 (343) it replaces on the ZRH-LAX route. Its first 77W, HB-JNA (delivered on January 29) with its special “Faces of SWISS” livery, made the flight.
A Swiss 777-300ER (HB-JNA) in special “Faces of SWISS” livery – Photo: Swiss
Swiss gave the public a CGI-based video preview of the all-new aircraft and completely redesigned interior, and AirlineReporter was the first to confirm the delivery date of HB-JNA. We were also one of the few media to be invited to LAX for the inaugural events to take a look with our own eyes. Were we disappointed?
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.