In a nutshell: I jumped at the chance to fly Lufthansa A340 business class, knowing that the aircraft type might be retired. I’m glad I did, given the subsequent announcement. The flight was enjoyable and memorable, although not quite up to what I’d expected of Germany’s flag carrier. The kind service of the German flight attendants outweighs the couple service hiccups.
I cannot tell you how excited I was to finally fly with Lufthansa. Okay, I can, as I am about to recount my experience flying Lufthansa A340 business class in August. The German flag carrier has long been on my list of airlines to try, and even though I wasn’t flying in their prestigious first class, I was giddy for the opportunity to take my first flight with them.
The trip was planned very last minute. I’d been watching aircraft be retired left and right during the COVID-19 pandemic, and my gut told me that the Airbus A340 might not be long for the world of passenger service. They aren’t the most economical of aircraft. I’d noticed that Lufthansa was operating A340-300s between Frankfurt and two west coast airports. While I really wanted to fly on one of the –600s, I figured I better jump while I had a chance.
I ended up planning a last-minute trip to Istanbul, making sure I included a leg on one of the 4-engine birds. Given the fact that Lufthansa announced that all A380s and A340-600s will be removed from flight planning, I may never get the chance to fly that variant. The -300s will likely hang around for a while as Lufthansa replaces them with A350s and Boeing 787s.
Booking My Lufthansa A340 Business Class Flight
My only feasible option for booking the itinerary I wanted from my regional airport to Istanbul and including a segment on Lufthansa was United miles. Lufthansa has outrageous fuel surcharges when you use pretty much any other miles. I would have loved to book ACV-SFO-FRA-IST using LifeMiles with the first and last segments in economy to cut the price down, but there is no way the Avianca computer can put that together. Not feeling like calling, I settled for a different itinerary.
The SFO-FRA option was on the wrong day anyway. I ended up booking ACV-SFO-SEA-FRA-IST, four segments on three different carriers. I departed Saturday evening and arrive in Istanbul midafternoon on Monday. It was a long trek, and included an overnight at the Seattle Airport Marriott. But it included Lufthansa A340 business class, so I was more than happy to drop 77,000 United miles for the ticket.
Check-In and Seattle Airport Experience
I arrived at the airport at 10:45 AM. With a 2:20 PM departure time, I figured the Lufthansa check in would open at 11:20 AM. But I was in luck when I arrived at their check-in counter at the southern end of terminal: they were already open. I’d have even more time to hang out in the contract lounge and get some work done.
As part of the document verification, I had to provide my Turkish e-Visa. There were (and still are) tons of restrictions as to where Americans may travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Germany is still not open to U.S. tourists. I’d be transiting Frankfurt Airport with a final destination of Istanbul. Turkey had reopened to international tourists as of June 12.
Ticket in hand, I headed to the security line. Due to the reduced passenger traffic, TSA PreCheck was only open at Checkpoint 4.
Soon enough I was through security and headed to the South Satellite from where my Lufthansa A340 flight would be departing. This was perfect, as The Club at SEA is located here. This is the contract lounge for Lufthansa at Seattle Airport.
Except it’s not anymore. It turns out that Lufthansa suspended its contract with the Club at SEA in the South Satellite early on in the pandemic, and it hasn’t been renewed. They currently do not have a contract business class lounge at SEA. Boo.
In theory, I should have been able to head back into the main terminal area and use the United Club. I’m pretty sure that they would honor the Star Alliance business class ticket or same-day travel. But this lounge is closed as well, so it was pointless to backtrack.
Stuck without anywhere to hang out, I contented myself with circling the South Satellite and photographing aircraft. There are obviously plenty of Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines planes to see. But there were a few oddballs as well. The two most unique were an Atlas Air Boeing 767-300ER headed to Misawa Air Force Base in Japan and the Asiana Airlines A350 departing for Seoul.
I could photograph planes all day. Seattle isn’t too shabby an airport for it, either.
Soon enough, my own bird arrived at the gate. I’ve seen a number of Airbus A340 aircraft over the years, but far more often the Iberia and Lufthansa A340-600s that occasionally grace SFO. Virgin Atlantic used to fly the A340 as well, but these have all been retired. I’ve only ever seen their Boeing 747-400s (years ago) and Boeing 787-9s.
I worked for a while at the gate area as more passengers arrived. While it didn’t look like the plane would be especially full, it certainly wasn’t empty. I did notice that two, if not three, of the gate staff were the same counter staff I’d seen earlier. I have to imagine Lufthansa uses contract staff at Seattle, especially with a less-than-daily service it currently operates.
Boarding and Initial Impressions
Boarding started on time, with lots of people pre-boarding. I have noticed during the pandemic that there has been an uptick in pre-boarding. This has seemed odd, but my guess is that it has to so with two things: people wanting to avoid other people in line, and people wanting extra time to sanitize their seat area.
As I boarded, I was surprised to see four USCIS officers. One actually stopped me and asked me how much cash I was carrying. Showing him the grand total of $15 I had in my wallet, he let me continue on my way.
Most of the other business class passengers had boarded ahead of me, mainly because I was pulled aside by the USCIS officer. The cabin was maybe half full. Lufthansa A340 business class is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, with each pair of seats being good for two people traveling together.
Fortunately, every solo traveler in the cabin had a pair of seats to themselves. This particular Lufthansa A340-300 had 30 business class seats in a single cabin section. Lufthansa does not offer first class seats on their A340-300 aircraft. There is a small first class section on their A340-600s.
It’s not the most cutting edge business class product, but it’s definitely not a bad layout. You just need to know what you’re getting yourself into.
The seats in the center are best for a couple traveling together, as you’re angled slightly toward each other. Those to the sides are parallel and offset just a hair. The difference is minimal, however.
I was assigned window seat 4A. There was a lady in the aisle seat in the row behind me and a man at the window in front of me. I really like the Lufthansa colo scheme.
Soon after I got settled, the purser came by and greeted me by name. He spoke excellent English and was quite friendly. I would end up chatting with him at a couple points during the trip. On the whole, the Lufthansa crew was excellent.
The only business class passenger who arrived after me provided quite the spectacle. As this flight was during COVID-19, everyone was wearing a face covering and many passengers sanitized their seat area. However, he took things to the next level, proceeding to fully wipe his seat area down 2-3 times over. He must have sanitized his hands at least four times over a 15-minute period. I’m not exaggerating. If you’re that concerned about COVID-19, I suggest you reconsider traveling. We’re all going to be stuck in the same cabin for nearly 10 hours, which is honestly the greater risk. The sanitizer would make its appearance several more times during the trip.
Flight attendants came by with menus and wipes soon after boarding. Orders for dinner and drinks were taken before the door closed, which surprised me. More on that later. Rather than serve drinks prior to departure, they were served as soon as the flight crew could move safely about the cabin. I opted for champagne, which was served with cold cashews.
On the whole, I was super excited to be on my first international trip since January. It’s no first class, but Lufthansa A340 business class is still flying in style in my book.
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Seat
I’d selected seat 4A, a window seat in the second-to-last row of the business class cabin. There wasn’t anyone assigned to seat 4C next to me, which meant I could easily get up whenever I wanted. Window seats in Lufthansa A340 business class do not have direct aisle access.
The seat isn’t the most comfortable business class product I’ve flown. The first thing I noticed is that the headrest was too low and pushed my shoulders forward, which was uncomfortable unless I slid it up slightly. It does adjust and contains a reading light.
With 64 inches of seat pitch, there is no lack of foot room.
Each seat is fully lie-flat. The length was more than sufficient for me to stretch out completely, although the footwells are very narrow. The upside is that they are are not the “cubby” style and constrained above. I am short enough that my feet were not squeezed to the very end of the footwell. Lufthansa A340 business class seats have a bed length of 6.5 feet according to SeatGuru.
The seat control is located in the armrest and entirely intuitive. The tray table is stowed inside the divider under the armrest. You have to push it down quite firmly to release it before sliding it out.
The IFE controller is under the armrest. This was the first moment I noticed that the cleaning might not be up to par, especially during COVID-19.
You also have USB charging ports to the side of the seat under the armrest.
The drawer/cubby next to the footwell contains the amenity kit and a bottle of water. The Lufthansa A340 business class amenity kit is pretty standard, containing a oral kit, comb, eye mask, socks, and a couple other items.
First time seeing a safety card for this aircraft type. 😉
The arm rest to the side of the seat retracts to provide you with additional room while sleeping. This was the second area that had bits of stuff scattered all over. While I’m not personally worried about COVID-19 while flying, this left me feeling like Lufthansa wasn’t taking the cleaning measures quite as seriously as they state they are.
Overall, the Lufthansa A340 business class seat isn’t too shabby, even if it isn’t a cutting edge product. It is reasonably comfortable for sleeping, although it might be a bit cramped if you’re much taller than my five-foot-ten-inch frame. I’m glad Lufthansa offers a fairly large pillow, too. The experience would have likely been a whole lot less ideal with a stranger next to me for 10 hours, especially during the middle of the flight when everyone had flattened their seats. I’d definitely recommend the product more for people traveling with a companion.
One of the first things I noticed about the Lufthansa pilots and cabin crew was that their English is exceptional. The pilot welcomed us onboard, informing us that our flight time would be approximately 9 hours 30 minutes. The purser came by again to see if I needed anything. He greeted me as “Mr. Snyder” in nearly every interaction, which I found impressive.
I had a full three windows out of which to take photos, and I found myself enjoying every minute of our time taxiing to the runway. The Asiana A350 pushed back and headed to the runway just a little ahead of us. My favorite shot of the day is still this Alaska Airlines takeoff, though.
If you’re familiar with the A340, you likely know that it’s performance has never been something to write home about. It may have four engines, but the total thrust output compared to its takeoff weight is relatively low. The acceleration of this A340-300 flight was likely the weakest I’ve ever felt (The -600 has better takeoff and climb performance). The climb out of Seattle was smooth and slow. But that was entirely fine, as it was literally the most gorgeous day I’ve ever seen in the Pacific Northwest.
We took off toward the south, circling around to the east. This gave me some great shots of the Seattle Airport and Puget Sound. Had I been on the other side of the aircraft, however, I would have enjoyed amazing views of Mt. Rainier.
Soon we passed downtown Seattle. Even though it’s often cold and rainy, it’s still one of my favorite cities in the U.S.
Can you guess what this place is? Hint: it’s just a little north of Seattle.
Soon enough we left the city behind and headed over the Cascades. At this point I could make out the San Juan Islands and potentially Point Roberts, the U.S> exclave south of Vancouver. At the horizon is Vancouver Island.
I kept the window shade open all through the meal service to enjoy the views. Later on I had views of what has to be the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Meal Service
Meal service started fairly promptly after takeoff. Welcome drinks were served first. Orders had been taken prior to the door closing. This is different than most business class service I have enjoyed, where drinks are offered pre-departure. My guess is that this is a service change due to COVID-19.
Lufthansa did provide a business class beverage menu. The wine selection included a selection of six wines, plus Champagne. There is also a selection of beer and spirits, including two German brews.
The only service “mishap” of the entire flight was the lack of menus. The Lufthansa flight attendant apologized profusely, as this is *not* their typical business class service.
I was presented with a notepad with three selections on it for the starter: beef, shrimps [sic], zucchini. The main course selections were: beef, salmon, ravioli.
This was literally all the information they had. The catering was loaded, but there was no galley information or menus. Oh, what an introduction to impeccable Lufthansa!
The starter was served about 40 minutes into the flight. I’d selected the shrimp, which was presented on a bed or cucumber and yellow tomato along with cocktail sauce. I thought it quite good, although Finnair still takes the cake for best business class starter I’ve enjoyed.
The beef main course was plated with carrots, brussels sprouts and sweet potato puree. The meat was tender but a bit dry. However, everything had good flavor. I paired it with the Longitude wine from South Africa.
Dessert was ice cream from Salt & Straw, a Portland-based chain that I have enjoyed once or twice before. It is excellent stuff.
Port and chocolates finished off the meal service. I still remember the first time I tasted port on an Asiana flight back in 2017. This time I was ready for the sweetness.
Overall, I thought the Lufthansa business class meal service was excellent. Yes, there was the lack of menus, but the food is what really matters. The flight attendant was friendly and apologetic about the whole issue.
IFE and WiFi
During the meal service I decided to see if Lufthansa offers Wi-Fi. I couldn’t get the FlyNet site to come up even after connecting, finally typing the default router IP 192.168.0.1 to bring it up.
Lufthansa Wi-Fi costs $8 for a messaging pass, $20 for a mail and surf pass, and $34 for a mail and surf plus pass. There is a data cap with each, so you need to be aware of your usage. I opted not to purchase Wi-Fi.
It took me way too long to figure out how to use the IFE controller. You need to use the remote, as the Lufthansa A340 business class IFE is not touch screen technology. The IFE controller has a black thumb sensor. Moving your thumb across it moves the cursor on the screen.
I started watching Just Mercy during dinner, one of the few recent movies I was interested in seeing but had not yet watched. It is absolutely excellent. Lufthansa provides headphones in business class. They are a noise-canceling AKG model. I have a pair of wired Bose, but I ended up using these instead since they fit the three-prong outlet.
I paused the movie after the meal service and took a 3-hour nap, greatly assisted by the three glasses of wine I’d consumed. I’d stayed up late the past two nights to try to help the adjustment to Istanbul time. My goal had been to tire myself out so that I could sleep during the early part of the flight. I woke up at 8:24 PM, which is 5:24 AM local time in Frankfurt, if I’m not mistaken. The goal now is to power through to exhaust myself for my first night in Istanbul.
I pushed the flight attendant call button to request a glass of water. Does anyone else feel like a child when they do this? I avoid calling the attendants whenever possible, but I decided to not go poking around the galley.
The purser appeared within 15 seconds, which impressed me. At least the crew is responsive! He cheerfully brought me a glass of water before asking if I’d finished the water bottle in the drawer. That’d be a yes. But had I finished the one for the seat next to me? No, but now I see you’re a shrewd chap. That’ll be my next move to keep from bothering you again.
I proceeded to finish Just Mercy, which brought me to free-flowing tears. This just added to my need to rehydrate even more.
Breakfast service started 90 minutes before arrival. The flight attendants passed through the cabin offering coffee, juice, and water. This was followed by setting the table once again.
The two breakfast options were either an omelet or muesli. The ham and cheese omelet turned out to be better than I expected it to be, which was a pleasant surprise.
We even had entertainment during breakfast, graciously provided by the passenger fast asleep in seat 5K. He had some of the worst intermittent snoring I’ve ever heard from anyone on a flight.
Overall, the food in Lufthansa A340 business class was good. None of the catering wowed me, but neither was there anything to complain about.
Final Descent into Frankfurt
I was enjoying my second cup of coffee by the time we crossed from the North Sea into Germany. Flying often brings out that “top of the world” feeling in me, and this morning was no exception. I know I’m very literally at 39,000 feet above the earth. That’s not quite what I mean, though.
It’s more than that. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. There is something extra special about the first long-haul flight of a trip. There is a sense of adventure. And of wonder. Even if I’m arriving off a brutal economy long-haul and have hours to go until bedtime in Europe, it’s still a thrill. There is nothing quite like seeing the morning light bathe a foreign landscape far below. Today it was a lovely smattering of clouds gracing the Danish coastline, and I just soaked it in.
The flight attendant brought my musing to an end by asking me to stow my table and bring the seat up for landing. I found that my seat had a kind of it’s own for the final 20 minutes. It adjusted the cushion firmness numerous times during final descent, to the point that it was starting to drive me crazy.
One of the final conversations puzzled me. The sanitizer-crazy man across from me had a Lufthansa ticket to Berlin, from where he would continue *out* of Germany on a separate ticket. Now, under normal circumstances, this would be no issue. But with COVID-19 restrictions, the plan doesn’t seem to work. Frankfurt to Berlin is a domestic flight. I wondered if he will be stopped at immigration. Lufthansa had let him board, though. I wish I could know how that plan worked out. I’m truly curious.
After passing through layer after layer of clouds, we descended onto the runway at Frankfurt Flughafen. I took more than a few photos of the various Lufthansa wide-body aircraft parked all over. It was sad to see so many being stored, including half their A380 fleet all parked together. I spotted a couple other A340s as well.
Then it was off to catch my next flight, business class on a Turkish Airlines A330-300. Stay tuned for that experience.
Final Thoughts on Lufthansa A340 Business Class
My first experience with Lufthansa will always be a memorable one. I enjoyed my experience greatly, from the food, to the friendly crew, to the beautiful ascent out of the Pacific Northwest. More memorably, this might turn out to be my only flight ever on an Airbus A340. While I’d happily repeat the Lufthansa A340 business class experience, I’ll jump at the chance to fly an A340-600 in Lufthansa first class, if the carrier does bring the aircraft type back. That remains to be seen.
Next on the list is flying upper deck business on a Lufthansa 747-8. But who knows when that will ever happen. 😉
Final COVID-19 note: I do highly recommend a neck gaiter face covering for flying. Some airlines require KN95 or surgical masks (which I would find out on flying KLM on my return). For airlines that only require a cloth face covering, the neck gaiter is very comfortable. I didn’t mind it nearly as much as a surgical mask for the long flight.