Showing posts with label A340. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A340. Show all posts

Monday, June 13, 2016

South African Airways’ Business Class Was Cool

South African Airways introduced the Airbus A340-600 in 2003. An obsolete jet now (the world prefers two engines); it was the height of innovation 12 years ago.  The interior was also state of the art with 42 angled flat seats in business class and 275 seats in coach. Every seat came with its own on demand video screen.  The A340 has an impressive range and can route anywhere because it isn’t bound by ETOPS restrictions.  
Upright Business Class Seat
Think back and recall what other airlines were flying in 2003.  United’s 777 flagship aircraft featured Lazy Boy style recliners in business class and a TV with 9 channels of looping video content. First class was a flat bed with on demand video because a flight attendant brought around video tape cartridges for the system.  ATA was an airline and flying L-1011’s while Northwest was going strong.  SAA looked like a cool foreign carrier with a top notch product.
Seat Fully Flat
Leg Room in Row 1
The average onboard experience has progressed in the last decade and SAA’s aircraft feels antiquated.  Flat beds not parallel to the floor are being removed and direct aisle access is the new norm.  The seats onboard are in good shape and reasonably comfortable.  Everything works as designed, TV’s were thicker and fuzzier back then, and there were no personal space issues even with a full business class cabin.

Breakfast 10 Hours After Take Off
Dinner Immediately After Take Off
I did enjoy my 11 hour flight from Perth to Johannesburg. The service and catering were great.  Dinner and breakfast were both satisfying and the wine list was wonderful.  I was easily able to sleep for 6+ hours and left the aircraft relaxed, rested, and excited for my wine tour the next day. The ground experience in JNB left much to be desired, but that’s a story for later.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Helsinki – Munich – Tokyo Lufthansa Business Class A340-600 and A320 Review

After an enlightening conversation about customer experience management, I was heading from Helsinki to Munich and then off to Tokyo.  Lufthansa recently implemented a new strategy to upgrade the intra-European flight experience, upgrading seats and meals in business class and coach.  The improvements are a stunning innovation in the inflight experience.  The seats are super slim line; the seat backs have been redesigned to create more room for your knees.  The seats are comfortable too, at least for the two hour flight.  The rows are actually closer together than before (with one or two more rows on board), but it feels like there is more space in the cabin. The business class seats are the same as coach in size in pitch (distance to the row in front), but you have an empty middle seat every time (the flight wasn't full, so I had an empty row).
Lufthansa A320 Business Class Seats
Everyone gets something to eat, even in coach.  Lunch in business class was really tasty and had a great variety of flavors.  The portions were not large, but it felt more filling and satisfying that the standard large United offering.  The meal consisted of tatar of smoked trout on beetroot slices, ragout fin with mussels and basmati vegetable rice, and lime-blossom pudding with mulberry jam (yes, they included a menu).  All were delicious and accompanied by attentive service.  I doubt these are much more expensive or more difficult to prepare than domestic meals and I wish United will follow Lufthansa’s lead.
Lufthansa A320 Business Class Meal
The Munich Airport ground experience (in the new international terminal) has a great visual design with a modern German look, but it also includes an excessive amount of walking.  I first had to walk to customs to leave the EU (there is an elite lane at the far end).  I then walked a bit to the Lufthansa Senator lounge.  I enjoyed some pleasant German snacks and some local beer.  The lounge is a great place to relax even if for only 15 minutes, like my travels for example (tight connection + excessive walking).  I grabbed an ice cream to go, did some duty free shopping (got a cool poster by of all the different planes that fly out of MUC), and arrived at the gate just in time for the start of boarding.
Lufthansa Senator Lounge - Munich
The seat map online showed the rear business class cabin only had four other people in it.  This is great news because the plane wouldn't feel crowded like on my flight from Denver.  I had open seats all around a sense of privacy.  I would be the last for dinner and drink service, so I risked some options not being available, but I think it is worth it for the secluded environment.  
Quiet family on other side of cabin and many open seats
The business class seats (ditto first class) on Lufthansa's fleet of A340's and A330's are dated. So much so that Lufthansa has started to slowly replace them.  I was not fortunate enough to fly in the new layout, but instead became very familiar with angled lay flat seats.  They can be a comfortable chair, but they are awful as a bed.  The seats are a little too firm and are at a ~30 degree to the floor, so you slide out of them.  The tv is a good size and full of movies and shows you actually want to watch (it did break for about 20 minutes, the seat controls are on the same system and were inoperable).  Luckily Lufthansa's service is superb, so the flight was enjoyable.
Lufthansa A340-600 Business Class Seats
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Leg Room
Broken AVOD Screen, the Seat Controls Also Froze
I wanted to start my transition to an Eastern mentality on the flight and (daringly) ordered the Japanese meal to start.  The flight attendants brought me a fork too, I didn't even need to ask.  When the tray arrived I felt a little perplexed with what was in front of me.  I must have looked perplexed too because the flight attendant offered to explain what was before me and how it worked.  I also got a few pretzel rolls (and more Johnny Walker Black) just in case.  The meal was very tasty and there were some new flavors and textures for me.  The eel (upper left) was outstanding.
Lufthansa Business Class Japanese Meal pt 1
After reading the menu to know what I just ate (best done after eating Japanese food, not before), I was looking forward to my next course.  I was hoping to have the Western meal for my main dish, but was told I couldn't switch half way. I was a little disappointed that this wasn't mentioned when ordering, but resigned to a fate of further adventure.  I wasn't keen on the soup, but the fried duck and rice were excellent.  I went farther outside my comfort zone than planned and enjoyed the experience.  
Lufthansa Business Class Japanese Dinner pt 2
After a movie and less than comfortable rest, I opted for the Western breakfast before landing.  It was all very good and my last safe meal (or so I thought) before I landed in LA three days later.  
Lufthansa Business Class Western Breakfast
Once I landed and cleared customs, I headed to buy a ticket for the Narita Express train.  Cabs are crazy expensive, so the train is the way to go.
Narita Express Train

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Denver to Frankfurt and Helsinki - Lufthansa A340 & A320 Business Class

“I flew around the world last week” is fun to say. Give it a try, I’ll wait. Earlier in the year I booked US Airways’ around the world award (on the award chart as a round trip to North Asia) and ever since I was patiently waiting for this trip. Once my departure date finally came, I arrived at Denver International Airport early and I was almost jumping with excitement when I saw the aircraft taxi to the gate in Denver.
My Trip Map, from
The first flight was on Lufthansa’s A340-600 aircraft from Denver to Frankfurt.  I was eager to fly a new airplane model (for me) and this one is special; it is the longest Airbus made.  It looks cool from the outside, but the plane feels crowded, even in business class.  I took a lap of coach and it seemed to be a never ending expanse of seats, all filled. 
Pretzel Roll and Tender Steak Appetizer 
Back in business class, the seat is flat, but at a noticeable angle, 30ish degrees, to the floor (more detail in my MUC-NRT post).  It is more than six feet long and has decent, but not great, padding.  Each seat has its own video on demand system with a mix of music, movies, and tv shows.  A bottled water and amenity kit are waiting at each seat when boarding.  Lufthansa knows this business class seat (First class is a large recliner, even more dated) is at least one generation behind the current marketplace standard and will be upgrading their fleet with the new seats similar to those on the 747-800.  There are a few A340's with these new seats, but I didn’t luck out.
Business Class Steak Entree
Cheese Plate and Another Pretzel Roll
I didn’t sleep well on my flight; I tossed and turned for a while then just watched a few movies before breakfast.  Sun rise came quickly and I had an omelet.  It was a little bland, but the tater-tots and coffee were both great and picked me up.  
Lufthansa's Business Class Breakfast
Once on the ground, I quickly cleared customs (thank you Irish passport) and went straight to the arrivals lounge.  Lufthansa has an welcome lounge for business and first class passengers on the ground floor in FRA (Lufthansa and SWISS passengers only, Star Alliance Gold won’t help).  It has showers, good food spread, and comfortable seating.  It is on the ground side of security, so you’ll need to leave early to clear security and find your gate.  I left a little premature and went to the business class lounge by my gate.  It was crowded, but had a hot dog cart with good German mustard, so I didn’t care.  I also had an ice cream cone and a Scotch.  Not a bad lounge really and not a bad way to circle the globe.
Lufthansa FRA Business Class Lounge Hot Dog Cart
Crowded Lounge in Frankfurt
Lufthansa has invested in their intra-Europe inflight experience with new seats and upgraded meals.  European business class seats are just coach seats with the middle seat empty.  The seats are comfortable for a 3 hour or shorter flight too.  The flight attendants were friendly and very attentive on this flight.  The meal was a delicious currywurst paired with a salmon something and mint chocolate dessert.  It was a very enjoyable flight and I read up on Helsinki on the way. 
All Delicious, But No Pretzel Rolls
Once the flight landed, I headed straight for the tourist information desk to buy a Helsinki Card and then catch the Finnair City bus into town.