Flight report: Frankfurt – Tokyo with Lufthansa in Premium Economy (Boeing 747)

  • 30.03.2023 09:35
  • Bruno Arcos

Our editors recently travelled to Japan and chose to fly with Lufthansa via Frankfurt, as they were excited to try out LH Premium Economy class and the increasingly rare Boeing 747.

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Disclaimer: In order to ensure that our experience would be as authentic as possible, we personally paid the full fare and the airline was not informed that any content regarding this flight would be produced.

Frankfurt – Tokyo, Premium Economy

Scheduled Departure Time: 13h30 pm; ETA: 10h30 (+1); Estimated Flight Time: 13 hours – Boeing 747-8

Since we had already completed check-in procedures, we made our way directly to the boarding gate at Frankfurt Airport, which – more often than not – can be quite confusing. We were then greeted by the magnificent Boeing 747-8, which we never thought we would have the opportunity to fly on.

Boarding in Frankfurt:

Boarding at gate Z58 was delayed 15 minutes and proceeded in groups. However, there were no markings or signs to help organize passengers according to their boarding order, resulting in a bit of a free-for-all. Fortunately, the use of automatic doors helped to expedite the process and keep things running smoothly.

Flight LH716:

The Boeing 747-8 aircraft was arranged in four different classes – First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy. Lufthansa’s Premium Economy section featured a comfortable 2-4-2 configuration and was set between a small group of Economy seats and the remainder of the same class.

During check-in we chose front row seats 21H and 21K for free with an insane amount of legroom (with both pros and cons as you’ll see later on). Since the tray table and in-flight entertainment screen were embedded in the armrest, these seats were slightly narrower than the others. However, it didn’t really affect our experience.

Although Lufthansa’s seats are quite old when compared to its competitors, they were still spacious and very comfortable, with an excellent adjustable headrest. The inclination range was fantastic and is perhaps among this model’s best features. In addition to the huge legroom, these seats also had a proper place to rest both your legs and feet, as well as an electrical outlet with one USB port for each passenger.

Now, let’s take a look at downsides: the in-flight entertainment! For starters, the screen was very small, which we could have simply overlooked if the system itself was decent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was quite disappointing, with loads of lists, very little text and a limited dashboard to navigate through the options.

Of course, we could have used the manual controller instead of the touch screen, but Lufthansa could have done better. The selection of movies and TV shows was also surprisingly limited, and the map didn’t even allow you to explore, simply displaying a pre-determined animation sequence.

Besides, a consequence of the seat’s fantastic inclination range was that window seat passengers were technically stuck if their front row and aisle neighbors reclined their seats to their maximum capacity. It was very difficult to get out without disturbing them and required asking either the passenger next to us to get up or the person in front to adjust their seat.

All passengers had a pillow and a blanket at their disposal, as well as a 50cl water bottle and an excellent amenity kit for premium economy. It included a Porsche Design pouch, an eye mask, socks, refreshing towels, toothpaste, a bamboo toothbrush, slippers and earplugs.

We were also offered a paper menu with the meal options that would be served during the flight.

About 50 minutes after takeoff, we were offered a drink. I ordered a gin and tonic with some snacks, while my companion chose water.

After about an hour and forty-five minutes in the air, lunch was served. The choices were vegetarian meatballs in mushroom sauce or a beef dish, oriental style. I went with the beef and my partner chose the meatballs. We were both served a bread roll, a noodle salad, a slice of brie cheese and a chocolate mousse with a red fruit coulis. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were also available. The food was quite good, but they were exactly the same as those served in Economy, albeit presented in porcelain tableware. Later on, the flight attendants came back with the customary kart offering tea and coffee.

After the meal, the cabin lights were dimmed, allowing passengers to rest more comfortably. It was at this point that we realized the downside of the infamously huge legroom that came with our seats. Being located right next to the bathrooms meant that there was a constant crowd of passengers talking loudly in that area. And when I say crowd, I’m talking about a half dozen people stumbling over my partner’s legs during peak traffic. Needless to say, they could have ended up falling over her or getting hurt. Eventually, a curtain was drawn to partially separate the bathroom area from the passenger area, but the damage had been done. Given the legroom is still quite spacious in the other rows anyway, we wouldn’t really choose these specific seats again.

Around 90 minutes before landing, we were served breakfast – a bread roll, scrambled eggs, sausage, spinach, butter and yogurt with granola. Once again, the catering quality was good and we had no complaints.

Although the onboard wi-fi had reasonably priced options, unfortunately it didn’t work on my phone, although it worked decently on my partner’s phone.

The crew were friendly and professional.

The flight LH716 landed at Haneda Airport at 11h27, local time.

Summary/Findings:

Overall, Lufthansa currently has one of the oldest premium economy classes among all the main European airlines. While its hard product may not be as flashy as its competitors’, it’s still incredibly comfortable. However, it leaves much to be desired when it comes to onboard entertainment. The catering was good, though not significantly different from regular Economy – just served in a more attractive way.

Although Premium Economy is not the same as Business Class, Lufthansa could actually compete in this segment with the likes of Air France and Swiss if the overall difference between Premium Economy and Economy went beyond a more comfortable seat. Would we fly Premium Economy with Lufthansa again? Absolutely! On a 12-hour overnight flight to Tokyo, comfort ends up outweighing the need for good-quality entertainment or a more sophisticated catering experience. However, on shorter flights, the price would have to be very, very attractive.  Clearly, Lufthansa feels it needs to improve its hard product, especially given the recent announcement of a total fleet renewal with a product similar to what Swiss offers. It’s a wise move, as in our opinion, the quality of Lufthansa’s economy and business cabins can be even less competitive than its Premium Economy.

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