Taking One Of Lufthansa’s Shortest Flights (118 Miles)

Taking One Of Lufthansa’s Shortest Flights (118 Miles)

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After flying Lufthansa Embraer E190 business class from Sylt to Frankfurt, we connected from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf on a Lufthansa A320 in business class.

I’ve reviewed this plane many times before, but what intrigued me here is that this is one of Lufthansa’s shortest flights, at just 118 miles. I was curious about this flight from many angles — was the service modified due to the short duration, do people really take a flight this short, etc.?

This is among Lufthansa’s shortest routes, with the shortest being the 98-mile flight between Frankfurt and Stuttgart. It’s not even a route that’s operated infrequently, as there are often half a dozen frequencies per day.

Why we flew from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf

As I explained in the last installment, we booked an award ticket from Sylt to Frankfurt to Dusseldorf using Air Canada Aeroplan points. There are frequent and easy train connections between Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, and they only take a bit over an hour. So why did we decide to fly this short distance?

  • Adding the segment cost almost nothing (just a few dollars in taxes), while train tickets between Frankfurt and Dusseldorf are quite pricey, especially since we were only finalizing our plans pretty last minute
  • With the current state of travel in Europe, particularly with flight delays and delays with baggage, I didn’t feel great about booking a separate train ticket, in the event that there were irregular operations, since we wouldn’t be covered in the same way we would be on flights that are on a single ticket
  • Just as there have been horror stories with flying, there have also been horror stories with trains in Germany, given that Deutsche Bahn is offering 9 Euro per month tickets for the entire summer
  • With the big focus on environmentalism in the airline industry (particularly in Europe), and many routes being cut when there are easy train connections, I was curious what kind of travelers see value in these flights (admittedly I’m part of the problem there by being curious)
Frankfurt Airport was unbelievably busy

Anyway, that was my logic at the time, though I’ll say right now that I regretted the routing we took, since our checked bags ended up getting delayed, which I’ll cover in a separate post.

A reader also pointed out that there’s a direct train from Sylt to Dusseldorf, which takes around seven hours. We should have probably booked that. Even though it had double the travel time, I kind of enjoy sitting on trains, and can be productive while on them. Somehow that never crossed my mind, though, since I had assumed there would be multiple transfers involved with a train from Sylt.

Lufthansa A320 that flew us to Dusseldorf

This route ended up being all too familiar

The 118-mile flight from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf has a block time of just 50 minutes. With such a short distance, I assumed the flight time could be as little as 20-30 minutes. While airlines offer very efficient service in business class on short haul flights in Europe, I figured a flight like this was too short for even a snack service.

After all, if you start the service 10 minutes after takeoff and prepare the cabin for landing 10 minutes before landing, that doesn’t leave much time. Well, I was wrong…

First of all, our flight time ended up being airborne for 32 minutes, which is quite some time to cover 118 miles. This comes down to planes never being able to fly a truly direct routing, given the direction of runways and winds.

So, what was service like? Before takeoff we were offered chocolates and bottled water, which is more service than I’ve otherwise received on the ground on Lufthansa. I wondered if that would be the extent of the onboard service.

Lufthansa business class pre-departure chocolate
Lufthansa business class pre-departure water

But nope, after takeoff there was still a snack service, from Lufthansa’s typical “Tasting Heimat” menu. Flavors from Hamburg were featured on this flight. The snack consisted of a salmon tartare tartlet with cauliflower, plus marinated North Sea shrimp on pumpernickel. Then for dessert was a whole-grain semolina mousse with elderflower jelly, cassis quenelle, and yogurt sponge.

Lufthansa business class snack
Lufthansa business class menu

That North Sea shrimp on pumpernickel is what I feared all the food in Sylt would be like, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.

I say this frequently when writing about Lufthansa, and I’ll say it again — can anyone explain to me the frequency with which Lufthansa has elderflower dishes? I feel like I see elderflower on a menu maybe once a year when not on Lufthansa, while every other Lufthansa flight has an elderflower dish. Please, someone help me understand!

Anyway, back to the service — the only real modification otherwise was that drinks were served in plastic cups, rather than in proper glassware. Lufthansa only has marginally shorter flights than this, so I’m curious, does anyone know if service is modified on any of those? Or does Lufthansa manage to serve a snack in business class on all flights?

Lufthansa business class drink

The service more or less felt as usual, and passengers didn’t in any way feel rushed. The flight did boast some great views, so I spent the short flight time looking out the window.

View after takeoff from Frankfurt
View enroute to Frankfurt
View approaching Dusseldorf
Final approach to Dusseldorf

I was surprised by how full this flight was

To my surprise, this flight ended up being quite full in both business and economy, and the business class cabin was even quite large, with seven rows.

Lufthansa A320 business class cabin
Lufthansa A320 economy class cabin

With European countries increasingly adding restrictions on short haul flying with convenient train connections, I couldn’t help but wonder why people would take this 118-mile flight? Frankfurt to Dusseldorf has frequent train connections, and the travel times are similar between trains and planes.

Nonetheless the plane was quite full, in both business and economy. It seemed pretty clear to me that virtually everyone was connecting — I’d be surprised if a single person was flying exclusively between Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. So this made me realize a few things:

  • Airlines are largely incentivizing people to connect; fares are typically lower if you’re connecting to Dusseldorf than if you’re terminating in Frankfurt (since airlines can charge more for nonstop flights, and Dusseldorf has more low cost carrier competition — see the below screenshot), so in many ways airlines are encouraging people to take these “wasteful” flights
  • While we are increasingly seeing cooperation between airlines and train operators, the process needs to consistently be even more efficient, so people have more faith in this offering; trains should be sold as “codeshares” on the same tickets, they should be bookable through online travel agencies and show on Google Flights, it should be possible to check bags through (especially when your train departs from the airport), all ticket types (including awards) should give you the option of including a train connection, etc.
  • I find that existing air & rail tickets often don’t have the same attractive pricing you’d see if flying a route like this; in my experience many air & rail tickets have something closer to additive pricing (between the flight and train), rather than potentially lower pricing from connecting, due to how airlines price tickets
You’ll pay more to take one flight…
…than to take two flights

I think Star Alliance is onto something with adding intermodal partners, with Deutsche Bahn being the first one. If connections between flights and trains could be made more seamless, nobody would even want to take a route like this.

Bottom line

I took one of Lufthansa’s shortest routes, and was surprised that service was basically the same as on other short haul routes. In Europe, I guess there’s no such thing as a flight too short to provide service.

This is also an interesting route in the context of the air & rail concept, which is becoming more popular in Europe. Clearly there are areas for improvement if many daily flights are operating in a market with so much train connectivity. But the reality is that the process of booking a flight with a train isn’t consistently available, and even when it is, it’s not particularly consumer friendly.

Do you think we’ll ever get to the point where flight and rail tickets are integrated smoothly enough so that flights like this don’t exist?

Conversations (29)
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  1. Gio Guest

    Lufthansa already offers train connections from FRA to QDU (Düsseldorf station) sold in code-sharing.

  2. Louise Guest

    Lufthansa is a terrible airline. I would advise people not to use them. They are an absolute joke, a poor company that won't take responsibility fir their mistakes.

  3. Always Flying Somewhere Guest

    The service is more extensive than many U.S. carriers provide on a route of this lenght. Alaska "First" passengers receive a smile.

  4. Christian Guest

    Hi, German here. I think the elderflower thing is really a broader German („Heimat“) obsession, not restricted to LH. In German supermarkets, for instance, you see elderflower tea, elderflower syrup, elderflower honey, elderflower yoghurt (!), you name it.

    1. JKO Guest

      What a BS flight. With all the checkin and waiting I am 3 times traveled in between.

  5. Dave Guest

    And the 9€-Ticket is just for regional trains, the ICE thats operated between Düsseldorf and Frankfurt Airport needs a regular ticket.

  6. Jason Guest

    Lufthansa has flown this route with several frequencies for years. It’s all connections. It’s how Lufthansa serves Düsseldorf. Not sure why that’s confusing or a shock. I’ve taken it many times and it’s always full

  7. Fred Guest

    Ben, Lets hope the the ECO Warriors don't find out about this flight you took.
    They are glueing themselves to painting masterpieces in Europe to protest gas and oil. They are stopping the M4 in the UK.

  8. Geroge Guest

    I tried to fly Lufthansa last weekend and it was a complete disaster, I ended up taking the train because all flights to Berlin from Frankfurt were canceled. This airline has become third world at best.

  9. iamhere Guest

    It is very common in many other countries to make connections between flights and trains. Part of it depends if the train stations are at the airport and how seamless and simple they make it. Part of it also depends on people's perception and habits

  10. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    Amazing contribution to our environment!

  11. Deborah Guest

    We flew FRA-MUC and also had full service with a snack. It was maybe 30 minutes in the air.

  12. jsm Guest

    I was going to ask why not take the train and then your article reporter another reader beat me to it. Out of curiorsity I looked at bahn.de and found there is a 9:23 in the morning direct train taking 7 hours and 1 minute to Düsseldorf, with 14 intermediate stops. Sounds much more relaxing that dealing with the airlines.

    But then, this is an airline forum.

  13. Endre Guest

    Not you trying to justify a totally unnecessary flight.

  14. Jack Guest

    I flew with Austrian from VIE to GRZ in Business. Flight time was 29 minutes and service was Superb. On the ground I got water bottle and small chocolate and once in the air they served me sandwich trio and small pastry together with coke and coffee. Everything served was in proper plates and glasses.

  15. Hudute New Member

    Whilst I agree with your conclusions in regards to short air routes in direct competition with rail travel, I think the conclusions you draw in your conclusion are more on you in this particular case.
    1. Google flights searches for rail operator fares as well, you just have to search for cities instead of just the Airport codes like the site does by default. It shows me almost exclusively DB fares for your route...

    Whilst I agree with your conclusions in regards to short air routes in direct competition with rail travel, I think the conclusions you draw in your conclusion are more on you in this particular case.
    1. Google flights searches for rail operator fares as well, you just have to search for cities instead of just the Airport codes like the site does by default. It shows me almost exclusively DB fares for your route when I just looked for it.
    2. Lufthansa already matches their prices for air and rail fares (I can attest to that multiple times at least on the DUS/QDU-FRA route), at least for intercontinental fares. When I just looked at it to confirm, fares to NBO were even a bit cheaper when taking the train to FRA.
    3. LH already gives the trains available a flight number and I can attest that booking the train as part of an LH award booking has been possible since at least 2017. Missed connections benefits as if you were flying included.
    4. Integration with rail travel in FRA is already pretty optimal, I can check-in on the way from the long distance train station to the terminal and pick up my bag there instead of at luggage claim no problem. No carrying the bags for any longer than necessary. I would hate to have them through-checked as that would mean I could no longer "turn up and go" at the train station. Whats next? Adding a security check for a train trip? No thank you.
    I don't disagree that rail integration needs to become better, but you couldn´t have picked a worse example imho.
    Also: The 9€ ticket is only for regional trains. No impact on long distance trains like you would have taken. In my experience, long distance trains have even been a bit quieter with especially the normally ubiquitous drunk football fans having a cheaper option for their travel.

    1. Richmond_Surrey Guest

      KLM been selling train/flight tickets for years too, with code share flight numbers.

  16. Greg Guest

    Europeans have standards when it comes to being able to eat in a civilsed manner when you pay extra for a service. Nice to see they are maintained.

  17. Weymar Osborne Gold

    Adding on to the option of a train from Sylt to Dusseldorf, Eurowings also offers a direct flight between the two.

  18. Mick Guest

    We are moving to trains for all intra Europe travel atm. Too much risk with long security and delayed baggage.

  19. East2West Member

    Flights like these are disgusting, especially when you have perfectly viable train options that are shorter point to point. People wonder why our planet is falling apart when flights like these are operating and people are willing to take them.

  20. Egor Kulikov Guest

    Note that 9 euro tickets are only valid on regional trains and not EC/IC/ICE. Also it is 9 euro per month for the whole summer, not just for June

    1. Gregor Guest

      No, it is 9 euro for each month. You have to get a separate ticket for every moth you want to use it.

  21. Germanrecession Guest

    Nurnberg to Frankfurt I guess is the second in line for shortest domestic dlh flight? I think they still operate this route?

    Off subject. Why did dlh bring back all equipment types but not the old a320 models. They brought back the old 321s this spring, summer. I miss the 30 yr old a320s.

    1. UGC Guest

      FRA-NUE? Yes they do, and it’s often full…

  22. Kevin Guest

    Elderflower is a very popular flavor in most German speaking regions. It was more of a regional alpine thing but at least since 2010 it became widely popular due to the creation of the „Hugo“ Drink in Südtirol by Roland Gruber in 2005. And as usual if a flavor is popular people extend it to a level that is hard to digest.

    1. Max Guest

      In addition to this, elderflower is usually something that we Germans like to process as food at home, for example as a cold soup with semolina balls. Very tasty (and sweet). When I was a kid, all my friends parents would make this in the summer....next to beer, sausages and cabbage, this is another "typical German" food. Perfect for a tasting heimat menu ;)

  23. NiCr Guest

    The good looks GROSS and you cannot even select a special meal om LH group shorthauls. Even BA does better. Lol

    1. David Guest

      What are you on about. That flight is shorter than most people’s commute? Get on. Get off. Move on with your life. Do you expect a special meal on the metro/tube/subway?

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Jason Guest

Lufthansa has flown this route with several frequencies for years. It’s all connections. It’s how Lufthansa serves Düsseldorf. Not sure why that’s confusing or a shock. I’ve taken it many times and it’s always full

2
David Guest

What are you on about. That flight is shorter than most people’s commute? Get on. Get off. Move on with your life. Do you expect a special meal on the metro/tube/subway?

1
Fred Guest

Ben, Lets hope the the ECO Warriors don't find out about this flight you took. They are glueing themselves to painting masterpieces in Europe to protest gas and oil. They are stopping the M4 in the UK.

1
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