Review: Lufthansa Business Class A320 Zurich To Frankfurt

Filed Under: Lufthansa

My connection in Zurich was just over two hours. I was arriving in the E Concourse and departing from the A Concourse, which was a surprisingly long journey. I know Zurich Airport is spread out, but my gosh, the transit took a long time. First I had to take the train, and then from there I had to clear security, go through passport control, and then it was still a haul. In total I walked nearly 1.5 miles during my layover, which is more than usual.

Zurich Airport terminal

Zurich Airport terminal

Since I had a bit of time I checked out the Swiss Lounge. The lounge was overcrowded and wasn’t very nice — apparently one of the lounges is under renovation and that’s why this one was so full. It was so full that I didn’t really feel comfortable taking pictures, so I won’t be reviewing it.

Swiss Lounge Zurich Airport

Given how full the lounge was I just headed to my departure gate, A84, and decided to sit there. Increasingly I’m finding myself just sitting at gates even when I have lounge access, as I’ll take a mostly empty gate over an overcrowded lounge most of the time. That’s because I’m typically just looking for a quiet place from which to work, rather than wanting something to eat or drink (since I get fed enough on planes).

Lufthansa departure gate Zurich Airport

My boarding pass indicated that boarding was scheduled for 5:35PM, though in reality it started 10 minutes after that. This gate had self boarding technology, where you scan your boarding pass and the gate opens.

Lufthansa 1197
Zurich (ZRH) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Friday, January 5
Depart: 6:05PM
Arrive: 7:05PM
Duration: 1hr
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 4A (Business Class)

I don’t review intra-Europe business class often since there’s not much to write about, but I figure once in a while it’s worth writing a review as a reminder that European airlines even make US airlines look good in this regard.

The business class cabin on this plane consisted of eight rows. On Lufthansa, business class on intra-Europe flights is simply economy with a blocked middle seat, which I find to be such a lousy experience. This gives airlines a lot of flexibility, since they can adjust the size of the cabin with each flight based on demand (it takes them just a minute to move curtains between flights).

Lufthansa A320 business class cabin

Lufthansa business class cabin A320

Lufthansa business class seats A320

Not only is business class simply economy with a blocked middle seat, but it’s not an especially comfortable economy seat at that — legroom is awful, these are the slimmest Recaro seats out there, etc.

Lufthansa business class seats A320

It used to be that they’d at least have a tray table on the middle seat, but even that isn’t the case anymore (I’m not sure if that’s consistently the case or not).

Lufthansa intra-Europe business class

Lufthansa business class empty middle seat

Lufthansa business class legroom A320

While every other aspect of the seat seemed to be shrunk, the tray table was still a normal size.

Lufthansa business class tray table A320

While economy was mostly full, business class was less than half full, as there were about a dozen passengers in the 32 seat cabin. As usual, boarding in Europe was efficient, and the door closed at 6:03PM, a couple of minutes ahead of schedule.

View before pushback Zurich Airport

Two minutes later we began our pushback, at which point the purser made her welcome aboard announcement informing of our flight time of 45 minutes. At that point the crew did a manual safety demonstration. As some of you may remember, this is where drama unfolded, as the crew stopped the safety demonstration to accuse me of secretly recording the crew. I won’t rehash that here, so instead just check out my previous post.

Lufthansa A320 business class cabin

At 6:20PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 28. The seatbelt sign was turned off five minutes after takeoff, and at that point the purser and the other business class flight attendant passed through the cabin with the snack service. The purser distributed the snack trays, while the other flight attendant served drinks.

Of European airlines I find that Lufthansa has among the worse business class snacks, and this was no exception.

Lufthansa business class snack service

The snack consisted of chicken and some shrimp, both of which were pretty tasteless.

Lufthansa business class snack service

The dessert wasn’t even good, and it’s not often I say that.

Lufthansa business class snack service

This was such a quick flight that I just gazed out the window after my brief conversation with the purser. We landed in Frankfurt at 7PM, and five minutes later were at the gate, right on schedule. Fortunately we got a gate rather than a remote stand, which is a treat at Frankfurt Airport.

Lufthansa A320 business class bottom line

Business class within Europe is really quite bare bones. It’s just economy with a blocked middle seat, and I find that Lufthansa is especially bad — they don’t proactively offer pillows or blankets, there are no power ports, the legroom isn’t good, the seats are hard, and I find the food to be pretty bad.

Sure, it’s nice to get anything on a 40 minute flight so I wouldn’t complain about the food, but the whole experience just leaves a lot to be desired. That’s not even accounting for the “issue” I had with this particular crew.

I should note that there are some — though not many — airlines that have a “proper” business class within Europe. For example, Aeroflot, Air Serbia, and Turkish all have more spacious seats in business class on at least some flights within Europe.

The more I fly with Lufthansa, the more I think their Skytrax 5-star rating is bogus.

  1. Would you have been able to access the Swiss E business class lounge, since you landed at the E terminal?

  2. I suspect you must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, since there should be no security check incoming from the US (and you could have used the E lounges before immigration).

  3. Air Serbia now use typical intra-europe business class with a blocked middle seat unfortunately…

  4. @Alvin Tse Yes. You can always get into the non-shengen area (Terminal D and E) even if you only have a flight departing from the shengen area (Terminal A or B). I always do that. It is actually proactively encouraged by Swiss as they even have a desk (and a huge poster) infront of the momentarily closed Lounge where the situation and your options will be greatly explained.

  5. The thing to keep in mind about intra-Europe business class is that flights tend to be very short. A great lot of the busy routes are only about one hour flight time, very few more than 2 hours. This means there is simply no demand / willingness to pay for a real business class product. The flight time is not much more than many people spend in daily commute. Frequency and price beat everything about the actual product.

    There are just two target groups for business class: Connecting passengers from intercontinental flights, and business travellers, mostly consultants and I-banks. The free middle seat product works for them.

    For the airlines, it solves the problem of extremely variable demand. Demand for business class seats varies extremely by day of week and time. Monday morning, FRA – LHR, you have planes with over half of the rows designated as business class. At other times, just 3 rows or so. Very hard to manage that satisfactory with a static configuration, also for customers.

  6. Same experience I had back in October. No middle seat tray table and unless you sit in the first row, there’s pretty much no legroom.

    It was certainly better than economy, but if I wasn’t flying this as part of a long-haul award ticket, I’d definitely be sitting in the back and saving my money.

  7. Intra Europe business for a 1 hour flight is fine. It sucks and is pathetic for London to Athens or saint Petersburg. It’s a joke

  8. I don’t understand why you are so hard on European business class.

    In my experience, the European model is superior. Seriously, most European airlines give a full meal on a flight below 1 hour in business. Compared to any American carrier where they give you a snack basket. The catering is far superior. Seriously, a 5 hour flight between Charlotte and LAX has no entertainment or proper meal. They offer a snack of artichoke humus or a cheese plate.

    Ok, the European seat is basically an economy seat, but they give you a free middle seat which lets you spread out. True there is no in flight entertainment, but some American carriers don’t have this either on regional or non-transcon routes in first class, basically any US airways A321.

  9. The poor seating and the lack of IFE or complimentary Wifi – combined with the high Lufthansa fares – are strong reasons to prefer the 1st Class on ICE train on domestic routes (plus Brussels and Paris) in Germany for business trips.

  10. I don’t mind LH or LX business class for flights under 90 minutes. The cabin is never full, the service is attentive, and they always give you a tray of food. In all three of those respects, it’s superior to domestic US first class on similar length flights.

    It’s certainly better than being jammed three across in the back.

  11. Lucky, how do you keep track of the precise times when things happen? (eg the door closed at 6:03). Do you have a checklist or some sort of recording app that logs milestones?

    You should do a post about how you write trip reports. I think we are all curious. We always get little snippets: trying to board first, making sure you eat all meals offered, even if not hungry etc.

  12. Intra-european business is ok on most flights, but really sucked on my recent TBS-MUC-LIS-TMS itinerary. More than 24 flight time…. Granted still better than economy, but only slightly so.

  13. You took the wrong exit in the E Terminal. Should have gone to the other side of the glass separator at the train tracks (i.e. To gates A and B). It’s obviously not signified very well but it would have saved you the security check and a long walk. Also, A84 is one of the gates which is farthest to walk. So, bad luck that day I guess.

  14. Turkish has an amazing business class. Definitely far better than everything else I’ve flown in Europe so far.

  15. You should take the opportunity to review the Austrian Airlines Intra Europe business class, same seat but much better food, plus a pillow and blanket available at each seat.

    The food on a one hour Vienna Berlin flight is far superior to the food I I had on LAX OGG on AA.

  16. LH physically blocks the middle seat in Business only in A321 aircraft and only in rows 1-3.
    LH marks those seats with an X on the seatmaps they publish in their web/App.
    European Business class is all about connections to long-haul, high corporates and some upgrades… there is little true Business Class demand.

  17. I’m flying on the Qantas A330 internal business class I’m looking forward to it having seen a review. In Europe I’m used to BA Club which is a shocker.

  18. I spent 8 hours in this business class from Frankfurt to Ashgabat (rough guess about the time, including a stop in Baku) … and I really wish(ed) I had booked Turkish Airlines or Turkmenistan Airlines instead. Hard product as described above and … soft product as well, short haul routine. Such an incredibly bad experience in both directions. No lounge access in Ashgabat, by the way.
    I’ll never do “consumer patriotism” again.

  19. The middle seat tray tables can be found on the first rows of the A321, and they‘re permanently installed – this is to keep the maximum number of available seats on the plane at a level which doesn‘t require LH to increase the cabin crew by one additional FA.

  20. At least you were offered real food, unlike the junk food doled out by American flights on flights up to two hours or longer flights not during designated meal times. I would take a European flight any day in business class over American airliines’ product. The seat is fine for short-haul flights unless you are a huge person.

  21. @Janet I agree. When I took Virgin America first class before, I was not offered anything because it was not a designated meal time. When I had to ask the flight attendant, I was told that they only offer snacks as no meals were prepared for the flight from LA to NY. It was pathetic given the hype of Virgin America…..

  22. The weird thing is, they use planes with this premium cabin set-up for this some non-European routes as well, like to the Middle East. If you fly FRA-BEY this is the business class you would get…

  23. The older intra-Europe business class had armrests that could be moved sideways towards the blocked middle seat, making the other two seats a bit wider. Doesn’t look to be the case anymore.

  24. Have a look at the first picture you posted. You should not have taken the escalator and easily have saved 20 minutes. And why this EU CCL bashing all the time? Of course the product is different if flights are on average 1-1.5h rather than up to 6h in the US (often called “first class” (?) with normally no lounge access, no proper meals, …). I think this meal looks pretty decent for a 40 min flight. But if you like TK so much, why don’t you fly ZRH-IST-FRA next time? The only reason TK has a different CCL product is that they have rather long flights on EU routes and if they did not feature a proper product on the feeder flights, not many would book a longhaul flight with them.

  25. Generally speaking, nobody really complains here about the short haul business class model: you can be sure that, if the opposite were profitable, there would be at least one airline doing it -in fact there is none. You pay a few euros more and you’ve got lounge access and snack, that’s pretty much all you need, as for intra-EU flights you’ll most likely stay more at the airport than on the plane.

  26. As a comparison, I just flew a Vietnam Airlines A321 on a short haul flight between two Vietnam cities. Their plane had real business class seats in two rows with a 2-2 configuration; very comfortable with multiple controls. The other surprise came when I deplaned. Like many European airports, a bus was there to take us to the terminal. I was the only business passenger and first off; as soon as I got on the bus, it pulled away! Coach passengers got the next bus.

  27. You shouldn’t complain about the LH Business Class meal, which looks abundant compared to LX, who recently reduced the serving to one (1) slice of cold cut (ca. 12 grams) and a roll. Period. Receiving several shrimp/prawn, several slices of chicken breast, some veggies, a desert plus a roll, is pure abundancy within LH group for Business …

  28. Steve K is right – business class within the same continent can often be worthwhile in Asia/ME but I wouldn’t bother with it anywhere else, except for mileage runs. Great story about Vietnam Airlines btw. Will have to try them myself in J when I visit there!

  29. Why is everyone using on intra-European business class so much? Just because it’s an economy seat doesn’t mean it’s actively uncomfortable. Those seats are designed specifically to have people sit in them for long periods of time. You also got served a five course meal on a sub-1 hour flight. You should try EZY LTN-TLV, which is roughly 5 hours with no free stuff whatsoever. This product looks better than what you’d expect in intercontinental economy class (though obviously no IFE) and most of us have to sit there for up to 24 hours at a time. So stop complaining!

  30. Prices on European Business flights reflect the soft product. BA prices a return from London to Alicante (1000 miles each way) at £180rtn at the moment. Or to Sicily for £215 rtn. You get a 3 course meal for that and 4 CTA returns get you OWS

  31. Iberia offers a real business class cabin with differentiated A319 from Madrid to Moscow and Tel Aviv (they serve these markets with A340/330 in some frequencies, as LHR aswel.

  32. I need legroom. Less than 31″ of pitch is practically unacceptable. It’s nice that LH’s a320s have 18″wide seats, but why aren’t there any (non-exit) rows with more than 30″ of pitch? I’d gladly pay a 30-40% premium for 10% more legroom. Can I really be the only one? It would be easy to keep a model of varying the size of business class if you had several rows of ordinary extra leg room and varried how many were business class.

    I know this was just a 45 minute flight, but any time you enter a plane you run the risk of being stuck for hours. I would be very reticent to stick myself in a seat where my knees are in contact with the seat ahead of me the whole time.

  33. The middle seats are blocked only on A321, on first 3 rows, as LH has 206 seats in it but the plane is certified only to 200 pax.

  34. I think the real advantages of the european Business Class are on the ground.

    Priority Check-In, Fast Track, Lounge, Priority Boarding etc.

    I like paying for an Y Light ticket, and upgrading for just 30-40€, wich is possible on LH and LX.

  35. Inter-European airlines are horrible and total bogus if your are speaking of business class. Still it is better and more comfortable traveling than in economy class.

    Aeroflot and Turkish are both airliners out of Europe. So they don’t do flights between European cities. Rather to Russia and Turkey.

    The prices for a short flight Prague/Amsterdam in business class with KLM can cost more than 500 or 800 euro’s. Asking myself who is going to pay that.

    Lufthansa is pretty okay in compare with Swiss Airlines (Short Haul) They stew everybody incl business class in one bus, to let them wait 20 minutes and then depart to the plane. They dont even give business class passengers a smile or complimentary drink. (sometimes they do) but on my flight to ZRH to AMS they didn’t. while waiting for 30 minutes on the tarmac due to high traffic.

    Soon flying first class MXP – JKF with Emirates.

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