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This week I have flown both British Airways’ and Lufthansa’s short-haul Business Class products and thought I would cover both reviews as a comparison. Before this week, I had flown BA Club Europe (its Business Class offering for short-haul flights) once before and was largely underwhelmed. I was therefore pretty excited to try out Lufthansa Business Class, an airline with an arguably better reputation. Well…all I can say is that I shall never under-appreciate BA again!
When: October 2019
Route: BA Club Europe London Heathrow LHR to Stockholm ARN and Lufthansa Business Class Stockholm ARN – Munich MUC. Both flights are between 2 and 2.5 hours and both were early morning flights.
Cost: £410 return for British Airways. This ticket price was HIGH and due to my lack of flexibility and planning. This route is regularly available from £222 return. The Lufthansa ticket was part of my end to end Etihad itinerary, but a Stockholm – Munich return flight is regularly available from £330 return.
Round 1: The Lounges
British Airways perhaps had an advantage flying out of their flagship Terminal 5 hub, as there are multiple lounges available. I went for the largest available to Business customers, the Galleries Lounge South. At 5:30am the lounge was still rather busy, but there were lots of seating choices, from comfy seats to having spots to work. I was greeted warmly and found a quiet spot. My instant reaction though was that the lounge was FREEZING and I was not the only person to comment on this!
The lounge has a full self-service spirit, wine and beer selection from the point it opens. There are also juices, soft drinks and several Coffee Union stations. I did notice that the choice of spirits very slightly altered as I checked out each bar station. For example, Ciroc Vodka was only available at one of the three stations I checked out.
There was a good breakfast selection available, with full English, bacon rolls, pastries, fruit and porridge on offer. I wasn’t hungry so just had fruit salad, which was tasty.
Apart from the Baltic temperature, I was very impressed with the lounge and the time flew by!
To give Lufthansa a fair chance I will predominantly compare the BA Lounge with their Senator Lounge in Munich. In Stockholm, the only lounge available to Business class was the SAS Business Lounge which was pretty basic to say the least. It didn’t even open until 5am despite a load of 6am flights on schedule. You had to swipe yourself in with no human greeting, only to find some sad looking croissants, sliced cheese and meat. Two wines were available from a tap, which I did not try. The coffee sucked. Maybe it was my grumpiness at 5am, but that was the worst lounge I’ve been to.
So how about the Senator Lounge in Munich? Like BA’s Heathrow offering, there are plenty of lounges to choose from at Munich, which isn’t Lufthansa’s flagship, but comes second to Frankfurt. I used the Non-Schengen one near gate H24. The Senator Lounge isn’t actually available to regular Lufthansa Business customers; you must be a Senator cardholder or flying First Class on a Star Alliance or codeshare flight. There are also Business Lounges available though.
So am I giving Lufthansa and unfair advantage comparing BA with a lounge that I wouldn’t even have been able to get into if I weren’t travelling Etihad First. Yes I am. And it still sucked!
Where do I start…
The reception from Lufthansa was downright rude. I handed over my boarding pass and was silently motioned to the Business Lounge. I said I think I’m entitled to the Senator and was told, no, no I was not. I asked to check. The lady went off and came back to inform me I was, in fact, right. No apology. Just a motioning in the Senator direction instead.
So this Senator Lounge is hard to get into right? I got quite excited. I head up to the bar and asked for champagne. Again, I am silently served. I ask if I can see/take a photo of the bottle and am told “no photos in the whole lounge”. Strange. So I memorise the ‘champagne’. It turns out the be a bottle of German sparkling that you can buy in the duty-free for 16 euros. 16 euros a bottle! This is what Lufthansa are serving their ‘best’ customers? Really?!
The food on offer was also a step down from BA, but not as much as the drinks situation. There was a hot cooked breakfast and a snack station. I had a little of the cooked breakfast and didn’t finish it.
On a positive, the lounge does have relaxation rooms and showers, which are handy if you have a long wait. Also, the spirits offering behind the bar was good and there is a cocktail menu.
Speaking of which, I finished up my stay in the lounge with a Moscow Mule. The whole process of the bartender making the Moscow Mule was awkward but kinda funny. She evidently did not know what one was (despite it being on the menu). What I think happened was that she started off reading the Moscow Mule recipe, but halfway switched to Cosmo ingredients. The concoction I got was…interesting.
Round goes to: BA
Round 2: Boarding
Not much in it with the boarding process. I arrived just as boarding was commencing for both flights. Both airlines clearly prioritised Group 1 boardings. I’d say the welcome from the BA staff on the plane itself was more friendly than Lufthansa (I think Lufthansa’s service trademark is silence).
Round goes to: BA
Round 3: The Seats
Both airlines were flying an A320 and both take the same approach to Business. They are the same seats as Economy, but with the middle seat blocked out. BA allocate 5 rows (so 20 people) to Business, whereas Lufthansa only allow for 3 rows (12 people), so Lufthansa felt a little bit more exclusive. But all in all, there is nothing to shout home about either seat.
Round goes to: Lufthansa
Round 4: Service
I always like a BA crew. I think they just combine really good service with friendliness and a bit of banter. The crew offered to hang up people’s coats for them, and once they noticed I was drinking champagne, kept coming back to check if I wanted another top-up (I guess to not let the bottle go to waste!). I think the service BA give to their Club Europe customers makes up for the Economy seat you are getting and therefore it doesn’t feel like you are being absolutely completely ripped off.
Lufthansa. Sigh. I really want to say something nice about Lufthansa. But they didn’t want to be there at 6 o’clock in the morning any more than I did. I was silently handed my food, when I asked for sparkling water a bit later, I was told to sit down and they’ll bring it. I was never asked if I was okay or wanted anything else. It REALLY felt like an Economy flight. Southwest Airlines in the US provide their Economy customers with soft drinks and snacks with a smile. I was paying a premium for Business and did not at all feel welcome.
Round goes to: BA
Round 5: Food & Drink
This round is picking the best of a bad bunch. On the BA flight, they served either a full English, veggie omelette or a charcuterie board. I liked that they handed out a little menu with the full food and drink offering. I had the full English and it was pretty dismal. I did finish it, but it really wasn’t great. It came with a fruit salad and some oats which were much better. The best bit was the champagne, a Nicholas Feuillatte, which was perfectly drinkable.
Lufthansa provided a weird cold snack board of meat, cheese, veggie sticks, some gross fish paste thing and lots of bread. I didn’t eat any of that – it’s just not my thing. There was no choice and no menu. I did enjoy the tasty cake type thing in condensed milk. I don’t know what exactly it was, because there was no menu. I really couldn’t bear to drink at 6am, but they do service champagne.
Round goes to: BA
Honestly, I’m not sure I would pay for an inter-Europe Business Class flight again. I just don’t think it is worth it. But if you do want the lounges, the extra baggage allowance, or just the feeling of importance, then if you can, choose BA!