Cramped and Uncomfortable: Hong Kong to Frankfurt on Lufthansa Flight LH797

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Equipment

This was operated by a Boeing 747-800 (registration number D-ABYU – the photo below shows a similar aircraft at Frankfurt airport).

The cabin design was very grey, which made its already cramped atmosphere feel more claustrophobic still (worse yet were the toilets, also grey with zero decoration beyond a soap dispenser in a stainless steel holder and crammed into the back of the plane so much that the two toilet doors would bang into each other if opened simultaneously).

At the seat was a decent sized pillow and well sized blanket. The seat felt cramped and the design was indeed cramped. One example suffices, which is that when the seat in front was reclined it was already far enough back to stop one putting a drink in the drinks circle on the table, even when extended.

The seatback screen was a fair size and with good, clear resolution. Lufthansa’s choice of entertainment was broad and more up to date than Cathay’s has been lately.

Flight

The flight departed from the midfield terminal, which surprised me for a premium airline like Lufthansa as it is not very convenient, especially if there is a delay. The boarding was swift and efficient, and on the economy class jet bridge there was a good selection of newspapers.

The cabin was full, which I am given to understand is the norm for this flight.

We left around 45 minutes late but by the time we got to the gate in Frankfurt it was five minutes ahead of schedule. Taking off in the 747 it was noticeable how much effort was required to climb – one felt it more than in the 777 or even the A380. Additionally, the plane shook around a fair bit for the first couple of hours, but once we passed Sichuan province the turbulence died away.

The passenger mix skewed towards European. There was a noticeably large percentage of families and children. Next to me were two Russian speaking parents and their abysmally behaved child who screamed throughout the flight, banged his toy car repeatedly off his table, hung off the seat in front of him and much more. I blame him and his parents for this, not the cabin crew, but it was a bit disappointing that at no point did the cabin crew seem to suggest that he pipe down even though he caused a lot of noise and inconvenience for passengers nearby such as myself. On a flight popular with families as this one appeared to be that may be more common than it would be on many other airlines.

Service

As well as a cramped feeling cabin, what disappointed me about this flight was the service.

The crew was not warm but they were not unfriendly either, and to my slight surprise the Chinese cabin crew came across as grumpier than the German ones, though there was a high level of Teutonic briskness across the board, as for example when my seatmate asked about the dinner choices and was met with “Did you not read the menu?” – a sentiment I have often thought in such a situation but would not necessarily expect to be vocalised.

After the welcome on board, menus were later distributed, there was a gap then a drinks service then another gap and a dinner service. I did not receive dinner until three hours after takeoff, which given that this was a flight leaving more or less at midnight seemed like a ridiculous wait. I’m happy to have a standalone drinks service before the main meal service even on a late flight, but this wait was far too long. Breakfast was served an hour before landing, and as at dinner, trays were collected swiftly afterwards.

During the dinner, cabin crew came around to offer more wine. But overall they were noticeable in the economy cabin by their absence: for the first three hours in the air, the drinks service was basically the only time I saw them in the cabin at all.

Announcements were made in German, English and Mandarin but oddly not Cantonese.

Food and Drink

The menu was as follows.

For dinner I had the chicken, which was middling. I had the western breakfast, which was basic in flavour and texture. The main dish at dinner was served on a porcelain plate and with metal cutlery, but the breakfast tray was small and with plastic cutlery. Overall the food was not as good in quality as I would hope for from a premium German airline.

The drinks range is of good quality and with generous pours.

Conclusion

This was a dismal flight. The cabin had too many passengers for comfort, the one good meal was served well into the wee hours and the cabin crew was largely absent. I would fly it again if I had to, but with a decent alternative such as the Cathay flight to Frankfurt, I would happily avoid the Lufthansa option.

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