After a week of work in Dubai, it was time to return to Seattle. A little like my outward journey, Air Canada offered far less expensive than the competition, including business class. And so, I decided to treat myself to some business for the return trip. The route was Dubai-Frankfurt-Toronto-Seattle; this review will focus on the first leg.
Maybe part of the reason the ticket was so cheap was that it wasn’t really business class. The first leg between Dubai and Frankfurt – flown by Air Canada partner Lufthansa – was in economy class. It was unfortunate and almost got me bailed out until I saw the type of plane: the increasingly elusive Boeing 747-400. Sold!
Entering the United States requires a negative COVID-19 test performed within three calendar days for vaccinated people like me (although new rules will require all inbound international travelers to produce a negative viral test within one day of departure from December 6). Fortunately, the tests are extremely easy to get in Dubai and not very expensive: a test in a hotel room costs less than $ 45. He came back negative the next day.
Lufthansa has a dedicated micro-site for pre-clearance of travel documents, which can be done 12 to 72 hours before departure. I uploaded my test results and vaccination card a day before the flight and got the go-ahead within hours.
Online check-in was smooth and trouble-free, although the airport experience was another story. Lufthansa and Swiss share a check-in area and the lines were quite long when I showed up at midnight for our 2:00 am departure. By the time I checked in a bag, completed an in-person document check, left the UAE and arrived at the gate, over an hour had passed.
Boarding started on time in a gate area far too small for the aircraft type. Economy class embarked in rows from the rear, and I sat in the 50A seat in the rearmost cabin ($ 30 to be reserved in advance).
A thin, unwrapped blanket and pillow were ready on the seat, and headphones were distributed by the crew. As this is a 747 jumbo, I had no problem finding room in the overhead compartments even though the flight was completely full.
The cabin is laid out in a standard 747 3-4-3 layout and appears to have not been updated for some time. In fairness, Lufthansa had grazed the 747-400 at the start of the COVID-19 era, only to bring back a handful just a few weeks ago as demand increased and it became clear the carrier’s Boeing 777X order wouldn’t be filled anytime soon.
The seat pitch is the often-seen international standard of 31 ″, while the width is a tight 17.5 ″. Window seats get a bit more space overall thanks to the curvature of the side wall, probably adding two or three more inches. Each row has two international power ports, although none worked in my row.
Being an early morning start, I attempted to glide into dreamland shortly after take off. The adjustable winged headrests were a great help in resting during the flight.
Frustratingly, an early nap was interrupted by the first of two meal services, as the side cabin lights came on. The teams distributed a small sandwich and drinks. I wasn’t very hungry and refused, but it looked like some kind of plastic wrapped meat sandwich. The affair lasted nearly an hour before the lights fortunately went out.
Between the two services and the naps, I watched a movie about the in-flight entertainment system. The roughly 8-inch touchscreen was reasonably crisp and clear, although it probably wasn’t that new. It had a headphone jack and a USB port, both of which worked fine.
The content overall was decent but nothing quite approaching the wide range of carriers like Emirates. Movie options peaked in the low 200s, TV selections at 50. I didn’t play around with it too much, instead focused on resting as much as possible.
In-flight Wi-Fi powered by Panasonic Avionics was also available. Prices started at $ 8 for chat only and increased to $ 34 for emails and browsing. People with Lufty miles to burn could also purchase Internet access through miles. Technically, it looked more like a data plane; speed limits were triggered by data usage thresholds.
The more you pay, the more data you receive. The mid-range $ 20 plan, for example, promised speeds of up to 400 Kbps until 500 MB was consumed, after which speeds were reduced to 64 Kbps. I haven’t tried it.
The lights came back on about ninety minutes before arrival, and breakfast appeared about thirty minutes later. The hearty meal of eggs, potatoes and sausage was plentiful.
I slipped around the cabin while my seatmate was standing and managed to catch a brief plane tour from the flight attendants.
The 747 landed a little late. Crew members disembarked from the jet in sections, and sometimes in individual rows, clearing them above the PA. I had my doubts about this plan until the teams arrived to have everyone seated until their row or section was called. I couldn’t tell you why we did it, or if it achieved the desired result, but it did.
Without my love for the venerable 747 the flight would have been unforgettable (which, given the challenges of international flying these days, is AOK). But the 747 never gets old for me. Lufthansa even gave me a business class amenity kit as a souvenir.
All images credited to author, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren