Busi­ness Class, Bei­jing Cap­i­tal - Frankfurt

Business Traveler (USA) - - TRIED AND TESTED -

CHECK-IN There is no doubt that the com­pe­ti­tion among the world’s pre­miere air­ports both com­mer­cially and aes­thet­i­cally is fierce. By all ac­counts, Bei­jing Cap­i­tal is likely soon to steal the Busiest Air­port in the World crown long held by At­lanta. The mas­sive Ter­mi­nal 3 build­ing we en­tered looked like it could han­dle 90-plus mil­lion pas­sen­gers with­out a prob­lem, but Bei­jing is al­ready plan­ning to start con­struc­tion on a new, larger air­port per­haps as early as July. Nonethe­less, my check-in pro­ce­dure at PEK was smooth, ef­fort­less and sur­pris­ingly free of crowds.

THE LOUNGE Af­ter clear­ing se­cu­rity, the full ex­panse of the Dragon Ter­mi­nal (as T3 is known) opened up be­fore us. Up the es­ca­la­tor on the mez­za­nine level we came to the Busi­ness Lounge of Lufthansa’s Star Al­liance part­ner Air China. The spa­cious feel of this large en­clave was en­hanced by its open de­sign – not a sep­a­rate room, but a space set apart and above the ter­mi­nal. The se­lec­tion of food and re­fresh­ment was var­ied, but there was but one sin­gle-cup cof­fee maker for the en­tire lounge – and it wasn’t func­tion­ing at full ca­pac­ity.

BOARD­ING The Dragon Ter­mi­nal is ac­tu­ally two Y-shaped struc­tures linked at their base by a pas­sen­ger rail sys­tem. The southY forms Ter­mi­nal 3C (with all the C gates), and the nor­thY is des­ig­nated Ter­mi­nal 3E. The E gates are where in­ter­na­tional car­ri­ers de­part. The 4-minute train ride from T3C de­posited us a short walk from our gate. Lufthansa board­ing was pre­dictably cour­te­ous and me­thod­i­cal, and thanks to the use of three jet­ways, vir­tu­ally has­sle-free.

THE SEAT Lufthansa has ded­i­cated the en­tire up­per level of the newly-con­fig­ured A380 to its pre­mium cus­tomers. The 92 Busi­ness Class seats are the same ful­lyflat de­sign as on the pop­u­lar 747-800, mean­ing they an­gle slightly in to­ward each other, ta­per­ing into a lit­tle cubby where you can stow your feet when you’re in the lie-flat po­si­tion.

I’d thought the an­gled-in de­sign might have en­cour­aged a con­stant chat­ter with my seat mate. How­ever, once the ex­cel­lent Sennheiser noise-

can­cel­ing head­phones were con­nected to the in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, any con­cerns about that were soon can­celed as well. Lufthansa has cer­tainly upped its game on IFE re­cently, of­fer­ing 100 movies, 200 TV shows (in­clud­ing‘box sets’ –en­tire sea­sons of sev­eral pop­u­lar se­ries), plus a wide se­lec­tion of mu­sic in var­i­ous gen­res.

THE FLIGHT As soon as I was seated, a smil­ing flight at­ten­dant swooped in with Cham­pagne, wa­ter or or­ange juice. Shortly af­ter take-off, the cabin crew came through again with the drink ser­vice and menus. I set­tled in with Han­del in my head­phones and a de­light­ful 2012 Pfalz Ries­ling in my glass. An ap­pe­tizer of sliced roast chicken breast and cu­cum­ber salad was fol­lowed by a tasty pan-fried sea bass, ac­com­pa­nied by mashed pota­toes and veg­gies.

Af­ter a brief stint on the lap­top catch­ing up on work, I aban­doned all pre­tense of pro­duc­tiv­ity and turned my at­ten­tion to one of the IFE box sets on of­fer which con­sumed much of the 10-plus hour flight. How­ever catch­ing up on sleep when you’re cross­ing all those time zones is a must, so sev­eral hours were also spent in what turned out to be a com­fort­able and fairly ca­pa­cious fully flat bed, com­plete with fluffy pil­low.

AR­RIVAL The gi­gan­tic A380 de­scended onto the run­way at Frankfurt right on time, as you might ex­pect. Since I was con­nect­ing on­ward, I didn’t need to ex­pe­ri­ence im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms here, and in­stead headed straight for the Lufthansa lounge to await my next flight.

VER­DICT The A380 is so smooth in the air, it’s hard some­times to imag­ine you’re ac­tu­ally in flight. Add to that the at­ten­tive cabin ser­vice and de­li­cious food, and I’d say you have an air­line ex­pe­ri­ence the way it’s sup­posed to be. BT

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