Last month I had the odd but fortunate experience of flying Lufthansa in three different travel classes in one continuous journey on a single ticket.
Ten months in advance of the flight, I purchased a Premium Economy return ticket from London to Bahrain. In this review I outline the fantastic experience I had with Lufthansa for the return journey, from Bahrain to London Heathrow (via Riyadh).
The prices on Lufthansa flights to the Middle East do not linearly increase in price as the day of departure approaches, as is visible below. The first of the charts displays the price movement of my flight until the day it changed timings. The second chart displays the price movement from that day of flight change until the day of the flight.
LH636 and LH624
Lufthansa flies to Bahrain International Airport from its base in Frankfurt once daily, with a stopover in Riyadh. This is the same arrangement as its daily flight to Dammam via Kuwait. Neither Bahrain-Riyadh nor Kuwait-Dammam can be purchased as fifth freedom flights. Interestingly, Lufthansa adjusts its Middle Eastern destinations timetable continuously.
As reported by Routes Online, Lufthansa used to fly to Bahrain via Doha in 2014. This stopped in 2015, when services to Doha began continuing to Muscat instead. Before it finally discontinued all flights to Doha in 2017, Lufthansa also flew Frankfurt-Kuwait-Doha.
Flights to Bahrain operated via Dammam in 2017 and via Kuwait in 2018. When I purchased my ticket in August 2018 I was meant to fly Heathrow-Frankfurt-Kuwait-Bahrain, but this was switched to Heathrow-Frankfurt-Riyadh-Bahrain in September of 2018.
Riyadh used to be operated as a non-stop flight with no onward legs in 2015, but when Lufthansa cut Doha in 2017 it started flying Frankfurt-Riyadh-Dammam, at the same time when it began flying to Bahrain via Kuwait. And then all of this was rejigged around again just a year later, in 2018!
Flight 1: Premium Economy, Bahrain to Riyadh
I had arrived to Bahrain International Airport by Uber and within fifteen minutes I passed through passport control and security.
Our aircraft was D-AIKN – an A330-343X, 11 years old.
Boarding started at 23:20. This was slightly later than planned, but there was only 20 of us boarding the entire A330 so it made no difference. In fact, our gate push off time was 11.42pm, eight minutes early.
The Premium Economy cabin on this aircraft consisted of four rows of seven seats. The total number of passengers was seven, which made the load factor on this segment 25%. The percentage was lower in Business, and far lower in Economy.
The legroom was excellent. The distance between the seats is such that the passenger in front of you can lean back as far as the seat goes without you feeling any pressure to move back.
The amenity kit for Premium Economy includes a refreshment towel, a toothbrush and a toothpaste, a sleeping mask, earplugs and a thick pair of socks. The earplugs were weak and the face mask did not fully isolate light, but I loved the socks.
The IFE system is far inferior to the likes of Emirates but still includes a decent offering. One of the features, as seen in the photo above, is live GPS tracking of the aircraft. For the whole Bahrain-Riyadh segment I watched 100 Things, a 2018 German movie.
Despite departing Bahrain eight minutes early, we arrived in Riyadh five minutes late because we waited some fifteen minutes for our gate to be vacated.
Flight 2: Business Class, Riyadh to Frankfurt
As Bahrain-Riyadh is not a fifth freedom flight, passengers travelling to Frankfurt from Bahrain do not have to leave the aircraft in Riyadh. We were instructed to stay seated for ten minutes while the aircraft refuelled.
This was when Lufthansa’s representative from Riyadh Airport came into the aircraft and asked me to follow him into Business. There I was given seat 10H. I later realised this was because the entire Premium Economy, as well as Economy class, were about to fill up with passengers for the Riyadh-Frankfurt segment.
The segment from Riyadh to Frankfurt was 100% full in Economy, Premium Economy, and Business.
Lufthansa’s headphones in Business are stunning. They block out the noise completely. I couldn’t even hear the aircraft while we were up in the air. Plus, the quality of the sound coming from the IFE is crisp and clear. Thus, I could sleep very well.
I must not be the only one who absolutely loves these headphones – they are locked into the seat and cannot be removed!
We departed Riyadh King Khalid at 2.10am, 15 minutes late. We arrived in Frankfurt at 7.14am, one minute early. The average delay of LH637 is 10 minutes.
Flight 3: Economy, Frankfurt to London Heathrow
Sadly it was this final flight of my sequence of three that arrived late. It had actually arrived early from its previous flight, but for some reason cleaning took over an hour.
The aircraft was D-AINC, Lufthansa’s first A320neo. It is three years old.
My seat was an emergency exit row window seat. Lufthansa allows you to choose these for free at the time of check in. I always check in as soon as possible. So far, I have never failed to get an emergency exit row seat with Lufthansa.
Lufthansa legroom on short-haul flights is rather disappointing. My emergency exit row seat was just about enough for my long legs.
Rather disappointingly, the crew served everyone the same sandwich, which was full of cream and cheese. There was no alternative for those of us who don’t eat dairy.
Furthermore, the crew refused to give out any water before take off. I was thirsty, but got told to wait. Because it took over an hour for us to take off, with taxiing being very long, I was thirsty for a long time.
The load factor was 100% in Business and near full in Economy. Despite LH637 being on time on average, we arrived 40 minutes late having pushed off from Frankfurt 29 minutes late. We also spent a very long time circling around London.
It was no major annoyance but it was still a step down from the service between Bahrain and Frankfurt. It was even a step down from what I had between London and Frankfurt on the outbound journey.
I should mention that Lufthansa quickly and without much hassle issued me the 600 Euros of compensation for the connecting flight I missed for my outbound journey. In fact, I was so impressed with how they handled my case that I will endeavour to choose Lufthansa for all my future connecting flights.