Monday, February 05, 2007

Food Fight: United v. Lufthansa

Well, I flew back to Germany again this morning, the fourth time since I started my current project at work. However, unlike the previous trips, I decided to fly United instead of Lufthansa. For the last several years, I had been choosing to fly Lufthansa whenever I needed to come to Europe, partially because I had grown tired of the service on United (at least, on their US flights) and partially because of the mediocre food (or lack thereof in many cases) that we've come to expect from our domestic airlines.

However, on my last Lufthansa flight, I was quite underwhelmed with the level of service that I received, even though I was in business class. While served on real plates with real (i.e. metal) flatware, the Lufthansa food was quite unappetizing to say the least (a plate of greasy roast goose, anyone?). So, after chatting with a couple of friends who have had a lot of recent experience on both United and Lufthansa, I decided to give United another shot, figuring that it couldn't be any worse than the German flagship airline.

On this morning's flight, I was refreshingly surprised by the crisp and attentive service that I received from the United flight attendants, though admittedly this could have been due to the plane being half-full; I suspect that a lot of people decided to fly a day later so they could catch the Super Bowl. The food on this flight (beef brisket and mashed potatoes for dinner; egg and sausage croissant for breakfast), while not spectacular, was at least on par with what I would expect from food prepared in a 8' x 10' 747 galley. I can't say that it's fair to compare the food to that of my last Lufthansa flight as I was in coach (though in Economy Plus, which was another reason to go with United), but given my expected air travel in the upcoming year, I should be able to give a first-hand report from United Business class pretty soon. Stay tuned for further updates.


August said...

What do you think of Lufthansa in general? I have never flown internationally before, but my coworkers have recommended the carrier to me. As far as prices go, they are very competitive and have frequent sales. But this is the first time I've heard anything about their food!

Loren said...

August, my experience with Lufthansa has been good in general though, as I mentioned in my post, I was disappointed with the business class service. As I will be flying to Germany a decent amount this year, I will likely fly with them again at some point. One additional note: if you fly out of Frankfurt, you will have to deal with ridiculously long lines if you fly to the US. United check-in at FRA is much, much better.

Jim Gibbon said...

Hi, I'm late to this post, but I think you might be the best person to help answer a question I have about Lufthansa v. United. My family and I will be flying from Istanbul to Chicago via Germany and we have the option of flying Lufthansa or a Lufthansa code-share operated by United for the Germany - US leg. The code-share departs from Munich and the Lufthansa departs from Frankfurt. My only experience comparing US and non-US carriers is with Turkish (excellent) and Delta (horrible) flights to Istanbul. Those experiences led me to think that US carriers flying international routes are stingy, offering poor food and charging for alcohol, but maybe I was mistaken. Any recommendations? Oh, we'll be flying coach and will also have a newborn with us - first time with one of those! :-$

Loren said...

Hi Jim,

If you're flying coach and have some sort of Mileage Plus status with United, you should take advantage of the United Economy Plus seating. While the seats are the same width, you'll get some extra legroom. On the other hand, United charges for alcohol on its international flights now (its still free on Lufthansa).

As far as food goes, it's a mixed bag. It really depends on what you like. The food on Lufthansa tends to cater to the European palate (no surprise), while UAL has American flavors in its cuisine.

Jim gibbon said...

Thanks, Loren. I know I have some United miles from a while back, but I'm not sure I'll have enough to upgrade. Good to know about this, though.

The other main difference I've seen between US and non-US carriers is the professionalism of the staff, with non-US winning out, which is why I was leaning toward Lufthansa. That, however, might vary from crew to crew, how tired they are, etc.

Thanks again!