The only problem with wanting to try the real United Polaris product was that the flight from Frankfurt to Newark left at 11.20 – this meant I had to get a pretty early flight from London for a holiday. I got the 07.30 LH923 which meant rocking up at Heathrow around 06.00. Thankfully, security at Terminal 2 is pretty much always quiet and even the main search rarely takes longer than a few minutes.
I’ve reviewed the Lufthansa Business class lounge previously, and it was its normal bland self, albeit with coffee!
Boarding was uneventful and I settled down for the short flight. I’ve generally found that shorthaul food on Lufthansa isn’t bad, but a bit odd. Today was no exception. It was some strange cereal thing which wasn’t bad, but didn’t come across as terribly premium. Oh well.
With that we landed into Frankfurt at a B gate. What came next reminded me of possibly why Frankfurt is arguably the most hateful airport in Europe (unless you’re travelling in First Class).
The aircraft pulled up and instead of the jetty attaching, they brought some stairs. Ugh. We’d arrived at one of the few ‘B’ gates that was attached to the Schengen area of the terminal, as opposed to the majority of the pier which are devoted to non-Schengen gates.
We then went on a scenic tour of the Frankfurt airport, being dumped at gate B63, possibly the furthest end of the terminal. My flight was going from Z23.
So I walked, up stairs, escalators, more stairs and more escalators. I eventually got to passport control to enter the Schengen zone where there were a number of eGates with no queue. The staffed lines were horribly long.
With that, I walked some more, found some more escalators and eventually found the entrance to the Z gates. A boarding pass check followed, with some security, and then another passport check to leave Schengen.
By that time, it must have been a good 45 minutes since I’d pulled up at the gate, and given my onwards flight’s delay, had a bit of time to go to the Lufthansa Business class lounge.
After 30 minutes or so and time to grab another cup of coffee, the staff suggested it was time to head to the gate.
Thankfully it wasn’t too far a walk away, however there seemed to abject chaos. Being in Polaris, I joined the queue for group 1, which stretched way past the gate and past one the newsagents adjacent to the gate. It appeared to be the longest of the five group queues.
After perhaps 15 minutes, I go to the front of it, only to be told that I hadn’t had my passport checked, so had to join another line to do that. There were around two or three of possibly the surliest ladies checking people’s passports and asking them questions. After another ten minutes there, with the ‘security’ staff ignoring passengers, it was finally my turn with a “Why are you travelling” a swipe of my passport and a “Next”. Group 3 was boarding by this point, so with another check of the passport, and my boarding pass scanned, joined another queue.
Only to realise that there wasn’t a United 777-300ER out of the window, there was a Lufthansa 747-8i. It dawned on me – they were boarding us by bus. That’s 366 passengers on a full flight. By bus.
There were perhaps three flights of stairs down from the gate area to the apron. No lifts of escalators so lots people were struggling with luggage, buggies etc. As you can imagine, it was chaos. And hot.
Another scenic tour of Frankfurt Airport ensued before arriving at the aircraft.
All in all, it was possibly the worst connecting experience at any airport that I’ve had in a long time.
Frankfurt really makes Heathrow look as efficient as Changi. No wonder Lufthansa have invested so much in the ground experience for first class and HON Circle passengers as it’s truly hateful for the rest of us.