British Airways and Lufthansa are two of the biggest European airlines – chances are that if you’ve flown between Europe and Asia or the U.S. more than a few times, you’ll have flown either of these airlines at least once. Both of these airlines have basically unlimited exposure to premium traffic given the routes they serve, so they’re able to charge premium prices without offering as much of a premium product. As a result they’ve historically taken business class passengers for granted, choosing not to invest in their business class seats or product on longhaul flights.
There are a couple of reasons why I’ve singled out British Airways and Lufthansa for comparison:
- I can see fairly affordable fares on both of these airlines over the next year, presumably because of a large supply of business class seats
- Both airlines are re-introducing their A380 (I’ve flown both British Airways‘ and Lufthansa’s) on longer routes, which feature their current respective subpar business class products
- Both British Airways and Lufthansa are in a similar situation in 2023, where the competitive landscape has pushed these airlines to (finally) innovate in their hard product; British Airways introduced their Club Suite in 2019, whereas Lufthansa is about to introduce a new business class product that they introduced in 2017 (here’s our coverage of Swiss’ identical new product). However, many of these airlines’ longest routes still continue to be operated by their current subpar business class product
- I’ve experienced both airlines’ new longhaul soft product recently (on British Airways’ A380 and Lufthansa’s A340), which have been a massive step up over what would’ve been offered a few years back
A couple of years down the line, I hope to compare British Airways’ Club Suite (which I’ve already flown) with Lufthansa’s new business class, though the latter doesn’t exist yet.
British Airways’ A380 Business Class
Lufthansa’s A340 Business Class
Here are my reviews of these respective airlines’ older business class product:
- I last flew British Airways’ A380 in 2021 from London to Madrid, and longhaul in 2020 from London to Hong Kong
- I last flew Lufthansa’s A340 in 2023, and their A380 in 2017
I’ll be comparing the airlines’ ground experiences at their respective hubs (I haven’t been to Lufthansa’s Munich lounge or British Airways’ London Arrivals lounge yet, so will leave them out), as well as their seat, amenities, food and beverages and service, before drawing some final conclusions.
1. Which airline has the superior hub ground experience?
British Airways and Lufthansa share one thing in common – both of them have multiple departures lounges at their hub airport terminals, though none of them are particularly impressive.
British Airways’ two departures lounges in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 feature perfectly okay seating and a buffet (they had a-la-carte dining for a while during COVID but don’t anymore), as well as showers that seem like they came straight out of a hospital. You’ll also find fast WiFi and a quiet space with good workstations, as well as champagne, but not much else.
British Airways Galleries Lounge, London Heathrow T5
Lufthansa’s Frankfurt lounges (I’ve reviewed their A, B and Z lounges) are very similar in having good workspaces, but no other “wow” factor. The food selection is similar and I prefer their showers to British Airways, though their lounges are consistently mediocre otherwise.
Lufthansa Concourse Z Lounge Frankfurt Shower Rooms
Both airlines feature an arrivals lounge (I’ve reviewed Lufthansa’s Welcome Lounge at Frankfurt Airport, though I’ve never been eligible for British Airways’ Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow Airport), which is a big plus. Neither airline features an a la carte menu at their arrivals lounge, unlike other airlines (Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines feature a la carte dining at their Heathrow arrivals lounges).
In terms of lounges, both airlines sit quite squarely in the “mediocre hub lounge experience” camp. That being said, I’m naming Lufthansa the winner (by a slight margin), for two reasons:
- British Airways charges exorbitant advance seat selection prices for business class passengers, often exceeding £100: this is especially important if you’re in British Airways’ older business class, since window seats are way better than any other seat in the cabin
- I generally far prefer Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow Airport, as queues are much more efficiently managed
2. Which airline has the superior seat?
Both British Airways’ and Lufthansa’s older business class seats are markedly subpar, and rank near the bottom of the business class seat competitive landscape. However, the reality is that both of these seats are comfortable, and there are certainly worse options out there in terms of seat comfort.
This may be surprising, but I’d consider both business class seats better than B/E Minipod seats (used by Korean Air and Qatar Airways’ old 777s), Emirates’ 777 business class, etc.. So while these seats aren’t competitive, they aren’t actively uncomfortable, which is probably why they’ve gotten away with operating these seats fleetwide for so many years.
These mega-airlines define long-haul business class for the non-savvy business traveller, and it’s only over the past few years that secondary players such as Air France and KLM have caught up with better business class seats.
British Airways’ A380 seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration on the upper deck, and a 2-4-2 configuration on the lower deck. They’re the only airline to have business class seats on the lower deck of an A380, and those seats are best avoided, due to the cramped configuration.
British Airways’ A380 Business Class
The seats are laid out in a forwards-backwards configuration so that they face each other. For a 1996 product I’d say they actually got somewhat close to an Apex Suite, though it’s been 24 years and they still haven’t turned their window seats around to face the other way.
British Airways’ A380 Business Class
This leaves you with an annoying configuration where you stare at someone else during takeoff and landing, and window and middle seat passengers have to clamber over the aisle seat passenger in the row behind them in order to access the bathroom. The window and middle seats are extremely private, whereas the aisle seats are extremely exposed.
British Airways’ A380 Business Class
Their 777s feature a similar business class cabin, though all seats are in a 2-4-2 configuration.
British Airways 777 Business Class
On the other hand, Lufthansa features a 2-2-2 configuration in business class across their entire fleet.
Lufthansa A380 Business Class
Lufthansa is one of the only airlines operating this configuration that I can think of who opted not to install privacy partitions between seats. There’s zero head privacy between the aisle seats and any aisle traffic, and even the window seats can feel exposed.
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Head Privacy (or lack thereof)
One annoying thing about Lufthansa’s business class cabin is that their middle seats face each other, which makes it a bit awkward when you’re seated next to a stranger in these seats, both with the lack of a privacy divider and the awkwardly proximate footwells.
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Middle Seats
Both airlines configure their seats with almost stupidly impractical modifications, though there are some redeeming qualities about the seats themselves:
- Both seats are quite sturdy in lie-flat mode – while British Airways’ fold-down ottoman collapses quite easily, this is only problematic when getting in and out of the seat; meanwhile on some other airlines you can feel the seat bending below you as you’re sleeping in bed mode
- Both seats have relatively “open” spaces for your feet, so you don’t have to cram your feet into a small cubbyhole – this is especially true for British Airways, though I can name a handful of airlines with worse ottomans than Lufthansa’s
While both airlines’ older seats are neck-and-neck, I’d pick Lufthansa as the winner again in this case. While you can get more privacy in a British Airways window seat than any Lufthansa seat, British Airways charges over £100 for you to select these seats in advance. Plus, having to stare at a stranger during takeoff and landing is just plain awkward.
3. Which airline has the superior amenities?
While both airlines provide some of the narrowest sleeping surfaces available in the sky, I’d argue that the bedding provided by both airlines is above average. Both airlines give a nice duvet, thick pillow, and a thin mattress pad for sleeping. Both airlines have a blanket that is large enough to wrap yourself around in bed mode (especially since there’s otherwise not much space to move around in the airlines’ respective configurations).
British Airways A380 Business Class Bed
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Bed
I wouldn’t declare a clear winner – in fact, the bedding offered by both airlines is nearly identical.
I prefer British Airways’ amenity kit to Lufthansa’s, though I’d consider this an element of personal preference.
British Airways Business Class Amenity Kit
Lufthansa Business Class Amenity Kit
Headphones are fine on both airlines, though not amazing – Lufthansa used to offer Bose headphones in business class, though doesn’t anymore.
British Airways’ business class headphones
Lufthansa’s business class headphones
I’d say Lufthansa ever so slightly edges out British Airways by offering a sleeping shirt.
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Pajamas
4. Which airline has better food and beverages?
So far I’ve given Lufthansa slight wins in all three categories, though this one’s a landslide win by British Airways, in my opinion – British Airways’ catering is light years ahead of Lufthansa’s.
British Airways returned their full food menu after the last time I’d flown them, though I’ve never had a bad meal with British Airways. They’re catered by DO&CO, which travel bloggers across the world unanimously consider to be the best caterer in the sky. Their desserts in particular are consistently delectable.
British Airways business class catering
Meanwhile Lufthansa’s catering typically ranges from horrible to average in my experience.
Lufthansa business class catering
British Airways also features a cocktails and mocktails menu, whereas you can only get soft drinks on Lufthansa. In addition, the airline features a fully stocked Club Kitchen between meal services, whereas on Lufthansa all you get is orange juice, water, and almonds available in the galley. I’ve also had a better experience with British Airways wines than Lufthansa wines.
Winner: British Airways
5. Which airline has the better WiFi?
British Airways is a new player to WiFi, whereas Lufthansa has had WiFi for a while. One advantage of flying either airline is that you can get WiFi with no data caps at a reasonable price (I’ve heard from others that Lufthansa caps at 1 GB, though that wasn’t the case on my flight – even if so, 1 GB is a very high limit). Lufthansa charged €25 (~£22) for full-flight WiFi on my flight from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, whereas British Airways charged £21.99 for flights between Hong Kong and London.
Lufthansa allows you to switch between devices, whereas British Airways generally has a more stable connection, in my experience (though there are cases on both airlines where the WiFi just doesn’t work, which is a risk you’re taking whenever you board a flight). I’d consider WiFi connectivity on both airlines to be very competitive, though wouldn’t put one airline’s offering ahead of the other.
6. Which airline has the better service?
This is totally subjective and I’ll keep this section short, though I’ve generally felt more welcome and cared for on British Airways flights compared to Lufthansa flights.
Winner: British Airways
Conclusion: The European mega-airline with the less bad older business class product
I’ve given Lufthansa the win in more categories than British Airways, though I’d realistically consider this to be a neck-and-neck experience on both airlines. British Airways has my vote if you can guarantee yourself a window seat, which I consider to be better than Lufthansa’s business class offering, and I also think have the better onboard soft product. However, I really hate that they charge so much for advance seat selection.
I’ve got to give British Airways credit for introducing and following through with a great business class product before Lufthansa, as about half of British Airways’ fleet features Club Suites, which are far superior to either of these products. However, British Airways still features their old business class seat on their 787-8s and -9s, A380s, and most 777s, which make up approximately half of their fleet. Even though 2024, these planes are flying to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Montreal, etc.. Meanwhile Lufthansa is starting to introduce different seats on some of their 787s and A350s, but only because they were originally meant to be delivered to other airlines. Their new business class product is being introduced later this year, though that won’t be installed across their fleet for at least another few years.
Unless you can book a flight on British Airways’ Club Suite, I’d say your best bet is on another airline.
Do you prefer British Airways or Lufthansa’s older business class?