Aircraft Type: B767-300ER
Class: Business Class
Date: May 2018
While a recent announcement that Condor is going to replace its ‘ageing’ fleet of Boeing 767’s may have hit the headlines, we decided to take this leisure-airline hybrid for a spin to see what their business class product delivers. Although part of the Thomas Cook Group, the airline also plays codeshare partner to Lufthansa, and while on many routes passengers might end up on a Condor plane instead of a Lufthansa one, we found out that their customer service and moments of magic could make for a more memorable experience.
On the Ground
When booking with Condor, due to their codeshare partners, its fairly easy to book from anywhere in the world. Our journey started in London, where Lufthansa allowed us to check bags the whole way through, and while the check in staff didn’t provide us with lounge access in Heathrow, being such an early departure we weren’t too fussed, and opted for a Bloody Mary in Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in Heathrow’s award-winning Terminal 2 instead.
After a fairly standard flight, we arrived in Frankfurt airport’s Terminal 1, which we have to be honest, we find usually a nightmare. Incredibly long walks, surly security staff and no real understanding of the tight connections offered in the terminal, it’s always a stressful experience, however, giving ourselves 3 hours between flights meant for a much more leisurely experience.
Condor operates from Terminal 1, with most flights operating from their B gates, which offer two business class lounges, accessible to those travelling in Condor’s business class. Both are fairly similar, and we opted for the lounge around the B40’s as it was closest to our departing aircraft.
The lounge itself, operated by Lufthansa are fairly basic, offering a range of seating in a circular lounge, the centre of which is a long buffet-style dining station, which provides a range of salads, cold meats, snacks and self-serve drinks. However, with the lounge almost at full capacity, the two times we went to refill our glasses, we had to ask a staff member to refresh the empty bottles on display.
The lounge also offers private rooms to take calls, a children’s area and a range of high bars and lounge chairs to relax in, and a nice touch was one of the staff walked around with a range of sandwiches and offered them to seated passengers.
Boarding for us was on time, one hour before the flight, although the flight departed from a remote stand so while there was priority, this went out the window as we all boarded the same bus.
While busses can be a hassle, on a sunny day, arriving beside your aircraft is always something special for us. Boarding the aircraft from the forward door, we were greeted by the airline’s largest business class cabin, with 5 rows of 2 x 2 x 2 seating.
This conventional older-style business class cabin works well for a leisure airline, with almost every seat pair occupied by travelling couples on their way for a holiday in Mexico.
Being a 767-300ER, the aircraft has to be modified to include crew rests, as there aren’t any hidden away like most new long-haul carriers. The airline keeps the first two seats on the right hand side (1H and 1K) as pilot rests, and are surrounded by a curtain to provide them with privacy during any service.
Sadly, this is slightly unsightly and means that the airline is losing out on two revenue generating seats on the aircraft, but the assembly of the section once airborne is kept very discreet and doesn’t interfere with the passenger service at all. However, those wanting to utilise any seat storage, we recommend avoiding 2H and 2K as the curtain does mean the shelf on the seat in front is unusable.
The cabin, although on an older aircraft, utilises mood lighting, which gives a modern feel to the cabin. At most stages during the flight, the cabin was filled with blue lighting, which combined with the blue carpets and seats, created a ‘club-like’ atmosphere to the cabin and made for a comfortable environment to spend 11+ hours in.
Condor’s only real issue is their seat. The angle-lie-flat seats are starting to show their age, with the trim and finish scarred from years of use, but they are surprisingly very comfortable seats. The news of the airline investing into their fleet will hopefully mean that the carrier can offer new seats, even off-the-shelf ones which offer fully flat beds.
That said, to expect a carrier that offers truly affordable business class tickets to provide fully-flat all-singing-all-dancing seats goes against the business model it has carved for itself.
The seat offers some storage, in the form of a shelf above the TV, and some side seat pocket storage, but considering the low passenger count in business class, there is plenty of overhead storage. There is also storage next to the TV which is created for magazines, menus and safety cards. Interestingly, as the airline places all their magazines in plastic wallets to protect them, on take off, virtually every magazine fell on the floor due to the acceleration.
The seat offers a lot of padding, and when fully extended, apart from the angle, is very comfortable for sleeping on, and a little trick is that when using the pre-programmed controls to form the flat-bed, you can make the bed even more flat, by bringing the leg rest up further using the controls.
The Food and Service
Where the seat, albeit comfortable, is the most noticeable area for improvement in Condor’s product, the one element that shines above the competition is the service. Not just on the outbound flight, but both flights, the service was noticeably outstanding. Crews were warm, friendly and interested in their passengers throughout the journey and nothing was too much.
On boarding the menus were presented on the seats, which offered a wide range of wines, champagne, spirits and a surprisingly comprehensive food offering for the flight.
Rabbit mousse device with fig mustard and pomegranate mayonnaise
Sushi California filled with chilli cream cheese, salmon tatami marinated in sweet soya sauce and salad wake, cake with wasabi and ginger
Seasonal salad with tomato vinaigrette
Fresh asparagus with beef medallion, sauce Bernaise and new potatoes
Cod served with pollen, mediterranean vegetables, tomato sauce with red wine
Truffle ravioli served with white wine cream sauce and vegetables with pesto
Wildblume cheese, sheep cheese with rosemary, comte accompanied by confit of red onions
Mascarpone berry cake with mango ragout
Snack before landing
Seasonal greens with dried pomegranate and grape seed oil dressing
Chicken tikka served with basmati gobi masala
White chocolate mousse with macadamia nuts
It was great to see on boarding the cabin crew introducing themselves, taking jackets, food orders and offering champagne and juices before the doors were closed even though being a 767, economy passengers were still boarding through the front door and passing through the cabin.
Soon after take off, further drinks were handed out along with some dry roasted nuts while the cabin crew prepared the lunch. Fairly quickly tables were laid and the starters were handed out on trays.
The series of exquisite looking starters were delicious and fairly filling in their own right. The quality of the food was exceptional and on complementing the crew on how great they were, they even offered more.
Resisting, knowing that the main course was next was certainly the right thing to do. I opted for the beef, which was perfectly cooked (virtually medium in texture) and accompanied by what can only be described as genetically modified white asparagus, as they appeared to be the size of the 767 itself.
My travelling companion opted for the fish, which was flakey, moist and supported by a rich tomato sauce.
This was followed by a cheese and desert course, both again expertly prepared and full of flavour. If this wasn’t enough, shortly after the drinks came out and having a sweet tooth from the desert, opted for a baileys to settle us in for the long flight across the Atlantic ahead of us.
A nice surprise a few hours in, was a distribution of Haagen Dazs ice cream, which was perfect while enjoying the onboard entertainment. Potentially one of the most amazing elements of the service however, was when the cabin crew came out for the snack service in what can only be described as the most theatrical onboard cabin entrance ever. Billowing clouds of steam (from the left over dry ice from storing the ice cream) came from the drinks trolley which made its way down the cabin offering drinks prior to the last food service, a lovely and unforgettable touch that continued to make this flight somewhat magical.
Along with a hot towel, the snack service was delivered with a substantial portion of chicken tikka, a past option was also available, which didn’t appear on the menu.
Throughout the flight we were constantly offered drinks and the crew were noticeably checking on the cabin to ensure all passengers were catered for. Even on a 12 hour flight, the crew looked and seemed fresh on landing and were still full of smiles and assistance to all passengers.
Being a leisure airline, the carrier actually charges passengers in economy for headphones and entertainment, with only one movie and TV shows being complimentary. However, in their premium economy and business class cabins, entertainment is free of charge.
Controlled by a touchscreen (or rather fiddly remote control that sits in the seat) passengers are able to navigate their way through a decent, if not extensive selection of movies, TV shows and music.
The system is fairly responsive, and we didn’t tire of the options on the way out, however on the way back we struggled in the last few hours to find something we wanted to watch. That’s when we stumbled upon “Cats on a Plane” Thomas Cook and Condor’s rather peculiar three minute video, which is exactly as it’s title explains. Cats on a plane.
There is no WiFi, but there are a decent array of magazines on offer and their inflight magazine isn’t half bad. Even in german, there’s a dedicated English section, and this magazine is supported by not one, but two duty-free and deliver-at-home shopping magazines.
A rather cute amenity kit was on our seat on arrival, and its hard case is the perfect sunglasses case (a role it continues to serve today) filled with a simple range of eye mask, tooth brush socks and earplugs. This isn’t the most impressive amenity kit, however, on a day flight and on such a cheap ticket, our expectations weren’t high.
The earphones were the industry standard noise-reducing headphones that aren’t the best in the skies, but decent, and we were surprised we didn’t have to hand the first set back, something that has become a ritual with these headphones on previous flights due to the poor quality of the connections.
However the oversized pillow and thick fleece blankets were winners for us, making the flight extremely comfortable and providing us several hours uninterrupted sleep.
On boarding Condor, we have to be honest, we weren’t expecting much. However, this leisure hybrid carrier managed to blow us away. Not because the hard product and service was best in the skies, but because it offered incredible value for money. The news of the carrier opting to improve its fleet, and hard product is welcome, but their current formula for great service, food and drink when paired with a new hard product will be hard to beat. We just hope that the investment doesn’t come at a cost to the ticket prices. Should an affordable fare appear on a Condor flight in their business class, we suggest you grab it straight away, and enjoy Business Class at the cost of most airlines’ Premium Economy.