Back in late 2017, Lufthansa was, to the surprise of many, and to a great deal of criticism, awarded a Skytrax 5-Star Airline category. That puts it up with Qatar Airways in terms of its on-board offering, especially in terms of business seats.
Nobody would in the right mind consider Lufthansa 5 star when it comes to business seats. Yes they’re entirely competent, and the one thing with Lufthansa that I love and keep using them for, is their extraordinary consistency; staff, product, service, it’s the same, each and every time. You never need to worry that it might be hit and miss. It’s also a Manhattan skyscraper higher in quality than British Airways (which is now basically a 3 star airline), whose staff seem to resent anyone being bold enough to buy a ticket.
The Skytrax award’s cringeworthyness is made worse by Lufthansa’s business lounges – even the newest ones at Munich – they’re just not that amazing. Nice, modern, large, comfortable yes, competent, but utilitarian, rather than luxurious, there is no way they make you feel you’re getting something truly special.
The cynical comments that followed on the heels of the award, were not unjustified. Lufthansa was getting the 5 Stars – previously much coveted by airlines – because of the business seat it would install in two years time on the 777-9 when it’s delivered.
For airlines, and many others, the Lufthansa award by Skytrax totally undermined any credibility Skytrax had. It’s fair to say, any future awards will be taken with a much larger pinch of salt than they already had been.
How Lufthansa failed to see the ludicrousness of the whole scenario, rather shows you how corporate high-level boards and marketing types, can get far too carried away with peripheral nonsense, rather than substantive policy and realities. How often does image eclipse the reality in so much of what we’re told these days? I can tell you from experience, that business seat buyers are way too clued up not to see the whole thing for the cynical marketing ploy it is.
The airline promptly went on a media blitz and painted up a 748i and these two A320’s into the *****5Starhansa livery. Panda produced both of the A320’s.
One, D-AIZB, delivered in December 2009 and now with the new massive wi-fi dome, named Norderstedt, and the other a sharklet winged, newly domed version from August 2013 which remains un-named. Lufthansa operates 69 A320’s and 10 A320neo’s at present, with 22 more that left the airlines’ service over the years.
Both aircraft operate in 168 seat flexible business layout. Both D-AIZB and X are fitted with 2x CFMI CFM56-5B4/3’s.
The models join 5 A320 versions and 3 A321’s at Leonard Nimoy International. These are almost certainly the last non-current livery models I’m likely to get new. And it’s at this point, the Lufthansa collection will stop. I’ve decided not to update the fleet into the new livery, it’s just too monumentally dull.
Both models share the same fuselage with almost identical detailing. The exceptions are D-AIZB has the name under the Airbus type designation behind Door 1.
Annoyingly D-AIZX has a slightly flattened forward aerial, but because it’s painted white, it doesn’t notice much unless you look side-on. I’m pretty sure I’m to blame – it got caught on the sharklet and flipped over quite sharply (painful grimace).
Another positive point – the red waste water aerial underneath is actually present and painted red! Such detail!
Both have superb graphics and technical detail – the *****5Star in gold is especially accurate and spot on for colour.
The wi-fi Lufthansa has chosen results in quite a large dome relative to the size of aircraft, but the entire system has been designed by Lufthansa Technik, all the way down to the cabin wi-fi distribution system, and will be used across all Lufthansa Group Airlines. The domes on the models reflect the reality with precision, and are superbly inserted into the fuselage.
Really, both fuselage sections, from their paint to every last detail, are excellent. Gemini/JCW and Aeroclassics aren’t even close right now. Panda seem to have a growing edge in quality and detail.
The only thing that truly separates these two models is the modified wingtips. One has sharklets (D-AIZX), the other doesn’t. Both sets of wings are outstandingly good, appearing seamlessly inserted from above, and almost as good below, with the old not-quite-fitting mould issue now gone.
The sharklets have their tiny but clearly legible Lufthansa logos and are the correct colours, the under-wing grey coming up outside and the over-wing white on the inner surface.
Both identical, with quality wheels on axles which in turn have tyres, even on the nose gear. Both are very neat, well sized, and the rubber is lump free – none of this lumpy crap we get from other manufacturers who seem to care far less.
Identical engines, both the CFM56-5B4/3’s, all plastic with plastic pylons, but you’d be hard pressed to know that without touching them.
The rims are superbly neat, the pylons, the fans, exhaust, all the correct colour and a superb mould that looks very realistic, such a treat to see after years of who knows what from JCW, Gemini, Phoenix and Aeroclassics (who still insist on using toy-like silver fans and rubbish landing gear)!
Finally a company that takes core details seriously. Add to that excellent exhausts and superbly printed nacelles, an excellent set of engines.
5. Nose details
Both models are identical and equally as neat and refines, with excellent cockpit windows, every little detail of the StarAlliance logo, but there is one thing that a bit too excessive.
This is something Gemini did on the old mould of the A320. The square on either side of the nose is red, but it’s actually really quite small, indeed in the photos of the real thing above you can barely see it. It’s far too bright, too large and prominent on the models.
Just faultless really, not a thing wrong with either.
Probably the most accurate Lufthansa grey to ever see the bottom of a model.The rest is spot on. Even the yellow crane logo the blue has worked superbly well, it can often look thin and washed out on lesser quality models.
8.Score and conclusion
The models are so similar that I’m going to match their scores. I consider myself responsible for the aerial issue, so that’s not getting marked down.
- -2 for the oversized red squares at the nose
48/50 for accuracy
Flawless – no deductions, they’re outstandingly good, no complaints.
50/50 for quality
Overall Score: 98% a truly *****5Starpanda
A truly remarkable score for a pair of models that have one thing in common – universal consistency. They may have been made almost simultaneously, but they’re consistent, in paint, in detail, in quality, and ironically the one flaw they both had.
Panda are remarkably good. Every one of the other manufacturers needs to be afraid, very afraid, that their years of getting away with dross and charging high prices for it are going to be challenged. And not before time.
It might be a while before Panda and the other “new manufacturers” can scale up to make a real impact, but if they can maintain quality, take their time, get it right, they’ll slowly claw away at the others.
Even if they don’t, they act as a sharp reminder to all of us that we are being universally ripped off in terms of value for money by the legacy manufacturers.
It’s not that I want the legacy makers gone – it’s that I want them to play ball and give us what we deserve for the money we pay, not constantly work on the basis that the minimum needed is all they have to do.