On board Condor’s inaugural Airbus A330neo to NYC — in a swanky new business-class product
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Editor’s note: Condor provided TPG with a free one-way business-class ticket for the inaugural Airbus A330neo flight. All opinions expressed here are of the author alone and were not subject to review by Condor.
You may have never heard of Condor, but after seeing the airline’s brand-new business-class cabin and attractive fares, you might want to give the carrier a deeper look.
Condor is a German leisure airline once partially owned by Lufthansa, the country’s flag carrier; it was also partially owned by the now-defunct European vacation brand Thomas Cook Group, among other investors.
Now, however, the airline is busy reinventing itself independently — without having its strategy dictated by a larger carrier.
The first big move the airline made was unveiling a bold new livery. After all, when was the last time you saw a plane painted in colourful stripes from nose to tail? (“Is that a flying zebra?” I overheard in the lounge waiting for my Condor flight.)
While the livery may quickly catch your attention, it’s what is on the inside that counts — and fortunately, there’s a lot to like there.
Condor is modernizing its fleet with the addition of 18 brand-new Airbus A330-900neos set to replace the ageing, gas-guzzling Boeing 767s. Three of these A330neos are already flying, with 12 more expected to be inducted into the fleet throughout the year.
While these planes offer better economics for Condor’s bottom line, they also usher in a major improvement to the passenger experience.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the business-class cabin, which now features a product that’ll rival (and even beat) what many of Condor’s larger competitors offer.
Since the renderings were released last year, I’ve been eager to try Condor’s new business class, especially because it appeared to be even better than what Lufthansa offers on most of its fleet.
That opportunity came Monday when the airline flew its inaugural Airbus A330neo flight to the U.S. I was so impressed with the experience from takeoff to touchdown that I’ll be seriously considering Condor’s A330neo for future trips to Europe.
With one-way business-class fares from the U.S. to Frankfurt starting at just $949 (£790), as well as an attractive award redemption option, you might be too.
Booking a Condor business-class flight
Condor’s A330neos will soon start popping up on many of the airline’s routes to North America.
Last summer, the airline flew from its hub in Frankfurt to 16 destinations in North America, including Boston, Las Vegas and San Francisco; many are on the docket to resume this year.
The airline’s four year-round North American destinations are Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Toronto. You can even book one-stop itineraries with Condor to many of the most popular European destinations through a (somewhat tenuous) partnership with Lufthansa.
The airline has tie-ups in the U.S. with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, giving you even more connecting opportunities for domestic flights beyond key gateway cities.
Condor is seemingly quite serious about competing in the U.S. market, as the airline just appointed a new director of sales in the Americas, Mikko Turtiainen, who previously served a similar role for Finnair.
If you’re looking to book a Condor flight, your best bet would be to start on the airline’s website.
The airline’s fares and availability are available through major online travel agencies, including my go-to travel search site, Google Flights. Though Condor is a budget carrier, it offers a business-class product.
A quick search for business-class fares between New York and Frankfurt yielded one-way prices starting at just $949 — an incredible deal for a transatlantic flight. Plus, the airline seems to offer one-way tickets for roughly half the cost of round-trip fares; this is pretty unique in the transatlantic market, where you typically find one-ways are more than half the cost of a round-trip journey.
While Condor’s introductory fares are quite appealing, you may also be able to score a great deal when redeeming miles.
The airline has a partnership with Alaska Mileage Plan, and one-way redemptions from New York to Frankfurt cost just 55,000 miles with about $50 (£40) in taxes and fees.
Of course, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to decide whether a mileage redemption makes sense, but just note that TPG values Alaska miles at 1.4p apiece.
If you buy a business-class ticket with cash, you can credit your Condor flight to Alaska’s program.
My time with Condor began at 5:45 a.m. on Monday at the carrier’s deserted check-in counter in Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1.
There was no line for the business-class check-in desk, but I was told I’d need to wait until 7:45 a.m. for a special U.S.-bound document-check area to open.
Instead of waiting around, I tried my luck at a nearby self-serve check-in kiosk, and within minutes, I had a printed boarding pass. (I had tried checking in online, but I couldn’t get the website to load.)
From there, I made the long trek to the B departures gates, which required walking through multiple long corridors, clearing immigration and passing through an effortless security check.
It took about 30 minutes to complete all the formalities, and I ended up at Gate B45 nearly five hours before departure. (This lengthy wait was planned — I had just arrived from New York on Lufthansa’s afternoon flight that landed in Frankfurt at 5 a.m.)
Condor doesn’t operate any of its own lounges, though I could imagine that changing in the coming years. Until then, Condor’s business-class travellers are entitled to use Lufthansa business-class lounges in Frankfurt. So, I made my way to the Lufthansa lounge located in the centre of the rotunda that houses gates B44 through B48.
There was plenty of seating spread throughout the circular lounge, and there were some individual phone booths and workstations lining the walls, too.
The buffet spread was paltry, and I was disappointed that there were no soft pretzels to be found. I camped out in a corner and connected to the lounge’s speedy Wi-Fi to catch up on some last-minute work.
Before I knew it, the sun had risen, and boarding was drawing near.
I left the lounge about 90 minutes before departure and caught a glimpse of the sand-coloured striped A330neo waiting for me at Gate B45. Within minutes, long lines started to form near the gate counters, and at first, I didn’t know why.
It took the gate agent a few minutes to announce that everyone needed to have their documents checked by an agent. That led to a ton of overcrowding in the gate area, compounded by the fact that Condor representatives repeatedly made upgrade pitches for the remaining premium economy and business-class seats.
Condor seemingly got plenty of takers, because as it got closer to boarding, the line to speak with a gate agent stretched down the narrow hallway. Out of curiosity, I inquired about the upgrade charge — just $329 for a business-class upgrade for the eight-hour flight to New York City. That’s an incredible deal and one I’d consider taking in a heartbeat.
Overall, Condor’s ground experience wasn’t anything special — and it certainly isn’t worth arriving early just to spend time in a lackluster Lufthansa business-class lounge.
If I didn’t have a connection, I would’ve arrived at the airport much closer to departure and skipped the lounge entirely. After all, I was mainly excited about what I would experience on board.
An impressive business-class cabin
The real star of the show is Condor’s new business-class cabin, which occupies the entire space between the first and second set of exit doors.
When you enter the A330neo at Door 2L, you’ll turn left past the tastefully designed and brightly lit welcome area to enter the 30-seat cabin.
The Safran Skylounge Core business-class pods (which first debuted with Taiwan-based Starlux Airlines last year) are arranged across eight rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, giving each passenger direct aisle access.
My first impression when stepping onboard was, “wow.”
Though Condor might’ve historically been a no-frills airline, nothing about this new cabin felt cheap.
The airline’s new stripe design scheme was on display throughout the cabin — from the seat covers to the eye-catching bulkhead wall — which featured a gold-coloured Condor logo set atop a blue and white stripe design.
The marine blue seats contrasted perfectly with the luxurious dark wood decor throughout the cabin.
Plus, the crew frequently rotated between the five mood lighting schemes — service, sunrise/sunset, relax, rainbow and “Green Spirit.” All of these added a nice pop of colour to the beautiful cabin.
The design alone is a night-and-day upgrade compared to Condor’s uninspiring blue colour scheme on its 767s.
All seats are forward-facing and alternate between being closer to the aisle and farther from the aisle.
In even-numbered rows, the window seats are adjacent to the window and feature a side table that’s closer to the aisle. This is my preferred pod when flying solo since it offers maximum privacy.
Meanwhile, the centre seats in even-numbered rows are adjacent to the aisle, with a side table set between each seat. Unfortunately, Condor didn’t add a privacy divider between centre seats, so I’d recommend sitting elsewhere if you can.
In odd-numbered rows, the centre seats are in a “honeymoon” arrangement, with the two pods placed right next to each other. Though the seats don’t convert into a double bed (something you’ll find in other top business-class cabins), this is where I’d recommend sitting when travelling as a couple.
Solo flyers might also like the window seats in odd-numbered rows, though note that you’ll be more exposed in these seats since they’re closer to the aisle.
Though Condor didn’t install sliding doors, I was still satisfied with the amount of privacy each pod offers thanks to the “wings” attached to the side of each seat.
The seats are supremely comfortable, and you can move through multiple seating arrangements at the touch of one of the backlit control buttons just underneath the side table.
The large side table serves as a great place to stow your loose items during the flight. Just note that there aren’t any enclosed storage compartments to leave things like passports and wallets.
There’s also a second, smaller table located just above the power ports, and this could be a great place to place some of your smaller items, such as a glasses case or AirPods.
This storage area is lit by a gold-coloured overhead lamp and can be brightened by a small LED light that pops out of the seat panel.
The oversized trapezoid tray table slides out from underneath the TV screen at the push of a button. It measures 12 1/2 inches wide and 19 inches long at its longer base.
When it’s time to catch some sleep, each seat reclines into a 78-inch fully flat bed. That said, those with larger builds might find the 11-inch-high and 17-inch-wide footwell to be claustrophobic — but there’s a solution. More on that later.
Condor’s A330neo features standard-size overhead bins, but you should have no problem finding space for your bag since there are just 30 seats in business class.
Unfortunately, the airline opted not to install personal air nozzles on the plane, so your thermal comfort will be at the discretion of the flight crew.
There are two lavatories for business-class passengers: one just behind the flight deck and one on the starboard side between the business-class and premium economy cabins.
Neither of them is oversized or offers special amenities, but if you’re looking for a larger space to do your business, there’s a bigger lavatory located behind Row 29.
All in all, these seats are a massive improvement for Condor, which used to offer nothing more than angle-flat recliners in business class.
These may not be the world’s best business-class seats (that may go to Qatar’s Qsuite or ANA’s The Room), but they’re certainly well above average. They’re much better than what Condor’s fellow German carrier Lufthansa currently offers across much of its long-haul fleet.
With a snazzy, all-new ‘prime’ product
When Condor first unveiled the A330neo, it said the plane would be configured in a three-cabin arrangement.
What it didn’t mention was that it had a surprise waiting for the U.S. inaugural: the debut of a fourth and most exclusive “cabin” yet.
Dubbed “Prime Seats,” Condor installed four extra-spacious business-class pods in the bulkhead row at the pointy end of the A330neo.
Instead of randomly assigning these seats, Condor pulls a page from the playbook popularized by JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic.
Due to the configuration of the bulkhead, these Prime Seats offer additional space. This is especially true around the footwell, which is entirely exposed for more comfort when sleeping.
The exposed footwell and attached seatbelt also mean that you can host a neighbour during the flight, whether you want to enjoy a meal together or finish up some last-minute work.
Prime Seats also feature a larger rectangular tray table that measures 17 inches wide and 13 inches long.
There’s even a small side table and cupholder built into the side of the buddy seat, as well as an enclosed storage compartment right next to the ottoman.
Even though they don’t convert into a double bed, seats 1E and 1F are perfect for couples looking for the utmost comfort. Due to the curvature of the plane, there aren’t any overhead bins above these seats, which gives off an even more luxurious vibe.
If you’re flying solo, you’ll be pleased to learn that these Prime honeymoon pods are the only two seats on the plane with a retractable privacy panel that you can raise once airborne.
Of course, solo travellers should opt for one of the two Prime window seats, 2A or 2K, if they are available when booking.
Another benefit of the Prime Seat is the larger, 24-inch 4K entertainment screen.
Otherwise, the rest of the seat is essentially the same as any other business-class pod on the A330neo.
Condor is also differentiating the “soft product” in the Prime seats. This includes an elevated “Prime Kit” with an upgraded Rituals amenity kit, pyjamas, slippers and a personal snack basket.
Due to supply chain issues, the airline isn’t ready to formally roll out the entire Prime Seat experience (the amenity kit isn’t ready for prime time). Still, I got a taste of the new seat experience during my flight to New York.
The airline PR team assigned me to Seat 2K, and I was impressed with the amount of space I had.
I landed impressed with the concept, and I’d absolutely consider upgrading to this seat on a future Condor flight if the buy-up wasn’t too steep.
Prime Seats will be bookable as of Feb. 15, and the seat-assignment fee for those particular seats will start at 199 euros per person per direction.
Condor’s Prime Seat offering is similar to what JetBlue did with the Mint Studio and Virgin Atlantic’s new Retreat Suite on the A330neo.
Both carriers realized that the unique configuration of the first row means these seats offer more space and are more desirable than others. To monetize this offering, these carriers created a separate “class” of service for these seats, which comes at a modest buy-up.
These products, generally referred to as “business class plus,” will likely keep popping up as first class becomes a thing of the past, and some travellers look for a more exclusive offering than business class.
The upgrades don’t stop at the seats themselves.
Each pod features a 17.3-inch 4K touchscreen TV, which offers crystal-clear entertainment at the touch of a finger (or the remote).
The last time I had a 4K TV on a plane was in ANA’s The Room in January 2020, and while the picture quality on Condor matched what I experienced on ANA, I prefer the ANA system since it has an antiglare finish.
The glossy covering on Condor’s TVs meant I could see my reflection at lower brightness.
That said, the 4K resolution made a notable difference, especially compared to some of the older entertainment systems flying around these days, including what I experienced flying on Lufthansa’s 787 Dreamliner.
Each TV is loaded with over 250 movies and 150 TV series, which was plenty for an eight-hour trip to New York.
The highly customisable moving map is from FlightPath3D, and I enjoyed playing around with the different views throughout my flight.
The remote control is stored in the armrest and can be ejected at the push of a button. It features a trackpad-style input system.
While you can use the provided non-branded headphones, every single seat on Condor’s A330neo features Bluetooth audio; you can connect AirPods and other wireless headphones to the seatback entertainment system without any dongles.
I had no trouble getting my AirPods Pro connected to the seatback monitor. (Just be sure to hold the circular button at the back of the AirPods case until you see the status light start flashing white. That’s how you know the headphones are in pairing mode.)
Each seat also features a universal power outlet, as well as a USB-A and USB-C charging port, which worked perfectly for powering my 13.6-inch MacBook Air and iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Condor’s A330neos are among the first planes in the carrier’s fleet to feature Wi-Fi access, which helps make the carrier more competitive for business travellers.
Three passes were available for purchase, and while there are no data caps, the basic and premium packages had a two-hour and four-hour time limit, respectively. At 20 euros for every four hours, it could cost a pretty penny to stay connected during some of the longest Condor flights.
Download and upload speeds for the Inmarsat satellite Internet service measured a measly 0.30 Mbps and 0.02 Mbps, respectively. The internet service was strong enough to stay connected to messaging, but more data-intensive tasks repeatedly kept timing out.
Note that all business-class passengers receive a complimentary messaging package.
Waiting at each seat during boarding was a plush pillow and navy-blue striped duvet that made it easy to get comfortable during a daytime nap.
If I were flying on a red-eye, I definitely would’ve appreciated a thick mattress pad, especially considering that the seat was too firm for my liking. Hopefully, that’s something Condor will consider adding in the future.
Before takeoff, flight attendants distributed amenity kits to each business-class passenger. Condor is facing supply chain shortages for its new amenity kits, so the airline is currently handing out the premium economy ones instead. They are stocked with a pair of socks, a dental kit and an eye mask all made from recycled materials.
As a Prime Seat customer, several extra amenities were waiting at my seat. This included a pair of pyjamas, which were incredibly soft and comfortable. The shirt featured a hood lined with Condor’s signature new stripe pattern, and the trousers had pockets — a nice detail often overlooked in airline pyjamas.
Blue and white striped slippers were also waiting at my seat, as was a small snack basket consisting of almond M&M’s, caramel corn, gummy bears, Pringles and a chocolate bar.
Condor’s strategy is similar to JetBlue’s, as the New York-based airline includes a whole host of additional amenities with its Mint Studio, including a decorative throw pillow, pyjamas and slippers.
Going into the flight, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Condor’s culinary offerings.
Service began once we crossed through 10,000 feet with a hot-towel service and hand-delivered menus.
A few minutes later, the drink cart passed through the aisle, and I asked for a glass of ice water, which was served alongside some delicious honey-roasted mixed nuts.
With two red wines, two white wines, Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut and an extensive spirits list (that features Campari), Condor’s alcoholic offerings are respectable for a no-frills airline.
After the drinks arrived, the appetizer cart passed through the aisle. Each passenger enjoyed the same trio of food, including a bite-size filet of salmon, a piece of beef and a side of green salad.
The appetizers came with a choice of six types of bread. Though I’m a sucker for soft pretzels, I really enjoyed Condor’s garlic bread as well.
After I finished the appetizer, the friendly flight attendant serving my aisle brought the entree, which was plated and served as its own separate course.
The breaded cod filet was a bit too buttery for my liking. However, I still enjoyed the presentation (with the leaf garnish) and the accompaniments of carrots and mashed potatoes.
Dessert was served about 90 minutes after takeoff, and while the berry cheesecake looked delectable, I was already full, so I just nibbled at it.
While the lunch was tasty, the meal’s highlight was the cute aeroplane-themed salt and pepper shaker. This reminded me of the miniature metal aeroplanes (named Wilbur and Orville) that Virgin Atlantic uses as salt and pepper shakers in Upper Class. I may have added this miniature Condor aeroplane model to my permanent collection.
After lunch, the cabin lights dimmed, and the window shades closed. I was feeling peckish toward the middle of the flight, and I asked the crew for some snacks (I had already raided my personal minibar).
Just like Lufthansa, Condor doesn’t offer a snack basket on this route, though the crew was happy to procure some goodies from the buy-on-board menu in economy. I ended up with some cheesy tortilla chips and salsa — a salty treat I enjoyed somewhere over the North Atlantic.
The staff served a single-tray pre-arrival meal about 90 minutes before landing. It included a small portion of Hungarian goulash, a side salad and another cheesecake. A selection of bread was also available with the meal.
Overall, the food exceeded my expectations, and the culinary experience was on par with what I’d expect from a major European airline in business class. In many ways, the food service reminded me of what Lufthansa serves on the same route from Frankfurt to New York.
Both airlines offer a similar service flow, a large assortment of bread, a tasty entree, and lacklustre (and repetitive) dessert options. That said, Condor beats Lufthansa in terms of snack options.
I was very impressed with the service from the two flight attendants serving my aisle. However, I won’t judge Condor’s service flow based on this inaugural flight because it seemed that the airline specially picked this above-average crew for the special occasion.
Condor’s Airbus A330neo ushers in a new era for the airline and its passenger experience.
The jet features a swanky business-class cabin, which offers brand-new seats, tech-forward amenities and a beautiful eye-catching design.
Plus, the snazzy front-row Prime Seat concept is an innovation that offers additional space, premium amenities and more comfort.
As Condor starts flying more A330neos to the U.S., its business-class cabin will quickly become a formidable competitor against the established players flying from the U.S. to Europe. That — coupled with the airline’s attractive $949 (£790) one-way, business-class introductory fares — means Condor might just be ready to disrupt the status quo in the hotly competitive transatlantic market.
Until I have a chance to try Lufthansa’s soon-to-debut Allegris business-class cabins, I’ll happily keep booking Condor’s A330neo for future trips to and from Germany.
FEATURED PHOTO BY ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
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