But I don’t want to fly first class!

What a nice problem to have, right? Gary, Gene, esteemed mileage millionaires, and other folks that have an opinion, this one’s for you to solve.

Hear me out, because I don’t want to sound like a girl on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” that says she hates her parents when they “only” buy her a BMW 5 series for her birthday.

Thanks to the number of miles I earn a year I’m able to travel to virtually anywhere in first class using miles. That’s nice, but it actually presents a challenge I never thought I’d encounter — I’m getting kind of sick of international first class! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the first class cabin of a Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, Thai, or Turkish plane, but at the same time I have all those marked off my list and can’t help but say “been there, done that.”

What I really want to do is fly business class, because I feel like I’m missing out. I realize once this “phase” is over I’ll return to international first class, but there really are airlines I want to try. I actually want to try Continental’s BusinessFirst, for example, or even US Airways Envoy (at least the new product). And those are the boring ones. I’d also like to try longhaul business class on Austrian, bmi, LOT, SAS, and of course Swiss’ new product.

But at the same time I can’t bring myself to do it. The mileage premium for first class over business class is so minimal, yet the product is so much better. There are advantages to flying with those airlines in business class, though — I could visit places I wouldn’t otherwise visit, places other than the Frankfurt, Munich, and Zurich hubs I’m used to.

You see, I can’t really book a trip that keeps me away from home for over a week. And I never really relax in the traditional sense, which I like. If I’m not busy I’m not happy. But the one place I do relax is when I fly, being totally disconnected, watching a movie, and generally not being pestered. There’s no doubt that I’m always most well rested after a long stretch in international first class. While I enjoy the actual destination, it’s not “relaxation” per se, since I’m more of a city person. So I’m happy to compromise my destination somewhat (meaning I’d visit a city that’s lower down on my list first because it involves a more comfortable journey).

While I probably wouldn’t get as much onboard “relaxation” in business class, I kind of want to fly LOT and visit Warsaw on a stopover, or maybe fly Continental and do a stopover in Dublin, or Austrian and do a stopover in Vienna, or SAS and do a stopover in Copenhagen.

But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I love Lufthansa first class and in particular the First Class Terminal. I love Swiss’ new product, which is probably the best in the sky. I love Thai’s ground services in Bangkok, which are ridiculously good.

I have nearly a million Star Alliance miles and am working on planning a trip, yet I don’t know what to do. Do I actually want to intentionally avoid first class? What has this world come to? 😉

Filed Under: Awards, Travel
  1. 1) I think you’re saying you want to pick a trip based on destination, that will mix it up a little. Even if it means flying business. Great, choose your destination and figure ou tthe most comfortable way to get there, even if it means business.

    2) You really haven’t neglected business. You’ve done NZ long-haul business. Have you done Air Canada? You’ve mentioned wanting to do VS, but frankly you aren’t missing much (though the VS LHR lounge is worth seeing).

    3) In a way you sound like John Stuart Mill at 18, he contemplated suicide because he had accomplished all of life’s goals… the neat thing is that new goals have a way of presenting themselves.

    3a) Book a bunch of first class awards for mid- to late-summer on Lufthansa JFK-Frankfurt, so that you cover each of their flights and are set up to be in first class when one of those flights flips to the A380. Then fly intra-Europe to WAW. See? best of both worlds, visit WAW but you don’t have to fly LO the whole way!

    3b) You haven’t flown EK long-haul F, have you?

  2. Not that I have any sympathy for your situation..but why not try flying business class for a while? They’re just miles and you earn so many so fast that it’s not a huge deal to ignore the F vs C cost difference for a while. Try to keep it in perspective, you’ve been able to fly in a way that 99.9% of the world can only dream about.

  3. Hi Ben,

    I’ve only flown F in LH last June and that was thanks to the expert advise I picked up on your blog. IMHO, the FCL in Frankfurt was awesome–the views, the food, the liquor, and again, the liquor. Based on your trip reports it appears that you do not drink alcoholic beverages. The hard product I found to be very mediocre and dare I say it, but actually less comfortable than when I flew UA C on a 747 in August. The liquor was mediocre but I have great stuff at home so it doesn’t matter. The lie flat bed and AVOD were awesome, and certainly made the time pass much quicker than it did in LH F. I am a picky eater and so consequently I have always found all airplane food to be mediocre, except for the bread on LH F–that was incredible! I don’t eat caviar so it’s presence does nothing to enhance my experience.

    Taking into account that you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, I’ve always surmised that you really enjoy the ground services afforded to F passengers. Admittedly they were great in FRA and a little less so in MUC, but at the end of the day spending four hours in a place in transit to another really isn’t that great, no matter how nice a bow you put on it. The real estate is awesome though, but as as a poster on FT said, you are just renting it, not buying it.

    I think you should definitely try some of the C class products out there, then you can write awesome trip reports for those of us who eagerly await them from you.

    I certainly see your point regarding the mileage premium for F over C being minimal, but someday you’ll be older and have a family (or a job) and won’t have time for mileage runs. Then you’ll miss those miles that you spent on F when you could have spent 20-30 K less on C.


  4. Clarification: the liquor on UA in C was mediocre, not in LH F although they were serving this awful Greek wine on LH F. I took one sip and had the FA bring me the bordeaux, which was very good.

  5. I mostly book LH/UA and just flew Air Canada business class (which they whimsically call “Executive First”) from YYZ to PEK. Their AVOD system is extremely buggy (this problem was confirmed by an AC FF), food/wine were OK, and I did not find their seats very comfortable. They were OK for sleeping but it was difficult to get the seat in a suitable relaxing position for watching movies. Finally, the “everyone has an aisle” 45-degree angle configuration is nice for that aspect, but if you have a window, you can’t really see out of it because you have to twist your neck backward. Because it is difficult to see the window, you have morons who forget about closing the shade and the cabin gets bathed in sunlight halfway through your trip because the FAs are also rather passive.

    I hate to say it, but in my opinion, the new biz class on UA is superior. The seat is similar but more adjustable than AC and I have no problem falling asleep. You have a gigantic TV screen and the food is about the same (LH food being much better). UA’s seats are parallel to the plane, but alternating rows are backward like BA, which is OK in my opinion.

    I flew LH F for the first time this past July. It was a good experience, but I liked TG F better. In particular, I thought the LH F AVOD system was laughable (the screens are twice the size in biz vs. first). When I pointed this out to the FA, he advised that a new LH F product would be deployed sometime in the next year or so. I would guess that it would be some variation of the ‘First Suite’ theme like their partners.

  6. I can empathise with you, after all, I flew DEL-BKK-HKG-ZRH-LHR last year just so that I could try TG F, the BKK F lounge and get another fix of LX F; instead of DEL-FRA-LHR because I had flown LH F on the outbound.

    1) Kids. Mrs Baggageinhall and I have a three year old boy. Whilst we are happy to (and have) flown C with him, we wouldn’t fly F with him. Neither we nor he would appreciate or enjoy the difference between the two! If you might be a Dad in the near future, factor in that you might take the same view.

    2) Are there any lounges that you haven’t visited yet? For reasons perhaps linked to their proposed entry into OneWorld some years ago, LX are handled by Cathay in Hong Kong instead of one of the plethora of Star carriers. This means that F passengers are able to use the Wing. A simple way of seeing a prime OW lounge. I would agree with others, that it’s worth redeeming on VS ex-LHR to see the Clubhouse.

    3) Mix and match. Assuming you agree that F is better savoured on a day flight and a good C product is best tested on an overnight sector, why not fly C to WAW and back in F on LX/LH? You get to try a new product with the comfort of something you know on the way back.

    4) Agreed on the LH A380 F strategy.

    5) “Second time around”. Have you flown F on these various carriers more than once? I find that I spend the first trip being a bit of geek and I appreciate it more second time around.

  7. > What I really want to do is fly business class, because I feel like I’m missing out.

    Too much MRing has obviously made you mentally ill. You need a vacation, an all first class vacation.

  8. You could fly SFO to Dublin on AerLingus which only has economy and a premium class that’s neither first nor business 🙂 i think it’s 150k united miles for a partner booking…. please post pictures, i’ve been curious how it is!

  9. When we were kids, we stayed at hotels in the Catskills that had ‘bath on floor’.
    When my kids were young, they stayed at Sheratons and Hiltons.

    When I first began flying, it was always in Coach, except this one time when flying first JFK/CLE was $10 more (late 70’s on AA?) My kids have flown many flights in business class.

    My point… when some of the younger readers of this blog turn 25 or 30, you’ll have no where else to go. You’ve stayed and flown at the best. You’ll have a hard tme adjusting to where ever you land (pardon the pun).

    Lucky, I suggest that you start flying coach on all the airlines. That’s a report that many of your readers will enjoy!

  10. I just got back from a flight on LOT – you are missing nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    That said – you are completely and missing out on a giant swath of the world if you won’t go someplace because there’s no first class service available. I’m thrilled to have gone a bunch of places in coach because that was the only option. I wouldn’t trade my time in Albania or wherever because I wasn’t thrilled with the seat. And, unlike Lucky, at this point I care most about taking an Ambien and not experiencing a single second of premium class. I’d rather sleep than “enjoy” any airline’s food. Let’s be completely honest about this – the best airline meal pales in comparison to almost anything you’d eat once you arrive.

    I hear what Lucky is saying, but c’mon – you’d actually wouldn’t visit somewhere because your airline/service of choice isn’t available? Why do I find that sad?

    (And, as a side note, as I’ve just watched 3 straight days of CNN video of Haiti, it’s hard for me to complain about any aspect of my life. I think we all know we have it very, very good).

    Carry on…

  11. Where is the nice, humble and down-to-earth Ben that I used to know? This thread got to come from someone who stolen Ben’s computer and ID and hijack his blog. 😉

    Seriously, I have flown more in F than C in 2009 (mostly United), and I am trying not to ‘upgrade” as much in 2010.

  12. Sounds to me that ultimately you’re interested in the onboard experience and not the destination so much. Sometimes I get like that. I didn’t have a great desire to see Sydney last year. I mostly went for the upper deck 747 experience and the DEQM.

  13. I think a trip without a sightseeing,enjoy a local tour, beaches,hiking snorkling,ATV. Being alone without your partner or love one can be BORING even in F or EK/SQ/QF SUITE.
    But if we combine those things together I think I would blended out just right.

    Maybe you like to bring your partner/love one on a trip in F or C with you so you can enjoy it even more and would not get bored.


  14. Take a few international red-eyes in coach. Let me know if you even ponder the thought of trying to upgrade seats mid-flight. 😉

  15. How on earth do you manage to overcome Starnet blocking to use miles for Star Alliance Intl. F or C? And on LH to boot, I thought that they only release their F inventory when someone comes to pry it from their cold dead hands 😛

  16. Lucky, now that you’ve tried all the good F products, why don’t you let the traveler in you emerge and start letting the destinations be your guide. There’s more to life than luxury seats! There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to see it. Explore more!

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