How much do you value an empty first class cabin?

Once you’ve flown just about every first class product, you’re probably looking for a new “high.” One such “high” which I’ve experienced a few times in my life is having a first class cabin all to myself. I had it three flights in a row, actually — first between Chicago and Zurich, then between London and Istanbul, and finally between Istanbul and Hong Kong. It’s pretty damn awesome when that happens, if not a bit awkward.

So here’s a mostly theoretical question (and I realize the question is making several assumptions, but play along with me for a minute, please).

Would you rather —

A) Fly Lufthansa’s old first class and be guaranteed to have the cabin all to yourself


B) Fly Lufthansa’s new first class with six out of eight seats occupied

What would you do? I ask because my opinion on this is different than everyone else I’ve asked this, so I’m curious to see if I’m totally off base.

Let me know in the comments section, please!

Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. Having been in this situation a number of times I’d say that on a day flight I’d happily take the lesser product.

    On a short overnight I want the better bed.

    On an ultra-long haul it’s a bit harder — balancing comfort of the seat vs the tranquility of the empty cabin.

    So it probably comes down to the specific products at issue, whether the lesser first class product is good enough.

    I find the old Lufthansa seats uncomfortable enough that I’d take the new seats and the full cabin. I’d take CX F empty cabin over Singapore Suites full.

  2. If your on lufthansa’s new first class you have a window seat so it’s a bit seprated from the rest of the cabin. But if there is no window seat then I will go with a empty cabin

  3. In general B, so that the things that can ruin a FC experience like a crying baby, obnoxious fellow passenger, snoring person next to you, etc. are assured not to happen.

    If it’s an overnight flight and I intend to sleep, then A if the new product is better for that (e.g., lay-flat beds – I’m not familiar enough with it to know).

    BTW, why was the FC empty? On the whole back of the plane, there was not one FF with status, full fare coach ticket, or sob or meritorious story or situation (e.g., I’ve seen Delta give an upgrade to a military person flying in uniform) that warranted consideration for an upgrade? Or was coach just as empty?

  4. definitely the newer product …. 6/8 is FAR better than any J cabin…. I’ve flown CX F with only 2/6 (inc myself) and that felt awkward because I literally had my own flight attendant

  5. A) anytime.

    Last think I need is somebody 1) talking loud to their significant other, 2) playing with cards and shuffling them ( arghh) 3) Snoring loudly 4) farting ( God forbid they are smelly)

  6. If it were an overnight flight and all I wanted to do was sleep, B would be my choice.

    Otherwise A. Particularly with LH, I think there’s a discernible difference in the pace of service as the cabin becomes more full. You wait longer and often have to ask for things that are proactively offered when the cabin’s not so full.

  7. B. I’d always go for the better product – don’t really care whether there are people in the other seats or not.

  8. Empty cabin with significant other would be nice

    Amazing how all of the Boarding Area bloggers avoid the topic that we all want to discuss most…

  9. New F is a no-brainer for me. I didn’t like LH’s old F at all. Terrible IFE system, seat not very comfy for sleeping. Most people in F keep to themselves so it’s not like it’s a circus if it’s full.

  10. If I ask for a cup of tea or juice and it takes 2-3 minutes instead of 1-2 minutes because they have other passengers to serve, that’s not a big deal.

    A tiny video screen, less IFE choices, and a less comfortable seat is a bigger deal to me.

    To me the harder question is would you stop (either in a US-city that gets new F or in MUC) just to get new F if a direct flight in old F is available?

  11. “A” would be my answer since I’ve never been the sole passenger in First Class.
    I recall reading on your blog that you *almost* had a Qatar Airways FC cabin all to yourself (only to see a Qatari family enter at the very last minute!) That must have been a letdown.

  12. I need to be alone. Empty cabin of course!
    Recently was on TG 380 F class and realized I preferred the older 747 F class on Asiana.
    Let’s face it, LH or TG. OZ — the old F class is still very comfy and having the section alone is wonderful!

  13. Give me the cabin all to myself!
    I still love the feel of the old LH first if it were all mine!

  14. Well, I’ve actually been alone with MrsMJ in old LH F from FRA to ATL. I’ll take the cabin for just the two of us.

  15. I am on LH ORD-FRA next week, so far its just me upstairs. Now lets hope it is the new first class.

  16. Or you can have the best of both worlds. On my FRA-KIX flight my family of three had the whole F cabin to ourselves. We even had the configuration with the separate bed and seat πŸ˜€

  17. @ Jeremy — I wouldn’t hold your breath. That route is notorious for the old 747 F.

    @Lucky — why not option 3? My wife and I were all alone in the new F from MUC-USA yesterday and it. was. fantastic.

  18. Nothing beats alone no matter what the cabin style.

    Traveled many times in both LH cabins and on different airlines. The feeling is the same.

    Solo on:
    DTW-FRA old F
    DEN-FRA old F
    MUC-DXB new F x2
    DXB-MUC new F
    MUC-ICN new F
    ICN-AUH EY F x2

    On LH, I just tell the crew to skip the trolley service, and order from the menu the things I want. They seem to appreciate that.
    On one occasion, they pulled one of the F FA to help in coach.

  19. The alone option without hesitation. You can make the seat more comfy by adding on extra cushions since no one else is there. And, I hate hearing other passengers. I was just on a CX F flight in which a passenger next to me smacked his lips with every chew of food. It was unbelievably obnoxious.

  20. I’ve been alone many times on EK F, but usually on the shorter flights. My most flown EK route is JFK-DXB and V.v, and that is almost always close to full or full. Lot of premium traffic on this route. I do remember though that when 203 used to be operated by a 777, 204 would be a little emptier in F on its way home to DXB, but thats because most people prefer the A380. Anyway, having the cabin to yourself is great, but even though I’m not that big of a fan of LH F, I would most probably choose choice B, because I prefer a newer product, even though an empty cabin is great.

  21. @ Ed — Only one occasion? πŸ˜€

    Otherwise you’ve had more than a 1:1 ratio? Hah!

  22. Had that happen Toronto > Frankfurt on LH in F and on TAM GRU > EZE in F.

    Loved it πŸ™‚

  23. B by far. 6/8 is preferred, even with old configuration.

    I’ve been in F once with 3/8 and it was actually quite awkward. Other passenger didn’t want to eat anything, and we are very low maintenance. The poor FA looked so bored. The other FA went back to assist in another cabin.

  24. Years ago I was in United first TA flight and all but 2 seats were empty and the FA asked if I would mind if the FAs used the empty seats for rest.

    Is that proper? Dont they have spaces they are suppose to use? Could you really say yes you would mind?

  25. @ Rich — Is that proper? Absolutely not, and it’s against their policy, so it’s something I’d report.

    Could you have said “no,” though? Not if you wanted to eat or drink anything for the rest of the flight.

    Tough situation…

  26. In a good F cabin, you’d hardly know if there were F passengers. When TG had the 77W suites, I had a 4/8 F, but barely knew the other passengers existed.

  27. The new first class because even thought the empty old cabin might be in a sense more private, if you get a great crew, you’ll end up getting the same stellar service in the newer cabin. When service is out of the equation, then it boils down to the hard product, and the new F cabin on LH is just a lot better.

  28. As @Gary said, I prefer the old configuration alone during daytime, but I would rather sleep better on the newer F with 6/8 people.

    I got the jackpot last April in a JFK-FRA in First Class with the 747 (bed on the side of the seat). It was awkward having so many people pampering you!

  29. I would choose a new F cabin by far over the old LH F.

    I find the noise of the engines drowns out the slurping of food and snoring, and what the engine noise doesn’t take care of ear plugs stop the rest.

    As well its not like I am in a rush to eat. I prefer only 1 or two others, but find there really is not too much different between a cabin of say 3 and a cabin of 7/8 full as far as service. It is the seat comfort and attitude/service that is most important.

  30. I think you need to decide which product will make you a better person afterwards:-)

  31. I’ve been on TK F IST-BKK and LH F (A380) FRA-NRT by myself and it was amazing. That said while on a different LH flight even with 6/8 service didn’t suffer at all. However, on CX when I was 1 of 2 service was day and night vs my other times when cabin was almost full and FAs were making all kinds of first world problem style mistakes.

  32. Thanks to Ben my wife and I had the opportunity to fly the old LU from Chicago to Munich in First. We were the only passengers in First. Two flight attendants just for us. We felt like a king and queen. Would have assumed LU would have moved up a good customer in business to First, but they didn’t! It was a fantastic experience to have the whole cabin to ourselves; and we slept like babies!

  33. Generally B, but I would like to do A at least once so that, when the flight attendants retire, I can set my camera on my tripod and take several ridiculous self-pictures that would make JRL look like a boy scout.

  34. Before a couple of days ago, i would’ve chosen A for the novelty. But I just experienced being the sole passenger in CX F from hkg to sin and it was a bit awkward, esp when the FA did the emergency exit demonstration.

  35. A tough call for me. A couple of years I was the only pax in Turkish’s 777 First from JFK-IST (the one they leased from Jet), so I had exclusivity as well as a very fine product. I texted a friend, declaring “Le First Class Cabin, c’est moi”. With my agreement, they had me dine in 1A, sleep in 1C, kept my rollerboard in 2C and worked/wathced tv in 2A. But I would opt for quality over exclsivity. I suppose I’m one of those people who isn’t accustomed to the sheer amount of attention I got as the only 1st class pax, and it got to making me almost uncomfortable.

  36. I’ve been in CX F where there was only 1 other passenger. I like the idea above about the tripod in empty F πŸ™‚ Handstand in the aisle? Yes please.

    Unfortunately my next flight IAH-DME has another passenger in F πŸ™

  37. SO ive never actually flown first class so i would be happy either way, im sure!

    Definitely first world problems!!!

  38. @lucky – so what’s your take? It appears it won’t be so unusual unless it bucks the format and is neither A nor B.

  39. @ JG1 — Funny enough when I asked people before this post everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to take the empty cabin.

    In the end I went with the new cabin, and I was extremely happy with my decision. Service was great and the seat was extremely comfortable, so that’s tough to beat.

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