No Entertainment For 12 Hours In First Class — What Compensation Was I Offered?

Filed Under: Swiss

On Monday I flew Swiss first class from Zurich to Los Angeles, on their new 777-300ER aircraft. Yesterday I shared my experience on the flight, which was great for the most part.

The one major wrinkle with the flight was that the entertainment didn’t work at all. I was in seat 2K, and while everyone else’s entertainment was working, my entertainment was broken.

My entertainment controller said “loading,” so I pointed it out to the flight attendant shortly after takeoff and she said she’d reset my system.


She tried, though the same problem continued. She tried to reset it again. It still didn’t work. She then did a hard reset of the seat, and it still didn’t work.

At this point the flight attendant called over the maitre d’cabin, who was extremely apologetic. I said “it’s alright, this happens with technology” and she said “no, no, it’s not alright.”

She went through the manual on her iPad to see if there was anything else they could do to reset the system, though unfortunately there wasn’t. She did say she could basically “send” a movie to my seat, so asked me to pick out a movie. So I picked one out, and she said she’d “send” it to my screen.

She returned to my seat five minutes later and let out a loud gasp when she noticed it wasn’t playing on my screen.

The maitre d’cabin and first class flight attendants were all so apologetic throughout the flight, so they did a great job handling it.

On one hand I think it’s really unfortunate when an entertainment screen doesn’t work in first class. A one-way first class ticket between Zurich and Los Angeles retails for over $13,000, so at least I had paid “only” 70,000 miles for the seat.


Closer to landing, the maitre d’cabin returned to my seat with a box of chocolates and an apology card with a code on it.


The card was an interesting concept, since it had perforated edges and listed the compensation amount, so I suspect the lead flight attendant can choose from a few different amounts.

In my case, I was offered the choice between 10,000 Miles & More miles or a 300CHF (~$300) travel voucher on Swiss.


I appreciate the gesture, though I’m not sure I’ll get much out of either in practice. Miles & More isn’t my preferred Star Alliance frequent flyer program, so I doubt I’ll use the miles anytime soon. Furthermore, the travel voucher is only valid if flying Swiss, and I don’t see myself booking a paid ticket on them anytime soon.

Assuming either of those is transferrable, maybe I can do a blog giveaway for it.

Bottom line

I appreciated how proactive and apologetic the crew was about the broken entertainment. It obviously wasn’t their fault, but they were extremely embarrassed. Ultimately I realize technology failures happen, though it’s especially unfortunate when it’s in first class on a longhaul flight.

As far as the compensation offer goes, I’m a bit conflicted. If I had actually paid ~$13K+ for the one-way ticket, I’d expect compensation amounts 10x this high. If paying that much I’d think 100,000 Miles & More miles would be more reasonable.

At the same time, I recognize that I redeemed 70,000 miles for my ticket, so don’t think I deserve that much. The 300CHF travel voucher would seem fair to me if I usually booked tickets on Swiss, while the 10,000 mile offer seems a bit low.

Ultimately this happens once in a while, and I fly often enough that it doesn’t bother me. The one reason the timing was especially unfortunate is because this was my one opportunity to review Swiss, so I couldn’t really review their entertainment system. Oh well.

So for those of you who asked, that’s how this all played out.

What do you make of Swiss’ compensation offer — is 10,000 miles or a 300CHF travel voucher “fair?”

  1. It’s less than United would give you I imagine. I wonder if you can ask for a different Star program’s miles.

    I had an issue with a delayed flight on SAS and they offered me a set amount of miles in the Star Alliance program of my choosing.

  2. I got 20,000 AA miles for an economy movie system out on a JFK to ZUR on AA even though I booked with Alaska miles.

  3. what’s with Swiss and on board entertainment, didn’t they have a plane crashed due to entertainment system fault, what a mystery for otherwise so perfect in any way swiss organisation.

  4. It happens very often on SWISS flights, that the Entertainment system does not work (properly), espcially on the A340. In Economy you would get 2’000 miles or 50 CHF voucher. Last time flying F on Swiss, the screen was not working properly and after complaining on, I got 15’000 M&M miles as a compensation as a Senator. My friend, no status with M&M, had the same issue and got offered 5’000 miles…

    BTW: Enjoy the Läderach chocolate, it’s one of the best you can get.

  5. Hey Ben, something similar happened to me on a MUC-LAX flight in LH F. The purser offered 15K miles. I didn’t see them in my account so I emailed LH and got 10K miles posted to my UNITED account (which I had used for the award). I emailed back saying the purser had promised 15,000 and they added another 5K a week later to my UA account. Maybe you can try? This was back when BKK-NRT-FRA-MUC-LAX was 70K in F so my net price ended up being 55K UA, hah!

  6. After an issue on Asiana, I too was offered miles in the SA program of my choice. FWIW, I once had a broken IFE system on UA in business from BOM-EWR and was only given 5,000 miles for the inconvenience.

  7. ^ I had Premier Platinum status with United at the time, which was on my boarding pass, not sure if that got me more miles.

  8. Ben, during the flight, do you think they could see that you were flying with an award ticket? Or they don’t have that information?

    If they do, is it possible they used that parameter to offer you such a small compesation? I mean, small assuming that’s a paid ticket. As you said, for an award ticket it sounds fair.

  9. I had the same issued on a LH F flight that was booked with UA miles.

    LH was able to deposit 10k miles into my UA account (evidently the limit)

    Maybe contact Swiss and see if that is possible for them to do? You could explain that these two options aren’t palatable.

  10. You can get in touch with LX and ask for a cash compensation. A few months ago I had a similar cases and cash compensation was possible.

  11. @Lucky
    Try to contact SWISS customer service about that. Some years ago I complained about a horrible service in First Class and they gave me a 250,00 EUR voucher useable in any restaurant of my choice.

  12. Already posted in the 10 pics thread that I received 30,000 M&M Miles as SEN for no IFE in F on the LX777 (paid ticket). I was originally offered the 10,000 and declined it. they quickly offered the 30K.

    That said, you expect 100,000 M&M miles? I’m not a hater, love the blog, but don’t be ridiculous. The flight you took only costs 85,000 M&M miles (one way)… I think roughly 35% of the value of the miles ticket is a more realistic amount of compensation. Agree than 10K isn’t enough.

    A lot of people choosing the miles option would be SEN anyway, so they have access to LX F awards.

    I am sure if you paid $13K for the ticket, you’d have more bargaining power too.

  13. Shocked to see what they are offering you. I was shocked yesterday when I read the post, but today, this is bad. Fact is you did not travel for free, you used miles which are very hard to get, IMHO it is the same as cash, they are treating a first class passenger like sh-t. Can´t believe they are offering you this. I am sure that the #1 responsible for customer service of first class pax does not know about this. I would contact him-her directly skipping all the contact operators. You deserve more, as any of us would.

  14. Would it have made sense to ask for free Wi-Fi on that flight if your IFE isn’t working (Voucher/reimbursement)? I think that would be the most ideal on-the-spot compensation in your scenario.

  15. I had the same thing happen to me on a Cathay F HKG-LAX flight. They kept resetting the IFE and it kept freezing after about 10-15 minutes. I was on an award ticket (62,500 AA miles), so I didn’t expect too much. They gave me a $500 cert towards CX. I never used it, but I felt that was appropriate.

    Either way, that experience made me a little reluctant to redeem awards on CX, even though I’ve done it again since with no IFE issues. Your experience, and several comments herein and elsewhere that this happens not infrequently with Swiss, makes me not mind too terribly that Swiss F isn’t available to me. LH F is more than fine for me!

  16. LAX to HKG on paid CX economy, broken screen all the way. only a measly $75 voucher. they said i was sleeping anyway. CX has been cutting corners even in F, the meal & amenity have all been gutted, and even menu on cheap printed material also cheap bottled water vs. 3 yrs ago. No wonder they are losing $ big time.

  17. LX has offered some pretty good prices in F ex-LHR to a few N.A. hubs (ORD, YUL, SAN) in recent months at around USD$2500 on a RT ticket. The CHF voucher could shave a bit off that if the deal comes back.

  18. Was anyone else reminded about Swiss Air 111 and feel eerie while we were on the subject of In Flight Entertainment on Swiss Air ?

  19. First, $13K for that flight and seat is ridiculous. More to the point, I recently had a similar experience in J on AA going and coming from FCO on the same aircraft. Going over my power outlet didn’t work (a bigger deal for me than IFE not working) and on the return flight I had a different seat and I noticed the guy in my former seat had the same problem twelve days later! I asked for compensation and was given 10,000 miles. The bigger issue is, they don’t fix these problems when they are reported obviously. In taking their time, many passengers are impacted. Maybe the compensation should be higher.

  20. 10k/300 is pretty low for a F flight. but i’m not sure what would be idea. maybe double that. that said, shit happens. i can’t tell you how many times a CX F seat has been inoperable and they’ve moved me around (luckily there were empty seats) or had engineering come aboard to fix it last-minute.

  21. This is definitely inadequate, and I agree you should follow up with LX customer service. I also like the suggestion that @Saif made about free wifi. On the bright side, Läderach is delicious chocolate!

  22. It’s sort of funny that I had the same reaction as @Lynn: just read a book. I’m not being snarky. I just don’t utilize the IFE system on my long-haul flights, except for the moving map. I really enjoy curling up or stretching out in my seat and losing myself in a really good book for several hours. Next up for me: flying home to DC with Gore Vidal’s ‘Lincoln’.

  23. I flew first class from AKL to SIN on a 777 and my seat would not recline (daylight flight and it did not matter to me). The FSM gave me a $300SGD voucher to spend. Was not expecting anything given there were 2 other middle row seats free. He insisted that I take the voucher so I did.

  24. This happened to me in JetBlue coach on a transcon and the FA just said, “hm, well your drinks are free for the rest of the flight!” so I had my entertainment in liquid form 😛

  25. I got 10K MP miles a couple weeks back because the overhead button to call an FA in United businessfirst wasn’t working (EWR-HKG). Pretty appalling to only get 10K for entertainment not working in first class.

  26. Is it not more important the way LX handled the issue? They clearly apologized , tried their best to resolve the matter and offered a very nice gesture

    Someone even commented you were treated like s..t?!! Unbelievable!

    Many of the above are saying it’s not enough, ask for more, demand cash etc

    It’s sad how greedy people have become
    and it raises expectations if there is a more serious issue such as a long delay, lost luggage etc

    Furthermore, alluding to the SR111 is pretty offensive

  27. I had a similar issue in Main Cabin Select on Virgin America EWR to LAX last month. The flight attendant couldn’t do anything , nor did they offer anything. But after tweeting Virgin America of the issue, they issued a $150.00 credit to my travel bank in my Elevate Silver account. I thought that was acceptable. Luckily I was flying with my wife and we had a duel jack headphone splitter so I was able to watch entertainment with her.

  28. This is a joke right? First world problems. Maybe take a page out of TPG’s book…? How ‘hard’ did you actually work for those 70,000 Aeroplan miles?

  29. Damn you should be in showbiz. You saved it up for a complete new post and built the excitement and this audience is just lapping it up.

    Reminds me of the audience around the tracks in Ben-hur, star wars or nascar. They love it as long as something is going on even if it’s non sensical.
    You know your audience.

  30. That’s a crap offer. People were getting 200€ when OS didn’t serve their coffee service in their biz class a few years back when they had some issues. I would argue at least double that in CHF or at least 1/3 the m&m miles needed to redeem for a similar flight

  31. I once had a broken IFE system on an Etihad flight in economy from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi (14 hours!). Several FAs attempted to fix it, though with little enthusiasm and no success. I was offered no compensation. I complained to Etihad about it and they never even bothered to reply. Which is about on par with Etihad’s general contempt for economy-class passengers, in my experience.

  32. @Icarus – if you pay for a product and dont receive the product are you wrong the request compensation?

    If you book a stay in a hotel and the sink doesnt work, do you request a refund? Even though you have a bed, you’d still like the full hotel experience with running water.
    If you buy a car and it’s delivered to you without windows, do you accept the car? Even though the car will drive from point A to point B, windows are kind of important.
    Yes, lucky still got from ZRH to LAX safely, but he paid for a seat with IFE which he did not receive.

    I’m currently fighting with AA on getting a partial refund. Paid $3k for a biz class ticket Chicago to London but my seat wouldn’t recline and therefore I couldn’t sleep on the red-eye flight, impacting the first day of my vacation. Yes, I made it safely and yes i had a nicer meal, more legroom, etc…. but the driver behind the $3000 seat vs the $600 seat was the ability to sleep. Was offered 10,000 miles for the trouble which I refused to accept. I’m asking for $1,200 which is the difference btw coach and business for half of the flight.

  33. UA offered 25K miles after I helped (was in business class) with a disturbance mid flight between Frankfurt and SFO. I struck up a conversation with FA during boarding about my time is the USMC which is why she asked if I could assist. I was back in my seat within a hour, seems that this is a bit low for a while flight without entertainment.

  34. I can’t believe this post, and I can’t believe so many of the follow-up comments. You’re not entitled to anything. Your 70,000 miles weren’t “difficult” to get. You got a great seat, great food and drink, were treated royally, and got from point A to B with a high level of first world comfort. If you had actually spent $13,000 on the flight, then pick up a book and read it instead. This is disgusting.

  35. Gosh, it sounds like me that the flight attendants did everything they could humanly do. I would take the 10,000 miles and say thank you. Buck it up buttercup and buy yourself an iPad. Things like this happen. I believe you got to where you were going safely take that as a positive

  36. Actually, this is the kind of useful post this blog needs. If passengers don’t speak up then no info gets shared and nobody learns anything. Sad to see that bit of common sense escapes so many commenters.

    Anyway, the posible takeaway from Lucky’s post is that Swiss compensates passengers according to the revenue they netted the airline. Not surprising given that United, another Star Alliance member, will flat out tell you that they compensate for delays according to ticket cost.

  37. We got 7000 etihad guest miles because our luggage wasn’t unloaded first.
    10000 m&m miles doesn’t get you up in the air…

  38. I think it is entirely appropriate to expect a fully-functioning aircraft. So, I think SWISS should fix their equipment before takeoff, buy more reliable equipment, or send their trained staff along with tools to be able to fix it. Failing to do that is purely an economic exercise to minimize expenses. That is, the airline is being cheap.

    This isn’t a matter of spoiled frequent fliers. I agree that most travellers are getting a bargain and probably shouldn’t expect too much. But, first class you are paying for the best, “the highest possible level of comfort. … And only when you feel completely satisfied will we have done our job.” and “the Best Entertainment” according to the SWISS website. Failing to live up to those standards is not excused by 10,000 miles or a 300CHF voucher, as it is it false, deliberate and misleading advertising.

  39. That happened to me too from San Francisco to Tokyo Haneda on a 777-200 last year. I was flying economy thought.

  40. Dearest Lucky old boy…what compensation do you offer your fine readers every time a spelling mistake appears in your article, or your pictures don’t load properly, or when it proves troubling to navigate this website to find particular articles? None. These things do happen. Poor old chaps at Swiss. I don’t see why you should have been offered any compensation. What you were given was more than generous. More the fool who pays the 13K to sit for 10 hours or so…

  41. By the way, for those of you who do get compensation in the form of money credit on an airline youre not likely to fly, consider posting it online for a “trade.” I had Austrian mess up and give me 200 euros off my next flight but I don’t fly Austrian. I traded it online and someone bought it from me.

  42. ok so should we be asking for something too? We just flew back on an award ticket we were prem economy and we were 1 and 2 on upgrade list and were waitlisted for 8 months. We were then told we had to check in to confirm our place on the list the system kept saying error and would not let us check in …..I face booked them and after a while they got us to be able to check in online but then we had been pushed to 5 and 6 on the stand by list and didn’t get it. When we got on the plane the TV was not working we told them they said once we were airborne they would re-boot it but it still did not work so they just shrugged. The seat also would not recline and there was coffee split all over the carpet which soaked our back pack. I face booked them and they said thanks for telling them?? It was United …….suggestions.?? The back pack had to be pitched along with a few items inside as they smelled of coffee and were stained. Thanks

  43. I am UA 1K. I was on a paid F ticket LHR-SFO a few years ago (when Smisek was in charge). The whole seat did not work. I either sat fully upright or totally flat. No recline whatsoever. IFE did not work — no component of the system. And the overhead light flashed on and off the entire flight. Literally, the whole seat was inoperable.

    They did their damnedest to fix it in flight. The purser literally got on his belly and back to fix it. But nothing.

    1K. Paid ticket. They offered 5,000 points or a $250 voucher. When I complained this was not sufficient, they told me the airline transported me from LHR to SFO — as I contracted — and their offer was a courtesy for my inconvenience. Take it or leave it.

  44. I flew United for the first time a few days ago. It was LAX-CUN in Business Class. I can’t believe that not only was there no meal, there was also no IFE. A malfunction is one thing, but this is normal?!? Now I understand what everyone has been complaining about.

  45. At least you got something. This same thing happened to me flying first class on AA from LAX to MCO and they offered nothing. I was the only seat without a working screen.

  46. @kj – FB is for sharing cat pics. If you want compensation for something that went wrong with your flight, contact United customer care with the flight details (should be a link somewhere on their web pages).

  47. My entertainment system failed me on an AF flight from CGK to SIN, a 1h40m sector, because it was stuck in kid’s mode, and the crew refused to help me out throughout the flight. Complained to AF on Twitter afterwards, and they issued 25 EUR vouchers for everyone in my party even though I was the only one affected. All in all, I gladly took 75 EUR to not watch a movie for an hour =).

  48. Hey Ben can you ban the @credit guy hes not even attempting to offer productive advice he’s always insulting you or readers Im tired of it

  49. On a recent (paid) First Class flight from LHR to JFK my entertainment system and call button didn’t work and all British Airways offered me was £50 worth of travel vouchers which I rejected. I did the same when they upped it to £100 of vouchers. Onboard staff were very apologetic but if that’s how BA customer relations treats their paying First Class customers I’m giving American Airlines a go from now on.

  50. I flew British Air once from Heathrow to JFK. A few hours into the flight, one side of the passengers went dark. I was in that section. Pilot tried to fix it but it didn’t work. Got zippo compensation. Of course I was in economy so I expected to be treated like dirt. When something far far more minor happened when I was in business they were more than apologetic. In fact, it bordered being uncomfortable because it was so minor and it’s not like my lay flat seat didn’t move. It almost always boils down to the people working that day. You get someone kind and customer centric you’ll be treated well and sometimes too well. You get someone who is ready to quit you’re getting nothing. For me, whatever little gesture the airline offers is good enough for me. I just need to know they want to keep me as a customer and make some effort. There are airlines who did me wrong and could care less. Looking at you AA.

  51. @Aaron Tan – you do realize the blog is free, right? As in “you’re not paying anything for it”?

    And for everyone who says “read a book” – if you book a flight on an airline and in a class that’s supposed to have IFE, it’s reasonable to not bring a book, now isn’t it?

    I think comping you a wifi code would have been an appropriate gesture (along with the chocolate). The fact that they didn’t suggests the cabin crew doesn’t have the ability to interact with the wifi system.

  52. Exact same thing happened to me when I first tried Business on Emirates a couple of years ago. I got lots of apologies but no compensation at all. It was a six-hoour flight, and I watched my laptop, but I was surprised they didn’t offer me anything.

  53. I flow on Qatar Airways from DOH-SIN on a night flight. The seat would not recline which meant I had about 2 inches of space once the person in front of me reclined 🙁
    There were no other seats available for the flight. I asked the cabin crew to log the issue as I intended to following up with customer service once the flight had finished. I received a prompt email back offering me $250USD towards a future flight. I thought the amount seemed fair considering that I was booked on an economy class ticket.

  54. Agree with @u600213, you are in Europe at least six times a year, can’t be that hard for you to use $300 on an intra-Europe flight

  55. I guess, even after the many times I’ve flown, I’m still really enjoying the novelty of it. I’m baffled that this is such a big deal to you and most people commenting. Yes – a first world problem. How horrible that we don’t get our precious screen time during our flight. Really? Take a nap. Read a book. Knit. Imagine. Pray. Look out the window. Think about modes of travel in the 1880’s. Draw. Do a puzzle. Write your memoirs. Twiddle your thumbs. But no, Must. Have. Screen. Time. Ok, then. Entitled much?

  56. Do you think the purser knew you were redeeming miles and not paying full fare for this ticket? I’m wondering if that has something to do without. I’d imagine an airline would bend over backwards to avoid losing a customer willing to drop 13K on a one-way ticket.

  57. I was on a United flight between FRA-EWR Economy (no status) a couple of years ago and the entire plane got $150 vouchers at the end of the flight because the entertainment system didn’t work. The best part was I didn’t even realize this was an issue until they handed out the vouchers because I slept through the entire flight! 🙂

  58. It should not make any difference at all whether you are travelling on a paid $13.000 ticket or an award ticket for 70.000 miles. That would be like saying award passengers don’t get offered the best champagne, or get to use smaller pillows. F is First, no matter how the ticket is paid.

  59. Unfair comment from NS. First it was Swissair not Swiss, second, it wasn’t only Swissair that had this problem with that entertainment system, though it was very sad and unfortunate it resulted in the crash. had it not been Swissair it would have been another carrier.

    As to the compo, it was a nice gesture to make and in my book that’s what counts. I guess the cabin was full otherwise they would have re-seated you? Personally I’d have taken the CHF 300 but then I do fly Swiss a lot.

  60. IMHO compensation should have been about 50k miles or 600 euros.
    What you were offered is certainly not first class customer service!!

  61. Had it been a paid F seat (even though 13K is quite a bit more than most ppl would actually pay), I think something in the region of half the amount of miles it cost to redeem for a similar tkt would have been appropriate.
    Since it has been a redemption, i think the amount offered is okay…also, for me personally, failed IFE systems in Y are much, much worse than in J or let alone F – at least, in J or F I could opt to sleep (or eat, drink) instead of watching something. In Y, entertainment-less flights get way too long. So personally, I’d be much much more demanding in case of a failed IFE in Y than if seated in the pointy end of the plane.

  62. Cheap-ass Lufthansa spilled a wine sauce on me in business class and I was given $25 USD voucher for in-flight duty free

  63. No doubt a refund is due if the entertainment system does not work. How much is the real issue.Personally I would be unhappy if entertainment does not work properly but would consider $300 “fair”. I do a lot of reading(books and magazines) and can get “entertainment” from my laptop, smartphone or tablet if I want it.

    Consider another scenario: The seat , which is supposed to be a fully flat bed (in first or business) does not recline properly giving an economy class experience when I want to sleep in a long-haul flight say 13 hours?I would demand a refund equal to the difference between first and economy (or business and economy whatever the case may be), PLUS additional compensation for stress and inconvenience!

    “Entertainment” , I can do without, while comfort in a long-haul flight (legroom+fully reclining seats+good meals) is the whole point in paying extra for business (or first for those who can afford it)!

  64. For some of you who pity the airlines and for those of you who ask to read books when the IFE was not working!
    1) if you did pay $10k+ for your ticket, I don’t think you would want a comp of 2% the value of your ticket. You would want at least 1/2 because you were have an expectations that everything should be working…if not why not pay and fly with someone else more reliable??
    2) even though this is an award ticket. Do you know how much blood and swear you need to go through to accumulate them? For 70k miles it would take me a whole year just on credit cards. And don’t get me started on award availability!

    Yes it’s a first world problems. But heck you are flying first class is that not first world problem enough??!!

  65. Ben why did you withhold this additional compensation information from your initial review? Surely the FA’s good handling of the situation and the offer of compensation should have been recorded in your review? It’s a bit disingenuous on your part.

  66. I was in the same situation while flying AA JFK-LAX in F. It was a paid itinerary in J (one of the PTY mileage runs a lot of people have been doing), but I got lucky with the random upgrade that sometimes happens while booking that itinerary.

    Due to delays on both ends of the flight I was stuck on the plane for close to 11 hours with no IFE whatsoever. The flight attendant was very apologetic and tried to solve it, but wasn’t able to. It was a pretty big disappointment, and after flying PTY-MIA-JFK with no personal IFE, all I wanted to do was relax and watch a movie. I emailed AA and they gave me 15,000 miles for the trouble. At the time I thought it was fair, even if it was for a paid itinerary, but reading your post makes me wonder if I could have pushed for more.

  67. I had a similar experience on a Lufthansa flight in Business Class from Toronto to Munich. They offered me 70 Euros credit in Duty-Free purchase, plus a 1st Class Amenity kit.

  68. @Lucky Any follow up? I had the same issue on an A340 flight from Zurich to GRU. Offered a similar compensation in business class. I’d like to hear what you did before I start making calls once I return to the USA.

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