Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone happy… and Lufthansa first class!

Life has been an interesting journey since moving from Tampa to the Pacific Northwest last year, and due to a variety of reasons (none of which are valid), I haven’t visited my parents as much as I’d like to. I took a trip to Bali with my mom for her birthday in June, and had an amazing time. Ever since, I’ve made it a goal to travel more with my parents since we’re all still in relatively good health, and that’s not something that should be taken for granted. So I also went to the US Open with my mom, have a trip planned with her to Puerto Rico soon, and another trip planned with her early next year.

Similarly, it has been a long time since I’ve taken a trip with my dad. Back in the day when I got into this hobby he was the biggest advocate of it, and at first we mileage ran and traveled the world together on award tickets. After all, I was about 12. 😉

But he hasn’t been able to travel as much as he’d like to lately (again, for a variety of reasons, which are more valid than my lack of good reasons for not visiting my parents as much as I’d like to), and I figured it was about time for us to take a trip again. I’m attending TravelMagic in Brussels next week, so figured I’d take my dad with me and also extend the trip a bit. So we’re spending a week together in Europe, which I’m really excited about. He’s from Germany, so he always loves going back.

This is literally my dad’s first international trip in years (the last one was to his mother’s funeral a few years ago), and I don’t think I anticipated quite how excited he’d be.

While the trip has just started, I figured I’d share my experience so far, as we just flew Houston to Frankfurt in first class on Lufthansa’s A380. To add some context, the last time my dad flew Lufthansa first class their old first class product was still new, and the first class section was split up into a smoking and non-smoking section… so maybe 15 years ago?

Anyway, I’m of the opinion that Lufthansa first class is a spectacular product, and I think this flight may just have been my best Lufthansa flight EVER!

First of all, I love everything about the A380 cabin – the colors, the design, the bathrooms, the personal lockers, etc.

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The food was actually probably the best I’ve ever had on Lufthansa as well. There wasn’t a single thing on the menu I could fault. For once the amuse bouche wasn’t “decomposed urchin semen with quail thigh feather”, which was a welcome change. I actually decided to switch it up and had ordered an Indian vegetarian meal as a “backup plan,” but the main menu looked so good that I didn’t even want it. And that worked out perfectly since they catered the cabin for eight passengers, even though it was only half full.

The crabmeat amuse bouche was delicious.

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The veggie, beef, and prawn starter was excellent as well.

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The caviar, was, well, caviar.

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And I did have the Indian vegetarian main course, though at the flight attendant’s insistence also had one of the other entrees. The prawn dish looked good, so I ordered the prawns. I didn’t actually touch the pasta, but the prawns went quite nicely with the Indian dish.

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The dessert was even simple and delicious – a chocolate tart with ice cream. No elderflower soup for once!

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This is quite possibly the best menu I’ve ever had on Lufthansa.

But really it was the service that was spectacular. Probably the best ever. Two guys in their young 20s were working the cabin, and they couldn’t have been more enthusiastic, attentive, or charming throughout the entire service. After dinner they even insisted on giving my dad a tour of the entire plane, which he enjoyed. They were simply amazing on every level.

Of course, the flight wasn’t without a bit of entertainment/drama. One passenger from coach climbed up the stairs and under the “gate” to try and smoke in the first class lavatory. To say that the situation was handled with German efficiency would be the understatement of the year. A SWAT team could take a course on response time from this crew.

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Then, as the dinner service wrapped up, the purser informed us that someone from business class would be moved up and seated across from us. She explained that he was extremely unhappy. That’s the first time I’ve seen an onboard upgrade like that. While he was low maintenance, he proceeded to snore all the way to Frankfurt.

But really the best part of the flight was just watching my dad. Parts of watching him were entertaining. For example, he just couldn’t grasp the concept of the computer generated airshow (and to perhaps put this into perspective, he doesn’t have a cell phone because he doesn’t really “believe” in them). Lufthansa’s airshow doesn’t just show a map, but also has some computer generated “virtual” images. For example, they’ll show what the view would be like from the cockpit based on the landscape, what the view would be like looking at the plane from the outside (from maybe 500 feet away), etc. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around that. “Benny, vhere do zhey get za camera to look at za plane from that distance?” “Dad, it’s computer generated.” He responds with “okay.”

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Five minutes later it’s “Benny, how do zhey get za camera in za cockpit for za display?” “Dad, it’s computer generated.” “Oh, okay.”

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15 minutes later “Benny, vhy iz it still light outside on za camera view?” “Because a computer generated image showing you the scenery around the plane wouldn’t be very interesting if everything around the plane were dark.”

And then there were parts of watching him that were downright adorable. For example, it was sweet to see how much he was trying to “maximize” the experience. I was trying to help him further maximize the experience by recommending some TV shows and suggesting he get his bed made after dinner, but he was resistant to it all.

“I don’t vant to watch za TV, I just vant to sit here and enjoy za ambiance.”

Then after dinner I repeatedly asked him if I could get them to make his bed. “No, I don’t need zhat, I can sleep vhen ve land.” Go figure, five minutes later he’s sleeping in the upright position. “Dad, we can have them make your bed for you if you’d like.” “No, I can just sleep sitting up, I don’t need za bed.”

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But… but… but… if you want to sleep sitting up then fly coach!

Okay, while I wanted him to enjoy the flight on his terms, I couldn’t in good conscience let him sleep in the upright position when he had the option of a fully flat bed with a mattress pad, duvet, and pillow. So I tricked him into getting up for a minute while the flight attendant made his bed, and he was sound asleep for the next few hours.

When he woke up he said “Benny, zhis is za best sleep I’ve ever had. Even better zhan at home.”

Now it’s time to take dad to the First Class Terminal. Hopefully he doesn’t wet himself… he’s too old for that… or too young for that… one or the other.

But in all honesty, this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Which is probably partly a sad reflection on my life. But watching other people be literally thrilled — especially when they’re my parents — is probably (selfishly) the most rewarding thing I can think of.

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Comments

  1. Good for your Benny! It’s great you’re enjoying time with your father….keep up the good work and entertaining blog…

  2. Heck, my hearing-impaired, 100 year old mother was impressed five years ago when I bought her a new TV with Closed Captions! Not sure who will have more vivid memories – you or your Dad – but I can only imagine his pride in you and your gratitude for being able to do it. Just super!

  3. While its fun to travel with friends or alone, giving your parents an experience they’ve never had or thought they’d never have is one of the fun things with travel.

  4. I brought my Dad to London back in March 2001, 7 months after my Mom died. We flew business on a CO 767-400 from EWR. His previous flight had been on USAir’s Metrojet from BOS to MCO, so there were obvious differences. Watching him enjoy himself brought great pleasure to me – I understand your feelings completely. Thanks for the great read, it brought back some wonderful memories.

  5. Ben,
    As a father and grandfather I assure you that these trips with your parents are wonderful gifts to them. And the best part for them I am sure is that you simply wanted to do it with them.

    Jack

  6. Good on ya for taking care of your parent’s this year and next. You are one of a kind, especially in this generation of young adults. Enjoy and safe travels.

  7. Wonderful account, and so glad he (and you) are enjoying the trip! Funny, the part about his last trip in LH First Class being when there were smoking/non-smoking sections. I can remember that time well, and am so glad everything’s now non-smoking.

  8. Its great to see you and Gary post the best reasons to collect miles on the same day; the ability to be there for moments in life that you will remember for a lifetime, either for good reasons or sad ones.

  9. I love this post.

    I am trying to arrange a trip for my parents but my dad doesn’t want to go anywhere. My mom is equally frustrated. Oh well I guess she can end up in business class by herself.

  10. Great post! You’re making memories you’ll cherish all your days. (But does your Dad really have that accent?) 😉

    PS–If you ever need to be adopted, inquire within.

  11. Nice post! Need to treat the folks well.
    Can you tell us what you paid for this flight as Luthansa has fees for oversees flights?
    Say hello to Brussels for me! My hometown.

  12. I know exactly what you mean, Benny. I *could* use all my miles to upgrade myself on my business trips. But I spend them lavishly on my family. I upgraded my mother and mother-in-law (traveling together!) to United’s PS business class a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, while they liked the seat and the food and wine, they were underwhelmed by the flight attendants’ snarky attitude. All too common on United.

  13. Great great stuff, Lucky…so happy for you und dein Vater. maybe fly him on Swiss on the way back to compare how the seats feel to sleep in sitting up? 😉

  14. nice trip, i wish i could do this for my mom… if she’d ever agree to travel…

    what miles did you use for the trip? how hard was it for get LH F?

  15. @ Peter — Trust me, I’m being REALLY nice about his accent. He makes Arnold Schwarzenegger sound like he’s from Texas.

  16. Wouldn’t it have to be quite a lot more than 15 years ago? Developed-world aircraft didn’t have smoking sections in 1998, either…I’m thinking 25 years minimum.

  17. @ Bgriff — I remember flying Condor between Tampa and Frankfurt in the smoking section in the last 15 years for sure… more recently than that, actually.

  18. This made me smile. My father is no longer with us so I’ve been planning to take my mom on a similar trip. For now she thinks we’ll be flying JFK-FRA-BKK-NRT-ICN-JFK in coach but she’ll be in for a surprise when she “turns left”. She’s never flown first so I’m picturing her having the same reaction as your father.

    I wish I had the means back then to take my dad on a trip like this. Cherish those moments you can spend with your mom & dad.

  19. Benny- How far in advance did you book Lufthansa 1st cl? I thought you said the Houston flt is one of the hardest to get in 1st. Also, have you flown this route in 1st on the A380 before?

  20. We just did something similar, taking my wife’s parents with us in Delta business class to London and Dublin. They had never been out of the country, and only have flown domestic coach. Watching their reactions was probably the best part. The Sky Clubs that I complain about were amazing for them. Their jaws dropped when the purser handed out menus before the flight and they saw there was filet mignon being served. When the shrimp appetizer came, my wife’s mom turned around to have us pinch her to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, haha.

  21. @ Lucky – this is so touching 🙂 And great to hear about experiences of someone who is not an uber-traveler like you.

    @ John – LH probably comped them the trip… or they should’ve given all the love Lucky has shown to LH F 😉

  22. The food looks amazing! I also think it’s great that you’re taking the time to bond and travel with your parents. To see them amazed and very happy is truly priceless.

  23. such a sweet post. I’m trying to save up miles to take my parents on an international first/business class flight as well and can’t wait!

  24. Not sad at all Ben. Every word of it is true. Seeing family (parents, children, close friends) excited by something you are able to provide is the best!

  25. Lucky you just hit the nail on the head of what this hobby is really about. This story is the farthest from a sad reflection of your life, it proves what really brings us joy.

  26. Your best post in awhile!

    I cracked up good with the line: “decomposed urchin semen with quail thigh feather”

  27. Lucky, time to take this blog in a new direction. Nothing but posts about people who have accents flying international F for the first time.

  28. What an awesome post Lucky (or Benny)! Looking forward to hear how your dad likes FCT! Perhaps after experiencing how air travel has changed since the 90s, he’ll travel more with you!

  29. @ Jason – Haha.. My mom has an accent and she flew SQ F for the first time in July (IAH-DME; will fly back this weekend). She actually enjoys SQ Y and even though I haven’t had a chance to discuss it in detail, I got an an impression she felt a bit strange being so pampered in F and attended to by super-nice FAs (FC cabin was half-full so that helped).

    My theory is that most passengers who usually travel in coach will delight in a J or F product (even if it’s weak compared to other airlines) as long as FAs are nice & pleasant enough.

  30. Great account. I booked my mom on Turkish business this summer for her annual trip home to Turkey. One of her only trips in Biz. She was very resistant in the lead up saying she was fine in economy & that she didn’t want to go to the lounge, etc. Then on the flight she kept declining different food offerings & then finally accepting them. When she got to the lounge she couldn’t believe all the food was free. Suffice it to say she was singing a different tune after the flight.

  31. I am glad you both had a great time! It will definitely be a special memory for both of you.

    I took a (then) friend with me on a trip – I used my miles to fly her in J on LAN to SA with me as I couldn’t get my husband to go. I had the opposite happen. She was an unappreciative snatch the whole time. I regretted taking her the moment the trip started. She has traveled a lot, but never in premium class and it was apparently not good enough for her, even free. I learned my lesson and will always take people who are grateful from here on out. You are right. Part of the fun of the trip is watching them experience it for the first time.

  32. What a great, heartfelt post. You have inspired me to push harder for that trip with my parents I have been wanting to do.

  33. Love it! What a both funny and sweet post. I just booked by parents business class tickets to New Zealand with a stopover in Japan and can’t wait for them to take the trip. It’s too bad I won’t be able to see their reaction especially after hearing your story.

  34. I have begged my parents to take a first class flight with my miles. But they are not at all interested and scared to fly. It makes me a bit sad.

  35. Haha brilliant, Ben – glad you both had such a good flight 🙂 Love your written version of a German accent too 😉 Did you ever find out what the upgraded passenger was so unhappy about? VERY unusual for LH to upgrade!

  36. Awesome post – glad you are sharing your experiences with those close to you! I’m excited about doing the same next week for my wife with ANA business class. She’s never flown international in a premium cabin (not even premium economy), so I’m really looking forward to watching her soak it all in.

  37. OK, that’s the best post ever! I love what a great time your dad is having… in a totally dad way… told to us by his son inserting the best German accent in print ever.
    Enjoy your trip with your dad. Sounds like it’s off to a good start.

  38. Ben; What a great post! It’s great that your Dad enjoyed the trip as much as you did.
    I’m only envious that you were able to snag two F seats IAH – FRA.

  39. awesome post, and you’re really putting me to shame as a son!

    my folks are in houston, so this is something i’ll have to aspire to do for them.

  40. Wow! You have written many great posts, but this was the best of them all. Thanks, Benny, for encapsulating what the best in travel means to a miles and points junkie.

  41. Thanks for the kind words, folks, and happy to hear so many other stories. Though kind of thinking I’ll regret the Benny thing, in retrospect. 😀

  42. @ Alan — Apparently his IFE was broken, so they reseated him in another business seat and his IFE was broken again, so the only other place they could reseat him was in first class.

  43. This is the best post I have read so far….. because I can see LOVE in your story, and not just another description of flight details. This triggers me to bring my parents to fly CX new business class next year.

  44. Great post!

    It must have been great for your dad, probably made better by the fact that you were there to share the experience with him.

    I’m actually planning something similar for my mum, who hasn’t been back to the US since before I was born. She always speaks fondly of the 2 years she and my dad spent in Washington DC, and I’m planning to bring her to DC and NY sometime next year. May have to use PointsPros for that…

  45. ben,
    you are so in love with germany and german things, why don’t you move there, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT GERMANY IS 0-2 IN WORLD WARS…. 0-2 IN WORLD WARS, WHAT A RECORD….

  46. Your Dad is so adorable!!! I hope you get to travel a lot with him!!
    PS. You should be making millions on LH’s payroll! you really make me want to be rich!

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