“Excuse Me, I’m In Business Class… Right?”

As I wrote about yesterday, I booked my return from Europe to the US in Lufthansa first class using Air Canada Aeroplan miles. That involved flying Air Dolomiti (Lufthansa’s subsidiary which operates many of their Italy flights) from Catania to Munich, and then flying Lufthansa back to the US.

I find Air Dolomiti to be such a fascinating airline.

They operate some flights independently while others are operated exclusively on behalf of Lufthansa. You’ve gotta love when the Germans and Italians work together, because it makes for some good entertainment.

For that matter, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an airline where the flight attendants “doll up” as much as at Air Dolomiti. They make the “Singapore Girls” look all natural, by comparison.

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Air Dolomiti EMB-195

I booked the flight literally three hours before departure, which I knew would be an adventure in terms of catering.

I’ve gotta be honest, I felt a tiny bit guilty (and a huge amount happy) about the fact that I was the only passenger booked in Lufthansa first class from Munich back to the US. Lufthansa usually only caters based on the number of passengers booked in a cabin, so my guess is that they had to make a last minute phone call to catering to get food provisioned for the first class cabin.

Anyway, I showed up at Lufthansa check-in at Catania Airport, and the friendly Lufthansa representative (who spoke English and German — and presumably Italian — flawlessly) quickly checked me in and apologized for the fact that there would be no meal for me on the first flight since they catered for exactly the number of booked passengers (and notated my boarding pass as such).

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“NO MEAL”

I said that was totally fine, it’s not like the food intra-Europe is much to speak of, though she still made a phone call to see if she could procure an extra meal.

When I got to the gate she approached me to tell me that they had catered an extra meal for me, which was a nice touch, though like I said earlier, really not necessary.

I was assigned seat 7A. For those of you not familiar with intra-Europe business class, it’s literally economy class with a blocked middle seat. Or in the case of the EMB-195 I was flying (which is in a 2-2 configuration) every other seat in business class was simply blocked off and not occupied.

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Air Dolomiti EMB-195 business class cabin

So I sat in 7A and there was no real way to tell where business class ended, as there wasn’t the usual “partition.”

The flight attendant came around business class to offer everyone magazines… and stopped at row six.

Then she came around to do the meal and drink service… and stopped at row six.

Once done with the business class meal service she came up to serve me a drink in a plastic cup and a packaged sandwich.

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Air Dolomiti economy class service

Clearly she didn’t realize I actually was a business class passenger, and I wasn’t quite sure how to tell her.

Like I said I didn’t really care about the meal but the check-in agent said it was catered, and I was hoping for some drink refills, which seem easier to come by in business class than economy class.

Then the following conversation ensued:

Me: “Excuse me, this is business class, right?” (I held out my boarding pass which clearly stated business class)
Her: “Yes, I have food for you, you’re seated in the wrong seat, you should move up to one of the empty seats in business.”
Me: “This is 7A, right? That’s what they assigned me.”
Her: “Yes, but they messed up, this isn’t business class.”
Me: “Oh that’s okay I can just stay here if that’s alright.”
Her: “No, you are in business class, you must move up.”

She walks away, and per her instructions I proceed to self upgrade myself mid-flight.

Naturally I got evil glares from the other business class passengers, which isn’t surprising since it looked like I was trying to self-upgrade.

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Air Dolomiti business class snack

The funny thing is that she still gave me (and most other business class passengers) an Air Dolomiti “Your opinion is valuable to us” survey.

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Air Dolomiti survey

Just as we were beginning the descent shortly after the captain turned on the seatbelt sign, I got up to use the lavatory. As I walked up there she said “you should be seated, pay attention.”

Speaking of paying attention…

So I’m curious, how do you handle a situation where you’re actually seated in a different cabin than the crew thinks you are?

The joys of intra-Europe business class, I suppose…

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View on approach into Munich

Comments

  1. I suspect that she had you move up because if you were served a full meal in coach, that might in her mind offend those passengers.

    Of course, inconveniencing you by making you move up and appear to be self-upgrading was unconcerning.

    Anway, just a guess, hope you had a good trip!

  2. @ elteetrav — I nickname Air Dolomiti “Air Deli Meat” for a reason. Not sure, think it might have been roast beef…

  3. This whole experience would have made my blood boil, once I got over the creepy glare from the guy in the background on the LH boarding pass stock (I’m sorry, he looks like a serial killer).

  4. Lucky, can you get some pictures of the dolled up Air Dolomiti flight attendants? It might be an incentive to give them a try. I also find the idea of the Germans and Italians working together to be intriguing.

    With regards to the service, it sounds to me like the operate by the book so only a Business class passenger can be served the amenities in the particular rows the onboard crew thinks is assigned to Business Class.

  5. “Just as we were beginning the descent shortly after the captain turned on the seatbelt sign, I got up to use the lavatory.”

    I’d tell you to pay attention too! Was the rest of the flight so thrilling that you had to wait until the descent to use the bathroom?

  6. @ Arcanum — The captain made his arrival announcement the same time he turned on the seatbelt sign. There was no warning that the seatbelt sign was going on in “X” number of minutes. So I went after he turned it on, not knowing beforehand it would be switched on soon. Have NEVER had an issue on any European airline with that.

  7. Sounds like an interesting combination of German charm and Italian efficiency (just joking – sort of).

  8. Reminds me of an experience on Alitalia – I had a 6:30AM flight from Munich to Milan on a regional jet. Of course, they parked way out in a remote area so we had to take a bus from the gate to the plane. They took their sweet time to call the flight and the bus didn’t actually leave until 6:30AM. You could clearly determine nationality by who was panicking and looking nervously at their watch. We get to the plane and the boarding process was rather leisurely, pilot and FAs smiling and being very chatty with people. As you might guess, some of the passengers were seething inside and looked like their veins were gonna pop out. I think we finally took to the air about 6:50, made a quick 30-35 minute flight over the Alps, and proceeded to land in Milan ON TIME. The Italians had totally baked all that waiting time into the schedule – quite funny. On top of that, I’m pretty sure that they even passed out a meat and cheese plate in business class.

  9. Given that meal service was over, the seat was identical, and there was probably an hour or less before landing, I probably would have just let it go. An extra drink refill is no big deal! Had it been a longer flight or if I’d realized the misunderstanding before the meal was served, I probably would have handled it the same way you did.

  10. The forced questions at the end of each of your posts are usually pretty silly…but, this one really takes the cake.

  11. What can I do in our miserable case?! Our yesterday’s flight LH404 from FRA to JFK was supposed to take place in B747-400 but after an incredible Bday experience in Lufthansa Terminal we ended up on a lower deck in B747-8! I do not think I have to express how disappointed I felt knowing we were not going to fly on an upper one! Any suggestions to handle such case? Shall I talk to United whose miles I redeemed for a party of 4 or Lufthansa directly?

  12. Lucky — a similar thing happened to my wife and I flying Lufthansa (though might have been operated by Air Dolomati) from Bologna to Frankfurt. They apparently had to extend business class back one row after we checked in, but didn’t reissue tickets for people who had checked-in online in advance. The result — an economy passenger who was seated in our row refused to move, as “it was his assigned seat”. We didn’t really care that much, and were fine sitting together across the aisle (and give up our lame empty seat), but the flight attendants proceeded to get in a big argument with this passenger (who in the end still didn’t move). It made for a rather uncomfortable flight. I must say, the whole European business class model is just so odd compared to everywhere else.

  13. Well this comment is not reg the above blog but I m writing to get your views on a very tricky situation my friend is in right now. He and his family of 4 had booked a return flight to Singapore on Jet Airways for May 17 onward and return on May 28, they booked in January through makemytrip.com which is a very reputed and largest travel portal in India. Payment was made through credit card his account was debited instantaneously and tickets were issued and he received the e-tickets from makemytrip.com. Subsequently my friend made his hotel bookings in Singapore and Tiomen Island in Malaysia both non refundable and also got the visas issued. My friend causally happen to call Jet Airways few days back to check on his flight and he was shocked to know that his PNR did not exist. He called up makemytrip and they made him wait for a long time and came back to him saying Jet Airways has cancelled the tickets and asked him to check with them. He called up Jet Airways they replied that makemytrip had made his bookings in a lower fare class which was not available hence the booking did not to through at all in the first place. That means though makemytrip had taken the money and mailed the e-tickets in January itself the reality was the tickets were not booked at all with Jet Airways. Upon reverting to makemytrip they said a mistake has happened by their ticketing agent and they will re issue the tickets but asked my friend to pay the fare difference which is coming up to $300 per pax(in total he had paid about $900 only for 4 pax in January). My friend lost his cool on the customer care person of makemytrip and after a lot of talking(yelling) makemytrip agreed to issue the tickets without extra cost. He received the tickets 2 days back and immediately called called Jet Airways to check and they confirmed the PNR exists. To be sure coz of all he had gone through my friend called up jet airways yesterday to re check his PNR, shockingly it did not exist again. Then he went through the same process with makemytrip they gave him some lame reasons and have promised to re issue the tickets today.

    To say my friend is hassled irritated and disappointed would be an understatement. His trip is to happen in 2 days and his kids are all excited about the trip as they still don’t know all the mess that’s happened. He is not willing to travel at all now as this experience has left him exhausted and disgusted. I reasoned with him to travel if his tickets are issued today as he has made all the hotel bookings etc and he will stand to lose a lot of money, he says what if after arriving at the airport he finds out the PNR does not exist as it has happened twice already. Valid point there. He also said what if his return journey ticket is cancelled after he travels to Singapore considering what all they have done this is also a possibility and he does not want to be stranded in a foreign land. Hence he is contemplating to not travel and file a case with the consumer court against makemytrip.com.

    What do you suggest Ben is there a way this situation can be handled differently?

  14. “This whole experience would have made my blood boil”

    Really? Blood boil? Over this? I can understand being a bit upset, but boiling blood is a bit much. Talk about a huge DYKWTFIA…

    Lucky, given the Lufthansa connection, you needed to make eye contact with the FA, then glance at your boarding pass, then glance at the business class section, and then he/she would have understood…and welcomed you with open arms.

    I guess this is one case where curtains would have made resolving the situation much easier.

  15. Given that there was no curtain, what difference did it make which row you were in? Or was there someone in row 7 along with you and she didn’t want them to get jealous of your upgraded meal? 😛

  16. Sorry but you can not generalize about intra europe business class flights like that. The average of intra EU business class is much, much higher – on average much higher than in US.

    Air dolomiti is one of those tiny airlines we must be happy they even exist, since they cover those fancy routings bigger airlines are not interested into (f.eg. VRN-MUC – a distance you can do by car in 4 hours).

    Whenever I use Air Dolomiti their planes are full at about 50% at most. The crew itself tries to be friendly, but you just see they did not have any proper training.

    I like to compare Air Dolomiti to the short legs of Insel Air (CUR-BON feg.). Tiny, funny, old planes… nothing more. And if you spend one cent more for their so called business, well that is wasted money for sure (except for ground services which might be good f.eg in MUC).

    Considerning the dolling: oh yes, this is one of the attituide most Italian stewards have, which I consider to be very, very, very ridiculous.

    Funny is also that they seem not to employ German natives, and I can grant you.. listening to them (Italians) trying to speak German, and adding their dolling, well this is the biggest fun ever 🙂

    It’s even more fun than flying Merpati or Lion Air in Indonesia 🙂

  17. @ Robert — I doubt they’ll do anything in the case of an equipment swap, especially since you got to ride in the “nose” of a 747, which is equally fun, in my opinion, but you could try talking to United.

  18. @ Sameer Sultan — I’m not familiar with makemytrip, but it sounds like you’ve been doing everything right in terms of the follow up. I would think he wouldn’t have much of a case if he doesn’t attempt his journey though. Good luck, that sounds really unpleasant, and I hope it works out in the end!

  19. The question you should ask yourself is: Am I in business class if the seats and service are basically the same? I think it’s silly of the inter-euro business class plans of blocking seats.

  20. @wwk5d: Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think it’s “DYKWIA” to expect to be treated politely, regardless of your class of service (speaking as someone who flies economy most of the time). I would’ve certainly been courteous to the FA during this whole interaction, but would’ve been disappointed that it wasn’t reciprocated.

  21. Speaking of Andrew B., when is the next chapter of the excellent adventures of Ben & Andrew B.? And will there be awkward bar visits and memes? 😉

  22. Sorry, but I still think having your blood boil is a bit much of a reaction for a situation like this. I don’t think she was being all that rude, but she could have handled it a bit better (seems like some miscommunication between the ground staff and the air crew). And Lucky handled the situation rather well.

    To each their own.

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