“You’re Our Only First Class Passengers Today”

Ah, there aren’t many phrases which I like hearing more than that.

While first class air travel is awesome, there’s something which still gets me outrageously excited when I’m the only first class passenger. Over the course of well over a hundred international first class segments, it’s something which has happened fewer than a dozen times.

Let me step back a second. Originally I was supposed to fly home from Europe to the US today, though my mom and I decided to return Wednesday, given that I wasn’t feeling well at all, and I wanted to see my doctor in the US.

It was Tuesday when we made the decision to fly home early, so I had a look at award space. There’s no better time to book Lufthansa first class awards than the day before departure. We literally had our pick of flights — there were two first class seats available to Houston, Miami, Chicago, New York, etc.

Lufthansa-First-6

So how did I decide which route to book? I had a look at how full the respective flights were in first class.

To my absolute shock, the Frankfurt to Miami flight was “F8,” meaning all eight first class seats were for sale. If you’ve ever looked at Lufthansa’s loads to Miami, you’ll see first class is almost always full. Actually, in the past Lufthansa claimed that Miami was their single most profitable US destination for first class. And for what it’s worth, first class was completely sold out the day before and the day after we were flying. Clearly this was some sort of freak coincidence.

That’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down — I redeemed 62,500 Aeroplan miles (plus taxes and carrier imposed surcharges) each for my mom and I to fly from Frankfurt to Miami. Those points were transferred from American Express Membership Rewards.

Lufthansa-First-Class-Award

Of course there was still the risk that there would be some day of departure upgrades. There definitely wouldn’t be any operational upgrades, since business class still had quite a few seats open.

I put our odds of having a private cabin at about 50/50. And this time around we “won.”

Lufthansa-First-1

The flight attendant was legitimately dumbfounded by the fact that there were only the two of us in first class. The second we boarded she said (in German) “just so you know, you’re our only two first class passengers today. I can’t believe this, usually first class is always full to Miami. We are completely full on the way back. But today you are lucky.”

Lufthansa-First-2

The crew offered to make our beds in the window seats, while we could watch TV and hang out in the center seats.

Lufthansa-First-5
(No alcohol was harmed in the taking of this picture… shockingly)

I’d argue this was the most pleasant yet unenjoyable Lufthansa flight I’ve ever taken.

Why unenjoyable? Because I had really bad stomach pains. So I couldn’t indulge in the champagne. And I didn’t eat anything, aside from salad and a couple of pieces of bread (I took the appetizers so that I could get a picture, and then figured my mom could get the extra helping of caviar). 😉

Lufthansa-First-3

Lufthansa’s A380 first class lavatories are awesome, in that they’re huge and have urinals. There are two of them, so my mom and I each had our own.

Lufthansa-First-4

All of Lufthansa’s A380s now have wifi, so for me it was simply a nine hour day at the office. I was able to get lots of work done while staying reasonably well hydrated. I would have liked to sleep, though was feeling too uncomfortable to do so.

Here’s the funny thing about having a completely empty first class cabin. On one hand it’s really freaking cool to basically feel like you have the cabin to yourself. On the other hand, I find service generally isn’t quite as good when the cabin is completely empty. And that’s not necessarily even the crew’s fault. It’s just difficult to non-intrusively pass through the cabin as frequently, since you know every single time the crew comes through the cabin it’s simply to see if you need anything. So service was good, though not the best I’ve had on Lufthansa.

Bottom line

All-in-all I’d say there’s probably no more pleasant way to cross an ocean when not feeling well! And interestingly this was my second Lufthansa first class flight in a row where I had a private cabin.

Have you ever had a completely private first class cabin? If so, how was the experience?

Comments

  1. We flew KUL-FRA last year in LH F and my partner and I were the only passengers in F. Very attentive and amazing service from the crew.

  2. Ben,

    What methods are you using to accumulate Aeroplan points to such a degree. I haven’t come across many earning/buying opportunities I can think of.

    Also – hope you are feeling better soon.

  3. We flew BKK-MUC in TG F where we were the only ones in F. It was a great flight.

    I hope you don’t have appendicitis. Your symptoms sound the same as mine. This was two years ago when my stomach was not feeling well. We flew to Tampa for the weekend from New York and I felt miserable during the flight. Since we got in to Tampa late, I thought that I would just sleep it off but still didn’t feel well the next day. So, we went to the emergency room at Tampa General Hospital. It turns out that I had appendicitis and I had surgery. Even though we weren’t home, I’m glad that this happened when we were traveling domestically. Tampa GH was great. I can’t imagine if this happened to me when I was traveling internationally.

    Hope you feel better. Please see your doctor immediately if you haven’t yet.

  4. Years ago I was the only passenger in the 16 seat F cabin of a Northwest 747-400 from Nagoya to Detroit. I had 3 flight attendants plus the purser just for me! They told me that the only other time they had seen this type of situation was when a very wealthy individual bought out the entire first class cabin for himself and his dog!

  5. “The flight attendant was legitimately dumbfounded by the fact that there were only the two of us in first class. The second we boarded she said (in German) “just so you know, you’re our only two first class passengers today. I can’t believe this, usually first class is always full to Miami. We are completely full on the way back. But today you are lucky.””

    Now I know how you got your nickname.

    Last year during my first class flight on Emirates from Prague to Dubai, I was the only person in first. One of the flight attendants told me “Since you are our only passenger today, you will be receiving a lot of attention. Please let us know if we are bothering you.” I had an awesome time, and it was the quickest 6 hour flight of my life.

    As a pre-flight bonus, I was the only person in the special first class lounge at Prague’s airport.

  6. We were in J on ANA’s IAD-NRT flight last year and F was completely empty. As in no one. Unfortunately we were on a Star Alliance award using US Dividend Miles post-oneworld transition so there was no possibility of upgrading. I was very impressed with the crew, as they still closed the curtain after takeoff but I rarely saw an FA go up front. They certainly weren’t using the empty cabin for crew breaks; contrast that with any U.S. airline. BTW, the Japanese meals in F and J on ANA are among the best airline food I’ve ever had.

  7. Wow! That sure is a great experience. In January of this year I flew to Tokyo on ANA’s cube first class. I was the only FC passenger on board, and the two flight attendants made sure I was well taken care of.

    Back then I shared this experience on your blog, and I mentioned how, unlike you this time around, I was able to finish up 2 bottles of delicious Krug on that epic journey.

    Thanks again, Lucky, for helping us find the best ways to use our miles and points for awesome redemptions! Again, I hope your health is much better now.

    PS I write this from the B-747-8 en route to Chicago. The LH 432 was delayed due to the storms passing by in the Frankfurt area this afternoon. The Captain told us there would be a 20 minute delay to allow some 120 connecting passengers to make it to the gate and board the aircraft. In the end, 3 FC passengers didn’t make it.

  8. My first Singapore Suites flight was with just me. They really made me feel like I was flying private – set up different suites for different activities and everything!

  9. After flying LH FC on our way to Europe, we had booked UA FC from Brussels to NY. Even on the morning of departure, we were the only seats occupied in First. After a wonderful experience with LH, I was dumfounded by the poor service on US – and on a plane with a totally new and remodeled cabin. Heck, that must have cost a fortune while being nice is free.

    About 20 minutes before departure, they filled the cabin with friends who partied the whole way home. Worst First Class experience ever and only served to confirm that I would always try for foreign carriers. Very sad.

  10. Hi there,
    Is it still that hard to snag 2 seats in LH F? Obviously you were able to get 2
    Somewhere I read that LH usually only releases one seat in F per flight.
    What is your experience with that?
    Danke!

  11. Ben,

    Healthforce products are your friend.

    For heavy frequent flyers especially, I recommend: Scram, Essential Enzymes and ZEOforce (will help get rid of all the chemicals and metal) from the large quantities of GMO foods served around the globe, and other pollutants you encounter from all your travels.

    No I do not work for Healthforce, I just came across their products on Amazon, and so very thankful for them.

    Might I also recommend a blog post dedicated to staying healthy on the road? I’m sure many readers have their own tricks and tips.

  12. @Lucky

    How come you never use Asiana Miles to use for LH F Class since its only 50K each way?

  13. My wife and I were the only two in F MUC-IAD last year…it was fabulous. I did feel slightly awkward though because the FA insisted on rolling the cart through the galley and around to the other aisle for every course. I told her she could just reach across, but of course she would have none of that (we sat in the middle seats). They also opened every bottle of wine. Since we were the only two they picked us up in a car when we landed in IAD and drove around to pull our checked luggage off the plane to give us before driving to customs/immigration.

  14. A few months ago I was the only F pax on a TG A380 HKG-BKK. The purser welcomed me with, “You have your choice of 12 seats, 12 meals, and 3 flight attendants 🙂 “

  15. I hope you didn’t really mean what you wrote when you said, “Lufthansa’s A380 first class lavatories are awesome, in that they’re huge and have urinals. There are two of them, so my mom and I each had our own.” Taking that literally, it seems to say that you and your mom shared a lavatory and each had your own urinal. I did get a good laugh out of the post. Thanks.

  16. Lucky, I am sure many of us would greatly appreciate an update on what the hell is wrong with your tummy.

  17. Last year I flew CX from Milan to Hong Kong with my wife. We were the only 2 in First class. We had all six seats to ourselves. Service was awesome

  18. I remember another time where my wife and I were the only 2: on Etihad in F between Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf. We had our kids in business class. Since we were the only 2 in F, it was nice in that they set up the meal service for 4 in the middle suites and we were able to have our kids join us for the meal, before we sent them back to business so they could watch movies and sleep.

  19. @Steven S,

    I think that is all too common on US carriers. I hope you filed a complaint with the airline. And yes, that is one among many reasons that experienced travelers will often go out of their way to use foreign airlines for international travel.

  20. Last year my wife and I celebrated our anniversary in HKG, connecting via ICN on KE.

    Not only was the surprise anniversary cake I arranged a big hit, but also getting up after the meal to dance together in the empty cabin was pretty special. 🙂

  21. Just a note to please delete the inappropriate snake oil sales pitch from “Jordan” dated 1:55pm.

  22. @Eric

    I find it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish “snake oil pitch” from “just another idiot with an opinion on the internet”. I think in this case you might actually be on the optimistic side regarding that post.

  23. How was the bow ratio? That’s an essential flight statistic I’m used to reading around here. Probably 0:2 on LH, but it could have been great on an Asian carrier.

    I love that you ordered the caviar just to photograph it. That should be in the standard operating manual for OMAT.

  24. @Dan – “How come you never use Asiana Miles to use for LH F Class since its only 50K each way?”

    Ben wrote a post a few years ago about the Byzantine booking process for OZ miles on *A partners. That alone would discourage a lot of people, and since he booked this flight on short notice, it may not have been an option.

  25. I flew FRA-MCO in January 2013 and was the only person in F. There were three of us on the ride from the FCT to the plane, so I figured my chances of an empty cabin were low. To my surprise, the other two pax walked straight back to the J cabin and I took my seat in F. Had lots of odd looks from the Disney crowds as they walked through the F cabin.

    Great flight, despite horrible turbulence halfway through the flight.

  26. You look as good as you say you feel.
    I thought you were in your twenties; the pic makes you look late 30s.
    Keep it up and you’ll be dead soon.

  27. Got super lucky last December. Korean Air Flt 130, Auckland to Inchon. The 747 was beyond old, every seat in F had an ashtray in the armrest. 3 rows, 4 seats per row, and a tight squeeze into the nose of the plane. Old old seats that I found comfy, but not wide, and not exactly lie-flat.
    http://www.seatplans.com/assets/Airlines/korean-air/seatplans/B747-400_SLEEPER.jpg

    My incredible good fortune: I was in Seat 1A, no one else in Row 1. Row 2 was empty. Row 3 had 2 guys.

    So for that 11-1/2 hour flight I was in my own private & isolated world. I saw no one at all except the FA. No other intruders to bother me. The feeling of spaciousness was fantastic.

  28. 1. Eric, +1
    2. If I saw ashtrays on the plane, I’d be worried. It’s been, what, 40+ years?
    3. Please do let us know what’s wrong with you, Lucky.
    4. So, when she said “you’re lucky,” weren’t you even tempted to say, “Why, as a matter of fact, I am?”

  29. I’ve noticed most of the people who have experienced being the only F passenger tend to be from star alliance carriers. Why do you think that’s the case?

  30. @Eric

    Ben is sick! I travel alot, and have found the items mentioned of great help! We surely live in a sad sad world where another fellow traveler is not allowed by the likes of YOU to offer up advice on supplements that can help another human being.

    You truly are a sad sad man!

  31. Feel better, Lucky!!! Please let us know when you can once doctors figure out what’s going on. 🙁

    Other random question, am I correct that LH does not provide mother-of-pearl spoons for the caviar? Do you typically just use the metal spoon and hope the taste of the caviar isn’t altered too much?

  32. First off I hope you are feeling better and get well soon.
    But on a funnier note your picture in this post looks just like “Eric” on NCIS LA

  33. @ BrooklynBoy — That is indeed correct, unfortunately. Metal spoon is as good as it gets, unless you bring your own…

  34. @ Joey — Hmmm, that’s interesting. Doubt there’s any correlation there necessarily, especially since it’s arguably easier to redeem miles for Star Alliance first class than SkyTeam first class, for example. Perhaps simply a function of more awards being booked in first class on Star Alliance than other alliances?

  35. @ Dan — They don’t partner with any transferable points currencies, and the booking process is a PITA.

  36. @ Flo — A day or two before departure it’s not at all difficult to snag at least two seats, and often more.

  37. @ Mike — These are just through AmEx MR points transfers. It has been quite a while since I’ve redeemed MR points.

  38. Yep – me and my wife flew BA LHR-JFK on Xmas Eve a few years ago and found ourselves alone in the F cabin. The cabin crew seemed to take delight in the fact that we wanted to party and set the mood lighting as I blasted songs from my laptop and danced together through the flight. At one point a member of crew stuck her head through the curtain and gave us the thumbs up to show her approval.

  39. Sad to read an MD sent you out of an ER without a CT scan, ultrasound or scope to rule out life-threatening diagnoses. A veterinary doctor would have prescribed pain medication for a pet in pain to hold it until reaching a primary care provider.

    At least the first class seat can double as a CPR table!

  40. Ok Rookie question – but how do you go about checking the flight load to see how booked the flight is?

  41. No such luck for us yet. We have noticed that if F is full, though, that service may not be quite as attentive. I think the crews enjoy non-full F just as much as passengers 🙂

  42. My husband and I had the First Class Suites on an Asiana Flight from JFK to ICN all to ourselves. We had a dining area, a sleeping area and a lounging area! It was awesome. (And booked with the help of PointsPros–although as much as I love the service–doubt that had anything to do with having first class to ourselves. 🙂

    On another trip, when I was traveling alone, I shared first class on LH from NRT to MUC with one other (unknown to me) traveler. I actually preferred that over having First all to myself. It took away some of the awkwardness factor!

  43. Two days ago, I flew on my first LH flight in F from HND-FRA and onwards to LHR; I was excited because LH is operating the 747-8 on this flight. Through out the entire flight I kept asking myself “what would ben eat?”, “what would ben drink?”, after reading all your LH first trip reports. Sadly, our flight departed HND two hours late due to an electronic failure with the mighty 747-8. I was not concerned with my onward connection from FRA as I decided I was going to see how well the LH ground experience was in IRROPS (plus I had two extra hours on the 747-8 to simply enjoy the aircraft). I really enjoyed my F experience in the air, with the purser and flight attendants in the cabin, the food, and then the ground experience in FRA. I chose the Japanese meal and had the miso fish for my main which was excellent. My ground experience in FRA was phenomenal. Our flight parked at Terminal 2. The mercedes sedan was waiting for me on the ground and whisked me off the to the security check. After clearing formalities the chauffeur was on the sterile said waiting to load me back into the sedan; I was driven straight to the boarding gate for my onward LHR flight. I had a connection time of 40 minutes and all of this was done in 15 minutes with time to spare. I am going to try flying LH more often when I can. The standard has certainly been set, and anything I experience when I fly will now be compared and contrasted to this standard. Probably my only (minor) gripe was that the seat when converted to a bed was a too firm for my liking – even with the pad placed on top. Any ideas on how to minimise this firmness? I fly FRA-HND this weekend and can’t wait!

  44. @ trust778 — Happy to hear you enjoyed the experience! Hmmm, that’s a toughie regarding the bed. Maybe ask for some extra pillows and place them underneath the mattress pad?

  45. I’ve lucked into being the only first class passenger on 3 flights with the middle eastern carriers. I didn’t check any flight loads as I was just excited to try out 2 new carriers with great products.

    My first trip on Etihad Nrt-Auh, I was the only first class passenger and it does put a lot of pressure on you. The chief came out to introduce himself and asked what kind of food I would like as they had stocked the full menu. He then would check up on every dish created to make sure I liked it.

    I also got really lucky for my first trips on Emirates A380 Iah-Dub Overnight in Dubai then Dub-Hkg the next day. I was also the only first class passenger for both flights and was told to sit wherever I wanted. I was incredibly spoiled throughout both flights taking 2 showers on each flight. I’m nervous to fly them again because the experience was amazing and I doubt it will ever happen again.

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