Category

Lufthansa

My 45 Hour First Class Flight To India

Greetings From FRA

Guten Morgen from the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt International Airport!

I am currently 16 hours into my 45 hour First Class around the world binge.

A few of you had asked questions about how I booked this Award, etc and I meant to post about it before I left, but life got in the way so here it is now.

Original Itinerary

I had previously booked a Business Award to India using 120,000 United Miles in November and chronicled my experience here.

I like to get the most bang out of my miles, so I try to stretch them as much as I can by flying primarily in Economy. The only exceptions I make to that rule are if there is a bad scheduling conflict or if I am going to Asia or Australia, where for 40,000 more miles you don’t have to be stuck in Economy for 20 hours each way.

Since I rarely fly Premium Cabins, when I decided to make the splurge for Business Class, I decided I wanted to try as many products as possible. Therefore my originally itinerary was booked as follows in Business Class:

  • Chicago -> Houston on United 787 Dreamliner
  • Houston -> Frankfurt on Lufthansa A380
  • Frankfurt -> Bombay on Lufthansa 747

Not to sound like a snob, but I have flown Lufthansa Business Class about 3 times now, and honestly I have never really been that impressed.

The Business Class seats on the majority of Lufthansa’s planes are dated and are angled lie-flat instead of true 180 degree lie flat seats. Obviously these are #FirstWorldProblems but since I rarely fly in Premium Cabins I was itching to try something new.

As I mentioned in the last post, I wanted to fly Lufthansa’s new 747-8 Intercontinental plane, but there wasn’t any availability except for Economy.

Well last week to my surprise, space opened up for December 10th, but it was only in First Class and not in Business Class.

I have never flown Lufthansa First Class or any International First Class for that matter, and I have heard wonders about Lufthansa’s First Class Product and the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.

In the words of Drake, YOLO (You Only Live Once), so I decided to go big and drop another 20,000 Ultimate Rewards and fly First Class to India.

Booking First Class

Booking First Class on Lufthansa can be a pain because Lufthansa doesn’t release First Class Award Space to their Star Alliance Partners until about 2 weeks out. So basically what you have to do is book an Award in Business or Economy and then hope Lufthansa releases First Class seats closer to departure, and then make a change to your ticket.

It is a whole complicated process and Lucky has laid it out here, so if you are thinking about going First Class on Lufthansa check out his post.

First Class Terminal

I have also never been to the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, so I wanted to try that out and get my own Rubber Duck.

The only issue is that to access the First Class Terminal, you have to be departing on a Swiss or Lufthansa First Class flight.

I thought that was going to be an issue but then about 2 weeks out, Lufthansa released First Class Award Space on the FRA -> BOM route, so I went ahead and booked that too.

Enter Bengali Miles Guru

While I was at FTU last weekend, I had the pleasure of running into Bengali Miles Guru (BMG) who people always seem to confuse me for at Frequent Flyer Events since we are both Indian…

For those of you not familiar with BMG, he is MileValue’s Award Booking Partner. Basically if you need an Award booked, he is the person you want to talk to because he is a wiz.

Anyways in talking to him, I told him I was going to India in December and he said he was also going to India in December. However instead of flying direct, he was routing through Europe, up to East Asia and then back to India.

I didn’t even know that was possible but he showed me some tips and tricks to pull it off which he outlined in his past post.

So after talking to him, since I was already going in First Class, I decided I might as well have “some fun” and take an unnecessarily long route to India and try some new products out.

The only issue that really complicated the situation was that to have access to the First Class Terminal (FCT) in Frankfurt, you have to be departing on a Lufthansa or Swiss First Class Flight.

Everything I was seeing to East Asia was on Thai Airways First, which is awesome but it would prevent me from accessing the FCT : (

#FirstWorldProblems were quickly turning into #FirstClassTerminalFirstWorldProblems.

After doing some research on wikipedia (which is honestly the best resource for this kind of stuff) of where Lufthansa flies direct from Frankfurt. I found out there was a Frankfurt – Tokyo (NRT) route that had First Class availability. To make things even better, IT WAS FIRST CLASS ON AN A380!

From Tokyo (NRT), to get to Bombay (BOM), you can either go via Bangkok (BKK) or Singapore (SIN). Obviously Singapore First Class would be ideal but they rarely release any First Class Awards to United so that was out of the question.

However there was a perfect Thai Airways First Class flight to Bangkok (BKK) and then a connection to Bombay.

Outside of the Lufthansa FCT in Frankfurt, the next best Lounge from what I have heard, is Thai Airways Royal Orchard First Class Lounge / Spa at Bangkok (BKK) where you can get a free 30 – 60 minute massage!

Going 24 hours out of my way to get a free 30 – 60 minute massage in Bangkok seemed like a brilliant idea to me so I went ahead and booked it.

Booking

After I knew all the flights I wanted, I simply called United and made the changes.

I have found that if you simply tell the United Agent that either there was a “Schedule Change” or that there wasn’t availability earlier so “the previous Agent” said to book another routing and wait for availability to open and instructed you to call back to make a free change, the United Agents will always make a “one time exception” and waive the $75 change fee.

So I went ahead and fed the Agent the flight numbers, and got it booked. He was skeptical that the routing would work when I fed it to him, but once he imputed the flight numbers, the computer allowed it and ticketed it.

For those of you that are curious to see how ridiculous of a change this was, here was my original itinerary:

Chicago (ORD) -> Houston (IAH) -> Frankfurt (FRA) -> Bombay (BOM)

This itinerary clocks in at 10,244 Miles and would take around 25 hours to complete including flights and layovers.

I would depart Monday at 11AM from Chicago and reach Bombay at around 10PM on Tuesday.

And then here is the new itinerary I am currently 16 hours in to…

Chicago (ORD) -> Washington (IAD) -> Frankfurt (FRA) -> Tokyo (NRT) -> Bangkok (BKK) -> Bombay (BOM)

As you can see the Frankfurt (FRA) -> Tokyo (NRT) leg is completely out of the way!

In total this itinerary clocks in at 15,279 miles and is going to take me 45 hours to complete including the flights and layovers. Just the FRA -> NRT leg is 12 hours alone, although it is in First Class on an A380, so I am actually excited about that!

I left Chicago on Monday at 1PM and will hopefully arrive in Bombay on Wednesday night at 11 PM…

Why On Earth Would Anyone Do This

If you are reading the above itinerary and think I am insane, there is a large chance you are probably right.

However the rationale behind doing this ridiculous itinerary is two fold.

1) If I am going to be spending 120,000- 140,000 Miles to go to India, I might as well get the best possible experience out of it even if that means going “a few hours” out of my way to get on a updated plane.

2) The real driving reason behind doing this crazy routing is to show that when I talk about traveling for free by getting Miles / Points from Credit Cards, it is not just some crazy pipe dream.

Just for fun, I tried earlier to price out this itinerary but no website would do it because it is semi-complex. It is safe to assume that it easily cost over $20,000 maybe more.

I am 24 11/12ths years old. Obviously there is no way I could afford to fly anything but Economy to India if I was paying out of pocket. However by taking a few hours here and there to earn some Miles via Credit Cards and other silly promotions, what is normally a dreaded 20 hour flight in Economy to India has magically transformed into a fun, relaxing flight for my entire Family that everyone looked forward to taking. Although to be fair, my Parents opted to fly a bit more direct route than me.

What My 45 Hours In The Air Have / Will Look Like

I just finished the 747-8 IAD-FRA leg which was amazing, but I will save all the “juicy” details for the actual trip report.

However since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will let the photos below be a teaser for what I am in for / in the middle of experiencing.

I have my new DLSR Camera with me and am basically acting like tourist on the plane snapping hundreds of photos, but I forgot the cable to upload them so all the photos below are from Lucky at One Mile At A Time and his amazing Trip Report Index!

Recap

I don’t think words can accurately describe how excited I have been leading up to this trip. It is an awesome feeling to experience first hand what I have been reading about in Trip Reports for years now!

Not only will I get to fly First Class which is something I have never done, but I am also going to fly on the new 747-8 and A380 back to back with stops at both the Frankfurt First Class Terminal and Thai Royal Orchard Spa. That would be an awesome experience in itself, but the fact that it is more or less free is just icing on the cake.

As always I have been / am Tweeting and Facebooking (if that is a verb) whenever I have wi-fi, so be sure to follow me on there if you don’t do so already if you want to see what is happening in real time.

-Parag

My Fairly Awesome India Award Ticket

SMD4

Greetings from San Francisco, specifically from Philz’s Coffee Shop where I am currently enjoying the best Mint Mojito Iced Coffee I have ever had!

I just arrived in San Francisco last night after a relaxing weekend at the Andaz West Hollywood in LA. In a few hours, I will be heading to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport to start the Domestic Leg of the Star Mega DO 4!

If you haven’t done so already, I STRONGLY SUGGEST following StarMegaDO on Facebook and Twitter. If you are on Twitter, use hashtag #SMD4 to keep track of all the conversations!

There are going to be some HUGE surprises that you do not want to miss out on. 

My India Award Ticket

As I said last week, after hours of searching I finally booked an Award Ticket to India.

Not to toot my own horn, but given the complete lack of any availability to Asia in December, I am fairly happy with what I managed to snag!

Similar to when I went to France a few months ago, when I saw that there wasn’t any direct availability on United from Chicago to Bombay, I used the Segment By Segment trick to piece together an itinerary.

This tactic is also extremely useful if you are trying to fly specific Routes, Airlines, or Planes.

In my case, to get to Bombay, when searching on United.com you typically get routed through Chicago -> Newark -> Bombay or Chicago -> Frankfurt -> Bombay.

When I went to India last year, I did both of those routes in Business Class. Although they were enjoyable, half the fun going to India is the flights, so I wanted to try some new Products and Routes this time.

Departure

My new obsession is the 747-8. For those of you not familiar with the Plane, it is basically a newer 747 with an extended hump. The neat thing is that for Lufthansa’s 747-8, they have finally upgraded their “Dentist Chair” Business Class product (which they still have in the A380s), with real Lie-Flat Business Class seats!

The Lufthansa 747-8 flies from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt, so I was seeing if I could go via Chicago -> Washington -> Frankfurt -> Bombay, but unfortunately nothing was available.

After the 747-8, the next plane I wanted to fly is United’s new 787 Dreamliner. One of the routes United’s Dreamliner operates on is Chicago to Houston, so I did a quick search on United.com and to my utmost surprise there was Business Class Saver Availability!

Then for an even bigger surprise, from Houston to Frankfurt there was Lufthansa A380 Business Class Saver Availability! I flew Lufthansa’s A380 in Economy last year on the SMD3 and it was awesome, so I can only imagine flying it in Business Class.

All in all, my leg going to India looks like this:

Return

For the return I currently have it booked in Business Class as Bombay -> Newark -> Chicago. Although I have flown this route before and I like it because the Bombay to Newark leg is 16 hours non-stop, I am going to try and see if I can come back via Asia on either Thai, Asiana, or ANA.

Free One Way

Thanks to MileValue, I know to always add on a Free One Way to any International United Award Tickets. At first I didn’t know what to add on for this trip, but then I remembered that Frequent Traveler University is happening in Washington D.C on April 26 – 28, 2013. So I went ahead and booked a Free One Way for that.

First Class

If you notice on the IAD – FRA leg, there is a long 4 hour layover in Frankfurt. Normally I hate layovers but in this case I went out of my way to add in a layover with the intent of dropping in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal.

Basically I am a One Mile At A Time groupie and live vicariously through his Trip Reports. Since Frankfurt is Lufthansa’s Hub, for First Class Passengers, Lufthansa has built an entire Terminal for them. Lucky has done countless Trip Reports from the First Class Terminal and basically it looks amazing! They will even drive you in a private car to your Airplane!

To fly First Class, it is only an additional 20,000 United Miles each way. Unfortunately because the limited amount of First Class Seats on a Plane, Lufthansa only releases First Class Seats a few days before Departure when they know they won’t be able to sell them.

So my plan hopefully is to fly Lufthansa First Class to India, once they release First Class Award Space. A380 First Class from IAH – FRA I know is a long shot, but the 747 First Class from FRA – BOM I am guessing should be fine.

If for some reason Lufthansa doesn’t release First Class Award Space, then I will “suck it up” and fly Business Class to India and try to do First Class on the Return.

Cost

For this entire Chicago -> Houston -> Frankfurt -> Bombay -> Newark -> Chicago -> Washington D.C trip in Business Class only cost me 120,000 United Miles and $103 in taxes!

To purchase this ticket out of pocket would have cost around $9,000!

If the fact that I am getting a $9,000 ticket for basically free is not amazing enough, as part of my trip I will also get to fly in Business Class on both the brand new 787 Dreamliner and equally awesome A380!

While 120,000 Miles sounds like a staggering amount of miles, anyone who does some Long Range Planning can easily achieve a “dream” ticket like this.

Not only am I flying Business Class to India, but both my Parents are also flying Business Class to India on Award Tickets.

We “earned” enough United Miles for 3 Business Class Tickets by each signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred 50,000 Point offer (now 40,000 Points) as well as the United MileagePlus Explorer 50,000 Mile offer (now 25,000 Miles). We also each had around 20,000 United Miles laying around from actually flying on United.

Even if you could care less about flying Business Class and would be happy in Economy, I did a quick search on Kayak.com for the dates we are going to India and the cheapest Economy Ticket I could find was on American Airlines for $2,000!

While having to drop $2,000 on an Economy ticket is not ideal, it is manageable. However if you are a family of 4, those 4 Economy tickets would set you back a staggering $8,000!

Although there is a minimal amount of work involved in signing up for a Travel Credit Card and earning miles, at the end of the day, those few hours of work not only saved my Family $6,000 in out of pocket expenses but also allowed all 3 of us to fly in Business Class for around $100 in taxes. Pretty unreal if you ask me!

I cannot stress this enough! If you take the time to plan ahead, it is extremely easy to travel around the world in luxury for 1/100th of the actual cost!

-Parag

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