What Would You Have Advised This Reader?

Reader V.G. wrote in to ask for advice on which airline product to book for an upcoming award ticket.

For next week trip San Francisco – Delhi, I have 2 choices using United miles, both require 80,000 miles, but only 1 segment is in First class, other segment is in Business class.

Which one should I take, paying miles for First cabin but getting one segment [that’s just] in Business?

1. San Francisco Tokyo in ANA’s First Class B777-300ER
Tokyo – Delhi in ANA business class (no First cabin in flight) B767-300

2. San Francisco – Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business (First not available) A380-800 angle flat seats
Frankfurt – Delhi in Lufthansa First B747-8 aircraft

There is also the option to take Lufthansa Business class on both segments for 60,000 miles. Should I save 20,000 miles? I have over 1 million [Chase Ultimate Rewards] points.

..This is 1st time in premium cabin because normally traveling with family of 4 and have to settle for Economy cabin awards.

While perhaps the epitome of #firstworldproblems, I advised that this is actually a tough decision.

ANA’s first class is excellent. What I like about that itinerary is that the longer flight is in first class, whereas the Lufthansa itinerary has the longer flight segment (San Francisco – Frankfurt) in business.

I personally prefer the ANA first class inflight product over Lufthansa’s first class, but then I like Japanese food 🙂

What it comes down to for me is a longer flight in first class versus a shorter one weighing in favor of ANA, compared to the ability to access the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. (He’d have to exit the terminal in Frankfurt (proceeding through immigrations) and walk over to the first class terminal to do this.)

So if he wants that ground experience with the car ride to the plane as a rare treat for someone that usually flies economy, my advice was to go with Lufthansa. But if he values the greater amount of time in the air in comfort, ANA would be the choice.

If it were me I’d do ANA, but I’ve been to the Lufthansa First Class terminal many times. If I hadn’t ever done it, I’d probably pick Lufthansa. I’d definitely pay the extra 20,000 miles for that one-time experience plus the better flight from Frankfurt to Delhi, although others might disagree with that valuation. I think for someone with over a million Chase Ultimate Rewards points that’s easy.

Then, having made that choice, I’d keep my eye out for a first class award seat on the San Francisco – Frankfurt flight which could be rebooked into for no additional miles. A day before the flight it could well open if the cabin isn’t mostly sold out.

What would your advice have been?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Since ANA and Lufthansa both have great first class products, and the longer flight in F on ANA could be considered “cancelled out” by the superior ground services in Frankfurt, it would probable boil down to which biz product was better. That’s a long flight if it’s old LH business.

  2. If both flights were Business on LH and he changed to FC at the last minute would he be charged a change fee? ie can he make the cheaper 60k award booking and then change to the 80k FC ticket if it opens without a fee?
    Either way it is not like he is getting a stick in the eye…….I view this blog and the ongoing discussions as a “very real” elevation in our travel lives and we are all better off as a result……but I leave for France in 7 days and I am already planning the next trip and making improvements in that trip based the education from these blogs and FTU……thank you Gary and thank you to all my fellow bloggers who collectively make our lives better as a result of the endless ways to tweak our trips into the “perfect experience”………

  3. I would go LH just for the possibility that F opens up last minute (which it frequently does). How’d he find the ANA space though? I never see that flight available!

  4. ANA Flight. In my view, the FCT isn’t enough to compensate for the long haul flight in LH Business on an angled seat.

  5. This is a pretty tough one. You also forgot to factor in the fact that it’s the new 747-8, and in FC which looks amazing. With that many UR points, definitely don’t downgrade to business the whole way. A 2 stop itinerary isn’t ideal, but I might actually recommend doing a quick SFO-DEN flight and then DEN-FRA-DEL in LH first on a 747-400 (available next week Tuesday). About the same flight time, but with an extra layover.

  6. LH starts to open its FC about 14 days out. I did that earlier this year with my SEA-FRA flight. I would also take into consideration the arrival and departure time as well as amount of layover and lounge access. Lots to consider… Isnt the LH 747-8 their new big plane with separate bed?

  7. Agree with Carl. LH’s old C, which all of the A380’s have for who-knows-what-reason, doesn’t compare to ANA.

  8. Gary, I don’t think you can look at it from your perspective, You have to look at it from the readers eyes. They have never traveled in F or J, and we all know that LH in J isn’t the best but the FC terminal experience is something that everybody needs to experience just once. Just as some readers have pointed out, F might open up on the outbound flight. Now one thing to look at is, the reader could do, SFO-FRA-DEL-NRT-SFO, LH to DEL, and ANA to SFO. This way they experience it all and since the reader to clam to have over a million chase points it is a very double trip..

  9. For me, I’d want to get the most out of my time in F. As such, I’d avoid the LH option, due to the timing of the flights.

    The SFO-FRA flight gets into FRA at 1:45am SF time, and the DEL flight departs at 4:45am. Those aren’t ideal times for me to fully enjoy the FCT and LH F offerings.

    On the other hand, doing the NH option, you could fully enjoy NH F offerings during your normal waking hours. I might not mind NH’s J offering, since all I’d want to do is put on an eye shade, recline the seat and get a bit of shut eye.

  10. I just returned from a BOS-FRA-BLR itinerary in LH business class. The 747-8 seats were lie-flat and very comfortable. I was on the upper deck. The center section seats on the lower deck looked like they’d be a little more comfortable. Unfortunately the BOS-FRA leg was the older business class seat and was hard to sleep in.

    In March I took ANA from NRT to IAD in business class (777) and found the service to be superior to LH but the seats were not. Lie-almost-flat seats are fine for flights where I don’t plan on sleeping.

    I would take LH for the lie-flat seats.

  11. ANA for sure. The roundabout access to the FCT is too complex unless he’s a real geek. But best to go one way, come back the other.

  12. @Tony I specifically distinguished my own perspective from what I thought the reader might enjoy, and suggested the First Class Terminal even though I wouldn’t have taken that option myself.

  13. Don’t forget total travel time. Always tends to be faster going West to East due to tailwinds.
    Why not look at Emirates – SFO-Dubai-Delhi.

    Or go LH out and then ANA on the return. Round the world ticket.

  14. LH SEA-FRA is usually on an A330 and F is just an OK product and J is not worthy. However LH 747-8 has excellent F and J products.

    Since the reader has a party of 4, if they dont like Japanese food then LH is the default choice.

  15. An interesting choice! For many, perhaps most award flyers, saving the extra 20K by flying the entire trip in Business would me my choice. However, “V.G.” apparently has over a million Chase points available, so the extra 20k won’t hurt, so VFTW’s suggestion to go first as available and hope for a first seat on the SFO-FRA seat is probably the better option. While First Class is nice once in a while, it seems to vary (world-class to horrible) far more than does BC. BC is a stable, reliable product, especially on popular routes like SFO-FRA – and on good hardware. In the end, I think VFTW got it exactly right.

  16. One thing nobody’s said – the NH NRT-DEL J config I believe is the “Business Cradle” seat…that’s almost 9 hours in a non lieflat seat! So that would steer me over to LH (given the FCT benefits), even having to deal with longhaul LH J.

  17. I flew on NH from Nrt-Sea in Business on 777 (sub for the 787) Plane was almost empty. Food was good, but the seat was very uncomfortable. Hard a as rock.

  18. Yeah, the NH C cradle seats on their older 767 are not great for a 9 hour flight.

  19. The flight in NH J is shorter than the flight on LH J. Both J products are inferior (i.e., not lie flat), but the LH flight would be a good 2-3 hours longer, and overnight, whereas the NH flight is a daytime flight in a cradle seat. On balance, I say NH wins.

  20. I find Lufthansa’s angled business class seat to be just fine. I handle it’s unevenness by bring my own short thermarest backpacking mattress – it fits in my carry-on backpack.

    I am surprised to hear that the Lufthansa San Francisco – Frankfurt flight now has a first class. Last time I took that flight there wasn’t one.

  21. Why not see if you can get LAX-FRA on the B748 with better C seats?. And then continue with LH F to Delhi? The FCL experience is still amazing to anyone who hasn’t had F before, so FCT is not a must do.

  22. If it were me, I would agree with @ Matt about ANA, but here is another thought: The A388 experience may make up for cradle C seats and then the LH F will definitely blow them away.

  23. Take the LH Business and First… you will be able to use the First Terminal/Lounge in FRA. Watch the availability for first seats on the SFO-FRA flight and snag the upgrade when it shows.

  24. If I book an NH flight in C with United miles and then late F flight availability opens up would I be able to upgrade to F by paying the mileage difference?

  25. Interesting award i booked my flights for sep and they cost me 120k round trip in busniess. Did not see any 80k for first; need to check options again to see if something opened up which i can upgrade to.

  26. To me travel is all about being comfortable. So, I prefer first class for long distance/overnight flights and can do with business class for shorter/day flights. About the food fetish, one could visit the all you can eat sushi for <$50 before the flight, or visit a deli for some bratwurst and sauerkraut, or a pastrami on rye and be done with the cravings. Sure good food and first class terminal experience at Frankfurt count, but comfort during flight trumps all else for me.

  27. I don’t get it. People keep on talking about the 748. That’s the F class leg, which LH’s not-so-special new F in the nose. No separate beds. The First Square is much nicer.

    So we’re talking SFO-FRA on a redeye in LH’s torturous, dormitory-style angled C class seat, coupled with 80 degree heat, just to experience the FCT? Are you people insane? The FCT’s nice, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy it if I need to be in Frankfurt anyway, but I question how many of the people who say that is the way to go in this instance have actually been there – after all, 2 hours in a lounge, no matter how nice, does not offset 10+ hours in LH’s old C class.

  28. Having flown in both versions of 747 “new” Lufthansa F — the 747-400 with separate beds and the 747-8i with the 380-like F class — I MUCH preferred the 747-8i.

    First, LH cabins are simply too warm. The effects of this are worse in the upstairs bubble IMO.

    Second, the IFE is far better on the 8i. The 744 has new screens, but the same limited collection of AVOD and SD programming on a HD screen doesn’t look so hot.

    Third, the seat just feels much swankier, and quite frankly was more comfortable as both a seat & bed than the standalone bed was. The standalone bed was more private in some ways as the the seat separates you from the aisle, but there’s also no privacy divider like the 8i has.

    All of that said, I’d probably go for ANA because 1) F space is harder to find on ANA, so LH is more likely to be an option later on and 2) the trip is next week, so it’s possible he’s already missed the boat for awards on the first LH flight–if it’s going to open up at all. I’d always pick more time in F on 2 products I’d consider to be broadly equivalent in LH F and ANA F.

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