When a Change of Plans Lands You in First Class on the A380…

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I am currently smack in the middle of the Star MegaDo 4. The international portion has ended, and the domestic portion has begun. However, I had slight change of plans that resulted in one of the most amazing uses of miles I have ever had. To make a long story short, I went into the MegaDo very tired. I blame the greatest evil known to toddlers, “the big girl bed”. I was very excited for the trip, but very apprehensive going into the trip because I was already tired, and flying to Europe for less than 24 hours was hardly going to help.

In fact, if anyone on the trip wondered why I had sunglasses on while we were sitting on the ground in LAX about to fly to Frankfurt, it was because I was trying to stop from crying I was so tired. It took all I had to stay on that flight. “First class problems” to be sure (well, technically I guess it was “coach class” problems), but flying sitting upright overnight from the West Coast to Europe is hardly the cure for exhaustion. In the end, I called my husband and daughter while we were still at the gate in LA, and their support helped me keep from doing something silly and getting off the plane. No doubt I would have very much regretted that decision, even though it would have resulted in more sleep.

From that point on, my plan was to stop worrying about being tired, and to enjoy the trip. The way I decided to do that was break from the group of roughly 100+ and fly a different trip back to the US on miles, in business class. That way I knew that I could get some sleep before the domestic portion started. If I sound incredibly sleep obsessed, it’s because I am…and have been for exactly 2 years and 11 months. 😉 I’m pretty sure most parents will understand that particular obsession.

There was saver availability in business class using 50,000 United miles on a Lufthansa A380 from Frankfurt back to San Francisco. That is a ton of miles to impulsively spend, but in my mind it was very much worth it since it meant sleep, and a chance to fly on the A380 for the first time. It was basically a win/win. I can replace the 50,000 miles spent just by getting a credit card sign-up bonus, so pardon the horrible pun, but I wasn’t going to lose any more sleep worrying about the miles that it cost.

I thought my plan was rock solid, but then the morning of my departure back to the US, something really awesome happened. I saw that there was now one first class saver award available on the Lufthansa A380 flight. For me, having the chance to fly first class on that plane was like finding a unicorn with a rainbow colored tail trotting around my neighborhood. I don’t typically have the luxury to jump on the last minute availability that sometimes pops up in first class on Lufthansa. I also am not often traveling alone, so one available seat reward normally wouldn’t do me any good. Additionally, flying to the West Coast made the flight even longer than I would normally have going to/from Houston. Typically a longer flight is a bad thing, but when maximizing time in a premium cabin, you might as well choose it for the longer flights, rather than the shorter flights.

However, this trip was different. I was able to make the last minute change to first class, and I was traveling alone. I called United from the airport in Zurich and was able to change from business class to first class for only the difference in miles (17,500 additional miles) and some slightly higher taxes. Luckily, I have been accumulating Ultimate Rewards points at a pretty decent pace, so I had the miles to spend. At that time I ran into a couple of folks on the trip who also were going to be on my A380 flight, and they insisted I had to try out the first class terminal and get delivered to my plane on the tarmac via a Mercedes or Porsche. I started laughing saying I could not do that, as I would be embarrassed and feel like an idiot. However, they insisted and I’m not sure I could have faced them the rest of the trip if I didn’t do it.


I can say that I got several hours of great sleep on the plane, I was indeed delivered to my plane from the first class terminal in a Mercedes (likely my first time to ever even be in a Mercedes), and I am now ready for the rest of the trip. I promise to give a very detailed report of everything I was awake to partake in on the flight. in the near future I can say that it was a very memorable experience, and it reinforced to me one of the reasons why devote so much time and effort to earning miles and points. The number one reason for me will always be to ensure that my daughter stays connected to her family members who are spread out around the country, but the second reason is to have experiences like this one that would otherwise never be possible.


Earning miles is worth it, and my flight today on the upper deck of the A380 reinforced that like little else could. Despite how it likely sounds to this point, the goal of this post isn’t actually to share what I was able to do with my miles, it is about how you can do it too. Whether your goal is first class on the A380, a trip to Africa, business class to Asia, economy class for your family of five to Europe, or a family reunion in Nebraska, miles and points can make it possible. I want as many people as possible to be able to have the same experience today that I did, and with miles that it absolutely a reality. You may feel silly at times pausing at the check-out counter deciding what credit card to use, comparing earning rates at various online shopping portals, or scouring the internet looking for other ways to maximize your mileage earning potential, but it is all worth it. I promise.

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  1. Good for you. I know I will never be able to make it to the first class despite all my efforts as I always travel with the family and my biggest challenge is to go for business.

  2. I totally get it…and wish I could tell you the big kid bed gets better, but mine have been out it 7 and 3 years and I still got a 4:15AM wake up call this morning! Gotta sleep when you can, even if it costs 67.5k miles.

  3. Nice score. How does it work since you had, I assume, paid for the coach ticket. Does that get credited back, does it lessen the points you have to use, or something else all together?


  4. Congrats on flying first class! @caveman, we are a family of 4 and I have been collecting miles for 18 months. Next month, and again in July 2013, we are flying United first class (all of us) and Cathay business. The way I can manage to do this is by having half of my trip in something other than coach. So next month I am flying first class to Vietnam, but returning on coach. Next July I am flying coach to Alaska but returning in style from Vancouver (cathay business is like first class in other airlines)! so it is doable if you plan ahead and budget some part of the trip in economy.

  5. I work graveyard shift so you’re speaking my language when it comes to tiredness. Chronic lack of sleep is no joke and not at all the same as just feeling ‘tired’. (Rolls Mark’s eyes back to him.)

    Congratulations on your first class trip! I just got back from London and Scotland on BA First using a companion voucher for my friend and it was incredible!
    He’s mocked my miles and points hobby in the past but now he’s a believer.

  6. Fortunately, big girl bed problems will pass and you will be able to catch up on sleep — but this was a marvelous opportunity that you grabbed and one I couldn’t pass up either.

    Well done and I hope the rest of the MegaDO was terrific for you.

  7. Congrats on snagging LH F. I had a chance to visit the FCT twice in August(one leg on the A380 and the other on the 747-8i) and it was a great experience that I hope to replicate again.

    I do find it interesting to note the expansion in scope of not really the blog’s focus but more so your personal travel style over the last 18 months or so. Just find it funny that MP started out as a travel blog whose primary focus was getting families home to see grandma at the holidays or to Disney World, whereas now you personally travel more frequently in premium cabins and the like. I’m guessing rubbing elbows with Gary, Ben and the other BA bloggers does lend itself to more of a keeping up with the Joneses, err Mr. fancy-pantses. 🙂

    And please don’t misunderstand or perceive that comment as anything negative or disapproving. Just merely a societal observation. Trust me, I like flying in the front as much as the next guy.

  8. LH first class with a Mercedes ride to the plane!
    (cough cough) well, well, haven’t we come along way in a few short months since calling Gary Mr Fancy Pants at NJ FTU! 🙂
    Perhaps the blog needs to be renamed to Fancy Points?

  9. Too cool! Can’t wait to hear more about it. Totally get the tired thing (says the new mom). I would have done the same thing. Plus you look awesome considering all the travel! I also appreciate the reminder–the points chase is worth it!

  10. Congrats! I think it’s important for all the hard working mom to treat themselves. FlyingMommyWu has a much much harder job than I.

  11. Can’t wait to share all the details. 😉 I had no doubt other parents could empathize for sure. Shawn, you are very much correct. When I started this blog my daughter was one, so I stuck much closer to home than now that she is almost three. Being able to easily earn more miles via UR also helps. Mr. Fancy Pants is also a good influence on encouraging me to try some of these premium cabins. I have no doubt my family’s travel patterns will continue to evolve. 😉

  12. Sorry, no sympathy here. No one told you that you had to go to Europe. Congrats, you now have 1% problems and aren’t like most moms.

  13. I’m wondering how you will get the signup bonus for the United MP card a second or third time? any experience with this since you alluded to this in your post…

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