Fly the New Lufthansa 747-8 or Get Home Sooner: What Would You Do

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If you read posts here with some regularity (and thanks if you do!), then you already know that I traded/changed my trip to the Olympics in Sochi for a trip to Europe.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but once I made it, I was very excited about this new trip a friend and I are creating. We’ve been friends since high school, and both have a young kid at home, so jetting across the ocean together is a pretty awesome experience.  I have been able to secure some flights I am pretty excited about on United miles, including Lufthansa First Class.  This would be exciting to me any day of the year, but it is especially exciting coming just in advance of the United devaluation that will make business and first class awards on partner airlines much more expensive.

Before I say another word, I want to point out that I know this is a very #firstclassproblems sort of decision to have to make, but that being said, all of us with miles and points have to/get to make these kinds of decisions, so I think it is worth sharing.  Basically I am now torn between flying back home from Europe on the A380 in business class directly from Frankfurt to my hometown of Houston, or adding a connection in Chicago (in the winter), but getting to fly the new(ish) fancy “Queen of the Sky” 747-8 from Frankfurt to Chicago.

Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class

Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class

I’m currently booked on the direct flight to Houston.  This flight makes the most sense because it will get me home the soonest, and with the lowest possibility of disruptions.  However, the business class seats on that plane are notoriously bad.  They aren’t lie flat and are ranked very poorly compared to other business class seats.  However, the business class seats on the new 747-8 are ranked much higher and are lie flat.  I also have never flown on that particular plane before, but very much want to.  There is business class availability currently on both flights, so I could change my routing without any penalty (assuming the availability remains).

I shared this “dilemma” on Twitter yesterday, and most aviation enthusiasts said there was no decision to be made, clearly fly the 747-8.  However, a few with families back home agreed with my thoughts of wanting to get home as soon as possible, and hedging on adding a few hours on the back-end of the trip with the added risk of cancellations/delays thanks to Chicago weather.  I’m not an aircraft snob by any stretch, but it isn’t every day that I get to go on trips like this, so making them as special and exciting as possible is pretty fun.  Plus, I would love to share a report about the business class seats on the 747-8.

So the question is, do you get home a few hours sooner and fly back from Europe in a poorly ranked seat, or do you get back a few hours later (and increase the risk of issues), and fly the beautiful “Queen of the Sky”?  My normal answer is absolutely keep things simple and get home sooner in the inferior seat, but with the United devaluation that kicks in this week looming, I know I won’t have quite as many chances to fly Lufthansa in premium cabins since United operated flights will require fewer miles and will be my default choice.

I’m torn (on what is admittedly a non issue in the grand scheme), what would you do?

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  1. Fly the 747-8 to Chicago. No doubts about it. Would you really want to look back and say, “I wonder what my experience would have been flying the first class product that I really wanted?” If you think you’re going to have weather problems, book a hotel room ‘just in case’ and cancel it the day of if you don’t need it.

  2. I’m not a plane nerd. So I would fly direct especially this time of year with the weather issues in Chicago. I dont care about the actual plane I fly on 747 380 787 no big deal. Extra time is more crucial to me.

  3. No doubt fly Lufthansa… United is ok, however those Seats on lh are fab.
    There is a great taxfree stopping in Frankfurt to solve this issues at the homebase

  4. I’ve got two littles at home and I think it’s tough decision. The problem is that it’s at the end of the trip when you may be so focussed on getting back to little C (oh yeah, and the husband you love) that you won’t be able to enjoy the nice flight. I lean toward taking the nice flight on the fancy plane. You’re going to be gone for quite a long trip, so the difference of a few hours is not a big one. Also, I know it’s Chicago in winter, but they are pretty good at dealing with bad weather. I live in this area and quite frankly, it’s -13 right now and I just can’t handle another stretch of horrible weather. So, I’m going to say that it’ll be fine…go with the Chicago flight 🙂

  5. Have you checked biz class availability for FRA-IAD-IAH? I believe LH still flies the 747-8i to DC which is milder than Chicago in terms of weather. S

  6. Always choose the most direct route. The A380 will be nice enough not to risk a winter connection in Chicago. Your husband and Little C will be so anxious to see you!

  7. I would do the Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class. After all the whole idea of this trip is to enjoy the world with your friend. Even if you did get stuck in Chicago consider it an extension of your vacation and enjoy your time! Just make sure to make proper arrangements at home so you have adequate coverage for your kid for a couple of extra days…

  8. About to board a flight, but wanted to quickly answer Denise…we are meeting in Europe, but not on the same flights coming or going, so doesn’t impact my friend either way.

  9. MP,

    Fly the newer plane/longer route. Here’s my tip… don’t tell your husband the shorter route was available. 😉

  10. This is honestly a tough choice. While I don’t have a little one like you do, I do have a finance back home and a mom and grandfather that reply on me a lot. I also tend to help my mom and grandfather out a lot so coming back from a trip, I want to get home.

    I understand your position. I know that you mention #firstclassproblems but you also bring up a valid point. This isn’t a everyday trip that you are taking with a friend. Later this year I get to go on a dream trip (thanks to your blogs 🙂 ). I would go for more comfort. You are already going to be jet lagged and I can only imagine what Little C will do when you get home. So you arrive really really tried or do you get home a few hours later but feeling more refreshed? I would view it that way. Heck, just bring a cool gift from ORD and LIttle C possibly won’t know how much later your getting home 🙂

    I can’t wait to read post on this trip! In the end do what you are most comfortable with and what makes the most sense.

  11. Fly the 747-8 especially if we are only talking about a few hours difference.
    I recently flew home from the middle-east to NYC through Asia just to fly Qatar and JAL in F. I got home a day later (and sorely missed my two little ones) but the experience was well worth it.

    The 747-8 in F is remarkable.
    Grab it!

  12. Tough choice, Summer… Since the devaluation is almost upon us, I would say you should fly the 747-800. I have not flown on it, but I have expierenced the new Lufthansa Business Class and it is great!!! It is a much more comfortable seat and I would love to see your review on it.

  13. You are a travel blogger who is read and respected. For most of us who don’t travel like you do, the answer is easy: 747-8. But since you do this for a living, one would assume you would get many chances to fly the 747-8 over the next few years so…considering that this is winter you are talking about, that ORD has many cancellations and you could end up being stranded, that the A380 in business is a daytime flight so you won’t need to sleep that much — and the IFE is supposed to be great and it is a cool plane no doubt (we aren’t talking about a 757 here), I’d fly direct and get home sooner to be with my family…

  14. Only you know how to evaluate your home situation. In my personal case, it would absolutely be the quickest nonstop way home to my daughter. I wouldn’t dream of transiting Chicago in the winter when I was trying to get home to her. My husband and I had a nightmarish situation with delays and cancellations in Chicago with United two summers ago and he was 1K at that time. We were told we would need to wait two to three days for another flight, so eventually we took a flight to the “wrong” destination. That also required booking another award flight and another long day of travel. But for me travel is about seeing the world. Given that this is a daytime flight,again for me, that would make the decision even easier. But one size does not fit all!

  15. Three questions: Which seats are fully lie flat? Which seats are fully lie flat? Which seats are fully lie flat?

    This might be the last time you ever fly Lufthansa, best to go out with a bang.

  16. I had this exact same issue for a flight that my mom and I are taking in March from Europe back to the states. Biz class in the Lufthansa 747-8 with extra layover in ORD or more direct on old Lufthansa biz class.

    Ended up deciding on the 747-8 as it only delayed arrival by 3 hours (still getting in before 8PM) and mom prefers to stretch her legs anyway. Also, not sure when my mom will be able to experience biz class again so wanted to show her the best possible experience.

  17. Considering the fact that you are facing a day-flight I would go for the direct return.
    The new one is nice for sleeping on red-eye legs but I havent seen much advantages for working/relaxing during a day-flight. Esp. that the old one has a masssage function – the new one not.

    I dont know the 748, just the A380 and the new Biz from A330 (JFK-MUC last Saturday)

  18. I would watch out for Lufthansa swapping equipment on that route. I flew ORD-FRA last Sunday because of the 747-8. Lufthansa changed to a 747-400 two days before. I was disappointed because I really wanted to fly first on the 747-8, there was only one other passenger in the upper deck with me, so I can’t complain too much.

  19. Spring, summer (no pun intended), fall – 747-8, but winter & going through Chicago – A380. As Steve Belkin has said many times, don’t let GO get overshadowed by EGO (you are traveling in a metal tube to get somewhere, & the somewhere is what’s important, not the metal tube).

  20. Unless you were planning to sleep, the seat shouldn’t make a difference since the old business is perfectly good for a daytime flight. The key is whether to fly the 747-8i or something else.

    What time of the year are you flying? Connecting through ORD has its own risk because of weather, as you have pointed out. Also, being that you’re going to be on LH inbound to ORD, you won’t be able to use the United Club unless you have a club membership.

  21. If the only question is being with your daughter, you wouldn’t go at all, would you? The whole point of this trip is to get some very rare MOM pampering. The idea of being stuck in angled flat just to get home a few hours earlier seems silly to me. You are with your daughter more of the time than most Moms anyway.

    Yes it’s a “daytime” flight, but it’s a long flight, and by the time you get home it will be late night EU time. If you get some quality sleep on the 747 you will be rested enough to really have quality time with your family when you get home. Otherwise you arrive tired and jet lagged; that’s no gift to any of you.

  22. I say go for the 747-8 – ORD hasn’t had too many cancellations this year (yet!), but IAD has, and so has IAH for that matter. You’re coming in on an international flight – those are *generally* not canceled because there’s no time to notify the airline before flights take off in Europe. You might get re-routed, but you’d get rerouted to a United hub, so it should be very easy to get a flight from there to IAH.

  23. I agree with some of the previous posts that you need to weigh the factor of how you’ll feel when you get home. If you’re going to be sore and cranky on the direct flight and more refreshed and ready to go on the Chicago flight, that’s a huge factor. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case since it’s a daytime flight, but I’ve learned that taking a red eye to get me home sooner than the first flight the next morning actually wastes more of my at home time since I’m a zombie the next day.

  24. Thanks so much to everyone who weighed in! I’m still torn, but I think that means that neither decision is wrong. Each just has its own pros and cons. We’ll see what happens!

  25. Agreed with many here. As a father of two who travels for work a bunch, fly home direct. Also nice to give your husband some help with little c instead of taking longer and risking misconnects just to fly a lie flat on a day flight when the soft product is identical…

  26. Also a father of a three year old daughter. I’ve gone on a few international business trips in the past few years. It’s always difficult saying goodbye to my daughter when I leave. Towards the end of the trip, I really want to get home as soon as possible to seey daughter and wife meaning that I take the earliest and most direct routing home. Getting there,I may take a routing to try out different planes and airlines because usually leave a day or two in advance.

  27. I would definitely go for the 747-8. If this is supposed to be a special trip with a friend then try to end it on a high note.

  28. What’s a few hours? I have 3 kids – I don’t think you’ll be missing any milestone in those few hours – lol. If you don’t get to go on such trips all the time, I’d take the stopover in Chicago if the cool plane is important and an exciting thing for you!
    I recently went to St. Thomas for 4 days. My parents were looking after the kids so I didn’t want to go too long – both them and my husband said to go longer but I felt guilty and it was $400 more for another day. Tricky decisions when you have a child(ren)but a few hours is not a lot if you look at the big picture. Good luck with your decision!

  29. I’ve flown the 747-8 from Frankfurt to Bangalore (after flying on the inferior A340 from Boston to Frankfurt). It’s worth it to take the new product to Chicago. It really is.

  30. My vote: 747-8 aircraft. It’s worth going back to IAH for a few hours later. Can’t wait to read your review from a Mommy’s point of view 😉

  31. Because I was flying without family, I decided to have some fun with my flight home from London this past November and chose to fly the new 748i home. My itinerary went like this: LHR -> FRA -> IAD -> IAH -> AUS. Mind you, my bags were checked three times which I found astonishing. Once at LHR, then again at FRA, and once more through customs at IAD. Our 748 landed 20 minutes late so we were the last of the jumbos to arrive that afternoon. Immigration was terrible, customs was smooth, but the line to have your bags rescanned through security was ridiculous. All of us with layovers of 1:45 or less missed our connections. I went into the United Club and got them to rebook me to DFW and from there I rented a car from National and drove one way in to Austin. I flew business class and sat in 85A, so I was upstairs on the 748. It was my first time to fly on any 747 and to be able to say I sat upstairs was totally worth it. Would I do it again? Absolutely not, especially not through IAD. Well, let me revise that statement. If I were flying to FRA from IAD I would, but not to go back the way I came, it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I’ll stick with my options of the three non-stop flights daily out of IAH to LHR from United on the old 763 any day of the week. 🙂

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