Treated Like a King for a Day: Flying First Class for the First Time on Lufthansa’s A340
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I’ll whisper it quietly, but when I joined TPG UK back in March I knew very little about planes. And when I say ‘very little’ I mean I had almost no awareness that there were multiple types of aircraft in the sky — I just thought planes were planes. I also thought that flying first class was only for celebrities and the mega rich.
I quickly learnt this wasn’t the case. After a few weeks sat amongst a team of hardcore AvGeeks and points and miles experts, I realised that first-class travel could be achieved without breaking the bank (especially if you follow TPG UK’s tips!). That being said, I knew it still would take a number of months and steady earning strategies before I could afford my first luxury redemption.
Then, I was given the chance to fly on Lufthansa’s A340 in first class from Munich to New York as part of our latest all-cabin review video. I said ‘yes’ without hesitation, delighted that I was being given the chance to fly first class for the first time at the age of 23.
It was a last-minute booking, and as a result, I only had five days between being told about the flight and the scheduled departure. We ended up redeeming 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + £101 in taxes and fees for the one-way flight in Lufthansa first class. Considering a one-way flight on this route typically costs about £5,000, I was quickly shown the real value of points and miles. A £5,000 first-class experience for just £101 out of pocket and some points and I was already thinking about my next redemption.
As anticipation grew, one question kept coming back to me: What on earth should I wear? Was this a suit and tie affair? Surely a shirt was the minimum requirement? After a brief consultation with the rest of the team I was reassured that I could just go with whatever I usually wore, and that I should make every effort to make sure that my first experience was as comfortable for me as possible.
The big day finally arrived and there I was — fresh faced, sporting some skinny black jeans and a yellow t-shirt. I was ready.
The first order of the day was checking in, and I made my way to the unmissable first-class check-in area. Despite this, when I passed a member of staff en route I still wanted to double check I was heading in the right direction. He must have smelt the inexperience on me because — after looking me up and down — I was actually directed away from the first class area towards economy check-in. He clearly didn’t think I looked the part, and to be fair, I couldn’t blame him. Luckily Jean, TPG UK’s Head of Video, was on hand to tell me I was indeed going to the right area. With my dignity slightly damaged but determination intact, I left the rest of the group and made my way to the check-in desk.
A check-in agent handed over my boarding pass and was visibly excited when I told her I was about to have my first first-class experience. This was contrasted with her distress upon informing me that the usual limousine lounge-to-tarmac transfer wasn’t running that day because of ongoing construction work.
Check-in complete, I sped through security and headed towards what I’d been told was one of Europe’s grandest airport lounges. It did not disappoint.
Made even more spectacular by the Munich sunshine beating down, I was given a full tour of the huge space by a lounge agent, and I quickly realised you could easily fill an entire day experiencing everything the lounge had to offer. From a private rest room and fully functioning gym to a huge bar and outdoor terrace with tarmac views, I would have to do my best with just over two hours.
After s̶m̶a̶s̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ ̶g̶y̶m̶ ̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ enjoying a cappuccino looking out at the tarmac, I wanted to test out the lounge’s wash rooms — all of which were completed with bath, shower and amenities. I had to fill out a form to book myself in, and as I was doing so, one of the lounge staff regrettably informed me that there was no hot water available. Thankfully, it really was a scorching day in Germany, and I would have opted for a cold shower regardless, but that didn’t stop the lounge staff apologising about the situation profusely.
Upon entering, I immediately noticed the famous Lufthansa rubber ducky that I’d be told to look out for.
In 10 minutes and an extremely cold-yet-refreshing shower later, I was starting to get a bit peckish, and thought it was a good time to check out the lounge’s built-in restaurant. It was only 10:30am but it turns out that all these first-class shenanigans make you hungry.
I was guided to my table by Malvin, an extremely helpful member of staff who looked after me personally during my lounge stay. We passed a couple of buffet tables on our way, and I was struck by the vastness of food options available, along with the slightly menacing pretzel stand.
As I sat down I was offered a choice of three Champagnes. It wasn’t even 11am, but this was a brand new world and I intended to take full advantage of it.
Food was next up, and Malvin recommended the honey mustard schnitzel and iced cucumber soup. The latter was an unexpected triumph, and arguably the tastiest thing I ate all day. I really couldn’t get my head around the fact that food and drink were completely unlimited, and felt almost guilty every time I asked for a top up.
Feeling extremely full and slightly buzzed I was conscious that the clock was ticking down ahead of boarding, and I still wanted to test out the resting rooms before leaving.
I entered a space that wasn’t much smaller than my London bedroom and grabbed a quick 10-minute nap in a bed that was definitely comfier.
The final stop on my ultimate lounge tour was the outside terrace to do some basking in the sunshine.
After soaking up some final tarmac views I was informed it was time to head to the boarding desk. As I passed the unoccupied limousine desk I wondered what might have been, and how many incredibly extra Instagram stories I’d missed out on.
I reunited with the rest of the team and couldn’t help but feel slightly smug as they talked through their distinctly average airport experience while I stood there freshly showered and fed.
The reunion didn’t last long, as I made my way to the exclusive first-class boarding tunnel. The fish-out-of-water image was emphasised when one member of the cabin crew let out an incredibly audible “OH WOW!” when I told her I would be flying in first class.
After a quick scan of my boarding pass I was greeted by name and guided towards one of eight first-class seats. The cabin was laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, and I’d been given strict instructions from the rest of the team to choose a window seat in order to maximise my experience. I caught glimpse of my seat for the first time and — in the best way possible — 2A was a monster.
I was initially struck by the sheer size of it. The legroom was seemingly never-ending, the screen was huge and the seat itself felt like a throne. Having never even flown in business class, let alone first, I could tell this was a long way from three-hour European trips with Ryanair and EasyJet.
I was offered more Champagne and a pre-takeoff snack because — why not? And I was all too happy to accept. As I began settling into my home for the next eight hours, I took in the rest of the cabin, noticing that three out of the eight seats were empty. A red rose was placed in the vase in front of me.
A few minutes later, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom, informing us that takeoff would be delayed by an hour due to runway traffic. While those sitting in economy were presumably disgruntled by this development I was delighted to have an extra hour of luxury added onto the journey.
This first class cabin featured cathedral ceilings, meaning there were no overhead lockers. The footrest doubled up as a storage unit, which I opened up to find pyjamas, slippers and a bulky amenity kit.
Shortly after getting airborne, I was offered caviar along with a hefty selection of wines, and in the name of thorough research, I said yes to both. Caviar was another first for me and I immediately understood the hype — it was delicious. The first proper meal service followed quickly after, and on recommendation from the crew, I opted for the white asparagus with hollandaise sauce, in addition to a selection of appetizers.
Despite the somewhat bland appearance it was all delicious, though at this point I really was starting to feel fairly full, having already eaten my bodyweight in food back at the lounge. Are all first class travellers enormous? I forced myself to chase the main course down with a ‘Chocolate Variation’ dessert accompanied by praline ice cream. Lovely stuff.
After the food was cleared away, I couldn’t help but have an in-depth play around with my seat remote. I couldn’t get my head around the amount of customisation available, with everything from the foot rest to the angle of the seat being adjustable.
One of these buttons turned the seat into a completely lie-flat bed and — although it was a relatively short day flight — I knew I had to experience sleeping in the sky. One of the cabin crew kindly offered to make my bed up for me while I changed into my Lufthansa pyjamas.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it could not have been comfier. The bedding was soft and the pillow’s plumpness was just right. As I tucked myself in it seemed almost impossible to think that we were 35,000 feet up in the air, and I found myself drifting into sleep in no time at all. I awoke feeling refreshed about an hour later, and as I stretched out my arms I started thinking to myself that I could get used to this. I was, of course, forgetting that I would be flying back to London in Delta economy, but why ruin the moment?
With a few hours left until landing, I decided to order myself a ginger ale and check out the IFE. I should mention that the service on this flight really was exceptional throughout, and on this occasion I had my drink order taken and delivered all within about 20 seconds. The large screen in front of me provided hundreds of movies to choose from, and I opted for the recently released Vice starring Christian Bale.
I did notice that the flight radar was lacking any real customisation options, with no live cam availability. I wasn’t too fussed but I feel like this definitely would have frustrated some of the more serious AvGeeks out there who might prefer to fly on newer aircraft rather than an A340.
With just over an hour till arrival, the crew announced a final meal service. This time I opted for a selection of mini burgers followed by a mango sorbet dessert, which was superb.
One thing I can’t stress enough is just how big the space felt. Despite the meals, drinks, camera equipment and more, my seat never felt crowded thanks to the large storage foot rest, shelving area and a massive table. My MacBook is a fairly hefty 15 inches and it didn’t even take up half the space.
The seatbelt sign dinged back and the pilot’s voice came through the overhead speakers informing us that we had started our descent. As we approached JFK, I thought about how quickly the experience had flown by, and how I couldn’t wait to fly in first class again. Now I’d had a taste of being treated like a king all day, and eating like one, too, I knew I had to get serious about the points and miles game. Here’s hoping I’ll be writing up another first-class experience in the not-too-distant future.
All photos by Liam Spencer / The Points Guy.
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