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Tips For Flying With Kids in First Class

by on January 23, 2014 · 60 comments

in Family Travel, Lufthansa, TPG Contributors

Though some airlines have banned kids from their first class cabin, you’ll still find lucky little tykes traveling like tycoons from time to time. With that in mind, TPG Contributor Jason Steele shares his own experience flying first class from Tel Aviv to Denver via Germany with his six-year-old daughter on Lufthansa, as well as tips for parents considering taking their children on a first class trip.

In the world of travel, few things are as coveted as a flight in international first class. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience Lufthansa’s first class, along with my six-year-old daughter on a flight from Frankfurt to Detroit. Here is what we learned from the experience.

My daughter and I had a great time in Lufthansa first class!

My daughter and I had a great time in Lufthansa first class!

Deciding Whether or Not to Take a Child

I can already hear the gasps of some readers who shudder at the thought of traveling with a child in first class. As a frequent business traveler myself, I too have tried to endure unruly children (and adults) in business and first class, and felt like their presence detracted from the experience. Yet the fact remains that children are welcome in first class (on nearly every airline) and it is always up to parents to ensure that their children are well behaved, no matter where they are.

In our case, we had already booked a return flight from Tel Aviv to Denver, with a quick stop in Newark in United’s BusinessFirst. Because the impending devaluation of United’s MileagePlus program on February, 2014 is going to affect first class partner awards most dramatically, we knew this might be our last chance to fly in Lufthansa first for a reasonable number of miles, and without fuel surcharges.

The same ticket would have cost over 8,000 euros!

The same ticket would have cost over 8,000 euros!

Each one-way partner award ticket from Tel Aviv to Denver in business class was 60,000 United MileagePlus miles, and we paid an additional 15,000 miles each to upgrade to first class. Furthermore, we incurred $75 in change fees and about $100 in additional taxes each to transit through Germany. By charging this to my American Express Platinum card, though, at least I was reimbursed for the $150 in change fees as part of its $200 annual airline fee reimbursement.

The next decision was whether or not I should travel with just my six-year-old, or try to book an additional seat for my wife and our one-year-old as a lap child. In the unlikely event that three first class award seats were made available, our lap child would be charged by 10% of the fare in dollars by United. Had we booked the flight with Lufthansa Miles and More program, our infant would have flown for free, but we would have incurred large fuel surcharges.

Only I would be getting caviar!

Only I would be getting caviar!

Since the normal one-way fare was 8,131 EUR (over $11,000),  it just didn’t make sense. If we did so, we would have incurred an $1,100 infant fare in order to upgrade my wife from her more convenient BusinessFirst itinerary, to a far more circuitous routing that happened to include one leg in Lufthansa’s first. United’s premium product lacks caviar, but we could purchase quite a lot of it with $1,100 saved! And, more importantly, I had my wife’s blessing to split up and fly Lufthansa.

Preparing For The Trip

My daughter was thrilled to learn that we would be flying home in Lufthansa first class, but I made sure to impress upon her the need to be on her best behavior. In addition, I informed Lufthansa ahead of time that I was traveling with a child, as they are one of many family-friendly international carriers who will prepare special meals and amenity kits for children.

When packing for a first class trip with a child, I have two recommendations.

1. Bring along appropriate entertainment with a headset. If a business class lounge feels kind of like an office, the First Class terminal in Frankfurt has the ambiance of library. Thankfully, we packed an iPad along with an inexpensive noise cancelling headset so that she could watch movies and play games in the lounge without disturbing the peace and quiet of our fellow passengers.

2. I would strongly recommend bringing a half-empty carry-on to fill with all of the amenities you will be provided. We returned home with some children’s toys from the lounge, an adult Rimowa amenity kit, a special child’s amenity kit, and two sets of pajamas and slippers. Note that the pajamas she received were a women’s size small, which were way too big for her but made the perfect gift for my wife.

The First Class Terminal Experience

Upon entry, we were greeted by a staff member who introduced herself as our personal assistant. I had read much about the baths, buffets, bedrooms, and bars available to Lufthansa first class passengers, but we were surprised to discover a children’s playroom tucked into a corner behind the fabled bar. There, my daughter found a playmate to keep her occupied while we waited for our flight.

My daughter spent time in the cute little playroom.

My daughter spent time in the cute little playroom.

As is well known, Lufthansa offers a rubber ducky to both children and adults who bathe in its first class terminal and lounges. Although my daughter had her bath the night before, the staff was kind enough to offer her a ducky as a souvenir.

 

She also got their signature duckies as souvenirs.

She also got their signature duckies as souvenirs.

Finally, I was impressed that the Lufthansa representative in the first class terminal in Frankfurt asked my daughter her age, so that she could provide the appropriate children’s car seat for our Mercedes-Benz ride to the aircraft.

We got chauffered in a taxi - with a children's seat in it.

We got chauffered in a taxi – with a children’s seat in it.

On Board

As we found our seats on the Airbus A340-300, we were personally greeted by the two flight attendants responsible for the eight seats in first class cabin. Amazingly, there was only one other first class passenger on our flight that day.  In fact, we never even saw another passenger on the jet-bridge or aircraft during the entire flight, making it feel almost like we were on a private jet!

Being delivered right to our plane.

Being delivered right to our plane.

On our day-time west-bound flight, we were satisfied with Lufthansa’s old first class seats. Had we been on an east-bound, overnight flight, we would have preferred the new first class product, especially if it was on the 747-400 with a separate bed. Such a configuration would be ideal for parents traveling with a small child. Still, this aircraft was equipped with mounts that can be used to attach a bassinet to the bulkhead, which is idea for infants until about nine months.

My daughter settled in in no time!

My daughter settled in in no time!

My daughter appreciated the wide selection of children’s programming available on the in-flight entertainment system, even if I found the screen to be a bit small. If we had to pick on just one slight disappointment, it would be that there was no specially prepared children’s meal for the main course on our flight, just for the dessert.

There was no special children's meal available, though my daughter found plenty to nibble on.

There was no special children’s meal available, though my daughter found plenty to nibble on.

On previous Lufthansa flights in business class, she enjoyed some creative children’s meals. That said, my daughter found the soup served with both meals to be agreeable, although she didn’t want to try the caviar. As for myself, I found both the service and cuisine to live up to my lofty expectations.

To my relief, she was able to pass the time happily by watching a few of her favorite children’s movies and playing with some of the toys and games in her amenity kit. Maybe there was a small nap in there, but she neither of us were really tired after getting a good sleep the night before at the airport Sheraton hotel and departing mid-morning. Nevertheless, it was nice to see that the flight attendants closed all of the window shades and offered to make our beds, just in case either of us (or the other first class passenger) needed the sleep. I was able to catch up on a few movies as well, but after we had both had as much food and movies as we could stand for the day, we played a really neat children’s card game together that was part of her amenity kit.

First Class Service Upon Arrival

Upon reaching the gate, one of the flight attendants invited us to visit the cockpit, and even apologized that U.S. regulations did not permit her to do so during the flight! Apparently cockpit visits are only offered during non-U.S. flights.

Always bring plenty of entertainment with you!

Always bring plenty of entertainment with you!

Even on the ground in Detroit, Lufthansa staff would not let us forget that we were first class passengers. First they offered to walk us through immigration, but we both had Global Entry cards making it unnecessary. Next, a representative took our luggage off of the carrousel and escorted us past customs and though the terminal to the United representative who would check us in for our continuing flights. It might seem like a small gesture, but after landing at an unfamiliar airport with a small child after a nine-hour flight, it was nice to have some assistance transporting our two-weeks’ worth of luggage across the terminal.

Conclusions

While some might scoff at the idea of bringing a six year old onto a first class flight, we had an amazing experience. Lufthansa is especially welcoming to children, and I am proud to say that my daughter acted appropriately at all times. We had an exciting journey that we will never forget, and I am grateful that we were able to do so at minimal cost in both miles and dollars.

In this four-part series, I’ll show you how you can use your United miles to book a Lufthansa first class flight before the MileagePlus devaluation on February 1, and explore alternatives for the future. Then, I’ll offer some tips on exploring Frankfurt during a layover. Finally, I’ll explore the option of renting a Porsche while in Frankfurt.

For more information, see posts on:

The Most Family-Friendly International Carriers
The Most Family-Friendly Domestic Airlines
How To Plan Award Travel with an Infant or Lap Child

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Mommy Points

    I love it! Thanks for sharing – cool tip about the hidden children’s play area in the FCT!

  • Nathan

    So happy to hear that! I have young ones too, and appreciate your insight. Since they have been flying constantly, they also seem to do well. Only thing I feel bad about is I’m paying for these massive tickets and since they are 1&3 they aren’t going to have the memory of it.

  • avery66

    These are great tips! I had not thought about bringing a carry-on for all of the first class swag kids collect along the way. My daughter, now 8, has flown up front internationally many times beginning with a Swiss Air flight when she was 3 months old and flew (as a lap child) in a bassinet bolted to the bulkhead. And yes, the $700+ in taxes we paid for that privilege came as a shock to us!

  • Jason Steele

    It was funny, my daughter followed another little girl there, otherwise I never would have found it. Later, our Lufthansa rep apologized for not telling us about it sooner.

  • Mommy Points

    It’s amazing how kids seek out the other kids like they have some sort of tracking device. Now we know to look for it if we are lucky enough to use the FCT with her daughter at some point.

  • Stripy

    With the United devaluation looming large which airline would you recommend crediting miles to in order to save up for that aspirational trip for 2 in Lufthansa 1st? Thanks

  • Jason Steele

    Great question. I looked at that issue in this article: http://thepointsguy.com/2014/01/tips-for-booking-lufthansa-first-class-award-tickets/

    Short answer: Miles and More for the best availability, Air Canada for the fewest miles, and Avianca-TACA for no fuel surcharges.

  • Jasmine

    Good article…does anyone know what airlines don’t allow children in first class???

  • tigermark82

    good article. I don’t recall seeing anything like this before. Thanks.

  • Stripy Traveller

    Thanks! I really don’t know how I missed that post! :)

  • Kevin

    Fantaaaaastic arrrrrticle. Kids can be such a burrrrden in firrrst claaaasssss.

  • janna

    Nice!

  • Miles

    On my most recent flight in international F (NRT-DFW on AA), another passenger had his family — including wife, and eight year son.

    Not that I was bothered — I didn’t hear a peep from the kid the entire flight.

  • Thrifty Tourist

    Just found out Asiana had banned lap children from first class. Asked me to rebook in business class

  • peacemeal

    Flying Heathrow to Bombay in First Class and business on BA. My 5-year old boy, wife, and mother-in-law in first class while I am traveling with my 1 year-old in business (he has a reserved seat for himself – which will probably have a car seat setup on it). Was wondering if anyone can tell me that, if the 1 year-old wants his Mom, whether I can give him to my wife to be a lap baby in first class without the reservation actually categorizing him as a lap baby in first class. I have travelled many hundreds of thousands of miles with my kids in business, but this is the first time I am dealing with this conundrum. Thanks!

  • zeroandme

    Perfect timing for this article. Just got off a US Airways flight where the entire first class cabin suffered the annoyance of a crying baby for the entire coast to coast flight. This is a social problem in America where people are so selfish, they do NOT consider the needs of others over their own.The mother had to know how her child reacts during a flying experience. However, despite the fact her fellow passengers paid big bucks or big miles for a reasonably quiet first class experience, she (the mother) could have cared less. Experiences like this are such a sad commentary on our society as people increasingly care about one thing… themselves.

  • Dan

    I have an a question about when other peoples children aren’t so well behaved…. We were travelling Delta Business class JFK>ATH. There was a couple with 2 kids in a not so full cabin. The FA’s were familiar with this family it seemed, based on conversations they were having. Anyway, one child was particularly obnoxious, loud, and disrespectful to his parents. The mother pulled her eye cover down and went to sleep and the father just put on his headphones an ignored the child as it jumped seat to seat and yelled at his parents/sister etc. I was rather upset that the parents weren’t respecting the rest of the passengers in the cabin by not controlling their kids (well, the girl was fine actually). What would the best approach have been? Talk directly to the parents? Talk to the FA’s? Like I said, it seemed like the FA’s were quite familiar with this family – and were ignoring the child as well. I and others suffered through the flight but it still bugs me. I hate to stir the pot.

  • jm

    My favorite deal is getting the upgrade on domestic (America) and having my child sit with me for free (after all she is my companion). She always enjoys the flights and the roomier seats are more comfortable for her in case she does nap.

  • s

    We took our 13 and 11 year olds on United Biz to NRT (upper deck) and there was another child up there as well. There was plenty of eye rolling when we boarded, but by the end we and the other parent all received kudos for our children’s good behavior. In fact it was two adults having a marital quarrel that were the PIA.

  • disqus_Pt3a3tgeSF

    If it had been me I would have spoken with the FAs. Talking to the parents directly seems like a good way to start an unwanted conflict. The FAs should have dealt with this without having to be asked though. Its not something to feel uncomfortable about. You spend a lot of money to be on that plane (or earn a lot of miles to do so) and should not have to suffer through a situation like this.

  • disqus_Pt3a3tgeSF

    I wonder if you can complain to the airline and get some sort of compensation?

  • Jason Steele

    This would be at the discretion of the flight attendants.

  • Jason Steele

    LAN bans lap children in business class, they are permitted if they have a seat. Sounds like a similar policy.

  • Jason Steele

    Malaysian is the only one I am aware of.

  • disqus_Pt3a3tgeSF

    They probably notice other kids quicker, because they tend to be at the same eye level. I remember the world looking quite different when I was a little kid.

  • dan

    simple solution is that you move to first and your wife goes to business to be with the boy.

  • zeroandme

    To be fair, I was sitting in the last row, and I opted to put on headphones to help curb the noise. The business man (sitting directly next to the woman and her baby) was the one I felt sorry for.. he was clearly Not happy at all and had to endure a long flight with the noise .

  • rkirkbride

    I am a new fan of Malaysian. I am the father of three well-behaved kids and I would never consider flying them first or business class. I think it should be reserved for adults (understanding that there are plenty of unruly adults in first and business).

  • Miles

    I took a 10-year relative with me on a long mid-con in F. It was his first time in F, and the FAs seemed to really like him, too.

  • User Name

    I think you’ll fine she couldn’t have cared less.

  • jim

    were you yourself a baby once? or born as an adult and never cried? Have some understanding for the other side too !

  • zeroandme

    I understand that people pay good money for premium seating and deserve to get what they pay for.. yes, I was a baby once, but my parents had good social skills and would have Never taken a baby into a first class setting. That’s called, responsible parenting , setting appropriate boundaries, and looking out for others needs ahead of oneself.

  • JIM

    I feel bad for you. You are clearly the one who have zero understanding or equal understanding! think better! think bigger!

  • zeroandme

    think responsibly…and think about others first, .. most would agree on here.. read the comments. And, there’s always the coach section too :)

  • shay peleg

    Honestly i am against spoiling a 6 year old with first class

  • BlasianSlim

    As a frequent passenger to the Middle East on EK,QR/Etihad, I dread when I see the little ones up front. Worst behaved kids ever!!! I slam a an ambien and a whisky just to knock myself out.

  • Raffles

    With respect, 6 year olds are not kids. I know, I’ve got one. To all intents and purposes their minds work like anyone else.

    If you wrote about taking a 2 year old in Lufty F (I’ve got one of those as well) I would have been more impressed.

  • Mary

    Excellent post! Well-behaved children are a result of well-behaved parents…and we all know that there are many more unruly adults than kids these days
    And I don’t think you are spoiling your child with this experience…we have four kiddos and none of them have the latest technological gadgets…I would rather have them fly in first or business class than and experience fine dining and traveling at its best than be given a phone that deadens their brains with useless games and internet perusing.

  • pepperonistyle

    It’s OK for you to be selfish, though! 2014′s #1 post for unintentional irony and comedy – great job!

  • pepperonistyle

    And what about the Global Services idiot who got drunk as hell on a redeye HNL-ORD flight and laughed so loud at the in-flight movies nobody could sleep the entire trip? Adults are just as guilty.

  • pepperonistyle

    Yeah, I’m sure that’s why you slam the whiskey and Ambien – not because you like it

    eyeroll

  • Jason Steele

    Thanks Mary. I actually find my children are more well behaved in business class than in coach. I think everyone is less cramped and less stressed, while the amenities and in-flight entertainment help as well. Yes, Int. First class is an unnecessary extravagance, but my daughter (and I ) were well aware that it was a rare, special treat.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Once, I was treated to a 4-5 year old in coach pre-flight continually whining and the mother did absolutely nothing. I simply glared at the kid and said (not shouted) “Shut up!”. The kid quieted down.

    The looks, and comments, I got from other passengers were generally that I was a horrible person. I simply told them that it was up to the mother to control her brat. No trouble for the flight.

  • Kestie

    If the flight is really long and the parents have a physical need to be in 1st class or can afford the upgrade, then the kid will be going too. Just a fact of life. My child has occasionally flown in 1st since she was about 6. I always brought her own PJ’s, cozy blanket and favorite stuffed animal/book/movies and got her changed and ready to sleep before we boarded so there was minimal disruption after we took off. I also ordered kids meals for her or brought some comfort food with me for her. She knew that she needed to use her “indoor voice” and that it was a special treat to sit up front that should not be abused. We never had any problems . Parents should indeed manage their kids regardless of where they sit. If the kids are misbehaving, the problem is the parents…not the kids.

  • zeroandme

    Love it ! Thanks for sharing

  • TF

    you’re right zeroandme, there is always coach. Next time this happens, you should ask FAs to re-seat YOU in coach. I’m sure someone would be delighted to switch with you… That way you can continue to tell other people to think about ‘others’(read: you) first.. twat.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Small, misbehaved children should be put into pet carriers and stowed either in the overhead bin or the baggage compartment.

    With their parent.

  • shay peleg

    See that’s ok if were talking short term side effects no big deal . But what’s gonna happen in 10 years ? when a new narcissist is born?

  • Peacemeal

    Was hoping to be a good husband by keeping my wife in first and a good dad if my boy wants his mother instead of me. Looks like it might be impossible to be both. :)

  • MrBurns

    This post makes me laugh..themselves you say..are you sure you are not just caring about yourself? You have any idea how hard it is to travel with a kid in a plane? Do you think it’s as easy as saying shut up and the kid keeps quiet? Someone like yourself tried to pull the “its up to you to control your baby” crap with us on our way to Hawaii..I looked at the guy and said you better shut it or else… didn’t say a word after that. How about a little understanding on your part? Heard of headphones?..try it next time a baby cries.

  • Mary

    Hi Jason! One more comment…my mom worked for Pan Am for years and my siblings and I had the fabulous opportunity to travel all over the world as children, teens and adults flying in first and business class! I will never forget those marvelous experiences, especially the time my sister and I flew from JFK to HNL non-stop in first class in a 747-we were seated in the second level of the plane (upstairs) and it was fantastic…for free. It is obvious your wife and you are fabulous parents, while raising your children with discipline and adventure…how lucky they are and hats off to both of you!

  • motheroftwo

    she was totally thinking of others. annoy 100 or so people in economy vs. 20 people in business class? choice is too easy.

  • pepperonistyle

    Even though you’re thinking about yourself first…

  • pepperonistyle

    Oh, you’re the unhappy stain who I see on almost every flight – thanks for letting me know!

  • pepperonistyle

    Once, I saw someone intervene into another family’s business and got his ass kicked. Like he should have. The looks and comments from other onlookers were generally approving.

  • Darth Chocolate

    And you are the self-important slob who is oblivious to the world and does not care who they impose their spawn upon. Thanks for letting me know!

  • Darth Chocolate

    If it so difficult to travel with a kid on a plane, how about doing something easier – like driving? As if it is our problem that you cannot control your spoiled brat!

    And if someone threatened me, I would simply ask the FA to ask you to keep it down. Would you be so bold to threaten a FA?
    I guess you are just so important that the whole flight has to make allowances for whatever inconvenience you decide to impose on the rest of us.
    Stow the kids in a pet carrier or in the overhead bin. That will muffle their wailing.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Are you really that self-unaware? Or simply a troll?

  • pepperonistyle

    LOL please get therapy for your own sake

  • pepperonistyle

    You don’t even realize how unintentionally funny your post is. Pls never procreate.

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