Inside the exclusive Airbus clubhouse of some of the world’s most frequent first-class flyers

Feb 19, 2020

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Some meet-ups are held in cocktail attire at posh clubs; others choose to geek out over shared interests at convention centers, or trivia night at a dive bar. For one particular group of travelers, though, the venue of choice is far more exclusive — the “pointy end” of a wide-body Lufthansa plane.

I jumped at the chance to experience the latter, when legendary first-class flyer Gino Bertuccio extended an invitation to join him and six friends to buy out an entire eight-seat Lufthansa first-class cabin (four, for a variety of reasons, would later drop out).

While I hadn’t yet flown with Gino, he’s almost a household name among certain frequent flyers, seeking out inaugural high-end experiences, such as the Etihad Residence, despite the frequent high cost of such trips.

Gino was clearly the leader of this exclusive group — he seemed energized to be around fellow aviation geeks, and appeared to be at home at the very front of Lufthansa’s first-class cabin, explaining “If my seat (1A or 1K) is taken, I’ll fly another day.”

I’ll be sharing our experience, but note that this isn’t meant to be a traditional TPG review. Head over here for our full impressions of Lufthansa’s first-class experience. Instead, I’ll be presenting our adventure in a “trip report” format.

As if a chance to meet this group wasn’t enough, a special fare from Paris (CDG) to Bogota (BOG) via Frankfurt (FRA) brought the cost of Lufthansa first class down to $2,100, including nearly 12 hours onboard and plenty of time at the carrier’s famed First Class Terminal, to boot. Credited to United Airlines MileagePlus, I walked away with 2,372 Premier-Qualifying Points (PQPs), along with 17,784 redeemable miles, worth more than $230, based on TPG’s valuations.

The four of us met up at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, a short walk from the main terminal area. Aside from Gino, who lives in Miami, the group included Cherag Dubash, from Abu Dhabi, and Agustin Aguero, from Buenos Aires.

After a quick lunch (you have to try the schnitzel!), we walked a few feet to the bar, which boasts what has got to be the largest whisky collection in an airport lounge.

I proudly introduced Cherag to my First Class Terminal tradition, a top-shelf whisky tasting.

We settled on a duo of 21-year Scotch, a Glenfarclas and Glenfiddich, and one 25-year Glenfarclas as well. Such a treat!

After a couple of hours, it was time for the main event… or, almost time.

First Class Terminal guests are driven directly to the plane in a Porsche, or, if several visitors are on the same flight, a far-less-exciting Mercedes van.

With the rest of us in the van, Cherag had somehow landed himself a private Porsche Cayenne, offering a clear view of the airport, including dozens of wide-body planes along the way.

Before heading upstairs, we paused for a quick photo shoot — naturally, in front of Cherag’s Porsche.

After a group shot, and a farewell to Frankfurt, it was time to board our Airbus A340-600 to Bogota, Colombia!

With our smartphones in camera mode, we each went directly to our four window seats to check things out.

With our departure just a few minutes away, the group took some time to get settled, so I decided to indulge in a glass of Champagne.

I was initially impressed with the service, but as it turned out, the flight attendant working my aisle was far more attentive than the crew member assigned to the other aisle.

Gino and I enjoyed a cross-cabin toast. While my neighbor in 2G was friendly as could be, with four strangers between us, I was bummed that the plan for a cabin buyout hadn’t materialized as expected.

Just before the crew closed the door, I popped into the bathroom to change into my Lufthansa-supplied PJs, which ended up being a key component of our mid-flight group photo near the top of the post!

I was still feeling stuffed from the lounge, but who can resist a feast of caviar among friends? Easily one of the highlights of flying international first class.

With nearly 12 hours onboard, there was plenty of time to hang out — Lufthansa’s sliding ottoman was perfect for one-on-one chats.

While Gino and Cherag didn’t have the most attentive service, in 1A and 2A, being able to enjoy Lufthansa first class among friends definitely made the experience feel special. I just wish the rest of the group hadn’t dropped out — a full cabin buyout would have been the way to go, especially with Lufthansa’s widely available $2,000 first-class fares from Paris to Bogota, via the exceptional Frankfurt First Class Terminal.

Stay tuned for much more to come, including Q&A chats with frequent flyers Gino Bertuccio, Cherag Dubash and Agustin Aguero!

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