Lo and behold, space opened up once again on SWISS First Class to get my family from Los Angeles to Zurich but after grabbing it, I ultimately cancelled it. Why would I possibly do that? The answer is two years old.
The Whole Family In SWISS First? On Second Thought, Maybe Not…
It was a bucket list item to take the family in Lufthansa First Class to Germany last Christmas and it turned out to be one of the best flights of my life. When the opportunity arose to do the same in SIWSS First Class, I thought it was a dream come true.
Yesterday, I mentioned how we had tickets booked in SWISS First Class using United miles to visit Germany, departing on December 31st. Ultimately, we had to cancel the trip because my wife was forced to go back to work (she’s a nurse) after recovering from COVID-19. By the new year, everyone was feeling better and we were ready to depart as planned on either January 3rd or 4th (Heidi had to work three days in a row leading up to this).
SWISS First opened once again on January 3rd and I was able to secure us tickets to Germany via Zurich using my United miles.
Side Note: do take advantage of SWISS First while you can. I still think this recent appearance of space is not a glitch, but the superb availability we have been seeing will not last once the word fully gets out. I held off for a week before blogging about it, but wanted to let you all know and now it has been picked up by a number of blogs. The competition for this space will be fierce, especially because SWISS tends to have more unsold first class seats at the last minute than does Lufthansa.
But then I got to thinking about it. 121K miles per-person is an excellent value for SWISS First Class from the West Coast to Europe, but that’s a lot of miles for four tickets when one passenger is two years old and the other is six years old. Importantly, my kids do not care. Of course Augustine (six years old) is now old enough to know the difference between economy class and business or first class, but he does not appreciate the multi-course dining in first class and of course my kids do not drink alcohol (Heidi doesn’t either and I have virtually cut it from my diet). We’re also dieting and the decadence of two first class meals does not fit into the plan (though I certainly would have made an exception if this was the only thing holding us back).
Those factors played into calculus, but what ultimately led me to book away from SWISS First was my two-year-old daughter Claire Marie. To put it charitably, unlike her brother she is far more rambunctious and spirited. Unlike Augustine when he was two, she struggles to sit still in church and makes known her dislike of being confined.
Frankly, that creates an environment that is too stressful for Heidi and me in first class. We’ll have this discussion again soon, but I do believe that children can and should fly in first class. That said, I do not want my own child in first class if she cannot reasonably be relied upon to be well-behaved.
Right now, at age 2.5, it is too unpredictable and if she is loud, I cannot enjoy the flight (and of course others cannot either). Even if she is well-behaved, the fear that she will start crying when confined to her seat also takes away my enjoyment of the flight.
I appreciate that people are generally very understanding and for all I know, she would have been an angel on the flight as she was in Lufthansa First Class a year ago. But it was not a risk I wanted to take, especially with 484K miles on the line and during a time in which I am the only one in my family who truly values first class.
So I thought I’d send Heidi in first class and I’d sit with the kids in economy class. That was the original plan on December 31st as well before more seats opened. But then Augustine asked if we could visit Paris on the way to Germany. Heidi and I discussed it and we decided to fly to Paris on Air France instead of to Zurich on SWISS.
I can tell you that my discernment was validated, though again not in the way I expected.
I have not flown first class on SWISS since 2017 (from Zurich to Los Angeles) and would love to provide a fresh review. Hopefully, I did not forfeit my only two chances to do so using miles, but we ultimately (and in retrospect, wisely) decided to hold those miles because of the unpredictability of my daughter’s behavior. I do look forward to the day in which we can all fly together in SWISS First Class…but this was not the time.
Based on some of the reports I’ve read on FT and elsewhere, Swiss First ex-USA is not as good (at least meal-wise) as it was pre-pandemic. Cost-cutting seems to have affected those small things which made it special (which may explain its sudden availability). In any event, I’m not willing to spend 121K miles for an uncertain experience so I hope you can review it fairly soon.
But isn’t it worth the splurge over 83K for business class? I’d so so, even if the product has been cut back.
A child who is a horror is a terrible thing to inflict on First or Business Class passengers who might be paying a lot. It’s also terrible for economy class passengers.
I would even consider taking the noisy child on a daylight JFK-LHR flight where a noisy child is less bothersome to passengers then those trying to sleep on a red eye. That would make a possible 3 day journey of day 1 LAX-JFK, day 2 JFK-LHR, day 3 LHR-Germany
Many of us are poor in terms of time. Some unemployed poor people are rich in terms of time.
As a parent myself, thank you! I have never met a two-year-old that is equipped to sit alone in an F suite such as those on Swiss. While I also book F when possible, kids change that equation. Honestly there’s no enjoying F when you have to mind a toddler, regardless of seating arrangemeent–and it only gets astronomically more difficult if you cannot physically reach them while seat-belted in. I hope you continue to book J for family for the next few years; you and your wife can enjoy F when you’re flying alone, and will be hoping others do the same when you’re in the F cabin sans kids!
Very fair article. I’ve been thinking similar things especially now I’m not traveling for work. Lh to europe on LifeMiles is more than fine. Flew economy to Iceland and then London with the kids. More than fine. And plenty of other economy over the summer.
Upgraded all of using skyward points from europe to Dubai on the a380 which was super fun. But regretted doing the same for the leg to Saigon on the 777 (knowing before the flight it was average). It just wasn’t worth it for screen time on a day flight where everyone would have been perfectly happy in economy. Family sweet spots imo are 60k or so to europe on LifeMiles aa etc. and then 40k to asia from oz in biz.
Matthew, very logical thinking. I have a 3 year old and of course he cares nothing about luxury travel. When we flew business class, he’s more excited about sitting on my laps and finally he’s getting some screen time than enjoying the business class amenity. He is scared of sitting in a movable chair by himself so his seat just went empty the whole time. On our way back, we were in economy. Everyone was happy because we all sat together. And after we moved armrests up, that row became a much bigger space.
I am at the Four Seasons Doha now, picked it over the Ritz based on your review. Lovely hotel. Ordered your favorite – the Kibbeh with Yogurt Sauce and they told me it’s no longer in the menu. In the end, they spoke to the Chef and he made it for me. They didn’t even charge it. It was delicious indeed.
Great comment! Enjoy your time Anthony.
Although I don’t have kids, I think it would be interesting for you to do a ranking of different business class seat types (ignoring soft product unless something stands out specifically for kids on a particular airline) based on which layouts you think are best for families traveling with small kids who are still big enough to require their own seats. I have to imagine the things that most of us value the most in a business class product like privacy and space or doors or storage space might not always be ideal when traveling with a small child. Even then there might be certain features among airlines with similar hard products that might be particularly useful for parents (I’m thinking the QSuite pods for 4).
Anyways, as a childless flier who nonetheless thinks that parents and kids should be able to fly in premium cabins so long as they do their best to keep their kids well behaved (understanding that sometimes even their best doesn’t always work), I think it would be interesting and also quite useful for those with young kids considering potential long haul flights.
Finally, I appreciate the thoughtfulness and consideration you put into traveling with your family, for your fellow passengers and, most importantly, your family members. If more passengers tried even half as hard as you the whole babies/kids in premium cabins thing would be mostly a non-issue. Sure there are always going to be obnoxious people that will never get on board and are too self-centered to understand that even well disciplined kids, especially younger ones, aren’t always going to cooperate no matter how hard their parents are trying, but most of us can give a pass to parents who are doing their best and show consideration to their fellow passengers.
You probably won’t see this, but this is something I think about all the time so I thought i’d share. You generally have it right, most of the seats that people are after are not great for traveling with kids, so the best business class seats are Turkish and Lufthansa. The others are fine, but there is so much that depends on the kid whether it would work well or not. My oldest child does fine alone (except she says no to everything the flight attendant asks, so I always have to explain to just give her things), but the youngest always needs help. So on the 1-2-1 configuration one, the middle seats that are close together work well too, like the United Polaris with the “couple” seats that are right next to each other. The Polaris seats that are more private in the middle are worse than having the two aisle seats, it’s a long ways over the big divider to help with something. Anyway, a lot of writing for someone that probably won’t come back and look anyway 🙂
Great points Matthew. My wife & I recently flew with our 4 year old from US to Europe to Asia in business class. While she mostly settled in and watched TV (she gets very little screen time at home), it was still stressful as she wasn’t confined between us and could step outside if she liked (we were on Etihad & United). Managing her from a distance was a little tougher than having her sit between us. The extra miles were worth it due to the flat bed but were a waste on the other hand as we hardly got to sleep (due to the stress of managing our daughter). She certainly didn’t appreciate it.
“We’re also dieting and the decadence of two first class meals does not fit into the plan”
Almost everyone who read this LOL’d.
Why does it have to be a choice between first and economy? Why not fly in business class?
For whatever (odd) reason, I don’t like doing business when first class is available. There’s not exactly rationality behind that mindset, but it is what it is.
Can I just say how much I love the name Augustine for a kid?
How do you manage your young one in economy? My restless 2.5 year old does pretty well in a car seat but our last flight (luckily only 2 hours) she wasn’t having it and made me hold her. My next one in a week or so is about 4 hours so always looking for good ideas
Honestly that’s the toughest age to fly with kids. They are big enough and active enough that keeping them in the seat is nearly impossible. And they aren’t yet old enough that they will stare happily at a screen for a few hours.
We did a BOS-DEN leg with our kids when they were 18 months old and it was by far the hardest we’ve ever had to work with them in a plane. By the time we landed both my wife and I were sooo ready to get off the plane. The guy in the tow ahead of us complimented my wife on how well behaved the kids were not having a clue how hard we had been working with them.
So tips: Try to have some new thing for them to play with on the flight and bring a variety of ways to entertain them along. At that age their attention span is short so you need to be ready to shift activities when they get bored with one and move onto the next.
The premium cabins and the “decadent meals” is an issue for me, I do have an internal struggle with this; on one hand I don’t want to waste the experience, and on the other hand, maybe I can save those calories for latter with good food at my destination….. and then there is the “should I enjoy the 2-3 hour service or just sleep” issue… I wish you could write more on this topic.
I’m finally getting around to planning some long-hauls with my 6-year old and have largely come to the same conclusion. He couldn’t care less about premium cabin amenities, and for that matter, neither does my wife, so why bother with the extra cost in dollars or miles? I’ll just get a set of 3 in either Y+ or PE for a little extra room at a reasonable cost.
The one possible exception – Q Suites if we end up doing a trip to India to get the quad of 4 together.
Not all children (or adults) are the same.
Augustine is placid, Claire Marie…not so much. Different temperaments.
Have been in flights where you can tell parents are mortified about their screeching toddler.
Not fun for all involved.
Remember one Cathay Pacific flight where we had a rambunctious little guy in business class that wore out Mother, 2 delightful flight attendants and yours truly.
After having just flown home from Tunis (where we ate just as well as you did) via MUC where there was a child who screamed every ten minutes for the entire 9 hour flight, keeping the entire business class cabin awake, I appreciate your consideration of the other people in the premium cabin.
Did you stay at Four Seasons?
We did. I mentioned that we had read a wonderful blog post about the restaurant to both Mohammad and Alessandro, and that we had been very much looking forward to it. They certainly lived up to your great review!
This kind of thoughtfulness towards other people is rare these days. Thank you for considering other first class pax in your decision making.