I may be a glutton for punishment, but would never voluntarily choose a middle seat in the middle section in the last row of an aircraft, especially on an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to Munich.
But that’s exactly where I ended up this week, and I am searching for answers…
My business partner, John, and took a brief trip to Europe last week. As is often the case, there was only one first class award seat available and business class was fully booked.
This has happened so many times this year and I’ve always deferred to John’s wish to fly first class. It hasn’t been pure generosity, because I usually end up flying on United…I have to re-qualify for my status somehow and you don’t earn any miles when you redeem points.
For whatever reason (and for the life of me, I really question my sanity), I did not feel like making extra stops and playing the upgrade waitlist game. So I did what I suppose most of the world does and just booked a ticket in Lufthansa economy class.
(yes, business class or premium economy would have been a fine compromise, but both cabins were sold out)
The one thing that sealed the deal is that I would be able to visit first class lounges with John, since he was in first class and we were traveling together. A nice steak can make up for a long flight…
And I had survived a similar flight earlier this year, albeit in a window seat with an open middle.
> Read More: Lufthansa A380 Economy Class Los Angeles To Frankfurt Review
> Read More: What I Did AFTER I Flew Lufthansa Economy Class…
From Tolerable to Intolerable
I checked in online and assigned myself an aisle seat in the middle of the economy class cabin, 81C.
When we arrived at LAX, we proceeded to the first class check-in counter so an escort could take us through security and to the aircraft.
Much to my dismay, when they checked my passport the agent informed me that I was not checked in for the flight! It was now just 30 minutes from departure (yes, we cut it close in LA…)
I showed the agent my mobile boarding pass…how could I have received this if I did not check in?
She had no answer.
But she said it was now too late for me to check-in.
I insisted upon speaking to a supervisor, who finally overrode the system and checked me back in. We were now 20 minutes from scheduled departure.
Our escort led us through security and to the gate, which featured a biometric scanner. Thus, my passport and boarding pass were not checked or scanned.
Onboard, I found a man in my seat, 81C. I asked if he was in the right seat and he said yes. Rather than argue, I asked a flight attendant for assistance and handed her my mobile phone.
She demanded the man in 81C produce his boarding pass. He did…and it also said 81C.
Small problem: by this time, the aircraft door had closed.
Our flight to Munich was nearly full and after looking at her iPad and performing a visual inspection of the cabin, the flight attendant informed me there were no aisle or window seats open.
I asked if there were any no-shows in premium economy and was told that both premium economy and business class were full.
The flight attendant motioned for me to sit down in an open middle seat in row 94, the last row of the A380 lower deck.
After the safety video, a male flight attendant came by and said my seat had somehow been officially re-assigned to 88B, a bulkhead middle seat. But he added:
There is an infant in row 88. I’m sure you don’t want to sit there. You can, but the bassinet will protrude into your space. I don’t think it will be comfortable for you. I recommend you stay here.
I sensed passive aggressiveness based on his tone, but thought about how much I would have valued an open middle seat if traveling with an infant so I decided to stay.
It certainly was not the flight crew’s fault my seat was re-assigned. But I just hated that they really didn’t care…they did not even offer an apology.
A Long Flight
We took off I braced myself for a long flight. I’ve reviewed Lufthansa’s A380 economy class before, but this was a whole new experience.
Legroom: horrible. Recline: limited. But worst of all was sitting in between other passengers with virtually no shoulder space and everyone fighting for the armrest.
Not to be overly dramatic, but I clearly understand why most people hate flying. I could not sleep a wink on this flight. There was nowhere to turn, nowhere to stretch, and nowhere to find a remotely comfortable position. I’m only 6’1″…
Dinner and breakfast were exactly the same thing that was served when I took this flight last May. Greasy and not very tasty, I find the food in United economy class much better.
The A380 has no power plugs in economy class, though I knew that going in and brought a back-up powerbank to keep my laptop charged. Thank goodness for that and for functioning wi-fi, though my screen had to remain half-closed in order for me to use it when the person in front of me reclined his seat.
What a joy it was to get off that flight. Flying in economy class is one thing. Flying in the last row in a middle seat on a transatlantic flight is a whole other matter.
Was it worth avoiding extra connections? No way.
Lufthansa, you really let me down.