This is a big deal: We’ve just booked our first international trip with Anneka. Well, actually … just the flights.
As usual, booking the flights was my job. Part of the fun is getting there, and I love juggling the variables: airline, alliance, aircraft type, schedule, reputation, etc. I had to figure out, for the first time, how to book an international flight with an infant.
I then used Google flight search to get a baseline idea of who and what flies to those destinations. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the info I was getting, so I also checked some of those horrible sites like Expedia that I’ll never actually book through (never book with them – one hitch in you travel, and they will leave you high and dry … they are for information only). I also priced itineraries through my most-flown airlines and my airline alliance websites. At this point, I eliminated every one of the domestic airlines. Their service generally lags, and the aircraft are noticeably inferior (for example, US Airways A330s and Delta 767s).
I also eliminated British Airways, despite its daily nonstop to London from my hometown; it’s just not competitively priced, and it’s usually an older Boeing 747-400. The 400 isn’t bad, but all the post-Dreamliner aircraft are a notch up in passenger-facing technology, from WiFi to power plugs at each seat. The aircraft flying this route as I’m writing this is nearly 22 years old – think of how you were calling people on landlines and struggled to figure out a VCR 22 years ago, and you’ll get an idea of how far the planes have also come.
Another problem: The airline alliances don’t seem very cooperative toward their fellow members. Searches on United.com did not offer Lufthansa or Air New Zealand options. There were a few Air Canada options, but that was it. Someone might need to remind United about the whole point of the thing.
Here’s what rose to the top: The Air New Zealand flight from Los Angeles to London, and the various Lufthansa flights.
Air New Zealand is just a very nice airline, from its shiny-spiffy Boeing 777 aircraft to the rather good deals flying from LAX to London Heathrow. Right now, Lufthansa does not have Air New Zealand’s overwhelmingly positive reputation. But it has many flights on Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8i aircraft – I tried building a schedule allowing us on both, but the layover times were a bit tight. So it’s a 747-8i on each trip, one of the just a year old, the other 4 years old.
Lufthansa won for one very good reason: I was able to get a decent price on flights connecting from my hometown to the Lufthansa base. On the other hand, Air New Zealand gave me a stellar price on one leg, but an astronomical one on the other. I discovered that the return flight from LAX to my hometown was the problem – I could’ve booked separately, but that’s a risky call: One delay on the international flight, and I could be in a serious bind with the domestic flight. This is really curious considering the huge number of flights from my city to LAX.
So Lufthansa won this time. Sorry, Kiwis – I wanted to fly with you again!
Here’s my experience so far with Lufthansa.
Its website is a bit glitchy. There are a few links I tried hitting that didn’t take me anywhere. The most notable is on the “Make Lufthansa an Offer” link, which should take you to a page that lets you submit a bid for an upgrade to premium economy. It took me somewhere … but it’s a page with nothing in the content well.
The website is a bit unclear on getting bassinets. So I tweeted at Lufthansa’s account and got a friendly reply to give them a call.
So I called Lufthansa, and was speaking to a real, live, friendly, helpful human being named Lindsay in less than a minute. She priced a guaranteed move into premium economy for me (a little steep for me). Ultimately, she got us into economy class seats with a bassinets on the outbound and inbound legs. I generally get along great with airline humans, and Lindsay was no exception. But it was really nice to not require 10 layers of “Press X to do Y” messages before connecting with her. Well done, Lufthansa and Lindsay.
Here’s an improvement I’d suggest: If you book a flight with an infant, you should automatically get the bassinet seats. They’re not doing someone without an infant any good. And a baby that’s sleeping well on an airplane makes the flight better for everyone nearby, right?
I’m also a little perplexed that, in my economy fair class, you only get credited with 25 percent of the miles flown. That’s the most miserly return I’ve experienced on any international flight.
Now that’s how to book an international flight with an infant. Got any advice I may have missed?