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IAD-FRA-TLV-FRA-IAD in LH F/C. Lessons on traveling with an infant

IAD-FRA-TLV-FRA-IAD in LH F/C. Lessons on traveling with an infant

Old Jan 26, 14, 4:01 pm
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IAD-FRA-TLV-FRA-IAD in LH F/C. Lessons on traveling with an infant

1. This is my first trip report. Please be kind and patient.
2. I tend to be wordy. Very, very, very, very wordy. Sorry.
3. I like numbered lists.

Here are the characters you will need to know for this trip report:
1. Me - Trev555555
2. My wife - D
3. My son - E
4. My dad - G
5. My father-in-law - T
6. My mother-in-law - W

I've learned so much from reading the trip reports on Flyertalk that I felt it was my duty to write a trip report to help others planning trips like ours. This trip report is going to be unique. We've all seen the trip reports with photos of caviar and macadamia nuts in first class on Lufthansa. This trip report has that. We've seen quite a few photos of the sites in Israel. This trip report will also have that. What we haven't seen is a trip report on traveling in F and C to Israel with an 11 month old baby. This trip report has that in spades.

Warning: there will be lots of pictures of a baby in this trip report. If babies aren't your thing, that's fine, just don't read this trip report. You have been warned.

I'm going to split the report into several sections:
1. "Planning and ticketing" or "Why I hate United Airlines"
2"Accommodations" or "AirBnB + Family = Awesome"
3. "Infant traveling and packing" or "Do we seriously need 20 pounds of diapers?"
4. "IAD - FRA in LH F, FCT, and FRA - TLV in LH C" or "We can never fly coach ever again"
5. "Hello Israel" or "Shalom Yisrael"
6. "TLV-FRA-IAD in LH C" or "Where the hell is my 747-8 with my lay flat seat?!?!"
7. "Summary" or "Next year in Jerusalem?"


Lets get started, shall we?


1. "Planning and ticketing" or "Why I hate United Airlines"

This section has no photos. I would like to put a photo of me on the phone with United Milageplus Rewards with a blood pressure cuff on my arm reading 200/120, but forgot to take it. There will be plenty of pictures in the other sections.

I have always love traveling. When I was young, my parents would pack my three siblings and I in the car as we traveled from Maryland to New Hampshire or Florida, or we would take up an entire row on a flight to California, Toronto, or Israel. I knew when I had children I wouldn't want to temper my love of traveling and would want to share it with my children.

I first learned about the miles and points game from my dad (G). I had just come back from a trip with my wife to London and Italy that we took on BA in Y. I thought the transatlantic flight from BWI-LHR on a crappy old BA 767 was the greatest thing ever. I mean, they gave us food on the flight, AND mini bottles of wine! I thought that was the height of luxury.

Imagine my surprise when my dad told me that he had signed up for a British Airways Credit Card and had enough miles to fly round trip to Europe in Business Class! He also told me about Flyertalk and various blogs where I started my points and miles education. I read everything I could, and even attended the FTU in DC last year.

I own a small business with a very high overhead. I spend about ten to twenty thousand dollars on credit cards a month, alot of it at Staples or Office Depot. I built up a stock of Chase miles in no time. And I learned to Earn And Burn. So, I had to spend those miles.

At the same time my Chase miles account was close to bursting, my wife (D) and I had our first child, a son (E). Man, let me tell you. Nothing changes your life more than having a child. It's not easy, but it's great.

When our son was about 6 months old we took him to Azul Beach Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. We flew on a Airtran flight from BWI - CUN in coach. We got E his own seat, and though we were very nervous, he was really great for the flights. He slept away most of the flight. And, he is a really great baby and fortunately, sleeps very well no matter where we are. I knew we could handle a much longer flight... hopefully.

I told my wife that I had a mountain of miles to spend, and I really needed to spend then because they could be devalued at any point (I beat the United devaluation by a few months!). I said, "we can go anywhere in the world in First. Where do you want to go?" She responded, "We'll go to Israel and we'll bring my parents."

Ok, a little history. My wife's dad (T) was born and grew up in Israel. He moved to the US after serving in the Israeli Army Corp of Engineers. He owns several residential properties in the area near where my wife and I grew up. After my wife and I graduated professional schools we had no money. My father-in-law was nice enough to let us live in one of his properties, rent free, for a year. I told him that to thank him, as soon as I could afford it, I would bring my mother-in-law and him to Israel to visit his Mishpachah... his family and friends.

So, I had enough miles to get four round trip tickets in C from the US to Israel. I'd get a ticket for my wife, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, and me, and we would bring our son as a lap infant, which would cost a reasonable 10% of the adult fare.

I spent dozens and dozens of hours on United's website trying to find flights from IAD - TLV with four saver level C seats. Finally, I struck gold, and was able to book seats going to TLV on LH and returning on TK (Turkish Airlines). The good news: the flight from IAD - FRA was on LH's brand new 747-800, with lay-flat seats. The bad news. On the flights back on TK, there was only a 1 hour layover in Istanbul. That would be tough without a baby, but with a baby would probably be impossible. Also the flights on TK did not have lay-flat seats.

After booking the seats, I wanted to ensure we reserved the bassinet seats. I wanted to add my lap-infant son to the reservation so we could reserve the bassinet seats. You'll see later, adding my son to the reservation now was a massive mistake.

So, I called United for the first time. I got shuffled from agent to agent. The agents had to keep talking to the "help desk." "Wow," I thought to myself, "the customer service people at United a really poorly trained." I didn't know the half of it. Finally, an agent told me the price of adding my son, telling me it was complicated because none of the flights were on United, and they had to talk to TK and LH to figure out the price. She told me it would take a few weeks to get my son's ticket number. A few weeks? Ok. Whatever.

Cumulative time spent on the phone with United: 3 hours.
Feelings towards Rhapsody in Blue: mildly enjoyable song.

A few weeks pass, and I'm getting antsy, because I really want to book the bassinet seats, and I still haven't gotten my son's ticket info. So I call United again. Again, I talk to several agents and find out that the original agent didn't type in my information correctly and as a result, nothing was ticketed. Sigh. "Also, the rate might have changed so they have to call the rate desk. This might take awhile." Double sigh. Finally, everything is ticketed correctly.

Cumulative time spent on the phone with United: 5 hours.
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: somewhat repetitive annoying song.
Lesson Learned: If things do not seem right with United, call back. Keep calling until you feel that things are right.

Finally everything is ticketed. But, then a wrinkle shows up. 4 seats have opened up on LH back from Israel. Woo-hoo. No need to worry about the 1 hour lay-over or angled seats. I go online to change the tickets to LH. And then I hit the "Sorry, there has been an error" brick wall. I call United again. They have to reprice everything. This time it takes hours and hours! I get hung up on again and again. Finally, I talk to a really kind, and really knowledgeable agent that get's everything sorted for me. She actually takes the initiative to find out my phone number so she can call me back if we get disconnected, which she does when we do get disconnected. I tell her how amazing she is, and about my terrible experience with United so far. She listens to my complaint and sends me a $200 voucher! So far, and since then, this is the ONLY well-trained United phone agent I have ever talked to.

Cumulative time spent on the phone with United: 10 hours
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: I hate this song!

Finally, everything is good. We have all our tickets. I reserve our seats in the mini-cabin on the 747-8s and the bulkhead rows on the A321 (the flights to and from Tel Aviv).

My dad decides he wants to come for part of the trip. He can't take too much time off work, so he will fly out with us and fly back earlier. He finds a great rate on the LH flights from IAD-FRA-TLV and OS from TLV-VIE-IAD all in Y. He books the flights.

I have enough miles now to book my dad a seat in C for the IAD-FRA-TLV leg, but that will cancel his flight from TLV-VIE-IAD if he does that, so he decides to stay in Y.

Finally, two weeks before we leave, I start checking ANA to see about availability in First class on the flight from IAD - FRA. There is no First on the FRA - TLV flight, as that is the terrible NEK product that has no First. Two seats open in first. I call United, and split our PNR, and upgrade my wife and me. Our son's ticket needs to be repriced. Sigh. Here we go again. Hold. Hold. Hold. Get hung up on. Hold. Hold. Finally it gets priced. "It might take a few weeks for your flight to get ticketed." Ummm... our flight leaves in two weeks.

Cumulative time spent on the phone with United: 14 hours.
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: Seriously. I hate this POS song.

A couple days later two more seats open up in First. I'm able to upgrade my in-laws online. It takes 30 seconds. I get their new ticket numbers about 4 minutes later. Really!? That's how easy it is without a lap infant?

I still haven't gotten my new ticket numbers for my wife, my son, and I. I'm getting super antsy. I can go online and reserve First class seats on Lufhtansa's website.

I call United several times. Each time I call I'm promised everything is fine and it will be ticketed. I can hear the confusion and lack of confidence in the United agents' voices, though. Finally, I talk to an agent that seems like he knows what he's doing, and he sends me an email with my "new" ticket numbers, but the email he sends me says that we are booked in Business. He tells me to just go the airport and everything will be fine. Now, I'm getting really nervous.

Cumulative time on phone with United: 20 hours
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: Arggghh. This song is building a fury in me I never knew existed.

I said I wouldn't put any photos in this post, but I lied. I wanted to put a photo of how well we (and when I say "we," I mean "my wife") packed. She is a champ. All of my wife, my, and our son's clothes, toiletries and diapers fit in one suitcase. We had an extra set of clothes in a carry-on, and some extra diapers and wipes and things in our son's diaper bag, which you'll see later was very important.



Finally, the big day arrived, and we all went to the airport to check in about 3 hours before the flight. My dad checks in for his Coach seat, no problem. My in-laws check in for their F seats, no problem. I try and check in, and... big problem. Sorry, we have you in Business class, not First Class. Whaaaat!? The manager comes over, and says that this happens now and then when there is a lap infant on the ticket. United never ticketed our flights. I ask what can be done. She says that I should call United and sort it out. I call United. After 5 minutes on hold, I get an agent and explain the situation. She says she'll get it sorted out and puts me on hold. I get hung up on. I am seriously stressing at this point. I call again and talk to an idiot at United that tells me that there is no first class on the flight I am about to fly on. I ask to speak to his supervisor. I put the United supervisor on the phone with the Lufthansa supervisor to get things worked out. Even the lufthansa supervisor is getting flustered at the idiocy of the United agents. The call gets lost again.

At this point, it is about 1.5 hours till the flight. The agent gives my wife a lounge pass so she can go through security and go to the lounge with the rest of my family and our son.

I call United again, and demand not to be put on hold, and you know what happens. The agent puts me on hold. I am beyond furious at this point. I've never been so angry at any customer service experience in my life. I'm at the LH first-class check-in desk literally pacing back and forth, sweating, clenching my teeth, and using every ounce of self control I have to not lose it. Finally, I get a competent agent on the phone and the Lufthansa supervisor explains what needs to be done, and the agent says she'll do her best to get it ticketed, but it might take some time. The Lufthansa supervisor says I need to go through security or I'll miss the flight. I'm walking through security on my cell phone. I tell the agent that I might lose the connection in security, and I beg, literally beg her to get my flight ticketed even if we lose the connection.

Sure enough, as soon as I get to the TSA area, I lose the connection. It doesn't matter at this point. There is nothing I can do. I get to the lounge, where the rest of my family is relaxing. They hand me a glass of Reisling. I needed like 4 glasses of Whisky and a Xanax, but one glass of wine will do for now.

Finally, literally 5 minutes before boarding a LH agent comes to us with First class tickets! I don't know how it happened. I dunno if it was United coming through at the end, or if the people at Lufthansa felt bad for us and made it happen, but we had our tickets. I finally could breath a sigh of relief and try and enjoy the flight.

Cumulative time on phone with United: 23 hours
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: The next time I hear that song I will tear my shirt in half and turn into the Incredible Hulk.
Lesson Learned: No matter what the United agents tell you, no matter what the United Website says, no matter what the Lufthansa website says, if you do not have your ticket number with a confirmation that you are in First class emailed to you, you do not have a First class ticket.

Super Lesson Learned: Do not add your lap-infant to the ticket until closer to your trip. If you make any changes with a lap infant you WILL be on the phone with United for dozens of hours.

Next: Let's fly to Israel!

Last edited by trev555555; Jan 29, 14 at 5:57 pm
trev555555 is offline  
Old Jan 26, 14, 4:18 pm
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Oh god, what a horrendous start before you even get on a plane! I'm glad that it was all sorted and am looking forward to the rest of the report!
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Old Jan 26, 14, 4:51 pm
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IAD-FRA-TLV-FRA-IAD in LH F/C. Lessons on traveling with an infant

Dad here. Just to add, although we were safely in the LH lounge, we had no idea what was happening on the other side of security. We couldn't speak with him since he was on his phone to UA. Not a relaxing lounge experience for anyone...
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Old Jan 26, 14, 5:13 pm
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Originally Posted by 25years View Post
Dad here [...]
this will be the best TR on FT !!!

keep writing

no Gershwin though!

mfk
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Old Jan 26, 14, 5:43 pm
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Originally Posted by trev555555 View Post
Cumulative time on phone with United: 23 hours
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: The next time I hear that song I will tear my shirt in half and turn into the Incredible Hulk.
I can't wait until you pen a version of this to send to UA at the end of the adventure.
krazykanuck is online now  
Old Jan 26, 14, 9:54 pm
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dad and son tr combo! this is shaping up to be a nice tr already!!!
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Old Jan 27, 14, 6:49 am
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Originally Posted by trev555555 View Post
Cumulative time on phone with United: 23 hours
Feelings toward Rhapsody in Blue: The next time I hear that song I will tear my shirt in half and turn into the Incredible Hulk.
LOL. Wow, what a saga.
Great writing and very entertaining report. Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:22 am
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Who on earth would want to go to israel?
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:30 am
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Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
LOL. Wow, what a saga.
Great writing and very entertaining report. Looking forward to the rest.
Coming from you, the King of TRs, that is a major compliment! Alot of what I knew about flying on LH I learned from your reports.

Question for you... how do I quote multiple people in one reply? I see you do that all the time, and I wanted to do that to keep things nice and concise.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:32 am
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Marking my spot. Love your writing style.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by handsomestpete View Post
Who on earth would want to go to israel?
Oh, I dunno, anyone that likes great food, great beaches, great history, beautiful people, unique religious sites, amazing technology.
MichalB likes this.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:35 am
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Originally Posted by handsomestpete View Post
Who on earth would want to go to israel?
Keep trying. One of these days, you might actually post something useful.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:35 am
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
I can't wait until you pen a version of this to send to UA at the end of the adventure.
I already submitted an online complaint... about a month ago... and I've heard nothing but crickets from United. Hopefully someone from United will see this and get in contact with me. If United wants to make it up to me, I'd really appreciate 2 F tickets on LH from CDG-FRA-IAD.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:37 am
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Originally Posted by trev555555 View Post
Question for you... how do I quote multiple people in one reply? I see you do that all the time, and I wanted to do that to keep things nice and concise.


In the right hand corner of each post you see three buttons. To multi quote, click the middle one (the one with the " symbol and a small plus in the lower right hand corner) on each of the posts you want to quote, clicking the quote button when you get to the last one you want to quote in order to bring up the post.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by trev555555 View Post
Coming from you, the King of TRs, that is a major compliment! Alot of what I knew about flying on LH I learned from your reports.
Question for you... how do I quote multiple people in one reply? I see you do that all the time, and I wanted to do that to keep things nice and concise.
Thank you trev555555. Wow, you are most kind. I appreciate it.
To quote multiple people just click the Quote+ icon to the right of Quote.
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