This post comes from my friend and fellow blogger, Geoff Whitmore (pictured right) from Noobtraveler.
Have you ever wondered what’s it like at the front of the plane? You’re not alone. It’s all I think about sometimes. Fortunately, through my work, I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few first class cabins.
Aspiring to attain first class awards is smart for all travelers, especially if you’ve got your eye on an international honeymoon or a far-flung destination that you want to arrive to fully rested. After all, part of the trip is enjoying the journey.
When choosing a first class product, it’s important to consider the product while on the ground and in the air, as well as the cost of redeeming for it. I’ll be outlining how to redeem for each particular product and why I’ve chosen to include it in this list. Factors to consider include, but are not limited to: on-the-ground services, in-flight service, food, seating, and the value earned from your miles redeemed.
Imagine sleeping on a genuine bed in the air. Well, Singapore can make your dream come true…and probably blow them away at the same time.
If you’re aiming for a holiday in Asia, look no further than Singapore Airlines. Singapore Suites, found only on the airline’s Airbus A380s, are featured on the lower deck of the plane. Enclosed suites, KrisWorld – the most extensive entertainment system in the air, and impeccable service make it a true five star experience. Not to mention you’ll end up transiting through Singapore’s airport, which ranks as one of the most efficient and clean in the world – definitely up to Noob standards.
Currently the most effective way to redeem Singapore Suites is using KrisFlyer miles, transferable from American Express Membership Rewards. Virgin America’s new partnership with Singapore also opens up a new opportunity to redeem for first class suites on the A380.
While comparable to Singapore, most of the products on Thai Airways are a bit dated. On the ground services at Bangkok Airport, however, make up for it with some Noob-worthy fun, including a gate transfer via golf cart (maybe not practical, but definitely fun) and arguably one of the best first class lounge facilities, with all first class passengers entitled to a hour-long full body massage. Learn to love it.
Emirates first class is known for its bling. The airline’s A380 service boasts access to an onboard bar and in-flight shower facilities. That’s right: a shower. That’s not extravagant.
Emirates has lounges in New York and San Francisco, but the real first-class experience is at Dubai where Emirates just finished constructing a terminal dedicated to only A380s. There’s also a floor in the terminal dedicated solely to first class passengers, offering everything you can expect and the ability to board directly onto the upper A380 deck.
While definitely an experience, it’ll come at a huge cost. Alaska Airlines partners with Emirates and you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to Japan Airlines to make your booking.
Qantas provides one of the most simple, functional, and elegant first class designs in the air and on the ground. What better than to travel on Australia’s national airline to make your way Down Under?
The best way to secure seats on Qantas A380 first class is using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, though you’ll have to book close to when the award calendar opens up. They run out pretty quick!
Although Cathay’s first class seats are showing age, I include it in this list because the all-around service and product are worth your miles.
Cathay’s lounge facilities, including a new first-class lounge at Hong Kong Airport, are top-notch, boasting made-to-order noodles and one of my favorite shower facilities. If you’re looking for a nice pre-flight lounge experience, try to avoid booking your flight from New York JFK – they partner with the British Airways lounge, which is crowded and unspectacular. Instead, aim for San Francisco SFO, where Cathay Pacific just opened up a new dedicated lounge, pictured here:
Throw in the fact that Cathay is relatively easy to book using AAdvantage miles, with two seats available on nearly every day, it’s a no-brainer for those aiming for trips to Asia.
Lufthansa’s first class is solid in the air and spectacular on the ground. Lufthansa is personally my favorite First Class to fly. The product is sleek and the colors are clean.
Passengers are entitled to use of the Lufthansa First Class Terminals, which feature personal nap rooms and spectacular tarmac views for aviation geeks. There’s also the famous yellow Lufthansa duck that passengers can take with them. I picked mine up. Make sure you do too!
The only downside is that Lufthansa has been releasing first class tickets for Star Alliance bookings only two weeks in advance, so it’s definitely not for those who need to plan in advance.
I could never afford to pay cash for a first class seat on one of these airlines, but through the help of airline miles and points, it’s attainable. It does take some work to accumulate enough miles for a first class redemption, but for the long, 8+ hour flights and the overall experience, it’s worth it.