I love JAL first class. After the mediocrity that is domestic first class on American Airlines, what a lovely feeling it is to get settled into my JAL first class suite.
When boarding it is common for first class passengers to board through one door while the rest of the plane boards through the other. This time everyone boarded through the same door and first class passengers broke left, everyone else broke right. We were lucky enough to get the window seats on the right hand side of the plane; seats 1K and 2K, and were escorted there by one of the very friendly flight attendants who would be making the next 13+ hours a really wonderful experience.
There are still plenty of bargains to be had out there in the miles and points game, but India ain’t one of them. Coughing up your hard earned miles and cash to be crammed into coach for such a long flight seems like a terrible idea. Thankfully, a man with a handsome mustache has some tricks on how you can get there in style for fewer miles than you might normally pay.
The AAdvantage award chart has the Indian subcontinent at 67,500 miles for business class and 90,000 for first class each way. That is the second most expensive U.S. based award on their entire award chart!
Showering at 35,000 feet is a sort of “holy grail” for many of us in the travel hacking game. First class travel is often incredibly luxurious to begin with, but being able to take a hot shower on a plane is equal parts awesome and absurd.
Where things get really crazy is that not only can you take a shower on a plane, but you can book that experience using your award miles! Only a couple of airlines, both based out of the middle east, have been thoughtful enough to offer their first class passengers showers on board. Thankfully, each of these airlines has one US based partner with which you can book awards.
The two airlines that currently offer you the opportunity to join the “7-mile high shower club” are Emirates and Etihad. Both airlines offer a hot shower to their first class passengers aboard their A380 aircraft.
To me this next little experience sums up how things are in this world. When leaving the plane in Hong Kong, the 6 first class passengers exit through their own separate boarding door. The entire rest of the plane exits out the other door.
So we exited out our special first class boarding door and headed straight for The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge. I know when I hear the words “airport lounge” the image that pops into my head does not prepare me for the experience that is The Wing. First of all, most lounges are somewhat industrial seeming. Sitting at an AA lounge in Chicago or the US Airways lounge in New York you get the feeling that style is always balanced against pragmatic considerations, like how long the carpet needs to last, or how resistant the seat fabric is to having orange juice spilled on it.
Reserving the best seats in Cathay Pacific first class.
By now many of you are probably stacking up fat ‘staches of miles and getting ready to book some exciting trips to far flung destinations.
One of my favorite uses of Aadvantage miles (and also Alaska miles) is for flying first class on Cathay Pacific. I typically book awards for Emily and I from New York City to Bangkok and the 16.5 hour flight from New York to Hong Kong is definitely one that you want to be able to sleep on. There is nothing that promotes a good night’s rest quite like Cathay’s spacious First class lie flat beds (and some Ambien).
The only point of consternation (besides the taxi ride to JFK) is that, even though American Airlines has award access to 1/3 of all the seats in the 1st class cabin, the agents at AA can only book the middle seats, 1D and 2D. While the middle seats are still quite comfortable, I strongly prefer a window seat from which to watch the world zip by.
This is the second part in a three part series that begins here:
And now onto the flight!
Initial impressions of the seat and the cabin:
The cabin is lovely and spacious. There are no overhead bins, as each passenger gets their own little closet, and that makes it feel like you have tons of vertical space. The seats are huge, comfortable and have a full range of adjustments, including lumbar support. The decor is tasteful for an airplane. There are little vases built into the cabin where they put a live orchid, which is a very nice touch.
The time had come for our next adventure and it was starting, as all good adventures do, with a flight in Cathay Pacific first class, booked with my AAdvantage miles. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that flying Cathay First is an experience that will change everything you thought you knew about flying. It is so unlike everything that I have previously associated with the trans-Pacific flight experience, and in all the most delightful ways. Some people like flying, some people don’t mind it, but I have generally hated it for most of my life. This has not stopped me from flying a great deal, but all I had known of flying before my foray into travel hacking was suffering. And Cathay first removes the suffering and replaces it with caviar.