The time had come for another adventure and this one was off to a good start with our Etihad Chaffeur picking us up in an black Mercedes Benz and whisking us off to the airport (Etihad discontinued their Chaffeur service for partner award tickets on August 10th, 2016). We booked the tickets pre-devaluation using 30,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles each way (the new award price between Asia 2 and the Middle East is 40,000 AA miles) and $91.40 in taxes and fees total for the outbound and return segments.
My first thought upon entering the cabin was that it looked like someone had stolen the upholstery from my parents couch and sold it to Etihad. Airlines tend to put a lot of thought into their premium cabins but the striped seats looked like everything about the 1980’s that we don’t want to remember. Maybe they were trying to replicate the fake wood grain on the adjacent side tables, or maybe stripes were super hot when they put in the order for these seats, but whatever the case may have been they weren’t looking so hot now.
For those of us who eat, sleep and breathe the points game the news that American Express was killing the Serve card was a bit like hearing that they were going to have to amputate our right arm. In terms of easy avenues for manufacturing spend, the Serve card was indeed just as indispensable as our dominant hand. The ability to liquidate $5,000 per month in gift cards in a fairly easy way has long been the backbone for many people’s mileage earning strategy (myself included), especially when it enhances your usual spending to allow for higher rates of credit card churning.
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.
Have you ever gotten to fly “upstairs” on an airplane before?
Does “reverse coffin” sound like something you’d be into?
I have always wanted to ascend those magical stairs to the fancier cabin perched atop the squalor that is coach, but up until now I had never gotten the chance to do so. Thanks to some US Airways Dividend Miles that I had scored from the US Airways credit card signup bonus, plus a few more miles transferred over from my Starwood Preferred Guest account, I was making it a reality.
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.
Do you have few miles or points but would still like to fly business class?
Do you have some money to spend on upcoming travel but not enough to buy those hilariously priced business class tickets?
I feel your pain! Flying coach on long-haul trips sucks and I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that I avoid ever having to do it again. Mostly, my strategies revolve around using credit card sign up bonuses to build up large balances of frequent flyer miles that I can redeem for business and first class travel. But it takes time to build up these balances.
For those with travel plans that are happening in the very near future they might benefit from another way to avoid coach that doesn’t involve taking out a second mortgage on their cat.
When Buying Miles Makes Sense
It makes sense to buy miles when A) you might otherwise have paid for the business class ticket or B) you really don’t want to fly coach and are willing to pay a little extra to avoid it.
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.
As of today the US Airways Dividend Miles card with a 50,000 mile bonus offer has been removed from the Barclays site. Thankfully, I still have a working link for you, though this final opportunity to get the card will likely be short lived.
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.