Why and How I Travel in First and Business Class

I’ve been on a bit of a mileage burning spree over the last month and I’ve booked some flights that I’m really excited about. This year I’ll be to fly on Qantas’ A380 in First Class from LAX-SYD, Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suites Class from LAX-NRT-SIN, and Thai Airways’ A380 First Class from BKK-FRA. And I’m still trying to figure out how to fit in Emirates’ A380 First Class also so I can get the famed shower at 40,000 feet.

From Qantas' website.

From Qantas’ website.

It’s always a special thing to book First Class, but when you can do it on an A380 then you’re usually in for a very special experience. Some people, though, don’t understand why I’m interested in using my points for these flights. The two most common arguments made to me are:

  1. Why not book Economy for half the price and travel twice as much?
  2. Isn’t it a waste of points to fly for just 10-16 hours? Why not use the points for a great hotel where you’ll have a proper bed?

These are totally valid questions, and I’m sure many people would prefer to travel in economy and/or use their points strictly for hotels. I fall into a different category. The reasons I fly premium classes are pretty simple, actually.

Singapore A380 Suites Class. Not sure if I'll get the full size bed to myself or the window suite seat.

Singapore A380 Suites Class. Not sure if I’ll get the full size bed to myself or the window suite seat.

 

First, the argument of being able to travel twice as much sounds great and would totally be worth considering for me…if I had unlimited vacation time from work. Unfortunately I’m not a full time blogger, and while I’m fortunate and do get a lot of vacation time from my job, I definitely don’t get enough to be able to travel twice as much as I currently do.

Second, the overall experience of flying in premium cabins on international flights is much, much better than flying economy. The easy check-in, the lie-flat beds, the lounge access with showers and food during layovers, better customer service, and the multitude of other perks…it makes a big difference to me. When you’re traveling to the other side of the world where the entire transit time from origin to destination can be up to 24 hours or more, it’s worth it to me to pay the premium in points. It’s always a plus when I can arrive at my destination well rested also.

Thai A380 First Class. It has a "lounge" area!

Thai A380 First Class. It has a “lounge” area!

The final reason is a little bit different. I’m of the opinion that our loyalty points game is very slowly coming to an end. No, I don’t mean that loyalty programs themselves are coming to an end, but I think the ability to earn and burn points like we currently do will not last. It’s no secret that redemption options have dramatically decreased over the last 5 years. Undoubtedly a lot of that has to do with how the economy has picked up over those years, but programs have also become more restrictive. I think credit card bonuses will start to decrease slowly (again likely a result of the improved economy), and while manufactured spending opportunities will always exist, redemption costs continue to rise. See the Southwest, Hyatt, and United devaluations just for a few examples of how award prices continue to rise. Yet $1,000 still pretty much earns about 1,000 or possibly 2,000 points when manufactured spending, and don’t forget about all the work and time required.

So all that to say that I think the opportunities to book First Class flights, like the ones I’m booked on this year, will not be nearly as easy to do 10+ years for now. I’m paying the extra points for an experience that I not only enjoy now, but one that I also think is a somewhat limited time opportunity. I want to be able to say 10-20 years from now that I flew First Class on the biggest commercial plane in the sky and on some of the best airlines that exist. I think that’s cool, and that’s the experience that I’m buying.

Emirates A380 First Class. I've stayed in hotels much worse than this.

Emirates A380 First Class. I’ve stayed in hotels much worse than this.

I also get tons of questions on how I manage to get such seemingly difficult/popular flights. This is a totally valid question, but unfortunately the answer is very uninteresting. The two things I do that most others don’t or can’t do is book well in advance and have a flexible schedule. When you book far in advance, there’s more availability. Often times there will only be one First Class seat released on each flight…and even that might be a liberal description of availability depending on the airline. If you want to be that one, then you have  to plan in advance.

And if for some reason that seat just happens to become available 2 months from now rather than 10 months from now, you have to have the flexibility to book it. You can’t always get the Friday-night-after-work-flight to maximize your vacation time away from work. Sometimes you have to book the Monday or Wednesday afternoon flight. Thankfully I have the flexibility to do that. The final factor, and likely the biggest for many readers, is that I only need to look for one seat for myself. I don’t have a significant other to travel with, and if a friend wants to come he/she is usually fine with being on a different flight or in a different cabin. Not all of us can be like Lucky and fly First Class around the world on A380′s with a companion!

Anyway, I try to post frequent reminders to burn your points so this is as appropriate of a post as any. Use the points you’ve worked hard to earn! Enjoy them sooner rather than later. You have only 4 days until the United devaluation, and your AA and US miles are going to be devalued some day. Burn, burn burn!

Comments

  1. Enjoy while you can! Life will change with a significant other and some day kids! :-) Btw, how are you getting back from SIN and SYD on two of the flights, what cities you plan to visit on the return?

    • Travel Summary says:

      I’m definitely trying to travel as much as possible! My SQ Suites trip actually continues on to Bangkok. That’s where I’ll be flying Thai to Frankfurt and then UA (for now) to ORD and eventually back home.

      From Sydney I don’t yet have a return flight! I’m thinking of flying to SIN again (where I have some relatives) and then trying to get Emirates from SIN-DXB-LAX. Very much up in the air though. If I can somehow manage getting back to the US on a nonstop from Australia, I’ll probably do it!

      • Agree with you. And I’ll add one more – when you are tall (I’m 6-4) sitting in coach is a literal PITA. So much so that I refused to fly longer than ~5 hrs, so that ruled out almost all international for me. Only when I found the points world was I finally able to fly front of the bus.

        I have same conundrum about return flight from SYD. I want nonstop – just too long any other route.

        But finding F on Qantas A380 is extremely difficult if you are using AA – almost no availability. There is some J space which is most likely the only realistic option (absent finding last minute F seats). There is occasional F space out of BNE-LAX, but it’s on 747. Option is spending a lot more miles on KrisFlyer to get slightly better availability.

        If all else fails, I am even considering burning Skypesos for Virgin Australia in J (of course r/t pricing) for nonstop SYD-LAX with decent availability.

        You could always do CX in J to HKG and then F to LAX. Not a terrible second choice, although 10+ hrs longer overall depending on your layover.

  2. But surely, booking all of those award flights take hours of energy, time and hassle… no? ;-)

    • Travel Summary says:

      Sure maybe it takes a little time, but the skills I learn are with me for every future trip I need to book! And I personally would much rather spend the time than spend $150 for someone else to do it! ;)

  3. your travel aspiration is definitely inline with 90% of readers , most of us have jobs and not a lot of time off on vacation. the irony is going First and business will save us time and money. funny but true

  4. one more question I forgot to ask, how do you search SQ with Miles and More miles ? I was using LM search engine but it doesnt show anything. dont know if SQ own site is available for M and M program.

  5. I loved flying Thai Airways on the A380. If you can, pre-order your meal. I highly recommend the lobster thermidor.

    • Travel Summary says:

      Thanks for the tip! You’re like the third person to tell me about the lobster thermidor haha. Definitely getting it.

  6. My son has proclaimed that he wants to go to Australia for his 8th grade graduation trip (2016) and that he wants to go first class! Is there any way to find 4 tickets on an AA partner? I will have a ton of AA miles by that time. And I’d like to take one flight on Eva during that trip too!

    • 4 all in F on same flight would be quite tough. I don’t think Qantas release more than 2. Cathay release at most 2 seats a year out, but they do release more closer to travel date, but there is only 6 F seats in their 777-300ER. Unless you split up, your best bet would be in J, as Cathay releases 8 seats a year in advance. The other challenge is from HKG to Australia or New Zealand, I think I see only two seats per flight usually. Malaysia airline and Japan airline usually release even less seats! Get a BA account and play around with the schedule, you will get a feel and by 2015 summer comes, you will be a pro on the routes and availability :-) I learned a ton last year for planning the family’s Christmas trip to china, five of us all flew cathay there (we split up in two dates), but had to fly AA back which is really bad compared to Cathay!

    • JHC, you are parenting one uber spoiled brat. Tell him to get a paper route or mow lawns for a few years to earn a trip in Coach.

      And who the H even cares about “graduating” from 8th grade? Is it in any way an “achievement”? Of course not!

    • Travel Summary says:

      As Sharon noted above, you’ll pretty much never get 4 F seats to Australia. Getting 4 Business seats on Eva (they don’t have a First Class) will be doable from the US to Taipei, but getting from Asia to Australia in 4 First Class seats will again be impossible on the same flights.

      And you’re talking 2016…so 2+ years away. Who knows what the frequent flyer world will look like so far away. The best advice I can give is to collect A LOT of miles!

  7. Good morning from Rome, TS. I don’t mind traveling in economy, I’m small (travel-sized) and can handle red eye flights in economy. Of course biz or first would be nicer, but I think I would start to feel spoiled in premium class and wouldn’t want to fly in economy. To me, the destination is more important than the journey to the destination. The argument of flying economy and travelling twice as much isn’t limited to travel time each year. I look at it as I have enough miles to travel in economy over the next few years rather than burning them all this year and starting from scratch the next year. Have a great time on your flights, looking forward to hear about your trips.

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