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Sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination, says almost no one, except those who truly enjoy flying. It also doesn’t hurt when the journey is in the best of the best first-class cabins. I’m currently on a journey spanning 31,000 miles over 13 flights, allowing me to fly 5 amazing first-class products over a short 11-day timespan.
If you are interested in following me along this journey, I’ll be sharing my experience on Instagram Stories.
I’ll share an overview of my journey, how I strung together this trip, and tips on booking these coveted products. The notable flights I booked are:
- Qatar Airways Qsuites
- Qatar Airways First Class
- Singapore Suites
- Cathay Pacific First Class
- Emirates First Class “Gamechanger”
- Emirates First Class A380
The idea was to conceive a trip to Asia, flying the best products possible. The trip planning began 12 months ago, with the itinerary being slowly built over time as reward seats became available. This is what the complete itinerary looks like:
I’ll first fly Qatar Qsuites from Montreal to Doha, followed by Qatar First Class on the A380 to Bangkok. I’ll have an 8-hour layover in Doha to go to Souq Waqif and check out the new Al Mourjan lounge. After 1 night in Bangkok, I’ll take a quick Thai Airways business class A350 flight to Singapore to position for the Suites Class flight to Hong Kong. After 2 nights in Singapore, I’ll head to The Private Room 5 hours early to enjoy this exclusive lounge reserved only for Singapore Airlines First/Suites class passengers. From there, I’ll fly a low-cost airline, HK Express, to Danang, where I’ll spend 48 hours at the Hyatt Regency.
The next set of flights requires a position to Saigon on Vietnam Air A321 business class. Then, it will be Cathay Pacific A330 business class to Hong Kong with a 7-hour layover before the Cathay Pacific 14.5-hour flight to London. 7 hours in Hong Kong will give me plenty of time to enjoy “The Pier” and “The Wing” first-class lounges. I plan to take full advantage of the cabanas, suites, a la carte dining, massage, and, of course, the famous Dan Dan noodles.
The moment I land in London, I’ll hop on a British Airways positioning flight to Brussels to catch the Emirates Gamechanger to Dubai. Finally, I’ll spend a day in Dubai recovering from 40 hours of travel before boarding the final long haul 14.5-hour flight to Toronto on my favourite product, the Emirates A380, in First Class, seat 3K. Then, finally, a quick Air Canada flight home to Ottawa.
Qatar Airways First Class & Qsuites
My Qatar Airways routing from Montreal (YUL) – Doha (DOH) – Bangkok (BKK) is a combination of Qsuites and First Class, costing 95,000 Qatar Avios points, plus $304 in taxes. This is the Saver award price that is now hard to come by. Currently, 99% of North American flights to/from Doha are priced at the Flexi award level, 2x the Saver price. I could only book at the price I did because it was booked 11 months ago before Qatar increased the cost and limited the number of Saver seats. However, not all hope is lost.
Here are some tips and tricks that may help you on your quest to fly Qatar Qsuites and First Class for the lowest price possible:
- Book the North America/Doha flight separately from the connection out of Doha.
- Book at the end of the calendar.
- Position to Europe and fly Qatar Airways from there.
- Pay the Flexi rate – Stop trying to squeeze the maximum value from your point. Consider that you may have transferred to Avios at a bonus rate of +25%, which softens the blow. Booking a Flexi award will also give you many dates to choose from since availability is so good.
Singapore Airlines Suites (and First)
My Singapore Airlines Suites flight from Singapore (SIN) – Hong Kong (HKG) cost 73,000 Krisflyer points, plus $62 in taxes. This is the Advantage award pricing, not the Saver price that would otherwise cost 45,000 points.
The Singapore/Hong Kong route is the cheapest way to fly Suites Class. The ~3.5-hour flight teases the full experience on a more extended flight. What I mean by this is that certain amenities are not provided, like the amenity kit itself, pyjamas, and caviar. If this is important to you, it is best to stick to other routes, like the sweet spot to India I had written about.
If you’re keen on flying Singapore Airlines Suites (or First), here are some tips and tricks that may help:
- Stick to the following routes for the best availability at both the Saver and Advantage prices: Mumbai, Delhi, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Sydney.
- Book at the end of the calendar, but a warning that not all routes offer Saver space the moment the calendar opens (e.g. London, UK)
- Last-minute Saver availability tends to become available closer to the travel date, provided the cabin load is low. However, the cabin can be empty on weekends, but Saver space will not open. Stick to weekdays.
- Waitlist for Saver/Advantage award space, provided you have some other flights already booked to get you to your destination.
- Read the 2 articles I wrote that provide further insight into strategies for booking Suites and the booking process.
Cathay Pacific First Class
My Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong (HKG) – London (LHR) was booked through British Airways (BA) Avios for a cost of 123,750 + $270 in taxes. The ticket was booked 11 months ago when Cathay Pacific released a plethora of award space that was bookable not just through Asia Miles but also through all Alaska and BA. I had chosen to book through BA Avios as this was the currency I had points readily available to redeem without needing to transfer.
Cathay Pacific First Class is currently flying limited routes and has yet to resume its full pre-pandemic routes. As of November 2023, Cathay flies 777s with First Class to London, Tokyo (HND), Paris, Beijing, and Los Angeles. Fortunately, finding first-class award space is quite tricky and easy at the same time.
Here are some tried and tested strategies to fly Cathay Pacific First Class:
- Book through Asia Miles. Unfortunately, you won’t find award availability through partners. A flight from Hong Kong to London will cost 125,000 and 50,000 to Tokyo. The price would be similar had it been booked through BA Avios.
- There is better availability on flights to Tokyo and London, so target these two cities rather than Los Angeles.
- There is award space through Asia Miles at the end of the calendar and then scattered throughout the coming year.
- The Asia Miles website is full of technical glitches, so don’t assume there is no availability.
- Unicorn 2 First-class award seats exist; don’t assume they don’t.
- Set up flight alerts through the many subscription services available. Remember, by the time the blogs write about it, it’s already too late.
Emirates First Class “Gamechanger”
My Emirates First Class Gamechanger flight is from Brussels to Dubai. This flight was booked with a connection onward to Toronto for 168,750 Skywards miles + $1201 USD in taxes. A Brussels to Dubai flight by itself costs 102,000 + 365 EUR.
I’ll put this disclaimer out before going forward, as some of you might jaw-drop at the astronomical taxes that Emirates charges. Whether or not the taxes are worth it for flying First Class is a personal decision. I will say that the upside to high taxes is good availability, at least for one person.
If you’re targeting to fly the Gamechanger product, it’s essential to be aware that it is installed only on nine 777s and only flies select routes to/from Dubai. Here’s a list of where the product is flying:
Here are some tips for flying the Gamechanger product:
- Stick to the routes that mention “on an ongoing basis above” to avoid aircraft swaps.
- Double-check that the seat map looks like this
- Avoid flying out of cities like London with high taxes.
- Look on Aeroplan for Emirates first-class flights as taxes are very low, albeit a higher number of points is required. On short-haul routes, this may be worth it.
- If booking through Skywards, optimize your points by booking a connection through Dubai to anywhere. It will only cost a slight number of extra points. For example, adding BRU-DXB to a DXB-YYZ only costs 5,250 extra points. I wrote about this sweet spot in the What Did You Book – Emirates First and Etihad Guest Miles article.
Emirates First Class A380
The last first-class product on my whirlwind trip is the Emirates A380, my favourite product that makes me feel at home in the sky. All first-class products have pros and cons, but Emirates First Class is the best overall product with perfect harmony of soft and hard product perfection. Emirates First Class A380 flies on a plethora of routes; take your pick:
The largest of the A380 is Emirates. If you are interested in flying it, the same tips I mentioned for the Gamechanger apply. But here are some more:
- If you are low on Skyward miles, consider booking short-haul A380 routes to places like Cairo from Dubai. Enjoy the ground experience, shower in the sky, and unlimited caviar on the ~4-hour flight for only 67,000 Skyward points + $240 in taxes.
- With 16 First Class seats on almost all A380s, booking First Class for multiple people is not impossible.
- There is no specific release pattern for Emirates awards. In general, you will find 1 seat at the end of the calendar, then anywhere from 90 to 1 day before departure, more seats will begin to open.
- As the departure date gets closer and there are empty First-class seats, they WILL become available as an award. Exactly when is hard to predict unless it’s the day of the flight when every open seat can be booked on an award.
- Set up alerts; this is the best way to be alerted of first-class award space.
- Consider booking a business class award ticket and waitlist for an upgrade. This will cost slightly more but is a great strategy to employ. For example, a Toronto-Dubai flight will cost 163,500 points versus 208,200 (138,000 in Business + 70,200 Upgrade) with the upgrade. If you are considering the upgrade strategy, I recommend setting up the Auto Upgrade feature to process upgrades automatically.
- First and business-class award tickets are booked into a Flex Plus fare bucket that is fully refundable without a fee even after the departure time has passed. Yes, you read that correctly.
13 flights in 11 days is no easy feat for any human body to handle; however, when you are flying on the best seats in commercial aviation, the journey becomes as enjoyable as the destination, if not more. As we continue to climb away from the pandemic, we have seen a travel surge like never before. This has, unfortunately, resulted in airlines clamping down on award space and/or making those coveted awards difficult to book. Rather than accept defeat, I prefer to adapt by employing new strategies. I have shared tips and tricks on booking first-class flights that you will hopefully find helpful.
I’ll conclude by saying that it’s imperative that you not only have the right tools, alerts, and points available to book but also have a solid network of people around you. Join a points & miles community like PMB, participate in discussions, and make new connections. Other people are often the best resource for to help make your first-class dreams a reality!