When life comes between flying Cathay First Class

by Anshul
an airplane flying in the sky

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Let me confess – I have never flown a true international first class cabin. To be honest, I don’t care much for it. I am happy with a lie-flat business class seat and some champagne πŸ˜‰ . While I don’t go out of my way to seek first class seats, I would be happy if it happens organically. Recently, I was planning a trip back from Saigon (SGN) to Canada and wondered if Cathay First Class had finally featured in my travel path.

Planning to fly Cathay First Class

Life situation and priorities mean that I prefer to travel direct and spend as little time in-flight as possible. And obviously, keep my $$ in pocket. Add to it my rigid vacation/work schedule, long layovers and forced stopovers, they simply cut into *actual* vacation time. Common traveler problems.

Aeroplan and Alaska Mileage are my go-to programs. I like using Alaska Mileage program for their unique partnerships and Cathay First class (for 70K one-way) seemed to fit my schedule.

Cathay flies daily from SGN to Hong Kong (HKG). And I could easily connect from HKG back to Canada.

Cathay First Class

SGN-HKG: 3X daily flights on Cathay

My Canadian options out of HKG were Vancouver (YVR) and Toronto (YYZ), Toronto and New York are closest to my home city of Ottawa. Boston is not bad either. They all require a connecting flight.

Cathay First Class

Direct flights from HKG to Canada/USA. Note: Seattle and Dallas on the map are not served by CX.

Issues with SGN-HKG-Canada plans, on Cathay:

  • Cathay does not run F class service on SGN-HKG sector. They also don’t run F class service to YYZ!!
  • My options of flying F were down to YVR or via USA.
  • Alaska program only allows one partner airline per redemption (or one partner+Alaska). Neither CX or AS serve my final destination.
  • YVR or USA options entail additional $$/miles/time to connect to Ottawa

Alternate Option 1:

Between life imposed restrictions and flight connectivity, my best Alaska redemption option would be to ditch F class thoughts and just fly CX J class (business) to YYZ, for 50K!

Alternate Option 2:

Japan Airlines (JAL) also offers great one-way redemption rates, SouthEast Asia – North America, for 75K in F Class and 65K in J class. However, JAL does not operate any F class cabins to Canada.

Alternate Option 3:

Use Aeroplan instead, and fly Star Alliance network all the way to YOW on Eva/Asiana/AC. Turkish from SGN-IST also opens interesting options. One-way Business class redemption from Asia – North America on Aeroplan costs 77.5K.

Lufthansa F Class maybe great, but my schedule does not allow for more than 2 connections and my wallet refuses to throw away $$$ on YQ charges.

F class Availability and booking

All the planning and routings are no good if I cannot get seats on the flights. Cathay Pacific can only be booked on Alaska by calling the phone centre and availability is usually good decent two weeks from departure. Same is true for other airline’ F class availability – few seats, hard to get.

Business class seats on the other hand are easier to find and available on all segments.

Take Away

I really wanted to document how I rationalize my trip planning around my life situation and choices. While its great to be in a position to even consider flying F class, I do not let that dictate my travel plans. What did I end up booking? Nothing yet, but I am leaning towards CX business class to YYZ. OR Aeroplan (on Turkish or Eva), simply because it gives me good business class product and best connectivity, all the way to my home city. Maybe I am not meant to fly F class, and that is just fine!

Did I miss an obvious/better routing in my planning? Feel free to leave recommendations below – cheers!


Jayce Loh March 26, 2017 - 8:36 am

Can you even route SGN-IST-YYZ? That would seem over Aeroplan’s pseudo MPM

Bling March 26, 2017 - 9:23 am

Jayce! Yes, Sgn-ist-yul routes and tickets on Aeroplan – no issues. In fact, thats how I even knew TK flies Sgn-ist πŸ™‚

jason_111 March 25, 2017 - 10:13 pm

I just came back from a trip to South East Asia. The SFO-HKG RT leg was in CX F and the HKG-SIN leg was in CX J. This was my first time flying CX F. It was nicer than J with a really nice lounge (The Pier).
However, CX J is more than good enough with a really nice lounge too (not as nice as the Pier of course). So even though CX F was nice, I really don’t need to ever fly it again. Once is enough for me as I don’t think the incremental difference is worth it.
Now Garuda First Class is something that I definitely want to fly.

Bling March 26, 2017 - 9:25 am

Thanks for the feedback! Most people have suggested similar views – “F is a great experience in CX but J is more than good”! Cheers..

CR March 25, 2017 - 2:49 pm

You may want to skip Turkish via IST just in case Canada joins the “no-electronics” party.

Bling March 25, 2017 - 3:44 pm

Fair point, will keep an eye out. But I don’t think Canada will go down that path, lets hope Mr. eye-candy stays away from that party..

disqust101 March 25, 2017 - 1:20 pm

I’d do CX F from YVR unless you’re low on points. Biz is nothing special – tight across the shoulders like most biz seats. But if it means long layovers, just do Biz. Advantage of F is access to nice lounge in HKG and depending on layover, can be a nice respite if you want a shower/day room.

Finding F availability isn’t as easy ss you suggest. Two weeks out offers some chance of F, but hardly guaranteed. Asia Mies offer best chance if you can book as soon as booking windows open.

Anshul March 25, 2017 - 2:26 pm

Looking at ‘most convenient’way to use Alaska/aeroplan miles…may likely be j all the way in cx – i slept well last time. Unless I get j in tk, really like their product and service. And yes, F availability is just no fun!

Bling March 25, 2017 - 3:40 pm

Looking at ‘most convenient’way to use Alaska/aeroplan miles…may likely be j all the way in cx – i slept well last time. Unless I get j in tk, really like their product and service. And yes, F availability is just no fun!

iverge March 25, 2017 - 12:13 pm

The problem is many carriers just don’t fly to Canada with a F cabin. CX does- only into YVR but then you’ll need to redeem for another flight to get you to YYZ.

Bling March 25, 2017 - 12:45 pm

Agreed. F cabin availability in Canada is very restrictive. C’est la vie πŸ™‚


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