Musings about first class products

I’m back in Vancouver now and about to head back to school today, just having finished my trip to New York and Hong Kong. On this trip, I I was tremendously lucky to try Asiana and All Nippon First Class. I’ve also flown United, Thai, Cathay Pacific, and Lufthansa First Class previously.

During the trip, I wrote about my experiences in real time about Asiana First Class Suites, Thai First Class Ground Services, and ANA Check-In and Rebooking, so I thought I’d write a final “real-time” post before I start my actual trip report.

I’ve certainly haven’t flown as much first class as many of the great bloggers, but I thought given that I’ve flown 27,000 Butt-In-Seat (BIS) miles over the past 19 days, that’s still a lot.

GCMAP of my Trip

GCMAP of my Trip

I actually feel these first class trip reports are difficult to write, because a lot of the flights are fairly similar in hard product. Certainly, some airlines have slightly better products than others, but at the end of the day you’re at the highest level of service, you’re generally have 6-16 seats in your cabin and a decent FA to passenger ratio, edible food, and turndown service with a mattress and duvet. Generally. I think bloggers who are able to take so many of these first class flights and actually remember all the details to nitpick about is actually really impressive.

Now that I’m actually in the position to write a trip report, I find it hard to critique the flights other than spewing back stuff like CX likes to take a hands off approach and only comes between meal services when you ring the call bell and other nitpicking things like that, which I already know from reading lots of trip reports. Sure, there are details about it, but nearly all of my international first class flights have been “first class” compared to my business class experiences.

I want to note is that actually a lot of the overall experience depends on the service level on the crew. I generally had decent crews for most of my flights, but surprisingly enough I think the best flight and crew on this trip was on United First Class from Sinagpore to Tokyo Narita. The crew really was well above the typical United crew (from my limited experience). I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I would have gladly taken the TPAC flight with United with the same crew over both my Asiana and All Nippon F TPAC flights. I’ll cover full details in the trip report which I hope to write soon, but the crew was just one of the best I’ve had with just their really high attention to detail and just really friendly and personable.

One final point is that I think that you should be travelling for the destination as well as the product. I think circuitous routings to try/re-try new products, but definitely at points during the trip I was pretty drained and exhausted and I just wanted to be in a real bed rather than in a lounge or in a first class product. Maybe it’s just me, but I think international first class is just a nice way to travel. In nearly all cases I’ve found the food and sleep which are the one of the primary parts of first class flying to be better on the ground. One thing that just really stands out with first class flying are exceptional ground services and onboard services. And free things.

But I wouldn’t fly just to the sake of “flying” first class products. I think it’s important (in my opinion) that you be visiting a destination that you want to go to rather than just flying for the sake of flying (which is probably why for the most part I don’t do mileage runs).

So what should you take away?

International First Class is tremendously comfortable, no matter what airline you’re flying. Of course, you’ll have better odds getting a better flight flying an Asian or European airline rather than a North American one, but not always as in my case. Just be happy that you have miles, know how to use them or at least people that think they do (me! and BoardingArea), and have time to actually travel for the most part!

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  1. @Todd – was just there for 4 days over the holidays, and I can honestly say that we didn’t notice the unrest at all. Was staying at the Sheraton Grande, but also spent time over by the river at some of the touristy sights, and on a walking food tour. Had it not been for the news, I wouldn’t have had any clue that there was anything going there.

  2. I haven’t flown a lot compared to many. In the last two years, I’ve flown LH F, CX F, and a couple of business class flights. Obviously, I loved first class, but at the end of the day these are awfully long flights, and I totally agree that my goal is just to get from Point A to Point B quickly and in comfort. I am impressed with the lounges–having a shower cabana in the new Wing Lounge in Hong Kong was great and F lounge in Munich was spectacular. I greatly preferred CX over LH for first class flight, but even so, I was almost embarrassed by the attention. We are taking the new LH business class to Europe this summer so it will be interesting to compare the difference in class of service. still get jealous reading trip reviews–would love to fly on Emirates or Air France, but as you said so well, it’s about the destination ultimately and can’t imaging flying extra stopovers just for experiencing the flight.

  3. I am perenially confused about why this blog is so often confined to first class travel, amongst those who have both the money and the desire to travel first class, away from the common riff-raff when they could likely afford to pay hard cash for their trips. And now we find out that you are a student (“going back to school”)!!
    I just wish there were more info on how a middle-income earner could have the opportunity to at least TRAVEL, regardless of class, the distances that you are able to in the elite sections.

    • I’m a bit confused at what you’re trying to say, but let me try and address your comment to the best of my ability.
      I just write about people who do have some money to spend on travel in their budget (a significantly larger-than-average proportion in my case) to be able to travel in more luxury with their current dollars. I don’t think what lifestyle you have nor what you do as a living or profession is important.
      If you want to talk about me being a student, I’m fairly certain that I paid less for my hotels and airfares than any of my classmates who fly to any continent in economy class and staying in cheap hotels. Sure, you can probably travel for closer to free if you couchsurf and use other budget travel tricks to lower your cost, but that’s not my style. I don’t think my blog is “confined” to first class travel. Even if it were, that’s not your problem.
      Being a student shouldn’t have anything to do with whether it is right to fly international first class. Whether other passengers in the cabin have the financial resources to afford paid tickets is not my issue.
      Any middle-income earner holding a Canadian SIN or US SSN with a good credit score can travel. It’s pretty straightforward honestly. Find out your credit score, churn cards, make minimum spend, learn how to redeem miles. You can send me an email if you have any further questions but my blog probably isn’t the best for those types of questions. I try to talk about my passion in this blog. That is travel hacking and leveraging miles and points into experiences I couldn’t otherwise afford. That’s my niche.
      Finally, I’m not at all “rich” relative to other passengers travelling in a similar style as me. I’m lucky enough to be able to make my own money to pay my tuition and travel. That might not apply to all students, but just to be clear – my parents are not funding my travel.
      I think the points you make are very valid – I just believe you weren’t aware of my current situation. You do bring up an interesting discussion though that I’m thinking of writing a post about. Thanks for your commment.

      • You must come from money. I didn’t know anyone who travelled when I went to college – other than the kid who’s father was a pilot. A big trip was a road trip in the back of someone’s beat up jalopy – with a few 12 packs of whatever was on sale at Cork and Bottle.

        How do you find time to study? Or are you a “business major” or something similarly taxing?

        • For the previous generation getting into college meant finishing school versus the extracurricular/tutoring/gpabooster/satprep clusterf that it is today. Likewise, the situation for a lot of students I’d say is a bit different than before and I have many friends who are not rich but can afford to travel economy to wherever they want. After all it’s university and I think it’s normal for students to explore the world. Yes, I am a business major. 😉

      • Thanks for your affable reply, Jeff. Maybe I’m just not a savvy enough traveller to earn a wealth of miles. I do OK, enough for about 40K Aeroplan-equivalent miles/year; I guess my basic point is: just how do we (especially Canadians, with our limited access to ‘churnable’ credit cards)pick up enough points for even a couple of decent trips per year in economy?

        • AMEX, CIBC, CapOne, and for the most part cards are CHURNABLE. That means if you didn’t already know you can pick them up more than once.
          So for example if you one churn right now:
          TD 15k Visa Infinite
          CIBC 20k Visa Infinite
          AMEX Aerogold 30k
          Chase Marriott 50k

          That’s already 55k Aeroplan, 50k Marriott, and a Marriott free night cert. Then for your next churn do something similar with one card per issuer. I’d say you’d be able to get roughly 100k if not more per year just from churning, and that’s a conservative estimate. I do my parent’s churns, and I’d say they get 200k+ miles per year. Let me know if you need any more help.

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