First Class is the most luxurious way to travel – there just isn’t any other way (unless you are flying private.. which I consider to be really boring). The problem with First Class is that it is going away rapidly as airlines phase it out in favour of much better Business Class products (which represent what First Class was like back in the day).
Redeeming Miles for First Class
Redeeming miles for First Class has always been a challenge due to a number of reasons which include limited airlines with a First cabin, limited routes where First operates, limited number of physical seats in the First cabin, specific miles required for redemption, etc. It is hard to redeem for First Class – either you need to wait until really close before departure or you need to have elite status with the airline or you simply need to have the best of luck to find award availability.
When you do find that award seat, you want to book it as soon as possible as it can be gone in a matter of seconds. People in the miles game monitor seats very closely and believe me, there is a lot of demand for that single award seat that might open up. Remember that you can usually cancel for free within 24 hours of booking, so you always have a day to think about if the flight will work with your schedule.
First Class vs. Business Class
Business Class is almost always about the seat – the seat is probably the most important aspect. There are of course Business Class lounges on the ground and an improved dining experience in-flight, but I argue the most important part of the experience is the seat.
First Class is about everything – from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment you leave the airport (and beyond), First Class is about the entire experience. From dedicated check-in desks to private security screening to high-quality lounges to private car transfers to the aircraft to the luxurious in-flight experience, First Class is the way to travel.
In First Class expect a seat (or suite) with bedding and pyjamas, the best quality food you can ever find in the sky, incredible service, and a great airport experience. Now, of course all of this depends on the individual airline you are flying, but most offer similar amenities for those travelling in First.
The Best First Class Experiences
The demand for First has fallen as Business Class has become much better (and cheaper). With Business Class now being similar to what First was like back in the day, the First cabin is being eliminated on a number of airlines due to low demand and other factors.
The good news is that some of the world’s best First Class experiences are still available for you to try. Here is a list of (in my opinion) some of the world’s best First Class experiences which you should try at least once in your life.
- Singapore Airlines
- SWISS International Air Lines
- THAI Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Qantas Airways
- Qatar Airways
- Air France
- Garuda Indonesia
- Korean Air
- Etihad Airways
My personal favourites are bolded – these are those you have got to absolutely book and experience. Remember that award availability changes frequently and some routes have more seats available than others. You can usually redeem miles for travel on that airline using any airline’s program that is a partner of the airline you want to fly.
Remember that of the airlines that feature a First cabin, they may have slightly different experiences on different aircraft – for example, when flying Etihad Airways First Class – you want to fly it on the Airbus A380 as you will experience your own private apartment in the sky.
Checking For Phantom Award Space
One of the biggest issues when it comes to award availability and booking award flights is “phantom” award availability or “ghost” award space. These are flights that display as available using miles, but when you try to actually book your flights, the booking will fail – sometimes it will fail right away after you have selected the flight and sometimes it will fail after the very last step (after you click “purchase”).
Why is this such big issue? Because most often you will be transferring in miles from a bank or hotel program to book that flight. Points transfers are non-reversible… which means you will be stuck with miles or points in that program that you transferred to and won’t be able to reverse the transfer if you cannot successfully book your flight. This is why it is so important to check several times if your desired flight is actually available and not phantom.
The First cabin is quickly disappearing – which is very sad as First is the best way to travel, no doubt about that. With less award availability than ever before, it is important to try the experience at least once in your life as flying First is truly remarkable.
While it is always fun to fly with another person, note that if award availability exists in First, usually it will be for one or two seats at most – it is a bit rare to find 3 or more seats. Even finding 2 award seats can be quite the challenge. Sometimes airlines release seats one at a time, which means only one will be released and when that one is booked, another one might open up.
Remember to collect transferrable points such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards in order to be able to transfer them to a certain frequent flyer program when the opportunity to book shows up.
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