On Sunday, I got back from a trip to Europe that I wrote about briefly here. I already posted one of the reviews – a review of JAL Sakura Lounge at Haneda’s domestic terminal. Over the next weeks, I will continue with posting all the reviews and reports in chronological order.
However, there was one aviation experience that stood out that I wanted to write briefly about before I get to the actual full reviews of the flights and lounges. Specifically, I am talking about my Cathay Pacific First Class experience between Bangkok and Tokyo.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Overall, even though both of the flights were too short to fully enjoy the flat bed, being my first first class experience, it was unforgettable.
I was surprised at how the crew managed to be very attentive yet not “over present” as it often feels from various videos documenting first class experiences. And, while the flights themselves were fun, the lounges – especially in Hong Kong – made the experience even more memorably.
Before I jump into how I booked the tickets, I wanted to give you a brief overview of the experience. While I will get to the full reviews later, here are some pictures and comments about the experience…
First, I checked in at the first class counters of Cathay Pacific’s check in area at Bangkok airport. With a “premium lane” card in my hand, I was through security and immigration in no time, and headed into the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge.
At the lounge, I had a couple of “Cathay Delights” and a bowl of noodles from “The Noodle Bar.”
Then, after leaving the lounge a bit too early as I did not realize the inbound flight was delayed, I boarded the first of the two flights. The flight was just a bit over 2 hours, but I managed to have a tasty meal and watch some episodes of Silicon Valley’s latest season.
After arriving in Hong Kong, I went to “The Arrival,” Cathay Pacific’s arrival lounge at the airport. I arrived about two hours before closing, but managed to take a refreshing shower and have a chicken sandwich from the lounge’s a la carte dinner menu.
The rest of the night, I spent in a not-so-first-class way at the airport – quite literally. Actually, I spent it at a pair of 24/7 Priority Pass lounges.
Shortly before 5:30AM – the opening time of Cathay Pacific’s lounges – I headed to the first of the two I wanted to visit. While “The Wing, First” was still closed when I got to the lounge, I was directed to a part of “The Wing, Business” that was open even before 5:30AM.
At 5:30AM, I headed upstairs into the second – main – part of the business lounge and took a quick look around it before heading into the first class lounge. And, while the first class flight was nice, this is where the experience turned truly first class, in my opinion.
In “The Wing, First,” after a short walk-around, I went into one of the “Cabanas” they offer and took a hot bath to start the morning. Then, I had a full English breakfast at “The Haven” a la carte restaurant in the lounge.
Once I finished the breakfast, I left the lounge as I wanted to also check Cathay’s second first class lounge, “The Pier.” After checking out the lounge overall, I headed to the “Dining Room” restaurant. However, as I wasn’t hungry, I just had a small bowl of fruits.
I also tried to get a massage appointment, however, there was no spot until after my departure time. As such, I got one of the day suites offered in the lounge and relaxed a bit before heading to my departure gate.
On the flight to Tokyo, I had a very filling breakfast that included a fruits plate, cereals, yoghurt, bread basket, and dim sum. After that I watched an episode or two of Silicon Valley. While doing so, as I was too tired, I fell asleep in the spacey and comfortable seat… I mean, bed.
When I woke up, we were about five minutes away from starting our descent into Tokyo. On the ground, it was back to normal with going through immigration, picking up my bag and heading on the train – thinking about when my next experience like that would happen.
As mentioned in the headline, the one-way first class ticket between Bangkok and Tokyo (via Hong Kong) cost me 671.87 USD.
Compared to a one-way ticket in economy class that can cost upwards of 150 USD with a low cost airline or 250 USD or more with a regular airline it was more than two times as expensive. However, for a first class experience, it was a complete steal.
In fact, the same ticket booked directly with Cathay Pacific goes for a minimum of 105,565 Thai bahts (about 3,150 USD).
Similarly, while it gets a bit cheaper if booked as a return, it still comes up to 176,880 Thai bahts (about 5,300 USD).
So, how did I book it for 671.87 USD?
Put simply, I used 27,500 Alaska Airlines miles and paid 91.20 USD in taxes and fees on top of that.
Rather than earning the miles by flying or by credit card spending, however, I bought the miles. As many other airlines do, Alaska Airlines sells its miles to its members.
Normally, it sells them for 2.96 cents per mile. At that rate, the ticket would come up to 814 USD plus taxes and fees for a total of a bit more than 900 USD. Not nearly as bad as the paid fare, but still steeper than the 671.87 USD it cost me.
The key to getting it at that price (or even lower) is to buy the miles during one of Alaska Airlines frequent promotions. In fact, there is one going on until October 5 where you can buy miles with up to 50% bonus.
I bought the miles used for this trip some months ago with a 40% bonus.
A purchase of 53,200 miles set me back 1,123.34 USD, or 2.11 cents per mile as compared to the regular 2.96 cents per mile. As such, at 27,500 miles for the tickets, it came up to 580.67 USD plus taxes and fees of 91.20 USD.
Or, a total of 671.87 USD…
Quite possibly, this is the cheapest way to fly “real” international first class.
Given the limited amount of routes that Cathay offers first class on within Asia and the oftentimes limited award ticket availability, this is not something that can be taken advantage of easily on a regular basis.
However, if you are looking to try first class without spending an outrageous amount of money and you happen to be coming to Asia, this is certainly something you should look into.
And, on a separate note, the other half of the miles I bought, I used on a Japan Airlines business class between Jakarta and Delhi via Tokyo. You can read a bit about how the booking worked here, and my review of the Jakarta to Tokyo flight here.
As for the Delhi flight, I will fly it later this year on my way to Europe. And yes, I am taking a detour via India to fly on the KLM 747 between Delhi and Amsterdam – so, stay tuned!