Flying Cathay Pacific’s First Class for $671.87: The Experience and the Booking

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.

The Experience

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.

The Pier

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.

Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge Bangkok

At the lounge, I had a couple of “Cathay Delights” and a bowl of noodles from “The Noodle Bar.”

Cathay Delight

Noodles

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.

Dinner Cathay Pacific First

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.

Cathay Pacific The Arrival

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.

Cathay Pacific The Wing Business

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.

Cathay Pacific The Wing Business

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.

Cabana

English Breakfast

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.

Dining Room Menu

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.

Day Suite

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.

Cathay First Fruit

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

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.

The Booking

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).

Cathay Pacific First Class One-Way

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).

Cathay Pacific First Class Return

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.

Alaska Award Booking

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.

Alaska Airlines Buy Miles

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!

 

Travel Products to Consider

Disclosure: KN Aviation is, among others, a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As such, if you purchase products or services through some of the above links, I might earn a commission.
 

Before you go... Here are 3 quick tips for travel:

For your convenience: Price comparison sites

When searching for flights and accommodation, use comparison sites that will summarize prices from a variety of sources including the airline sites and online travel agencies for you. I recommend HotelsCombined for comparing hotel prices and Momondo for comparing flight prices.

For your comfort: Unlimited airport lounge access

If you generally fly in economy class and don’t have an airline status, I recommend considering a Priority Pass Prestige membership which will give you unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges at more than 500 airports all over the world.

For your peace of mind: Travel insurance

Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage - whether through your credit card or through insurance policy purchased separately. This will help save your trip when you get sick or things stolen on the road, in other words, when things go wrong. In case you didn't get your travel insurance yet, I recommend getting a free quote from World Nomads. To save some time, you can also use the form below.

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