First Class

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I just arrived in Los Angeles after 10 hours flying Asiana First Class on its brand new A380. I booked my seat last month for 70,000 United miles (at pre-devaluation prices using this trick.)

This is a really important trip report because Asiana First Class is a true luxury product that is extremely easy to book with miles!

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Champagne wishes & caviar realities in Asiana First

Award space on the Asiana A380 is wide open in Business Class and First Class between Los Angeles and Seoul, especially at the last minute. Here’s a search for 4 passengers between Seoul and Los Angeles for the next two months. The blue and green days all have award space in Business or First Class or both for 4 passengers on the same flight.

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This flight has 4+ Business Class and 4+ First Class award seats on the same Asiana A380.

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I very much enjoyed my Asiana First Class experience, though there are some things the airline can improve.

  • How was the seat, bed, food, service, lounge, and airport experience?

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I’m sitting in the Asiana First Class Lounge in Seoul, about to fly one of the newest and hopefully best First Class products in the world on the Asiana A380.

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First Class Suite on Asiana A380

I booked the ticket for 70,000 United miles and around $150 all in because you can still book awards at the old pre-devaluation United award prices.

On a whim, I checked the cash price for the ticket. United is selling today’s Asiana flight for 3.7 million Korean won, about $3,560 one way in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.58.45 PMI am actually surprised that the flight isn’t much more expensive. This year I flew Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong for 67,500 American Airlines miles and $27.50. A similar flight goes for $11,271 one way if you buy it from American Airlines (oddly $5,000 cheaper than buying the Cathay Pacific flight from Cathay Pacific.)

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These eye-popping prices made me think: How rich would I need to be before I bought these flights with cash?

  • How rich would you need to be before you bought First Class with cash?
  • Why do I redeem miles for First Class instead of economy?

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You can take up to three showers in the First Class Shower Spa onboard Emirates A380s on a single award that costs only 100,00 Alaska Airlines miles. Emirates Airlines First Class is the standard for luxury as the only airline with two showers onboard in which the 16 First Class passengers can freshen up.

In January 2013, I flew Emirates First Class from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia–one of three tag flights between New Zealand and Australia.

I enjoyed the chauffeur service, lounge, onboard bar and meal service, suite, and the shower.

I have wanted to get back into Emirates First Class on a longer flight since then, so I started collecting Alaska Airlines miles, which are the means by which Americans can take a 7-mile-high shower.

Since opening three Alaska Airlines personal cards and two business cards, I have 140,000 Alaska Airlines miles.

Alaska charges only 90,000 miles one way in First Class from the United States to the Middle East or India and only 100,000 miles one way to Africa, East Asia, or Europe. It’s quite simple to book over 24 hours worth of Emirates First Class flights on a single one way award, and I’ve even found a routing that gets you three Emirates A380 First Class flights on a single award.

  • How can you get Alaska Airlines miles?
  • Where can you search Emirates award space?
  • How can you maximize an Emirates First Class award with Alaska miles?
  • What routing features three Emirates A380 flights?
  • What are the stopover rules for Alaska awards?

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This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to ZurichThai First Class: Paris to Bangkok on an A380, and the Thai Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok already.

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After a relaxing night at the Park Hyatt Seoul (a great value at 15,000 Hyatt points/night), I took the coach bus from the Gangnam bus terminal to Incheon airport at 10:00 a.m. The trip was long, but the comfortable bus saved me plenty of won over hailing a taxi.

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment in Asiana First Class? How does Asiana First Class stack up against its competitors?

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I recently flew Malaysia Airlines First Class on an A380 from Paris to Kuala Lumpur. The service and food were incredible on the flight. The seat and bed were extremely comfortable and spacious, and the entertainment system on the huge television made the flight pass quickly.

I went into the flight with very high expectations. It was my first flight in First Class on an East Asian carrier, and I’ve heard the service is just better on the top Asian carriers.

I had never been to Southeast Asia, so I decided to fly Malaysia Airlines First Class on an A380 to Southeast Asia for two weeks, returning to Europe on a Thai A380 in First Class.

Having completed that trip, I can say that I am very happy I took two weeks off from Europe to travel in Southeast Asia and that the flight in Malaysia Airlines First Class is my second favorite flight ever, only behind Emirates First Class.

What was my take on the service, food, entertainment, seat, bed, and A380?

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My friend, Ryan from MA, recently took a trip to Italy and Taiwan during which he flew Lufthansa First Class, Asiana First Class, Thai First Class, ANA First Class and entered some of the world’s nicest lounges. I’ve asked him to do a series of trip reports, so we can all be inspired by some of the otherwise out-of-reach experiences miles can afford us. This is the first trip report on Lufthansa First Class.

After 5 days in Rome and 1 day in Bologna, my wife and I took a short Lufthansa business class flight from Rome to Frankfurt. I really enjoy flying Lufthansa business class because their food is always delicious even for an hour long flight. American airlines should really step up their food offerings especially for domestic first class passengers.

Delicious cured meat, hot toasty breads, and panna cotta

When we arrived at Frankfurt Airport, we went to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. The Lufthansa Senator Lounge is the main lounge for all first class passengers that are not flying Lufthansa First Class. This was my first time in this lounge, and I knew it wouldn’t be as nice as Lufthansa First Class Lounge or First Class Terminal but looked forward to trying a new lounge out.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge

How was the Lufthansa Senator Lounge? How was Asiana First Class?

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The 50k mile bonus offer is back on the Lufthansa card mentioned in this post until 6/30/14. Get it now!

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchases or balance transfer
  • Earn an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Cardholders receive a companion ticket after first use of the account and annually after each account anniversary
  • No Foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance member airlines and on other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee. Please see Terms and Conditions for complete details

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

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One of the best and most easily accessible First Class awards for an American is Lufthansa First Class with United miles.

If you’re going to fly Lufthansa First Class, you might as well fly the newest Lufthansa planes, right?

Check out Tahsir’s trip report of Lufthansa First Class, which is enough to make me jealous, though note that neither the A380 nor the 747-8 have the seat-plus-bed design.

A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on The Coolest Thing You Can Do with 57.5k United Miles and 10k Avios, which arose from daydreaming about booking myself more award trips.

The last few days I’ve worked myself into a frenzy planning an incredible-value American Airlines Explorer Award around the world in business class for 130k American Airlines miles and the most opulent Explorer Award possible for 280k miles.

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I continually fail to enforce a moratorium on award booking for myself. I want to finish flying all the awards I have lined up and have no more scheduled. Not only would I have the freedom to spontaneously plan my next trip on a moment’s notice, but I could take advantage of last-second-only deals like Lufthansa First Class with United miles.

But sometimes I can’t help myself. Four months ago I booked my favorite award to date, using 100k US Airways miles to string together 4 longhaul business class segments and four continents. Add in the trips I plan to take in South America over the next few weeks, and I had my next five months of travel planned.

from gcmap.com

But then a chance to book new oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines First Class on an A380 presented itself, and I jumped on it, even though the date is in the middle of my planned time in Europe. Then I thought, “Well I really have to book another award to get back to Europe to continue that trip.”

from gcmap.com

This is the story of that last award: 65,000 United miles for 12 hours in First Class on a Thai A380. This award describes segment-by-segment searching, which is the hallmark of many successful award searches, and maximizing region-based miles in an advanced way.

This is the second post of ?? many about Tahsir’s around the world trip. His first post was here, and I’ll keep that post updated with links to all the posts.

After departing the gate, the flight to Frankfurt officially began. We were offered pajamas, amenity kits, and a pre-departure drink with macadamia nuts. I don’t drink alcohol but I’m an avid fan of Ginger Ale. I’d like to report that the Ginger Ale was amazing! It was so crisp and fresh. After asking for my fifth glass, the purser notified me that I had depleted the amount of Ginger Ale for First Class!

I looked around and noticed that the cabin was actually really wide. The middle portion of the plane was just there to stand around and mingle.

The seat was also pretty nice. There’s a storage shelf by your foot and a lot of storage by the seat behind you. The seat doesn’t fully recline but it reclines to a very comfortable lounging position.

There is a shoe storage are on the left side of the seat. It’s almost hidden until you push a part of the bottom seat to where the storage pops out. There is also a lot of storage in your left hand console. I was able to store my laptop and other accessories there.

The power outlet is on the right hand side of the seat. It’s kind of hard to find at first, but it’s there.

The one thing Lufthansa didn’t think about when placing the television was that people might want to watch TV from the bed. I was lying down and couldn’t see anything due to the TV facing the seat. There is no swivel for the TV to turn to the bed. It didn’t matter anyways because their system had nothing good to offer.

The bathrooms on the 747 are extremely cramped and it was hard for me to change into my PJ’s in the bathroom. The bathroom however, did smell good!

The New Lufthansa 747-400 First Class
The Men’s Amenity Kit

The flight was relatively full with 6/8 First Class seats taken. There were three other points aficionados. We all took pictures of the cabin after the one person who looked like he flew this flight a million times went to change! I made the mistake of selecting the first two seats for us because we kept taking a lot of pictures and I felt bad!

The First Class Cabin

The actual time from gate to take-off was about 10 minutes. We left at around 3PM so we got amazing views of… the sky.

Menu cards were soon handed out and today, our meals were inspired by the Mandarin Oriental’s New York chef Toni Robertson. Our options for appetizers are as follows:

  • Caviar with the traditional Garnishes
  • Nantucket Scallop with Ham and Split Pea Puree
  • Seared Beef Tataki with green Papaya and Peanut sauce (I chose this)
  • Beet Ravioli stuffed with creamy Goat Cheese and toasted Pistachios.
Our options for dinner were as follows:
  • Tenderloin of Beef with Sweet Potato Hash & Ginger Plum Chutney
  • Poached Lobster Tail and Claw in Saffron Reduction with Simmered Mushrooms & Butternut Squash (I chose this)
  • Semolina Potato Cake with Tomato Cream Sauce
  • Braised Chicken Breast with Tamarind Sesame Glace
All were served with salad/leaves and a “delicious” dressing.
For dessert, there was:
  • A Variety of Cheeses & Grapes
  • Warm Chocolate Cake with Yogurt Ice Cream (I chose this)
  • Creme Caramel

All of this sounded really, really gross. I don’t know about you guys but what’s up with the Lufthansa menu these days! I’ve heard in the past that Lufthansa tries too hard with catering and this is one case. I know there are people that enjoy this type of food but I’m more of a KFC guy ;) [Scott: Maybe you should fly JAL economy and let us fly Lufthansa First then ;)]

Before handing out any appetizers, the purser came around and gave us all a seared salmon plate with cucumbers. It was so bad I had to hold my breath and eat it.

Seared Salmon with Cucumber
Table Setup
Beef Tataki
Salad/Leaves
Poached Lobster Tail & Claw in Saffron Reduction

 

The dessert was actually the best part of the entire meal because they had an amazing chocolate cake! The ice cream was good too!

Chocolate Cake with Yogurt Ice Cream

After dessert, I decided to get some sleep. I got into bed, which is still such a weird thing to say 35,000 feet in the air, and I started to fall asleep. About three hours later, I woke up because my face felt super dry. I called the purser and he brought me some water. It’s kind of weird because Lufthansa doesn’t really have a snack menu or anything. When someone wakes up and asks for snacks, they’re a bit perplexed as to what to do. The purser did find some cookies from business class that he brought up with my water. I couldn’t sleep so I laid down and had one of those life moments. It’s crazy how you can lie in a bed at 35,000 feet and just look at the stars with such clarity. It was such an amazing sight and I wish words were able to capture just how much that one moment meant.

I stayed awake for the rest of the flight no thanks to the entertainment system. The selection of movies and video is very limited on this flight. I don’t know why but there were only about 10-15 movies total.

About an hour and a half out from Frankfurt, breakfast service started and had the following options:

  • Yogurt with Dried Fruit
  • Cereal Granola Mix
  • Cornflakes and Milk
  • Smoked Salmon, Turkey Pastrami and Grilled Chicken Breast
  • Scrambled Eggs Freshly Prepared on Request
I wasn’t too hungry so I chose the cornflakes and grilled chicken breast. Both of those were good!
Cereal

The fresh squeezed orange juice hit the spot! It was really good and very pulpy. The purser kept coming to us and checking if we needed anything else. Note that the pretzel bread on these flights are really good! I took 4-5 pieces of pretzel bread.

Fresh Orange Juice

After breakfast, I changed out of my PJ’s and sat back in the chair. I started to speak to the guy behind me about his travels and points adventures. I found out that he was going on the brand new Thai A380 from Frankfurt – Bangkok! Eventually, we were told to fasten our seatbelts. Upon landing, the purser and other attendants came by and thanked us once again for flying with Lufthansa.

Overall, this was an amazing flight and such a technological advancement over other First Class cabins. Other than the food, this is a solid way to get to Europe and beyond! I plan to fly this flight another day!

Stay tuned for my next post!

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The images in this post are showing up smaller than I’d like. I can’t solve it, but if you just click on them, they’ll go full screen.

Incredible Sub-$800 First Class Fare from Myanmar

Both FlyerTalk and MilePoint are absolutely buzzing about a Star Alliance premium cabin mistake fare departing from Yangon, Myanmar and ending in Montreal, Canada.

The trip routes through Tokyo, Zurich, and New York, and all legs are in premium cabins on great carriers such as Swiss and All Nippon Airways. This fare is tricky to book, so make sure to follow the step-by-step instructions below.

The key to finding the deal is locking in the first leg, All Nippon Airways Flight #914 from Yangon, Myanmar to Tokyo-Narita. ANA Flight #914 departs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

You should begin any booking with those dates. As an example, I began searching for this fare by departing on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013.

Log on to Travelocity and choose a multi-city search. It appears that while sites such as Orbitz will price the trip correctly, it is only bookable on Travelocity.

This will take you to the multi-city booking page. From there you will need to enter the cities and departures in a very particular way to get this fare to price correctly.

Study the above picture carefully. You will need to plug in each city pair separately. You will be traveling from RGN-NRT, NRT-ZRH, ZRH-JFK, and JFK-YUL.

As I mentioned before, the RGN-NRT leg must depart on a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday. The NRT-ZRH leg must depart one day after the first leg. The final two legs must depart two days after the first leg. Also remember to select “Business” as your preferred cabin.

So, with my first leg leaving on Wednesday, July 31st, my second leg must depart on Thursday, August 1st. And my last two legs must depart on Friday, August 2nd. Once you have input everything, hit “Search Flights” to check for this great fare.

If there is availability for the days you entered, you will immediately see the deeply discounted All Nippon Airways flight. The entire itinerary should be pricing below $800. If it doesn’t, you will need to experiment with dates back at the multi-city screen.

If you are seeing a fare in the range of $730, then there is bookable space! Select that low fare to continue booking.

The second leg, from Tokyo to Zurich, will appear bookable in Swiss First Class. Swiss has an incredible first class product, so this represents an astronomical savings over the “sticker price” and a unique opportunity to fly a product that is near impossible to book with miles. Select the lowest fare to continue.

The third leg from Zurich to New York-JFK will present several options. As you can see above, you can choose between Delta Airlines business class or Swiss Airways first class. I would certainly pay the extra $11 and bump up to the Swiss first class seat! Select the flight that works best for you and continue.

The final leg from New York to Montreal will be on Air Canada and most likely include a connection. Again, choose the schedule that works best for you and continue to the final booking page.

If all went well in the flight selection, you should see a screen similar to the one below.

Again, these fares could be pulled at any moment, so you will need to act fast.  Follow the instructions, and you should have no troubles. The real question, though, is how you are getting to Myanmar to start your incredible trip? Miles, perhaps?

Here’s Yangon Airport’s wikipedia page, which shows it is served by several major carriers. Getting there with Star Alliance or SkyTeam miles wouldn’t be too tough.

And getting home from Montreal should cost you 12,500 miles or fewer if you live in the US.

It is also worth noting that Myanmar requires a visa to travel into the country, so you will need to secure such documentation before starting your business and first class journey.

I don’t always mention visa requirements here. Before booking any trips for myself, I head to travel.state.gov and read the country-specific info to learn about visa requirements and any other pertinent info.

United Miles for less than 1.4 cents

For a limited time, the online shopping portal MyPoints is offering 150 points per dollar on all purchases made at the OpenSky website. The promotion is capped at $500 in OpenSky purchases, so with this you can get up to 75,000 MyPoints.

Why are MyPoints so valuable? MyPoints can be exchanged for all sorts of travel rewards, including United Miles. 10,100 MyPoints can be converted into 5,000 United miles. With this promotion, every $68 in OpenSky purchases will net you the MyPoints you need to convert to 5,000 United miles. Essentially, you are purchasing United miles for a little under 1.4 cents/mile.

As you can see on my Mile Value Leaderboard, I value United Miles at 1.81 cents per mile.  Through this promotion, you would be receiving a considerable discount on the miles along with whatever value you place on your OpenSky purchases.

The wording at the bottom of the promotion is a bit odd and makes the deal seem like it is for OpenSky points, not MyPoints. However, those posting over on the thread at Slickdeals seem confident that the promotion awards MyPoints.

As you can see from the highlighted portions of the promo, all purchases at OpenSky must be made through the MyPoints shopping portal. This promotion runs until September 30th, and MyPoints will be credited within 30 days after purchasing items at OpenSky. As mentioned earlier, this offer is also capped at $500 per household.

Keep in mind that getting credit for purchases made through a shopping portal is not always a guarantee. It is best to take screen shots of all your steps and save your order confirmation, so that you will have proof of purchases in case your bonus points do not post properly.

To take advantage of this promotion, you will first need to log onto MyPoints and create a user profile. Once your MyPoints profile is created, you will need to verify your email address and log back into the site. Once there, you should see a large banner promoting the OpenSky deal. Click on it to gain access to the OpenSky web site.

Click on the OpenSky advertisement, and it should take you to the promotional detail page that was featured above. Click “Continue” to access OpenSky’s website.

After clicking “Continue,” you will be taken to OpenSky’s website. You will need to click “Join With Email” and create an OpenSky log-in with a first name, valid email, and password.

After filling in the form, click “Enter Now” to be taken directly to the OpenSky website.

At this point, you will need to make your OpenSky purchases in order to receive the desired MyPoints bonus points. Again, every $68 in OpenSky purchases equates to 5,000 United Miles. Unfortunately there do not appear to be many inexpensive or useful items.

Once you go through the OpenSky site and make your purchases, be vigilant in checking your MyPoints balance to ensure the points post properly. If not, you’ll need your screen shots, order confirmations, and email receipts as evidence.

Recap

Mistake fares like this sub-$800 flight from Myanmar to Montreal, Canada don’t come around very often. The fact that you are able to sample first class on Swiss Airways makes it an even sweeter proposition. Play around with dates that work for you and book quickly.

The online shopping portal MyPoints is awarding 150 MyPoints for every dollar spent at OpenSky. You can convert MyPoints into United miles at a rate that makes this promotion the equivalent of buying United miles at 1.38 cents each.

This is a solid deal on such a valuable currency as United miles, especially if you can get any value at all from the things you purchase. Just be sure to take screen shots in case the points don’t post properly.

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