It’s been a long time dream of mine to have that ultimate luxury first-class experience. Many airlines these days are offering a fabulous first class product. Cathay Pacific First Class is considered among the best. When I found myself with the opportunity to fly from Miami to Singapore first class on this airline USING MILES, you know I jumped at the opportunity. Like literally, I jumped up and down on my bed for at least ten minutes. I bet you are wondering how I managed this? I will spill my secrets for how I got to fly Cathay Pacific First Class and Business Class using miles.
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I am an avid American Airlines loyalist and have been using their Advantage mileage program for ages. In my efforts to build massive amounts of miles, I almost exclusively use credit cards associated with Advantage such as the CitiBank credit cards. Over the past few years, I have opened and closed a few different ones, but the one that really blasted me with those marvelous miles was the Citi Executive Card. At the time they offered a 75,000 mile bonus if you spent 7500 in the first 3 months. Right now the bonus is only 50,000 miles and at one point it was 100,000 miles so keep an eye on it!
At the time of publication, there is an amazing limited time offer to get 60,000 miles bonus on the Citibank Platinum Card. This card has an annual fee of $95 that is waived the first year. If I didn’t already have this card I would jump on it!. The bonus is usually only 30,000 miles! You have to spend $3000 in 3 months to get this bonus. Do it people!
Spending the money necessary was not so hard to do, so I got my awesome bonus, kept the card for the first year while the interest was still zero, then canceled it. I liked the card, but I didn’t want to continue to pay the $450 annual fee. It was worth it in the first year because I had Admirals Club membership, and 10,000 miles applied toward elite status. Also that $450 paid for itself when I landed an award seat worth over $15,000! Getting the credit card award is only one of the strategies I use to obtain miles but that 75,000 was all I needed for my ultimate goal…to fly long distance in some pimpin’ first cast cabin.
For more details on how to accrue miles and spend enough money to get the bonus, read more: Beginner’s Guide to Flying Free
When you book with an American Airlines partner (with the exception of British Airlines), you cannot do this online and must call. Yes, you have to actually talk with someone in the Advantage program and they are actually quite nice. An alternative that sometimes works is to look on the British Airways website and see what’s available for the route you want on their partners (Cathay Pacific being one of these). If you see an award seat available, good chances that you can get it by calling American. This is a clumsy process and I wish American would allow you to book with partners more seamlessly. Not to mention that I had seen a Qatar Airways award seat available but when I called to book, it was not.
I knew that several of their luxury partners flew to Singapore so I called to see what was available. I was very flexible with my dates, which helps, and I called almost a year in advance. I’ve heard that to secure these ultra hard to get seats, you need to book either super early or last minute to have the best chance. What they offer truly changes day by day, one of the great mysteries of the airline industry.
I booked this flight in March of 2016 for Feb of 2017. Yes, I’m that crazy. I’m like a dog with a bone once I get an idea in my head. I simply called the Advantage number (it’s on my speed dial, right after my parents) and told them where I wanted to go and that I wanted first class. They gave me the choice of Cathay Pacific, an airline I knew to be fabulous, so I said yes, yes, yes!!!
I happened to get a flight from Miami to Chicago(this domestic leg on AA), Chicago to Hong Kong (Cathay’s Hub) and then Hong Kong to Singapore. For this review, I will focus on the Chicago to Hong Kong leg since that’s the most significant one. This flight is over 15 hours, one of the longest flights one can take and that give you ample time to enjoy this airline.
The special treatment starts at check-in. The first class check-in has virtually no line and your luggage is tagged with priority tags so that it will be removed first. These two things alone thrill me. You also are the first to board the airline. When you board, an attendant walks you to your seat which is to the left of the entrance, in the front of the plane. It is delightfully quiet with no other boarding passengers walking past. The Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 has 6 first class seats, one of the smallest in existence. It is a 1-1-1 formation and feels incredibly private and peaceful. I had seat 1A by the window.
It is a huge seat with 3 windows which allows you plenty of light should you want it. The suite has no door but still feels enclosed and private. There is a tiny closet to hang a jacket and a large cabinet to place any loose items you want on hand. There is an ottoman opposite the main seat which can be converted into a seat for a companion. They can even extend the dining table to accommodate said companion (if you have one) for meals. Otherwise, you just put your legs there.
Complimentary bose headsets are available until landing. There is a 15-inch television screen with a touchscreen entertainment system which can be adjusted after takeoff but is easy to watch in the current position.
You are introduced to your personal attendant for the flight. I had a lovely Filipina woman who I adored. She was very happy to take my photo doing ridiculous things that I probably should have been embarrassed about. She also encouraged me to drink too much wine!
You are offered Krug champagne before take-off and given a little introduction to the menu.
They provide a care package (my words, not theirs) with toiletries, an eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush, slippers and Aesop products. You are also provided with very well-made pajamas of the softest material ever. Plus you can kee them!
I kind of wanted to order everything but alas, I am a tiny person. There are both western and Chinese meals available.
The caviar starter, served properly in its tin with blinis and creme fraiche is something you want to stay awake for. For lunch, I chose the spiced black cod with coconut lentils
If you still have room between the main course and dessert you can get a cheese course. I had an impromptu flight of wine with mine. As I do.
My attendant seemed to be trying to get me drunk. She kept offering me more wine when I was clearly inebriated already. I couldn’t even finish the glass I had in front of me, but she insisted I have to try the French Chablis. How does one say no? She also refused to let me skip dessert. It’s like traveling with your ethnic grandmother.
Of course, I made room for the orange curd souffle and dulce de leche ice cream.
Needless to say, after the huge meal and all the booze, I was ready for sleep and those pajamas were calling my name. I went to the lavatory to change while they prepared my bed. You actually get a real pillow and warm fluffy blanket. Of course I took a photo. How could I not?
Your seat transforms into one of the widest fully flat beds in the sky, with a thick mattress and 500-thread-count cotton duvets, pillows, and cushions. Your sleepsuit, eyeshade, and soft slippers, tailored with touches of modern Chinese styling, are made with 100% organic cotton and designed by PYE, a quality Hong Kong brand. The women’s toiletry case include a variety of creams, including hand balm, facial hydrating cream and lip balm.
I slept for 8 hours (I try to get on the schedule of the place I’m going before I get there…if that makes sense). When I woke it was time for”dinner” (it felt like it should have been breakfast but because of the time change, I guess it was dinner time).
I had the chicken with the mushroom ragout.
The chocolate pralines came in a cute little box kind of like a special gift.
The first class service doesn’t end with the flight. If you are lucky enough to have a layover in Hong Kong, Cathay’s hub, you have access to a world-class lounge. This is available for both first and business class customers but amenities are different for each. There is a noodle bar and for first class only…a champagne bar. As if that isn’t exciting enough (I can never have too much champagne), they have shower cabanas. They are spacious and have those delightful Aesop products. There’s nothing better than feeling refreshed after a long flight and then chillaxing with champagne while waiting for another flight. At this point I had no idea what time or day it was after over 15 hours of travel and a 12 hours time difference. Nor did I care, since I was having such a great time!
My next flight was between HK and Singapore and was really nice, but sadly undocumented, probably because I was sleeping.
On the way back from Hong Kong to Miami, I was only able to get Business Class. I say that like it’s a bad thing but it was pretty darn awesome as well. It ended up “costing” me the same amount of miles…actually a bit more at 70,000 miles. Each way the fees were around $30. Again, this is one of the mysteries of the airline industry. I don’t understand how I only needed 67,500 miles for first class. If anyone knows, please enlighten me!
It was interesting to be able to compare. One marked difference was upon entrance to the airline since you don’t get to go to the quiet private front of the plane but instead turn to the right like everybody else. Am I doing a good job of sounding obnoxiously snobby? I hope you know me by now people. I’m poking fun at this whole experience but I just wanted to point out the differences.
The cabin was very large and very empty! Clearly, there is great availability last minute for these seats!
The configuration in this cabin is 1-2-1. The window seat is clearly the better option if you are travling alone. If you are with a companion the middle seat is nice so you can converse with a partner but it is still private enough that it’s not awkward with a stranger.
The remote control, lights and bose headsets in the cabin are pretty much the same as in first class. The seat is notably smaller but still comfortable.
They also provide a toiletry kit but a smaller one with a different brand of products.
The menu is slightly less gourmet than in first class, but still pretty swanky.
I had the smoked halibut and roasted pumpkin as a starter, followed by the pasta with zucchini sauce. It was delicious.
You are very well fed on this flight with three courses plus dessert. I can’t believe I was hungry enough to have a snack. Maybe it was because I was forcing myself to stay awake and watch movies so that I could more easily adjust to the time back in the United States…maybe it was because I just wanted to eat everything they had?
English Tea was available as a snack. I can’t resist those little sandwiches and scones.
After crying my eyes out watching every sad dramatic Oscar contender movie, I passed out from the carb coma and emotional exhaustion. Eventually, it was time for “breakfast” (I use this term loosely because with the time change and long flight, I have no idea what meal I’m eating).
I decided to try the Chinese breakfast. While it was fun to have dim sum on a plane, I have definitely had better.
Upon entry to the United States in Los Angeles, I transferred to a domestic American Airlines flight back to Miami. Sadly they had to give me economy since I made a last minute date change. However, when I checked in I explained to them that I had flown business the entire way until now and could they please upgrade me if there was space. I must have looked tired and pathetic because they were extremely nice about this and upgraded me right away!
The American Airlines 777 is the same plane I had just been on with a different paint job. The service wasn’t quite a nice as with Cathay but the business seat was exactly the same. I found myself right at home. LA to MIA is 5 hours so I was happy to be in comfort, especially after 2 days of travel!
I can honestly say I didn’t want these flights to end. How amazing to lounge in comfort with endless amounts of movies, wine and food. I would fly every week if it was on this airline. I can’t say enough good things about Cathay Pacific now that I have flown First Class, Business and although I didn’t write about it, I had an excellent experience a few years ago flying economy. Definitely, make it a goal to use miles like I did and get this round trip luxury experience for under $60! At 67,500 miles for a one-way first class seat, this is one of the best deals in the airline industry!