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Flying just to fly – First Class Farewell Tour

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With the impending February 1 United devaluation and a couple days off of work, I convinced my better half to embark on a First Class ‘Farewell Tour’ of some of our favorite products knowing international first class access will become significantly more challenging than it is in current form.

We’ve generated a lot of great memories aboard First Class over the last couple years so while a ‘real’ trip with a ‘real’ destination would have been preferred, the days available for this trip left us only with time in airplane cabins, airport lounges, and a couple very short days to explore Hong Kong and Mainz, Germany.  Not my finest plan ever but worth a shot….

Our favorites

We love Lufthansa new First Class on the 747-400, Cathay (on anything they’ll fly!) and the A380 so that became the focus of our trip.  Lounge-wise the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Thai First Class Lounge in Bangkok and The Wing in Hong Kong have been our favorites so we included them in the routing as well.

We bundled all those together and booked the following route maximizing air time and minimizing ground time.  The total cost was 70k United miles per person and 67.5k American miles per person.

The time totals were:

  • ~22 hours aboard Lufthansa new First Class on the 747-400.
  • ~15 hours aboard Cathay 747 First Class in the nose
  • ~6 hours aboard Thai A380 First Class
  • ~10 hours on the ground in Hong Kong
  • ~18 hours on the ground in Mainz

map

All of these products and lounges have been covered ad nauseam on the blogs so there is little need to reiterate though I will share my unconnected takeaways from the trip.

Is flying just to fly around the world fun?

Yes and no.  I did an around the world trip by myself last year where the trip was primarily flying First Class products with only minimal ‘destination’ time and found the excitement wore off extremely quickly in the trip. The over-the-top nature of traveling First Class is sustainable if enjoyed with a good friend or loved one but alone the presumably 60+ hour journey is both taxing and lonely.  I would advise against doing a similar flying-only trip unless you have someone to enjoy it with and only if you both truly love flying.

Pack Light.  You’ll need space for the goodies.

Four long-haul First Class flights in near succession for two left us with a hefty stash of pajamas, amenity kits and rubber ducks.  We needed an entire half suitcase to keep these items that will likely waste space in our closets until we make a Salvation Army run.

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You probably don’t want to see the unwashed pajama heap on the floor

Cathay delivers.

With 15+ International First Class flights across various carriers under my belt over the last few years, I can still proudly claim Cathay Pacific First Class as my favorite. Each and every flight is so enjoyable. The food is phenomenal. The seat is both the best seat and bed, more comfortable for sleeping even than the dedicated Lufthansa 747-400 bed. The service is flawless.  Coincidentally it remains one of the easiest First Class awards to obtain.

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Lufthansa food is still terrible

Yes, it’s true.Though we love just about everything else about Lufthansa new First Class the food is nearly inedible.  Lots of fancy words on the menu does not transfer to an enjoyable dining experience.

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Exquisite Black Forest Ham entree

The bottom line

Our trip around the world was extremely enjoyable and a great way to bid a symbolic farewell to easily attainable International First Class awards using United miles (and presumably American miles in the not-so-distant future).  At no point during the lengthy journey were we overly tired or wishing the trip would be over with.  It is unlikely we would have embarked on such a trip if it hadn’t been for the impending devaluation so in that respect, the devaluation yielded an amazing experience from an otherwise frustrating event.

Would you ever fly around the world…just to fly around the world?

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

About the Author

About the author: Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at pmmalex@gmail.com

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Becky January 23, 2014, 12:54 pm

    I’m glad you had a good time, but I personally would never fly around the world for no (or minimal) destination time. I understand the desire to hit your favorites before the devaluation, but I’d rather take half as many flights at the new price but with twice the time and memories of a new locale to explore once there. Appreciate a different viewpoint nonetheless!

  • David January 23, 2014, 2:11 pm

    What is your preferred method of booking Cathay Pacific flights?

  • David January 23, 2014, 2:13 pm

    by method, I am of course referring to booking award tickets, not buying tickets :-)

  • Justin January 23, 2014, 2:13 pm

    Hmm if the kits are just going to the Salvation
    Army- any chance can I buy a couple of the Rimowa ones?

  • alex January 23, 2014, 2:20 pm

    @David – I’ve always used 67500 AA miles for First Class on Cathay to Asia. BA.com is where I locate availability and then I put in the call to the AA Award Desk with the flights showing availability. At the last minute Cathay opens up the cabin to partner awards very generously.

    @Justin – The kits will show up in some future PMM giveaways.

  • Bill n DC January 23, 2014, 2:49 pm

    I like to fly and agree with Cathy Pacific as a great 1st Class. My RTW trip last October included an overnite in HKG, SIN & LHR with about 8 hours in CPT. I was never bored, well maybe a bit in the tight nose of the BA747 CPT-LHR.
    IMO you would do better to donate to Goodwill not the homophobic religious denomination you mentioned. Thanks!

  • christine pincince January 23, 2014, 5:11 pm

    how about giving away the soon to salvation army kits with a drawing or something. i would love those! and i know others would too. it wouldnt matter to me what you had already used out of them. thanks for considering it.

  • Kate January 23, 2014, 7:50 pm

    Sounds absolutely miserable to me. Getting there in comfort is fabulous, but it is about the destination for me. I just wish I could beam over like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. No airplane could compare to the comfort and amenities of my own home….but that ‘s me. You sound excited and I hope you have an enjoyable time.!

  • carol January 24, 2014, 4:37 pm

    What class of service do I look for when I am searching Expert Flyer for Cathay, Lufthansa and Thai for First class award tickets?

  • Tproc February 7, 2014, 12:40 am

    Among all the A380 F products I have tried so far, SQ’s beats them all.
    139 trip report pics.

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