While I don’t mind flying economy, even for a long haul flight across an ocean, there is nothing quite like having a good meal, a flat bed and a few hours of real sleep to take the travel experience up to a whole new level.
My premium cabin experience is very limited. I’ve flown international first and business class on only one trip, when I headed to Australia for a week in early 2017. I flew United GlobalFirst on a 747 (before they were retired) and Asiana A380 business class, both of which were stellar.
But what other products are out there that I would really like to try? Although I’m sure everyone’s lists are different, here are my top five:
JAL business class Sky Suites
Japan Air Lines is known for some of the best service in the sky. On many of their routes, they offer a very nice business class product in their Sky Suites (SEE: JAL business class Hsneda SFO). I wouldn’t want to fly business class on their aircraft that aren’t configured with this product since the seats are still the old angle-flat nonsense.
LOL. Listen to me. Calling what I’m sure is a decent product nonsense. It just doesn’t make sense to me when there are far better options for the same mileage premium.
How to book? You can book JAL business class for just 60,000 AAdvantage miles each way between the U.S. and Japan. Another option is Alaska miles; JAL business class Sky Suites will set you back 65,000 miles to get to east Asia.
Asia Miles aren’t a bad option, either, between Japan and some European destinations, as you’ll only need 45,000 miles (maybe 50,000? Asia Miles is being tricksy, at the moment). British Airways Avios won’t really be a good deal, as long-haul business is a rather sour spot.
Cathay Pacific business class
Cathay Pacific is known for offering a solid business class product. The seats are in a reverse herringbone configuration on their 777s and A350s, every one offering direct aisle access. Service and catering are supposed to be top-notch. First class is even more renowned. I typically don’t look into booking first class since the mileage premium is often substantial, but it may actually be worth the mileage premium if booking with Alaska miles.
How to book? One of the best deals for Cathay Pacific business is still using Alaska miles (SEE: 5 awards that are ripe for devaluation). You can fly from the U.S. to East Asia for a mere 50,000 miles one-way, *including* a stopover in Hong Kong, if desired. You can get to Australia or New Zealand for just 10,000 miles more, or all the way to South Africa for just 62,500 miles. It’s amazing.
Other options include using 70,000 American Airlines miles to fly to Asia, or just 45,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (although this won’t apply to any ex-U.S. routes).
Lufthansa 747-800 upper deck business class
Lufthansa is one of the carriers I most want to fly for a 747 experience. Flying on the upper deck is something is on my bucket list. I got to tour the upper deck of a 747-400 when I flew in United first to Incheon (and more recently aboard a Delta 747), but my actually seat on that trip was 1A, on the main deck, in the nose of the aircraft. The upper deck still awaits me.
Lufthansa has a solid business product, albeit one that is geared toward traveling with a companion. I wouldn’t fly it if traveling solo, as the seats are configured to angle you slightly together, and the window seats don’t offer direct aisle access. However, the sneak peak of their new business class coming with the launch of the 777X is incredible.
Lufthansa First Class is obviously one of those major aspirational travel goals for some people, but at the mileage premium required, and generally huge fuel surcharges, I’m not too interested. Plus, I wouldn’t be on the upper deck.
How to book? I’ve been looking into flying to Europe in Lufthansa business class for 63,000(ish) Avianca Lifemiles per person since it is both a better price than United *and* no fuel surcharges are passed along. United charges 70,000 miles for Lufty business. I wouldn’t book with another currency, as the massive surcharges will get passed on, but interesting options are Asiana Club miles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. I will never be able to read or write Miles&Smiles with a straight face.
Ethiopian Cloud Nine business class
Weren’t expecting this one, were you? Ethiopian Airlines has been growing steadily, and as one of Africa’s biggest airlines, I’m definitely interested in flying their product. Is it cutting edge? Definitely not. Ethiopian Airlines is on the list for the cultural experience more than anything.
Ethiopian Airlines offers an interesting number of fifth freedom routes, so booking their long-haul 787 business class could be easily done. You could fly them between Buenos Aires and São Paulo, or Oslo and Stockholm, or Bangkok and Hong Kong. Just tack a segment onto another award.
How to book? Ethiopian Airlines business class can be booked with United miles on their fifth freedom route between Los Angeles and Dublin. Avianca LifeMiles should only run you 63,000 miles, if you can get the award to show up.
Booking between the U.S. and Africa is a bit more expensive, no matter how you slice it. Another unique option could be between São Paulo and Addis Ababa, which *should* price at a mere 50,000 United miles; however, I’m seeing the non-direct-flight price through the United website, which is over 100,000 miles one-way. #nothanks
You could also consider booking Addis Ababa to Johannesburg aboard their new A350 as part of a United Excursionist Perk within Africa.
EVA air business class
The Taiwanese airline is supposed to have an excellent business class product. Their “Royal Laurel” business class is an excellent choice between the U.S. and Asia. If you’re not headed to Taiwan, many other Southeast Asia destinations are just a couple hour connection away.
If you want to fly the Hello Kitty plane, EVA is your carrier. I’m not particularly interested in this. Dan tried (and failed) to fly it with his daughter recently. Sadly, he picked the one weekly EVA flight out of Chicago not operated by the Hello Kitty plane.
How to book? I’d most likely try to book with ANA Miles, since you can fly round-trip business for just 95,000 miles between east Asia and the U.S. Surcharges are even fairly minimal. No other program offers such a good deal. You’ll pay a bit in surcharges, but they more than make up for the difference in price. As a comparison, United charges 80,000 miles one-way.
I know…you’re probably thinking I forgot a few “important” ones. But this is my list. I’m sure I would also enjoy first class, but I personally find that the mileage premium required in most cases simply isn’t worth it. A quality lie flat seat is all I’m looking for, in addition to a cultural experience in some cases.
What premium products are you most interested in flying?
“Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Seat – Boeing 767-300ER” copyright TravelingOtter via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.