How you can fly first class as a simple traveler
Flying first class is fun. That's because in first class you often sit in a separate cabin onboard, usually get very good service, sometimes caviar, expensive champagne, sometimes a limousine service to the airport and separate lounges. In short, it is a super exaggerated luxury. And that's why first-class flights are fun.
And although we are all stoics and down-to-earth travelers, of course, first-class is something we want to experience. The experience is therefore extra fun if you just, like me, have a simple income and will never experience first-class as normal in your life.
In this article, I explain how you can fly first class as a simple traveler, just like me.
Select flight routes
Now the first-class experiences at airlines are quite different. In addition, not all airlines offer a first-class cabin. On most aircraft, there is economy class and business class, and possibly premium economy class. Sometimes there is only economy class and sometimes something dangling below economy class.
So there is limited choice and within the choice also quite a lot of difference.
First-class on an aircraft is a well-considered choice for an airline. For example, Qatar Airways only flies with first-class cabins (from Doha) to Frankfurt, London, Paris, Guangzhou, Melbourne, Sydney, and Bangkok (and vice versa of course) and it also calls business class seats to Kuwait, Muscat, and Amman first class. And that while Qatar Airways flies to more than 160 destinations in total. So there are more than a hundred destinations where Qatar sees no point in offering first-class seats.
If you would like to fly first class, but just to experience it 'just for a while´, you can of course also choose a short route. But in general, there is a higher probability of having a first-class cabin in an aircraft flying on a long route than on a short route.
There are, of course, exceptions that prove the rule. For example, Singapore Airlines offers first-class seats on the Jakarta — Singapore route. That's a relatively short stretch that can be flown in an hour and a half, but apparently, there are plenty of people willing to pay €1095 (single) or €1775 (return) to experience this flight in first class.
You can also book with Emirates between Bangkok and Hong Kong (about a 3-hour flight) in first class for less than €1000. You pay (a bit depending on offers and price changes) €815 from Bangkok to Hong Kong and €914 the other way. €1287 return Bangkok — Hong Kong and €1095 return the other way.
Collect Airmiles Points
Of course, you can also buy your first class tickets with points. And by points, I mean frequent flyer miles that you have collected from a frequent flyer program.
How do you save points?
There are countless frequent flyer programs where you can save points when you fly. You don't get one point per mile flown (air miles aren't necessarily airmiles) but you do get more points if you fly further, if you fly in a more expensive cabin and if you have a higher status with that frequent flyer program.
Which first-class cabins are worthwhile?
As mentioned, first-class differs per airline. Within the United States, first class is something completely different from Singapore with Singapore Airlines to foreign destinations. That is why we have made a list of five airlines that offer great first class.
British Airways is the flag carrier of Great Britain and flies to many destinations with first-class on board. 57 to be exact. So there the possibilities are almost endless.
The easiest way to fly first class is to pay for your ticket with Avios. That's what points are called at Executive Club, British Airways' frequent flyer program. You can save these points by flying with airlines within the Oneworld alliance, but also by transferring them from your American Express credit card, at a reasonable exchange rate of 5 Amex points against 4 Avios.
If you exchange those Avios for a ticket, you pay an x number of points for the distance flown. And that is divided into zones.
For example, for flights between 2001 and 3000 miles you pay 42,500 points, while for flights between 3001 and 4000 miles you already pay 68,000 points.
So although Doha (in Qatar) is only 352 miles from London than Kuwait, one flight will cost you 42,500 points (because it's 2909 miles) and the other 68,000 points (it's 3261 miles). The lesson to be learned from this is that you can maximize your first-class experience by choosing a flight that just fits within the zone.
Qatar Airways regularly wins all kinds of awards for hospitality and service. First-class flying at Qatar Airways is therefore a party.
As mentioned, Qatar only has a small number of routes on which it offers first-class. Those in the Middle East are admittedly the shortest (and also relatively cheap with points), but you're just sitting in a 'normal' business class seat and not in a suite, as it should be in first class.
From Doha to the previously mentioned Kuwait it is only 18,000 Avios and €64. So, because British Airways is a partner of Qatar Airways, you can book a ticket with one airline for another.
Emirates is quite popular on Youtube. The fake gold-covered interior in the many first-class cabins is unparalleled and for most people, the ultimate proof that it is 'luxury'. And it is. Emirates is beyond the category. So let's look for a nice first-class ticket.
There is a problem. Emirates is not really friends with other airlines. That's because they're not in an alliance. Yes, they do have some loose agreements of their own, but that doesn't help either. So there is not much else to do than wait until you are willing to pay the money or save points at Emirates for years.
The flag carrier of Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific is fantastic. The airport too. And Cathay is now the third proof of why it is useful to save points with British Airways' frequent flyer program, Executive Club. Because you can also buy tickets at Cathay with Avios points.
We first look at which routes have a first-class product at Cathay Pacific.
Those are first-class flights between Hong Kong and Boston, Chicago, Frankfurt, London Heathrow (sometimes), Los Angeles (sometimes), Milan, New York JFK, Paris (sometimes), San Francisco (sometimes), Tokyo Haneda (sometimes), Vancouver ( sometimes) and Zurich and between Vancouver and New York JFK.
The Singapore Airlines Private Room is something else. Normally, with a certain status in a frequent flyer program or with a first-class ticket from one airline, you can also go to the first-class lounge of another airline. But at Singapore Airlines there is also The Private Room. It is a first-class lounge (with separate rooms again) in a first-class lounge.
In addition, as a Singapore Airlines first-class passenger, you have a separate entrance at the airport, you can check in in a separate first-class area and go through special first-class passport control.
Singapore Airlines has its own excellent frequent flyer program, KrisFlyer, with which you can save points by flying with Singapore Airlines and their partners, mainly airlines in the Star Alliance. But you can also exchange your American Express points for Singapore Airlines KrisFlyermiles at an exchange rate of 5:4.
It is not very easy to fly first class if you are not rich. But that's quite an open door. At the same time, a lot is possible if you carefully research which zones are relatively easy to book with points. You can then transfer those points from your American Express card making that you find cheap first-class tickets.