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On Friday, CNN published a list of the best first class cabins in the sky with contenders from all over the world. Interestingly enough, no US airline made the list. But what good is a list of amazing first class cabins if you don’t know how you can fly in one of them without paying exorbitant fares? That’s why we’ve taken their list a step further and explain how everyday points collectors can redeem to fly in style.

A Singapore Airlines First Class Suite bed on the A380.

1. Singapore Airlines: Unfortunately, Singapore’s much-touted First Class Suites cannot be booked with Star Alliance partner miles (like United or US Airways), so you’ll have to accrue Singapore’s KrisFlyer miles … about 1 million of them for a roundtrip award ticket from the US to Singapore. American Express Membership Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner with the airline, but there are rarely transfer bonuses and paying 7 figures in points is a steep price to pay considering you can get their non-suite first class product (which is still phenomenal) for a fraction of the price using your miles from United or US Airways.

SWISS's design-award-winning first class seats.

2. SWISS: Swiss flies non-stop from Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Montreal. For US-based flyers, one way to experience SWISS’s designer first-class seats is to use US Airways miles. The airline charges 125,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket from the US to Europe in first class. However, US Airways frequently runs mileage purchase promotions where they sell miles for around 2 cents a piece, making these first class flights only about $2,500 when using miles – not bad since these seats can retail for over $8,000!

Talk to your travel companion...or don't since your Emirates first class suite can become completely private.

3. Emirates: Though we’d all like to experience Emirates’ first class suites (and the shower!) on one of the airline’s long-haul routes from the US to Dubai, if you don’t have the miles to redeem for one of those, you can also hop aboard one of their “tag” flights—like from Sydney to Auckland or Hong Kong to Bangkok—where you can simply buy a first class fare for a relatively cheap amount in the $800-$1,000 range. Colombo in Sri Lanka to Male in the Maldives is another cheap route. Miles-wise, you will be able to use Alaska Airlines miles at some point later in 2012. Korean Air is also a partner of Emirates and a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, the points program of the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards. For the Australia to New Zealand flight, it would take 75,000 miles roundtrip, but for the Colombo-Male, it would take just 30,000 Korean Air miles roundtrip for a first class ticket.

Etihad's international Diamond First Class suite.

4. Etihad: The national airline of the UAE is actually a partner with American Airlines, so you can book a ticket in first class using your AAdvantage miles. Per American’s partner mileage redemption chart, You could snag a one-way seat from the US to Abu Dhabi for 90,000 AA miles, or think about taking an Etihad flight from Europe to Abu Dhabi for 40,000 miles each way in first class. AA is not a transfer partner of Chase or Amex, but you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to American with a 25% bonus for every 20k points transferred (for a total of 25,000 points). So that 180,000-mile roundtrip first class ticket would only cost you 145,000 Starpoints.

What it lacks in pizzaz, the JAL first class seat makes up for with extras like tempurpedic mattresses and six lighting settings.

5. Japan Airlines: JAL is another American Airlines partner (in the Oneworld alliance), as is British Airways. A flight from North America to Japan in first class on JAL would require 125,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip. There is also currently a 50% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios, so a first class ticket from New York to Tokyo, which would normally cost 210,000 Avios roundtrip, would only require 140,000 Amex points. Not bad for a seat that goes for over $10,000.

Lufthansa's brand-new A380 first class seats.

6. Lufthansa: Lufthansa is a member of Star Alliance, so you can book first class award tickets on the airline for as low as 135,000 United miles roundtrip, though based on a preliminary search, saver award availability for first class is scarce through the summer on routes from the US to Germany. You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Air Canada’s mileage program, Aeroplan, and book a seat for as low as 125,000 miles roundtrip. Another option would be to transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to US Airways (another Star Alliance partner) and book a roundtrip first class ticket for 125,000 miles, which would only cost you 100,000 Starpoints thanks to the 5,000-mile bonus on every 20,000 miles you transfer.

Minimalist yet luxurious, Cathay Pacific's first class seats are a TPG favorite

7. Cathay Pacific: Cathay’s spacious first class seats and service have garnered rave reviews. If you want to take one for a test drive yourself, say from New York JFK to Hong Kong, it would require 220,000 Asia Miles. However, since Cathay is part of the Oneworld alliance, you can also use your American Airlines AAdvantage miles or British Airways Avios points. A roundtrip ticket in first class using American miles would cost 135,000 miles, and using British Airways Avios would be 210,000 points—though again, there is a 50% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios until May 31, 2012, so you would only need 140,000 Amex points for this redemption.

You can use miles from United or US Airways (or even Chase Ultimate Rewards) to book your ANA first class suite.

8. All Nippon Airways: This Japanese airline has been turning a lot of heads lately, especially because it was the first to fly Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. To try their streamlined first class product out for yourself on a route from Los Angeles to Tokyo would require 160,000 miles roundtrip. The airline charges high award fees, though, so beware getting hit with several hundred (or even thousand) dollars in charges. The airline is also a transfer partner of American Express, so you could use Membership Rewards points to book a ticket as well. However, since ANA is a member of Star Alliance, it might make more sense to book a ticket using 175,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip instead, or transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to your United MileagePlus account for a Saver Award in first class, which would require just 135,000 miles.

Jet Airways has tons of airline partners whose miles you can redeem for a first class seat.

9. Jet Airways: This India-based airline has myriad airline partners including American, Delta, United and US Airways, so depending on where you have your miles stockpiled, you can use any of the US legacy airlines’ mileage programs to book your ticket. For instance, it would take 180,000 American miles, or 160,000 miles on United or US Airways for a roundtrip ticket from North America to India in first class. Just to note, Delta blocks first class award redemptions, so SkyMiles members are out of luck.

Use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book one of Korean Air's stylish first class seats.

10. Korean Air: The final Asia-based carrier on this list has been very busy lately accumulating a new fleet of planes as well as a host of awards and mentions for its premium services. Booking a ticket in one of their flagship first class Kosmo Suites costs 140,000 miles roundtrip off-peak, or 210,000 miles roundtrip for peak periods. Korean Air is a member of SkyTeam, but unfortunately, Delta blocks first class award redemptions, so if you want to use your miles to fly first class, you have to call Korean Air directly and try to book your ticket with them. They are also a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase, so you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards miles to a SkyPass account with the airline and redeem your miles that way. You could also book a ticket using Alitalia miles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, which are both Amex transfer partners, but they charge hefty fees that might make you think twice about redeeming this way.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Andrew

    I’m sorry, but you say you’re able to get SQ F award space using UA/US miles. Could you please clarify? I have never seen regular SQ F award space in the past, and while I understand they intend to start releasing more premium cabin space to Star Alliance partners, it has not been happening. Please clarify on which routes or dates you’ve seen availability. Thanks!

  • Grant

    Great post but I feel like I’ll never be able to afford first-class, but I can still dream right?

  • AspiringPointsMan

    Brian, I have been looking for First class tickets on United, from EWR-TLV. I think United blocks them out. What is the best way on that route to use points for first class?

  • RakSiam

    My HKG-BKK ticket for the EK F suite was only about $650. Will fly in December.

  • RakSiam

    There have been lots of bloggers reporting that SQ C class seats are available to *A partners now. Several took the EWR-SIN non-stop and reported on it. Seats on the flight via FRA have been available in the past as well.

  • http://pointstopointb.wordpress.com/ AKold

    A lot of why SQ F is #1 is their service and you can get non-suites F on their 77Ws from SFO/IAH for reasonable rates.

    I got HKG-BKK return for $820 … flew the first segment, it is definitely worth it. Only 3 hours long, but still enough time to enjoy the suite/shower. No chaffeur though, which is annoying flyin out of BKK.

    Also, Thai leases some aircraft with Jet Airways suites, so that’s an option for that product … flying that one next week.

  • arcticbull

    TPG, Jet’s relationship with Delta ends October 15th. I remember reading somewhere you already can’t redeem for their award space but I can’t find anything to back that up. Just throwing it out there.

  • arcticbull

    I’m booked 2x JFK-FRA-JFK on SQ25/26 :) for early July no less. During the Aeroplan point “sale” I paid 60,000 points per person round-trip in J, plus $150 in taxes/fees.

  • Lantean

    What about Asiana?

  • Kvchang1

    I think United/ANA block all the first class ticket from SFO-NRT, only business class available through United page.

  • DtC

    1) If I am planning to fly 1st class from NYC-ROM, which airline is my best bet?
    2) Are any non-stop?

  • Jmg4

    Hey Points Guy! Misssing you here at Pitt. Off to Tanzania for a study abroad program next month. Recommendations???

    Best to you,

    Jmg@Pitt

  • minghi

    I’ve a new name for Skymiles: SkyShillings (Somalian).

  • thepointsguy

    Hey there! Assume you’ll route through Europe.. from PIT you’ve got the daily Delta flight to Paris, though its on a 757, which aren’t the most comfortable, but it’ll be the quickest routing (and allows you to avoid JFK).

    No matter what airline you fly, make sure you get the miles and have a credit card that doesn’t charge you foreign transactions fees when abroad. For more on that (for your students) check out this post http://thepointsguy.com/2011/03/avoiding-foreign-transation-fees-on-points-and-miles-earning-credit-cards/

  • thepointsguy

    Well Delta, United and Alitalia all fly non-stop, but they only have business class. If you want true first, you’ll have to connect via another European hub, like Frankfurt or Zurich.
    Alitalia isn’t the greatest, but I actually enjoyed my last business class flight and it was on their 777, which is the old product http://thepointsguy.com/2011/10/alitalia-magnifica-business-class-review-rome-to-miami/

  • thepointsguy

    Agreed they should have bumped out Korean, but I didn’t make the original list!

  • thepointsguy

    Interesting- didn’t realize that. Booking Jet with Delta is always a challenge, since most phone reps are not used to booking those awards

  • thepointsguy

    What do you mean? Just get a couple of the best credit cards and you’ll be sitting in first class in no time!

  • Rak Siam

    You can fly Jet’s product on TG on the BKK-CDG route (planes are leased from Jet) as well as some BKK-NRT flights (but beware frequent a/c switches, happened to me last year ended up with the OLD TG F purple recliners instead.

  • Ded

    Perhaps you should add that in theory, you can get first class seats on Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, ANA etc for not very many miles, but in practice, it is close to impossible. Even Swiss and Lufthansa are pretty difficult to obtain on miles.

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Fielding

    If you’re going to JRO I’d recommend going to NBO then buying a separate ticket. It’s quite expensive to get there though. If you’re going to DAR you should be able to find quite a bit of availability starting at JFK, EWR or IAD. Ethiopian, KLM (via JRO so quite expensive), Emirates, Swiss, British, Turkish, South African all would provide one stop (or one plane change) service starting at one of those three listed.

    Make sure you have your Yellow Fever vaccination proof since they sometimes check it from Europe and always from other African nations. Also if you have your visa when you arrive you can avoid a lot of lines since many people wait until they arrive (though I assume you already have yours since it’s a student visa).

    If you get yourself to DAR I’d recommend flying Coastal, Air Excel or Precision Air for domestic travel, though you’ll have to use a travel agent with good African connections for most bookings.

    Hope this helps, I’ve only flown on KLM and Rwandair in to TZ and only to JRO but I’ve flown out of DAR and it’s not that bad of an airport when you compare it to GOI or NBO in my opinion.

    Have fun in Tanzania and watch out for Chinese food, people have actually been caught hustling dog meat there.

  • Andrew

    Yes, C has been available at times (hard to find now actually) but this article (and my comment) is about availability in F. Still curious as how it’s possible to get F award space using UA/US miles, as I don’t think it currently is.

  • arcticbull

    The reason I mention it is because SQ25 is an A380 route, which was previously unavailable for booking using anything other than Singapore miles, and is representative of their new relaxed policy on partner awards.

    You can’t actually book SQ F on any of their 388′s because it’s Suites class (“R”), meaning you must book first on their older 744/77W’s. It is available for booking on partner airlines but it’s hard to find. Out of North America I think you’re limited to SFO-HKG/ICN-SIN on SQ1/15 and IAH-DME-SIN.

    It’s easiest to find on their intra-asia routes, check out SIN-CGK on 5/27 via united.com — It’s available on 4 of the 8 flights that day :) And it’s sold as an F cabin meaning you’d be getting the full “experience” — not just a 3 cabin product sold as Business.

  • Andrew

    While I agree C/J started to become more available, SQ seems to have pulled back a bit releasing C/J award inventory. However, SQ still does not readily release F space in my experience (not just on A380, but 77W as well).

    Keep in mind that the flights SIN-CGK flights you mention are not at all comparable to the F class descried here. Those flights are operated with older style F cabins with 2-2-2 seating (not even comparable to the 1-2-1 business class arrangement on the A380 or new 77Ws). And I’d argue that it’d be hard to get the “full experience” on these flights as they’re not even 2 hours long.

    As for the new F product (described above), the main intra-asia routes that feature this product would be the SIN-HKG/NRT/ICN flights (and not every day). Those are not at all available for UA/US redemption in my experience.

    In the end, my point is just that it’s not easy (might even be impossible) to redeem the new F seats using UA/US miles, whether you’re looking at intra-asia or on the 77Ws to the EU/US/Australia. Heck, even Lucky from onemileatatime had to use KrisFlyer miles for his SIN-NRT trip recently.

  • Andrew

    Oh also, there are no more 744s as they were recently retired after a farewell flight from SIN-HKG and back. :( Good memories in F/J on that bird…

    Don’t mean to be harsh or anything – just want people to know the reality that SQ new F space is almost impossible to redeem for using UA/US miles. Would hate for less-experienced readers to get their hopes up…

  • Mitch

    Are you sure that FlyingBlue and MileMigilia can book Korean F? We had a thread on FlyerTalk a few months back where someone finally called up Korean and asked if they could book Air France F with SkyPass miles and were told they could not. I guess that could be since Air France only makes F awards on their metal available as flex awards, requiring elite status in FlyingBlue to book and twice the standard miles, but I’m under the impression that it’s just not possible to book partner F within SkyTeam.

  • Julianne

    Hey Points Guy,
    How about putting together a routing where we can experience ALL TEN of CNN’s top ten products using miles in a single trip and then let us know the routing and how many miles total we would need in each of the programs. I know it’s a ridiculous amount of work, but I bet the result would be eye-opening.

  • Cliff

    I have 250,000 amex points and have been trying to use them to go LAX to New Zealand business class. While you can do this with 90,000 points by transferring to ANA miles and booking through their Star Alliance partner program, in practice there are absolutely no tickets available regardless of what dates I am willing to travel. Is there another way? Would I have better luck with a double-transfer from Amex to one airline and then to another? Any advice? Thanks.

  • robin.joshua

    Such a great comfort with all the facilities, seems amazing. Well, when it comes to structure and design, seems the master mind behind those , as the things are much compatible for any business group.

  • Dale Appleman

    I have about 124,000 points & want to use for flight LA to Tokyo. Am I close for a flight?

  • Guest

    excellent guide

  • saraanthony73

    Well, actually there are many new innovations taking in action nowadays. Hence, there is especial case and furniture. For all kind of requirements, there is especial kinds of seat and berth.

  • Papakim

    How long does it take to move SGP miles to ANA? Is there any way to expedite this?

  • http://www.paramounthotelblog.com/ New York Attractions

    Interesting, did not realize that. Books with Delta Jet is always a challenge, since most phone reps are not used to arrange these rewards.

  • Karenconnolly2012

    is 30000 amex points enough to upgrade to business lon-dxb ?

  • Julie

    Hi Dale. I just redeemed 11oK air miles from my American Airlines account, only three weeks before departure, for a round trip Business Class ticket from LAX to Bangkok, via Cathay Pacific (their international airline partner). I travelled from LAX to Hong Kong non-stop, then Hong Kong to Bangkok. All business class. Also, when you redeem your miles for business class seats, you should know that you also have access to the business class lounges associated with that airline you are flying with. The lounges have complimentary food, beverages, drinks, free wifi, and some have showers, massage rooms, and sleeping areas. I am returning via Cathay Pacific from Bangkok to Hong Kong and then Hong Kong to Tokyo, then on Japan Airlines from Tokyo to LAX. Definitely call the airline you have your points or air miles with and spend the $25 to have them find you the best route as they will mastermind getting you to your destination using the least amount of miles, if that is what you need and want. Seeing as I got my air miles business class award tickets just three weeks before departure, I was fine with the various stop-overs to get me to and from Bangkok. After all, last minute planners cannot be choosers sometimes.

  • SmittyNYUSA

    I am looking for info on picking the best airline to redeem miles for FIRST CLASS tickets on domestic flights. Mostly DEN to JFK or LGA.
    Looking for the best deal, least miles for a first class ticket. Thanks!

  • jimbean

    lol

  • dina wardhana

    I want to make a huge complain for mr. choi chong soo, in flight manager of korean air
    Flight 17 december 2013 from jakarta 10 pm to seoul.

    Since the first time I’m in flight, he show no respect, being rude, no smile, being selfish, showing no empathy, only talk, didn’t do any service, and very talkative and dominantly talking.

    I’m buying 5 business class seats for me, my husband, my 3 children (9 ,8 and 2 years old), and also 2 economy seats for my nanny.

    I would like to ask 1 of my nanny to help with my smallest 2 years old child , to take him on her lap, entertain him, take care of him , giving him milk. Changing diapers, and so on.
    Only if my baby needs help.

    But mr. choi chong soo always go to me like 10 times and said my nanny should leave my baby, and can not help me in the business class.

    I tried to explain that my baby need the nanny to help her because I also need my rest (because its a 6 hours nite time flight), and I also have my other child that is not feeling well, but he doesn’t care and he keeps talking and didn’t want to listen to my reasons.

    I think mr. choi chong soo is so rude, selfish, doesn’t show any empathy to passanger especially with 3 young children. And 1 of my 8 years old children also not feeling well, so he need also extra attention from me, and 3 children is too much to take care, that is why I bring 2 nannies. Coz my 2 years old is so small, so my nanny can put him in her lap in business class and take care of him.

    I think mr. choi chong soo doest deserve to be in flight manager, event doesn’t deserve to work in a service area like flight airlines.

    I’ve never seen an in flight manager or even a steward as rude as him.
    I’ve flown away with lots of other airlines, like singapore airlines, cathay pacific, china airlines, garuda indonesia, emirates, turkey airlines, jal, and NONE of them give me trouble if I ask my nanny to help me take care of my baby in business class.

    And I’m really dissapointed on mr. choi chong soo because he didn’t show any empathy at all, instead he is being mean, dominant, very mean, with high voice and high tone, no smile at all, and forcing me 10x in the flight to listen to him and don’t wanna understand my situation at all.

    i do not recommend at all korean air, for family who travel with young children. in my other flights, the stewardess also sshhhh ing my kids all the time, without helping.

  • Anthony

    I have about 30k miles with Jet Airways that I want to transfer to Trueblue or Any American airline company. However, after spending hours researching online and calling companies I still don’t have a way to do it. Does anybody know how to about this? My flights are from New York to Brussels which American Airlines doesn’t take for some odd reason.

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