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I love sharing my travels, as you may be able to tell from my Instagram and Snapchat (thepointsguy), but that only shows a small portion of the actual journey. So on a recent trip home from Vietnam, I decided to record the whole thing on my GoPro and have an experienced editor make it into a clip I could share with you all. I plan on doing this for future flights so you can get a different view of what it’s like to travel on various products.
Hate videos? Fear not, I’ll still summarize my trip below, but trust me — take the 2.5 minutes and watch this video. Don’t worry, it’s not just video of my face chowing down on Caviar and Krug (though that does happen!); it’s also laden with tips on how you can experience the same. So if you like it, please share with your friends — if there’s a lot of interest, I’ll be taking the time to do them on future flights as well! As always, Tweet/Facebook me your comments. As with all new ventures, I’ll try my best to improve them as we go.
TPGtv recently took off for Vietnam (look out for full episodes starting February 1!), and we had a great time there. I can’t say enough about how amazing Vietnam is, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip back.
As for how I got there, I flew from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product, and then took the Eurostar to Paris where I flew to Hanoi in Vietnam Airlines’ business class. Although the trip there wasn’t the most luxurious experience — it was pretty far from it, in fact, since everything from the service to the seats seemed a bit lackluster in comparison to other premium-class products I’ve been on — I was excited to try out Cathay’s first-class product on the return home. I hadn’t personally reviewed Cathay first since 2012, so I was long overdue — and it didn’t disappoint.
There are no nonstop flights from Vietnam to the US (though I hope that changes with new airplane technology), so I decided Cathay would be the best option because there were several reasonable connection times at Hong Kong (HKG). Because it was Christmas Eve, I chose an hour connection in HKG because I’d rather be home with family than hanging in a lounge (even one of the nicest ones out there).
I booked this one-way ticket from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to HKG and then continuing on to JFK for just 67,500 AAdvantange miles and $62. If I had paid for the entire ticket in cash, it would have cost me a whopping $9,096. Although award availability is somewhat scarce far in advance, spots tend to open up as the date draws nearer, so be sure to keep an eye out on award availability in case anything becomes available.
Also, if you’re planning to redeem AAdvantage miles for phenomenal service like this, be sure to redeem before March 22, 2016. After that date (when the dreaded American Airlines devaluation takes place), the price of this same award ticket skyrockets to 110,000 AAdvantage miles!
After spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, you’ll get 50,000 AAdvantage miles — about three-quarters of the way to a fantastic award redemption like this (based on current rates).
Check-In and Lounge
Cathay Pacific usually flies a two-cabin aircraft and only sells business-class seats out of SGN. However, when I checked in online, I saw this was a 777 with first class, so when I got to the check-in counter at Ho Chi Minh City, I very politely asked the representative if I could be seated in first class because I was on a first-class award ticket. And, I lucked out. With a couple key strokes, she changed me from business class to row one — score! As I always say, it never hurts to ask.
The Rose Lounge at SGN was nice, but nothing crazy. There was a buffet of food and cute holiday decorations, but I just had a cup of coffee so I could really take advantage of the food and drinks on board Cathay’s premium products.
Seat, Service and Food
My seat was extremely comfortable on both flights. Even for my 6’7″ frame, I had plenty of room. As I found out on my two previous flights to get to Vietnam on Virgin Atlantic and Vietnam Airlines, this is not a given with all premium products.
The first-class seat on the SGN-HKG leg still served business-class food and beverage. The food was fine – the steak I had was fatty, but flavorful. I was a bit disappointed because unlike on its first-class counterpart, there was no Krug Champagne on this leg. I chose to stay awake for the duration of the two-hour flight, leaving the sleep for the much longer flight to New York.
When we arrived in Hong Kong, I only had a 45-minute connection (which is why my bag got left behind), so I didn’t have time to visit a lounge. The Dragonair lounge at HKG was the closest to my gate anyway— no thank you. I was saving my appetite for the nearly 16-hour flight to JFK.
As for the HKG-JFK leg of the trip, I was sitting in first class and received first-class service. The first-class cabin has six suites, and the seats are each 36 inches wide and have 81 inches of pitch. The seat turns in to a lie-flat bed and provided me with ample comfort to get some much-needed sleep before getting home for the holiday.
I’m personally a Dom Perignon or Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque kinda guy, but I can suffer through Krug when forced with no other option (first-class problems, I know).
The food on both flights was pretty good. My steak on the SGN-HKG leg was fatty, but it had a lot of flavor, which somewhat offset the fact that it wasn’t my preferred cut.
Cathay is known for handwritten notes (as they did on my last flight years ago), and this was no exception. The crew and note were top-notch and made flying a pleasure — something I wish I’d experience more on US carriers!
Lunch service began with a large bread basket and caviar. I chose the 2014 Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to go along with lunch service, which was a great choice. For my entree, I had roast chicken, which was pretty good. I finished up meal service with a great cheese plate and another glass of the terrific Babich Sauvignon Blanc.
From there, I sat back and relaxed for the remainder of the flight. I made use of Cathay’s terrific in-flight entertainment system, which is small yet very clear and responsive. The 15.4-inch display is maneuverable, so you can position the screen as you’d like.
There’s a large selection of entertainment options to watch on the IFE system — my favorite of which being shark videos. I lounged and watched a little bit before putting on my comfortable Cathay Pacific pajamas and catching some sleep.
Before I knew it, we were descending in to New York — just in time for Christmas Eve with my family.
Cathay Pacific’s first-class product is definitely a cut above the rest. It offers phenomenal service, good food, great entertainment options and an extremely comfortable and spacious seat. I booked this last-minute ticket for just 67,500 AAdvantage miles and $62, which I would do again 10 times over.
Cathay Pacific was able to get me from Asia back to New York just in time for Christmas Eve with my parents and dog. Although there was one hiccup on the trip (Cathay left my luggage in Hong Kong, which wasn’t as disappointing as when Etihad left my bag when I was flying The Residence), the above-and-beyond service and overall experience made up for that fact. Overall, I’m extremely impressed with this product and am looking forward to flying it again in the future — hopefully before the AA devaluation on March 22. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.