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If you’ve spent any time at a major international airport, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a massive Airbus A380 take off or land. It’s a wonder that a double-decker plane of this size can even get off the ground, let alone fly you across the world.
The size of the Airbus A380 allows airlines to create some fantastic first-class cabins with experiences to match. We’re going to take a look at five of the best first-class products that are currently offered by Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
Each of these options is almost guaranteed to provide a great experience and each one can be booked with points and miles. Let’s take a look at what you can expect and check out how you can redeem miles to fly them.
Emirates First Class
Emirates made headlines with its first-class product being introduced on its new Boeing 777s, but don’t sleep on its A380’s first-class experience. If you like bling, this is the first-class cabin for you.
From the moment you set foot in the first-class cabin, it’s clear what kind of experience you’re about to have: great food, Dom Perignon champagne, great in-flight entertainment and more. They’ll even give you a Polaroid camera so you can have fun documenting the experience.
If you need to stretch your legs, you can take the long walk to the rear of the business-class cabin to the fantastic inflight bar. Don’t worry, you can take your Dom Perignon with you.
Now, if Emirates first class is famous for one thing, it has to be its in-flight shower. First-class passengers on one of the airline’s A380s can enjoy the best shower in the sky. You have 30 minutes to relax and enjoy the spacious shower spa while you refresh before landing.
To book this luxury experience, your best bet is to redeem Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank miles or Alaska Mileage Plan miles. JAL Mileage Bank will often require significantly fewer miles, but you’ll be on the hook for fuel surcharges when starting your journey from the US and many other countries.
Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t require you to pay fuel surcharges, but it will require a ton of miles to book Emirates first class.
|Route||JAL Mileage Bank (round-trip)||Alaska Mileage Plan (round-trip)|
|New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP)||100,000 miles||390,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB)||135,000 miles||300,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB)||200,000 miles||400,000 miles|
Unless you have more Alaska Mileage Plan miles than you know what to do with, you’ll probably be better off booking with JAL Mileage Bank even with the fuel surcharges. There are a few clever ways to book with JAL Mileage Bank and avoid the surcharges if you return from a few select countries.
Etihad First Class (The Apartments)
Long before Singapore Airlines launched its new Suites Class product, Etihad had The Apartments on its A380, and it was easily the most spacious first-class seat available. While it might not be receiving the same level of attention as Singapore Airlines right now, it’s still an amazing way to fly.
Not only will you have plenty of space to roam, but the bed is also 6 feet 10 inches long which will be more than enough space to stretch out for almost anyone, even TPG himself.
If you want to stretch your legs or chat with some fellow first and business-class passengers, head to the inflight lounge at the rear of the first-class cabin. There, you can enjoy a drink and maybe even a snack.
Come mealtime, Etihad’s onboard chef will customize your meal if you so desire. So, give the menu a look and if you see items from the different choices that you would like to combine, just ask!
Finally, after a long flight, you might feel like you need to clean up a bit. Fortunately for you, Etihad provides an inflight shower to those seated in The Apartments. Make sure you schedule your shower when you first get to your seat to ensure an ideal time slot.
You could use Etihad Guest miles to book your trip in The Apartments but, often, you’ll be better served by using either American AAdvantage miles or ANA Mileage Club miles to book.
|Route||American AAdvantage (round-trip)||ANA Mileage Club (round-trip)|
|Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK)||230,000 miles||195,000 miles|
|Abu Dhabi (AUH) to London Heathrow (LHR)||125,000 miles||120,000 miles|
|Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Paris (CDG)||125,000 miles||120,000 miles|
|Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Sydney (SYD)||200,000 miles||210,000 miles|
Both American Airlines and ANA Mileage Club are transfer partners of SPG, but ANA also partners with Amex Membership Rewards. ANA Mileage Club will be your best bet when flying between AUH and CDG, JFK or LHR, while American AAdvantage will be your best between AUH and SYD.
American AAdvantage miles can also be earned directly from their co-branded cards with Barclaycard and Citi.
Lufthansa First Class
Lufthansa provides what might be the best first-class experience among airlines based in Europe. It’s famous for its First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport (FRA), which is one of the best lounge experiences on the planet, and the in-flight experience on the A380 is amazing as well.
Unlike many of the other first-class cabins we discussed, Lufthansa doesn’t have suites for each first-class passenger. That being said, you will have a very spacious and comfortable first-class seat with a privacy partition that can be raised or lowered at your discretion during the flight. Lufthansa also shows its thoughtfulness by placing a single rose in a small vase at each first-class seat.
When you’re ready to take a nap, you can put on your first-class pajamas and enjoy a comfortable lie-flat bed. Flying on the A380 is already a quiet experience, but the upper deck even more so.
Like with the options discussed, Lufthansa’s first class meal service is fantastic. From the champagne to caviar — with ice-cold vodka, if desired — to excellent main courses to the cheese course to dessert, it’s like a fine dining experience.
When you’re ready to book Lufthansa first class, keep in mind that its Star Alliance partners only have access to first-class award space about 14 days prior to departure. Additionally, most booking options will require you to pay hefty fuel surcharges when departing from most countries, including the US and Europe.
If you’re okay paying fuel surcharges of roughly $1,100 on a round-trip award starting in the US, these are some of the best booking options:
|Route||Lufthansa Miles & More (round-trip)||Aeroplan (round-trip)||Asiana Club (round-trip)|
|New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA)||170,000 miles||140,000 miles||100,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Nairobi (NBO)||210,000 miles||210,000 miles||160,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB)||210,000 miles||230,000 miles||160,000 miles|
Asiana Club is clearly the option that allows you to use the fewest number of miles in our example routes, but SPG is its only transfer partner, so earning the required miles is a bit tougher. Aeroplan requires more miles but is a partner with both Amex Membership Rewards and SPG.
You’ll notice Lufthansa Miles & More often requires even more miles but it does have the advantage of being able to book first-class awards earlier than 14 days prior to departure. As with Asiana, SPG is the only transfer partner of Lufthansa.
Additionally, it might be useful to use Singapore KrisFlyer or ANA Mileage Club to book Lufthansa first-class on some routes.
If you’re trying to avoid fuel surcharges, here are a couple booking options:
|Route||United MileagePlus (round-trip)||Avianca Lifemiles (round-trip)|
|New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA)||220,000 miles||174,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Nairobi (NBO)||260,000 miles||210,000 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB)||280,000 miles||210,000 miles|
Avianca Lifemiles is a transfer partner of both Citi ThankYou Points and SPG and requires significantly fewer miles. However, it does not always see the same award space as other Star Alliance partners. United MileagePlus requires more miles but the program is easy to use and is transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards—technically, SPG as well but the transfer rate is a poor 1 SPG Starpoint for 0.5 United MileagePlus miles.
Qantas First Class
Then we have Qantas first class. It’s without a doubt the best way to fly first class nonstop between the US and Australia. Qantas only operates an A380 out of two US airports to Sydney (SYD), but it is well worth connecting to enjoy this experience.
The first class cabin is arranged in a 1-1-1 layout, which means each passenger will have plenty of space. While Qantas doesn’t a provide a true suite, each seat is very private thanks to large partitions.
In fact, the seat is where Qantas first class really excels. During takeoff and landing, your seat will face forward, but you can swivel your seat toward your in-flight entertainment system during the flight. It’s also in this position that your seat can be turned into a bed.
For such a long flight, comfort is going to be especially important. Not only is the seat comfortable while you’re sitting and enjoy the flight, but the bed is also one of the best you’ll find on a plane. To top it off, you’ll be provided some nice first class pajamas maximum comfort.
Now, booking a first-class award ticket on Qantas is where the real challenge lies as award space is rarely released. If you’re able to find award space, these are some of the best ways to book first-class awards:
|Route||Alaska Mileage Plan (round-trip)||Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (round-trip)||American AAdvantage (round-trip)|
|Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW) to Sydney (SYD)||140,000 miles||220,000 miles||220,000 miles|
|Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD)||140,000 miles||180,000 miles||220,000 miles|
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles will be some of the easiest to earn thanks to partnerships with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and SPG.
If you need a connecting within the US on American Airlines, your award will actually be governed by a different Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award chart specifically for awards that include two or more Oneworld carriers. In this case, round-trip awards from either DFW or LAX will require 190,000 Asia Miles.
Alaska Mileage Plan easily provides the cheapest mileage option and miles can be earned either by transferring SPG Starpoints or with one of Alaska Airlines’ co-branded Bank of America cards.
Finally, American AAdvantage miles allow for easy connections on American Airlines from many US cities. You can transfer SPG Starpoints to your American AAdvantage account or earn more miles directly from co-branded cards provided by Barclaycard and Citi.
Singapore Airlines Suites Class
Singapore Airlines recently started rolling out its latest Suites Class product on its Airbus A380s. Without a doubt, it is the most spacious “seat” you will find on a commercial aircraft. Taking a page from Etihad (more on that carrier later), Singapore Airlines decided to separate the bed and the seat so you can easily move from one to the other without messing up your bedding.
A unique feature of Singapore Air’s new Suites product is the ability for the seat to rotate to different positions. Upon takeoff, you’ll be facing forward as is standard for most seats but, once in the air, you can rotate your seat to look out the window. You’ll even have a desk you can use during the flight.
Singapore’s also included the option to make a double bed between two suites. This might be the most famous aspect of its original Suites Class, so it’s no surprise it’s made it an option.
As with all first-class flights on Singapore Airlines, you can also expect amazing food — don’t forget to Book the Cook ahead of time to ensure you get the meal you want! Additionally, Singapore Airlines continues to have amazing flight crews that seem to know exactly what you need when you need it. If you like hot towels, you’ll have plenty.
Now, it won’t be easy to book the new Suites product just yet. It’s currently only available on one flight on three different routes: Singapore-Sydney, Singapore-London Heathrow (launches February 16, 2018), and Singapore-Hong Kong (launches February 18, 2018). On top of that, saver-level award space in Suites Class on these flights hasn’t been made available yet. If you’re lucky, you might be able to waitlist an award at saver level but even that can be hard to find and there’s no guarantee you will clear the waitlist.
Once Singapore Airlines starts opening up saver-level award space on these routes, you’ll need Singapore KrisFlyer miles to book it.
|Route||Singapore KrisFlyer (round-trip)|
|Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD)||160,000 miles|
|Singapore (SIN) to London Heathrow (LHR)||230,000 miles|
|Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG)||75,000 miles|
You can also book one-way awards for half the round-trip mileage cost. If you’re desperate to try Singapore’s new Suites Class, you can book a standard-level award, but a one-way award between SIN and SYD will require 150,000 KrisFlyer miles while an award between SIN and LHR will require 210,000 miles. If you want to try the short SIN-HKG route, a standard award will cost 70,000 miles one-way.
Singapore KrisFlyer is a partner of all four transferable points programs including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), you’ll have no trouble earning the required miles for this flight.
Whatever you do choose, make sure you celebrate the experience with a glass of Dom Perignon or Krug champagne.
There’s something about flying on a double-decker plane that is just fun and flying first class takes the whole experience to another level. If you get the chance to fly first class on any of these Airbus A380s we’ve discussed, I challenge you to not have a great time.
Once you’re on board, embrace the whole experience. Change into those first-class pajamas, enjoy a glass of champagne, enjoy the multi-course meals and a movie or two. If you have time, take a nap or get a full night’s rest. But if you’re having too much fun to sleep, no one will blame you.
Know before you go.
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