How to fly around the world (almost entirely) in first class for 150k miles

Sep 30, 2019

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Everyone loves a good round-the-world airline ticket. And while in the good old days you could stretch your miles on any number of carriers to book yourself a dream vacation, options today have gotten a little … slimmer.

This means that those of us wanting to make the trek have had to become creative, piecing together generous stopover policies and one-way awards to recreate the glory days. Thus, I present to you: The (Mostly) First Class Ticket Around the World Thanks to Alaska.

How does it work? Well, Alaska has one of the more generous policies when it comes to stopovers, allowing one stopover per one-way ticket, which you can leverage in order to maximize your time on the ground.

Leg 1: The US to Hong Kong

We begin by redeeming 70,000 Alaska Miles for a one-way ticket on Cathay Pacific. You can originate in any of the cities to which Cathay flies, which include: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle, Newark and Washington D.C. The mileage cost will be the same whether you fly from the East or West Coast, so if you can find availability nearer your home you can avoid a positioning flight.

Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

Whatever route you take, you’ll be spending around fifteen hours in one of the best first-class products in the air. It should be noted that you can’t book these awards online — you’ll have to call Alaska to secure your spot. If you’re trying to find availability, you can search either American Airlines’ or British Airways’ sites for decent chances to view open awards.

Stop 1: Hong Kong

Spend as much time as you like in Hong Kong — you’ve earned it. The city, famous for Victoria Harbour and its plethora of hotels, leaves you absolutely spoiled for choice. My favorite option? The Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbour Hong Kong, which is a mere category 4 and thus eligible for redemption with your free-night certificate as granted by the The World Of Hyatt Credit Card.

Image courtesy of Hyatt.

Leg 2, Option 1: Hong Kong to Tel Aviv

Since you’re using Hong Kong as your free stopover, in reality you’re booking your final destination to one of two places.

Option one, in which you utilize Cathay Pacific’s new nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv, gets you ten hours of business class (sorry, they don’t even operate these flights with first) all the way to the heart of Israel.

The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Stop 2: Tel Aviv

If you choose to spend your second stop in this trendy city you’ll find tons of things to do. From white sand beaches to the best bar in the Middle East (and Africa!), Tel Aviv is a western oasis in the middle of the Middle East. Though it’s not cheap, you can find hotels from all the major chains, including Marriott, Hilton and IHG. My own personal vote is for the David Intercontinental, which will run you just 50,000 points in the notoriously expensive city. For comparison, the Hilton Tel Aviv will proudly charge 95,000 points/night — the same amount as an overwater villa at the Conrad Maldives. 

The David Intercontinental lobby. Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Leg 2, Option 2: Hong Kong to Johannesburg

If you don’t mind spending a couple of extra hours in business class instead of first (the agony!), you can instead make your way to Johannesburg as the final destination.

Though you may end up on the 777-300ER, you’ll still be flying in (relative) style.

Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy

Stop 2: Johannesburg

The city is thriving and well known as one of the best locations to take advantage of Marriott’s absurdly priced Protea hotel collection (or even the African Pride, which is part of the Autograph Collection).

Don’t forget to pit-stop during your trip for a safari and a chance to see the big 5, because if you’re heading all the way to Africa you’re going to need to spot some animals.

Leg 3: Tel Aviv (or Johannesburg) to London

Regardless of which route you took, you’re now 70,000 miles down and well journeyed on Cathay Pacific. It’s now time to switch gears and enter British Airways territory. Unlike Cathay, these awards you can book online, though you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidentally book a mixed cabin award (signified by the blue seat shown during an award search).

Excitingly, if you fly out of Tel Aviv you’ll be spending less on British Airways’ absurd award fees.

Either of these tickets will run you 80,000 Alaska Miles, and they’ll take you to anywhere in the US. As a side note, if you’re cheap like me and want to save 10,000 miles when flying out of Tel Aviv, you can always opt to position to Cyprus (for about $30 and a half hour of time) and board your flight from there.

Though many people like to complain about British Airways’ first class product, I had a phenomenal time with them, as did TPG Staffer Nicky Kelvin, whose overhead photo shows just how spacious these seats really are:

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Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Stop 3: London

No matter how far you’ve traveled around the world, you haven’t gone anywhere if you haven’t been to London. The quintessential tourist city (please don’t kill me for saying that), London is chock-full of history, tourist sites, the Queen (sometimes) and other royal family members (I think).

Long story short, if you’re serious about traveling you need to visit London. And there’s no better way to arrive than freshly changed from your first class pajamas on your first-class British Airways flight. Don’t sell yourself short here — you can spend a week in London and not scratch the surface of what it offers, from live theatre to Harry Potter attractions. Make good use of your time and take advantage of the luxurious points hotels on offer in such a massive city, like The London EDITION, a high-end Marriott property.

Photo by Melanie Wynne/The Points Guy

Leg 4: London to the US

You’re nearly at the end of your round-the-world journey, which has taken you across four continents and too many hours in first class to count. British Airways’ extensive US route means that by transiting from London Heathrow (LHR) you can get pretty much anywhere you need — bed included:

C:DCIM100GOPROGOPR0416.GPR
Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Conclusion

There you have it: a round-the-world itinerary in (mostly) first class for just 150k Alaska Miles. For reference, Alaska charges 150k miles for a one-way ticket in Emirates first class alone:

Is this a 20-stop endeavor with a 30-hour layover amongst a hodgepodge of carriers? No. It’s a few long flights across a few different continents for ridiculously few miles. And if you’re in the market (and have that much vacation), all of these cities are massive flight hubs, meaning you can spend a little extra time, truly take advantage of Alaska’s stopover policy, and branch out with cheap regional flights. However you choose to plan your ticket around the world — enjoy!

Feature photo courtesy of Yuri_B/Pixabay.

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