How to book it for less than coach: Good news for U.S.-based fliers: Cathay is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, along with American Airlines Inc., so you can use AAdvantage miles for award tickets on the Asian carrier. That costs 110,000 miles each way from the airline’s hub in Hong Kong to the continental U.S., or 90,000 miles each way between Hong Kong and Europe. Have Alaska Airlines miles? You’re in even better luck. It costs only 70,000 Alaska miles for a one-way, first-class ticket between Asia and the U.S. or Europe. Pro tip: Cathay often opens up award seats at the last minute, so spontaneous travelers can be handsomely rewarded.
The first upgrade tip is to consider using your accumulated miles for flight upgrades as far in advance as possible (flights are often posted up to 330 days prior to scheduled departure). Even this far out the airlines will usually make available at least a couple of seats for mileage upgrades but not for awards. This is important to understand. Consider purchasing an inexpensive coach ticket and use your miles to upgrade. An additional benefit to doing this is you will earn qualified miles for the paid coach ticket (you receive zero credit on a Premium seat using miles exclusively). If you want or need to use your awards miles for securing a ticket (without an actual ticket purchase), you should follow the same rules of checking the availability as far out as possible.
Your flight may only have one or two upgrade places available, so maximise your chances of bagging them by rocking up at check-in ten hours before the scheduled departure. If it backfires, you’ll have to kill a murderous amount of time in Starbucks, but it worked for Product Manager David Low: “My wife and I were flying to the Dominican Republic. We’d got to Glasgow Airport far too early but at least there was no queue. The check-in lady told us that they had two spare seats in first class, and since we were first to arrive, we could have them for free. So we happily accepted.”
Have high hopes of an upgrade? Unless you’re part of that airline’s loyalty program, odds are not in your favour. Although it’s not strictly necessary to be in an airline’s Frequent Flyer program, you’ve got a much better chance of having those three magical letters: SFU (Suitable For Upgrade) beside your name if you’re a regular card-carrying passenger. The best thing you can do to maximize the benefits of a frequent flyer program is to choose one program and use it exclusively. Benefits continue to increase the more you travel and, in addition to earning points, regular travellers can attain a higher ‘status’. This can come with added benefits such as lounge access, upgrade credits, and priority service levels.
At Flight Centre, our First Class travel specialists can arrange flights and accommodation to suit your preferred travel style. First Class travel is perfect for those seeking the highest level of luxury and service from the moment they arrive at the airport to commence their trip. Chat to one of Flight Centre's First Class specialists about custom building the perfect luxury travel experience for your needs.
Why you want to fly it: Most airlines are just playing catch-up to Etihad Airways, which debuted its stunning suites and three-room Residence back in 2014. What makes these suites so special? Access to some of the world’s best lounges, on-demand dining (thanks to a dedicated, on-board chef), private minibars, and even in-flight showers. As with Singapore’s suites, these also have Poltrona Frau reclining chairs and separate twin beds. You’ll find all this aboard Etihad’s A380s on routes to London Heathrow, New York JFK, Sydney, and Paris.
It doesn’t hurt to dress as though you’re travelling in business class even if your ticket says economy. Because airlines work the assumption that not every passenger will show up they often overbook flights. That invariably means that a couple of economy class passengers get ‘bumped up’ to business. Ask nicely when you check in if there are any business class seats available and you may get to turn left when you board your flight.
We have never bought an upper-class seat; if ever we’ve flown anywhere up front, we’ve used miles to upgrade from economy. If you want to do that, call reservations and drop the name “revenue management.” The reason is that revenue management’s job is to make sure a flight is profitable, so they’re the ones telling [reservation agents] what they can say; they’re like Flying Club’s boss. Not everyone knows that this department exists, and by mentioning it you reveal yourself as someone who knows how things work and understands how seats are released. Say to the agent: ‘Have revenue management released any first-class seats for miles upgrades yet?’ When they say no, ask them to check or just be put through to revenue management so you can ask when they will release some, as well as how many seats are left. Politely respond like this: ‘You have 20 seats unsold? Why aren’t you releasing them?’ Often by the end of the conversation they say, ‘OK, we’ll release one for you,’ or they might tell you to call back tomorrow. Doing that, we’ve had a pretty much 100 percent success rate.
With business class seating moving upmarket, some airlines are reintroducing or modelling their first-class sections as suites. Singapore Airlines now markets its highest class on its A380s as "suites", with the tagline "A class above first." The 2 m (78 inches) bed is separate from the seat and folds out from the back wall, with several other components of the suite lowering to accommodate the mattress. Windows are built into the doors and blinds offer privacy. Suites located in the center can form a double bed after the privacy blinds between them are retracted into the ceiling. Other A380 operators like Emirates also have a suite-like first class with similar amenities but the bed and chair are integrated where a button is pushed to turn the seat into a bed in seconds and vice versa. Etihad Airways introduced a three-room suite called "The Residence" in December 2014 when it added the Airbus A380 to its fleet. The Residence includes its own bedroom with double bed, dining/living area and fully functional shower.