My $28000 First Class Trip Around the World

I love flying.  Right right I get it, you love flying too, but I really love flying.  To me the journey getting there is as much fun as the destination.  So last November, just before the US Thanksgiving holiday, I flew around the world.  In First Class.  On some really nice jets.  Oh, and I didn’t pay $28000 for my ticket, in fact my total out of pocket was $144 in taxes along with 197,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

[If you’re interested in exactly how I booked the trip I detailed it out in a post here]

Why did I really book this trip?  Well, American Airlines released a new reward chart, which took effect on 20 March of 2016.  Just about every award for a premium cabin went up in price so I wanted to take a really nice trip before my miles were devalued.  Oh, and I booked the entire trip 6 hours before my first flight left.

Shall we begin?

Epic Dallas Skyline

Epic Dallas Skyline

My trip began in lovely Dallas, Texas.  The first flight?  Dallas to London Heathrow.  The airline?  American Airlines on a Boeing 777-300ER.  And this is the only sad part about my trip: it was in coach.  I KNOW I KNOW.  I sat politely during my quick boring 9-hour flight, ate a bit of food, and before you know it we were landing in fantastic wonderful exciting energetic rainy and cloudy London.  After transferring to Terminal 4 (involving a ridiculous process of yelling, queueing, riding a bus or two, reclearing security, more yelling, somehow more queueing) the First Class part of the trip was set to begin!

Etihad Airways to Abu Dhabi in a First Class…Apartment?

Etihad Airways launched a new product aboard their new A380 jets last year called Apartments.  Instead of just calling it a First Class seat or suite, they came up with Apartments and the even more exclusive Residence (a 3-room suite of sorts complete with a Savoy-trained butler).  I had to try it, so I promptly found my way to the Etihad lounge in London to relax before I…relaxed on my flight.

etihad first and business class lounge review london

Lounge Entrance

It was a really nice lounge, but not like a legendary lounge or anything (those would come later).

etihad first and business class lounge review london

Lounge entryway

I spoke to one of the staff there and she asked when I’d like to schedule my massage.  My massage?!  Why, immediately of course.  I was led to the spa area and deposited in one of those randomly assorted massage chairs.

etihad first and business class lounge review london

Massage room

The rest of the lounge was nice enough, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t there to enjoy the lounge, I was there to fly.

And I didn’t want to just fly on any jet, I wanted to fly in style.  I thought this jet would qualify.

Etihad A380

Etihad A380

The upper deck on the A380 is entirely premium cabins with Etihad, with the forward portion hosting the Apartments, a small lounge, and then business class behind it.  We were invited to board first so I made my way down the jetbridge, made the coveted left turn once aboard, and WHOA.

etihad a380 first class review

Apartment 5C seat

When they call it an Apartment, they’re right!  My area was absolutely massive, featuring a big seat and a bench/pew that would eventually turn into a bed.  But first things first, champagne.

etihad a380 first class review trip report

Champagne in my Apartment

I live in an apartment in Dallas, Texas, where I’ve been known to consume champagne from time to time.  This somehow felt a liiiiiiittle different.

etihad a380 first class review

Apartment 3C bench

As the plane took off, I kicked my feet up and relaxed, the memories of flying in coach placed behind me for the next few days.  The chef came by and we chatted about what kinds of food I liked and what wines he felt would go best with the options I chose.  And it wasn’t the forced sort of airline chitchat you’re used to, it felt to me like the guy was truly interested in what I wanted and resolved to make it happen.

While my food was being prepared I went on a tour of the rest of the First Class area.

A380 First Class Cabin

A380 First Class Cabin

As you can see, all of the Apartments have sliding doors to give you a really private feel without being claustrophobic.  Behind the First Class cabin was a lounge area where passengers could relax and read for a bit if they for some reason wanted to leave their Apartment.

The restroom was huge too!

etihad a380 first class review

Etihad First Class restroom

Then the meal service began.  The prawn amuse bouche was crazy delicious but I was most excited about the main course, which would come with a lovely red wine.

etihad a380 first class review

Prawn amuse bouche

etihad a380 first class review

Steak and fries

The steak was perfectly cooked and absolutely wonderful!  I honestly didn’t feel like I had room for dessert, but I went ahead and ordered it anyway, just for my readers.

etihad a380 first class review

Dessert sampler

The flight was somewhat short, at only 6 hours, so I asked my cabin attendant to make up the bed so I could have a quick nap.  That’s right, my bed.

BED

BED

Quick nap achieved, I got ready for something I’ve always wanted to do: my shower.  My shower!  At 38000 feet!

etihad a380 first class review

Etihad First Class shower stall

I didn’t get any shower pics because ew.  In case you hate pictures and just want to watch a video, here you go!

I landed in Abu Dhabi, where I made my way to a kinda nice hotel (the St. Regis Abu Dhabi) for a short stay before my flights the next day.

Entryway to St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Entryway to St. Regis Abu Dhabi

st regis abu dhabi review

Check-in area

The suite was gorgeous and had an amazing view!

Qatar Airways First Class to Bangkok

The next morning I made my way back to AUH and took a quick flight to Doha for the next chapter in my journey: Qatar Airways First Class.

Hamad International Airport in Doha features some really special lounges, and the new Al Safwa First Class Lounge just might be the nicest lounge in the world.  It’s pretty easy to find, just look for the Random Bear art thing and it’s to the right.

qatar al safwa lounge review

DOH Teddy Bear

When you get to the lounge you feel like you’re in the wrong place because surely it couldn’t be that big right?  Wrong, it is that big.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Big Copper Desks at Qatar Al Safwa Lounge

The restaurant area served Krug champagne and one heck of a steak.

I made a video covering the rest of it if you want to take a look:

As crazy nice as the lounge was, it was time to fly.  Qatar Airways was rumored to have an awesome First Class, so I had to check it out for myself.

The First Class cabin was one of the most beautiful and elegant cabins I had ever seen!

qatar airways a380 first class review

Entryway

The seat was massive and comfortable, even if it wasn’t as private as Etihad’s.  The flight took off and the meal service began promptly.

qatar airways a380 first class review

Caviar

The caviar was wonderful but the rest of the food was needlessly complex I thought, although I’m sure others would’ve liked it (I don’t have a very refined palate).

After dinner I made my way back to the absolute best airline feature in the skies: the bar.  Located bethind Business Class, it was designed perfectly.  The bartender made quick drinks for us and chatted with all the passengers, but the bar design itself led to people having conversations with each other.  Even though it was an overnight flight, I ended up in the bar area for probably 3/4 of my flight!

Oh, it didn’t hurt that they served top of the line champagne as well.

qatar airways a380 first class review

Taittinger Comtes

There wasn’t a shower on board (I mean come on!) but the bathroom was very large and elegant.

qatar airways a380 first class review

First Class Restroom

I landed in Bangkok and then made my way to Hong Kong for a quick overnight at the lovely Conrad Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific First Class back to the USA

The next morning I put together a little video telling you how to find the best sunrise photography spot in Hong Kong.

After my photography expedition I started packing up, saving a great First Class flight for last.  First order of business, though, was eating at Tim Ho Wan, one of the only Michelin-starred fast food restaurants in the world!  After Tim Ho Wan I went back to Hong Kong International Airport to visit the classy and wonderful Pier First Class Lounge.

cathay pacific pier review

Wooden table and light fixture

The decor was so different from a typical airline lounge, it was very unique!

I, of course, started with a foot massage and then found some champagne, as I am wont to do.

cathay pacific pier review

Foot massage booth

cathay pacific pier review

Champagne

They had plenty of snacks available and some very good food (catered by the Peninsula hotel) in the dining area.

And yes I put together a video about it.

Cathay Pacific has one of the best First Class experiences in the world.  The seats are huge and there are only six seats in the cabin so you’re guaranteed wonderful service and some great food options.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

The entire seat area

Dinner service of course begins with a beautiful caviar appetizer and then had one of the best steaks I’ve ever tasted on an airplane (up there with the one from Etihad earlier!).

The only remaining thing to do was SLEEP, since I had pretty much slept only like 4 hours out of the past 70.  Fortunately Cathay has some of the best bedding in the sky.

cathay pacific first class

Proud of my little camera, it was pretty much completely dark in the cabin

As the flight and my trip wound down, I drowned my sorrows with booze and scrambled eggs.

cathay pacific first class

Cathay Pacific Breakfast

I was sad my trip was over, especially since my last flight was a bog standard American Airlines domestic flight home.

Final Thoughts!

So who was the best?  Which was my favorite flight?  Which airline was the winner?  Well, none of them were the winner: I was.  It’s hard to pick a favorite but Qatar Airlines was pretty awesome.  So were Etihad and Cathay Pacific though.  I dunno, maybe seeing as this trip took place almost a year ago maybe it’s time I take another trip to compare them all again, what do you think?

 

Which flight was your favorite?  If you’ve flown these, which do you think is best?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

23 Comments

  1. Wow, that was fun. Look out Ben, Andy knows how to fly.

    Reply
  2. Amazing! So jealous! Your pictures are excellent. What camera were you using?

    Reply
    • Thanks! I used a Sony a7rII for the pictures and a DJI Osmo for most of the videos.

      Reply
  3. Great to read; I’m so jealous with my measly 28K AA miles….

    Reply
    • Hey gotta start somewhere!

      Reply
  4. Thanks for writing a quality review! There is a lot of trash on Boarding Area now days.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  5. I Assumed you connected in London via the same ticket, that’s why you didn’t have to pay UKdeparture tax.

    Sorry to say Tim ho wan is not fast food. And it’s not great food. It’s good.

    The reason you think it is fast food is because you went to the location at IFC. The location at IFC does not have any Michelin stars.

    Reply
    • You’re right on all counts Ted, I was a connecting passenger at LHR so I avoided the APD/Queen’s Tax. I love THW! The pork buns there are wonderful and I’ve yet to find another place with pork buns that I like more, although I will say the THW in Singapore is marginal at best.

      Reply
  6. Awesome pictures and certainly not to take away from your obvious photography skills, but over $3,000 for just the camera!!! Yikes, any recommendations on camera for us regular “Joe’s”

    Reply
    • Hi Jon, you’re absolutely right, the camera is a bit expensive (let’s not even get into the lenses…ugh). I recommend the Sony RX100 series of point and shoot cameras, they’re fantastic little cameras with a great lens and a 20MP sensor. There are 5 editions of them, I think the RX100 III is the best bang for the buck but really any of them are capable cameras.

      Reply
  7. An amazing journey and very funny review! Thanks.

    Reply
  8. Awesome trip(s)!

    Now that we are living in a post deval world, whats the best way to book Etihad apartments? I have a healthy stash of AA, MR, UR, and SPG 9though I prefer using SPG for destination hotels)

    Reply
  9. Worst trip report ever. What a waste of miles

    Reply
    • Well I enjoyed it

      Reply
  10. Bloody awesome trip report!
    Love how amazing your photos look as usual Andy 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Chris!

      Reply
  11. Too good – great photos and videos too. I recently did a similar itinerary as well (will post my trip report up soon) but my pics are no where as good as yours.

    Kudos!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, looking forward to reading yours!

      Reply
  12. When you say you like the journey as much as the destination, it’s kind of an understatement. There is no destination here, merely the technical need to land at some point.

    I enjoyed reading the report, and I get the point, but it seems like a missed opportunity overall. Pairing this great itinerary with actually seeing the world would have made it a more balanced experience.

    In essence, it’s kinda like “I spent the weekend on my couch”, only the one-percenter version (the irony of which is specifically what made it entertaining).

    Reply
    • It’s hard to disagree when you put it that way, it was a nice couch though!

      Reply
  13. Hey Andy
    Great job – I can tell you put a lot of effort/time into this post. I’ve seen tons of Etihad Apartment posts – and they get tiring, but this one was really good.

    I recently flew Etihad First AUH-LAX although in the 777 suite – still a fantastic experience from curb to curb. Even at LAX after the flight, there were people pulling our bags out for us at baggage claim – plus with the US Pre-clearance in AUH, its a breeze once back in the States.

    Thanks again !

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words! I’ve ridden in the old Etihad suite and found it to be a great experience (outside of some massive turbulence, obviously not Etihad’s fault). Their ground service is impressive, I think that in particular is one of the things the US airlines could learn from the most.

      Reply

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