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?
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.
It was a really nice lounge, but not like a legendary lounge or anything (those would come later).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Quick nap achieved, I got ready for something I’ve always wanted to do: my shower. My shower! At 38000 feet!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
There wasn’t a shower on board (I mean come on!) but the bathroom was very large and elegant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the flight and my trip wound down, I drowned my sorrows with booze and scrambled eggs.
I was sad my trip was over, especially since my last flight was a bog standard American Airlines domestic flight home.
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?