Showering at 35,000 feet is a sort of “holy grail” for many of us in the travel hacking game. First class travel is often incredibly luxurious to begin with, but being able to take a hot shower on a plane is equal parts awesome and absurd.
Where things get really crazy is that not only can you take a shower on a plane, but you can book that experience using your award miles! Only a couple of airlines, both based out of the middle east, have been thoughtful enough to offer their first class passengers showers on board. Thankfully, each of these airlines has one US based partner with which you can book awards.
The two airlines that currently offer you the opportunity to join the “7-mile high shower club” are Emirates and Etihad. Both airlines offer a hot shower to their first class passengers aboard their A380 aircraft.
Have you ever gotten to fly “upstairs” on an airplane before?
Does “reverse coffin” sound like something you’d be into?
I have always wanted to ascend those magical stairs to the fancier cabin perched atop the squalor that is coach, but up until now I had never gotten the chance to do so. Thanks to some US Airways Dividend Miles that I had scored from the US Airways credit card signup bonus, plus a few more miles transferred over from my Starwood Preferred Guest account, I was making it a reality.
To me this next little experience sums up how things are in this world. When leaving the plane in Hong Kong, the 6 first class passengers exit through their own separate boarding door. The entire rest of the plane exits out the other door.
So we exited out our special first class boarding door and headed straight for The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge. I know when I hear the words “airport lounge” the image that pops into my head does not prepare me for the experience that is The Wing. First of all, most lounges are somewhat industrial seeming. Sitting at an AA lounge in Chicago or the US Airways lounge in New York you get the feeling that style is always balanced against pragmatic considerations, like how long the carpet needs to last, or how resistant the seat fabric is to having orange juice spilled on it.
Reserving the best seats in Cathay Pacific first class.
By now many of you are probably stacking up fat ‘staches of miles and getting ready to book some exciting trips to far flung destinations.
One of my favorite uses of Aadvantage miles (and also Alaska miles) is for flying first class on Cathay Pacific. I typically book awards for Emily and I from New York City to Bangkok and the 16.5 hour flight from New York to Hong Kong is definitely one that you want to be able to sleep on. There is nothing that promotes a good night’s rest quite like Cathay’s spacious First class lie flat beds (and some Ambien).
The only point of consternation (besides the taxi ride to JFK) is that, even though American Airlines has award access to 1/3 of all the seats in the 1st class cabin, the agents at AA can only book the middle seats, 1D and 2D. While the middle seats are still quite comfortable, I strongly prefer a window seat from which to watch the world zip by.
Babies! First of all, let me congratulate all of you who were able to get the US Airways Mastercard while that sexy 50,000 mile bonus was still strutting around the internet. We can all congratulate each other once again when we are flying first class and drinking champagne with those sweet miles! But there is more to this card than just miles…
There is also the companion pass! Which is not as glamorous as your award redemptions will be, but is a useful little slip of paper. What the companion certificate does is allow you to book up to 2 additional passengers on a paid US Airways ticket for $99 per person.
So let’s say you are planning to go to Hawaii to investigate Donald Trump’s claim that he was born on planet Earth. Then you are out of luck, as the certificate is only good for travel to the 48 contiguous states and Canada (plus there’s no way he is from Earth). If, however, you wanted to go with your two bestest buddies to Los Angeles to eat some tacos and get a medical marijuana prescription, then this little certificate is great!
Do you have few miles or points but would still like to fly business class?
Do you have some money to spend on upcoming travel but not enough to buy those hilariously priced business class tickets?
I feel your pain! Flying coach on long-haul trips sucks and I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that I avoid ever having to do it again. Mostly, my strategies revolve around using credit card sign up bonuses to build up large balances of frequent flyer miles that I can redeem for business and first class travel. But it takes time to build up these balances.
For those with travel plans that are happening in the very near future they might benefit from another way to avoid coach that doesn’t involve taking out a second mortgage on their cat.
When Buying Miles Makes Sense
It makes sense to buy miles when A) you might otherwise have paid for the business class ticket or B) you really don’t want to fly coach and are willing to pay a little extra to avoid it.
This is the second part in a three part series that begins here:
And now onto the flight!
Initial impressions of the seat and the cabin:
The cabin is lovely and spacious. There are no overhead bins, as each passenger gets their own little closet, and that makes it feel like you have tons of vertical space. The seats are huge, comfortable and have a full range of adjustments, including lumbar support. The decor is tasteful for an airplane. There are little vases built into the cabin where they put a live orchid, which is a very nice touch.
As of today the US Airways Dividend Miles card with a 50,000 mile bonus offer has been removed from the Barclays site. Thankfully, I still have a working link for you, though this final opportunity to get the card will likely be short lived.
The time had come for our next adventure and it was starting, as all good adventures do, with a flight in Cathay Pacific first class, booked with my AAdvantage miles. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that flying Cathay First is an experience that will change everything you thought you knew about flying. It is so unlike everything that I have previously associated with the trans-Pacific flight experience, and in all the most delightful ways. Some people like flying, some people don’t mind it, but I have generally hated it for most of my life. This has not stopped me from flying a great deal, but all I had known of flying before my foray into travel hacking was suffering. And Cathay first removes the suffering and replaces it with caviar.
It’s not that often that credit card companies are willing to shower you with miles for next to nothing, but that is exactly what is currently happening with the Barclays US Airways credit card. The sign up bonus is 50,000 US Airways Dividend miles after first purchase and paying the annual fee of $89. So for $89 and a $0.50 Amazon gift certificate to yourself, you can top up your Dividend miles balance by a cool 50,000 miles.