Let me confess – I have never flown a true international first class cabin. To be honest, I don’t care much for it. I am happy with a lie-flat business class seat and some champagne 😉 . While I don’t go out of my way to seek first class seats, I would be happy if it happens organically. Recently, I was planning a trip back from Saigon (SGN) to Canada and wondered if Cathay First Class had finally featured in my travel path.

Planning to fly Cathay First Class

Life situation and priorities mean that I prefer to travel direct and spend as little time in-flight as possible. And obviously, keep my $$ in pocket. Add to it my rigid vacation/work schedule, long layovers and forced stopovers, they simply cut into *actual* vacation time. Common traveler problems.

Aeroplan and Alaska Mileage are my go-to programs. I like using Alaska Mileage program for their unique partnerships and Cathay First class (for 70K one-way) seemed to fit my schedule.

Cathay flies daily from SGN to Hong Kong (HKG). And I could easily connect from HKG back to Canada.

Cathay First Class

SGN-HKG: 3X daily flights on Cathay

My Canadian options out of HKG were Vancouver (YVR) and Toronto (YYZ), Toronto and New York are closest to my home city of Ottawa. Boston is not bad either. They all require a connecting flight.

Cathay First Class

Direct flights from HKG to Canada/USA. Note: Seattle and Dallas on the map are not served by CX.

Issues with SGN-HKG-Canada plans, on Cathay:

  • Cathay does not run F class service on SGN-HKG sector. They also don’t run F class service to YYZ!!
  • My options of flying F were down to YVR or via USA.
  • Alaska program only allows one partner airline per redemption (or one partner+Alaska). Neither CX or AS serve my final destination.
  • YVR or USA options entail additional $$/miles/time to connect to Ottawa

Alternate Option 1:

Between life imposed restrictions and flight connectivity, my best Alaska redemption option would be to ditch F class thoughts and just fly CX J class (business) to YYZ, for 50K!

Alternate Option 2:

Japan Airlines (JAL) also offers great one-way redemption rates, SouthEast Asia – North America, for 75K in F Class and 65K in J class. However, JAL does not operate any F class cabins to Canada.

Alternate Option 3:

Use Aeroplan instead, and fly Star Alliance network all the way to YOW on Eva/Asiana/AC. Turkish from SGN-IST also opens interesting options. One-way Business class redemption from Asia – North America on Aeroplan costs 77.5K.

Lufthansa F Class maybe great, but my schedule does not allow for more than 2 connections and my wallet refuses to throw away $$$ on YQ charges.

F class Availability and booking

All the planning and routings are no good if I cannot get seats on the flights. Cathay Pacific can only be booked on Alaska by calling the phone centre and availability is usually good decent two weeks from departure. Same is true for other airline’ F class availability – few seats, hard to get.

Business class seats on the other hand are easier to find and available on all segments.

Take Away

I really wanted to document how I rationalize my trip planning around my life situation and choices. While its great to be in a position to even consider flying F class, I do not let that dictate my travel plans. What did I end up booking? Nothing yet, but I am leaning towards CX business class to YYZ. OR Aeroplan (on Turkish or Eva), simply because it gives me good business class product and best connectivity, all the way to my home city. Maybe I am not meant to fly F class, and that is just fine!

Did I miss an obvious/better routing in my planning? Feel free to leave recommendations below – cheers!