I haven’t taken any major international trips as of late, having spent most of the past few months settling into Montreal and only embarking on quick weekend trips around the region every now and then.
Well, that’s all about to change starting next week, with several bigger trips lined up on my schedule over the next six months or so, and of course, that means that I’ll be taking the opportunity to fly and review plenty of new business class and First Class airlines as well.
Here’s a fun little preview of the 14 premium products I’ve got on the horizon, including a few comments on why I’m excited to try them out, how they fit into the larger trips, and the thought process behind how I managed to book them using points.
1. Turkish Airlines 787 Business Class
Back in June, I wrote about how I decided to book yet another three-stop Aeroplan Mini-RTW for November that would allow me to visit some new cities, catch up with some friends around the world, and try out a handful of new business class flights.
Well, one of those products I was most excited for is Turkish Airlines’s new 787 business class, which I’ll be flying between Cancún and Istanbul on my way to Kazakhstan (I know, what a strange sequence of events when it’s typed out like that).
Turkish Airlines has always been known for their impressive onboard food and service but a rather lacklustre hard product on their Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s, so their new 1-2-1 business class seats with all-aisle access is sure to propel them into the ranks of the world’s leading airlines.
You can also book the Turkish 787 to Atlanta and Washington D.C. at the moment, and this product will soon be flying from Istanbul to both Montreal and Vancouver as well, giving Canadian travellers on both sides of the country an opportunity easy opportunity to redeem Aeroplan miles for it.
2. Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class
Having flown Singapore Airlines’s refreshed regional business class product on their new Boeing 787-10s earlier this year, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Airbus A350 experience compares on a flight from Shanghai to Singapore, as part of the same Aeroplan redemption, on my way to Perth.
While Book the Cook service unfortunately isn’t on the cards departing from Shanghai, the six hours of flight time should be more than enough to savour another journey on Singapore Airlines, with whom it’s always nothing short of a pleasure to fly.
3. Qantas A330 Business Class
With the final destination of my Aeroplan redemption set as Perth in order to stretch the MPMs as far as possible, I decided to book a side-trip to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city and one of the world’s coffee capitals.
To spice up the journey a little, I decided to try both of Australia’s two leading airlines across the outbound and return segments, starting with Qantas A330 business class to bring me from Perth to Melbourne.
I’ve heard great things about intra-Australia business class – especially that it compares very favourably to flying premium within North America, since the majority of flights are lie-flat – and the fact that I booked this flight for only 22,000 British Airways Avios, amid ample business class availability, is the icing on the cake.
4. Virgin Australia A330 Business Class
From Melbourne back to Perth, I snagged myself a seat onboard the stylish Virgin Australia, setting up a double-header with Qantas that I think should be very eye-opening.
Virgin Australia uses both Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s on their intra-Australia routes, and it’s the latter that features the newer lie-flat business class product, so I made sure to book myself on one of those frequencies when redeeming the 21,800 Etihad Guest miles for the journey (award space was also pretty easy to find).
5. ANA 787 Business Class
The journey continues from Perth to Tokyo onboard ANA 787 business class on a route that the Japanese airline only launched this year. Similar to their long-haul route to Sydney, business class space seems to be controlled tightly on this route, and you’ll have the best chance of snagging a seat if you’re looking far in advance.
I’ve actually flown ANA business class on a short-haul route before, but this will be my first time trying out their long-haul product. The seat looks decent enough but not quite a world-beater, although I’ve never once flown on a Japanese carrier without being blown away by the onboard food and drink, so I’m very much looking forward to the 9 hours and 35 minutes I’ll be spending here with ANA.
Speaking of ANA, I’ll definitely need to arrange a time to try out their brand-new 777 business class, which looks like a real contender for being one of the world’s best.
6. EVA Air 787 Business Class
Oh, EVA Air. Their Boeing 777 business class, featuring reverse herringbone seats, is easily one of my favourite ways to fly to and from Asia, and it’s been long overdue for me to try out the staggered business class seats on their Boeing 787s that they introduced a few years ago.
Along with Turkish, the EVA Air 787 was one of the non-negotiable elements of this Aeroplan Mini-RTW trip, and I’ll be flying them for a total of 17 hours onboard EVA Air Flight 61 from Taipei to Vienna with a stop in Bangkok, which should be more than enough time to indulge in the full breadth of the experience.
EVA Air’s 787s will be flying to Vancouver next year, although the Vienna and Amsterdam routes seem to have more business class availability, and the intra-Asia destinations that feature 787s (like Hong Kong or Tokyo) are pretty much wide open.
7. Air Canada A330 Business Class
I was originally scheduled to fly TAP Air Portugal’s A321-LR business class on my way back from Europe to close out this Aeroplan booking, but a schedule change threw my plans for a loop, and I decided to leverage the opportunity to book the most direct routing of Air Canada A330 business class from Geneva to Montreal without paying any change fees or fuel surcharges.
Since Air Canada normally imposes heavy fuel surcharges on Aeroplan bookings, taking advantage of a schedule change or a country with fuel surcharge regulations would be the best way to try out our national airline for yourself.
Having flown Air Canada’s Boeing 787 business class before, I’m curious how the dressed-down version onboard the A330 compares. It’s my understanding that the seats are actually herringbone instead of reverse herringbone, meaning that they face out into the aisle instead of being angled away towards the windows.
Great for sipping on a drink and staring down the economy class passengers as they walk by, but not great for privacy…
8. Air New Zealand 777 Business Class
Having been thoroughly enamoured by New Zealand on my brief visit earlier this year, I decided to book a return visit for this December with my girlfriend in tow.
While our outbound journey takes the form of a hastily stitched-together hopper journey via Hawaii and Fiji (which you’ll definitely hear more about later), on the return journey I decided to prioritize convenience by booking Air New Zealand business class straight out of Auckland across the Pacific to Los Angeles.
Now, Air New Zealand is known for being extremely stingy with its award seats in both economy and business class cabins, so it was very much a stroke of luck that their business class seats opened up on the date I was travelling (which I had originally booked as a roundabout multi-day journey back to Canada via Singapore and Seoul).
I hear Air New Zealand’s onboard product is solid but not spectacular, but I’m still very much looking forward to the convenient journey across the Pacific, if only because of how lucky I was to be able to book it in the first place.
9. Swiss A330 Business Class
After resting up for the Christmas holidays, I booked a quick New Year’s getaway in Europe to take advantage of a cheap booking I had made at the W Verbier in Switzerland back when Marriott’s top-tier luxury hotels were available at a discounted price.
To get across the Atlantic, I’ll be flying Swiss A330 business class from Montreal to Zurich, one of the most popular surcharge-free ways to redeem Aeroplan miles to Europe, and a product that I’m sure many of you have flown before.
I don’t expect this flight to be too spectacular in any way, but having enjoyed my flight on the Swiss 777 a few years back, I’ll be curious to compare notes when I fly the A330.
10. Korean Air 747 First Class
Late January 2020 witnesses my annual “balling out on the way to Beijing for Chinese New Year” trip. Two years ago it was ANA and Cathay Pacific, last year it was Singapore Suites, and this year it’ll be Korean Air 747 First Class from New York JFK to Seoul.
I’ll be honest, this one will be quite difficult to replicate going forward, because I booked it with 80,000 Korean Air SKYPASS miles that I had speculatively transferred over from Chase Ultimate Rewards last year, shortly before Chase and Korean Air severed their partnership.
With SKYPASS being easily the most practical way to book Korean Air First Class (the mileage requirements are reasonable and the availability is wide-open compared to going through partner programs), the loss of the Chase partnership means that the only meaningful way to book Korean Air First Class in the future would be to transfer over huge quantities of Marriott Bonvoy points.
I expect Korean Air to be a very respectable First Class experience, but to be honest my hopes aren’t quite as high as the other First Class airlines I’ve flown so far. Perhaps what I’m looking forward to the most is the chance to fly in the nose of the Boeing 747’s upper level!
11. Qatar Airways Qsuites
Widely regarded as the world’s best business class product (before ANA’s new seats turned up recently to give it a run for its money), Qatar Airways Qsuites has been at the top of my bucket list for far too long, and I’m excited to finally check it off with not one but two flights on my way back from Beijing.
Specifically, I used 90,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to book Tokyo–Doha–Montreal onboard both the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777 – quite effortlessly, I might add, with business class availability showing up on many dates when I was searching about six months in advance – so I should be able to capture a very comprehensive sense of the Qsuites experience.
I’ve also got a free four-day stopover in Doha out of it, where I may well take a side-trip to visit other parts of the Middle East while I have the chance.
Why did I originate in Tokyo? Well, Japan regulates fuel surcharges, so I only paid a grand total of about $90 in fees for two Qsuites flights going halfway around the world, whereas otherwise it would’ve probably cost me closer to $500 or even more due to Qatar Airways’s fuel surcharges. The little positioning flight from Beijing to Tokyo is peanuts by comparison.
12. Etihad Airways 787 First Class + A380 Apartments
For a long-awaited trip to the Maldives in March 2020, I booked myself and Jessy a return journey onboard Etihad Airways First Class from Male to Abu Dhabi to London, for 62,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per person.
This one was a little bit painful, because I didn’t have any meaningful amount of AAdvantage miles to begin with, and it was also far too touch-and-go to think about applying for a new American Airlines credit card in the US, since the award space could disappear at any moment.
I therefore heart-wrenchingly transferred over 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to top-up my AAdvantage balance in order to book the flight. Thankfully, AAdvantage allows you to put awards on hold for five days, so I was able to confirm the award space first before initiating the transfer and then getting everything ticketed.
(It was pure bad luck that only a few weeks after booking this, AAdvantage announced a 25% bonus on hotel transfers, which would’ve saved me a nice chunk of Bonvoy points. Sometimes the stars align in Miles & Points, and other times they actively conspire against you!)
No regrets, though, since I’m eagerly looking forward to trying out Etihad’s First Class product on their Boeing 787 (which will be my first time flying in backward-facing seats), their First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi, and then their famous Airbus A380 Apartments on the way to London.
I would’ve loved to fly the Apartments all the way to New York JFK, but alas, Apartments space is much easier to find on the shorter segments to Paris and London than on the long-haul flights to New York, Melbourne, and Sydney.
13. Avianca 787 Business Class
May 2020 brings with it the final three-stop Aeroplan Mini-RTW I had booked, just days before the rules were about to change, which brings me to Chile, South Africa, and Israel. On my way down to South America, I’ve booked myself a six-hour flight on Avianca’s 787 business class, which features lie-flat reverse herringbone seats with all-aisle access.
Avianca isn’t exactly known for offering much in the way of onboard luxuries, so I suppose this will be more an item of curiosity than anything, but it certainly beats the standard business class offering on the South American continent, which seems to be nothing more than standard recliner seats with a bit of extra legroom.
The availability situation on Avianca’s 787s isn’t quite as ample as all of their other flights around the Americas, but you should definitely be able to find some space on their routes from Bogotá to Los Angeles, Mexico City, Santiago, or even Western Europe if you’re flexible within a day or two.
14. United Polaris Business Class
Finally, I’d normally be quite weary about subjecting myself to 15 hours onboard United Airlines, if it weren’t for the long-awaited opportunity to finally try out their new Polaris business class product from Tel Aviv back to San Francisco as I wrap up a three-stop Aeroplan Mini-RTW for quite possibly the final time.
Award space on United’s long-haul business class is quite difficult to find (although they do release pockets of last-minute availability), and even when you do find space, there’s a fair chance that United hasn’t gotten around to retrofitting those planes with the “true” Polaris seats yet, so you’ll want to double-check the seat map to ensure you don’t end up on their monstrosity of a 2-4-2 business class cabin.
Indeed, on the Tel Aviv–San Francisco route, the date I ended up booking was the only one out of many months before and after that had an open seat in Polaris business class.
On the plus side, though, Polaris passengers enjoy access to United’s Polaris Lounges even upon arrival, and with my flight landing in San Francisco at 6am, I do think the Polaris Lounge’s nap rooms, open bar, and sit-down restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner would make it a fantastic office for the day!
It’s been a good three months or so since I stepped off Cathay Pacific First Class in the summer, so I’ve been getting pretty antsy for the next time I get to enjoy the comforts of a premium cabin. I’m therefore very grateful to have these 14 exciting new business class and First Class flights to look forward to, which should easily keep me occupied over the next little while.
The reviews will definitely be coming at you thick and fast, and if there’s any other products you’d love to see a review of, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to slot them in!