Booked: A First Class Bonanza

The Year of the Dog is less than a week away, and since it’s my 本命年 (“Ben Ming Nian” i.e., a year with the same zodiac animal as my birth year), it’s only right that I honour the occasion with a doozy of a homecoming trip.

I’m headed back to Beijing in ANA First Class, before returning home on Cathay Pacific First Class. These are two of the world’s great airlines, and I’ve heard amazing things about their respective front-of-the-plane experiences.

ANA First Class is known for its excellent Japanese menu, its sleek-looking “box suites”, and its outstanding alcohol selection. It’s the only airline to serve Hibiki 21 in First Class, a rare whiskey that retails for over $600 a bottle, so it goes without saying that I’ll be helping myself to more than my fair share! It’ll also be intriguing to compare my ANA flight with the Japan Airlines experience, which I flew only a month ago (and have yet to review). 

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific is known for the sheer elegance and exclusivity of its First Class cabin. With only six seats per flight, Cathay’s First Class suites spoil you with space and comfort. In addition, I’ve read that its First Class lounges in Hong Kong can rival those of Swiss and Lufthansa in terms of luxury, and I’m eager to put that to the test!

The Pier Lounge by Cathay Pacific

The Pier Lounge by Cathay Pacific

The Outbound

Let’s have a look at my flights. This trip was booked in two parts: the outbound using Aeroplan miles, and the return portion using Alaska Mileage Plan.

With Aeroplan, a First Class one-way award ticket from Toronto to Beijing costs 105,000 miles. However, I actually redeemed an award from Toronto to Hong Kong which looks like this:


But I’m not actually going to Hong Kong until later on in the trip. Instead, I’ll be leveraging the hidden city ticketing trick and getting off the plane in Beijing, ending my journey there, and “throwing away” the flights to Seoul and then Hong Kong.

Why? Well, Hong Kong has strict regulations on fuel surcharges, which means that by adding two flights to my trip, I still pay the same amount of 105,000 miles, but I actually save about $100 in taxes and fees as compared to an award ticket that simply ends in Beijing. It’s funny little things like this that you can take advantage of when redeeming miles to save yourself money. 

One tiny “first world problem” about this redemption is that the Los Angeles–Tokyo Haneda flight is an overnight one, which means that it doesn’t feature ANA’s complete award-winning Japanese menu; instead, only a “light meal” is available. You can look at the ANA website to view the different menus that ANA offers on its Haneda vs. Narita flights out of LAX.

Of course this is ultimately an insignificant complaint in the grand scheme of things, but all I’m saying is, if heavy snow in Toronto were to make me unfortunately miss my LAX connection and force me onto the Narita flight the next day, I’d definitely be able to find a silver lining 😉

The Return

After a week at home enjoying the Chinese New Year festivities and spending time with my family, I’ll be actually going to Hong Kong, followed by a First Class flight back home, all thanks to Alaska Airlines and their extremely generous partner award chart with Cathay Pacific.

I can’t emphasize how great of a deal it is to fly First Class across the Pacific for only 70,000 miles one-way. Not only that, but you get to enjoy a stopover in Hong Kong for as long as you’d like, and you can continue your journey to or from Africa in business class for no additional mileage. These offer such unbeatable value that I’m almost a little sad that I won’t be taking full advantage of these possibilities this time around.

The Alaska award ticket brings me from Beijing to Hong Kong in economy class, before a 4-hour layover will hopefully be enough for me to check out the Hong Kong airline’s flagship First Class lounges: The Wing and The Pier. 

The Wing Lounge by Cathay Pacific

The Wing Lounge by Cathay Pacific

That’s followed by the big flight from Hong Kong to Boston, whose duration clocks in at almost sixteen hours! That’s probably the longest journey I’ll have ever flown, and I’m absolutely certain to get my fill of the Cathay First experience.

Exactly like my Lufthansa First Class trip last year, I’ll be arriving in Boston late on Sunday night with work the next morning, so I booked myself an Aeroplan Market Fare back to Toronto on Monday morning for an additional 10,500 miles.

The overall route for the trip looks as follows:

map (1).gif
  • Toronto to Los Angeles on Air Canada, departing 8:05pm and arriving 10:32pm, business class
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo (Haneda) on ANA, departing 12:05am and arriving 5:25am the next day, first class
  • Tokyo (Haneda) to Beijing on ANA, departing 9:25am and arriving 12:35pm, business class 
  • Beijing to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, departing 10am and arriving 1:55pm, economy class
  • Hong Kong to Boston on Cathay Pacific, departing 6:05pm and arriving 8:35pm, first class 
  • Boston to Toronto on Air Canada, departing 6am and arriving 7:51am, economy class

My overall out-of-pocket cost for the trip was as follows:

  • Taxes, fees, and fuel surcharge for Aeroplan first class booking YYZ–LAX–HND–PEK: $203
  • Taxes and fees for Alaska first class booking PEK–HKG–BOS: $112
  • Taxes and fees for Aeroplan Market Fare booking BOS–YYZ: $7
  • Aeroplan phone booking fee: $33
  • Total: $355


Flying First Class to Asia for less than $400? I’ll take it…

Oh who am I kidding?! This trip has me absolutely buzzing with excitement! ANA and Cathay Pacific are two of the world’s leading First Class operators, with no shortage of bells and whistles to pamper their customers and satisfy their every imaginable need. I can’t wait to savour every minute of the experience.

In terms of reviewing the flights, I’ve got plenty of writing to catch up on from my other travels (including First Class on Japan Airlines!), but I have no doubt that the wait for these heavyweight flights will be worth it. I might also take this opportunity to experiment with some new mediums for the reviews, so stay tuned!

  1. owen

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I must say we are in the same age [bracket]. 🙂

    My question is related to booking a family flight [biz class] including wife and a <2 yr old toddler. How does it ticket work with toddler Normally kid < 2 yr old gets a free flight. Since I will redeem the flight using reward points, I heard toddler’s ticket will be 10% of normal ticket fees.

    Do you have experience you can share? Thanks.

    1. Ricky YVR

      How do you know I’m not 48 years old? 😉

      You can find Aeroplan’s policies for infant tickets on their flight reward chart page:

      Scroll down and look under "Infant Flight Rewards". The fees are pretty reasonable. Other programs sometimes charge more egregious fees, such as 10% of normal ticket prices, which can be hefty for business and first class redemptions.

      1. owen

        Perfect!! Thank you not 48-years-old-Ricky!

  2. Paul

    Did you booked the outbound on ANA site? if so how much time do you leave in between for connecting flights and what are the chances of getting 2 first class seats?
    Thanks, Paul

    1. Ricky YVR

      I used Aeroplan to book. I had about a 5 hour connection in Tokyo Haneda, because the flight coming in from LAX gets in at 5am and the first flight to Beijing isn’t until 9:30.

      2 seats should be doable if you look far in advance and are flexible with regards to routings, dates, etc.

  3. yyc

    Great post! I didn’t know the fuel surcharge was also dropped flying to HKG. I thought it only worked when you fly from HKG.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes, flights to Hong Kong have YQ suppressed but not eliminated fully, so I still had to pay about $100 of YQ on my redemption.

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