First Class Cathay and why it’s a rare occurrence for us


After writing many posts about our preference for more flights versus fancier flights… approaching our most recent 14 hour flight home we were thinking…

14 hour flights suck. I should teleport.

Of course what I mean by that is, we really really wanted to be able to sleep SOMETIME throughout the course of our 14 hour flight and we haven’t had awesome luck doing that in economy.  Plus we were really behind on work and it turns out first class really does accommodate work better.  Drew just wrote a post outlining a few other reasons for our Cathay first class flight here.

Excuses, right?

We spent 135,000 American Airline miles for two first class tickets from Bangkok to HongKong to NewYork City to Charlottesville instead of the 70,000 American Airline miles it would have cost in economy.  

That’s a difference of 65,000 miles.  We paid 65,000 miles for the chance to sleep well and get work done.  I was grateful for that since we had a ton of work to catch up on, but of course…unnecessary and not even sure it was worth it, despite how enjoyable it was.

Just for fun and since my defense mechanism is to mock myself before someone else can, here are some other flights we could have gotten with those 65,000 AA miles, keeping in mind that there are two of us.  (I’m basically just using American Airline’s award chart to window shop a little.)

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What else could we have done with 65K AA miles?

Starting in North America

1.) One roundtrip ticket from NA to Europe and back, or two one ways from NA to Europe (60K during peak season and 40K during off-peak season.)

Practical application: I fly solo from the States to Germany to visit my friend then return “home” to the US.  Or, Drew and I fly one-way to Europe and make our plans for return later, as we did last year. 🙂

2.) Two roundtrip tickets within the continental US + a one-way within the Continental US for one of us. (25K each for the roundtrip tickets and 12.5K for the single one-way for a total of 62.5K).

Practical application: Drew and I both fly out to Boulder CO to visit our friends, then return to the VA area.  Then, I fly solo to Ohio to visit my family.

3.) Two one way tickets from NA to the Southern countries of South America, or one roundtrip (60K).

Practical application: Drew and I both fly from the States to Brazil or Argentina or something, and make our plans for return later.  Or, one of us does a roundtrip from US to Brazil and back.  Unlikely.


Starting from Bangkok: making it more literal.

Ok now let’s consider the places we could have gone from South East Asia, where we happened to be at the time.  So now we’re taking into account the actual scenario we were in, which is that we were basically starting in Bangkok and needed to be in the States by the end of the month.

**Drew is speaking at a “DO” in Ann Arbor this weekend so for any of the below hypothetical tickets that wouldn’t land us back in the states, we’d need to acknowledge an extra cost in miles or money from somewhere to then get us back to the States.

1.) 2 one-way tickets from South East Asia to the Middle East + 1 one-way ticket within the Middle East (22.5K for each one-way from South East Asia to the Middle East and 17.5K for the intra Middle East one way for a total of 62.5K).

Practical application: Drew and I fly from Bangkok to Oman to see Petra.  Then we fly to Israel, one of us via the AA one-way, and one of us via another way.
**Plus whatever solution we found for the other one-way to Israel, AND plus whatever solution we found for returning to the States from Israel. (For example an extra 17.5K AA miles for the one way to Israel and an extra 90K AA miles for two one ways from Israel to the States, for a total of 107.5K AA miles).

2.) 2 roundtrip tickets from South East Asia to another location in South East Asia (30K each for a total of 60K total).

Practical application: Drew and I fly from Bangkok to Sri Lanka (which we love) and back.  AA considers Sri Lanka as part of the “Asia 2” region so technically it’s a bit broader than “South East Asia.”
**Plus whatever solution we found for returning to the States from Bangkok.  (For example 70K extra AA miles for two one ways from Bangkok to the States.)

3.) 2 one way tickets from South East Asia to Africa (30K each for a total of 60K).

Practical application: Drew and I fly from Bangkok to ANYWHERE IN AFRICA!  Seeing as we’ve only seen Pilanesburg and Johannesburg, we’d be wide open for suggestions in this little hypothetical.  Of course, then we’d need to spend more in miles or money to get back home to the States.
**Plus whatever solution we found fro returning to the States from Africa. (For example, plus an additional 75K AA miles for two one ways from Africa to the States.)


ALL THIS TO SAY, 65,000 AA miles can either be a nice little trip of its own, or can contribute significantly to a bigger trip.  Given the situation we were in, our best use would have been saving it for Europe later or saving it for Intra-US trips.  (Or Intra Europe trips later).

Plus, imagine if we regularly chose first class flights over economy flights.  If we had flown first class to South East Asia from the US as well as back, we would be out another 65,000 AA miles.  And so on and so on.

The thing is, the long haul flights are the flights that are really tempting for upgrading to first or business class.  But, those are also the flights that are going to suck up the miles for an entire extra trip, just in excess from economy.  And that kind of excess spending accumulates quickly.  If we flew that way, we would be reaching a lot fewer locations.

So in the beginning of the post I said that we paid 65,000 AA miles for the chance to sleep and work.  But you can also think of it this way: we sacrificed a trip to Brazil so that we cold sleep well and work on our flight.  Since when does a bed cost the same as a trip to Brazil?  When you’re talking about beds in the air, it’s true.  They’ll cost you a trip to Brazil.

You know what I mean.

4 Comments on “First Class Cathay and why it’s a rare occurrence for us

  1. This is a great post. I get the feeling that some bloggers have an unlimited amount of miles and could never mentally handle flying in economy. I think that both this blog and travelisfree have a nice grounding and sense of relatability that many others lack. Some blogs make me feel like I’m doing things wrong when I buy economy award tickets (full disclosure: I’ve played the spoiled child, and most of my super long-haul award flights the past four years have been in business or first, but I can’t justify that for short distances, save US Airways in Asia).

    I know that you and Drew would never take the option #2 from Bangkok if you had any US Airways miles at the time, which I assume you do. I think the hands-down-best value across all airlines (almost certain to vanish once the merger completes) is 30K for business within South and Central Asia, which adds India (and Afghanistan!) into the mix.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! We’re actually a little low on our US Airways miles :-/. Otherwise though, that is a great suggestion.

  2. I am guessing that if you planned to see Petra you were wanting to fly to Amman, Jordan, not Oman 😉
    Although Oman is lovely, and I can recommend a visit to Nizwa, a UNESCO world heritage site.

    • Oh my gosh so embarrassing. True. That is indeed what I meant

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