We’ve put together a list of first class routes which are operated by some of the best airlines in the world. Each are redeemable for 40,000 points or less, via frequent flyer schemes that are accessible to Australian-based travellers. All come with perks like vintage champagne, some offer a shower in the sky and others provide on the ground access to some of the best first class lounges in the world.
With the exception of trans-Tasman routes, first class cabins on flights originating from Australia are mainly found on long haul routes. For this reason, only one of the examples we’ve picked originates from an Australian city. However, the other cities on our list are popular destinations and well serviced by flights to and from Australia. This provides travellers originating in Australia with a chance to tack on a short first class leg to an existing trip.
Hong Kong to Bangkok, Emirates (34,000 Qantas points)
Emirates is one of my favourite first class carriers (you can find my review of first class from Auckland to Sydney here). Emirates operates a fifth freedom route between Bangkok and Hong Kong. This 2.5 hour flight is serviced by an A380. During the flight, first class passengers will enjoy a three-course meal and free-flowing Dom Perignon Champagne. The flight duration is just long enough for a visit to the on board bar, and those at the pointy end can also book in a 30 minute time slot to use the Emirates exclusive shower suite. Emirates’ excellent pyjamas and Bvlgari amenity kits are not usually provided on shorter haul flights, though you’ll find they are generally handed over upon request.
Emirates operates reasonable lounges in both Hong Kong and Bangkok, so either city would make a good departure point for this redemption. As Emirates is a partner airline of Qantas, those departing from Hong Kong also have access to the excellent Qantas Business and First class lounge. Unfortunately, this flight is not eligible for Emirates Chauffeur Drive service.
Sydney – Bangkok, Thai Airways (40,000 United MileagePlus miles until November 1)
As we’ve previously written about here, United MileagePlus offers incredibly cheap first class award flights with partner airline Thai Airways. For a bargain redemption rate of just 40,000 United miles, you can currently book a one way flight on Thai Airways first class between Sydney and Bangkok.
Passengers can enjoy excellent Thai and western cuisine and vintage Dom Perignon Champagne. However, the on the ground service in Bangkok is where this redemption option really shines. Those departing from Bangkok have access to the Thai Airways Bangkok Lounge and Spa which enjoys a reputation as one of the best lounges in the world. In addition to an extensive a la carte and cocktail menu, guests are offered a massage lasting a full 60 minutes as well as the ‘Royal First’ golf buggy airport transfer service from check in to the lounge, and from the lounge to the gate.
United MileagePlus miles can be accessed through American Express Membership Rewards (transferring to Starwood Preferred Guest at a 1 : 0.5 rate, and then again from Starwood to United at a 1: 0.5 rate), though accessing them via a Marriott Travel Package or purchasing miles offers much better value, particularly when there is a hotel transfer bonus or purchase discount on offer.
Unfortunately, United Mileage Plus has announced a devaluation to their program from November 1. From this date onwards, a first class award booking from Sydney to Southeast Asia will cost 65,000 points (flights booked for after this date won’t be affected). So get in quick and book before November 1, if you can.
Singapore – Hong Kong, Singapore Airlines (37,500 Krisflyer points)
Singapore Airlines has been long recognized for setting the standard for first class with its attentive service and excellent hard product. With Singapore Airlines operating both their A380 and Boeing 770-300ER aircraft on this 3.5 hour flight, you’ll need to choose between experiencing the airline’s flagship ‘Suites Class’ on the A380 and the new, refurbished first class seating on the Boeing 777-300ER. Passengers will enjoy a four course meal (including the opportunity to use the ‘Book the Cook’ advance meal ordering service) and the choice between not one, but two premium champagnes (Dom Perignon and Krug NV).
For this redemption option, we’d suggest departing from Singapore in order to spend some time experiencing Singapore Airline’s signature flagship lounge ‘The Private Room’ (you’ll find our review here). The Private Room is only accessible by those travelling outbound in first or suites class with Singapore Airlines. It’s important to note that no outside guests are allowed. The Private Room offers an elegant a la carte dining room where guests can feast on lobster and foie gras before they board their flight.
If you’re without a stash of Krisflyer points needn’t despair, as this award flight can also be redeemed with Virgin Australia Velocity points, either outright, or by transferring Velocity points to Krisflyer Miles at a rate of 1.35 to 1. To transfer your points, simply log in to your Velocity account and follow the steps to send the points across to your Singapore Airlines Krisflyer account.
Hong Kong – Bangkok, Cathay Pacific (36,000 Qantas points)
With just six seats, Cathay Pacific operates one of the most intimate and private first class cabins. On the short two hour flight between Bangkok and Hong Kong, passengers can partake in a three course meal with Krug NV Champagne on pour. Those departing from Hong Kong will have access Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge, ‘The Pier’. It has the reputation of being one of the best first class lounges in the world.
The Ilse Crawford designed lounge offers an a la carte restaurant with an extensive menu and private relaxation rooms. These are exclusively bookable by guests (excellent for unwinding during long layovers). Spa services are also on offer, with all guests able to book a 10 minute foot massage and scrub.
Doha – Dubai – Emirates (24,000 Qantas points)
Note: This route has recently been suspended by Emirates. However, it represents exceptional value, so we’ve chosen to keep this option in the list, in the hope that the service will re-commence if and when relations between Qatar and the UAE improve.
This route is the world’s shortest scheduled A380 service with a flying distance of just 379 kilometres. The total travel time is just 1 hour and 20 minutes from Dubai to Doha, and 1 hour 10 minutes on the return journey. Due to the short flying time, passengers sadly won’t have access to the Emirates shower suite or the Emirates Chauffeur Drive Service, however a full meal service and Dom Perignon Champagne is offered.
Passengers departing from Dubai can also experience the cavernous Emirates First Class Lounge. With the space offering several restaurants, a cigar bar, private nap rooms and a Timeless Spa offering complimentary 15 minute treatments, it’s well worth checking in early to experience all the amenities. Gulf airline enthusiasts should note that Qatar Airways also operates this route in first class. A redemption costs 26,000 Qantas points one way.
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