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The Ultimate Ride from Asia to America.
If you’re going to fly halfway around the world for the weekend, you need to do it in the most luxurious way possible. So then, what’s the best way to end a weekend trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong? Cathay Pacific First Class, of course. It truly is an experience, not just in the air, but from the moment you arrive at HKG, you start to understand why some people plop down over $10k for a one way ticket. The Cathay Pacific lounges are gorgeous, some with full on cabanas with day beds and rain showers, where you can spend hours in an oasis that rivals even the best 5 star hotel bathrooms. Our journey was ending, but our ending was so spectacular that it was one of the highlights of our weekend trip to Asia, and one that I hope to soon repeat. Check our experience and review of Cathay Pacific First Class on the 777-300ER from Hong Kong to Chicago.
Adios Hong Kong!
Dave and I like to do buddy trips. We’ve gone to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, etc. Some of our trips are long, 24 days I think was our record. This year, however, our schedules wouldn’t permit us the liberty to take that long of a trip together, and thus, the #weekenedwarrior spirit took over and we planned a trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong the week before Thanksgiving. We’d leave on Thursday night, spend 3 nights in Shanghai, 1 in Hong Kong, and fly back to the states a few days prior to Turkey Day.
Finding the Cathay First tickets.
Since I align loyalty with Alaska, this would be my preferred point program to redeem point for Cathay First. Dave was looking to use some Amex points, and we selected Cathay’s own Asia miles program as the best fit for his redemption. Since Cathay released certain seats to Alaska I took the first seat available. I made my booking on October 25th, roughly a month prior to departure. At the time I made my booking there wasn’t another seat taken in the cabin, and I figured the odds of them releasing another seat were quite high, especially because Dave would be using their own program.
I redeemed my ticket. Since we were originating in Shanghai, I needed to connect via HKG to ORD, and thus, by the rules of Alaska, I needed that first leg on Cathay metal as well. Luckily the space was there and I booked the ticket. 10 days prior to departure from Shanghai, so 11 days from departure from HKG, Cathay released another First Class seat, and Dave transferred 110k Amex points for the redemption.
*Side note: the day we flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong I spoke with the desk agent and switched our flight from Cathay metal to Cathay Dragon. This allowed us to fly in First Class and circumvent the restrictions imposed by Alaska’s redemption options. Read about that here.
Cathay’s first class seating is 1-1-1.
At the time of booking the only other airline that offered a 1-1-1 first class was Qantas. We selected seats 1A and 2A because of the increased privacy, and since I carried One World Emerald at the time, I was able to reserve 1A by utilizing that status. It’s often blocked for elites. When Dave booked, 2A was open and he reserved it. Here’s a look at the seat description and map via Seatguru.com
- When: November 22nd, 2017
- Where: HKG to ORD
- Cabin: First
- Flight: CX 806
- Seat: 1A
- Redemption: 70k Alaska MileagePlan + $86.86
- Duration: 14h 30 mins
The Lounges: The Wing and The Pier
I’ve reviewed both Cathay Pacific The Pier, and Cathay Pacific The Wing last summer on my mom’s trip around the world, but needless to say…the are incredible. The Wing, in particular, features cabanas which are truly one of the coolest shower suites you can imagine. The Pier, on the other hand, offers incredible spa treatments, which we took advantage of, and a great dining room with incredible food.
The Wing Cabanas
Since we were in first class we got to board right after those who needed extra assistance. We had selected seats 1A and 2A because they are on the side of the aircraft that doesn’t share an aisle. You can see this in the picture below.
Absolutely. MASSIVE. Dave and I could comfortably sit shoulder to shoulder in the same seat. In fact, we did a mini photo shoot with the wonderful Purser who graciously helped us fill our instagram accounts with our shamelessly gratuitous exploits. I would say I feel bad, but it’s educational, right? We’re teaching other people how to do this too, dangit!
In addition to the seat just being Ginormous, it had ample storage, including a closet. You can see in the two photos above that we had no overhead bins. It gave our seats an incredible open feel, and since the seat had incredible storage, we didn’t miss them one bit. The seats also have multiple controls, and a large IFE screen, and push button controls. You also receive Bose headphones, and look at all that light per seat. Spoiled times 10.
Pre-Departure Drinks. Krug please.
We were set to have two meals during the flight. Lunch and Breakfast. We also chose to be woken up instead of skipping breakfast, which after consuming quite impressive amounts of Krug and Glenmorangie Signet
The meal service started with Caviar. It was incredible. The other really cool thing about Cathay is that it allows PLENTY of room for both passengers to sit in one seat, and since there was only one other passenger, located in 1K, we got extra great service, and felt like we could really laugh and have a great time. Did you clock the PJs? Yeah… we were rockin’ it.
The lunch meal. Aside from the Caviar, the soup was BY far the best part of the meal. I had the fish and Dave had the beef.
After dinner drinks:
One of the coolest perks of First Class travel is the opportunity to try ridiculously expensive liquor. This was one of those experiences. I think Dave and I stayed up for nearly 5 hours after the meal service just catching up more and talking. I’d have to give Signet a nod over Johnnie Walker Blue which is stocked on many other First Class cabins.
My head hit the pillow and I was out for a solid 6 hours, only to be awoken for Breakfast.
Breakfast was served:
I honestly wasn’t that hungry, but I stuffed in as we flew into Chicago. The views were incredible.
Dave and I talked, hung out, ate, imbibed fine wines, and never really turned on the IFE. Much to our surprise it seems that other cabins had had problems with it throughout the flight. I did watch about 30 mins of a movie on take off and it worked fine. No issues at all. Other than that, it was an absolutely flawless experience. The lounges are incredible, the service was second to none, the food was good, and it offers an incredible bed. What more could you possibly want? Well…one thing: more time flying in it.
Wish to read more of my WeekendWarrior Trip to Asia?
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge Chicago ORD
- American Airlines Business Class 787-8 ORD to PVG
- Andaz Shanghai
- Intercontinental Shanghai
- Cathay Pacific and DragonAir Lounge Shanghai
- Cathay Dragon First Class Shanghai to Hong Kong
- Intercontinental Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific The Pier
- Cathay Pacific The Wing
- Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to Chicago
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter card that earns Premium Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred into over a dozen partners many of which are US based.
60k Points after $4k spend in 3 months
80k offer in branch currently – I think this should be online soon
Transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards
Super solid welcome offer.
If you carry this card alongside Chase’s cashback cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠and Chase Freedom Unlimited® or the business versions: Ink Business Cash , Ink Business Unlimited you can combine the points into Preferred account and transfer into hotel and airline partners
Annual fee is quite low at $95 a year + you get a 10% anniversary bonus on points + $50 hotel credit in Chase travel.
- 3x on dining
- including eligible delivery services for takeout
- 3x on select streaming services
- 3x on online grocery purchases
- (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 5x on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards – Chase Travel Portal
- $50 Annual Credit on hotel stays purchased via Ultimate Rewards/Chase Travel
- The begins immediately for new cardmembers and after your account anniversary for existing cardmembers
- 10% Anniversary Bonus
- Every year you keep the card, your total spend will yield a 10% points bonus. If you spend $10k in a year, you’ll get 1k bonus points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® continues to redeem at 1.25c in the Chase Travel Portal and the slew of other benefits remain in tact including primary rental car insurance, purchase protections, etc.
- Points are transferrable to 13 Ultimate Rewards partners
- Redeem in the Chase Travel center for 1.25 cents per point
- No foreign transaction fees
- Suite of Travel and Purchase Coverage
- Primary rental car coverage is my favorite
There is currently an 80k offer after $4k spend in 3 months available in branch, and up to 90k after $6k spend in 6 months. I suspect some version of this will be online soon if you don’t want the hassle of going into a branch.
We keep an up to date spreadsheet that lists the best ever offers: You can find that spreadsheet here.
Historically 60k is a very, very good offer. In 2021, we saw the offer hit an all time high of 100k. Who knows if that will ever come back. .
Cards that earn flexible points and should be used on the bulk of your purchases.
Cards that earn fixed points in the currency of the airline/hotel and can not be transferred at attractive rates. These cards yield benefits that make it worth keeping, but not necessarily worth putting a lot of your everyday spend on.