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Flying long-haul premium cabins on short-haul Asia Pacific flights – Part 2: First Class

Some of the finest First Class seats and suites operating on long-haul flights can be experienced on short sectors of only a couple of hours across Asia Pacific.

3A Seat

In June we looked at how you could secure long-haul premium Business Class flat-bed seats on relatively short hops across the Asia Pacific region. If you missed our very extensive analysis do check it out here.

This time it’s Part 2 of our guide – what you can do at the very front of the plane on certain routes and that of course means long-haul First Class products.

The analysis

Very similar to our Business Class article – we looked at flights operating in the Asia Pacific region (excluding India) on wide-body aircraft this time with long-haul First Class seats installed, planned for a total scheduled flight duration of up to 4 hours.

September 2018 was used as the benchmark month of operation. We used ExpertFlyer to generate the schedules from major hubs in the region including aircraft equipment / configuration details, alongside some of our own knowledge and research.

Google’s ITA Matrix was used to find the cheapest one-way fares on these routes during September 2018 and we did our own research to determine the number of frequent flyer miles needed with the most popular schemes.

Cathay Pacific

We already alluded to the issue with picking out long-haul products on Cathay Pacific planes flying regionally in our Business Class seats article, and of course for First Class there’s no exception.

The very comfortable and quite renowned Cathay First Class seat in a 1-1-1 configuration only exists on selected 777-300ER aircraft.

1A Boarding.jpg
Cathay Pacific First Class on the 777-300ER. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We’ve said it before but the problem on regional routes is equipment swaps. Cathay are absolute masters at it. It means for example even if you book a Singapore to Hong Kong First Class itinerary on a flight operated by the 777-300ER to secure their First Class seat it could easily change a week out, a day out or even on the day of operation.

Tough luck, you’re now in business. You will be refunded of course, in cash or in miles difference, but that’s not really the point because you booked First to get First. It’s horribly frustrating but sadly unavoidable and a risk you take with this airline on regional routes.

Here are the Cathay Pacific regional routes (4h duration or less) in August 2018 running a First Class cabin.

CXtrans2.png

First Class

CX F 2 (Cathay Pacific)
HKG-TPE-HKG HKG-MNL-HKG
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$1,097 S$1,542
Flight Time 02:00 02:30
Miles & Points
Asia 25,000 25,000
QFF.png 26,000 38,000
QRtrans.png 45,000 45,000
AAtrans 32,500 32,500
AVIOStrans.png 18,000 30,000
AStrans 27,500 27,500
CXtrans2.png

First Class

CX F 2 (Cathay Pacific)
HKG-PEK-HKG HKG-ICN-HKG
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$1,526 S$1,467
Flight Time 03:45 03:45
Miles & Points
Asia 40,000 40,000
QFF.png 56,000 56,000
QRtrans.png 60,000 60,000
AAtrans 32,500 40,000
AVIOStrans.png 40,000 40,000
AStrans 27,500 27,500
CXtrans2.png

First Class

CX F 2 (Cathay Pacific)
SIN-HKG-SIN
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(August 2018)
S$2,761
Flight Time 04:00
Miles & Points
Asia 40,000
QFF.png 56,000
QRtrans.png 75,000
AAtrans 32,500
AVIOStrans.png 40,000
AStrans 27,500

(Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Alaska Mileage Plan at 27,500 miles for 4 hours of Cathay First Class between Singapore and Hong Kong is superb value.

Even American Airlines miles make good sense here. Avios and Asia Miles are on par and both Qantas and Qatar are asking illogical amounts, given that you wouldn’t likely part with the S$2,800 one-way fare anyway.

Finally if you scroll back up to the first table, the Avios rate between Hong Kong and Taipei of 18,000 points in First Class on the 777-300ER is incredible. We had to try a dummy booking just to make sure that wasn’t a mistake – it’s not. The routing is yours for 18,000 Avios + £31.90. Be warned, it’s a short flight, but an excellent value way to try out this product.

CX HKG-TPE
We even had to check for ourselves on this one!

We also know many people who would pay 18,000 miles / points just to enjoy a few hours in Cathay’s excellent First Class lounges in Hong Kong!

If the 777-300ER long-haul Business Class seat (and those respective lounges in Hong Kong) are sufficient for you it’s an even better deal at 9,000 Avios.

Emirates

Last month when we published Part 1 of our premium seats on short-haul Asia Pacific routes guide covering Business Class, we said you could fly the Emirates A380 each day between Bangkok and Hong Kong and this meant the First Class cabin with the shower suites was also an option on this route.

Well alas we were wrong, while this did used to be the case Emirates are now using one of their high-density 2-class A380s to fly this route which has no First Class cabin and so no showers. Apologies for getting anyone’s hopes up!

Edit: Thanks to The Champagne Mile however for correctly pointing out an Emirates A380 First Class Suites route in the region we missed out when we first published this article. It’s their daily A380 run between Sydney and Christchurch, a flight of about 3 hours, where you can happily enjoy the full product including the shower suites on a decent length sector from about S$1,300 or 54,000 Qantas or Emirates points.

EK A380 Shower Suite (MM).jpg
Emirates A380 shower suite. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We’ve flown the product before and liked it a lot. Here are the details of the Sydney to Christchurch flight:

EKtrans

First Class

EK A380 First (Emirates).jpg
SYD-CHC-SYD
Aircraft Type A380
Seat Type Enclosed suite
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$1,298
Flight Time 03:20
Miles & Points
QFF.png 54,000
EKtrans.png 54,000

(Photo: Emirates)

The only other short sector in the region to experience the Emirates First Class product on is between Singapore and Colombo on the 777-300ER, a daily service.

EKtrans

First Class

EK 77W F (OMAAT).jpg
SIN-CMB-SIN
Aircraft Type 777-300ER
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$1,626
Flight Time 04:00
Miles & Points
QFF.png 54,000
EKtrans.png 52,500

(Photo: One Mile at a Time)

Korean Air

We ran into an issue when analysing Korean Air’s deployment of long-haul premium cabins on short routes in our Business Class analysis, and for First Class it’s a similar situation. Many Korean Air wide-body aircraft are fitted with what we would consider to be a long-haul First Class seat. Indeed these planes fly on long-haul routes as well as the shorter sectors we’re interested in for this article.

We don’t regard the basic ‘Sleeper’ First Class seat as a long-haul First product, as it’s more akin to Business Class with a 2-2-2 layout.

That narrows it down to the ‘Kosmo Sleeper’ and ‘Kosmo Suites’ seat types, which can be found on the following aircraft:

Kosmo Suites 2.0 Kosmo Suites Kosmo Sleeper
A380 KE Kosmo 1.0 (Korean Air).jpg
747-8i KE Kosmo 2.0 (Korean Air).jpg
777-200ER KE Kosmo 1.0 (Korean Air).jpg KE Kosmo Sleeper (Korean Air).jpg
777-300ER KE Kosmo 2.0 (Korean Air).jpg KE Kosmo 1.0 (Korean Air).jpg

(Photos: Korean Air)

Unfortunately the A380 and 747-8i are not deployed on shorter routes in the Korean Air fleet, so it’s just the 777-200ER and -300ER we’re interested in. Here’s an example of the routes you’ll find these seats on (shortest to longest), showing flight duration and aircraft types operating based on the September 2018 schedule.

To and from Seoul (ICN):

  • Dalian (01:20 – 772)
  • Fukuoka (01:25 – 77W)
  • Osaka Kansai (01:45 – 77W)
  • Shanghai (02:10 – 77W)
  • Beijing (02:30 – 77W)
  • Tokyo Narita (02:30 – 772)
  • Sapporo (02:40 – 77W)
  • Manila (03:55 – 77W)

To and from Jeju (CJU):

  • Seoul Gimpo (01:10 – 772)

Singapore Airlines

There are a few options for experiencing the Singapore Airlines 2006 First Class, 2013 First Class and latest 2017 First Class (Suites) long-haul products on flights of less than 4 hours. Here’s what we found.

SQtrans

First Class

SQ 777 2006F (Dan Nevill).jpg
SIN-CGK-SIN SIN-MNL-SIN
Aircraft Type 777-300
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$1,638 S$2,263
Flight Time 01:50 03:50
Miles & Points
KFtrans 25,000 30,500

(Photo: Dan Nevill)

Unfortunately you can’t experience these products using partner airline or other Star Alliance airline miles / points as Singapore Airlines restricts their long-haul First Class products for its own KrisFlyer members.

That makes the Jakarta flight poor value as a redemption, however Manila isn’t a bad deal in our opinion if you haven’t tried this seat before, or experienced Singapore Airlines First Class service / lounges at all yet.

As with the Business Class analysis it’s the 4-hour Hong Kong route where you’ll find the latest A380 aircraft operating a daily flight with the new 2017 Suites product, and some 777-300ER services featuring the 2013 First Class seat.

SQtrans
First Class
1F Overview Night.jpg 1A Seat.jpg
SIN-HKG-SIN SKN-HKG-SIN
Aircraft Type 777-300ER A380
Seat Type Flat-bed
(180o recline)
Enclosed suite
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(July 2018)
S$2,889
Flight Time 04:00
Miles & Points
KFtrans 37,500

(Photos: MainlyMiles)

1F Overview Night.jpg
On the short-haul side you can fly the Singapore Airlines 2013 First Class product between Singapore and Hong Kong, and between Sydney and Canberra, however the latter must be booked as part of a longer itinerary so we haven’t included it here. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The only other short sector with a First Class product on the Singapore Airlines network is Sydney to Canberra on the 777-300ER, however the airline does not have traffic rights on that route so unfortunately you can’t book it in isolation.

The only exception is that you can fly between Sydney and Canberra, have a stopover there, and then continue to Singapore at a later date, as part of a bigger itinerary.

Thai Airways

Thai only run a First Class cabin on the A380 and 747-400 aircraft. As you may recall from our Business Class analysis there was a nice opportunity to fly the short 1 hour 30 minute flight between Bangkok and Phuket on the Thai Airways 747-400 for a very competitive cost.

The good news is that this aircraft is also fitted with Thai’s First Class product. The bad news is you can’t book it directly, you will have to book Business Class and hope for the best. Frequent flyers are more likely to be allocated a seat in the nose section where the First Class seats are located, or you can ask very nicely at the check-in desk.

The service is identical to that offered in Business Class on this route, though the seat is of course much nicer.

TG
First Class
TG First Class 744 (Sam Chui).jpg
BKK-HKT-BKK
Aircraft Type 747-400
Seat Type Flat bed
(180o recline)
Lowest one-way cost
(September 2018)
S$183*
Flight Time 01:30*
Miles & Points
KFtrans 20,000*
TGtrans.png 20,000*
LMtrans 30,000*
UAtrans 25,000*
MMtrans.png 17,000*
EVtrans 27,500*

* Applies to Business Class tickets / redemptions
(Photo: Sam Chui)

Summary

A few rare but probably worthwhile opportunities to try out a long-haul First Class seat or suite on a short hop around the region. The Business Class analysis we completed clearly offers far more options than you’ll find at the very pointy end of the plane, however if you can incorporate any of these products into a trip – all the better.

What did we miss?

We may have missed some options here so please do let us know if you can think of any other alternatives and we’ll be happy to add them to the list.

As always if you’ve tried any of these options for yourself, tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)

Kaligo KF Ad.jpg

6 comments

  1. Hey Andrew, fellow singaporean here based in NYC.
    Stumbled on your blog while searching for guides taking the SQ refreshed EWR-SG route via the ultra long haul airbus, and am really pleasantly surprise at all your analysis thus far. Will be booking marking more of these pages, as me and my partner plan to do a big Asia trip next year.
    Cheers – B

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great write up and research! We’re spoiled for short class F options in the Asia Pacific. I flew SIN-HKG in new suites a few weeks back, after successfully waitlisting a 37,500 mile Saver fare – it can be done.

    One other flight to mention (which admittedly is a bit out of the way), is EK SYD-CHC, which can be booked for 54,000 Qantas points. It’s the last remaining A380 trans-Tasman service that Emirates operates, after canning AKL routes earlier in the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, we completely missed that. Having flown trans-Tasman a few times on the Emirates A380s in the past, we thought they had since all ceased on those flights. I’ve added the details of this flight to the article.

      Good work getting the new suites to Hong Kong at a saver rate too.

      Cheers

      Like

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