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Flying First Class: The Best Flight Deals For the Best Seats on the Plane

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Attention Thrifty Traveler Premium members:

Attention Thrifty Traveler Premium members:

You’ve likely already received these deals. If not, log into your Premium deals hub to see every recent alert we've sent.

We might be Thrifty Traveler, but we have an alter-ego called “Bougie Traveler” that can't stop thinking about first class.

First class typically has all the trappings of luxury and style. Dedicated service, the finest food and drink in the sky, sometimes a dedicated lounge just for you, and some incredibly private suites in the very front of the plane.

As with everything we do, we're always hunting down the best deals using cash or points and miles to make flying first class actually affordable. And lately, we've found some once-in-a-lifetime first class flight deals and sent them straight to the inbox of our Thrifty Traveler Premium members.

First class is something special. And while it's not worth shelling out upwards of $10,000 for a single flight, it is definitely worth shelling out some of your hard-earned points or miles to fly it.


First Class vs. Business Class vs. Domestic First Class

So, what exactly are we talking about here?

When you think first class, you might think about the wider, recliner seats you typically see in the first five rows of your domestic flights. That's not what this post is about.


delta first class seats
Delta Air Lines domestic first-class seats onboard the Airbus A220.


Those recliners are what we call “domestic first class.” U.S. airlines market these seats as first class when flown with the U.S., North America, and anywhere that's not a long-haul flight. They're very comfortable, don't get me wrong, but it's not the life of luxury that is international business class or even first class.

You may also think, “What's the difference between business class and first class on a long-haul flight?”

It's a good question without a clear delineation most of the time. For instance, U.S. carriers like Delta and United don't even have a first class on their long-haul flights. The best, comfiest, and most luxurious seats on their planes are in their Delta One and United Polaris business classes.


best united miles deals
United Polaris business class.


Here are some key takeaways when comparing first class vs. business class to give you a little taste of what you can expect:

  • There is a difference between first class and business class that, while not as obvious as those between economy and first class, can be vastly different based on where you're flying from or to and on what airline.
  • Passengers can expect multi-course, restaurant-plated meals on both flight services – but on airlines that offer both cabins, they save the absolute best for first-class flyers, including the best meals, the best service, and even the top-shelf liquor.
  • Both first and business class get blankets and pillows for long-haul flights – but first class often comes with a mattress pad, too.
  • Business class will have more legroom. But first-class might have a seat that converts into a bed or even their own private apartment.
  • First class seats always guarantee direct aisle access no matter what seat you choose.
  • First class seats have better, private lounge access at some airports.
  • Dine-on-demand service is typical in first class.
  • First class could have other ridiculous amenities like an onboard shower or an onboard bar, too!

Here's an example of a first class suite courtesy of All Nippon Airways.


ana first class suite
ANA's New “The Suite” First Class.


Read Next: Business Class vs. First Class: What's Best for You?


The Best Ways to Book First Class

If you're looking to get yourself into one of these seats, it'll likely require more points and miles than your regular domestic first class or business class seat. That's a given.

First class is – and has to be – more exclusive for travelers who can fork over a little extra. That's kind of the point, right?

But in most cases, the total amount of points or miles you'll need to book first class may seem surprisingly affordable, especially if you know where to look. Our team of flight deal analysts searches every day for the best first class flight deals for our Thrifty Traveler Premium members to use their hard-earned points and miles, and we've found some heaters recently.

Read our guide to booking first and business class with points and miles! 

When it comes to first class, this seat called “The Apartment” is as over-the-top as it gets.


Etihad apartment


We alerted our Thrifty Traveler Premium members to this deal a few days ago, allowing them to book the Etihad Apartment on the massive, double-decker Airbus A380 for 200,000 Etihad Guest miles each way. You can easily transfer points from American Express, Capital One, or Citi points to Etihad to get those miles.

Of course, 200,000 miles might seem like a lot to shell out for a single flight, but look at what you're getting!


Apartment booking


Another, more affordable option to book The Apartment is flying between London (LHR) and Abu Dhabi (AUH). On that route, you can book it for just 63,000 American Airlines miles each way!




But you probably don't need all that extra space. A fully enclosed, hyper-modern, deluxe suite flying to and from Tokyo should be sufficient for any traveler.

And for that, sometimes all you need is just 73,000 points each way!


ANA the Suite


Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways now offers this swanky suite flying across the Pacific every single day. And thanks to ANA's partnership with Virgin Atlantic, you can snag one of these for 73,000 points, transferrable from all the major banks. It's an insane value for what I've heard is one of the best airplane seats on earth.


The Suite info


That's the new update to ANA's First Class, but you could argue that the old product didn't need an update to begin with. You can still book the old version of the ANA First Class on other routes between the U.S. and Tokyo for the same rate.




If you want first class, flying across the Pacific Ocean is where you'll find the most (and best) options. That includes flying to Australia in Qantas first class.


Qantas F


This deal we sent to members included business class availability starting at just 109,000 points each way. But for 163,000 Qantas points – which you can get by transferring points from Amex, Capital One, and Citi – you could snag a first class seat to Melbourne (MEL) or Sydney (SYD) from Los Angeles (LAX).

Let's say Australia isn't the goal, though. Let's say you want to fly to Hong Kong (HKG), or onward to Singapore (SIN), Bali (DPS), and Bangkok (BKK) among other destinations. If that's the case, you should try and fly Cathay Pacific First Class.


Cathay F


With Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (transferable from Amex, Bilt, Capital One, or Citi), you can book one of these unbelievable suites for that ultra-long flight to Southeast Asia.

But perhaps best of all, you get access to the legendary first class lounges in Hong Kong!


Cathay F


Here's a dirty little secret: The United States isn't always the best place to find first class flights. Mostly, some of the best first classes in the world are flying to and from other regions and aren't ever touching U.S. soil.

But that doesn't bar Americans traveling abroad from booking them!


Qatar F


This Qatar Airways first class deal is the perfect example. As few as 100,000 American Airlines miles could put you on this nonstop, first class flight from Doha (DOH) to Perth, Australia (PER). It comes with this plush seat as well as access to what is probably the best airport lounge in the world: Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha.

If you think booking a flight from Doha to Australia just to fly first class is weird, you should probably skip this next one…

Stay with me, here: This deal is flying Swiss Airlines first class…between Brazil…and Argentina.


SWISS First Class


This funky one-off route on Swiss offers a chance to fly this beautiful first class product for just 39,000 United miles each way! Plus, you can book the entire 8-seat cabin!

The same goes for this one-off flight between New Zealand and Australia flying…Dubai-based Emirates Airlines?

That's right! Because this flight isn't a super long-haul between Emirates' Dubai (DXB) hub and another destination, it can be purchased for just $940 each way.


Emirates First Class


Emirates first class, and its famous onboard shower, bar, caviar, and Dom Perignon, is an insane aviation experience. And this flight is one of your only chances to snag it without forking over $10,000.

Read next: Nerd Alerts: The Weirdest, Coolest Flight Deals We've Found


Bottom Line

First class flying is the best of the best, and while you'll almost always have to pay more for it, there are crafty ways to get yourself in one of these incredible suites for your next luxurious adventure.

From the Etihad Apartment to ANA's “The Suite” and even the ultra-lux Emirates first class, there are plenty of first class options to tantalize the bougie traveler inside all of us that are more affordable to book than you may think.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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