Points and miles should be used for an experience you couldn't otherwise afford. And maybe that's a few more trips each year, but perhaps it's flying in style – like, $20,000 per ticket style – for nearly free.
Whether you're sipping on champagne and tucking into some caviar or just stretching out in a bed at 33,000 feet for a snooze, there are some seriously luxurious first class seats out there. From Singapore Airlines to Emirates and beyond, these tickets generally cost more than an arm and a leg. But points and miles make it possible for even us 99%ers to fly first class.
Here are six of the very best first class flights in the world and how to book them. Fly these, and you'll feel like a million bucks … even if you're only 80,000 miles.
Singapore A380 Suites
Go figure that the world's reigning top airline, Singapore Airlines, tops this list. Its latest and greatest First Class offering is called the Singapore Suite, but the name is misleading. It's more like a studio apartment.
We're all used to measuring our legroom in inches, doing all we can to avoid bruised knees from the seat in front of us. In a Singapore First Class Suite, you measure in feet. Fifty square feet of space, to be precise.
With all that square footage, it's easy to declare Singapore's suites the most spacious first class seats in the skies. Singapore introduced these new suites on their massive Airbus A380s in late 2017, instantly vaulting up the list of the most luxurious ways to fly.
You get a separate leather recliner and a fold-down bed, with a 32-inch HD flat-screen TV controlled by a tablet. While you're watching your favorite movies, choose between some of the world's best vintage champagnes, like Krug and Taittinger. When it's time to eat, expect to start with caviar and follow up with some of the best meals you can get in the air. And Singapore's Book the Cook pre-selection service means you'll have an expansive list of meals to choose from.
But it gets even better. If you're traveling with a companion – or luck out and no one is in the suite next door – ask a flight attendant to drop the wall between the suites. Voila: You've got a double bed and 100 square feet of space to share.
Once you're accustomed to all that space, you can't expect to squeeze into a tiny airplane lavatory. No worries, Singapore has you covered with some enormous and ritzy bathrooms, complete with a separate, sit-down vanity to freshen up.
How to Book Singapore First Suites
Whether you want to fly in a 50-square-foot suite or back in business class, the only way to book these premium flights is with Singapore KrisFlyer miles. You can book Singapore Airlines business class with other airlines' miles including Air Canada Aeroplan … but not first class.
On the bright side, those Singapore miles are insanely easy to earn. You can transfer them to your Singapore account from any of the major credit card points like Chase, American Express, Citi, and Capital One. Got a stash of points from cards like the *chase sapphire preferred*, the *amex gold*, or the *venture x*? You're set.
On the flip side, securing a ticket in Singapore suites when using miles can be difficult – especially because Singapore doesn't fly the A380s to many destinations. The airline's fifth-freedom route from New York City (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) used to be an option, but it's no longer that plane flying across the Atlantic. Try routes like Singapore (SIN) to Frankfurt (FRA), London-Heathrow (LHR), Hong Kong (HKG), and Sydney (SYD) – or vice versa.
Then there's finding the award availability to book these first class suites: It can be a challenge. You may only see higher-priced “Advantage” awards like 73,000 miles for a one-way between Singapore and Hong Kong. But if you're flexible and manage to find a “Saver” award, you can book that same flight for 45,000 miles instead.
Emirates First Class
Emirates First Class is firmly ingrained on many travelers' bucket lists. And it should be.
From bottomless caviar and Dom Perignon to the onboard bar and taking a shower at 40,000 feet – yes, you can actually take a shower when flying Emirates First Class on the A380 – there's really nothing else like it in the world of travel. It's extra in the best possible way.
While small compared to the likes of Singapore and other airlines on this list, there's no denying the suites on Emirates' A380 are luxurious. Between the glitzy golden and wooden finishes, a comfortable bed in your own suite with doors, and the seemingly endless supply of caviar and top-notch champagne, you'll feel like you have it all.
Read our review: Emirates First Class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB)
Willing to give up an inflight shower and seat at the bar? Emirates First Class gets even better on a select few Boeing 777s, where you'll find an entirely different setup. They call it the “Gamechanger” First Class Suite for a reason: Six insanely private suites, completely enclosed with floor-to-ceiling doors.
How to Book Emirates First Class
There's no spinning this one – it's gotten harder to book Emirates First Class seats with miles in recent years.
Options like using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles have steadily disappeared, leaving Emirates' own Skywards miles as the only real option. And that's gotten worse, too: Devaluations over the years mean you'll need at least 163,500 miles for a one-way to Dubai (DXB) … plus, close to $900 in fees. No, thank you.
There's a much, much better way: Head for Europe instead. Emirates operates two funky fifth-freedom routes between the U.S. and Europe: One from New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP) and another between Newark (EWR) and Athens (ATH). And it's much cheaper on both fronts: Just 102,000 miles and about $100 for the one-way to Milan or Athens, or vice versa.
Take a look.
If there's one route to pick here, it's the New York to Milan flight. That's the only one you'll find operated on Emirates' signature A380 with onboard showers and a bar at the back of the business class cabin. That plane is scheduled to make its return to Milan on Feb. 1, 2024.
Thrifty Tip: Want to make the most out of your Emirates first class flight? Book first class on the return flight from Italy to the States – it's slightly longer and flies in the daylight, making it much easier to enjoy every second of this ridiculous experience.
But one of the best ways to book Emirates First Class isn't by booking a first class ticket at all. One unique option is to book an Emirates business class seat, and then ask at the check-in desk to upgrade to first class for as low as 39,000 Skywards miles.
A fellow airline from the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi (AUH)-based Etihad Airways is the only other airline that offers travelers flying first class a shower at 33,000 feet.
But the main event is all about the space you get in Etihad's first class on the Airbus A380. It's called an Apartment, after all. And it lives up to the name.
Read our full review of flying Etihad Apartment First Class!
For starters, there's a plush leather recliner and a separate fold-out bed that measures 6 feet, and 10 inches long. No joke – that's how much space you have inside your own Apartment. And if you're traveling with a special someone, you can select two adjoining Apartments and lower the dividing wall to snooze sleeping next to each other.
Each suite has its own dedicated vanity, and a crisp, 24-inch TV screen. The flight attendants onboard will even work with you to customize your meals however you'd like – and whenever you'd like them. When your meal is ready, eat in your own Apartment or head out to the onboard lounge.
And the whole setup just oozes class. While Emirates favors the bling factor, Etihad is more elegant and understated. From the soft leather tones to the intricate designs on the door to each Apartment, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful seat on a plane.
How to Book the Etihad Apartment
We've got good news and bad news.
Let's start with the good news: After a long pandemic pause, Etihad has brought back its mammoth A380s with Apartments onboard. Come April 2024, it will even return on the route between New York City (JFK) and Abu Dhabi (AUH).
Now the bad news. No matter how many points and miles you've got, booking the Apartment can be a real chore. Etihad has gotten incredibly stingy with releasing first class award availability to and from the states – especially if you're trying to book using miles from a partner airline like American Airlines or Air Canada. Here's hoping that changes in 2024.
But if it doesn't, you might want to look overseas to cross this one off your list. Etihad also flies Apartment-equipped A380s between Abu Dhabi and London-Heathrow (LHR). It's much easier and cheaper to book, too: Just 62,500 AAdvantage miles and $50 (or a few hundred bucks, if you're departing) in taxes and fees.
Cathay Pacific First Class
Want to sleep like a baby as you cross the Pacific Ocean? Cathay Pacific will do the job.
Hong Kong (HKG)-based Cathay Pacific doesn't have the flashiest first class seats. But what it lacks in polish and glamor, it makes up for it in comfort. Once converted into a bed, you won't find a cozier or wider bed on an airplane.
Their first class seats are enormous, at a whopping 36 inches wide. Come meal time, you can even ask a flight attendant to set up one of your suites so you can dine face to face. And while these suites aren't equipped with doors, there are just six of them onboard Cathay's Boeing 777s. So yeah, privacy shouldn't be a problem.
If you're leaving Hong Kong or catching a layover there, you're in for a treat. Cathay Pacific has some of the world's best airport lounges. Yes, that's plural: There are several to choose from.
You can head to The Pier, an elegant and refined respite from the craziness of the terminal. Belly up to the noodle bar for an amazing meal, get a free foot massage, and then catch some Z's in your own private cabana.
How does a champagne bar sound? Yes, I said champagne bar. It's all yours at The Wing, another of Cathay's flagship lounges. Once you've had a glass or six, you can reserve your own shower cabana, a massive space with your own shower, bathtub, and space to nap.
How to Book Cathay Pacific First Class
Cathay Pacific First Class has returned to U.S. soil, with nonstop flights from Hong Kong to Los Angeles (LAX) running already. Later this year, flights to New York City (JFK) will join the list.
On paper, you can book those flights for 110,000 American AAdvantage miles … or, better yet, just 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles each way. But in practice, those are rarely an option.
These days, Cathay Pacific will only let you book these seats using its own Asia Miles program. And you'll need plenty of them: 125,000 miles for the Los Angeles flight – or a whopping 160,000 miles each way to or from New York.
Fortunately, getting all those Asia Miles is a cinch thanks to a long list of credit card transfers. You can transfer points to Cathay from American Express, Capital One, Citi, and Bilt Rewards.
Finding the award availability to actually book these seats with miles can be hit or miss. We hit a home run last month, sending this award alert to Thrifty Traveler Premium members for wide-open space to book throughout much of 2024.
But there's another surprising way to get yourself in a Cathay Pacific First Class seat. It involved flying from Houston-Intercontinental (IAH) to … New Zealand?
That's right. Air New Zealand is leasing one of Cathay's Boeing 777s for its route between Houston and Auckland (AKL). You can book a business class seat on that route for just 62,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, then pay an extra fee (think around $400 or so, sometimes less) to sit in the first class cabin instead.
You won't get the full Cathay First experience, but the seat alone is hard to beat.
Qatar Airways First Class
You get into this lounge when you fly Qatar Airways First Class out of its Doha (DOH) hub. Or is it a museum?
Welcome to the Al Safwa First Class lounge – the highlight of Qatar Airways First Class, in my books. And, as a bonus, you can get access to this lounge even when flying business class so long as you're connecting onward to (or from) other Middle Eastern cities like Amman (AMM) or Muscat (MCT).
There's no other airport lounge like it in the world, and it sets the tone for Qatar Airways' outstanding (and, if you ask me, criminally underrated) first class seats.
Elegant and refined with wood panels and its signature purple color all around, Qatar's first class seats are a different beast. Instead of private suites for each passenger, you get a spacious, open-air feel throughout the cabin.
You'll only find a bonafide first class cabin on Qatar's Airbus A380. But the main event on Qatar's whale jets is the bar. There is no better way to pass the time on a flight than to sip on a cocktail at the world's largest and best airplane bar.
It may be tough to compete with the world's best business class suites, Qatar Qsuites. Qatar itself has said it'll stop trying: The airline plans to phase out first class altogether in the years ahead.
But until that happens, it's still a great first class flight complete with top-notch vintage champagnes, caviar service, and much more.
How to Book Qatar First Class
Like other airlines on this list, Qatar Airways has pulled its Airbus A380s out of retirement and returned them to the skies after a pandemic pause. That's critical: It's the only plane you'll find with Qatar First Class.
But you won't find these jumbo jets flying to and from the States. Instead, Qatar flies its A380s from its Doha (DOH) hub to international destinations like London-Heathrow (LHR), Bangkok (BKK), Sydney (SYD), and Perth (PER).
Booking first class between Doha and Bangkok is a serious sweet spot, considering you can book it for just 50,000 AAdvantage miles. Ditto for the ultra-long flight to Perth in Australia, which you can book for 105,000 Avios from either British Airways or Qatar … or even less, if you time it right with a transfer bonus!
Lufthansa First Class
I'll never forget my first (and only) time flying Lufthansa First Class in the nose of a Boeing 747. And I bet you won't either.
To me, it's the ultimate bucket list experience. Are there fancier first class seats with more modern finishes, better amenities, and finer dining? Absolutely. And you can even find Lufthansa first class cabins on other planes like the Airbus A380s and A340s, too – and someday, a brand-new seat on other jets.
But flying first class in the nose of the Queen of the Skies is like nothing else in aviation. You have to do it while you still can.
While Lufthansa first class seats aren't the most private or advanced you'll find in the sky, they make up for it with an elegant and refined design in an open and airy cabin. Plus, there are just eight first class seats up at the pointiest end of the plane.
But it's the little (and not so little) things that make Lufthansa First Class an amazing experience. The caviar course before dinner. One of the most comfortable beds you can find in the sky. Polished yet warm and friendly service throughout the flight. And a rose at each and every seat.
But the true first class experience starts in the lounge, yet Lufthansa does something even better at its Frankfurt hub: It's got a whole terminal just for first class passengers.
The Lufthansa First Class Terminal is one of a kind and a real highlight of any Lufthansa trip. You can skip the chaos of the rest of the airport and clear security, sit down for a tremendous a la carte meal, grab a snooze in a cozy nap room, clean up in a shower suite, and even smoke a cigar if you want.
Here's the kicker: When it's time to go, they'll take you down to the tarmac and drive you straight to your plane … in the back of a Porsche.
How to Book Lufthansa First Class
One thing's for sure: Lufthansa doesn't make it easy to experience all this. Booking Lufthansa first class always comes down to the wire.
Whether you book using miles from United, Aeroplan, LifeMiles, or another carrier, Lufthansa typically doesn't release award space to partner programs until just 14 days or so in advance. Oftentimes, you can really only book a seat just three to four days in advance.
Award search tools like Seats.aero can be invaluable in zeroing in on the last-minute Lufthansa first class flights you can actually book. Once you find them, there are a handful of ways to book, including:
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 90,000 miles to 120,000 miles, depending on your departure or destination city.
- Avianca LifeMiles: 87,000 miles (or even less if you add a connection in business class or economy, thanks to a quirk with how LifeMiles sets award rates!)
- United MileagePlus: 121,000 miles
You don't need to resign yourself to squeezing into cramped airplane seats to get to your destination. Flying can be fun, and even luxurious. And using points and miles, these experiences typically reserved for the 1%'ers can be yours.