Having wrapped up the British Airways first and business class trip report from my long weekend at Paris staying at the Park Hyatt Vendome, I’m about to commence on my next report: flying all 3 of the major Gulf carriers in first class on their Airbus A380s.
The funny thing is I didn’t even set out to do that, but wound up in Airbus A380 First Class on Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad using miles. But it would be the Emirates onboard shower spa and all-around bling, Qatar — an airline I hadn’t yet flown, and a visit to their brand new first class lounge in Doha, and the single best first class product in the sky the Etihad First Apartment.
I wanted to visit Bangkok for a few days largely for the street food and also to have some new suits made.
And I’ve had visiting the Museum of Islamic Art on my mental list of things I’d really like to do for quite some time. I had a week where it was convenient to travel.
I also had a whole series of reservations I had made in Etihad first class for their New York JFK – Abu Dhabi flight that started operating as the Airbus A380 (and thus offering the new First Apartment) in late November. When the switch was first announced seats were wide open for award booking.
The First Apartment of course is on the upper deck of Etihad’s A380. Upstairs Emirates has 14 suites, configured four-across. Etihad has 9 suites and the Residence, with a two-across configuration. It’s a single aisle on the upper deck of the superjumbo with seats that are large enough you can walk around inside your suite even when you’re in bed mode.
I decided to use one of the Abu Dhabi – New York JFK awards I had booked (for 90,000 American AAdvantage miles + $39.30 taxes per person).
For the outbound I booked an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award on Emirates for Houston – Dubai – Bangkok in first class (100,000 miles + $19.10 taxes per person). I wound up somewhat worried when Emirates assigned their new high density Airbus A380 without a first class cabin to fly to Bangkok, but it didn’t affect my flight.
I then decided to book Bangkok – Doha on Qatar in first class, one of the few routes with an A380 and thus with first class (45,000 miles + $22.35 taxes apiece). First class awards are highly available on the route.
Incidentally Qatar first class passengers have access to the Thai Airways first class lounge in Bangkok. But it turns out the gate they use is nowhere near the first class lounge, and there’s a tiny satellite first lounge much nearer that I had never been to. And it was pretty strange.
At the time I set up the award back in the fall the only segment I had difficulty with was Doha – Abu Dhabi, so I kept checking and a month or so later seats opened up on Etihad and I called to add the flight. Then a month after that space opened up on Qatar, so I decided to switch: Qatar offered a wide body for the short one hour flight, but more importantly codes the intra-Middle East segments as first class meaning I’d have access to the brand new al Safwa lounge.
For hotels I settled on the St. Regis Bangkok for three nights which was selling suites for about $200.
And I stayed two nights at the W Doha which had cash and points available (6000 points and $110 per night). The W Doha is only one of two W’s I know of with a club lounge (the other being Guangzhou).
It was a fantastic trip, I got to see some things I hadn’t seen before and enjoy some familiar things. I tried new travel products, and learned some tips and tricks about those products along the way. So I look forward to sharing it with you.