Even before I could put my carry on luggage away, a cheerful attendant asked, "Mr. Atienza, can I get you a glass of champagne?".
Mr. Atienza? Is she talking about my Dad? Wait, that's me.
"Yes, please", I responded hungrily, completely overlooking the fact it was 9am, bright and early in the morning. When you fly First Class, a silver spoon gets shoved into your mouth and one must oblige all the decadence that comes with it. Breakfast champagne in hand, I took my seat on my throne, seat 2A, on Cathay Pacific First Class from JFK to HKG, and stared out the window, contemplating my final glimpses of New York City (technically, Queens).
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight Code: CX841
Plane Type: Boeing 777-300ER
Route: JFK > HKG
Flight Time: 16h
Retail Price: $11,200 - $17,500
Points Price: 67,500 AAdvantage Miles
CPP: 16.59 - 25.93
In order to make this award booking, I searched for Cathay Pacific First Class award space on British Airways and then called American Airlines AAdvantage (800-882-8880) to book the award. AAdvantage Awards on Cathay Pacific, unfortunately, cannot be booked online and you'll need to feed the customer service representative with the dates, route and cabin class of the desired flight, and then the miles will then be debited from your AAdvantage account. In my particular case, the ticket was confirmed 72 hours later and I even got a 10% rebate on my miles being a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card holder, effectively making my award 60,750 AAdvantage miles and $35(!) in taxes & fees. Finally, note that since this award cannot be booked online, the representative should waive the $25 phone booking fee.
PRE-FLIGHT CHECK-IN/LOUNGE ACCESS
(All times in US Eastern Standard Time)
I've made it to JFK Terminal 7 and wandered over to the Cathay Pacific check in area that was buzzing with activity. Glancing at the overhead monitors, I was unable to find the First Class check in counter. Fortunately, a helpful member of the ground staff pointed me in the right direction, and I was pleased to see that it was largely deserted compared to the economy check in area I just exited. I was handed my boarding pass along with an invitation to the British Airways 'Galleries' Lounge to kick back before my flight.
I got through the premium security lane in literally 2 minutes.
Wow, I just breezed through the premium security lane in literally 2 minutes. No body scanner in sight. The only thing in my way was a metal detector. As much as I was impressed with the quickness of it all, I couldn't help but wonder how secure this was. Terrorists could easily fly First Class and bypass the TSA security we all know and love. However, that was an issue far beyond my pay scale. My stomach rumbled, and I sped up to a power walk to get some pre-flight breakfast at the Galleries First Class Lounge.
Meh. The First Class lounge didn't seem to very First Class to me at all. The breakfast spread was meager with a small assortment of muffins, breads, meats, cheese, cereals, smoked salmon, and wait for it... instant noodles. Yes, instant noodles. Wow. I could have used some eggs and bacon, but this British Airways lounge had other ideas. Fine, salmon, a muffin and some grapefruit juice it is then. Wait, I don't even like grapefruit juice. Argh!
Boarding time! I was thankful to be able to skip the long line by entering through the dedicated First Class lane. Unfortunately, as soon as your boarding pass is scanned, you join everyone in the slow moving airplane jet bridge. To make matters worse, some fine folks from Customs & Border Protection were randomly stopping passengers (including yours truly) and quizzed them about how much currency they had on their person. Eventually, I finally made it to the end of the jet bridge, handed my boarding pass to stewardess and was promptly escorted to the front of the plane. Hello 2A!
(All times in US Eastern Standard Time)
There were only 6 seats in First Class and I soon realized why. These seats were colossal! Enough for 2 (on the smaller side) people to sit side by side. You could even fit a third person on the adjacent ottoman. My airline concierge today was Dilkash (Delly for short) who didn't waste anytime pouring me a glass of Krug Champagne, or 'Happy Juice' as she fondly referred to it. Another item that seemed glaringly omitted was an overhead bin. Instead, a cloak closet served that purpose, tall, but rather skinny, proving to be insufficient to house my Osprey Farpoint backpack. Fortunately, I was able to zip the day pack out and all was well - my coat, fedora and backpack were now cuddle buddies.
'You're not drinking fast enough' Delly proclaimed, and then proceeded to top up my flute of happy juice. An a la carte menu was also brought to my attention, highlighting a seemingly endless supply of breakfast and lunch courses, snacks, cocktails and wines, all at my discretion. Along with the menu, came a size S sleep suit (they run rather big apparently) and an overnight Aesop amenity kit. I began to stretch out and truly discover how large this throne I was on really was. Even with my fully outstretched legs in a seated position, my 5'8" frame did not reach the ottoman on the other side. I couldn't wait to lay the bed fully flat!
The resistive touch screen on the IFE was a pain in the ass.
The bird was soaring at 30,000 feet with New York well beneath it. I summoned Delly and ordered the Dim Sum breakfast. At this point, I've already had 4 glasses of champagne and it would be sensible to get some food in me. While I waited for my food to arrive, I fired up the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system, dubbed 'Studio CX', and was thoroughly impressed with the selection of recent Hollywood blockbusters, such as Ant-Man, and full seasons of Game of Thrones, True Detective and The Wire. The IFE was large with beautiful color reproduction but the resistive touch screen left a lot to be desired with several forceful key presses going undetected.
YAS. Breakfast is here. The first course was a fresh fruit plate with yogurt, with the Dim Sum following soon after. I loved the hand written note from Delly which was an exquisite touch! The Dim Sum was on par with what I could get at sea level, which isn't a bad thing considering the limited facilities a mile high. That, along with Ant-Man blaring through the excellent Bose noise canceling headphones, I was smitten indeed.
With Ant-Man out of the way and about 12 hours of flight time to go, I explored the IFE a little more and browsed through the music selection. Flicking through, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Above & Beyond's latest studio album We Are All We Need available for playback. Play I did and you bet your sweet ass that I cranked it up. It was here when the first yawn of the entire flight escaped my breath. All this gluttony was starting to catch up with me and I was falling deeper and deeper into the allure of champagne dreams. I could fall asleep just yet, but I did play around with the lie flat controls.
Getting work done on board was painless. My 15" laptop and external mouse fit perfectly on the meal tray with room to spare.
In order to stave away any notions of being a complete couch potato on this flight, I decided to get some work done. The pop-up meal tray was plenty big for my 15" laptop and external mouse, fitting with plenty of legroom underneath to cross my legs. The workspace was extremely conducive to productivity to the extent that I fell into a wonderful groove, even dismissing the offer of lunch when it was made to me. The champagne, however, keep those coming. Nearby plug points included an AC electrical outlet and a standalone USB port ensured my devices were juiced up the entire time.
I have never eaten caviar before. How does this work??
The cabin was pitch black with the everyone either asleep or getting there with the help of the IFE and the lie flat seat. I turned my attention to watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and ordered some lunch. The first course of caviar and champagne arrived. My smiling face quickly morphed to one of horror when I realized I had never eaten caviar before. How should I attack it? Should I just spoon everything into my mouth? Geronimo! Down the hatch it went. Next, the following courses of tomato basil soup and jumbo prawn salad were magnificent, with the grand finale of beef fillet with beet root, mushroom and wasabi butter, paired with a glass of Château Olivier Red rounding out the crescendo of culinary delight. Hats off to the chef! I also wanted to point the fact that I didn't spill soup on myself which happens with as much certainty as death and taxes. It's the little things, my dear readers.
Pro-Tip: You can fast forward the first 6 minutes of commercial pre-roll when watching a movie. Sorry, not sorry, advertisers.
Just when I thought I was finally catching my breath and feeling my lower extremities again, dessert and Hong Kong style milk tea came knocking on my door. Behold, a warm, baked apple and raspberry filo pastry & dolce de leche ice cream. I was perilously close to the proverbial "edge", but I could not care less and it was heavenly, to say the very least. No regrets. Wait, one last thing. A small plate of truffles and a floss pick arrived serving as the final nail in my food coma/slumber coffin.
The coma had set in deeply and I just had enough energy to walk over to the lavatory and change into the sleep suit. It was manufactured by premier Hong Kong shirtmaker PYE and fit perfectly, with top notch comfort to boot. In the sleep suit package also came a pair or cabin slippers and eye mask, both of high quality. I also took the opportunity to examine the contents of the overnight amenity kit consisting of Aesop facial cleansing products, earplugs, comb/shoe horn, lens cloth and toothbrush. Upon returning to my seat, it was transformed to its bed state: with a mattress pad and duvet thrown on top, inviting me to have the most comfortable slumber I've ever had at 30,000 feet. Sleep mode has officially been activated. Good night all!
Sure enough, that was utterly comfortable as far as power naps go. I woke up refreshed and ready to go. The only problem was that there was still 2 and 1/2 hours of flight time left. The IFE to the rescue, with playthroughs of Purity Ring's latest album Another Eternity and Terminator: Genisys to kill the time. Can we turn around and head back to New York now? I didn't want this to end.
The satisfying sleep suit, manufactured by premier Hong Kong shirtmaker PYE, was a keeper.
As one last gastric hoorah, Delly brought me some samosas and Hong Kong milk tea as our destination came into view out the window. 20 minutes before we touched down. I changed back into my clothes and made sure I took those pajamas back with me. They were keepers.
The seatbelt sign turned off and it was time to disembark. What an amazing 16 hours or so. Hello Hong Kong!
Is this the best $35 I've ever spent? Hands down, yes, no contest. The mind boggling extravagance of something as straightforward as a flight was certainly eye-opening, and looking back at it, quite unsustainable for me personally. From a miles perspective, this First Class flight is an absolute bargain for 67,500 AAdvantage Miles one way. Rumors are swirling that this price may go up with an impending devaluation of the AAdvantage program so get in on this experience while you can.
Courses of Food: 8
Glasses of Champagne: 7
Movies Watched: 3
Playthroughs of 'We Are All We Need': 3
As wonderful as it felt having a silver spoon in my mouth for a brief moment in time, the fact that I am a mere mortal, an impostor in a First Class world still stands true. I'm glad to have gotten a taste of the good life, but it is not the life I want to live. With that said, thank you Cathay Pacific. This experience was simply out of this world!
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