When I first started travel hacking I tended to want to be frugal with my frequent flier miles – mostly because I love to travel with my husband and son. I didn’t have a mile hoarding problem (I’m always booking travel), but I didn’t see why I would want to spend around 100K on a business class ticket to Europe when that same amount would almost cover all three of us in coach. I also tended to have the mentality that I wasn’t sure when I’d get more miles, so I should get the most out of them as possible (i.e. more individual flights).
Lately however I’ve been realizing that flying business class IS often the way to truly get the most value out of my frequent flier miles. As ridiculous as prices for business class are, they are what they are. And that means using miles to fly business class often means you are hitting top value for your miles. And after crossing the million mile mark with miles/hotel points for the third year in a row, I’m starting to loosen up about how I spend them. I have a university day job, I freelance as a web designer, I’m a professional dancer and I’m a mom. That means I can’t travel constantly. I’ve started feeling a bit like I have more miles than I can spend (luxury problem, I know – I’m not complaining). And so I decided to cross into new personal territory and start flying business and first class as often as I could (while still saving miles for important family trips). My new Jet Set Lisette goal for 2016.
And that goal has already been achieved. In June of this year I flew round trip business class to France with my father, to embark on a wonderful river cruise to celebrate his 80th birthday. I had never flown business class on an international flight before. I usually just looked longingly at those huge business class seats littered with discarded blankets as I walked disheveled, exhausted and irritable after long haul flights to Europe, Asia and South America in economy. Someday, I had thought to myself. Now that someday had come. I was finally going to lie down flat on a transatlantic flight. Heaven.
On our way to Paris we flew on American Airlines on a Boeing 767-300. The spacious business class pods were wonderful, as were the endless legroom and the fun bag of amenities. I played with all of the gadgets like a five year old girl, and took a ridiculous amount of photos which thoroughly amused my father. The food sounded amazing when we looked over the menu, but I must say both my father and I were disappointed in our main entrees. When my father complained about the toughness of the steak, the French flight attendant apologized and said that unfortunately when the food was coming from the American side it usually wasn’t good. French snobbery? From what I’d experienced of French cuisine I guessed he probably was telling the truth. But overall it was a wonderful experience, the best part of course was using the control panel to extend my seat into a bed. Honestly I don’t remember much else about the flight because I SLEPT THROUGH IT.
We flew Air France on the way back home, so we had a chance to try the French side of things. And I must say, they provided the better experience, which didn’t surprise me. I have generally found in my travels that when it comes to service, quality of food and being on time, American flight carriers are usually far below the standards of other foreign carriers. The plane itself was incredible. We were on an Airbus A380-800, which is the largest passenger plane in the world. Business class was on the top deck, and it was very strange to be sitting so far up off the tarmac. We had an entire floor to ourselves with our own business class crew. After being given hot towels to wash our hands and faces, we had a five course meal that was absolutely delicious – starting with the appetizer and ending with dessert. The menu was impressive. Fine wines and cocktails were available free of charge, as well as a nice selection of teas and other beverages. The amenity bag was equally delightful – as were the seats themselves which didn’t just extend into a flat bed but also had adjustable footrests built in to accommodate any height. I had so much room in front of me I could stretch my legs out completely straight and my feet just barely touched the seat in front of me. Our personal entertainment centers were high quality, and we enjoyed a fabulous selection of French and American films. Since this wasn’t an overnight flight I have to admit I watched at least 3 full length movies which felt a bit decadent. Service was impeccable – the flight attendants were friendly, helpful and always available. The bathrooms were roomier than in coach, and had air fresheners, lotions, and extra toiletries supplies. I could get used to this.
The best part of course of flying business class is that you arrive at your destination feeling much more refreshed from the simple fact that it’s much easier to rest, and without the horrible muscle cramps and spasm that come from not being able to stretch out (at least for those of us over 40 years old). I’m afraid that my new foray into this world of flight luxury has forever ruined me – it will be very hard to be happy on long haul flights in economy. I still don’t think I would ever actually pay the thousands of dollars that flying business class costs, I’m not rich and I think it’s a rather extravagant and indulgent way to spend money. If I had that much to spend on a simple flight, I’d rather donate it to support a charitable cause. Seriously. But as a way to spend frequent flier miles that I’ve accumulated via travel hacking? Brilliant.
Just be careful. If you wander into this new travel world, you might never want to go back.