Time to check some more Airbus A380s off my list?

While I’m generally not one for creating lists and checking things off them, I can’t help but want to fly at least one A380 from each airline operating them.

I’ve already flown Qantas’ A380.

And Lufthansa’s.

And Emirates’.

And Singapore’s.

And Malaysia’s (trip report coming on that shortly).

So if I’m not mistaken that leaves Air France, China Southern, Korean Air, and Thai Airways. That’s four airlines, and I’m making it my goal to fly first class on those airlines’ A380s this year. Can/should I do it?

Thai Airways should be easy, as they release plenty of first class award space, especially between Hong Kong and Bangkok.

China Southern and Korean Air should be possible on a single award through Korean Air’s SkyPass program, which is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards. For 160,000 miles I can fly roundtrip first class between the US and much of Asia. Award availability is excellent on both carriers, typically with 2-5 first class award seats per flight.

I have two six day periods in the next two months in which I could potentially plan a trip on them, and I’m trying to figure out how best to tackle this, or specifically where in Asia to terminate. I don’t have a Chinese visa at the moment and don’t have time to get one at the moment, and I’ve visited Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Seoul. I’m leaning towards visiting Taipei, though hotels are mostly sold out for the dates I’m looking at, and those that are available are crazy expensive and not available on points. Any ideas for other cities in Northeast Asia served by both China Southern and Korean Air?

The other challenge is that I’m trying to decide whether I should book this as a first class award through Korean Air SkyPass, or just book business class on these carriers through Delta SkyMiles. Not only would it be substantially cheaper at 120,000 SkyMiles roundtrip, but I think a trip report of their business class might be more useful given that it’s one of the best uses of SkyMiles. Would you rather read a trip report about first class or business class on China Southern and Korean Air?

In the meantime I’m quickly realizing that the final stretch of my goal to fly all Airbus A380s in first class will be costly. I can quite easily knock out three of the remaining four carriers in first class, though the big challenge is Air France. While their business class is readily available on points, their first class is only available to elite Flying Blue members. I’m sure I’d have no problem finding an elite Flying Blue member that will let me transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to their account so I can book a first class ticket, but the issue is the cost. Air France not only restricts first class awards to elite members, but also only offers it at the “flex” level, meaning it’s 125,000 miles for a one-way first class ticket. That’s about double what most other airlines charge for first class, so is it worth paying that premium to check all A380 first class products off my list? Or should I just book a business class award on Air France using Delta SkyMiles and call it a day? I feel like that would be cheating!

Yes, yes, these are all #firstworldproblems and #firstworldgoals.

Filed Under: Advice, Awards
  1. I think people would be more interested in products they’d eventually fly, likeAF/CZ business rather than first.

  2. yeah, i think it’s a question of what could potentially be available to your readers… and it seems like at least for Air France, it’s only business for 99% of the readers… so maybe skip the first class on that one and just fly biz… you’ll tuff it out. 😉

  3. I understand the compulsive behavior since I am susceptible to it myself, but i’d suggest giving Air France a miss. I flew their a380 once (in economy) but you had to walk through the 1st class cabin and it looked very plain, dull, uninspiring, had none of the WOW factor and service on Air france is usually is disaster.

    Also always do try to fly first class rather than business. Settling for business class is like buying a porche when you can afford a ferrari. The whole point of these trip reports is a sort of air travel fantasy/porn to most of us in careers that don’t allow us to jet set on a whim. Hope this helps #firstworldadvice #team1stclass

  4. I’d like to see trip reports on both business and first, but I guess that might not be practical

  5. If you need a Flying Blue Elite account to book a First Class award, just drop me a note. It is a major ripoff award though.

  6. I thought KE’s business award availability is pretty bad. First class availability is very good though

  7. I’ve flown the CDG to IAD route with AF A380 in Business and it would definitely be cheating 🙂

  8. I agree that doing it just to cross it off the list no matter the cost seems pretty silly. Unless you can afford it of course.

    It seems weird that Taipei would be full up. You know it’s a big city with tons of hotels. Granted they may not be part of your preferred chains, but maybe it’s time to branch out a bit. I have seen plenty of vacation rental apartments listed on various sites as well that are quite cheap. That’s the way I am leaning for my next trip. Perhaps you need to change your focus a bit.

  9. Go for AF first… there are AF J trip reports out there if I really wanted to consider flying it myself. I’d rather live vicariously for the AF first experience.

  10. @Amol and others – I have to disagree, I love reading about these F trips. Due to Lucky’s blog, I had an aspirational trip all planned out EWR-LHR-HKG-JFK in UA-BF, BA F and CX F respectively. (Yeah… I know UA is not aspirational!) Then I read Lucky’s post re SQ Suites. It made me drool, and it caused me to change the trip…

    The trip is now JFK-LHR-SIN-HKG-JFK in BA F, SQ Suites, SQ F and CX F respectively. All on miles/points.

    Thanks Lucky!!!

  11. I’m with AJ, I would give Air France a miss given the uninspiring service & their love of going on strike.

    As for cities in Asia served by Korean & China Southern how about Xi’an to see the terracotta warriors? (They both fly there)

  12. @AJ “The whole point of these trip reports is a sort of air travel fantasy/porn”… I almost fell out of my chair laughing my ASS off. Thanks for that…and I couldn’t agree more.

  13. I think you should do the opposite and fly the worst economy seats out there (Lot?) and then tell us about the experience.

  14. I vote for the business report. I am always looking for good ways to get rid of my Sky Miles. Transferring UR points to Korean seems too easy! Using Sky Miles may be more challenging and useful for a hub captive Delta flyer like myself.

  15. Don’t forget about China’s new visa policy- Shanghai and Beijing allow for visa-free entry for up to 72 hours… may help you there!

  16. Would you rather read a trip report about first class or business class on China Southern and Korean Air? I vote for 1st Class

    is it worth paying that premium to check all A380 first class products off my list? — Yes, otherwise, your A380 first class tour would be incomplete. Alternatively, you could put it off until a later date.

  17. @Nancy None of those are options since they’re either in China (and lucky said that’s a no-go because of not having a visa or time to get one) or they’re outside of Korean Air’s north asia zone.

  18. I’m mixed about seeing a TR on AF. On the one hand, I’ve yet to come across any TRs of their A380 FC product. On the other hand, I have seen pics of their FC, and while unique…they are rather uninspiring.

    I’d rather see TQs the most, or China Southern (again, not too many TRs about them). Korea’s FC product from other TRs, is kind of…ok. Nothing wow, especially compared to what you’ve experienced on the other airlines (soft and hard product).

  19. I think you should try to do First Class on all of them for the sake of us who just enjoy the travel porn. Then maybe go back around and do another set of Trip Reports in Biz on all of the A380 airlines. 🙂

  20. @MaxC — I agree, fly F on CX, SQ, BA, LH, etc.

    But when it comes to AF, F is simply not possible for anyone who is not a Flying Blue elite and I would not go out of my way to try it.

    Same thing with CZ, while F is available, you cannot book it with Skymiles. However, they often have 9+ business seats available TPAC each day so people are more likely to redeem for that. Sure, you can book CZ F with UR points through KE, but how many people are actually going to do that over business?

    @ Lucky — I’m going to REP later this year and it is served the most by Skyteam, including CZ and KE. However, I don’t think it would qualify as NE Asia for KE’s chart.

  21. Just fly all first classes so everybody can compare. Maybe AF will be ashamed of their product(I know it’s not likely, but who knows…)

  22. I root for more BUSINESS CLASS reports instead of First
    – it’s more applicable to more people
    – it’s more affordable, and realistic when one is NOT travelling alone

    so, lucky should fly all A380 again in J/C this time 🙂

  23. I’m still waiting anxiously for that Condor Class trip report. I expect it to happen long before any other A380 reports! 😛

  24. One of the best parts of this blog is QUALITY TRs of hardly reviewed products. AF, CZ, and KE F have very few if any quality TRs. F all the way!! Keep providing your high quality, unique TRs!

  25. I have flown first on the AF a380 several times, and highly recommend it. While the seats are probably not better than many of the other a380s first class cabins, the food is comparable or better, and the ground services are amazing. When you stop at CDG, you have gate agents that take you immediately off of the jet bridge, shuttle you on the tarmac (via mercedes) to you own security checkpoint that is located below the first class lounge (which is one of my favorite first class lounges, and includes a free spa treatment), and then they pick you up and drive you directly to your next plane. You never see the inside of the airport.

    So while I do not know if it is really worth the hefty fuel surcharges to fly them over another carrier, it is definitely worth the experience, and you cannot compare it to AF biz class.

    I would be glad to book it for you, I am gold with AF.

  26. I am sure lots of reader want “travel porn” aka “First” class report. I have flown on A380 F on LH,KE,TG,EK,QF, and soon SQ. KE was very nice! among the top so I suggest you to try it (as well as CZ).

    As for AF, I saw one report on FT. The service was like many people said, either sucks or just ok. However, from a few reports out there and what people discussed on FT/airliners.net (along with a friend of mine), they said AF F @CDG has the BEST ground service out there,.. in the world… even LH FRA FCT or TG BKK FCL can’t compare!!!…. so that is quite a big statement to say!! (all of these people have tried LH FRA/TG BKK numerous times) so I encourage you to try and report back!!

  27. I have experience both LH FCT in FRA and TG BKK FCL and I can say with confidence that AF is better (at least when traveling through CDG).

  28. Keep the ‘porn’ coming Shanghai – I’m headed there later this month on the 1st Class UA/AA Fare war trying to raid each other’s hubs, so I’ll fly out of IAD and
    There’s always next year!

  29. I’d love to see a J award through DL. I’ll be on the CZ A380 soon and would like to see a good report.

  30. Hi Lucky, just want to leave a comment on the hotels in Taipei. Most international chain hotels are super expensive in Taiwan, but there are also quite a lot of boutique hotels that are relatively affordable and are still pretty great. I’ll be glad to recommend a few if you want me to.

  31. My suggestion is that you get out of your comfort zone and give Air France first a go, just to try their new first class terminal in Paris. Never tried it myself but I’ve heard some rave reviews about it, some saying that it is even better then the Lufthansa one in Frankfurt.
    Regarding AF cabin service, I personally am turning into an AF frequent flyer since I find their service BETTER then other airlines. I am not a french citizen, only speak a few words in french, and I’ve never had a problem with them, and unlike other carriers they have taken good care of me when there have been delays, informing me how to move in the airport to get to the next flight faster etc. Unlike what happened last time I flew Singapore (economy), where they just apologized for the delay, but then did nothing more, making me almost miss my connection and getting some angry looks at the gate of the connecting flight, like they were thinking “where the “¤!%#!” have you been”? .
    I flew AF/Quantas in this january (CDG-SIN-MEL business and MEL-SIN-CDG premium economy) and felt that Quantas service (soft and hard product) on the 380 was inferior to the one on AF, in both classes.
    So my 5 cents, do try it.

  32. @Andrew, I will be spending some more time in Taipei later in the year and would love some of those hotel recommendations. I stayed at the Hyatt last time on free nights and points but those are gone now. You can PM me on FT at glennaa11 Thanks

  33. My vote is for first class. I live vicariously through your blog, with me only being 16 and unable to travel alone yet. However, I get great inspiration for future travel!!!

  34. AF A380 biz class was boring. Delta hard product was better. So hopefully you can review La Premiere.

  35. More people will fly C, and therefore we’ll have more TRs Reading your TRs in F inspires me and helps me fix a goal. Jus fly F!

  36. China is now offering 72 hours transits withou visa to most major countries visitors . You don’t need a visa to enter China if you arrive in Beijing airport, with ongoing flights to leave China in next 72 hours

    China Southern Airlines operate the same international A380 aircraft on its domestic route from Beijing to Guangzhou twice a day. If you don’t mind fly to both Beijing and Guangzhou in your China trip, you can enter China in Beijing, get onboard the A389 flight from PEK to CAN, and then leave China at CAN with ongoing flight to Seoul or other Skyteam airlines served cities

  37. First class, definitely first class!

    As an earlier comment said, this blog is an escape/fantasy to those of us who love airplanes but don’t have the financial means to fly in premium product. While the business class reports are always worth reading, they don’t have the same x-factor as a first class.

  38. I just did FRA > BKK in F on A380 w/ Thai. I thought there were too many seats (12) and lots of wasted space with a stupid “lounge” area which consisted of a sitting area. The bar which faced it was stocked with chocolates and snacks. The flights was as they say “smooth as silk” and the service was great.

  39. Air France, China Southern, Korean Air, Thai Airways and British Airways all have A380s that may be intriguing to try for different reasons (hard and soft products). I think you should try F for all of them to build a consistent perspective on the product/service offered by these airlines.

    The J products on A380 is not wildly different across the airlines’ existing products, your readers can easily search for them. I think what would be great is to have a table where you list out all the J and F reviews by airline and year. This way, it would be easier to compare products.

  40. If you do come to Taipei, I might still be here. Can show you around and can grab a bite to eat if you want.

  41. F. Definitely.

    Flew AF A380 C NRT-CDG and was not impressed. I’m curious to read about F. Also curious about KE F.


  42. @RakSiam-A nice boutique hotel in Taipei would be Hotel QUOTE, you should definitely try it out.

  43. I say do AF in 1st! I’ve never known anyone to do it. I’d love to see a trip report of the experience.

    Speaking of AF, I don’t see why so many people ‘hate’ them. I’ve flown on them three times and have enjoied each trip — especially the A380. I guess knowing some French comes in handy. 🙂

  44. @Serion, go to Flyertlk.com > Trip report and search for AF F there is one recently (2012), the guy flew OSL-CDG-JFK and back. It looks nice on the ground. Ok in the air.

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