International business class Travel
For me there are two types of first class products – those that miles can reasonably be redeemed for, and those that miles can’t reasonably be redeemed for. Products like Singapore’s first class or suites class come to mind as a product that miles can’t really be redeemed for, since they don’t release any first class or suites class award space to their partner airlines.
And while not all first class products are readily available with miles, knowing which airlines release both a good amount of award space and have a good first class product can be useful the next time you’re eyeing your dream award redemption.
With that in mind, here are my top 10 picks for the best first class seats for award travel, in no particular order. I’ll also rate seat quality, service quality, and food quality on a scale of 1-10 based on my perception, and also share the routes with the most award space.
While Qantas’ first class on the 747 is excellent as well, first class on the A380 is truly special. They only fly their A380s on select routes, and surprisingly enough they release a decent amount of first class award space if you’re booking far enough in advance. This is probably the best use of American miles, though be sure to plan far in advance if you want to snag seats in first class.
Seat Quality: 10 (fully flat private seat angled towards the windows)
Service Quality: 8
Food Quality: 9
Routes with Best Availability: Singapore to Sydney, Los Angeles to Melbourne
How to fly it:
Qantas is part of the oneworld alliance, so you can redeem for Qantas awards using American AAdvantage miles. Earn 100, 000 American AAdvantage miles by applying for both Citi AA personal cards; see Best Travel Credit Cards for details.
2. Etihad Airways First Class
I flew Etihad Airways to the UAE recently and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the food or service, the seat was among the most comfortable I’ve ever been in, and they offer chauffeur service both on departure and on arrival when flying first or business class. Best of all, they release a lot of first class award space, making this a great alternative to flying through Europe when traveling to the Middle East.
Seat Quality: 10 (fully flat suite with sliding doors)
Service Quality: 6
Food Quality: 7
Routes with Best Availability: Chicago to Abu Dhabi, New York to Abu Dhabi
3. Swiss A330-300 First Class
Swiss first class is excellent on all of their aircraft, though they have a new product on their A330 fleet, which is phenomenal. While the seats are incredibly comfortable, the food and service is the highlight on Swiss. I’d argue they have the best meal service of any airline in the sky.