MTGB sometimes works with our customers to provide helpful travel information to others. In this case, a flight report and frequent flier miles tip from our customer, Paul. Thanks, Paul!
Thailand is obviously pretty far from the U.S. and Europe so what better use of frequent flier miles than to treat yourself to business or first class flights for the 15+ hour journey? One of the best redemptions out there is Alaska Airlines partner deal with Cathay Pacific. For just 42.5k (from Europe) or 50k (from U.S.) Alaska Mileage Plan miles (plus a minimal amount in taxes) you can fly through Hong Kong and then onwards to Bangkok in Cathay's really nice business class. You can even plan a multi-day stopover in Hong Kong for no extra cost. It’s a great deal and certainly one of many reasons to sign up for Alaska’s generous program, even if you don’t fly on their metal.
In this case, I needed to get back to Chicago from Bangkok (after flying over on Qatar Airlines in a Q-Suite, which was quite nice) so I went ahead and booked flights for September 17th and eagerly awaited my departure. Well, at least that was the idea, until Super Typhoon Mangkhut stepped in and scuttled those plans a couple days before departure. Instead, I had to cancel the Cathay flights (they allowed refunds and cancellations, etc. due to the severe weather) and make last-minute use of another great-value points redemption with Alaska Mileage Plan: flying with Japan Airlines through Tokyo. One-way JAL business class flights from BKK to ORD (via Tokyo NRT) run 65k Mileage Plan points but more interestingly, the same JAL flights in first (well, in this case, business to Tokyo then first to Chicago) run just 75k Mileage Plan points. Kind of a no-brainer to spend the additional 10k points to fly in first class for 12 hours, right? So here we go!
I arrived at Suvarnabhumi about 90 minutes before the scheduled 11:30pm departure. The business class line in check-in row R was completely empty so it was a quick process checking my bags and self onto the flight. They provided directions to the JAL lounge along with a pass for the priority immigration line, which was also extremely quiet and quick. The whole process ended up taking like 10 minutes in total which allowed for some time to chill and not be rushed. I checked out the JAL lounge which is nice for BKK (all the lounges here leave something to be desired, frankly) but really nothing to get all that excited about. A few bits of hot and cold food, some soft drink and booze, some snacks, and an okay view of planes isn’t a bad way to chill before your flight. Turns out there are several overnight flights that depart BKK for Japan at this late hour so the lounge was actually rather full.
Flight JL718 boarded about 30 minutes late due to “preparation delays” but loaded up quickly though the business class cabin was chock full. Unable to select a seat online for this leg of the journey, I was assigned seat 8D on the 787-8: a middle aisle seat, which isn’t ideal (window seats are my preferred option in JAL business as they are super private and quiet) but for a 5 some-odd hour overnight flight was fine. The new-ish JAL Sky Suites in business class are cool and modern with a huge infotainment screen and comfy lie-flat cloth seat. The only drawback is that the suite can be slightly narrow-feeling and it’s sorta hard to stretch out properly. Overall though, it’s fine and certainly a major step up from economy or premium economy. The thing though that was surprisingly really not good on this flight was the food. The only things offered were a drink and a couple bites of sushi and/or nuts about 30 minutes after take-off and then what might be the worst breakfast I’ve had in a long time about 90 minutes before landing. That was it for business class meal service on a 5 hour flight... Granted it was an overnight flight but there was no on-demand food available, I mean nothing. Even the “bar” area between the cabins just had the same packets of nuts and that was it. A big disappointment that made me glad I got a small snack in the lounge before we left, otherwise I would have had a grumbling tummy and no one likes it when I’m hangry, especially me.
The flight landed about 20 minutes late with no issues and soon I was navigating my way to the JAL First Class lounge near gate 61. I had about 90 minutes to kill and was excited to try out the renown handmade sushi offered therein. I decided to avail myself to one of the complimentary shower rooms upon arrival and have a quick freshen up which was quite nice and civilized. Plus, using the bidet/washlet on proper Japanese toilets is always a treat for my western bottom. Ablutions complete, I headed over and enjoyed some quite good sushi and a few other snacks while reading the paper and waiting for what I was really stoked for — the 12-hour flight in the front…or “way front” to turn a phrase.
Flight JL10 boarded precisely on time for our 10:50am departure. Upon arriving in the 777-300ER’s first class cabin I was greeted by name and shown to my seat by an ever cheerful and friendly attendant. Service across the board was superb and perhaps even more attentive than usual given the eight-seat cabin only had four occupants including myself for this flight. I’ll let the pictures and captions below do most of the talking but the service, food, amenities, and the seat: everything was pretty perfect. I tend to never be able sleep on planes but managed a solid 5 hours which was really appreciated. It was a strange feeling that after a ~12 hour flight, I didn’t want it to end!
Thanks for ruining even business class for me now, Japan Airlines… But thanks to the awesome Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption there’s a better than average chance I’ll be flying in the “way front” with you again sooner than later! Best get saving up those miles…