Heading to the Left: First Class on British Airways
An indulgence in returning from London: First Class seating!
nonfiction, travel
February 18, 2016


Sometimes, one just has to TREAT YO'SELF!

A few years ago, I'd have said, "There's no way I would ever waste so much money on international first class! I’d rather spend the money at the destination rather than on the flight.”

But cramped knees and armrest hogs take their toll over time.

I meant it at the time though. I really meant it.

But people change.

I even meant it for national flights too. However, a few years back, when a flight from Seattle had a gate announcement of $50 to upgrade...well, I upgraded. And before I knew it, there I was--one of “those” people.

And it was great!!!

Now, I don’t do it often. I usually choose to save the money (Remember, I’m the one who will walk all over a small town in Germany at 1am after getting off a train, for two hours, completely lost, trying to find my hotel--all to avoid spending 10 euros on a cab ride). It the price is close, sure I’ll bump up, but most often, it’s not. It’s often 3x the cost and for me, that’s a deal-breaker every time. (I also once walked three miles home from BART at 2am with heavy (broken) luggage and caught a bad cold--all to avoid paying cab fare (I’m not big on cabs, I think).

And I still said, “Never for international!”

And then there’s that part about people changing I spoke of, oh so many sentences ago. I just don’t even know me anymore.

Seriously, I still mean it. I’ll never spend $5,000 for a first class international flight. That’s insane. $5,000 for 10 hours of indulgence. I think not.

So when I was booking a return flight from London for an upcoming trip this August, I had no intention of upgrading. That was before I saw the price. Well, now. Much lower than $5,000. Let’s...uh...let’s consider this idea, I now thought.

First of all, how much are the tickets straight from the airline? Sometimes they can be cheaper. Let’s class...August we get...10,000 pounds, so in dollars....


Now that $5,000 estimate seems conservative. $14,300 for a 10-hour flight! Who pays that!?! Okay, rich people and big corporations I guess. Most people probably do not and opt to go through the miles programs. Back to Alaska Airlines for me.

The first class prices vary with dates, but the going rate is about $500 and 50-70,000 miles. Not bad. I originally had about 50,000 miles for getting a credit card with Alaska, so I sort of can discount that, yet I did spend a lot of them already so topping up would be required. I needed about 30k more. And they can be obtained for the low, low price of $.0275 per mile. Again, we are talking thousands. Okay, $825 to top up--plus taxes (not sure how THAT works!) so about $890 in miles buying + $500.

Beats $14,300 and beats $5,000.

It’s still wasteful to a degree. But how much? Well, Norwegian was about $500 so the cash was the same--and IF I still have my miles, then $550 more for my upgrade. Flight would be direct and time was not bad. Still...economy, which is how I’m flying out, just in a smartly selected seat. Also use

Alaska has “cheaper” Miles + Cash options. But the catch is two layovers and a lot of travel duration, often 24-30 hours long. Missing a day of work for traveling home? Nah. Paying for a hotel for the night? Uh. Might as well upgrade.

Business class is the next best thing, and if I had never flown First internationally, I would do that easily. It’s cheaper and has a 180-degree recline. In fact, business internationally is essentially the same or better than first class nationally. BA does have World Club for its second tier option. But that was priced only 10k miles under First and with a transfer.

Other flights also charged 30k in miles for even economy, plus the $345 cash. That’s over $1,000 in fare fees, again for economy! And two stops for a 30-hour trip! Norwegian beats that any day of the week. (Maybe. Things change for different days.)

I perused it all for hours (sleep is for the weak) since I just had to find the best deal. I imagine that a better price might come along in the next few months.

Or not.

You see, once I booked my ticket, I went to to choose my seat, which was nice since I got to choose a window seat (1A -- pole position!) I saw that only one other seat was purchased at that point. Remember, we are six months away still.

I also returned to Alaska to see about price changes after my purchase. What’s interesting is that the choice was gone. The First class option was no longer there. In fact the flight was gone for that day of the week. The next day had the same option and price, but not August 18. Gone!

I’m guessing that the partnership somehow limits Alaska to one first class seat per flight, so other affiliated airlines can sell seats too--and British Airways for that matter. So waiting would not have been wise.

So that’s it. I bit the bullet and went as far as possible in indulgence for a commercial airliner. I wanted to try the experience just once. I guess they serve fancy drinks and champagne too. Normally, I can’t drink on the return trip since I often have to drive home. For this trip, I’m departing and returning to two different airports, so leaving a car is not an option. I’ll have to hire a car or a friend or family member, who will then have to suffer through my story stating how “I was a king for a day!”

Actually, half a day. Again, no layovers.

Still, it should be an experience to remember.

And now watch me sleep from takeoff to touchdown.

“I was a sleeping king for a day!”