The Only 3 International First Class Products I Still Need To Book

Last March I wrote a post about the nine international first class products I haven’t yet flown. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that international first class is “dying,” I doubt we’re going to see many airlines introduce first class going forward. I do think quite a few airlines are committed to maintaining first class, and for the most part these cabins have a lower capacity and are more over the top than ever before (take Emirates’ new first class, for example, which I flew from Dubai to Brussels a few weeks ago).

There are only about 30 airlines in the world that still have international first class, and I’ve reviewed almost all of them. In this post I wanted to provide an update on my progress towards trying the remaining first class products.

New first class products I’ve already reviewed

Last time I wrote a post on this topic, I still had to review the following:

  • Air China
  • Cathay Dragon
  • China Eastern
  • EL AL
  • Jet Airways
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Oman Air
  • Saudia
  • TAAG Angola

Since then I’v reviewed Air China, EL AL, Jet Airways, and Saudia.


Air China’s 747-8 first class

Overall I figured these were the “leftover” airlines when it comes to first class, though for the most part they’ve exceeded my expectations. EL AL, Jet Airways, and Saudia first class were much better than I was expecting, while Air China first class met my expectations.


Saudia’s 777-300ER first class

New first class products I have booked

In the next few weeks I have tickets booked in:

  • China Eastern first class, from Singapore to Shanghai to Los Angeles, for which I redeemed Korean Air SkyPass miles
  • Cathay Dragon first class, from Hong Kong to Beijing, which is really just a reverse herringbone seat, though I’m curious what the soft product is like


Cathay Dragon A330

That leaves me with three first class products

With the above out of the way, that means I have three first class products I still need to book and review, so I’ve been working on a strategy for trying them. Those three airlines are Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, and TAAG Angola.

Let me talk about them from the easiest to review to the most difficult. Unfortunately in all cases I’ll be paying cash, as there’s no practical way to redeem miles for these products, as far as I know.

Kuwait Airways

The first one is Kuwait Airways, which is easy. They have ~$1,800 one-way first class fares, which isn’t bad at all for international first class.

However, I’ve flown this route in business class and found the stop in Shannon annoying in terms of the experience, so I’m considering another route, like Manila to Frankfurt, which is marginally more expensive, but perhaps also a more interesting routing.

Still, for ease I’ll probably do Dubai to New York.

Oman Air

Next up is Oman Air, which is an airline I’ve had experiences on in business class, though it seems like their first class leaves a bit to be desired. The good news is that it’s not too tough to score a decent deal on a first class ticket. You can fly from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur, with the second flight in first class, for ~$1,560.

The reason I’ve held off on Oman Air is because they were rumored to be introducing a new first class product on one of their 787-9s, though it looks like that’s not actually happening, based on what I’ve heard. Instead all 787-9s will apparently just be two class, with their excellent Apex Suites in business class.

TAAG Angola

This brings me to the last airline — TAAG Angola. I’d like to try them on a longhaul flight, and their destinations include Havana, Lisbon, Porto, and Sao Paulo. There’s no good way to redeem miles on them, and their fares are pretty expensive. So it looks like a ~$2,660 one-way ticket is the best way to fly them as of now, originating in Johannesburg and going all the way to Rio de Janeiro, using the cool intra-Brazil flight they operate.

Bottom line

I’m happy to be down to just three first class products, though now it’s time I get these airlines done. I hope to fly Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, and TAAG Angola in the first half of the year. Who knows, maybe I can make a really weird round the world trip that incorporates all three airlines.

If anyone has better ideas for trying any of these airlines in first class, I’d of course love to hear them!

Which of these three airlines are you most curious to read about?

Comments

  1. TAAG Angola flies the new planes with the first class product to Lisbon and Oporto.

    To Rio you will most probably find the old one.

  2. So lucky, Lucky!!!

    My vote is Oman, Kuwait, TAAG Angola though some may argue that Kuwait should come first due to more traffic.

    TAAG serves mostly for entertainment, not usefulness because most people will never have to go to Angola. If you fly that, make the trip worthwhile by a trip report to Luanda and even Windhoek, if you can make it to Namibia.

    I know it’s beneath you but when you finish all the airlines consider finding the best economy class airline and do a rare economy class review.

  3. @Lucky, I love your first class airline reviews. May I suggest something else as well? While your reviews of first class give me something to aspire to / look forward to, I also would love your take on more everyday / utilitarian flights that I and others are more likely to take often. Or are considering whether to book day-to-day.

    For example, a WOW airlines regular economy, or IcelandAir cheap flight to Europe, or AirAsia or Scoot flight, or JetBlue LGA-BOS (and how that compares against DL or AA). Airlines that many people are likely to encounter and value an opinion on before they take the gamble. I know it’ll be hours of discomfort for you as the one who has to fly and report instead of in palatial Emirates F, but I think it would add a lot of relevance to people’s every day airline choices (and your audience).

    Thanks!

  4. @Lucky, I found a cheaper first class on TAAG. You can fly one-way ex-LIS to GRU via LAD for ~$1,800. This might work better for you since LIS is closer to N America and cheaper to get a positioning flight. There are two F segments on this trip so you can review both of them or drop the LAD-GRU if you want. This can be booked on the TAAG website using multi-cities.

  5. the sad part about TAAG is the lack of airline partners, but if you can book this in F you can credit it to Flying Blue for some redeemable miles. The P class, which I quoted above, doesn’t seem to earn anything.

  6. Lucky,

    Which website will tell me the Emirates flight number to Brussel that will have it’s new first class suite? Seatguru.com doesn’t seem to give any 6 seat configuration on all flights to BRU from DXB. Thx

    Danny Chao

  7. TAAG Angola to Havana sounds super interesting. Is that a relic from when Angola was communist? I can’t imagine such a route being viable.

  8. @ Danny Chao — SeatGuru isn’t a reliable or accurate source of information, unfortunately. You can look at the seatmaps on the Emirates website if you don’t have ExpertFlyer, but right now you want EK183/184 between Dubai and Brussels.

  9. I think it would be fascinating to compare the differences in service levels between Kuwait’s MNL – KWI flight and its KWI – JFK flight.

    I love @zoqfotpik’s suggestion of trying out TAAG on a LIS – LAD – GRU routing. Like KQ, this would allow Ben to review and compare first class service levels on two different flights.

    That’s what a true avgeek would do.

  10. SAO PAULO!!!! YESS!!!!!!!

    That way you can spend a day or two here, eat some good churrasco, stay at Paulista area rather than at the Hilton or Hyatt you stayed at last time where you walked to the churrascaria lol. and you can fly out AA straight to LAX from GRU and review T3 with all their new lounges!

    make it happen benjamin

  11. If you’re flying TAAG, you should try to fly home on SonAir from Luanda to Houston. They have first class, and nobody has reviewed it yet. Also, for positioning to Johannesburg, I think you should try SAA’s new business class from D.C.

  12. Ben sorry to ask off topic a bit:
    You mentioned that you booked CZ J+ MU F by phone. I thought that these award space now show on KE award booking tool. However, I can’t seem to see anymore. Is that why you have to book via phone??

  13. I agree with @Nick. I fly out of IAH frequently and have been seeing their 747 parked outside Terminal D for the last 10+ years. From the pictures of their F cabin it seems to be pretty intimate and spacious. Private 747 for ~12+ hour flight

  14. Has the new Muscat airport opened yet? Would be cool for you to fly Oman Air first class and review the new airport and new Oman Air business/first class lounge!

  15. Have to disagree with doing US immigration at Shannon.

    Granted, there are barely any services in Shannon, but it is convenient use of time when you are there as a tech stop for refuelling. As a non-US citizen, doing US immigration at any point out of the US saves at least an hour, if not two, and means I can have shorter connection times. One can only hope that immigration kiosks are introduced at more US terminals.

  16. @Rezzadogs unfortunately you don’t go through customs/immigration in SNN on KWI SNN JFK. You do have to exit the plane and there’s a crew swap. There’s also a lounge for premium passengers. I enjoyed the stop, not sure why Lucky is complaining. Met some interesting people, saw the airport, etc.

  17. MH have just started to send the A350 to LHR. The seat looks underwhelming but I would like to see your thoughts on it.

  18. @Lucky It has to be Oman. They are opening the new terminal at Muscat airport on the 20th March and I would love to see a review of that plus the lounges!

  19. Beware of booking KU from MNL. KU doesn’t really offer a true first class product out of MNL. First of, KU uses its older frames to serve MNL. Business class gets to sit in the first class section and the ‘business’ class seats are sold as premium seating to Y passengers.

    I was told by the KU office in MNL that since yields are low out of MNL they don’t intent on serving MNL with a true first class product

  20. If what Dan said is true then I’ll be quite disappointed as I have booked KU F JED-KWI-MNL but they’re all 777s so should all have the new equipment… I truly hope that they don’t just treat it as J+ especially when there’re paying F customers.

    Lucky – looking forward to your KU F review. I’ve been looking all over the place and it’s mostly just drive-by shots of the suite (and maybe that motorised snack bar) before moving on back to biz.

  21. Ben, TAAG operates a very interesting non-stop flight from Luanda to Havana every Sunday with flight number DT701/702, and they are using a 3 class-featured B772. U can search it on their website but have to book with an agency.

    Wish u can consider it for your route plan!

  22. I have not read good things about Luanda. But I’ve been to Windhoek, which is a small and pleasant desert city. Think a less polished/touristy Santa Fe. But the reason you go to Namibia is to go to Sossusvlei, Etosha, Swakopmund, off the beaten path places, etc. I’d try to work in Air Namibia and some tourism there, connecting to the TAAG flights.

  23. If you end up in Rio, stay at the Fasano. It has an exclusive rooftop bar/pool overlooking Ipanema. Ahh.

  24. What about Rossiya?? You never ended up flying the pre merger first class . According to their seat maps they are still not reconfigured

  25. Yes, why not review MALAYSIA AIRLINES New First Class product?
    Also if you are brave enough Lucky, how about “Air Koryo” ?

  26. Maybe you could fly again to the airlines’ F class you’ve previously reviewed to see whether they’ve improved or not.

    (and… do you do videos on your travel reports?)

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