Earlier this week I wrote about the ten cities that received the most visitors in 2016. I want continue on that theme with the best First Class products to each cit. Part 1 will feature the first five cities and the airlines that service them.
1 – London
London was the most popular tourist destination in 2016 with 18.82 million visitors. Unfortunately, London is a bit of a disappointment if you are a premium cabin enthusiast. London is a 7 hour flight from NYC, 8.5 hours from Miami and 10.5 hours from LA. The long flight time makes premium cabins a necessity from the west coast.
- Nonstop options from the US include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. British Airways offers First and Business class while Virgin Atlantic’s only premium cabin is dubbed “Upper Class”. I would suggest Virgin Atlantic if you insist on a nonstop.
- I would recommend the following Star Alliance itinerary: Lufthansa 747 First Class, stop Frankfurt and continue to London. You could also use an open jaw to continue to London out of Munich (spend time in Germany) or to leave Europe out of Paris (spend time in France). You can spend time in Germany, England and France if you opt to fly JFK-FRA-LHR. There are many other routing options available if you want a real treat (including mixed carrier).
2 – Bangkok
Bangkok was number two on MasterCard’s list with 18.24 million visitors. There are no nonstop flights from the US to Bangkok. Thai Airways flew LAX-BKK, with a stop in Seoul, for over 30 years before discontinuing the service in 2015. You must connect somewhere. Routings from the US to SE Asia can be extremely complex (or simple) depending on what you’re looking for.
- Japan Airlines has an amazing first class product that I flew (NRT-JFK) in November of 2015.
- Cathay Pacific connects in Hong Kong and you can stopover on non-one world tickets. Cathay First Class offers a consistent, quality first class product. I’ve flown their first class twice (ORD and JFK) and business class once. Choosing CX vs JAL really depends on personal preference.
- Star Alliance with All Nippon Airways, Asiana or Singapore Airlines would allow stops in Tokyo and Seoul, respectively.
- Singapore Airlines and Cathay are probably the cream of the transpacific crop.
- You can also fly Transatlantic to SE Asia. The best premium products are offered by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. For a flight to Bangkok, Emirates would be my transatlantic go to.
3 – Paris
Paris greeted 16.06 million visitors in 2015. Paris and London share many of the same premium routings with a few exceptions.
- Nonstop from the US to Paris is operated by Air France (SkyTeam). This is not how I would fly to Paris.
- If you look at a map, you can see that Swiss (Zurich) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt) are both very close to Paris. Both airlines are Star Alliance and have similar routing rules. Lufthansa First Class is usually ranked above Swiss’, but some people may prefer stopping in Switzerland instead of Germany. Paris also has many mixed carrier itineraries available. I would opt for one of these over a nonstop on Air France.
4 – Dubai
Dubai hosted 14.26 million visitors in 2015 and, like all of these cities, there are almost an unlimited number of ways to fly there. I would focus on the big three middle east carriers. The key is to fly their A380s.
- Emirates’ main hub is in Dubai and they have lots of options to fly direct from the US. Emirates also has the most aggressive marketing campaigns (see below). They would be my first choice for a Dubai routing and I hope to fly their First Class in the next 12 months.
- Etihad’s product is half a step behind Emirates’. As a One World partner, you have more flexibility positioning yourself in the US for the right Etihad flight. Their First Class product is top notch but would require a connection in their hub, Abu Dhabi.
- You are having a bad day if you are flying First on Qatar Airways. They are also a One World member and you would be better off flying Etihad.
Emirates US Marketing Campaign features Jennifer Aniston.
I think Europe’s ad campaign is better. Regardless, I can’t wait to fly Emirates’ F.
5 – Istanbul
Istanbul welcomed 12.56 million tourists in 2015. I want to go to Istanbul more than any other city on this list. There is tremendous value if you use Istanbul as your hub.
- Turkish Airlines has to be the go to here. Nonstop flights on a strong First Class product with a Star Alliance member. Generous routing on mixed carrier itineraries really blow the doors off here.
My next post on this topic will cover New York City, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong. Take a look at my travel booking service if you need help with destination race itineraries, cash flights or award mile redemptions.