Where Can I Fly in First Class Using Miles?

It’s no secret that First Class is on its way out. Whether we like it or not, airlines are slowly discontinuing First Class cabins from their long-haul fleets. This is mainly due to a decrease in demand, which can be attributed to the slump in business travel as well as the evolution of today’s Business Class seats.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the phaseout as some airlines operated First Class exclusively on their A380 and Boeing 747 fleets, which have seen early retirements and indefinite groundings across many airlines.

Fly First Class on These Airlines Around the World

While the number of First Class routes have been greatly reduced, there are still a few airlines that operate the cabin on long-haul flights. In this blog, we will discuss which airlines still offer First Class as well as how you can book seats using points and miles.

Air France

Air France La Premiere cabin image courtesy of Air France

Air France is one of the very few SkyTeam airlines to still operate a First Class cabin. The airline offers First Class exclusively onboard its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in a small and private 4-seat cabin consisting of just one row. Similar to SWISS, Air France makes its First Class cabin notoriously difficult to book using miles.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

Air France is currently scheduling the Boeing 777-300ER with First Class on its routes from Paris (CDG) to New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), San Francisco (SFO), Mexico City (MEX), Dubai (DXB), Tokyo-Narita (NRT), Tokyo-Haneda (HND), Hong Kong (HKG), Singapore (SIN), and Johannesburg (JNB). Award availability is plentiful, assuming that you are willing to part ways with half a million miles.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

As per the rule in SkyTeam, partner airlines are generally not able to access First Class seats. In other words, Air France’s First Class can only be booked using Flying Blue miles. Additionally, only members with Gold, Platinum, or higher status have access to First Class awards. Lastly, you can expect to pay a hefty premium as a round-trip First Class award redemption between North America and Europe will set you back a cool half-million Flying Blue miles.

All Nippon Airways

ANA First Class Suite
ANA First Class "The Suite" image courtesy of ANA

Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways, is a long time redemption favorite using Star Alliance miles. The airline operates First Class on its Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 fleet, both aircraft seating eight passengers in First Class with two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The airline is currently in the process of refurbishing its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with the latest First Class product called The Suite. This fully enclosed suite features a 43-inch screen, making it the largest inflight entertainment screen of any airline.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

While ANA currently has grounded its A380 fleet, which was previously operated exclusively on flights between Japan and Honolulu (HNL), it hopes to return flying the route once travel trends become more normal. First Class service is currently on the schedule starting in July, but this is always subject to change.

In the Continental U.S., the Boeing 777-300ER is currently scheduled with First Class service between Tokyo and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), New York (JFK), and Washington DC (IAD). While the airline has smaller 787s which could operate these routes, ANA has chosen to operate its larger Boeing 777 aircraft due to their larger cargo capacity. You'll also find First Class service on ANA currently scheduled from London (LHR).

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

ANA is fairly consistent when it comes to award availability as the airline releases one or two seats in First Class at 355 days before departure, with more seats released approximately two months before departure. The best redemption options for flights in ANA First Class are with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, ANA Mileage Club, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Avianca LifeMiles.

Related: A Guide to Miles Redemption with ANA Mileage Club

American Airlines

American Airlines flagship First Class seat
American Airlines Flagship First Class seat image courtesy of American

American Airlines is the only US legacy airline that still offers international First Class. In fact, it is the only airline in the Americas to do so. American Airlines’s First Class product isn’t on the same caliber as its international competitors and while the seat offers sufficient space to be deemed competitive the service is what many people consider to be lacking the most. Prior to the pandemic, however, the airline offered an extensive pre-flight dining in its flagship lounges, complete with multi-course dinners and 200 dollars a bottle Champagne.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

American operates First Class exclusively on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. These aircraft primarily operate from its hubs in Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), and Miami (MIA) to destinations in Asia, Europe, and South America. Additionally, American also operates this aircraft on its flagship service between Miami and Los Angeles, which offers three classes of service. The airline also operates First Class on transcontinental service between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, though the First Class product on its A321 is more similar to its long-haul Business Class.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

The best airline programs to redeem for American Airlines First Class are American's AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

Related: Booking Award Travel on the Major US Airlines

British Airways

British Airways First Class image courtesy of British Airways

British Airways operates First Class on its Boeing 777 and 787 fleets, which the airline has done somewhat consistently during the pandemic. With the A380s grounded indefinitely, First Class is available exclusively on these aircraft as their newly acquired A350-1000s only feature Business Class as the highest level of service.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

The Boeing 777 and 787 are the backbone of British Airways' long-haul fleet and these aircraft are used on its routes between London (LHR) and the United States, mainly Atlanta (ATL), Austin (AUS), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX), San Diego (SAN), Seattle (SEA), and Washington DC (IAD).

You'll also find British Airways First Class available in several other international markets around the world. As the airline still operates First Class on many of its routes, the cabin is fully bookable and award tickets are relatively available as a result of the low load factors.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

When flying from the U.S., you'll have significantly lower fuel surcharges if you redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles or Cathay Pacific Asia miles for flights on British Airways. Other programs you can use include American Airlines AAdvantage and British Airways' own Executive Club miles.

Related: How to Use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific First Class
Cathay Pacific First Class image courtesy of Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific flies an impressive First Class product on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The seats are an extra wide 36 inches and you'll have plenty of room to stretch your legs with 81 inches of pitch. The seats are so wide, you could probably fit multiple people in one seat, though the cabin crew would surely frown upon that. While there aren't fully enclosed doors with these seats, you'll still have plenty of privacy as seats are laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

Cathay Pacific isn't currently flying any First Class seats due to the pandemic, but it does plan to re-introduce this cabin once travel routes resume to a more normal level. At the moment, First Class is scheduled as early as May between Hong Kong (HKG) and Los Angeles (LAX), and you'll find First Class service bookable to San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Boston (BOS) for travel dates later in the year. Cathay Pacific also hopes to resume flying First Class to other major hubs around the world in Europe and Asia.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

One of the best deals you can find in the points and miles game is flying Cathay Pacific First Class using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. Another fantastic value is to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles and you'll find the most availability and get a head start on seats when booking with Cathay Pacific Asia miles.

Related: Redeeming Miles with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: A Complete Guide


Emirates First Class meal onboard A380
Emirates First Class image courtesy of Emirates

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the Airbus A380 and will, by most accounts, be the last operator of the jumbo jet as they intend to operate it through the mid 2030s. In addition to the A380, Emirates also offers First Class on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which are currently operated on its routes to the United States. The A380 is set to return to the US later in 2021, assuming that travel demand picks up by then.

Emirates currently operates two First Class products on its 777 and A380 fleet. The A380s are fitted with older style fully enclosed suites, complete with a shower and a fully staffed bar in the back. The Boeing 777s, however, are fitted with the newer ”Game Changer” First Class suites. These are arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration with doors that reach all the way towards the ceiling. The middle row suites have artificial windows to emulate the experience of having an actual window seat, just in case the suite feels too enclosed.

While the "Game Changer" suite is revolutionary, the airline doesn’t have any plans to retrofit the product to its existing 777 fleet. As a result, the likelihood of having the new product on your flight is relatively slim.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

Emirates offers First Class on the majority of its route network. In North America, look for First Class service from Boston (BOS), New York (JFK), Washington DC (IAD), Toronto (YYZ), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), and Los Angeles (LAX). And you can also find First Class available on its fifth freedom routes between Newark (EWR) and Athens (ATH), and New York (JFK) to/from Milan (MXP).

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

Despite the pandemic, Emirates First Class availability has been difficult to come by as the airline has managed to fill its planes fairly well. Emirates recently restricted access to its First Class awards for partner frequent flyer programs such as Alaska Airlines, so your best shot at securing an award seat is to book directly using Emirates Skywards. Luckily, you can transfer all major credit card currencies to Emirates Skywards miles.

Related: Emirates Skywards Points Redemption - How It's Done

Etihad Airways

woman sleeping in Etihad First Class
Ethiad Airways First Class image courtesy of Ethiad

Etihad Airways is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, based in Abu Dhabi. Although, the airline operates a smaller fleet than its arch rival Emirates. Etihad was previously known for offering some of the world’s best First Class products on its A380 Aircraft, but as these have been permanently retired, the airline operates a skeleton long-haul network using its Boeing 787 aircraft. A select few of these aircraft are fitted with a First Class cabin consisting of eight seats in a 1-2-1 layout.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

Etihad primarily operates this aircraft on its routes from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK), Washington DC (IAD), Geneva (GVA), and London (LHR). Currently, Etihad is scheduling a First Class cabin on flights to Los Angeles (LAX) starting in the fall of 2021. Aircraft swaps are common and there’s always a chance that the airline will swap a First Class 787 to a 787 without a First Class cabin.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

For dates later in the fall of 2021, First class award seats are widely available between Abu Dhabi and Washington DC. The best options for redeeming miles in Etihad First are with American Airlines AAdvantage and Air Canada Aeroplan, both offer significantly lower award rates than Etihad’s own frequent flyer program, Etihad Guest.

Related: Miles Redemption with Air Canada Aeroplan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines First Class seat with woodgrain furnishings
Japan Airlines First Class image courtesy of Japan Airlines

Japan’s second largest airline, Japan Airlines, has also operated First Class throughout the pandemic. The airline operates the cabin on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which features eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration on two rows.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

First Class is currently operated on flights between Tokyo (both HND & NRT) and New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Francisco (SFO) (only HND). You’ll also find First Class service on JAL from some major hubs in Europe such as London (LHR) and Paris (CDG).

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

Award availability is widely available in the coming months, as well as for dates further away in the future. The best mileage programs to redeem for JAL First Class seats are American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

Related: The Entire Process of Booking Award Travel from Start to Finish

Korean Air

Korean AIr Kosmo Suite image courtesy of Korean Air

Korean Air cut its First Class service considerably due to the pandemic. The airline is still flying a few Boeing 777s with First Class service and hopes to reintroduce the A380 later this year if travel demand picks up again. The Kosmo Suites, featuring a lie-flat bed and a 23-inch personal monitor, can be found on select 777-300ER aircraft as well as the A380. Both aircraft have a 1-2-1 configuration.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

Currently, you'll only find First Class service available on Korean Airlines between Seoul (ICN) and Los Angeles (LAX) or New York (JFK). It is currently flown on the 777, but flights later in 2021 are scheduled with the A380. The available routes and aircraft are always subject to change.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

Booking First Class seats on Korean Air using points and miles is only possible using Korean Air's SkyPass program. Unfortunately, it's not possible to book these seats using Delta SkyMiles nor Air France/KLM Flying Blue, so you'll either need to earn Korean SkyPass miles when you fly or you can transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.


Lufthansa First Class bathroom image courtesy of Lufthansa

Lufthansa is an airline where its First Class footprint has shrunk greatly during the past decade. The airline previously operated First Class on nearly all of its long-haul aircraft. In the mid-2010s, the airline began removing the cabin from its Airbus A330, A340-300, and Boeing 747-400 aircraft, making the A340-600, A380, and Boeing 747-8 the only aircraft with First Class onboard.

Fast forward to 2020, which resulted in the retirement of the Airbus A380 and A340-600, leaving just the Boeing 747-8 as the only aircraft with a First Class cabin onboard. Lufthansa is expected to take delivery of the Boeing 777-9X and a second batch of Airbus A350-900 aircraft, though it’s yet unclear whether these aircraft will feature a First Class cabin.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

At the time of writing, Lufthansa only operates the 747-8 on its routes from Frankfurt (FRA) to Mexico City (MEX) and Johannesburg (JNB), making them the only two routes that are currently bookable in First Class.

Once travel resumes to a more normal level, Lufthansa plans to reintroduce First Class to more markets. Currently, First Class service is scheduled as early as June between Frankfurt and the following U.S. cities: Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), and Newark (EWR).

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

Award availability is still difficult to come by as the airline only releases its seats 14 days in advance to Star Alliance partner airlines. The best programs to redeem for Lufthansa First Class are Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, and United Mileage Plus due to the fact that you won’t have to pay the exorbitant fuel surcharges when booking with these programs. You’ll also find some great redemption rates using ANA Mileage Club (if you can stomach the high fuel surcharges).

Related: How Far in Advance Do Award Seats Open?

Swiss International Air Lines

Swiss First Class image courtesy of SWISS

Swiss International Air Lines is a part of the Lufthansa Group and, unlike its parent company, SWISS offers First Class on its entire long-haul fleet. In fact, SWISS is the only airline in the world to do so. A key to this is the fact that its home market of Switzerland still sees strong demand in the pointy end and, as such, the airline is notoriously difficult to book in First Class using miles.

Which routes are available to fly First Class?

From the U.S. and Canada, you can find SWISS First Class flights between Zurich (ZRH) and Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Montreal (YUL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), and San Francisco (SFO). You’ll also find the service to many other destinations beyond Europe, such as to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Best Way to Redeem Points and Miles

The fact of the matter is that, despite offering a high capacity of First Class seats, SWISS doesn’t release any award inventory in First Class to its Star Alliance partners. In fact, not even all members of its own Miles&More program can book these seats. Only members at the Senator and HON Circle tier can book SWISS First Class using miles.

Luckily, you can still upgrade into SWISS First Class using Star Alliance miles. This would require you to purchase a Business Class ticket in the higher fare buckets C, D, and J. The inventory that is used for these upgrades is A-class, which is the same inventory for discounted paid First Class. Oftentimes, SWISS will offer promotional fares in A-class, which may equal the cost of an upgradeable Business Class ticket, making the concept of mileage upgrades somewhat pointless on SWISS.

Related: Why You Should Fly First or Business Class When Redeeming Miles

How to Book First Class Using Points and Miles

While some airlines make it easier than others, First Class seats are notoriously difficult to book with points and miles compared to other cabins. You have to be diligent to search when airlines release seats and when they might be available through your preferred frequent flyer program. Furthermore, you'll want to book seats as soon as you see them available as there are a limited number of seats and the inventory usually gets snatched up rather quickly.

If you'd like to leave this to the professionals, you can set up a booking request with one of our award travel experts any time. Just start up a chat and see what we can do to get you flying high in the best seats in the sky.

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