30th Birthday Trip, Part II: Re-Planning

Planning
Re-planning
Lufthansa A330 Old First Class DFW-FRA
Driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Oslo to celebrate Chris Guillebeau
Singapore A380 Suites Class FRA-SIN
Singapore Airlines Private Room and Singapore 777-300ER First Class SIN-HKG
Hong Kong and the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge and 747 First Class HKG-SFO

Many of you who have known about this trip since I first started talking about it also know I’ve changed the thing about 11 billion different times.  Surely I wouldn’t change it again, after writing such a nice and popular blog post about it?

Pfff…of course I would.  And I did.

Change 1: DFW-LHR-OSL to DFW-FRA-OSL

Originally I was going to fly DFW-London on British Airways in Coach, layover at Heathrow (in the nice Galleries First Lounge due to my Executive Platinum status on American), then fly onward to Norway from there.

So, what happened?  I have some miles with Chase that I can transfer instantly to a number of different airline loyalty programs, including United.  One of United’s Star Alliance partners is Lufthansa, who operates a nonstop DFW-Frankfurt flight to compete with American’s DFW-FRA flights.  Now, on the British Airways flight, I’d be in coach since there wasn’t availability to use miles in Business or First, plus their taxes and surcharges on their award tickets are extremely high.  Now, Lufthansa only releases First Class award availability to their partners very very close to the date of the flight, so I kept searching and searching and finally it came available 3 days before my trip!  I immediately canceled my British Airways flight and got confirmed in First Class aboard Lufthansa’s nonstop Frankfurt flight and onward to Oslo in “business” (on intra-European flights, Business class simply means an economy seat with no one next to you, nothing special).

I can hear you asking: why Frankfurt?  Two reasons: the Green Hell and the FCT

The final straight, approaching the gantry

The final straight, approaching the gantry

About two hours away from Frankfurt lies the Nurburgring, one of the most legendary racing circuits in the world.  Nicknamed the Green Hell, the Nordschleife is a 13.1 mile lap that is severely hard and incredibly fun.  The beautiful thing about the track is that it’s technically a public road, so anyone can show up in a street legal vehicle and drive the track!  My layover in Frankfurt is 13.5 hours.  That gives me enough time to get a car, drive to the track, drive the circuit a few times, and drive back to Frankfurt airport with a few hours to spare.  It’s great fun, and it’ll appease all of you who said this trip was dumb and I was never leaving any airports.

Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at FRA

The second reason: FCT.  Lufthansa wasn’t satisfied putting in a First Class Lounge at Frankfurt’s airport (although they have two, I believe), they put in an entire First Class Terminal.  When you arrive, you’re taken through a private security and customs line, treated to 5-star service, 5-star food, can take a bath/shower in a private cabana (including a rubber ducky), and just enjoy the exclusivity of it all.  The best part: when it comes time for your flight, they don’t want you walking back to the other terminals, so they drive you to your plane in a Mercedes or Porsche.

I typically don’t fly on any Star Alliance carriers, so getting to this lounge (reserved for First Class passengers on Lufthansa flights) was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, especially with a few laps at the Nurburgring thrown in.

Change 2: HKG-YVR-NYC-DFW to HKG-SFO-DFW

Cathay Pacific has a legendary First Class experience, which I sampled on one of their 777s last year on my way to Vietnam.  The benefit of my original itinerary was being able to get a full day of work in our New York office on my way back to Dallas, which wasn’t a bad thing at all.  However, again, availability can always free up at the last minute, so I informally kept my eye on availability from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

Why Hong Kong to San Francisco?  Well, I currently have a client in Palo Alto that I wanted to go visit for some in-depth training, so that was a natural fit.  But the real reason was a little more selfish and bucket-listy.

Cathay Pacific 747-400

Cathay Pacific is in the process of retiring their 747 fleet.  With the distances they fly, it just makes more sense to keep one ultra-longhaul plane, and they’ve decided the Boeing 777 will be their workhorse.  Cathay currently can only fly the 747 to San Francisco, and they won’t be flying it for much longer before switching to a 777.  A unique feature of the 747 is that most airlines put their First Class passengers on the lower deck in the very front of the aircraft.  If you get seat 1A or 1K, due to the angle of the cockpit and where it sits above the lower deck, you actually get to your destination before the pilots do!  So, I kept checking for availability, and four days ago it opened up: seat 1A on the Cathay Pacific 747 from Hong Kong to San Francisco.  The even better part about this is I land at Hong Kong around 5pm and my flight to San Francisco doesn’t leave until 2pm the next day, so I’ll actually be able to enjoy Hong Kong for an evening.

So, my revised trip looks like this:

and I’m formally re-titling the trip from 30th Birthday Trip to First Class 30th Birthday Trip.

Talk to you soon from the skies!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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