Travel blogger Sam Huang has made a habit of booking extravagant flights that only cost him a few hundred dollars.
This time, Huang cashed in 67,500 American Airlines miles for a one-way ticket from Chicago to Hong Kong. The first-class ticket on Hong Kong’s iconic airline, Cathay Pacific, normally goes for $10,000, but Huang paid just $130 (plus a $75 late booking fee). And he took plenty of pictures.
The first-class cabin Huang was in only had six seats, and he was taken aback by the “level of sophistication and elegance at every turn,” he wrote on his travel deals blog, TopMiles. “The service was top notch and you can easily tell they paid attention to the minor details.”
Huang used a clever method to cash in his American Advantage miles and snag the seat, and Business Insider has previously confirmed with airlines that his booking methods are indeed legitimate.
From caviar and Dom Perignon to foot massages, here is what Huang’s trip was like (in his own words). The most impressive part of the trip might be Cathay Pacific’s stunning lounges Huang was able to hang out in when he landed in Hong Kong.
I arrived at the check in counter with only a little bit over an hour to spare, having vastly underestimated the time it would take me from my hotel to the airport. Upon clearing security, I was surprised when the agent who checked me in earlier was there waiting for me. She noticed I was walking gingerly and immediately helped me with my carry on and escorted me to the first class lounge, which was greatly appreciated! I quickly settled into the rather plain British Airways first class lounge, which consisted of a bunch of sofas and a few potted plants.
The agent who escorted me in asked me what I wanted to drink. Knowing the amazing food and Dom waiting for me on board, I decided to just get a bottle of water. Shortly, it was time to board for my 15 hour flight to Hong Kong.
Still noticing my limp, the check in agent personally took my carry-on and escorted me from the lounge to the plane. There was only one bridge way from the gate to the plane, which meant the agent and I waited with everyone else as the boarded the plane.
I felt like George Clooney from 'Up in the Air' as everyone around us sneaked a peek to see who the heck I was.
We boarded and turned left to my seat of 1A. My first impression of the seat was just how ridiculously big it is. Cathay Pacific only has three seats per row, making them one of the widest airline seats in the air today. The first class suite doesn't have sliding doors, with Cathay preferring to have an open layout.
However, it is more than made up for by the fact there are only six seats in the entire cabin, making it one of the smallest and most exclusive first cabins in the sky. All together, there were two flight attendants serving three paying passengers and a Cathay Pacific pilot. I knew then this would be a fun ride!
I got settled into my seat and my two first class flight attendants and the purser introduced themselves. Unlike Emirates, the vast majority of crew members come from Hong Kong. In fact, the head flight attendant has been working there for over 20 years!
A young gentleman then asked me what I would like to drink. I asked for a glass of champagne and he quickly brought over a glass of Krug along with a small bite sized snack that consisted of primarily of salmon caviar.
Soon after, the aircraft doors were closed and we began our taxi to the runway. Chicago was hit by a blizzard just a couple days earlier, but you wouldn't have even known as the horizon was sky blue as we began our take off.
The engines roared to life as we took off for our 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Unlike the A380, certain versions of the 777 have a wing cam that shows you the view beneath the plane. Although the resolution is a bit low, I think its still gives a you a really unique vantage point not usually seen.
As we flew above the clouds, a very unique rainbow appeared. I was half temped to shout 'It's a double rainbow!' but reminded myself that I was in first class.
After we took off, the flight attendant came to refill my empty glass with even more Krug and served some warm nuts. He then took my lunch order. I first ordered the caviar, which came with a bread basket and way too many glasses. I was very impressed by the detailed plating. Instead of just scooping the caviar from the can, Cathay decided to bring out the can itself.
Not only that, they even provided a mother of pearl spoon, which apparently is used by the 1% so the caviar taste is not spoiled by the touch of metal. I'm not going to lie, the fancy spoon made a huge difference in taste.
This was followed by a delicious tomato basil soup. The flight attendant even came by with a pepper grinder and asked me how much pepper I would like on top!
Next up was the main appetizer, Jumbo Prawns on a grapefruit salad. These were prawns were enormous and probably one of the biggest shrimp I've ever eaten in my life. The shrimp was extremely juicy and you could taste the freshness. The grapefruit salad was also perfect, with just the right amount of vinaigrette.
I then proceeded to order the US prime beef fillet. I've had a couple steaks on other airlines and each time it has been extremely dry. This time around I ordered my steak completely rare.
All my doubts were wiped away with one bite I let out a big grin and was in food heaven. The steak was moist, tender, and the sauce was just right.
After polishing off steak I ordered the warm baked apple and raspberry filo pastry with dolce de leche. And lastly I had a bowl of red bean soup, a typical sweet soup that the Chinese drink to finish a meal off.
Overall, this was probably the best meal I've ever had on a plane. The service was impeccable, the food delicious, especially the prime fillet. I was stuffed and I had a glass of Johnny Blue to help me digest, along with some pralines.
Soon I was starting to fall into a food coma, and I went to the bathroom to change into my pajamas. Compared to the ones given by Emirates, these were designed clearly with the business traveller in mind, sporting a collar and shaped more like a dress shirt than pajamas.
The bathroom was spotless, and featured a porcelain sink. Pretty neat feature, clearly no detail was left unturned.
After I changed, I asked for my bed to be made. Luckily, there the seat next to me was empty, and the flight attendant suggested that I have my own separate bed there. Who can say no to that?
Emirates may have the enclosed suite, but the extra width and open design made my seat feel like a real bed that I could stretch out in.
I woke up while we were flying over Russia. The view was absolutely stunning as we flew over rivers of ice.
I decided to order a few in flight snacks. No, these are not pretzels and salty crackers you find on US airlines. Cathay pacific offers a variety of hot dishes. I ordered the famous noodle soup with dumplings. While the dumplings were delicious, the soup was a little bit bland even with a healthy dose of Chile paste.
I asked the flight attendant to take my dish away, and seeing my dish half empty, he immediately asked if I wanted another item on the menu. I ordered the prime beef burger. It was absolutely delicious and juicy. Once again, Cathay delivered a perfect beef entree.
Afterwards, I ordered some more Krug and settled in and enjoyed the view. The sun was still low on the horizon as we continued to race the sun to Hong Kong.
I proceeded to go on a House of Cards marathon. I usually don't watch much TV, but I was hooked and spent the next couple of hours watching a few episodes. Before I knew it, it was time for dinner prior to our arrival. I started with a plate of fruit.
We then began our descent into Hong Kong as nightfall and landed shortly. The flight crew, having seen me walking with a limp asked if I wanted to be escorted by wheelchair. I kindly declined, and thanked the crew for their amazing service. I passed through immigration and headed to the Arrivals lounge. That's right, Cathay Pacific has a lounge for just for first class arrival passengers! As expected, the layout was refined and well designed, with a huge omega clock on the wall.
After taking a shower, a lounge attendant asked if wanted to have something to eat. Even though I wasn't really hungry, I decided to take one for the team and order a Bento box. To be honest, I probably would have ordered another dish as the noodles were quite dry.
Determined to continue my slight buzz, I explored the Hong Kong nightlife with a friend. Finally, I got back to hotel right as the sun began to rise, and promptly fell asleep, capping off another crazy 24 hours flying high in the sky.
I woke up late in the morning, as I stayed up all night prior exploring the amazing night life in Hong Kong. Eager to finally experience the renovated first class lounges, I quickly had breakfast and checked out of my hotel and headed to the airport.
Cathay Pacific is one of the few airlines that have not one, but two first class lounges within the same terminal. Upon arriving, I was whisked into a marble lined elevator and up to the upper floor, where the first class lounge was located. The floor was lined with marble that shimmered in the glow of sunlight, giving the place a very airy and bright look. Seating was plentiful and well furnished with red leather trimmed sofas and chairs.
Not only that, Cathay Pacific has a self-serve champagne bar, complete with all you can drink Moet. It was a beautiful display, once again showing how much Cathay pays attention to the little things.
Soon I was notified my cabana was ready and I headed into my private room. The centrepiece of the room was a bathtub and shower. The room is laid out in a studio format, in which there is a couch and work desk within the same room, complete with a sink and a bathroom on the side.
With the sharp angles and minimalist design, this room was by far the best private room in an airport I've ever been in. Even the sink looked like it belonged on a spread in a home design magazine.
I decided to take a bath and soak it all in. In true Cathay Pacific fashion, an actual bath robe along with some slippers was provided!
After taking my bath, I decided to head to the Pier, the other Cathay Pacific first class lounge which was recently renovated a few months ago. As I left the lounge, I walked through the world famous Cathay Pacific noodle bar. Knowing that I had a feast waiting for me in the Pier, I quickly moved on.
The Pier is located on the opposite wing of the terminal and the going out the night before seemed to have made the pain on my sprained foot even worse. I decided to be like a senior and took a service cart to the Pier.
The first thing you notice about The Pier is that instead of having an open air format where you are above the terminal like The Wing, you are taken underground into an enclosed haven. The end result is a lounge that feels like home.
The living rooms were spacious, with plenty of seating for passengers. The artwork found throughout the lounge was absolutely stunning. Instead of marbled floors, The Pier featured mostly wooden and carpet floors, recreating that home experience.
Everywhere you looked around the lounge, you can easily see attention was paid to the little details. Even the napkins on a little prop cart in the middle of lounge were arranged perfectly.
If you need to get work down, Cathay Pacific offers the classiest work desk I've ever seen at a lounge.
At the far end of the living room, there's a full service bar in an horseshoe shape. Naturally, I had to get another glass of champagne.
After a few drinks, it was time for a late lunch. I first checked the self-service area, where if you are in a hurry you can grab something quickly to eat. Once again everything was laid out perfectly, and it seemed like I was on set of a TV cooking show.
Since I had plenty of time before my short flight to Manila, I headed instead to the dining room. On one side was a traditional full-service long bar.
Unique among lounges, Cathay pacific offers a complimentary 20 minute foot or back massage to all lounge guests. I was led to a beautiful decorated massage room.
My masseuse was extremely friendly and asked me what kind of massage I wanted. Since my foot was aching from my sprain two days ago, I chose the foot option. The friendly masseuse quickly got to work and found my sore spot.
After my massage I decided to spend my remaining time at the lounge in one of the eight day suites. Unlike the Cabanas found at the wing, the suites don't have a bath tub or an enclosed room. Instead each day suite features a day sofa that is long enough to turn into a day bed.
The highlight is the automated shutter blind. With a push of a button you can go from reading your book to staring outside at the airport runway.
Overall, the Cabanas are better than the day suites at the pier, but with a smaller number of cabanas and more passengers in the Wing, there might be a long wait time to use the Cabanas. If you decide to take a shower, Cathay does have shower rooms available, which again look straight out of a home design magazine.
I would rate the lounges at Hong Kong as among the best in the world, and certainly the best first class lounges in all of Asia. I especially loved The Pier, which was recently renovated, and the attention to every detail in both design and service made my experience truly exceptional.
Soon enough it was time board, and I headed out of the lounge and headed to the gate, where my short but fun 90 minute journey to Manila was about to begin.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.