First kiss. First love. First first-class flight.

It was an epic 13-hour ride of a lifetime ‒ from JFK, New York, to Tokyo ‒ in ANA’s first class cabin. For $500. And 430,000 Aeroplan miles.

So, what was it like?

I’ll tell you in a minute.

But first, let’s backtrack a little, because I’m not from New York, and Tokyo was just a layover.

I’m from Moncton, NB ‒ and our final stop was Bali, Indonesia.

The first class experience

Ever since I started collecting credit card points in 2006, flying first class has intrigued me. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I had enough points to cover first class flights for me and my wife. (Though travelling took a back seat priority then because we had a new baby that year.)

Finally, last year, I took the plunge. And decided to splurge with my points for a first-class vacation for two.

For someone used to travelling economy, this first-class noob was in for a treat of a lifetime.

First things first: Air Canada’s business class

The flight from Moncton to our first stop in Montreal was nothing special – economy through Air Canada Jazz. We stayed at the Maple Leaf Lounge while waiting for our next flight to New York.

For our flight to New York, there was no first class, but we did get in business class – also a first for me. The biggest perk of having business class tickets was we had a different check-in line at the airport. If you’re used to airport travel, then you know how this can be a time-saver and big-time stress-reducer.

There was absolutely no waiting, no ticket automation…

We were travelling with a decent amount of luggage for our long trip, so the white glove service did help. We also didn’t have to worry about being overweight or paying extra for more bags.

Once we arrived in New York, we actually did an airport switcheroo from La Guardia to JFK after staying the night in Manhattan and seeing a few sites. Before my ANA first class flight, we waited comfortably at the British Airways First Class lounge, which was one of the nicest lounges of the trip.

British Airways First Class Lounge bar area @ JFK airportBritish Airways First Class Lounge bar area @ JFK airport

British Airways First Class Lounge large wine selection @ JFK airportBritish Airways First Class Lounge large wine selection @ JFK airport

British Airways First Class Lounge juice and cookie table @ JFK airportBritish Airways First Class Lounge juice and cookie table @ JFK airport

Crème de la crème: ANA first class service

Afterwards, we hopped onto our first, first class flight with ANA.

This was the real show-stopper.

Oh, where to start? Let’s see there was…

  • the cozy lounge outfits (pyjamas) you could take home,
  • a pair of slippers that your flight attendant assists you in putting on,
  • a super soft blanket made out of organic cotton no less,
  • a crazy comfortable chair with 3 modes for take-off and landing, relaxing, sleeping,
  • an amenity kit with 3 different kinds of The Ginza lotion, toothbrush, eye mask, etc, enclosed in a hard-shell blue Samsonite case.
  • a 20+ inch screen with a list of old and new Hollywood (and Japanese) movies to choose from (not to mention music and games),
  • a gourmet multi-course menu of Western and Japanese cuisine,
  • plenty of drinks from sparkling water, wine, tea, coffee and cocktails,
  • and the MOST attentive staff there is.

ANA First Class seat and control panelANA First Class seat and control panel

ANA First Class amenity kit contents and welcome champagneANA First Class amenity kit contents and welcome champagne

First class staff

To give you an example of how attentive the staff was, they pretty much tucked me into bed and sang me a lullaby. When I stepped away to go to the washroom, my bed was done up when I came back.

The washroom was always cleaned after a person used it and every single detail was taken care of. They would even personally lower a special cushioned platform to the floor for me so I didn’t have to touch the bathroom floor while changing into my pyjamas.

On top of that they were always offering to top up snacks and drinks, bring hot towels, or just check-in to see if we needed anything.

I honestly didn’t even know how to respond to such personalized service where they try and take care of EVERY detail for you.

Let’s talk about ANA first class food

Imagine the best Chef-quality restaurant you’ve been to.

Now imagine having that meal in the air.

I wouldn’t have thought some of the dishes they served me would have even been possible to prepare mid-flight. My jaw just kept dropping after dish after dish was served in front of me. It really was as good as any restaurant I’ve been to.

We had a choice between Western or Japanese cuisine. I chose Western and my wife chose Japanese.

And that’s without mentioning the free-flowing complimentary drinks. I had the choice between champagne, white, red or port wine, sake, shochu, aperitifs and cocktails, whiskeys, beers, tea and coffee.

Let’s take a look at both:

ANA Western Menu (JFK to HND)

First Class Western menu

From the Western menu, there was:

1st course: Smoked salmon and scallop tartar in bouchée pie

  • This was nice light starter
  • The bouchee pie and tartar with bread sticks were particularly good

2nd course: Parsnip mousse with caviar

  • A very expensive dish with an entire small jar of caviar
  • The caviar, mousse, and mini pancake combo was to die for

3rd course: Garden salad with creamy black pepper dressing

  • The salad was fresh and delicious
  • The dressing was simple and spot on

4th course: Corn soup

  • Simple, warm, and delicious dish
  • Better than it looks

5th course: Braised lamb shank with couscous

  • As good or better than any lamb I’ve had in a restaurant
  • It was moist, tender, and fall-off-the-bone delicious

6th course: Selection of bread served with butter and extra-virgin olive oil

  • Surprisingly, this too was a highlight of the meal
  • Dipping the tasty bread in mountains of oil, salt, and pepper was amazing

7th course: Cheese plate featuring Gorgonzola, Camembert, Piave Vecchio, and Goat milk cheeses

  • All 4 cheeses were quite strong and not to my liking
  • I definitely prefer my cheese mild

8th course: Warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream

  • This dessert was incredibly decadent with a lava chocolate center
  • This reminded me of my favourite warm brownies and ice cream, only better

9th course: Petit fours which is a selection of small sweets

  • There were 3 but I only got a picture of 2
  • None of them were too my tastes, but I’m picky with desserts

Here’s what all of these 9 delicious courses looked like:

1st course1st course: Smoked salmon and scallop tartar in bouchée pie

2nd, 3rd, and 6th course2nd course, 3rd course, and 6th course combined

4th course4th course: Corn soup

5th course5th course: Braised lamb shank with couscous

7th course7th course: Cheese plate

8th course8th course: Warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream

9th course9th course: Petit fours which is a selection of small sweets

ANA Japanese Menu (JFK to HND)

Here’s what the Japanese menu looked like along with some photos of selections from that menu.

First Class Japanese menu

There were 10 courses in all which was a bit wild for the uninitiated.

ANA First Class Japanese meal 1

ANA First Class Japanese meal 2

ANA First Class Japanese meal 3

ANA First Class Japanese meal 4

ANA First Class Japanese meal 5

Then there’s Thai Airways Royal first class

The last flight I took before arriving at my destination was with Thai Airways Royal first class.

Although it was a great flight, there was a marked difference between Thai Airways and ANA First Class.

The food, although decent, still felt like airplane food.

The service, although good, wasn’t above and beyond what you would expect on an airplane or what I received on ANA.

And the seats, although lie-flat and nice, didn’t feel like your own private pod with all the bells and whistles.

Thai Airways seatsThe seats were fully adjustable complete with moving footstool

Thai Airways amenities kitThe welcome package was nice and the pyjamas were thin and silky

Thai Airways amenities kit productsThe amenity kit was well stocked with items from the well-known French brand Payot

Thai Airways drinks menuGreat selection of beverages including Dom Pérignon champagne

Thai Airways breakfastThe breakfast was nice considering it was served in the air

How to make it happen for you

Although this may seem like a trip only the super wealthy can afford, let me first start off by saying that I’m not a millionaire by any means.

Being a business owner, however, I am able to put many of my business expenses on my credit cards and, in some cases, take advantage of referral bonuses when referring readers to the best credit cards on the market to accumulate extra points.

I also took advantage of all of the retail and banking Aeroplan bonuses I could get my hands on over the years.

All that doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself into your own first class trip using just credit card welcome bonuses and spending though – it’s possible.

You may want to settle on a destination that isn’t halfway across the world to a remote location like Bali to lower the number of miles required, but I’ll leave that up to you.

How I did it

For all the flights I took, it cost me 430,000 Aeroplan points – 215,000 per person.

A typical ticket price for the flights that I took would have cost me around $52,000, if you count the extra cost of getting from Moncton to JFK in business class, which gives me an impressive point value of 12.1 cents per point.

$52,000 / 430,000 points = 12.1 cents per point

That being said, this trip was entirely funded by Aeroplan rewards that I earned through smart credit card use. And you can do it, too. It might just take a bit more time to save up.

How much time, exactly?

Let me crunch some more numbers for you.

How you can do it

I realize not everyone can put business expenses on their personal credit card.

On a regular $2,000 per month spend, without taking any sign-up bonuses, welcome offers, or special deals into account – and assuming you are earning 1.38 miles per $1 spent – you’d be able to earn the same amount of miles I used for my trip in about 13 years.

430,000 / 33,000 miles earned per year = 13.0 years

On a higher spend, say $5,000 per month, it would take you a little bit more than 5 years.

430,000 / 82,500 miles earned per year = 5.1 years

How you can fast track your Aeroplan earnings

A good way to stack up the most Aeroplan miles as possible is by taking advantage of amazing sign-up bonuses and limited time deals.

One amazing deal, for example, is through the – 50,000 Aeroplan points are yours simply for signing up for the card and making $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That’s already almost 12% of what you would need for your very own Bali trip for two.

It’s little brother, the , also comes with an equally impressive sign-up bonus of 25,000 Aeroplan points after the same required spending.

Aside from those hot credit card bonuses, we also regularly report on Aeroplan bonus point news, like an easy 1,000 miles here and another 2,000 here.

Here’s a table showing you how many points you can earn by taking advantage of all the Canadian welcome bonuses available to people with incomes above $60,000.

Seeing as this is a trip for two, you can get your partner to do the same and double all the amounts shown.

Credit Card Welcome Bonus Min. Spend Total Aeroplan Miles Earned Apply Now
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite 25,000 miles (terms) $2,000 27,375 miles Apply Now
TD Aeroplan Platinum 15,000 miles (terms) $2,000 16,550 miles Apply Now
American Express Gold Rewards 25,000 points (terms) $1,500 27,062 miles Apply Now
American Express Platinum 50,000 points (terms) $3,000 53,600 miles Apply Now
American Express AeroplanPlus Reserve 50,000 miles, $200 Air Canada eGift Card (terms) $3,000 for the miles only. The gift card requires $6,000. 53,862 miles Apply Now
American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum 40,000 miles, $150 Air Canada eGift Card (terms) $3,000 for the miles only. The gift card requires $6,000. 43,750 miles Apply Now
American Express AeroplanPlus Gold 15,000 miles (terms) $1,500 16,500 miles Apply Now
American Express AeroplanPlus 5,000 miles (terms) $500 5,500 miles Apply Now
CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite 15,000 miles None 17,375 miles Apply Now
Total 240,000 miles $16,500 21,574 miles

So you can see that if you’re willing to apply for 9 cards, spending $16,500 in minimum spends, you’ll earn 261,574 miles, which is more than enough to get one person to Bali first class.

All of that will cost you $2,636 in annual fees.

Assuming you are either buying your normal day to day stuff to meet the minimum spends or you are stocking up on gift cards which you can use for essentials later, then you don’t have to count that $16,500 in spending as an extra expense either.

Add the $500 in taxes and fees to that, and you’re at $3,136 out of pocket for a $26,000 first class flight with miles to spare.

You can lower this, of course, by focusing on cards that have first year free offers and avoiding some of the higher annual fees like $899.

If we take into account the first year free offers in our example, the out of pocket cost would be lowered to $2,927 (the two TD cards are currently first year free, for a limited time).

The St. Regis Bali Resort

There is nothing sweeter than travelling first class ‒ on credit card points.

And to one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The Island of Bali, view from the airplane window

Don’t miss our 5-star stay at a Marriott property

If you want to see the details of where we stayed while in Bali, read all about it here.

Bali St. Regis Resort pool area

Your best trip with points

What was the best trip you’ve ever booked using points?

What point program did you use?

Let us know in the comments.