Which Avios Partner Airlines Have First Class, and Which Is the Best?

Jun 11, 2019

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British Airways operates first class on many long-haul routes, and some routes are known to have excellent award availability.

But British Airways’ most-premium product is often criticised. The seats in first are not dissimilar to some other airlines’ business class, and the soft product (service, food and drinks, IFE) can be a let down, though it did just undergo a refresh.

The good news is that of the many of the partner airlines with which you can redeem your Avios, many feature a proper, long-haul first class product. So which carriers do, and which is the best? Here is our ranking.

1. Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines (tie)

Even when closely compared with each other, it’s difficult to choose one of these two products over the other, so we’re calling a tie. You will enjoy extravagant cuisine (including caviar!), luxury Champagne, spacious seats and personalised service on both airlines. Both airlines are known for being very consistent in their offering, meaning you are less likely to experience a bad flight or bad crew than you may on other airlines.

Both airlines offer a first class cabin on all London Heathrow (LHR) flights on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to Hong Kong (HKG) and Tokyo Haneda (HND) for Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, respectively. Cathay Pacific also operates flights from London Gatwick (LGW) and Manchester (MAN), although these flights do not have a first class cabin.

Japan Airlines 777-300ER first class. Photo by Eric Rosen
Japan Airlines 777-300ER first class. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)
Cathay Pacific First Class. Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.
Cathay Pacific First Class. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

With the new BA partner award chart, one-way flights in first class with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific from London (LHR) to Tokyo (HND) and Hong Kong (HKG), respectively, will cost 123,750 Avios.

3. Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways only offers a proper first class on its Airbus A380s, of which it only has a limited number. That said, Qatar does operate these A380s on some London (LHR) services. It’s not that Qatar first class is bad, but rather that its business class (especially Qsuite) is often considered to be the world’s best business class. As such, there’s not that much Qatar can offer to differentiate first class from business class in order to make it to the top of this list.

The seats and cabin are very spacious (though this comes at the expense of privacy), and you can expect the same incredible lounges, service and dine-on-demand food and beverages for which Qatar Airways is famous. It is unlikely you will be disappointed with its business class though, so you may wish to save your miles rather than splash out on a first class redemption.

Qatar Airways. (Photo by The Points Guy)

With BA’s new partner award chart, a one-way flight in Qatar Airways first class from London (LHR) to Doha (DOH) will cost you 82,500 Avios.

4. Qantas

Qantas only operates first class on its Airbus A380’s, which only operate one flight from Europe — its daily flagship service from London (LHR) to Sydney (SYD) via Singapore (SIN). Qantas’ other daily London flight, a nonstop 787 service to Perth (PER), does not feature a first class cabin.

Qantas’ first class product on its A380s has been around for a long time, and it will undergo a mild refresh starting this year. While there is nothing really wrong with the product, other airlines’ innovations in their first class products have left Qantas somewhat behind. Qantas is also very conservative when it comes to releasing award seats to partners, so it’s difficult to find award availability.

Aussie chef Neil Perry creates the menus for Qantas business and first class.
Qantas A380 First Class. Photo by Qantas.

Based on the new BA partner award chart, a one-way flight from London (LHR) to Singapore (SIN) will cost you 144,250 Avios.

5. American Airlines

American remains the last of the ‘Big 3’ US airlines to retain a proper international first class product. Delta removed its first class some years ago, and United is quickly removing first class in favour of its Polaris business class product.

AA only offers this product on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which it operates from some London (LHR) services to hubs of:

  • Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)

Other American Airlines flights from the UK do not feature a first class cabin.

American doesn’t have a great reputation in first class — hence why it makes the bottom of this list. The unusual seat, which swings around the make a mini-office in the sky, doesn’t have any privacy, and the soft product can leave much to be desired.

(Photo courtesy of American Airlines)
American Airlines First Class. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Based on the new BA partner award chart, a one-way flight in first class from London (LHR) to Dallas (DFW) will cost you 103,000 Avios.

Featured image by The Points Guy.

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