Using AA Miles for F from MLE: EY vs CX

Old Sep 8, 18, 6:40 pm
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Using AA Miles for F from MLE: EY vs CX

Curious to get opinions from the team. Husband and I are redeeming 115,000 AA miles to return (First Class) to LA next summer from the Maldives. Options are via the Atlantic on EY or via the Pacific on CX. Routes would be:

MLE-AUH-JFK-LAX. EtIhad apartment for AUH-JFK and AA transcon F for the final leg. The MLE-AUH leg is operated with a recliner regional J seat.

or

MLE-CMB-HKG-LAX. Flying SriLankan (reverse herringbone) for the short hop to Colombo, CX reverse herringbone to HKG and then CX F HKG-LAX (with a 6 hour layover at HKG to enjoy The Pier)

Spoilt for choice, obviously. We’ve flown CX First once before (HKG-LHR), about 5 years ago, and I have such warm nostalgic feelings about it. That bed, the Krug, the service. One of the best flights I’ve ever taken, if not the best. Not a single negative thing to say about that one experience. But it’s been a while—is it still just as polished and perfect?

We’ve taken four flights on the EY Apartment, and more recently, too. We flew it on our honeymoon LHR-AUH-SYD r/t three years ago. We had two incredible crews, and two mediocre crews. The two segments with excellent crews made for an incredible experience; the other two lessened the overall experience. And the ground experience with EY, of course, is often “meh”. But watching flight reviews of the cabin also gives me the feels. That apartment-the space in the joining apartments, so private and exclusive. And when they get it right, they do get it right.

I am genuinely interested in what you think is the best use of the 115,000 AA miles: EY or CX. I’m especially hopeful that those of you who have also done both will help me reach a decision. What would you do? I cannot decide what will be the best experience (obviously wishing I could do both back-to-back to compare and let you know, but that’s not an option...)

Last edited by OneWorldSapphire; Sep 8, 18 at 7:18 pm
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Old Sep 8, 18, 8:19 pm
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CX has gone downhill, in my opinion, from what it was 10-15 years ago (I can't comment on a precise 2013 vs 2018 comparison, maybe someone else can, but I flew it in 2017 and wasn't wowed). The seat/bed is still great. The service and food aren't what it used to be. They no longer do the balik salmon along with the caviar. The Krug is no longer guaranteed, they have been rotating. You might read the reports on the CX board for more specifics from those who fly it regularly. I think there is wide consensus on the food being less than stellar these days, although to be fair the bulk of the criticism is probably lodged against the J food which I think has taken a greater hit. The lounges at HKG are still great -- Pier went through a downswing with a new caterer but is back again. In any event, I have been redeeming JL F for transpacs when possible, although as you probably know that doesn't work well for MLE.

I'm doing F Apts for the first time tomorrow (!) and will report back at some point thereafter. I am expecting the crew to be hit or miss, as you describe -- seems to be the issue with the ME3, and it will be a pleasant surprise if the crew is great. We are flying JFK-AUH-MLE (A320 recliners on the last segment).

As an alternative, keep in mind that CMB-HKG-LAX in J can get down to ~$1600, with HKG-LAX (if booked on AA) easily confirmable into F (A class) using 25,000 miles (and no co-pay if the J/R fare is around). Admittedly, AA even in F may not be what you're looking for, but $1600 + 25,000, if it's available, for CX J to HKG then AA F to LAX, is (in my opinion based on my current assessment of CX) a better deal for me than 115k for CX. At least, it's what I've booked for the way back from the Maldives for myself! I currently see $2300ish booking into I, but the J/R fare comes and goes, I snagged CMB-HKG-LAX-JFK-DCA for $1683, and used 25k to upgrade both HKG-LAX and LAX-JFK to F.
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Old Sep 8, 18, 9:12 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by OneWorldSapphire View Post
Curious to get opinions from the team. Husband and I are redeeming 115,000 AA miles to return (First Class) to LA next summer from the Maldives. Options are via the Atlantic on EY or via the Pacific on CX. Routes would be:

MLE-AUH-JFK-LAX. EtIhad apartment for AUH-JFK and AA transcon F for the final leg. The MLE-AUH leg is operated with a recliner regional J seat.

or

MLE-CMB-HKG-LAX. Flying SriLankan (reverse herringbone) for the short hop to Colombo, CX reverse herringbone to HKG and then CX F HKG-LAX (with a 6 hour layover at HKG to enjoy The Pier)
Is there 2 x F class awards on the dates you want?
You could do one route on the outbound & one on the return (if you are doing a round trip)

CX AA forum---> AA Award: Cathay Pacific / CX, KA availability, etc. (master thd)

EY AA forum-->Booking AA Award travel on Etihad / EY (master thread July 2017 onwards)
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Old Sep 8, 18, 10:50 pm
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Originally Posted by platbrownguy View Post
CX has gone downhill, in my opinion, from what it was 10-15 years ago (I can't comment on a precise 2013 vs 2018 comparison, maybe someone else can, but I flew it in 2017 and wasn't wowed). The seat/bed is still great. The service and food aren't what it used to be. They no longer do the balik salmon along with the caviar. The Krug is no longer guaranteed, they have been rotating. You might read the reports on the CX board for more specifics from those who fly it regularly. I think there is wide consensus on the food being less than stellar these days, although to be fair the bulk of the criticism is probably lodged against the J food which I think has taken a greater hit. The lounges at HKG are still great -- Pier went through a downswing with a new caterer but is back again. In any event, I have been redeeming JL F for transpacs when possible, although as you probably know that doesn't work well for MLE.

I'm doing F Apts for the first time tomorrow (!) and will report back at some point thereafter. I am expecting the crew to be hit or miss, as you describe -- seems to be the issue with the ME3, and it will be a pleasant surprise if the crew is great. We are flying JFK-AUH-MLE (A320 recliners on the last segment).

As an alternative, keep in mind that CMB-HKG-LAX in J can get down to ~$1600, with HKG-LAX (if booked on AA) easily confirmable into F (A class) using 25,000 miles (and no co-pay if the J/R fare is around). Admittedly, AA even in F may not be what you're looking for, but $1600 + 25,000, if it's available, for CX J to HKG then AA F to LAX, is (in my opinion based on my current assessment of CX) a better deal for me than 115k for CX. At least, it's what I've booked for the way back from the Maldives for myself! I currently see $2300ish booking into I, but the J/R fare comes and goes, I snagged CMB-HKG-LAX-JFK-DCA for $1683, and used 25k to upgrade both HKG-LAX and LAX-JFK to F.
Interesting about the recent CX issues. I dislike CX in J, but have such warm memories about consuming caviar and Krug with a pearl spoon in F. Hmmm...

Have a wonderful flight in the apartments tomorrow! I hope your flight is as perfect as were our two excellent segments. Let me know what you think!
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Old Sep 8, 18, 10:53 pm
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Originally Posted by platbrownguy View Post
CX has gone downhill, in my opinion, from what it was 10-15 years ago (I can't comment on a precise 2013 vs 2018 comparison, maybe someone else can, but I flew it in 2017 and wasn't wowed). The seat/bed is still great. The service and food aren't what it used to be. They no longer do the balik salmon along with the caviar. The Krug is no longer guaranteed, they have been rotating. You might read the reports on the CX board for more specifics from those who fly it regularly. I think there is wide consensus on the food being less than stellar these days, although to be fair the bulk of the criticism is probably lodged against the J food which I think has taken a greater hit. The lounges at HKG are still great -- Pier went through a downswing with a new caterer but is back again. In any event, I have been redeeming JL F for transpacs when possible, although as you probably know that doesn't work well for MLE.

I'm doing F Apts for the first time tomorrow (!) and will report back at some point thereafter. I am expecting the crew to be hit or miss, as you describe -- seems to be the issue with the ME3, and it will be a pleasant surprise if the crew is great. We are flying JFK-AUH-MLE (A320 recliners on the last segment).

As an alternative, keep in mind that CMB-HKG-LAX in J can get down to ~$1600, with HKG-LAX (if booked on AA) easily confirmable into F (A class) using 25,000 miles (and no co-pay if the J/R fare is around). Admittedly, AA even in F may not be what you're looking for, but $1600 + 25,000, if it's available, for CX J to HKG then AA F to LAX, is (in my opinion based on my current assessment of CX) a better deal for me than 115k for CX. At least, it's what I've booked for the way back from the Maldives for myself! I currently see $2300ish booking into I, but the J/R fare comes and goes, I snagged CMB-HKG-LAX-JFK-DCA for $1683, and used 25k to upgrade both HKG-LAX and LAX-JFK to F.
Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
Is there 2 x F class awards on the dates you want?
You could do one route on the outbound & one on the return (if you are doing a round trip)

CX AA forum---> AA Award: Cathay Pacific / CX, KA availability, etc. (master thd)

EY AA forum-->Booking AA Award travel on Etihad / EY (master thread July 2017 onwards)
its more of an around the world. BA 747 UD to LHR, then QR in J LHR-DOH-MLE.

yes on 2 seats for all segments on the EY option: the CX option has 2 seats on all segments except, of course, HKG-LAX in F. We’d be booked in F on separate flights with relatively close departure times. But using AA miles it’s free to change if and when CX dump closer in. We have some flexibility which flight we’d jump to at the dumping stage. If not we’d just fly that segment separately, no worries.
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Old Sep 8, 18, 10:59 pm
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Originally Posted by OneWorldSapphire View Post


Interesting about the recent CX issues. I dislike CX in J, but have such warm memories about consuming caviar and Krug with a pearl spoon in F. Hmmm...

Have a wonderful flight in the apartments tomorrow! I hope your flight is as perfect as were our two excellent segments. Let me know what you think!
Thanks! To be clear, they do still do the caviar with mother-of-pearl spoon, you just won't get the previously excellent Balik salmon along with it, and the Krug is uncertain.
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Old Sep 8, 18, 11:08 pm
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Originally Posted by platbrownguy View Post
Thanks! To be clear, they do still do the caviar with mother-of-pearl spoon, you just won't get the previously excellent Balik salmon along with it, and the Krug is uncertain.
Very helpful. Thanks. That’s really too bad. Now even more interested in hearing others’ recent CX F experiences!
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Old Sep 8, 18, 11:38 pm
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Originally Posted by platbrownguy View Post
Thanks! To be clear, they do still do the caviar with mother-of-pearl spoon, you just won't get the previously excellent Balik salmon along with it, and the Krug is uncertain.
CX F food has never really been top-of-class, like the Japanese carriers, but it's usually pretty good if not particularly imaginative. There are certainly people that complain about it in the CX forum, but I do think it's really the J class that is below-par (people have been complaining that it's gone way downhill, but frankly I always thought it was pretty bad and I haven't flown CX longhaul J in nearly 10 years. Regional J catering (which I've flown more recently) is also mediocre.

As for the champagne, I think most of the stuff that they've been serving when not Krug has been on par with or better than the base nonvintage Krug -- e.g., Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005/06 or vintage Krug. So I really wouldn't worry about that aspect.
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Old Sep 9, 18, 7:55 pm
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Is there no availability for CX award travel on the MLE-HKG nonstop?
Otherwise, I see no compelling reason to fly through CMB. I was just there last week; the airport has all of 14 gates. If you had say 5+ hours of time, perhaps you could go into town, but it is a good 45 min each way, depending on traffic.
Oddly, I found the CX biz service between HKG and CMB to be better than between HKG and ORD. The crews were younger and more energetic, and they didn't seem to disappear. The main meal was far more substantial. I only wish that they would do an arrival meal rather than after takeoff for CMB-HKG.

I also visited The Pier in HKG. Yea a great lounge. The food was good. Probably the very best airport lounge shower I've ever seen. If you have to be stuck at an airport, this is a good place to hang out.
They do have massages, but both times I was there the wait was 3+ hours long, well beyond the time of my next flight. All that said, if I had enough time, I'd rather just go into town and have a real meal and do something.
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Old Sep 9, 18, 8:06 pm
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EY has also gone downhill.

I've done both, and would guess you might have a harder time finding 2 F on CX than EY - seems like you have to do one F, one J and keep checking close in to see if they release a second one. Less fun to do that on the return than the outbound.

On the other hand, the scrum when I transferred in AUH from CMB was one of the worst, no lines, major press of people, almost missed my 90 minute connection (even as J/F passenger).

Of course, the idea that there are two F available on AA for JFK-LAX is sweetly innocent, but tough. I never flew the apartments, chose EY AUH-LAX F to save a bunch of time.

Of the options, I think non-stop AUH-LAX F is the most likely to be available.
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Old Sep 9, 18, 11:02 pm
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Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
Is there no availability for CX award travel on the MLE-HKG nonstop?
Otherwise, I see no compelling reason to fly through CMB. I was just there last week; the airport has all of 14 gates. If you had say 5+ hours of time, perhaps you could go into town, but it is a good 45 min each way, depending on traffic.
Oddly, I found the CX biz service between HKG and CMB to be better than between HKG and ORD. The crews were younger and more energetic, and they didn't seem to disappear. The main meal was far more substantial. I only wish that they would do an arrival meal rather than after takeoff for CMB-HKG.

I also visited The Pier in HKG. Yea a great lounge. The food was good. Probably the very best airport lounge shower I've ever seen. If you have to be stuck at an airport, this is a good place to hang out.
They do have massages, but both times I was there the wait was 3+ hours long, well beyond the time of my next flight. All that said, if I had enough time, I'd rather just go into town and have a real meal and do something.
It’s low season and the nonstop doesn’t operate daily. Unfortunately, on my flying day this is the case, so flying via CMB would be a must if I went via HKG.
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Old Sep 9, 18, 11:06 pm
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Originally Posted by beachfan View Post
EY has also gone downhill.

I've done both, and would guess you might have a harder time finding 2 F on CX than EY - seems like you have to do one F, one J and keep checking close in to see if they release a second one. Less fun to do that on the return than the outbound.

On the other hand, the scrum when I transferred in AUH from CMB was one of the worst, no lines, major press of people, almost missed my 90 minute connection (even as J/F passenger).

Of course, the idea that there are two F available on AA for JFK-LAX is sweetly innocent, but tough. I never flew the apartments, chose EY AUH-LAX F to save a bunch of time.

Of the options, I think non-stop AUH-LAX F is the most likely to be available.
currently two seats available to JFK and also to LAX, but the 77W cabin on EY doesn’t appeal to me at all. I think I’d rather do the apartment again and then switch at JFK to break it up.

ive also realized that, for a 5,000 mile penalty, I could redeem India-Asia 1 in J and Asia1-USA in F. This would allow QR MLE-DOH-NRT, with an overnight in Tokyo, and then NRT-LAX in F. Is JAL First really better than both CX and EY, to justify the extra 5,000 miles and an overnight in Tokyo (as amazing of a city as it may be)?
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Old Sep 10, 18, 12:39 am
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Originally Posted by OneWorldSapphire View Post


currently two seats available to JFK and also to LAX, but the 77W cabin on EY doesn’t appeal to me at all. I think I’d rather do the apartment again and then switch at JFK to break it up.

ive also realized that, for a 5,000 mile penalty, I could redeem India-Asia 1 in J and Asia1-USA in F. This would allow QR MLE-DOH-NRT, with an overnight in Tokyo, and then NRT-LAX in F. Is JAL First really better than both CX and EY, to justify the extra 5,000 miles and an overnight in Tokyo (as amazing of a city as it may be)?





Hello from aboard EY F Apts. Until T-90 min, wife and I were two of four pax in F on the flight. We are in 3K/4K. Then they seemingly op-up'ed the whole world, with the result that service is only so-so. One of the op-ups (5H) is a DYKWIA whose mother is in business (don't get me started), but then mother came to occupy the one vacant seat in F (5C) until the crew realized that she wasn't seated there--but not until after she insisted that she was keeping the headphones! (They told her, over her objection, that she couldn't keep the headphones, and they escorted her back to J, but now she's somehow in 3A chatting with probably-her-other-son who has been in and is probably supposed to be in 3A.)

Anyhow, EY is fine (and the seat itself is off the rails), and wife is more than happy, which is important. But right now I'm thinking man I'd rather be on JL for the longhaul. I've never had anyone on JL act as nonsensical as these jokers, and the JL staff would (correctly) be more assertive to the non-F pax who isn't supposed to be in F while providing better service to those who are.

Wifi is slow, several features don't work (storage drawers are broken, I had no hanger in my tiny closet, etc.), and EY allows inflight cell phone calls which one op-up pax is actually using, loudly.

Big disappointment is one of wife's windows in 4K won't close, so it's very very bright in her apartment. And the divider between her apartment and mine won't close, so it's bright in mine too. Manager was very apologetic and said we'd get 10,000 and 5,000 miles respectively (into what accounts, I have no idea, as we don't have EY accounts, but she said someone in the lounge would sort it out... we'll see.)

All that to say, if you can actually score JL F for only 5k more miles, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I wonder whether MLE-DOH-NRT is actually valid on a single award but if so then very nice.

also, aztimm, I was in the same boat re: MLE-HKG, it doesn't run daily so it's not useful for my dates either.

Last edited by platbrownguy; Sep 10, 18 at 7:19 pm Reason: update
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Old Sep 10, 18, 9:44 am
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Originally Posted by OneWorldSapphire View Post
ive also realized that, for a 5,000 mile penalty, I could redeem India-Asia 1 in J and Asia1-USA in F. This would allow QR MLE-DOH-NRT, with an overnight in Tokyo, and then NRT-LAX in F. Is JAL First really better than both CX and EY, to justify the extra 5,000 miles and an overnight in Tokyo (as amazing of a city as it may be)?[/left]
I can't compare to EY.
But JL vs. CX -- they're both great IMO, with some differences. Catering is definitely more elaborate on JL, and supposedly ex-Japan it's even better than other stations (I flew JFK-NRT). That said, NRT-LAX is a relatively short flight and might have somewhat reduced options.

Alcohol selection is broader (all the sakes) and probably a bit higher end (e.g., the ~$400-500 retail Salon, vs. what used to be ~$175 Krug NV but has been stepped up to sometimes ~$250 vintage Krug). Although frankly, at least in the air, I preferred their "backup" bubbly, the Charles Heidesieck Blanc des Millenaires (~$200) to the Salon.

On Service - I find the CX FA's "friendlier" but I think it's a language/confidence thing. Service is great on both.
I like the CX seat a little bit better though, it's more private. (And for me that perfect balance of privacy and non-claustrophobic, I don't love curtains/doors on my suites ).

I didn't get to use the F lounge in Japan, but I understand CX's F lounges (well, especially the Pier) are probably better than JL's.

For "only" 5k miles, I'd be inclined to try the JL just to say you've done it. I also view a stop in Tokyo as a desirable thing, as long as there's time for a meal.
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Old Sep 10, 18, 9:53 am
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I'd encourage you, for the 5K miles, to consider the QR-JL routing. I've done JL in F in both directions from LAX and can say it's one of my better travel experiences. I certainly think it's superior to CX, notwithstanding the slightly less private seat. Better service. WAY better food and drink. And although NRT might lack some of the ground amenities in the lounges, the transfer experience is for me just a little easier and more manageable. I quite like the JL F lounge, too. It's not over-the-top, but it's nice.

One option for you consider that's a little more direct, if you can find the space: MLE-CMB-NRT. CMB-NRT is served by UL. I'm pretty certain that is a year-round route, and current schedule shows it operates Su, W, Fr, Sa. I can't say UL's A330 business service is amazing (it's mediocre actually), but the more direct routing might make a difference for you. And the seat is certainly OK for sleeping.

In NRT you can exit the airport and take the short train ride into Narita town, a cute area to have a lunch and spend a little time walking around before heading back to the airport. Go back and shower in the lounge prior to your flight, and enjoy ample supplies of fresh sushi!
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