I’m new to this whole travel hacking thing, and I admit that I’m less than thorough or diligent in my research and reading about how to maximize my free miles and points. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a recent post explaining how I earned free miles this year.) I see all these bloggers out there doing a great job of it, so for my first year of aggressively playing the credit card points game I took the lazy way out and did what they told me. Then, on a whim, I decided to attend Frequent Travelers University back in November. While I didn’t learn a ton of new tricks or techniques there, I did learn that most other people who were as serious about travel and travel hacking as me were doing a much better job of it.View from JAL airplane in Bangkok

I made some new friends who put me to shame. I met one guy who barely travels but had read everything he could find about manufactured spend and miles earning and had a solid grasp of which points transfer into which other programs. And I met others who have encyclopedic knowledge of which airlines can be booked using miles from which programs and where to search for availability.

But the most surprising thing I learned is that everyone else is flying business or first class. Granted lots of these folks earn miles from extensive business revenue travel and so they have far more miles to spend than they can use. First class is a logical choice for them. However, some of these people are like me, rarely paying for a flight and doing lots of travel, but still they never fly economy class.Emirates_Boeing_777-200LR_First_Class_Suite

So when I went to book my recent trip to Southeast Asia I decided to take the plunge. I’m stingy with my miles, always anticipating the next trip I can take with them, and I could only talk myself in to booking the return trip in business class. I figured I’m always so excited on the way there that it doesn’t matter if I’m in economy. (That was a gamble that worked out on this trip since I ended up with a whole row to myself: a free flat bed in economy). Well, business class was fabulous. I haven’t flown business class in a long time. And now I’m not sure I can go back to economy!

First, my flight from Bangkok left in the morning so I was up early and didn’t have time for breakfast. Fortunately business class flying comes with lounge access, and Japan Airlines runs some nice lounges.

Breakfast in JAL Sakura lounge

Breakfast in JAL Sakura lounge

When I got onboard they offered us champaign or orange juice. I took both for a DIY mimosa.

Mimosas after boarding

Mimosas after boarding

The seats on my Bangkok to Tokyo leg reclined almost fully, and also had a lumbar massage option.

JAL business class seat controller

JAL business class seat controller

A while into the flight we were served food: the Japanese meal option was pretty good, and with lovely presentation.

JAL business class meal: first course

JAL business class meal: first course

I had a 6 hour layover in Tokyo at the rather small and boring Haneda airport. Fortunately JAL has a huge lounge there, with good food and beverage service, lots of space, free wifi, comfy chairs, lockers, and showers.

JAL Sakura lounge at Haneda airport

JAL Sakura lounge at Haneda airport

And the best part in the lounge was the massage chairs! In it’s own massage pod, this chair was incredible. I had a lot of massages in Thailand, and while this wasn’t human hands, it was pretty damn close.

JAL Sakura lounge massage chair

JAL Sakura lounge massage chair

Not only can’t I fly coach any longer, but I think I need to find a place in my home for one of these chairs.

Finally, for the longer leg of the flight out of Tokyo we had fully lie flat seats/beds with big screens for movie/tv/games and a nice selection of food and drinks on demand.

Japan Airlines lie flat business class

Japan Airlines lie flat business class

I’m officially spoiled and doubling down on my miles earning so that I can enjoy business class for more of my international flying. For anyone else interested in learning more about travel hacking in the Bay Area, a few of us recently started a travel hacking meetup. Check it out if you want to join me in my business class flying fun.