There are any number of things in this hobby that people think of as aspirational. There’s an overwater villa in the Maldives or taking a shower in an A380. Things that people work for months or years collecting points so they’ll have enough to be able to experience these things for themselves. No matter how many reviews you read or pictures you see, there’s nothing that can compare to experiencing any of those things for the first time.
For me, it’s not easy to experience many of these things for myself. For starters, booking most of these awards require things I don’t have. Whether it’s flexibility in travel dates or the ability to leave for days or weeks at a time, I’m happy with knowing they’re things I’ll never experience. I’m OK with that.
But when where there’s a chance I can experience one of those things, you better believe I jump at the chance.
When Sharon and I were planning to go to Germany, I saw a chance to book one of the awards that I’ve only read about. We could book a flight on Singapore Airlines from New York to Frankfurt, Germany. It’s a fifth-freedom flight, the first leg of the flight from JFK to Singapore. While traveling to Singapore is on our list, it wasn’t for this trip. Being able to just take the part of the flight we wanted, get the experience and end up where we needed to be was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
This was one of the award redemptions I’ve read about for years. Even if the A380 plane from New York didn’t have the newest product from Singapore Airlines, it was still an airline I wanted to fly with for as long as I’ve been collecting points and miles. When I managed to book an award flight on Singapore in business class, I had an unusual amount of excitement.
This type of excitement you only get once. It’s the anticipation of experiencing something you’re only read about. Except, now you’re there. In advance, I got to “Book the Cook,” or in common terms, I was able to select my meal. I anguished over which seats I should select. Should we take two window seats or take two of the middle aisle. Did I want the bulkhead or not? I finally made my choice and waited for our flight to arrive.
I was almost as excited about this flight as I was for the rest of the trip.
As I’ve read, the flight crew greeted us by name and continued to do so for the rest of the flight. After having dinner, I was able to flip my seat over and turn it into the most comfortable bed I’ve ever experienced in the air. I was able to sleep for several hours, something that never usually happens on a plane, and was only woken up as we were descending into Frankfurt. I barely had time to change from my pajamas into my clothes.
No matter how much I was told about the experience, there was no way any of those posts about it could compare to experiencing it for myself.
That’s when I realized that no matter how jaded I might get about flying in business class or how I can say that one airline’s product is better than another’s, there will always be someone who has never experienced anything like that before. For them, this will be the best experience in their lifetime.
There will be some experiences that are better than others, no doubt. That doesn’t mean that everything less than the ultimate best is horrible. Most business class flights are better than 99% of the flights that other people are flying.
Even if you’re not staying in a suite with a butler, a hotel stay can still be once in a lifetime for the majority of travelers, even those who are reading a website focused on miles and points. I think we tend to forget this when comparing one flight or hotel stay to another. I might not have gotten to experience Singapore Suites Class with a lie-flat double bed and a private cabin. That doesn’t mean than the experience I had was any less impressive for me because it was still better than anything else I’ve ever seen.
Let’s not spoil it for others. We need to celebrate when someone is able to fly in domestic first class for the first time using miles. If you got a suite upgrade because you’re an IHG Platinum, that’s fantastic.
We can encourage people to strive for more but we also have to celebrate their accomplishments. I was able to fly with Singapore Airlines in business class. I’d love to do it again but it will never be more exciting than the first time, so I made sure to make the best of it.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary