Getting $50,000 Worth of Flights for a Trip to Asia with Miles
Article written by guest blogger: fMD. He has extensive experience and knowledge of points and travel hacking. He’s accumulated millions of points from dozens of credit cards and utilizes tricks of the trade to earn even more points and travel free with his wife all over the world! Comment below to ask him any questions you might have.
Ever since I first heard about the exclusive Singapore Suites, considered by many to be the fanciest class of commercial flying available today, I have wanted to try it out. The experience seemed like an elusive luxury in which really rich people get to spend an amazing flight being served champagne by a private flight attendant and sleep in comfort in a private room in the sky. Although over the past few years it has become increasingly EASIER to find award availability on Singapore Suites, it is still quite a stretch for the average mile hacker. My wife and I have long wished to go on an elaborate Southeast Asia vacation (mainly to Thailand) and I really wanted to do it in first class accommodations.
At the start of this adventure I had about 120k Amex Membership Rewards points that I set aside for the purpose of someday trying Singapore Suites but there were still a few issues:
- I needed more points. I wanted to book flights for two people from the west coast to Asia and the going redemption rate was about 75k per person.
- Availability which is notoriously difficult to find was going to be a challenge.
Due to these factors, I put the points aside and put this dream on the backburner. A few weeks ago, Chase made Singapore Air (KF) a mileage transfer partner. With this new development, I figured, what the heck, might as well take a look at availability. The next chance I’d have to take a trip was at the end of December so I looked at flights from LA to Japan during that time. I was shocked to find there was open availability! Two suites seats were just sitting there waiting for me to take them. In fact, there was availability on the way there AND the way back.
TIP: SQ charges higher fees coming from other countries into the US
I quickly talked it over with my wife and we decided to go for it. I needed 150k miles for the award I wanted. So I transferred 120k MR points and 30k UR points to Singapore KR.
TIP: You can now use the miles that work better for YOU. Currently, MR points are worth slightly more than UR points but I use them less often so I decided to use them for this trip
It took the Chase Ultimate Rewards about 2 days to post and then the Amex Membership Rewards points came in 2 days after that (I was really worried about losing my seats during this time).
With the final amount of KrisFlyer Points available, I reserved the tickets, picked two seats next to each other and paid for the additional fees for the tickets using my Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. I was able to pay all the taxes and fees using credit I had racked up via Barclays Arrival points.
Well that was easy right? Now I had a flight to Japan for our Asia trip and I just had to find a flight for the way back from Thailand (our final destination) and fill in the legs in between. Not so fast… You see, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to fly back around New Years. Flight availability during this peak travel time is NOT easy. My plan of action was to use AA miles that I had recently racked up from churning a few 100k AA executive cards.
TIP: AA miles can be used for award availability on other one world partners. You need to call them to book certain airlines like Cathay Pacific.
So I looked and looked. I found an AA flight from Shanghai (PVG) to LAX in first class but decided against it for two reasons:
- There would be 2 stopovers on the way home.
- I really didn’t want to spend my miles flying American first when I could be flying Cathay Pacific first (a much more luxurious airline) for the same amount. So I kept looking.
TIP: Use the BA search engine to find Cathay Pacific availability. The Qantas search engine also works if you want a month view of availability but I find BA to be easier if you know the dates you want.
One day, I took a look and there were two seats available on a Cathay Pacific route! I quickly called AA and asked them to book the seats. No go… It was phantom availability and the seats didn’t actually exist
TIP: Sometimes the BA search tool will show seats that don’t actually exist. You can use Asiamiles.com to see if the seats are real but it can also show phantom seats.
A few weeks later, two more seats became available from Hong Kong to LAX. Again, I called the AA reservations office to book them and this time they were real! I spent 67,500 AA miles per ticket to reserve the leg home.
TIP: AA has a great hold policy and they’ll let you hold a reservation for 5 days.
TIP: Cathay pacific has a domestic and international first class. See if there’s a premium economy class to give some insight as to which the plane has (international is MUCH better).
I held the reservation and got to work with the rest of the flight. I added a leg from Bangkok to Hong Kong on the same flight and then booked the tickets. The taxes and fees per ticket were a bit under $100.
My next step was to book a ticket using BA miles from Tokyo, Japan (where my Singapore Suites flight was arriving) to Hong Kong. This cost me 20k miles total for travel in Cathay Pacific Business class.
We plan on spending 2-3 days in Tokyo and Hong Kong. I then booked business class tickets on Dragonair from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai, Thailand for 15k BA miles each. The cost of this leg was a bit steep for the product we were getting (Dragonair business class is nothing special and economy is half the cost at 7.5k miles) but if you’re going all out, you might as well go all the way!
TIP: Instead of using 35k BA Avios miles to get from Tokyo to Thailand with a stop in Hong Kong (HKG), I could’ve using 22.5k Alaska miles, BUT Alaska miles will only let you book flights on Cathay pacific which flies to BKK (Bangkok) but NOT Chiang Mai (which is serviced by Dragonair). Also, my Alaska miles are much more valuable to me than BA avios as BA has a variety of transfer partners compared to Alaska. If we didn’t want to stop off in HKG we could’ve spent 30k AA miles.
All that’s left for me is to book flights between cities within Thailand. Stay tuned for that!
Here’s a recap: I used 150k KF (Kris Flyer, Singapore Air) miles, 135k AA miles and 70k BA miles to fly in Singapore Suites from LA to Tokyo, Japan, Cathay Pacific Business from Tokyo to Hong Kong, Dragonair Business from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai and Bangkok to LA (via Hong Kong) in Cathay Pacific First class. I used the itamatrix to calculate the value of all of these tickets.
It came out to an astonishing $51,460. I used 355k miles yielding over 14 cents per miles.
Not bad…Not bad at all.