July 17, 2016

My First International First Class Experience

On July 7, 2012, Singapore Airlines made a mistake.  A big mistake.  While premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines weren't typically made available to United's MileagePlus frequent flyer members, an IT upgrade opened the floodgates.  Essentially all Singapore Airlines premium cabin inventory was mistakenly made available.

First Singapore Airlines booking
I was in Boulder with Emily for the weekend preparing for our wedding.  While we were both distracted with other things, I ended up booking a roundtrip business (on Singapore's A380) and first class award to Singapore.  For 260,000 United miles and $138 in taxes and fees!  

10% Rebate on Hyatt Award Redemptions

Hyatt's currently offering a 10% rebate on award redemptions to cardholders of their Visa card.  While not earth shattering, (they've offered a 20% rebate in the past) if you're debating between multiple properties, you may want to consider a Hyatt stay.

I was debating between two hotels in Tokyo but will likely stay at the Andaz given the rebate.  I'm booked on a two-night cash + points stay for 25,000 points and about $400.  The rebate will put 2,500 Hyatt Gold Passports points back in my account which I value at around $50.

Note that registration is required and you must register by 8/31/16.  While the offer is apparently targeted, in practice I would expect all cardholders to be eligible.

The promotion is good for stays through 10/31/16.  The terms state that points will be credited back to your account 6-8 weeks after a stay is completed but last year points were in my account a week or so after my stay.

July 10, 2016

A Trick to Buy United Miles on the Cheap

Buying miles can be a great way to acquire the incremental miles required for an award.  In that sense, they can unlock a ton of value"given that without the purchase of incremental miles, you'd be unable to redeem for the desired award ticket.

In planning our upcoming trip, we were short 1,500 United miles to book the final segment.  While I could have easily transferred 2,000 (you can only transfer in increments of 1,000) Chase Ultimate Rewards points,  I opted to buy some extra miles for exactly 2 cents each.

United's current "buy miles" promotion
United typically sells miles for 3.5 cents plus at 7.5% tax.  That amounts to 3.76 cents per mile.  United's pretty much always having a sale on miles including right now.  The sale is tiered and you can bring down the cost from 3.76 cents a mile to 1.88 cents a mile by buying 150,000 miles for $2,821.

Business Class Seat Selection Strategy

Selecting the "right" seats can make a huge difference in terms of comfort on a flight.  Especially during an international long haul.  Across 10+ hours, you are going to have to get up to use the restroom multiple times, you're going to want to get some sleep (thus minimal light/noise is key) and you're  probably going to want to look at the window at least once.  Balancing all three in first class isn't really an issue given that most first class cabins are configured in a 1-2-1 configuration.  Meaning if you want a window, that's no problem.  Everyone has direct aisle access and crews are typically great at ensuring the cabin stays quiet and dark during sleeping hours.

In business class, it's a bit of a different story.  While airlines are improving their cabin setup to provide aisle access for everyone, there is still a push to cram as many seats into each plane as possible.

Turkish Airlines 777-300ER Business Class

For our upcoming trip to the Maldives, we'll be flying two different Turkish Airlines configurations.  The first segment (from Houston to Istanbul) will be flown by a Boeing 777-300ER.  The second segment (from Istanbul to Male) will be flown by an Airbus A330-300.  While we've flown Turkish's 777 before, this will be our first time flying their A330.

July 3, 2016

Introduction: I'm Going Going, Back Back to Maldives, Maldives

Planning & Booking
American Express Centurion Lounge Houston IAH
Turkish Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Houston to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines A330-300 Business Class Istanbul to Male
Transfer from Male to Conrad Maldives
Conrad Maldives
Transfer from Conrad Maldives to Male
Singapore Airlines 777-200 Business Class Male to Singapore
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Business Class Lounge to Singapore
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Singapore to Tokyo (HND)
Andaz Tokyo
ANA Suite Lounge Tokyo (NRT)
ANA 777-300ER First Class Tokyo (NRT) to Houston

I've eluded to our upcoming RTW adventures in posts about the brand new Houston Centurion lounge as well as getting the most out of Hyatt Gold Passport points.  We're leaving next month and the trip is almost complete so figured I'd provide a bit more of a teaser in the form of an introductory post.

We were in the Maldives last year and just loved it.  There is something completely magical about the remoteness of it all.  There's no denying the fact that it's an incredibly challenging to get there.  Especially from the US.  But once you are there, it's the most beautiful place on earth (at least that I've seen).  So we set out to return later this summer.  While we loved the Park Hyatt, getting there is more of a challenge than other resorts.

24,000 miles RTW - map courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper

July 2, 2016

Review: American Express Centurion Lounge LGA

Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Washington Dulles (IAD) Lounge Hopping
United Airlines 777-200 Global First Washington to London
United Arrivals Lounge London
Andaz London Liverpool Street
Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge London
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment London to Abu Dhabi
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment Abu Dhabi to New York
American Express Centurion Lounge LGA

After a great couple of nights at the New York EDITION, it was time to head home.  But first, a quick stop at the Centurion at LaGuardia.  The lounge can be accessed with an American Express Platinum or Centurion card.  Or by paying $50 and holding any other Amex card.

The lounge is located on the 3rd floor of the B terminal (airside) and open from 5:30 AM to 8PM (limited hour on Saturday's).  LaGuardia certainly isn't America's best airport but with this lounge and TSA PreCheck, the experience is a whole lot better.

We spent 90 minutes in the lounge during this visit.  There is plenty of seating, a bar, buffet, and restrooms.  No shower rooms or massages but we tend to hangout in the quiet area (make a left once you enter the lounge) while planespotting, charging devices, and eating a bit.  

The staff is great and they tend to walk around and offer to refill drinks quite often.  

While the Dallas outpost tends to be the the best in the system, the LGA location dramatically improves the experience at the airport.  I'm excited to checkout the Houston location next month.  Kudos to Amex for building out such great lounges...hopefully they will continue to expand the system over the coming years.

June 26, 2016

Red-eye vs. Daytime Flight?

We are just a couple of months away from our latest adventure.  I'm working on finalizing details and will post an overview as soon as it comes together.  For now, we're headed back to the Maldives for four nights and have a couple of other cool stops as we circumnavigate the globe for the second time.

Going going back to back to...
 As of now, we're leaving Male for Tokyo with an overnight in Singapore.  This means a daytime flight from Male departing around 1PM and getting into Singapore around 8:40PM.  Followed by an early morning departure to Tokyo landing in the early afternoon.  The good news is that we'll be flying to Tokyo's Haneda airport which is far closer to the city.  But essentially we'll be spending two back to back days flying with a total of 12 hours in the air.

Current itinerary
Another option would be to take Singapore Airline's red-eye flight from Male to Singapore.  We took this flight last year and while it was fun, it wasn't that fun.  It's a late departure and an early arrival without proper time (<5 hour flight) to get a full night's sleep.  You have to balance that with an extra half day in the Maldives...which doesn't suck.  We could step right off that flight and onto our planned daytime flight to Haneda.  Or we could spend the day in Singapore and take another red-eye that evening to Narita.  But back to back red-eye's seems crazy.

So as of now, I'm leaning to keeping our itinerary as planned.  We will have a bit less time in the Maldives on our final day but we'll have a daytime seaplane ride to Male to look forward to.  We'll land in Singapore early enough that we can go into the city if we're feeling up to it.  Then we'll wake up rested the next morning for an 8AM flight to Haneda.

In certain cases, red-eye's are great.  They can save you the cost of a hotel room and enable you to enjoy a full day at your destination.  While I'd love more time in either the Maldives or Tokyo, I also want to feel relaxed and rested in both places.  Plus, I'm excited for back-to-back flights on one of my favorite airlines.

Would you choose a red-eye or a daytime flight?