Mega Trip #2: Awards in Singapore New Business Class, Qantas A380 First Class, Air New Zealand Business Premier, And More!

Earlier in the year I posted that I had three huge trips planned, all of which would be on new airlines to new destinations.

My first mega trip was in March and took me to Doha, Qatar, in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and Qatar Airways first class. I enjoyed both products, though surprisingly enough was blown away by Virgin Atlantic, and not so much by Qatar Airways. The full trip report of that experience can be found here.

Well, my second mega trip will take place in a few weeks, and some people have asked me for the details on that, so I figured I might as well share them now.

The trip started off innocently enough last December. As I posted last year on December 3, Singapore Airlines had just announced that they would be replacing the Boeing 747 with the Airbus 380 on the Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore route. There was a bit of lag in updating the system, so for a couple of days there was the opportunity to book business class on Singapore Airlines on the Airbus 380, which is otherwise blocked for partner award redemption. I’ve had the opportunity to fly Singapore’s new business on the 777 in the past, and it really is just about on par with most other airlines’ first class products.

I made the booking speculatively using my United miles, since I could always cancel closer to departure if I changed my mind. Once I had that reservation ticketed I decided to “maximize” it. I added the segments from Tampa to Washington to Los Angeles to the itinerary, and then considered where in Asia I wanted to go. One of the few major Asian cities I’ve yet to visit is Kuala Lumpur, so I decided to add on a segment from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, again on Singapore Airlines in business class. I’m quite looking forward to a 185 mile flight where a meal is served, just out of spite for all the US airlines I’ve flown that claim there’s not enough time to serve a drink on a flight double that length.

I left the reservation alone for a couple of months, as I really wasn’t sure where I wanted to go from there. I figured I’d maybe book a Cathay Pacific first class award back to the States, even though I’ve flown them several times before.

One afternoon while on the phone with a fellow FF-nut friend, I mentioned that I wanted to try a couple of more A380s, and he suggested I look at Qantas A380 award space between Asia and Australia. I had a bit of a “yeah right” response, since anyone that has looked at award space for Qantas from the US knows how stingy they are, so I wasn’t expecting them to be any better between Asia and Australia.

Sure enough I plugged in my preferred date, and what do you know, there’s a first class award seat on the Airbus 380 from Singapore to Sydney. Holy cow! While I had been to Sydney before, I hadn’t been to Melbourne, so I decided to book Singapore to Sydney, have a 23 hour layover in Sydney, and then fly Sydney to Melbourne in Qantas business class. The award cost me 45,000 American AAdvantage miles.

I was feeling awfully spontaneous at this point, since I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go from Melbourne. I was thinking of doing Air New Zealand back to the US, though examined all of my options carefully. After playing around with just about all the options out there, I noticed that Qantas had A380 first class award space from Melbourne to London via Singapore for a few days after I arrived, allowing me to see the city. For the geographically challenged among us (myself included), that’s a 22 hour one way journey. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so immediately put the ticket on a five day courtesy hold with American for 80,000 AAdvantage miles.

I thought this one out strategically. For those of you not familiar with UK air passenger taxes, the UK charges a nearly $200USD tax for those departing the UK on a longhaul flight in a premium cabin. However, that tax isn’t charged if you’re just connecting in the UK.

So over the next couple of days I examined my options for getting back to the States, and eventually stumbled upon Air New Zealand Business Premier award space on their brand new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. I didn’t want to continue on straight away after a nearly 24 hour flight from Melbourne, so figured I’d spend a night in Europe between those flights. The obvious choice was to spend the night in London, but like I said, I would have been charged the $200USD tax if I did that.

So instead I decided I’d visit Vienna. I added a segment to my OneWorld award on British Airways from London to Vienna after I arrived from Melbourne, and then added a segment from Vienna to London on British Midland the following morning before continuing to Los Angeles. Two more flights, two more products to test, a new city, and $200 saved. I booked the British Midland/Air New Zealand award through British Midland Diamond Club, where the one way business class award cost me 33,750 miles.

I’m still finalizing hotels, though it looks like I’ll get to try out a few nice hotels as well. I’m quite looking forward to actually spending some time in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, and Vienna.

In the end my routing will look like this:

The irony in all of this is that due to the Japan earthquake, Singapore Airlines actually downgraded my Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore flight from an Airbus 380 to a Boeing 777-300ER. Fortunately even that plane features their new business class and I managed to snag the best business class seat aboard, so I’m not too bummed about it.

Questions, comments, complaints, requests, critiques? šŸ˜‰

Comments

  1. My jaw just dropped. What a itinerary! Great airlines, A380, US, Asia, Europe…. Simpy an amazing journey this will be.

  2. The other thing you may want to ask SQ to do is if they’ll book you on the nonstop LAX-SIN on the A340-500 (I think seats have more pitch), stating you don’t want to fly via Japan. On their website, there is this exception including redemptions (but also an end date), and not sure when yours is…

  3. Very nice, those 22 hour kangaroo route flights are a lot of fun in F. I did it on BA a few years ago.

  4. Thanks, folks!

    @ David — Sure, here’s the breakdown:
    TPA-KUL 62,500 United miles + 25.80USD
    SIN-MEL 45,000 American miles + 58.00USD
    MEL-VIE 80,000 American miles + 127.20USD
    VIE-LHR 33,750 bmi miles + 198.35USD

    @ Billy — Thanks for the heads up! Looks like I miss the deadline by just a few days.

  5. Now you should have a contest where people guess how many trip report installments you’re going to make this. I’m going with 50. šŸ™‚

  6. With all of these stopovers and connections in such a short period of time, do you ever check your luggage or do you always carry-on so there’s no risk of losing anything? I can only imagine a doomsday scenario where you are in one continent and your luggage in another!

  7. I am United 1K and would like to book Singapore Air flight on the new 380 (or even their 777).

    You said: “I made the booking speculatively using my United miles, since I could always cancel closer to departure if I changed my mind. Once I had that reservation ticketed I decided to ā€œmaximizeā€ it. ”

    Did you call United, Singapore Air, or is there some site where I can check Singapore Air flights that can be booked with United miles?? Thank you!

  8. Well done!
    Fantastic and creative routings. Bit confused on who you’re flying back from London, BA?. And in a Premium cabin how are you dodging the excise?

    JRL

  9. Excellent. I am really looking forward to reading this trip report. Your previous trip on Virgin in UC has prompted me to finish my trip report from last November. My experience was so mediocre that I really couldn’t be bothered to write it up.

  10. Niiice trip! Ben. You’d love Melbourne. I didn’t know you can book Star partners one-way awards. I thought it has to be UA metal only.

  11. @JRL

    I think that Ben must be flying Qantas back to London, as he stated that they had award availability routing via Singapore. And BA have not got their A380’s yet.

  12. I just looked on Expert Flyer for QF F availability SIN-MEL / SIN-SYD – surprisingly plenty on offer for dates I looked at in June.

  13. I thought that Singapore Airlines was reinstating the A380 on the LAX-SIN (via Tokyo) route.

  14. Once again shows how rorted Aussies are with Qantas. Booking Sin-Syd in F on the 380 is 90,000 QFF points and $313 in surcharges for us šŸ™ if only I could convert them into aadvantage miles!

  15. @ DB — It’s funny you mention that, because this is the longest trip I’ve taken in a very long time. On one hand I’d hate to check a bag, but on the other hand with the number of amenity kits and pajamas I’ll be picking up along the way, it’s just not realistic for me to cram everything in a carry-on. So I usually never check bags, but am considering it this time around.

    @ D. Whitman — You would call United to book an award using United miles, though unfortunately Singapore blocks award redemptions in premium cabins on all of their flights operated with the 777-300ER and A380, so it’s not even worth trying. I just lucked out because I beat them to a schedule change that I was anticipating.

    @ JRL — From London I’m flying Air New Zealand back to Los Angeles, though first British Airways to Vienna. The premium tax is very cheap for a shorthaul sector, while it’s expensive for longhaul.

    @ John — Hah, I hadn’t even noticed that!

    @ Pegasus — Thanks, they’ve allowed one way awards on partners for quite a while now.

    @ Stuart Falk — They will be, though only in July. I’m traveling in May.

    @ Matthew — They wouldn’t be much higher. BA is pretty reasonable with partners, especially Qantas.

  16. Lucky– I spent three months living in Vienna last year and absolutely loved it. The Le Meridien there is very nice, as is Hotel Sacher and The Ring (but those won’t earn you any points!). Enjoy your time there!

    Also, Do&Co, the catering company, has a hotel there right across from Stephensplatz with a restaurant on the roof!

  17. I think I missed one detail in the post: How are you getting from Kuala Lumpur back to Singapore? Hitchhiking?

  18. You will enjoy Vienna. I went there a year ago. Great place!

    I did Singapore- Kuala Lumpur last month on A330 business class. Yes! SQ serves a light meal in 30 min. Great service.

    I have been on SQ 380 and 77W in J, and I actually prefer the 77W.

    I am looking forward to see your Air NĆ©w Zealand experience. I have a trip downunder later this year, and am interested to fly ANZ 77W.

  19. Hey Ben, this is an amazing trip! So lucky that you got the QF F award!

    I am in the process of constructing some what of a ‘mega’ trip like yours taking advantage of TK’s BKK-GRU mistake fare.

    1) South America to Australia in one-way F (*A miles)
    2) Australia to NZ one-way C AA miles
    3) NZ to KUL one-way C AA miles
    4) KUL-YUL one-way F AA miles

    Total cost in terms of miles is similar to yours, but it seems like my itinerary is nothing close to what you have in respect to ‘quality’ of carriers your are on! You are indeed ‘Lucky’!
    2)

  20. Lucky, you’re a madman. You’re also my hero šŸ™‚

    If you want to catch up in Vienna, I’d be happy to take you around the city šŸ™‚

  21. wow. I really envy you guys who can put these things together. And have the time to fly them all! šŸ™‚

    Guess I need to study up on all of this since I started getting in on all of these lucrative credit card bonuses. The ability to book 1 way awards now seems to be a real boon to being able to get creative.

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