Just booked my last Aeroplan 120,000 mile first class award…

There are a few award redemptions that are just too lucrative not to take advantage of, and for me one of those has been the Aeroplan first class award from North America to Asia for 120,000 miles roundtrip in first class, allowing one to route via Europe. Just a couple of examples of the awards I’ve booked through Aeroplan include Tampa to Chicago to Zurich to London to Istanbul to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Munich to Zurich to New York (trip report here), and Tampa to Washington to Tokyo to Singapore to Bangkok to Tokyo to Seoul to Frankfurt to Seattle (trip report here).

Understandably these types of awards weren’t especially profitable for Aeroplan, so they recently announced that they would be modifying their award chart as of July 15. Kudos to them for giving some advance notice, and I certainly can’t blame them, since the region pairs that saw the greatest mileage increases were those that were previously most taken advantage of.

Anyway, I’ve had a bad habit of booking award travel fairly close to departure lately, and I tend to think that one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is the anticipation. So this time around I booked my award 10 months in advance. I’ll be doing this one with a friend, since premium cabin travel can only be so much fun alone, in my opinion. Actually, I kind of take that back, since I had a pretty damn good time in the Qantas A380 first class suite for over 30 hours last week, but still.

For once, however, the trip isn’t just about maximizing the amount of time in the air, but more about maximizing the time on the ground and also getting a good mix of airlines in (since my friend hasn’t flown first internationally quite as much as I have).

Anyway, we’ll be flying from San Francisco to Munich in Lufthansa first class and spending about 22 hours in Munich (which technically isn’t considered a stopover). Then we’ll fly from Munich to Zurich to Bangkok in Swiss first class, allowing us to experience both the Lufthansa first class lounge in Munich and the Swiss first class lounge in Zurich.

Then a couple of days later we’ll fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong in Thai first class. Thai’s in-flight service is quite good, though the real show stopper is the ground experience — despite Bangkok to Hong Kong being only a two or so hour flight, you get all the first class ground services, including an hour-long full body massage in the first class spa.

Then after a couple of days we’ll fly from Hong Kong to Seoul in Asiana business class, and after a quick overnight fly from Seoul to Frankfurt in Asiana first class. After yet another overnight we’ll fly from Frankfurt to Seattle in Lufthansa first class.

Anyway, while I’ve just about tried all the products before, I’m nonetheless excited about it, because first class cabins are constantly harder to get into due to many airlines eliminating first class and also more competition for the same seats, given that consumers are getting smarter not only in terms of using their miles, but also in terms of earning more miles through means other than flying.

Now I should probably go ahead and get started on the report from the four continent trip I returned from yesterday. It would be a lot easier if I weren’t headed to Paris this weekend!

Comments

  1. While that sounds like a great flight experience (in the air and at the airports) it still seems like you aren’t spending any quality time on the ground. With jet lag (even while traveling in first) the first day is usually a blur.

    It seems like you aren’t stopping anywhere more than about 48 hrs. Lots of air miles burned for little reward. I can see doing that once in a while but on a consistent basis it just looks like miles thrown away.

  2. @ rich (arizona) — We’re spending a full two days (three nights) in Bangkok and Hong Kong, and most of a day in Munich. My friend only has a week to travel. I don’t know about you, but when I get off a flight in international first class I’m ready to roll…

  3. Sorry lucky but I have to agree with rich. Why not just fly to Bangkok spend the entire trip in Thailand. Why not fly north on TG via BKK to Chiang Rai in order experience some of the cultural aspects of Thailand (i.e, meet some hill tribes, play with the elephants, explore the golden triangle, eat at some true rural mom & pop restaurants that you can’t find in the large cities). I sure do enjoy F and my time spent in the air, but what makes travel really memorable is immersing myself in something that is foreign to me. I hope you don’t see this as bashing your plans, I just want to better understand your perspective about how this is trip is maximizing time on the ground. Why not just pick one destination and not worry about trying to hit 4 different cities in a 7 day window.

  4. I’d have to agree with rich and 4Health. I have done countless FDs but never like that, even if it were only for pure MR. Its a waste of miles to just go someplace for a few hours.

  5. @ 4Health — It’s my friend’s first time to Asia, so I figured Bangkok and Hong Kong would be two good cities to visit for the first time. I’m thinking of hitting Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai instead, but for a first timer to Asia I think Bangkok is more interesting.

    @ WorldWinedExplorer — I wouldn’t call nearly three days at two destinations over a week just being somplace for a “few hours.” To each their own…

  6. Hey Ben, another nice award. For just visiting Bangkok and Hong Kong, two full days (three nights) is enough, in my opinion. With a nice 22 hour layover in MUC, this trip certainly serves its purpose, especially for your friend. Nice taste of two great Asian cities and a quick visit to MUC. Can’t beat that.

    However, now that you’ve been to all these places at least a few times, it would be a good idea to stroll around other parts of the country/world for a bit longer (i.e. visit Chiang Rai/Mai, Fukuoka for a nice onsen experience in winter, a trip to Iguassu falls, etc.).

    Over the past year and half, I had been lucky to take my wife to places I have been before. During our trips, I also plan one or two new places to visit and it has been great. This coming October, we are visiting Ayers Rock, Cairns, and Siem Reap along with Sydney, Bangkok, Phuket, where I have already been several times.

    Anyway, I am certainly looking forward to your trip report on the recent MEGA trip!

  7. Everyone is different. In my case the first day is just a blur/haze so to really see any city I need more time. Some people are better sleepers on planes. I certainly flunk that (regardless of class).

    Generally after adapting from jet lag I would stay in a city for at least 2-3 nights.

    Also since I don’t have (I’m guessing) the quantity of miles you do, I would want to maximize my use of them since after burning 100K+ on a trip (more if I’m taking a GF) it would take me some time to regain them (unless some of these credit card offers continue to run).

    Have fun.

  8. I’m taking 4 weeks for my seroplan 120K reward for Sept 2011, and planning on 3 weeks for the one I want to do in May 2012. To each his own, but I would kind of agree long way to go for a weeks travel.

  9. Do you know how Aeroplan will handle any voluntary changes to the routing or dates of your flights? I assume you’d have to pay a change fee, but can you use your tickets at the old mileage level anytime within a year from the original date of travel? I’m thinking of booking an award before the rates go up, but it’s tough to 100% commit.

  10. I think a lot of you have missed the point of why lucky travels the way he does. The trip is not just the destination but the journey there. If I could have a bed and get some sleep I could pretty much guarantee I would do just fine with 22 hours in some destinations.

  11. Lucky, do you know which a/c will LH use? Any chance you will try on one of the two new LH first class seat on this trip?

  12. I booked on these trips a few weeks ago. The cool thing about my itinerary is that I have two 20 hour connections in the Middle East while I still got charged the lower Asia 1 redemption. I got lucky with the agent making my booking. Have fun on you trip!

  13. perhaps you can offer more insight and comparison as to how the aeroplan 120k redemption is so advantageous. why is it so much better than others?
    by contrast I have a winter trip to Bali (YYZ-CDG-BKK-DPS; DPS-BKK(STOP)-FRA(18hrs)-IAD-BUF for 145k CO miles x2 =290k +$300 in taxes and fees. i didnt mind the taxes and fees even if it was quite a bit for an award.

  14. Coins,
    I know half the fun of flying someplace is getting there (upfront).
    Looks as thought your vacation is ‘getting there’. It’s a tactical error.

    Flying upfront is a means to an end. In your case, it’s a means. Wink.

  15. Lucky,
    It looks great. In act, it looks so great I have convinced my wife to do something similar so we can take advantage before aeroplan raises the amount.
    I have read all your past reports, and I am thinking of something like this to get the best of everything: (based in LA)
    LAX-Zurich on Swiss first, ZRH-IST-BKK on Turkish, BKK-HKG on Thai, HKG-Frankfurt probably thru Seoul on Asiana, then Frankfurt to LAX.
    Any suggestions of alternate product to try?
    Do you mostly search via aeroplan or do you find the need to use ANA, expert flyer, etc?

    Thanks for you’re great trip reports, looking forward to the next one.

  16. If everyone traveled for the same way, for the same purposes, wouldn’t that be boring?

    I know some people who never leave the hotel once they get where they are traveling – perhaps under the guise of “resort,” but, for me, it is the same thing. Other people take cruises – never leave the ship, trapped in a cabin room so small, I would be claustrophobic – but, other people like it.

    So, if Lucky likes premium first-class travel on different airlines, why should he conform to whatever way YOU (the collective you, not anyone specific) want to travel?

  17. @ Steve, Nathaniel. I guess. But why even bother stopping if the whole point is the journey? Why not just do a round the world trip in first class with no stops (which is valid on Air Canada)?

    Obviously the destination matters somewhat. It just seems silly to spend most of your time flying around in a confined space that, even for F suites, is smaller than my bedroom and eating meals that, while nice, aren’t more than $100 at any restaurant in the world. I understand Lucky is trying to build up his blogging creds here by posting a lot of trip reports, and certainly there is the novelty of doing international F for the first few times, but at some point one has to ask what’s the point of squeezing in one additional segment to a 10 segment itin for a 2 day trip?

  18. Lucky,
    Great blog but I have what might be a stupid question I think. When booking star awards with aeroplan for first class travel, why does selecting different flight choices for each flight segment change which flights are allowable for the remaining segment choices? Is there some rule on using different alliance airlines or something? I was trying to look at a first class flight from CHS -> MUC (stop) -> MAD -> CHS and it will show first class award options on the return trip but will not let me select any of them, but it will let me select 2 economy options for a 100k award. Thanks and sorry if this is too beginner a question.

  19. @ caelus — I can hope. I don’t think they’re givign their reconfigured aircraft any specific flight schedule this far out.

    @ dan — Well for one it’s 25,000 fewer miles than a similar booking through Continental (though Bali would be more expensive through Aeroplan than Continental), and they allow two stopovers on an award, instead of just one, like with Continental. $150/ticket for taxes in high? Sounds like you don’t make many bookings via British Airways. šŸ˜‰

    @ AdamRx — To make your expectations realistic, first class on Swiss from LAX to ZRH isn’t happening. They don’t release award space to/from the US in first class more than a few days out. You have a much better shot of flying with them from Europe to Asia. Turkish will no longer have their wet leased 777, so they’re no longer worth flying. I’d say if you can get Lufthansa, Swiss, Thai, and Asiana in a single award, you’re doing well airline-wise.

    @ Matt F — I assume you’re using aeroplan.com? That’s the problem. Try calling them up, it’s just their website not being able to handle very complicated bookings.

  20. I can’t figure out how Lucky can accumulate so many miles on so many different airlines. I know he does the MRs and the credit cards but it just doesn’t seem to add up to me…. maybe some trading involved? I have always drooled over the Aeroplan mileage chart and one time did some award booking trading with an Aeroplan member to take advantage.

  21. Funny story. Today, I tried booking a similar itinerary on March, called AMEX to transfer 120k miles.. and guess what? They transferred my miles to AeroMEXICO!!!!!
    Called back, asked for supervisor, and she told me the system decided the # I gave them was an aeromexico #. after a little screaming, she said she would contact tech support and get it fixed, and she went ahead and transferred another 120k I had to AeroPLAN. Desperately praying the 120k that was sent to AeroMexico goes back to me.

    Anyway, I’m on hold with Aeroplan right now while they calculate my taxes šŸ˜€

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