Vienna to Istanbul via Tokyo: Introduction

Introduction
Brussels Airlines Check-in New York JFK
Brussels Airlines Business Class New York to Brussels
Brussels Airlines and SAS Business Class Lounges Brussels
Austrian Business Class Brussels to Vienna
Hotel Imperial Vienna
Austrian Senator Lounge Vienna
Austrian Business Class Vienna to Tokyo Narita
ANA Business Class Lounge Tokyo Narita
Turkish Business Class Tokyo Narita to Istanbul
Park Hyatt Istanbul
Turkish Business Class Lounge Istanbul
LOT Business Class Istanbul to Warsaw
Hotel Bristol Warsaw
LOT Business Class Lounge Warsaw
LOT Business Class Warsaw to Chicago


One of the very best values on any airline’s award chart is US Airways’ pricing between the US and North Asia, which costs just 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class. Best of all they let you route via Europe and even have a stopover there if you’d like. It’s funny because they charge 100,000 miles for business class between the US and Europe, so they’re essentially giving you a 10,000 mile discount for taking a further 10 hour roundtrip flight. I know to others that sounds torturous, but to me it sounds awesome.

One of the cardinal rules I live by when it comes to mileage is to earn and burn. Some people view miles as a retirement account of sorts, which I find crazy, given the rate at which they devalue. “Saving” miles is the equivalent of keeping the most volatile and easily inflated currencies in an account not collecting any interest.

And I also think that any especially good values are most likely to get devalued, so when I have the opportunity I take advantage of them. I had purchased quite a few US Airways miles through the 100% bonus share miles promotion offered last October, whereby you earned a 100% bonus when transferring miles between accounts, which was a way to indirectly purchase miles for a little over a penny each.

I didn’t have much time to take a trip given how many others I had planned around this one, so the main goal with this trip was to sample and review as many airlines in business class as possible. The 90,000 miles cost me about $1,000 to purchase, so I figured that was a great “investment” to experience four new longhaul business class products.

In this post I shared my thought process for booking the award, and in this post I outline how you can book a similar award.

In the end my 90,000 mile itinerary looked as follows, in business class the whole way:

1/29 Brussels 502 New York to Brussels departing 5:15PM arriving 6:40AM (+1 day)
1/30 Austrian 352 Brussels to Vienna departing 10:10AM arriving 12:00PM
1/31 Austrian 51 Vienna to Tokyo departing 1:10PM arriving 8:25AM (+1 day)
2/01 Turkish 51 Tokyo to Istanbul departing 12:55PM arriving 6:10PM
2/02 LOT 136 Istanbul to Warsaw departing 5:25PM arriving 7:00PM
2/03 LOT 1 Warsaw to Chicago departing 12:15PM arriving 3:15PM

As you can see the trip was a bit crazy in that it spanned only five days and I’d be doing a direct turn in Tokyo, flying from Vienna to Tokyo and then straight to Istanbul (hence the title for the report).

The taxes on the ticket were roughly $150, and since I’m a Dividend Miles Gold member I didn’t have to pay the $50 processing fee that’s usually charged. The fares between Seattle and New York on the outbound and Chicago and Seattle on the return were extremely reasonable, so I decided to book paid tickets on American to give me a headstart on status for the year.

For the outbound I was looking forward to trying Brussels Airlines’ new business class, which is fully flat and seems to be pretty readily available using miles.

Then I was especially excited to try Austrian’s new business class, which had literally just rolled out a couple of weeks prior.

Then on the return I would have the opportunity to try Turkish, which I quite enjoyed back when they still had a first class product, though now that they no longer have that I was curious to see how their business class was.

And the last segment is actually the one I was most excited about, at least initially. It was scheduled to be operated by a LOT 787 featuring their brand new business class product. I hadn’t yet flown LOT or the 787, so I was extremely excited. Unfortunately the 787 groundings happened a couple of weeks before my trip, so it ended up being operated by a 767, which was quite the experience.

I’d also get a night in Vienna, Istanbul, and Warsaw. Vienna and Istanbul are two of my favorite cities in Europe, while I hadn’t yet been to Warsaw, so was excited to add that to my list.

In Vienna I decided to book the Hotel Imperial, a Starwood Luxury Collection property. Last time I was in Vienna I stayed at the Le Meridien which I loved, though since it was a one night stay I decided to try something new. The Hotel Imperial was available on cash & points, and since it was a category six property it cost me 8,000 Starpoints plus $150 for the one-night stay. While that’s a bit pricey, I figured it was as cheap as it’ll ever get, and for a one-night stay it seems worth the cost to review.

In Istanbul I decided to book the Park Hyatt, which I had heard amazing things about. The Fine Hotels & Resorts rate was 200 Euros, and for that I’d get daily breakfast, guaranteed 4PM late check-out, a room upgrade based on availability, and an 85 Euros hotel credit. The first three benefits are redundant since I’m also a Gold Passport Diamond member, but the 85 Euros hotel credit was the icing on the cake given that the rate was so reasonable to begin with.

In Warsaw I decided to stay at Hotel Bristol, a Starwood Luxury Collection property (recently rebranded from Le Meridien). I booked that through Virtuoso, and the benefits were breakfast, a room upgrade on availability, and the added amenity was a one way airport transfer. My rate was about 130USD.

Anyway, it was quite the whirlwind five days, and I can’t wait to share all the details. I’m aiming to have one installment per day, as I have yet another trip I just completed that I’m excited to write about.

As always, all comments/questions are welcome!

Comments

  1. JD says

    @Carl, he wrote that he’s doing a direct turn in Tokyo so it’s like a connection. Pretty sure it’s meant as a joke.

  2. Chris says

    A little off-topic – Is Virtuoso the (only) alternative to AmEx FHR for people who do not qualify because of their passports color?

  3. says

    I’m surprised you’re a dividend miles gold member. Doesn’t sound like you fly them that often.

    @Romsdeals – I see LAX-IST availability quite often, but they go quick.

  4. Mateo says

    A lot of travel for 24 hour stays. I fly NRT VIE. Week in VIE and on to YYZ for a week both on new fab OS biz and then AC biz YYZ-NRT. Great for 90,000!

  5. M says

    Off-topic, but I hate the new format of email daily digests. They are very confusing to me and loved the old format much better.

  6. Steve W says

    Totally off-topic, but FYI that the daily email digest (of which this is the first post) now only shows the first few lines of the post. I like the new style, but it looks like between yesterday and today someone tweaked something. I know the reason is to drive traffic to the site, but the “old way” was much more reader friendly.

  7. Ed says

    How did you go about booking this itinerary? I got curious and started searching on US, but their site says there isn’t a route JFK-NRT when searching from the award travel page. Did you have to call or did you construct as a multi-city and then book through an agent?

  8. lucky says

    @ Carl — Well because time was limited and I don’t like trekking into Tokyo for a day. It’s too far/expensive, and I’d much rather stay there for longer if I do go. I far prefer European cities for a one night overnight.

    @ Chris — There are some other programs, though none as rewarding. Those are the two best options.

    @ RomsdeAls — Yep, they have seven across seating in business class. Rarely does it open up between Los Angeles and Istanbul, though I see it once in a while.

    @ Travel Summary — I was gifted the status by a friend who’s a Chairman’s Preferred.

    @ TheBeerHunter — Every day!

    @ M @ Steve W — I wasn’t aware of the change, so will look into it right away. Sorry about that!

  9. lucky says

    @ jack — You’re allowed one stopover for as long as you’d like. Any other layovers enroute must be less than 24 hours.

  10. Chris says

    Zach, John K – I guess you didn’t understand the irony of the “different color passport” :) These options are only available for US folks.

    Not all of the readers here are US based. I guess Virtuoso is the only option and as Lucky said not as rewarding.

    Thank you.

  11. Chris says

    Just booked Bristol for June weekend (The KL deal!). Virtuoso rate for most basic room is $165 per night with upgrade upon avail., breakfast and one way airport transfer. While $130 is much better, the Virtoso rate is not that bad.

  12. lucky says

    @ Chris — Vienna is generally a pretty depressed hotel market, so that sounds about right. Just wish their amenity was more useful than a one way airport transfer.

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