Time To Book US Airways Award To North Asia!

While not nearly as drastic as the United devaluation announced a couple of weeks back, Delta set a horrible precedent with their SkyMiles devaluation last week. I think the worst type of devaluation a program can make is one without any sort of advance notice. Members accrue points in good faith, and when you drastically change award costs without giving at least a bit of advance notice it’s totally unacceptable, in my opinion.

So I was already going to make a post reminding everyone to redeem US Airways miles ASAP, especially for awards to North Asia, which cost just 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class (and you can route via Europe with a stopover there). It’s the single best “gem” on their award chart. But after yesterday’s announcement that the DOJ finally approved the American and US Airways merger, I think it’s even more prudent than ever before to lock in such an award.

In October US Airways brought back their 100% bonus on shared miles, which is the single most lucrative promotion they run with some regularity. Through this promotion you can essentially generate miles for 1.1 cents each, which is an absolute bargain. When you think that 90,000 miles will get you a business class ticket to Asia, that means you’re essentially paying ~$1,000 for a business class ticket to Asia.

I went to town on this promotion, and set up several family members’ accounts so that they each have 90,000 miles in them. As a result, I’d say there has never been a better time to book these kinds of awards for now.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see US Airways devalue their award chart sometime soon. I would certainly hope they give some advance notice, though wouldn’t count on it based on the precedent Delta set. Furthermore, US Airways will be leaving the Star Alliance soon. The exact timeframe is anyone’s guess, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s either late this year or early next year. So the deadline for booking a Star Alliance business class award to Asia is quickly approaching.

I’ve taken several of these 90,000 mile business class trips to Asia this year alone, including:

If you’d like to book a business class award to North Asia, check out the post I wrote back in January with tips on how to go about booking, which airlines to book, etc.

So far using US Airways miles I’ve flown the following Star Alliance business class products:

With the remaining US Airways miles I have I’d like to try:

  • ANA 787 Longhaul Business Class
  • EgyptAir Business Class
  • Ethiopian 787 Business Class
  • LOT 787 Business Class
  • Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class
  • South African Airways Business Class
  • Swiss Business Class

Do you plan on booking a US Airways 90,000 mile business class award while it’s still possible? Which of the above products would you most like to read a review of?

Comments

  1. lucky, I’m an AA EXP. If I book an award travel using US 90k to Asia, do you think I am able to cancel without a fee after the merger just in case?

  2. We are on the same page with this one. I am in the process of getting this done. In order to have it correctly priced at 90k, do you suggest the first destination from the US be North Asia or Europe? Thanks

  3. @ jay — Assuming they offer tier matching early next year (which I suspect they will), you should probably be able to cancel without a fee at that point.

  4. @ Maury — It shouldn’t really matter. Just make it clear when you call that your Asian city is your destination and you’d like a stopover in Europe. If you get an agent that prices it wrong just hang up and call again.

  5. would you like to provide your rankings of these carriers, in your opinion, for these bus. class trips?

  6. @ mrredskin — I’d say EVA, ANA new business, Turkish, and Austrian are the best, followed by Brussels, US Airways, Air Canada, and Air China.

  7. MS business class is a comfortable seat (2-3-2), but not much else. The food is not good at all, and the airline does not serve alcohol. The lounges in Cairo are terrible.

  8. Thanks for the reminder. I still have a 100% bonus offer for buying US miles which would put the cost of a trip for two in business at $1750. Need to get planning!

  9. lucky, is US Air still blocking LH business class. I know they’ve explicitly blocked first, but I gather their systems implicitly also block business. I tried calling 3 agents, to no avail. Is it worth calling again and again?

  10. Ben, and in your rankings, where does LH Business class fall? Have you tried Asiana Business? Where would you suspect it will fall in the rankings?

  11. I was able to book 90k to North Asia via Africa (Egypt) but it’ll be awesome to see you fly to South Africa and still get the 90k price! Of the products you listed, it would be great to get a review of Ethiopian 787, South African Airways business, and EgyptAir business.

  12. I’m thinking of booking a segment or two in business class on swiss, so i’d love to see a report on that, but all of these look interesting, so I’ll be happy regardless of what you review

  13. I just booked mine right before the rush and I’m so glad I did. IAD-NRT-INC-HKG-BKK-BRU-IAD on ANA, Asiana, Thai and Brussels. Should be a ton of fun!

  14. Ben, and finally, one more question–am I correct in remembering that once a ticket is booked on USAirways, there is no changing of the ticket?

  15. @ Ozaer N. — Because EVA has a phenomenal reverse herringbone product. While Turkish has better food, the hard product is so much better on EVA that I’d rank them first.

  16. @ H — Yes, they’ve been blocking a ton of Lufthansa business class award space as well, and it’s tough to figure out the pattern there. Rather unfortunate.

  17. @ Denise — Lufthansa’s old business class would fall near the bottom of the list for me, while their new business class would fall near the middle, probably.

    Asiana’s new business class would fall near the top.

  18. @ PL — I don’t think 90K business class is a better value than 120K for first class. The reason I mention the 90K business class option is because space is generally wide open and there are lots of carriers to try. Meanwhile there are only a few airlines with a first class product, so your options are much more limited.

  19. @ Denise — The rule is that you can’t make changes after travel commences. Up until departure you can still make changes for a fee of $150.

  20. quick question, looking on expertflyer I see a bunch of seats open in EVA business class for the flight I want but not available to US airways. Is ANA the way to go to look for availability?

  21. where would thai business fall in your rankings?

    i have an intra-asia segment on 777. pretty excited for the overall itinerary with layover in korea and stops in taipei and hong kong.

  22. @ tim — They have several types of business class products, but in general I’d say right in the middle. They get a few extra points if you’re departing Bangkok internationally, since you get a 30 minute massage as a business class passenger.

  23. Great and timely advice as usual Lucky. Any exotic suggestions for us unfortunate Europe-based flyers looking to burn US Airways miles? šŸ™‚

  24. Lucky,

    I have to say I disagree with you. US Airways and American airlines are merging, thus they will not want to annoy their customers even more at the time being by raising their award chart.

    According to their statement they will be leaving Star Alliance in the next couple of weeks, but they are also looking to join O/W first quarter of 2014. What remains to everyone guess is when they’ll merge their FFP. Personally the later that happens the better! (Pure guess but would say not before 2015) It makes no doubt in my mind that you’ll be safe to redeem on OW at the current redemption chart until they merge their FFP with AA.

  25. @ Synd — Initially I felt the same way, but given how drastic the changes at Delta and United have been, and that the American and US Airways frequent flyer programs likely won’t be merged till 2015, I highly doubt they’ll keep redemption rates the same till then.

  26. Lucky-my father needs to go ORD-DYU (That’s dushanbe in tajikistan). A Saturday night-Thursday trip in December. If ANA is showing no availability..are there any other options?

  27. “Up until departure you can still make changes for a fee of $150.” Will that remain the case after US severs its *A partnerships? You’re not concerned that, by next summer, it’ll be tricky to change a booking on, say, ANA? Won’t US phone agents start claiming that the ticket I’m amending is on airlines that they don’t partner with?

  28. @ Josh — It could go either way, but my guess is that you’ll be able to add OneWorld carriers to the itinerary if the transition goes smoothly.

  29. While it’s a sweetheart redemption, shouldn’t we be in more of a rush to book longhaul partner FC awards on the old UA chart, as they have a known expiry date?

  30. @ DBest — Absolutely, and I posted about the best way to redeem United miles before the devaluation last week. But ideally you can do both soon. šŸ™‚

  31. Hmm, I just booked a UA award this weekend, and already took a US 90k business trip around the world last year, but this is a good argument. So long vacation days!

  32. By your experience, does US Airways really enforce the restriction of the 777 and A340 business class products? (bullet #2 on bottom of partner award chart)

  33. Re: changes after ticketing
    You mention that US Airways will probably make any future changes to existing tickets onto OneWorld partners, with the $150 fee, but I assume no changes in miles used. Would that cover changes to date/time, but not origin/destination/stopover? How drastic would the changes have to be, do you think, to cause a repricing of mileage on whatever new redemption chart they’ll have?

  34. @ BRC — There’s really no way to know for sure. My guess is that if the regions stay the same they’ll honor old costs, but it’s anyone’s guess what happens in reality.

  35. We’re having a tough time finding award seats to BOM for Dec/Jan at the moment – LH has avaialbility (ANA and united.com say so), but none of the US Airways agents I tried talking to were able to see those seats. Even tried asking for a manual request, but was shot down by all the agents I talked to. Any other ideas worth trying out? Availability via the Pacific (I’m based in SFO) is pretty spotty too.

  36. @ Nash D — For that time of year it’s pretty tough, and unfortunately US Airways does seem to be blocking even business class award availability on Lufthansa. šŸ™

  37. Going to Singapore in Feb :). Which J class do you recommend from YYZ? Options are Cathay 777 , Eva RL 777, EK A380, or TK 777?

  38. @ TJ — All great options so I’d go with whichever is the best value. All else being equal if choose Cathay Pacific or Emirates, followed by EVA, followed by Turkish.

  39. @lucky,
    I am waiting for late Jan or early Feb 2014 to book travel from US (hopefully NYC) to Sydney, Australia (with stopover in Auckland, NZ), or, in another way, NYC to AKL with a stopover in Sydney because I plan to bring my family to fly in mid-Dec 2014 and return around 1/1/2015. The business class I am prepared to pay is 110K miles per roundtrip.

    Did you ever post this flight? I know I am supposed to use ANA tool. But any idea which airlines I might take for this trip?

  40. @ Andy — I don’t think it’s a given that US Airways will still be in Star Alliance come February, so it’s tough to say what the best redemption option will be given that.

  41. @Lucky,
    Another option is, use 150K Delta skymiles to fly Australia Airline business class from NYC to Sydney, with a stopover in Auckland, NZ. But my skymiles (420K) could only buy 2 such tickets. (in this case, my family members will fly same day but in diffetrent airlines.)

    Question: I remember you answered me before that, 110K business class US Air US to Sydney trip has a version for economy class of 80K. Does the skymiles 150K business class from NYC or US to Sydney with Australiua Airline also have an economy version? If so, how much mileage?

  42. @Lucky,
    Thanks for quick reply. In current situation, what are possible airlines from NYC/USA to Sydney for 110K US Air miles business class roundtrip?

  43. @Lucky,
    Sorry to bother you again. I forgot to ask you whether Delta’s skymile devaluation this week changed its 150K miles business class roundtrip flight from NYC/USA to Sydney, Australia?

  44. @Lucky,
    Thanks. Your advice leads me into a conclusion that, if I fly economy class, I’d better choose delta, and if I fly business class, I’d better choose US Air. Any advice?

    So, in the end, I may consider splitting my family flights into delta and US air (on the same day hopefully). Thanks a lot for providing great info.

  45. Do you think it’s better to burn my 90,000 miles (all I have in us airways) for a business class ticket to north asia, or save them and combine them with my 59,000 AA miles?

    with the latter, i’d have enough for a first class trip on cathay and jal, something i’ve never experienced before. this is only if aa/us doesn’t devalue before they allow combining miles.

  46. I just booked a flight from china to Rome then to America and back to china. 9 legs to the flight. I have 9 day layover in Rome. Booked 4 economy and 2 business class tickets. 60k for coach and for some reason only 80k for business. Oct 1 I had 25,000 miles. Between 100% bonus transfer I got a cheap around the world ticket.

  47. @andy I think us airways has more options in asia with star alliance. You can goto any city in Asia. With delta you usually get stuck with coastal cities as internal china (china southern and china eastern) doesn’t get many released (I live in china 15 years)

  48. I was able to get 2 business on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Atlanta. I booked these for July 1 2014. I also needed to return January 2015 so I’m hoping that I get one of the flights changed and when close enough to book I will change the dates of return flight for later. Hard to book more than 330 days out sometimes. But with six tickets need to plan ahead.

  49. @ Travis Todd — Keep in mind that tickets are only valid for a year from the date they’re issued, so you won’t be able to change a flight to January 2015 if the itinerary has already been booked (since it’s outside the validity date of the ticket).

  50. @ Scott — You’re assuming redemption rates don’t change, so in your shoes I’d burn them now given what a good deal tickets to North Asia are. I’m sure you can rack up more points in the future for another ticket in first class on Cathay Pacific.

  51. And another question(s)….we’re now thinking a trip to New Zealand is more to our liking. I think that is another USAirways “sweet spot”,correct? (For 110,000 miles in business.) Is it correct that USAirways allows either one stopover OR an open jaw?

  52. Other Andy here again šŸ™‚ Been doing a little checking and Singapore Airlines always seems to be suggested on the United site for Europe to Asia. Am I right in thinking that I can’t get business on their flights? If this is the case, what airline would you guys recommend if I want to burn 90K in business using US Air points from Europe to North Asia (Bali, preferably)? Can I get some cool stopovers en route like Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo? My aim would be to spend like a total of 10-12 days in perhaps 3 places rather than be on planes constantly.

  53. @ Denise — Correct, 110,000 miles in business class to New Zealand is a great deal. You can do one stopover OR one open jaw, but not both.

  54. @ Denise — There are a few routes on which Singapore releases award space to partner airlines, which I covered here:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2013/11/04/redeeming-star-alliance-miles-travel-singapore-airlines-premium-cabins/

    You should be able to book those with US Airways miles. You can absolutely do a stopover, be it in Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Singapore, just to name a few options.

    One other airline to consider is Thai on the A380 out of Paris or Frankfurt through Frankfurt.

  55. Ben, Thank you again for all of your generous help! I have found Singapore Air from BKK but also, I have found Air New Zealand business from NRT. What do you think of that option? (I am looking for next fall and there is a lot of ANA space from the US to NRT.)I had not thought of going through FRA or CDG to New Zealand…hmmm…

  56. You think I could get away with a 90k business award to North Asia with a stopover in Israel? Is this legal for 90k or will they charge 120k? Thanks

  57. This is Andy (in black) from NYC, different from another Andy (in red).

    @Travis Todd, @Lucky,
    Thanks for advice. I would only like to know whether Delta award flight business class 150K or economy class 100K miles allows a stopover in New Zealand or not?

    My family plans a vacation to Sydney in Dec 2014, with a stopover at Auckland. Ben/Lucky told me US Air 110K business class (or, 80K economy class) allows a stopover in Auckland. I’d like to know if my family members fly separately in Delta and US Air on the same day (hopefully), can we both make a stopover at Auckland?

  58. @ Andy in NYC — Yes, Delta allows a stopover as well, so you could do a stopover in Australia enroute to New Zealand (or phrased differently a stopover in New Zealand enroute to Australia).

  59. ..continued…

    Or, in another way, can we both (both delta and US Air award flights from USA/NYC) make a stopover at Sydney if we choose Auckland as our destination?

  60. @Lucky,
    Thanks a lot, got it. Sincerely appreciate it.

    How early does Delta allow a flight reservation? 12 months or 11 months? We plan to depart from NYC/USA in mid-Dec 2014, and return on 1/1/2015.

  61. Lucky – I’ve got a first class ticket on hold with US Airways, leaving tomorrow. Have called back several times and have not had any luck ticketing it at 120K miles (North Asia price). Itinerary: US-NRT-BKK (8 days)-ICN (2 days)-US. Am I out of luck since I am staying longer in BKK than ICN?

  62. @ mangoceviche — If you are spending most of your time in South Asia it’ll be a tough sell, though it all depends on what the agent puts in as the destination. If you can find an agent to put Korea in as the destination it’ll price as North Asia, while if they put in Thailand it’ll price as South Asia.

  63. I kept calling and finally got an agent who ticketed the reservation for 120K. I’ve got Ana F, Thai A380, and Eva new business (no kitty jet, unfortunately). Thanks for your help! One other question: I recall your mentioning in a trip report that Japanese airlines do not allow photography on the ground (or something to that effect). Does the policy still apply? Wouldn’t want to get kicked off Ana.

  64. I’m planning to book my trip sometime in the next two weeks, but I have a question – can I have my destination come BEFORE my stopover? IE can I go PHL -> HNK (destination), then HNK -> SIN (stopover), then SIN -> PHL?

    Thanks!

  65. @ Andy — It really depends on the agent you get. It’s fine if the stopover comes before the destination chronologically, but technically the furthest region you travel to should be your destination. That being said, some agents may still price it as a North Asia award.

  66. How about North Asia to Europe via Hawaii for 80,000 miles Business Class?Is this a valid route?(i.e.TYO-Fra-HNL-TYO)

  67. hey, i’m looking to book iad-nrt (stop)-bom (stop)- ist-iad and wondering whether this would be counted as a 90k award for the stop in tokyo or 120k award for the stop in bombay. i found availability in biz for the dates i want, just want to know how much it will cost me.

    since the agents are supposedly clueless, do we just feed them info that i want a stopover in bombay on my way back home?

  68. @ shigumi — Definitely depends on the agent you get. You’ll want to sell it as going to Tokyo, and then when you feed them the routing explain that you want a stopover in BOM on the way back.

  69. worked! had to HUCA about 4 times … but finally met a lackadaisical agent who was happy to be spoonfed the info

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