How To Book An Award Ticket To The Maldives?

I do what I can to share my thought process when booking award tickets and planning my travel.

I do it not only because I value the feedback you guys provide, but also because my hope is that “talking” through my thought process helps others that are in a similar planning situation.

As y’all know, I’m headed to the Maldives soon. And if there’s one destination that it’s not easy to plan a trip to/from, it’s the Maldives. So far I’ve asked you guys for feedback/shared my thought process on:

I’ve kind of realized that my top priority for planning this trip should be figuring out how to get to the Maldives, given that the rest of the trip isn’t happening if I can’t get there.

I’ve been pondering the options for booking a ticket, and have a few different mileage currencies I’m thinking of using. One thing to keep in mind is that Colombo, Sri Lanka is only an hour flight from Male, The Maldives.

CMBMLE

The reason that matters is because on the American AAdvantage award chart, Colombo is considered “Asia 2” (which from the US costs 55,000 miles in one-way business class or 67,500 miles in one-way first class), while Male is considered “Middle East” (which from the US costs 67,500 miles in one-way business class or 90,000 miles in one-way first class).

Not that it’s a deal breaker one way or another, but it is worth keeping in mind, since you can easily book a cheap ticket between the two.

SriLankan-A330-2

With that in mind, which routings to the Maldives am I considering?

JAL Business Class + SriLankan Business Class

JFKNRTCMB

Cost: 55,000 American AAdvantage miles

I recently flew Japan Airlines’ new first class for the first time, which was absolutely fantastic.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-01
Japan Airlines’ new first class product

Japan Airlines’ new business class product looks great, so I’d be curious to try it.

Then SriLankan also has a new business class product on their Airbus A330-300s. They fly this plane on some days between Tokyo Narita and Colombo, which is a roughly nine hour flight.

SriLankan-3
SriLankan’s A330 new business class product

It’s tough to beat the value of flying from New York to Tokyo to Colombo on a single 55,000 mile business class award, for example.

Cathay Pacific First Class + SriLankan Business Class

JFKHKGBKKCMB

Cost: 67,500 American AAdvantage miles

Here’s the issue. I could also for 67,500 American miles fly Cathay Pacific first class from the US to Hong Kong — which unarguably is way superior to business class on any airline — and then connect from Hong Kong to Colombo (via Bangkok) on one of SriLankan’s A330s with their slightly less modern business class product.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-02
Cathay Pacific’s first class product

The other advantage of this routing is that I could check out the new Qantas Lounge Hong Kong, which some argue is nicer than Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Wing-Lounge-03
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing First Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport

Frankly I struggle with not spending an extra 12,500 miles to fly first class over business class on a 15+ hour flight.

Etihad 787 First Class

IADAUHMLE

Cost: 90,000 American AAdvantage miles

I’ve flown the new Etihad A380 First Class Apartment, which was spectacular. Etihad’s other new aircraft is the Boeing 787-9, which they just recently started flying to Washington Dulles.

Etihad-787-First-Suite
Etihad’s 787 First Suite

So in theory I could fly Etihad’s 787-9 first class product through Abu Dhabi to get to the Maldives.

Singapore Airlines Suites Class

LAXNRTSINMLE

Cost: 102,650 Singapore KrisFlyer miles

One other great option is Singapore Airlines Suites Class, which is one of my favorite products in the world. All my A380 travel on Singapore lately has been between New York and Frankfurt. While that’s a lovely fifth freedom route, I don’t think it’s totally indicative of service in Suites Class, given what a quick overnight sector it is.

Singapore-A380-Suites-Class-01
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class

I’d be curious to finally try Suites Class on a longhaul daytime flight, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles are easy to accrue. Furthermore, for $100 I could add a stopover in Singapore for as long as I’d like.

Bottom line

Ultimately there are dozens of other itinerary combinations out there that could work, but the above four are the ones I’m most carefully considering.

In general I’m thinking:

  • Trying both Japan Airlines’ and Sri Lankan’s new products would be cool
  • In terms of marginal value it’s tough not to redeem an extra 12,500 miles for Cathay Pacific first class over business class on other airlines
  • I’ve done Etihad many times before, but is the 787 unique and interesting enough that I should try it?
  • Can you ever go wrong with Singapore Airlines?

I’m curious, which routing would you book? Or would you do something completely different than the above?

Comments

  1. Take the JAL + SriLankan to try new products as well as save miles. The miles you saved will make the hotel upgrade more justifiable as in all cases they will be used some time and you’ll save them and use the cash for this time. You’ll be saving around 35,000 miles with that option. Given that you value those miles at around 2 cents per mile, you’ll be saving around $700 with this option, which, I think, is enough for the upgrade!

  2. Has the award picture for Singapore Suites changed? Thought they were pretty much non-existent to the US.

  3. I just booked LAX-AUH-MLE on Etihad First and then am piecing together the return. I will be spending time in Sri Lanka, so want to book BA for their short hop MLE-CMB but I couldn’t get it to show on the award calendar. Maybe they only go CMB-MLE?

    From CMB, the wrinkle is the return. I have SIN-HKG-LAX in CX first (crazy not to do it at 67.5k, thats the most underpriced trip out there). I can’t get CMB-HKG on the day I want, so I either spend 3 nights in HK in January (which cut’s out too much time from Sri Lanka), or make my way to SIN. CMB-SIN is priced pretty high on SQ (35k via United, 40k minus the online discount using Krisflyer).

    If UL had space, I could fly CMB-SIN in business, but it looks like only coach is available. Let me know if you find UL avialability.

    Beware that the CMB-HKG flights alternate between non-stops and terrible overnights via BKK on an inferior plane. It is turning out tougher than it I thought it would. It looks like I might have to fly CMB-SIN in coach (at least it won’t cost me any extra miles; the CMB-HKG on CX will cost me 22.5k miles in business, which I’d do if I got it on a day I wanted).

    There is also SQ suite availability from CMB-SIN-NRT-LAX with the last two legs in suites. I only have enough miles to do this once, and since we were looking forward to it, I might do it. But I think the “double bed in the sky” sounds more appealing for an outbound at the start than the return trip.

    Any tips on MLE-CMB on BA?

  4. As a reader I would be more interested to hear your take on JAL Business. While personally I would love to fly F all the time, most of the time I settle for Business because I am traveling in a party of 2+, making F awards impossible. It would add a lot to the blog and your trip report library, I feel.

  5. The Cathay F class through HKG is a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t spend the extra 12.5k for First if they had it to spare.

  6. To throw another possibility out there, why not fly the Etihad 787 in business class? This is the same new Business Studio product as on the A380, which as you noted looks in many ways closer to first class. Award availability in J is MUCH better than in F for the routes with the new aircraft, so this would be of real value to your readers, not to mention a significant saving in miles over F (although yes I realize its the same number of miles as F to CMB, but nobody needs another trip report about Cathay F).

  7. While CX F is probably warranted for such a long flight, for the benefit of the readers (and to attract new visitors) I think you probably should consider a product you haven’t reviewed yet (JAL & Sri Lankan J) or a new product (like EY F).

  8. Not that you need to save miles, but your blog is about trying new things so you might as well do JAL and Sri Lanka in J. I mean Cathay F is nice but there is no novelty factor anymore considering how often you’ve done it.

  9. @beachfan: I was booked on the BA MLE-CMB flight but changed it to UL since BA’s flight leaves in the morning from MLE. We changed it to a 6:00 PM UL flight which gave us more time at the PH. Otherwise, it would have been a 4:00 AM wake-up.

    UL’s planes are very nice and clean and they actually provide a warm meal even in coach, on a 60 minute flight. Recommended.

  10. Beachfan if you’re already flying CX on the return why not just go mle to HKG? Long haul product, 9 pm departure makes it an easy connection. Seats will be available short notice if they have a lot unsold. CX released 9 business seats at t minus 14 seats when I finally booked

    BA’s MLE service is also seasonal, so go with Sri Lankan for that one hour flight. Depending on when you’re looking they probably ended it already

  11. @Andy, @Juan

    Thanks for the tips. I am spending most of my time in Sri Lanka, so MLE-HKG would require CMB-MLE. But it might be a better option than CMB-HKG two days early or CMB-SIN in coach. Thanks!

  12. Wait, Sri Lanka is Asia 2 but India is ME? That makes zero sense, and why wouldn’t everyone redeeming AA miles just fly to Colombo and book a separate ticket to their Indian destination??

    As for what you should do, I always prefer less connections, so IAD-AUH-MLE for the win.

  13. @beachfan
    For what it’s worth, I was able to book a MLE-CMB BA leg in 2013 via phone when it wouldn’t work online.

  14. Singapore of course, but try out business class. I think we’ve all seen the singapore airlines business class hard product, we would love to know how their soft product is. It’s different, something you haven’t done before.

  15. Would normally say absolutely CX F but it’s different for you since you have a platform that educates and entertains. Business class is more attainable for most people so a new review would be of greater value to your readers. Better choice than most jobs, that’s for sure.

  16. I prefer RTW trips and since you’ll be going over the Atlantic on the return trip, my vote goes to JL/UL business class transpacific.

  17. “Oddities” like those AAdvantage regions are exactly why I built the Mile Matrix app – so you can figure out the miles required to go from any country to any other country on any airline, to discover quirks in various award charts like this.

  18. Since there are two exciting new products, I’d love to hear about the JL and UL flights. However what comes as a close runner up would be the Etihad Boeing 787-9, which…wait, have you ever flown the plane before?…would come up also as an interesting product. IAD-AUH-LHR-NRT-CMB anyone?

  19. My first thought is: given that it’s only one hour from Colombo to Male, why on earth would anyone waste points on business/first class??

  20. I suppose there would be no way of going from the US to CMB on Air India. I recall you once saying that redeeming miles on AI is next to impossible. Pity. An Air India JFK-DEL first class trip report would be the post of the decade.

    Out of the proposed options I guess the JL/UL one would be the most interesting.

  21. Please, don’t fly CX or SQ F! If you are asking, it’s because you are considering the value for your readers. We don’t need more reviews of CX or SQ F, they only have less reviews than LH F.
    I know that the difference between J and F is small and if I were flying, I would certainly choose flying in F. But let’s have a trip report for a while without krug or caviar. Fly JL, CX, SQ or EY J for a change. If you must fly in F, at least choose something new (EY 787 F).

  22. There are also Qatar Airways and Malaysian Airlines which fly to Maldives. I flew business on both a year ago to Maldives using miles. Qatar has a great product with fantastic award availability, and arrival time in male is good for the next inter-island hop. It would be my first choice. Malaysian also has good availability, but given its recent history and a crappy product, I suggest to avoid. Cathay and Singapore has good product but their availability sucks. I simply couldn’t put together a schedule that makes sense with their available seats for two person on the same flight.

  23. Lucky, for the Singapore Airlines one-way $100 stopover, is there any restriction on the maximum time you can stopover in Singapore? Like 30 days or something like that?

    Would love to see your review on JAL long haul business 🙂 55,000 miles is amazing value for the flight time.

  24. @ Alvin — Hah, if only that were a legal routing. And you’re right, while I’ve flown the 787-8, I’ve yet to fly the 787-9.

  25. Lucky, how about jfk-nrt via jl, then nrt-hkg via jl or cx, then hkg to cmb via ul? Achieves ur hkg qf lounge review as well.

  26. The second option sounds really interesting without being horribly uncomfortable, but do what feels right.

  27. I’d appreciate a JAL business class review as i am most likely to fly that over the other options in the next year or so.

  28. Wait. How do you find AAdvantage availability to CMB? I can find it on aa.com to HKG and NRT, but the rest of the route comes back with this in tiny red letters:

    “There are currently no awards available on AA.com for your requested Origin and Destination. Please modify your request”

    Do you have to call up AA reservations on the phone?

  29. While taking First on any long haul route is something of a no-brainer (because the extra comfort really delivers here), I’m inclined to recommend JAL/UL or Etihad here over CX or SQ for a number of specific reasons. Apart from being more unique from a reviewing history point of view (and people want a range of airlines/routes covered, and it increases your range of Google hits, bringing more new readers to your blog) the other routings involve more legs and thus increase your chances of an adverse event (it only takes one leg to go pear shaped to ruin travel plans, thanks to knock-on effects).

    As for the Qantas Hong Kong lounge, I wouldn’t stress to much about that (and there will be plenty of opportunity to review later given how often you fly CX). The Qantas Hong Kong lounge is a business class lounge and can’t compete with The Wing’s First Lounge. Much akin to Qantas’ Singapore lounge it is nice, but The Wing First lounge is nicer. Plus Qantas only really turns on the offerings in the immediate period before a Qantas departure (such as the walk around food trays), outside those times it provides a more minimal offering. The Qantas Singapore and Hong Kong lounges are not in the same league as the Qantas First Sydney or Melbourne lounges.

  30. @beachfan

    As of 29 March 2015 BA will stop flying to CMB so the CMB-MLE flight will no longer exist. BA will continue to fly from LGW to MLE only.

  31. I am heading to male next week! My route consists of -all biz class via united iah – sfo – tpe via Eva airways biz class ( visiting Taipei as layover for the night) then visiting Bali from tpe to dps via Eva airways again then finally Singapore to male with a stop over in sin on a separate krisflyer award. Bare in mind sin to male is regional ,so their biz class is probably meh…

  32. Definitely JL + UL J class, it can compare to other airlines. For KrisFlyer miles, you will definitely use within this year due to introduction of new J class seat.

  33. @ Andy — That’s a toughie, though American miles on SriLankan through Colombo or Singapore miles on Singapore through Singapore aren’t bad options.

  34. @Andy

    Wild guess as I’m not an expert, but BKK-CMB-MLE is 1,970 miles which mean you should possibly get in just under the roof of Zone 3 on BA Avios award chart for 20K Avios for partners like Sri Lankan.

    Just checked distance on Gcmap, not on BA site so no guaranty.

  35. I tend to agree with others asking for more J reviews. I typically travel with my family (4 pax) and it is nice to see have more options in Business Class. JL+UL in J 🙂

  36. Ben, I am at the Anantara Veli with my Wife. We flew Qatar Business from Miami, very convenient route and decent award availability.

  37. We were just in the Maldives back in January (also at the Park Hyatt). To get there, we flew Etihad IAD-AUH (F) and AUH-MLE (B). On the way back, we flew Cathay MLE-HKG (B) and HKG-JFK (F). Etihad was very good, but we liked CX better.

    As for the specific routing, if you fly into CMB, you’ll have to take an extra flight (CMB-MLE). Having done a trip to the Park Hyatt before, we knew that the transit between MLE and the PH isn’t especially pleasant. So we wanted to reduce the total number of flights that day. To us, it was worth the extra miles to fly MLE-HKG (vs MLE-CMB-HKG).

  38. Don’t forget AS miles for 70k in F. On CX so not original. But lets you go direct from HKG. Space looks tight though

  39. @ Grangourmand — Yep, good point, though trying to do at least *something* unique with this ticket.

  40. Ben, I second with many ppl in the comments, JL + UL in business would probably be the best choice here, Singapore suites class on such a long haul would be interesting too given you like the product so much.

    I had a taste of the new JL first class seat while connecting over ITM to NRT in Jan (surprised me that they use a 777-300ER for short domestic route). I really like its design, and I’d put it ahead of F on Lufthansa. While I am not sure which city you would be originating this trip to Maldives, I would definitely say try the new business class on JL, it’s the SS8 you are referring to, right? I am taking my mum on a trip to japan next month and booked ourselves on the JAL 787, since these are essentially the “first class” on the plane given that no actual F seats there. Really look forward to your report, especially if it’s before our trip!

  41. @ Lucky
    @ beachfan
    @ Andy
    @ Juan

    All this review and comments make me want to plan my next trip to MLE 🙂

    I am based in SFO. Any ideas on how to maximize the routing from SFO to MLE? I saw a lot of options in the comments and review but haven’t see anyone reviewing from SFO to MLE yet.

    beachfan mentiones that he booked LAX-AUH-MLE on Etihad F for outbound. Can I do SFO-AUH-MLE on Etihad F or J too? If so that would be great. beachfan, which FF miles (AA, UR, USDM, KF, etc) did you use to redeem this and how many miles needed?

    As for inbound flight back to SFO, I would like to follow Lucky’s routing, which is either Kuwait Airways or Qatar Airways in J. But if I have enough miles, I also considering to follow beachfan’s routing which are two options:

    1. CMB-SIN on SQ (35k via United, 40k minus the online discount using Krisflyer). Then SIN-HKG-SFO on CX F (67.5k AA miles) ==> is this doable? if so, how do you search for award availability?

    or

    2. CMB-SIN-NRT-LAX in SQ F, with last two legs (SIN-NRT and NRT-LAX) in suites. But since Suites saver award availability might be scarce, maybe CMB-SIN-ICN-SFO in SQ F, is this doable in one award redemption?

    Or go with Andy’s route: MLE – HKG- SFO on CX F ==> how many AA miles will this cost?

    As for CMB –MLE and MLE-CMB roundtrip flight I plan to go with what Juan and Andy suggested: Srilankan Airlines (UL) ….. but which FF miles is the best use to redeem this one and how to search for award availability?

  42. @ Christina

    Congrats on trying the JAL F! I will be going to Japan in JAL F SFO-HND first time next month! which airport are you flying from?

  43. @ Lucky

    Thank you very much for your help. “I’d recommend routing through LAX, though, as Etihad has a better product out of SFO than out of LAX.” ====> So it would be : SFO-LAX(on AA metal, connection)-AUH-MLE (on Etihad), all in one award redemption for 90K in F or 67.5K in J using AA miles, is this correct? What is the difference between Etihad metal that depart from SFO compare to from LAX? Does it have shower in F class? It would be my first time flying in Etihad with shower so I am looking forward for giggling in shower! 🙂
    You mentioned about how to search for CX’s award availability and I appreciate that. But how to search Kuwait Air, Qatar Air, and Srilankan Air award availability and what is the best FF program’s miles to redeem an award for aspirational F or J class on those 2 airlines (Kuwait and Qatar Air) for our way back to US(inbound) and Srilankan Air for MLE-CMB flight?

  44. @ SFOflyer — Yes, same price. See here for the difference in hard products between LAX and SFO:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/08/26/etihad-airways-award-space-abu-dhabi-san-francisco/

    You can also search QR and UL award space on BA’s site. You don’t want to fly Kuwait Airways, and they don’t belong to an alliance.

    If you want to search Etihad space you can do so here:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/06/04/search-etihad-award-space/

  45. How did you arrive at 102,650 miles for the SQ routing? Even with the 15% discount it’s nowhere near that. I assume you’d book LAX-NRT-SIN in suites and SIN-MLE in business.

    Am I overlooking something here?Thanks.

  46. @ Robbie — Might be missing something, but per the award chart the price between the US West Coast and Maldives is 125K one-way, and then there’s a 15% discount… no?

  47. When using AAdvantage miles to fly to MLE from LHR, would it be allowed to route through CMB?
    I mean would booking LHR-AUH-CMB-MLE and count that as EU to Middle East flight?

  48. Lucky, I would warn your readers about JAL and business class to CMB. The flights from JFK are good, but not all JAL flights are equal. For example from Vancouver JAL used to fly the 767 which has seats not too far off domestic First class. UGH. They now have a better product on the older 787 configuration but its not lie flat.

    I know first hand as I recommended to someone that they fly JAL to Asia on the 787. They were a little disappointed in the JAL product. I routed them through HKG on the return in business on CX, and they were very pleased with that product.

  49. I used Alaska miles (70K one way in First) to get from LAX to MLE. Totally worth it. Churning Alaska miles is relatively easy, and AA won’t let you fly over the pacific unfortunately.

  50. Definitely Etihad 787. You have the miles, you’ll be more comfortable in F than JL/UL J, you’ll get to review a new product, fly a new aircraft type, and (maybe best of all) you’ll only have ONE STOP on your way to MLE (like on your way back in CX J, a choice I like)–from your previous posts it’s been hard for me to tell if you’re actually excited for this trip, so sweeten the deal by flying F and limiting your layovers! Like people have said, no one needs another SQ or CX review, so EY is the way to go in my opinion. Plus, you won’t have to sit on a longhaul flight with the knowledge that a higher class of service is available, like you would on a JFK-NRT leg in JL J 😉

  51. Flying from ATL to HKG (need 3 days there) HKG to SIN (need 2 to 3 days), then
    SIN to MLE (4 nights), then back to ATL. Any routing/points advice would be
    greatly appreciated. One will be a paid ticket. Mine will be points. Prefer first/bus.

  52. I have 110k points with AMEX Platinum and 80k with Chase Sapphire. I want to book two first or business class tickets from LAX to Maldives. Any recommendations?

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