My Bad Luck Booking Awards On Saudia, Avianca, And Aeromexico!

In 2016 I want to review a lot of new airline products on the blog. And I’m off to a good start, because in the next month I’ll be reviewing Finnair A350 business class, Air India 777 first class (twice), and Hainan Airlines 787 business class!

This morning I was getting ready to book my next trip, where I was going to fly from Los Angeles to London the long way.

On the outbound I was going to redeem 60,000 LifeMiles for Avianca business class from Los Angeles to Bogota to London, and on the return I was going to redeem 62,500 FlyingBlue miles for Saudia business class from London to Jeddah to Los Angeles.

LifeMiles

Air-France-3

So I opened up two browsers — one for the outbound and one for the return — with the intent of ticketing them both around the same time. But then when I got to the ticketing page, I was informed the Saudia award would cost 150,000 miles rather than 62,500 miles. Grrr, I guess the pricing of 62,500 miles one-way was in fact a glitch.

Air-France-2

On the plus side, there was a backup option, on Aeromexico through Mexico City. That seemed like a fun option as well.

Air-France-4

So I went to ticket the outbound, and before I did, double checked the seatmap for both flights — Los Angeles to Bogota was supposed to be operated by a 787 featuring reverse herringbone business class seats, while Bogota to London was supposed to be operated by an A330 featuring reverse herringbone business class seats as well.

Avianca-Business-Class

Good thing I checked the seatmap for Bogota to London, because in the meantime they had swapped the plane to an A330 featuring their old angled business class seats.

BOG-LHR-Award

And then when I looked at the return, I noticed that Air France FlyingBlue was also accidentally displaying the Aeromexico award as costing 62,500 miles, when the booking page said it would cost 68,750 miles.

Air-France-1

Guess it’s back to the drawing board in this award…

Comments

  1. Are you going to review garuda Indonesia this year? Please please do it! You said its possible on miles at an insane rate, but that looks like an amazing product we would all love to read!

  2. @ Amol — Hah, I’ll still do it, just need to transfer the points over, which isn’t instant. And also need to figure out the outbound!

  3. The BOG-LHR flights of Avianca hardly ever feature the herringbone seated A330s of Avianca unfortunately, which i can never understand as it is their flagship route. They seem to operate more on the Bogota-Madrid route. For a good experience of Avianca 787 you can guarantee it flying from Cali-Madrid, or better still Madrid-Cali as it is a day flight. The 787 is also used on one of the daily JFK flights – might be an alternative.

  4. I still find it strange that that aeromexico departure from LHR-MEX is so late, just seems strange to not be daytime on that route.

  5. Why not still fly the bogata route on the outbound? Would be great to read about both of the business class products? Especially since the A330s reverse herringbone are so rare.

  6. If you’re seriously considering Saudia, try booking through Riyadh rather than Jeddah. The Riyadh airport isn’t really the world’s best, but it’s still way better than Jeddah’s miserable mess of an airport, the Alfursan lounge in Riyadh is quite good too.
    Unless, of course, you intend to travel Saudia in the second half of 2016, at which time Jeddah’s new airport should be operational. It’s expected to compete with the other regional hubs such as Doha and Abu Dhabi.
    Here’s an overview of it: http://youtu.be/TrHtlngt3RA

    Finally, make sure you travel on the newer aircraft, such as the B777-300ERs or the B787-9s.

    Best of luck!

  7. @Andy J

    Where do you check the actual aircraft and seatmap for Avianca flights?

    @Lucky
    Where did you check the Avianca seatmap?

  8. As @Andy J mentioned above, Avianca flies the 787 from Bogota to Madrid, and there is award availability on your February 4 for that route, on both AV26 and AV12. Book an IB or BA short-haul award in between Madrid and London.

  9. If you’re willing to pay cash, it’s possible to book Air France’s new First Class from Madrid to Jakarta then do Garuda Air’s First Class from Jakarta to Amsterdam all for around $6,000. Based on the trip reports I’ve seen both first class products seem to have service and dining that is a step above all the other airlines, so it would be interesting to read your thoughts on them.

  10. This whole miles game is my version of gambling. You ‘bet’ money by purchasing miles in the hope you can redeem them for something really good. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get a great product for a great price, sometimes its a bad product (i.e. unfortunate aircraft swap) at a bad price (you may need to blow more miles than first planned or an unexpected devaluation).
    But overall I think we come out well on top and the house hardly ever wins (except for your Average Joe). For this reason I’m happy to continue rolling the dice and seeing where it lands. I’m enjoying the ride.

  11. @ Lucky,

    Please do not enter into Saudi reviews, at least for my sake.
    I had an IRR-situation from MCT-ZRH some few years ago on a heavy from LH being cancelled.
    I was parked in Riyadh for 12 hours, before continuing to FRA, than onwards to ZRH.
    I am more looking forward to your tour with Oman air, whom I have had more decent tours with, through MCT, where they host the Worlds Best lounge in my opinion.

  12. Ben, just give a call to FB and you’ll be able to ticket your itinerary grin London for 62500 miles. It’s right price and allowed routing. That’s very long ongoing plague with AF website when it shows you correct price on the first step and then whatever it might be on the second step. My personal experience for over last 2 months: 15000 -> 18250; 10000 -> 20000; 40000 -> 42000; 20000 -> 34500. All those awards were ticketed via callcenter within minutes. In fact I was barely able to complete any award reservation via the website because of that glitch.

    Way to go for you:
    1. Start making the reservation.
    2. Pick your flights.
    3. See the price increase.
    4. Fill in pax details.
    5. Get to the page with booking reference and credit card choice to pay taxes.
    6. Give a call to FB, give them your reference number and explain that your award price showed up correct (as in the calculator) on the first steps then got up on the next one. So you’re not able to ticket yourself online, ask them to fix mileage and issue a ticket for you (without paying call centre fee).

  13. Lucky- Any visa issues with a layover in Saudi Arabia? I was surprised how difficult it was to get approved for a Saudi visa. I wasn’t clear if you needed a transit visa if not planning to leave the airport.

  14. ARGHHHHH, Flying Blue! I was all set to book an award with them based on looking at the availability calendar and seeing plenty of classic awards… only to find when I selected the flights that they only had flex awards available. Thankfully I hadn’t transferred points over yet, but it was still really frustrating.

  15. I second Denis. The FB site definiltely has glitches (both good and bad) but in this case, I’d call to get those priced out to 62,500 and make sure it’s for classic award.

  16. I third Denis and Joey. As AFKLM is one company with 2 distinct brands they operate separately except for award bookings which are all handled in the back end by Air France. Unfortunately the website is super buggy and do not display most Skyteam itineraries.

    I can recommend utilising the KLM FB team. As Denis said. Use the site to decide your routing and get the cost on the first page. Then approach the KLM FB team ( comment on their page and they’ll message you). They’ll ticket it at the correct rate and help you finalise.

    I highly recommend the KLM FB team. They regularly help me and have assisted during AF pilot strikes rerouting me to Melbourne, on Vietnam Airlines bookings, on Garuda Indonesia bookings and lots more.

    Good luck

  17. If you fly to Madrid as some are suggesting, book a one way MAD-FRA on LAN. 15,000 avios one way and you get their 787 flatbeds on an airline that I don’t think has been reviewed on here before. Alternatively you can fly MAD-LHR on Iberia for 12,500 on their A330/340 on the 1520 flight.

  18. @James you can transit Saudi Arabia for up to 18 hours without a visa as long as you don’t leave the transit zone of the airport.

  19. I second the Madrid-Frankfurt suggestion. Would love to see a LAN 787 review. Only 7500 avios. Don’t know if there is award space though.

  20. The MAD-FRA (or other way round) on LAN is most of the time super cheap to buy, no need to use miles.

  21. Other than a flight to/from the Kingdom it is beyond me why anyone would choose to fly Saudia and connect through Saudi Arabia. Bonus, since you can’t leave, you get to spend up to 18 hours in the Transit Terminal . . . gee, what’s wrong with that? Perhaps a root canal while you wait would enhance the experience.

  22. @Lucky – While your at it, I suggest you to consider reviewing Air India domestic 787 or Jet Airways Business class from New Delhi to Bangalore/Chennai and maybe a SilkAir Business Class from Chennai/Bangalore to Singapore. There are a lot of Hyatt and SPG properties in these cities.

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