How To Easily Redeem Miles For A Double Bed To Asia

I’m probably not alone in this community in being a perfectionist when it comes to redeeming miles. Or at least I aspire to be, then get super frustrated, and cave. That’s because in many cases some amount of compromise is needed when redeeming miles.

Want to fly Lufthansa first class to Europe? You can do that, but you’re best off booking within 15 days of departure.

Lufthansa-First-Class-9
Lufthansa’s 747-8 first class

Want to lock in multiple seats in Cathay Pacific first class? You can do that, but you’re best off booking within a few days of departure.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777 - 1
Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER first class

Those are just a couple of examples of last minute awards, though there are also plenty of awards which can be planned in advance, which brings me to the current situation I’m in.

How I was planning on getting to Asia in October

Ford’s birthday is in October, and we’ve been planning a trip to Southeast Asia for that. While my own travel planning is last minute, I’ve also realized the value in planning destination-oriented trips further out. That’s because if you’re looking to travel to more remote places, you often want to lock in your hotels further out, have your positioning flights in place, etc.

While I’m happy planning a trip to Tokyo or Hong Kong a couple of days out, in this case we’re looking at going to Cambodia and Laos, so would like to plan a bit further out than that.

My original plan for getting us to Asia was to fly Cathay Pacific first class, an award we’d have to lock in within a few days of departure. That’s using a pre-devaluation American AAdvantage award I booked for 67,500 miles per person, meaning we have until mid-March of next year to use it.

Then we could always lock in some acceptable business class awards in the meantime, which we could potentially cancel last minute, if/when Cathay Pacific opens up.

How I’m now considering getting to Asia in October

One of the great things about the Korean Air SkyPass program is that you can easily redeem miles for first class to Asia. Korean Air releases a ton of first class award availability, thanks largely to the fact that most SkyTeam mileage currencies can’t be redeemed for international first class.

So you have a limited number of members who have access to a good number of first class award seats.

For example, where else can you book four transpacific first class award seats on a single flight just a few months out?

Korean-Air-SkyPass-Awards

The thing is, I’ve flown and reviewed Korean Air’s A380 first class product, so what I’d really like to try is Korean Air’s new 747-8 first class product.

Korean-Air-New-First-Class
Korean Air’s 747-8 first class

The catch is that it only features half as many first class seats — there are a total of six. As a result, they only seem to make one first class award seat available way in advance nowadays, though there are often more seats made available closer to departure.

Korean-Air-SkyPass-Awards-1

Then I remembered that there’s China Eastern, which flies gorgeous new 777-300ERs between Los Angeles and Shanghai. I’ll actually be flying with them soon in business class, enroute to Colombo.

Many people know that Singapore Airlines Suites Class features a double bed, but so does China Eastern’s 777-300ER first class (it’s the only other airline product in the world to offer that).

China-Eastern-777-300ER-2

Flights in both directions pretty consistently have two first class award seats per flight, which can easily be booked using Korean Air SkyPass miles.

China-Eastern-awards

The tradeoff is that I suspect the soft product might not be great. Many of you may recall my experience in China Southern first class, which was amusingly bad.

China-Southern-First-Class
China Southern’s A380 first class

On one hand I tend to think half the fun of international first class is the food & service. At the same time, if you have a double bed with plenty of award space at a relatively reasonable mileage cost (100,000 miles one-way between the US and much of Asia), maybe that becomes less important?

So now I’m trying to decide whether to fly China Eastern in both directions, the Korean Air A380 in the other direction, or maybe even give China Southern first class another shot, given that their head of onboard service promised me that they’re improving? 😉

Bottom line

The best approach to take towards planning an award depends on many factors:

  • The type of trip, and how much advance planning is required
  • Whether you’re booking a year out, very last minute, or somewhere in the middle
  • Whether your priority is to travel as directly as possible, or as comfortably as possible

I find this to be an especially unique situation. On one hand booking one of only two airlines in the world which features double beds seems like a great opportunity. At the same time, based on my previous experience with Chinese airlines, I’m a bit concerned about the soft product. Still, I figure it’ll make an interesting trip report, if nothing else, especially to see if they’ll automatically make a double bed, ask about it, or not even offer.

If redeeming miles for first class, which would you prioritize: the privacy and space of an enclosed double bed, or an airline with a great soft product but questionable hard product (like Korean Air A380 first class)?

Comments

  1. I have flown China Eastern First class a few weeks ago! Certainly, it is a better product than China Southern in compare hard and soft product! The sad part is layover and lounge in PVG 🙁

  2. if you have a double bed with plenty of award space at a reasonable mileage cost (80,000 miles one-way between the US and much of Asia)

    how are you getting 80k? KE’s skyteam redemption is 200k from US-Asia 2

    Also, how do you plan to redeem for Ford when KE prevents you from redeeming for non-family members?

  3. @ Andy — Awards between China and North America are 80K, so I haven’t yet decided how to book the last part of the ticket. Ford has Chase points as well.

  4. China eastern actually had a pretty good soft product in business. The one thing I really didn’t like about the airline was the horrible lounge in Shanghai.

  5. A review of China Eastern’s double bed sounds like it would be a fun read…and potentially amusing.

  6. @ anon — Ah, shoot, I stand corrected. I was looking at the Korean Air chart rather than the SkyTeam chart.

  7. @lucky, it seems that skyteam award requiring round trip would still require 200k even if you flew only KE on the return??

  8. This article seemed to be right on point with a lingering question I’ve had, but digressed away from an answer to which I know you have the solution. I would love to fly me and my wife First Class Cathay from NYC to Hong Kong in 2017. I have plenty of american and alaska miles, but no status (but can match my delta gold to an alaska status if necessary). I know (I think) American will allow me to book Business Class in advance and then upgrade to First class for only the extra mileage cost within a few days (when multiple seats generally open up). I can even switch by a day or two if necessary with no fees. Correct? Can a similar strategy be employed with Alaska? Alaska is considerably cheaper on the flight, so that would be the preferred booking airline.

  9. Best way to redeem Delta sky miles? I find lowest when schedule opens eleven months advance. Any better way?

  10. Lucky, I’m flying Singapore business 777-300ER (HKG-SFO) in July with my fiance- do you think first class availability will open up towards the departure?

  11. As an aside, I was able to book 2 F class seats on KE with new B747-8 aircraft on both segments; JFK-ICN-AKL just before New Year. Not sure if they have changed that policy to release 1/3 of their cabin!

  12. You’re just a drop too late. Until May 31st you were able to redeem 105k CX for ow MU F. They ended their partnership though..

  13. @Lucky, I think Andy is correct. China is considered Asia 2 for rewards involving SkyTeam partners so the roundtrip should cost 200,000 (or at least according to the skyteam chart), and that is what I was charged about a month ago. Let me know if I should try to claim my miles back!

  14. Using JAL miles to redeem MU first class, the round trip is a bargin with a plenty of stopovers.

  15. My wife & I just took the 747-8 in First yesterday ICN-JFK and it was almost a perfect flight. Great soft product. Really good hard product. Slept like a baby for most of the flight which is most important to me. Definitely check it out! It’s a beautiful cabin.

  16. Korean SkyMiles lets you book with garuda now, so maybe try their newn777 within Asia since they don’t fly to the states. But from the states, Korean 747-8 would be super cool.

  17. Soft product over hard product, IMO, since no amount of investment into a hard product can mask crap service underneath.

    Also, too bad one can’t redeem Korean Air Skypass miles for Garuda First and try to fly that on the way back or on the way there… or has that policy changed?

  18. @ Sam Johnson — For Garuda first, or just business? If first, when did that policy change?!

  19. Lucky,

    Nort if you have flown Bangkok Airways before – if not you are in for a treat. It’s all coach I think but the employees are WONDERFUL. They used to give a meal on EVERY flight. We flew Phenom Pen to Siem Riep and on this flight we got a meal.

    Laos is my absolute favorite place in the world – the people are so friendly. You will hear sa ba di over and over all day – and never tire of it.

    Beer Lao and Beer Lao Dark are great if you like beer.

    You should go to the far north and travel by “bus” which is really a pickup truck. It will be totally filled but SOME HOW – they will fit a family of 4 in!

    Go any where outside of Luang Prabang and it will possibly change your life.

    I was at Kong Lor Cave – one of the longest caves in the world and stayed in someone’s home. As a treat they got me grilled BAT!

    David

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