This post is the continuation of Mark’s success story in taking his family of 4 to Asia all in Business Class over peak times, refer to the first part for the success story beginning.
Hopping Intra-Asia with Miles
Flights within Asia are generally fairly priced and therefore Mark could have simply booked a local low cost airline for the regional flights, however since this trip was special for his family, it was worth redeeming miles for premium cabin flights.
With the family arriving in Tokyo from the U.S. and then flying to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific in Business Class, it was time to continue on to Singapore and Thailand. Mark’s mileage balance was still strong and therefore the family could easily book one of the following flights from Hong Kong to Singapore:
- Cathay Pacific Business Class
- Singapore Airlines Business Class
Since they flew Cathay Pacific from Tokyo to Hong Kong, they decided to fly on Singapore Airlines. SQ releases more award availability to their own members rather than to Star Alliance partners. However, flights within South Asia, seem to be readily available with other Star Alliance miles as well, therefore this hop from HKG to SIN cost:
- 30k Air Canada Aeroplan miles
- 34k Singapore Airlines miles
- 27.5k United Airlines miles
There was obviously more than one way to book this flight – since all partner airlines had access to the availability. In the end, Mark decided to go with Aeroplan since there was a 30% transfer bonus from Chase at the time. This part of the trip was booked about 6 months prior as the family was still working out their trip after the initial flights to and from the U.S. were booked.
Finishing Up in Thailand
The last part of the trip was beach destinations in Thailand. Mark decided they would visit two – Krabi and Koh Samui. While several airlines fly to Krabi, only Bangkok Airways operates flights to Koh Samui island – from different destinations in Thailand and also a few international places.
As the family was in Singapore, they decided to fly to Koh Samui first on the nonstop Bangkok Airways flight. Mark first used Google Flights to determine the flights within Thailand and looked at the schedules. Bangkok Airways wanted way too much for the flight from Singapore to Koh Samui – around $350 for Economy Class. Bangkok Airways is a unique Thai airline which has a few partner airlines like Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qatar Airways, and others.
Thankfully there was award space for all 4 passengers on this flight so Mark looked at how many miles this flight would cost through each of Bangkok Airways’ partner airlines and decided to transfer AMEX points to Cathay Pacific and redeem those miles for the flight – at only 10k miles per person in Economy it was a great deal when you consider the flight cost $350. This is more of a niche redemption so it did take some research to find.
From Koh Samui to Krabi, the flight was more reasonably priced at just $60 per person with Bangkok Airways, so they decided to book with cash and credit those (few) miles to Qatar Airways (which they later transferred to British Airways).
Returning Home from Asia in Style
After an incredible 3 weeks in Asia, it was time to return home. Finding 4 Business Class tickets wasn’t going to be easy. Weeks of research and patience paid off, as Mark was able to find 2 Business Class tickets on JAL from Bangkok via Tokyo to New York, which he booked for his wife and daughter. The other 2 passengers enjoyed a flight home in EVA Air Business Class from Bangkok via Taipei to Chicago – from Chicago, Mark booked a cheap domestic flight for $80 or so back to New York.
Mark monitored award space over several months but sadly he wasn’t able to book all 4 passengers in Business Class on the long-haul flights to/from home. No new seats opened up on the existing flights and no new award space that was any better than what they already had booked showed up either.
The JAL flights could have been booked using any oneworld miles (or JAL partner miles) and the same goes for EVA Air – any Star Alliance partner miles could be used. Mark studied the award charts of partners carefully and ultimately decided on a combination of American Airlines and British Airways miles/points, and also Air Canada Aeroplan points for the other passengers.
All in All
Talk about an amazing trip flying some incredible products in the air! This trip did take weeks and months of planning and constantly checking award availability – always lock in the long-haul flights first and then work around those to plan your trip. The long-hauls will always be the hardest to book, especially in premium cabins over peak season. Remember the following for success:
- consider splitting up on separate flights
- be flexible with your dates and destinations
- have a diversified mileage portfolio
- track award availability and research what routes are more likely to open up and what the load factor of flights could be
From checking routes on aspirational airlines to searching for award space to booking takes quite a bit of time and research – Mark spent hours and hours figuring out the best ways to fly everyone over in style. Ultimately they did make the compromise to fly separately since they were flying in peak season – there are definitely times where you can find lots of Business Class seats to Asia, but it won’t be during peak times (and this goes for all destinations over peak times). Remember to have miles and points in different programs and be flexible for your plans and you’ll almost always find something great to fly.