Why You Should Use Award Tickets To Travel In Japan
The first time I visited Japan back in 2012 (which was also the first time I used miles to fly first class) common wisdom held that the JR pass was by far the best and most cost effective way to travel within Japan and so I shelled out the $600 or so dollars to Shinkansen my posterior all over the country. I went to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Miyazaki, Arita and Nagano and while I definitely got my money’s worth out of the pass, I have since found a faster and cheaper way to get my Japan fix without spending all my cat cafe money on a JR pass.
I have since learned that award tickets present a much better value than the JR pass.
The time had come for another adventure and this one was off to a good start with our Etihad Chaffeur picking us up in an black Mercedes Benz and whisking us off to the airport (Etihad discontinued their Chaffeur service for partner award tickets on August 10th, 2016). We booked the tickets pre-devaluation using 30,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles each way (the new award price between Asia 2 and the Middle East is 40,000 AA miles) and $91.40 in taxes and fees total for the outbound and return segments.
My first thought upon entering the cabin was that it looked like someone had stolen the upholstery from my parents couch and sold it to Etihad. Airlines tend to put a lot of thought into their premium cabins but the striped seats looked like everything about the 1980’s that we don’t want to remember. Maybe they were trying to replicate the fake wood grain on the adjacent side tables, or maybe stripes were super hot when they put in the order for these seats, but whatever the case may have been they weren’t looking so hot now.
I first came across a post about a JAL 5,000 mile discount on Angelina Travels back in April of 2015 and made a mental note that the next time I wanted to fly Bangkok Airways this was a pretty solid option. The fact that many of these awards were discounted by 50 – 66% caught my attention and while I had intended to do a post about it then, it got lost in my drafts pile.
Here’s an interesting development from my favorite airline awards program based in “America’s top hat.” Air Canada has recently expanded their little-known codeshare partnership with Cathay Pacific and their subsidiary Cathay Dragon and has hinted that soon they will begin allowing redemptions of Aeroplan miles for these flights as well.
There are still plenty of bargains to be had out there in the miles and points game, but India ain’t one of them. Coughing up your hard earned miles and cash to be crammed into coach for such a long flight seems like a terrible idea. Thankfully, a man with a handsome mustache has some tricks on how you can get there in style for fewer miles than you might normally pay.
The AAdvantage award chart has the Indian subcontinent at 67,500 miles for business class and 90,000 for first class each way. That is the second most expensive U.S. based award on their entire award chart!
To me this next little experience sums up how things are in this world. When leaving the plane in Hong Kong, the 6 first class passengers exit through their own separate boarding door. The entire rest of the plane exits out the other door.
So we exited out our special first class boarding door and headed straight for The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge. I know when I hear the words “airport lounge” the image that pops into my head does not prepare me for the experience that is The Wing. First of all, most lounges are somewhat industrial seeming. Sitting at an AA lounge in Chicago or the US Airways lounge in New York you get the feeling that style is always balanced against pragmatic considerations, like how long the carpet needs to last, or how resistant the seat fabric is to having orange juice spilled on it.
Reserving the best seats in Cathay Pacific first class.
By now many of you are probably stacking up fat ‘staches of miles and getting ready to book some exciting trips to far flung destinations.
One of my favorite uses of Aadvantage miles (and also Alaska miles) is for flying first class on Cathay Pacific. I typically book awards for Emily and I from New York City to Bangkok and the 16.5 hour flight from New York to Hong Kong is definitely one that you want to be able to sleep on. There is nothing that promotes a good night’s rest quite like Cathay’s spacious First class lie flat beds (and some Ambien).
The only point of consternation (besides the taxi ride to JFK) is that, even though American Airlines has award access to 1/3 of all the seats in the 1st class cabin, the agents at AA can only book the middle seats, 1D and 2D. While the middle seats are still quite comfortable, I strongly prefer a window seat from which to watch the world zip by.
It’s not that often that credit card companies are willing to shower you with miles for next to nothing, but that is exactly what is currently happening with the Barclays US Airways credit card. The sign up bonus is 50,000 US Airways Dividend miles after first purchase and paying the annual fee of $89. So for $89 and a $0.50 Amazon gift certificate to yourself, you can top up your Dividend miles balance by a cool 50,000 miles.
I got an email just the other day from a friend inquiring as to how to best approach getting from the US to SE Asia without being stuck in coach. Considering that this particular friend is 6’6″, avoiding coach seems like the smart thing to do.
He had been thinking about buying coach tickets for him and his squeeze on American for $1100 and then using miles to upgrade the ticket to business class. He didn’t have the miles in his account already, so he was inquiring as to if this approach seemed reasonable and what cards he should be thinking about to make this a reality.
I am all for travel hacking your way into the premium cabin but am generally against buying a coach ticket and using the miles to upgrade. Here’s why: