This morning I am treating myself to an adventure that is going to take me to some very remote places in Malaysia. Being a fairly well traveled guy and having lived in China for a short time, I have been fortunate to have traveled most of South East Asia, visiting both the large and small cities, villages, and even remote parts of the region. However, this time I’m visiting a section that I’ve never seen before—Borneo.
My trip will take me from Los Angeles to Kota Kinabalu byway of Honolulu, Guam, and Manila. Sadly, there will not be stopovers in either location due to lack of time. Upon arriving in Manila, I will pick up a friend who lives in Manila and meet up with my sister and two other friends. Despite the fact that we are all coming from Southern California, each one of us is on different flights across the Pacific, but all arrive within minutes of each other in Manila. We will spend 1 night in Manila before heading off to Borneo.
To get to Borneo, it took a lot of planning and researching to find the cheapest way. A number of low cost carriers serve Kota Kinabalu, but almost no major carriers that are part of an alliance fly into BKI. For major airlines Malaysia Airline, DragonAir, and Asiana actually serve the airport (Korean Air “serves” the airport by a codeshare with Asiana and Skymile redemptions are not allowed on this route). However, due to blackout dates using miles on Asiana was not possible on the flight in, and using Delta Skymiles to fly a mixture of Korean air or China southern and then switch to Malaysia Air would of required paying a fuel surcharge and taxes that amounted to close to $400 and about 30 hours of travel with extended layovers! Or the other option was to pay cash and for our dates of travel, flights directly to BKI were ranging from $1400-$1800 depending on day of and which Southern California airport we flew from (LAX vs SAN). So it was time to get crafty!
Every year I try to treat my sister to an international destination, outside of North America, this meant this year I needed to fly my sister to BKI on miles, or as close to it as possible. Once I determined flights to BKI were nearly impossible or incurred to high of a fuel surcharge, I started to look for other options. This left me with LCC that connected BKI to Singapore, Kula Lumpar, Bangkok, or Manila (MNL and CRK). After some quick research I was able to find my sister a ticket to Manila using my United miles, flying here SAN-LAX-NRT-MNL for 65K miles. Her domestic flight was on United Express and her international legs were all on ANA, ensuring her a comfortable trip!
My sister’s trip- mixing miles and cash
From Manila I was then able to secure flights marketed by LCC Tiger Airways, but operated by Filipino SEAir from the smaller low cost airport of Clark (CRK) to BKI taxes and fees included for $105 per person (or base far of $55 r/t!). This meant for 65,000 miles + $63 in taxes and $105 for another flight I was able to get my sister to Kota Kinabalu for less than $175 on a ticket that would of cost me well over $1k!
Next I booked my flight, I secured r/t LAX to MNL for $807 on United and bought the same ticket from CRK to BKI that I bought for my syster. So for $912 I was able to secure flights to Borneo and saved myself at minimum $500! Sure, I have to spend the night in Manila, however being to the Philippines many times, and having a friend that lives there, this was neither a hassle nor a problem for me. Not to mention, the savings was a true #DoubleWideDelight!
My trip will take me from Los Angeles to Kota Kinabalu byway of Honolulu, Guam, and Manila. Sadly, there will not be stopovers in either location (other than MNL) due to lack of time. Upon arriving in Manila, I will pick up a friend who lives in Manila and meet up with my sister and two other friends. Despite the fact that we are all coming from Southern California, each one of us is on different flights across the Pacific, but all arrive within minutes of each other in Manila. We will spend 1 night in Manila before heading off to Borneo.
Moral of the story, if you are flying within Asia or to Asia, find yourself the cheapest major airport in the region and then search out LCC to get you to your final destination. The savings could be a godsend!
Also remember that many cities have multiple airports. For example, Manila has both Ninoy Aquinon Intl’ (MNL), which is their main airport; and then there is smaller Clark (former US military base-CRK) north of the city which is used for both domestic and regional flight throughout Asia by LCCs. Bangkok also has two airports. Suvarnabhumi Intl’ (BKK) which is the larger and more modern airport serving destinations world wide and the older and smaller regional/low cost airport (formerly Bangkok’s only and main airport) Don Muang (DMK). DMK will became AirAsia’s Thai Hub and should be served by all LCC by October of 2012. Also Hong Kong is within an hour to Macua, Shenzhen, or China Southern’s Mega hub Guangzhou.