New LAX Star Alliance Lounge/Tom Bradley International Terminal
Singapore A380 Suites, Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
ANA Suite Lounge (Satellite 4) and United Club, Tokyo-Narita
Singapore A380 Suites, Tokyo-Narita to Singapore
Singapore Changi Ambassador Transit Hotel, Terminal 3
Singapore Airlines Private Room (and a day in Singapore)
Singapore Airlines NEW Boeing 777-300ER First Class, Singapore to Mumbai
I love it when travel plans just come together so seamlessly. My sister recently got married and since my extended family (as well as my new brother-in-law’s family) is split between the US and India, they planned wedding events in both countries. I never know my schedule more than a couple months out in advance, so when they settled on a date for a January 2014 reception in India back in April 2013, I simply searched for a one-way award ticket from Los Angeles to Mumbai to get there the day before.
I decided I’d figure out my return at a much later time (I ended up taking a one-day side-trip into the Southeast Asia region and then redeemed a return on 1 Thai A380 and 2 Lufthansa new First Class flights using 70,000 United miles before they severely devalued that award).
Imagine my reaction when I saw that Singapore A380 Suites from Los Angeles to Singapore was available the exact day I needed! It was something like this, but replace “trampoline” with “suites.” From there, all 3 flights that day to Mumbai had availability, but only the latest flight had a First Class cabin. Singapore is actually one of my favorite cities to have a daytime stopover, since I can explore the city and eat its food without having to pay way too much for a hotel room. Plus I love taking advantage of the 23hour and 59minute connection rule. I decided to take the extra-long layover.
I was in for an even better treat when the exact day of my layover overlapped with the FlyerTalk SIN DO’s tour of the Singapore Airlines Training Centre, where we got to go behind the scenes at the airline’s training base. To top it all off, Singapore Airlines unveiled their new Boeing 777-300ER cabins and decided to put it on the Singapore-Mumbai route — which was my flight!
From the West Coast USA region to India, Singapore Airlines charges 125,000 miles one-way in First Class (while that seems excessive, United now charges 140,000 miles one-way for partner First Class, and you can’t book Singapore Airlines flights). If you book Singapore Airlines flights online, you get a 15% discount on miles, so the total price came to 106,250 miles one-way. I had just earned 100,000 Membership Rewards through the early-2013 American Express Platinum bonus, so I simply transferred 107,000 points to Singapore Krisflyer. The transfer took about 18 hours.
The one catch was when I went to book the exact flights I wanted, the award booking engine wouldn’t let me book the extra long layover with First Class on the Mumbai route. I ended up having to call Singapore Airlines to book over the phone. When it came to price the ticket, I explained to the rep that I tried to do this online but the website didn’t see it, and that I only had enough miles to book with the discount. Fortunately, they honored the 15% mileage discount, but fuel surcharges + taxes/fees came out to ~$500 one-way! Ouch.
I didn’t want to say no to this trip since the dates aligned perfectly and I’d been aching to fly Singapore Suites/First, so I went ahead and booked, paying for the taxes/fees in Singaporean Dollars on my BarclayCard Arrival, (1) because it has no foreign transaction fees, and (2) because I could use the 40,000+ points I had earned to pay off $400+ of the fees.
I was still really excited about this trip – I love being able to depart internationally out of my home airport instead of having to trek to another airport on a domestic flight. Plus I haven’t seen many trip reports of Singapore Airlines #11 service in Suites, since it was not bookable during the “SQ award floodgate” a couple years ago, so I’m excited to share it.
As for the rest of the family – my sister and brother-in-law were coming from Atlanta to Mumbai, and there was availability on Air France in business class from Atlanta to Mumbai via Paris and back, so I easily helped them book for 120,000 Skymiles each (it’s now 140,000 points). My bro-in-law is also a Delta Platinum, so we could add a free stopover later.
They wanted to have their honeymoon in Krabi nested within their trip to Mumbai, so I signed them both up for the US Airways MasterCard and used 30,000 miles each in business for an itinerary from Mumbai to Singapore to Bangkok on Singapore Airlines business class, returning from Krabi to Bangkok to Mumbai on Thai business class.
That intra-South Asia award region is one I’ll really miss after US Airways fully merges with American, as it extends from India all the way to the Philippines, and included the hubs of Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. A couple years ago, I used 30,000 US miles for 4 Singapore Airlines business class flights between Bangkok, Singapore, Mumbai, and Hanoi.
Lastly, my parents, who are absolute divas when it comes to booking awards (I love you, Mom and Dad). I keep trying to tell them that mileage tickets means they have to be flexible, but they’re never really happy with anything. I had first booked them going to Mumbai on Thai business, but Thai cancelled the route from LAX to Osaka to Bangkok, and the timings of the other flight they rebooked them on didn’t work. I called up United and the agent voluntarily opened up LAX-Newark-Mumbai in business, which was absolutely astonishing because I never see the Newark-Mumbai/Delhi routes open in business.
When I told my mom their new routing, she made a face when I said “United Business Class.” Sorry, “BusinessFirst.” I set up alerts on ExpertFlyer (before United became #FlyerFriendly and shut down access) and found space on Asiana’s nighttime LAX-Seoul flight on the 777 with the newer Quadra Smartium seats, connecting to Thai business Seoul-Bangkok-Mumbai. My mom loved the service on her Asiana 747 business flight last year, so this was a no-brainer to switch to since the 777s have a better business class hard product. The switch was free thanks to my United Platinum status.
As for their return, my grandparents on my mom’s side live in a smaller city near Mumbai called Pune. The small airport there is shared with the Indian Air Force base and there are only 3 international routes – a SpiceJet flight to Bangkok, an Air India Express flight to Dubai, and a PrivatAir dba Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt (on a 737 … with a fuel stop in Bucharest – sorry, no 5th freedom rights). While not necessarily a great product, I can literally walk from my grandparents’ house to the airport in under 10 minutes, so my mom loves that flight since it means not having to battle traffic on the drive to Mumbai airport (which can take 3-5 hours). There are always a couple of seats in business and economy available for redemption, and business class is the same as the seats on the A380 (not the short-haul “business” seats).
Unfortunately, the flight has been re-timed to a 9:30am departure from a 6am departure, so it gets into Frankfurt really late, allowing only a US-bound connection to Washington IAD on United Business (there’s that face again). There’s a late IAD-LAX flight that gets in at 1am, but considering my folks could leave the house at 8am for an international flight out of India, it’s not too bad, given that most flights require being at the airport past midnight.
Lastly, I added a free one-way to Hawaii out of LAX for them for no additional miles and only a few dollars in airport taxes. 120,000 miles + ~$70 in taxes for each of them. I miss the old United chart already …
And yes, it was pointed out to me several times that I flew better products to my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding reception than they or my parents did, but c’est la vie d’un miles fanatique. Below are some teaser pics – stay tuned for the installments coming up!