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Thursday
Mar012012

The sun always rises in the East.

Here is my next posting after having a brief hiatus while in South America

 

So now I had the married couple, who are enthusiastic and regular travelers, to get to Sydney. They wanted to arrive a little bit earlier than the others so that they could get things taken care of like the apartment and groceries and such. And they wanted to stay a little bit longer to enjoy Australia as a couple. One of them had gotten the British Airways Visa card back when it was offering 100,000 miles for $750 of spend on it in three months. It also had a free companion ticket that was achieved after you spent $30,000 in year which was done by using it for normal business expenses. So now we have about 140,000 British Airways miles and a free companion ticket to work with. The other person had set up an account with BA and had transferred 100,000 American Express points over to their British Airways account. They then created a household account that would let them combine their points for award travel. So now they had a total of 240,000 miles. Well on their way to Sydney going through London on British Airways using miles.

And then Avios happened. British Airways merged its frequent flyer program with Iberia, the spanish airline.  This devalued British Airways points even farther then they already had been. What once would have been about 340,000 miles to do now went up the 420,000. Mind you I am talking about a first class ticket but still that’s a big devaluation. Add to this the very high fuel surcharges to be paid in cash to British Airways – even when you book free flights - plus Britain’s very high travel taxes and it’s almost a no-go proposition.

Then the creative thinking starting happening.

The couple also had some American miles that could be used. Originally I tried to make award reservations to Sydney by way of Singapore. This is the way almost everyone goes when travelling from London to Sydney and it is notoriously hard to get on frequent flyer tickets. I looked and looked and there was no availability on the dates that were needed. I also figured out that it would take 330,000 Avios miles and the couple at this point only had 240,000.  We could get it up there by transferring some miles from their Starwood points but that would only get them to 300,000. Still 30,000 short. I then did some research and realized that since we were going to use American miles to get from Asia to Sydney that it didn’t matter what asian city we went through, it would cost the same amount of miles. So now I could choose from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. I had to use British Airways to get to the asian city to make the two for one certificate work, you can’t use it on other OneWorld airlines.  Once I found first class award space on British Airways to Hong Kong I was ready to start the search from Hong Kong to Sydney.

I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything direct going from Hong Kong to Sydney and was starting to get discouraged. During my research I realized that there was plenty of award space going from Bangkok to Sydney on Qantas in first class. I also realized that I could get from Hong Kong to Bangkok fairly easily. So I pieced together the itinerary of Hong Kong to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific and then Bangkok to Sydney on Qantas. All in first class except the first Hong Kong to Bangkok flight which only offers business class but it’s the new business class so it’s like most other airlines’ international first class. I ended up booking the Hong Kong to Sydney flights with a night stopover in each direction. Since the awards are  two separate tickets I needed to give some leeway in case of late flights and cancellations. This was fine as the couple wanted to see a little bit of Hong Kong Anyway. They’ll have lunch in London, dinner in Hong Kong and a 3-day first class experience.

I don’t normally make award reservations for hotels but since there were two nights nested in the trip I gave it a try.  Next posting, how to get a great hotel deal using points and a little cash.

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