I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

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Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
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There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

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It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.
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Aspire to Cathay Pacific Business Class.

  • It is one of the world’s nicest Business Classes, featuring a fully flat bed on flights of up to 16 hours between the United States and Hong Kong.
  • It is dirt cheap at 55,000 American Airlines miles one way or 110,000 US Airways miles roundtrip. This is just 10% more than flying half the time in a far inferior product to Europe.
  • Award space is widely available. Cathay Pacific releases 2 Business Class seats on a ton of flights 11 months in advance.
  • It is so easy to earn the miles needed to fly. The American Airlines and US Airways cards both offer 50,000 point sign up bonuses. These two types of miles combine into your American Airlines account early next year.

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Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles and two lounge passes after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in the second quarter of 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting both cards now and meeting both spending requirements means you will have at least 103,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

Cathay Pacific Business Class serves fascinating destinations like Southeast Asia, the Maldives, and Australia.

There are better products in the world (like Cathay Pacific First Class for instance), but for excellence, cheapness, ease of finding award space, and ease of getting the miles, I anoint Cathay Pacific Business Class the best premium cabin product in the miles world.

  • Where does Cathay Pacific Business Class fly?
  • How can you book it?
  • How many miles do you need?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • Why is booking Cathay Pacific Business Class then changing to First Class a good deal?

17 171

I went to Angkor Wat this February, and I was blown away.

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View from Inside Angkor Wat

The 900 year-old Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia is up there on the list of the most impressive historical sites I’ve visited with Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

And it isn’t just Angkor Wat. The rest of the Angkor Temples like Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei are just as amazing and all within a short drive of the very lively Siem Reap.

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Admiring a Gate of Angkor Thom

Beyond the destination, Southeast Asia happens to be one of the best places to go with miles in a premium cabin for five reasons.

  1. It’s super cheap! American Airlines charges just 55k miles one way in Business Class or 67.5k miles one way in First Class
  2. Cathay Pacific–an American Airlines partner–has one of the world’s best Business and First Class products.
  3. Award space is abundant in Cathay Pacific premium cabins.
  4. The flight between the United States and Hong Kong is around 16 hours, meaning you get to fully enjoy your flights and arrive rested.
  5. The  Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® are both offering huge bonuses, the two types of miles will be combined in early 2015, and American Airlines has committed to keeping the cheap prices I just quoted at the time of combination.
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Lounging in Cathay Pacific First Class

Right now is an amazing time to plan a 2015 vacation with luxurious flights to Angkor Wat.

  • Where can you search Cathay Pacific award space?
  • How can you book Cathay Pacific award space?
  • What are the very regular rules that Cathay Pacific Business and First Class award space follow?

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Cathay Pacific First Class is:

  • awesomefull trip report
  • cheap: 67,500 American Airlines miles one way between the United States and East Asia
  • easy to book with miles

Cathay Pacific operates six-seat First Class cabins between the United States and Hong Kong, so there aren’t many seats to give away, and yet Cathay Pacific manages to regularly offer one seat up to 11 months before departure on tons of flights.

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Me in Cathay Pacific First Class about to catch some ZZZZs

Cathay Pacific is also one of the airlines that releases a lot of its unsold premium inventory as award seats as departure approaches. (United and Lufthansa are two other airlines like that.)

I wanted to figure out the pattern for this last-minute release of award space, so I checked Cathay Pacific routes between the United States and Hong Kong for the next two weeks.

  • What is the pattern of Cathay Pacific First Class award space between the United States and Hong Kong for the next two weeks?
  • How can you search for Cathay Pacific award seats?
  • How can you book Cathay Pacific award seats?

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Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong-based member of oneworld with a mind-blowing First Class and a top-notch business class.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Bed

Cathay Pacific flies from six North American cities to Hong Kong (and from there to the rest of the world), plus Boston to Hong Kong starts in May 2015.

from gcmap.com
from gcmap.com

Cathay Pacific flies 777s between the United States and Hong Kong, which have only six First Class seats. Because of that, you rarely see more than one First Class award seat per flight.

But lately Cathay Pacific has been increasing its capacity to the United States so much that there are occasional flights with award space available for two out of the First Class cabin’s six seats.

  • What are the new routes/services from the United States to Hong Kong?
  • What is the pattern for Cathay Pacific First Class award space?
  • Which flights have two seats?
  • What are the best miles to book Cathay Pacific First Class award space?

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This is the fifth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Hong Kong.

In late February, I flew into Hong Kong International Airport for a 23 hour layover that I spent in Macau. (Don’t worry, I’m going to Hong Kong proper in a few weeks!)

I flew into Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class and out of Hong Kong the next day in Cathay Pacific Business Class. Waiting for that Business Class flight, I headed to The Wing, which is Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge.

Anyone flying Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin can access the lounge, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed into the First Class area since my only First Class flight had landed the day before.

I presented my First Class boarding pass upon entering the lounge and asked: “I flew in in First Class. Can I access the First Class part of the lounge?”

I was allowed into the First Class area and headed straight for the dining room.

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The dining room is large, but the tables are packed in tightly. The room was practically empty, so I would have preferred fewer tables for a more spacious feel.

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A waiter came and presented the a la carte menu, which featured standard Western breakfast dishes like eggs, sausage, bacon, and hash browns.

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I don’t like eggs, so I asked for an order of every side dish, all of which I love. I also ordered an orange juice.

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While I waited for my a la carte order, I checked out the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet has pastries, meats, and several Chinese dishes.

  • How is the food?
  • The lounge?
  • The bar?
  • The Cabanas?

Recently a friend came to me with an award request along the lines of what I have done for hundreds of clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service.

He wanted to visit Sydney during its summer and Hong Kong on the same trip. He wanted to fly in some of the world’s nicest airline products. And he wanted to maximize his weekends because he could only budget seven vacation days for the trip.

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Through several rounds of Free Credit Card Consultations, he had built impressive six-figure balances with United, American, Delta, US Airways, and Ultimate Rewards.

I suggested that we use his US Airways miles now–before they are devalued next year–to get him into Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class, two of the world’s nicest First Classes. I helped book him an 11 day trip that uses only seven vacation days, gives him time in each city, and costs only 140k miles roundtrip.

He had gotten all of his US Airways miles from The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, which currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How did I know that using US Airways miles would be the best value?
  • How did I search for the very rare Qantas First Class space on an A380 between the United States and Australia?
  • How did I search for Cathay Pacific First Class?
  • With what routing rules did I have to comply?
  • What were his options for a free oneway?
  • How exactly did I book the award?

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Update 5/27/14: A winner has been picked for the $200 Visa Gift Card. You can still enter the contest for two roundtrips to HKG in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy at www.loungebuddy.com/cathay/

Two awesome giveaways for your Aloha Friday:

  • One MileValue reader will win a $200 Visa Gift Card
  • One entrant (not necessarily a MileValue reader) will win an incredible trip for two to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy from Cathay Pacific and Lounge Buddy.

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How do you enter the two giveaways?

After a few days in New York last month, I took a 16 hour flight in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong. It was the second best flight of my life (behind only Emirate First Class); I can’t recommend Cathay Pacific First Class highly enough.

That said, the ground services in New York were abysmal. (To skip them and get to the flight review, click here.) When I showed up at the Cathay Pacific check in area, I only saw Economy Class counters and this line out the door:

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An agent directed me to the First Class check in area that British Airways operates for Cathay Pacific.

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Check in and security were smooth, and I made my way to the British Airways First Class lounge.

The British Airways First Class Lounge is one of the worst First Class lounges I’ve been in.

It’s a lot better than your basic airport lounge, but it didn’t have the things First Class lounges around the world have:

  • Food to order, awesome buffets, or both
  • Waiters
  • Fantastic seating areas
  • Showers
  • Nap rooms
  • Quiet and seclusion (exclusivity)

Instead, it was a room a room with dozens of people in tight quarters who had access to a lackluster breakfast buffet and a small self-service bar.

The best parts of the morning buffet were the berries and the instant noodles.

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There was a good alcohol selection, but it was 7 AM, so I didn’t test it out.

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Everyone else in the lounge working hard, so I grabbed some fruit and cereal and used the speedy wifi to download a few shows for the flight.

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When it was almost time to board, I headed to the gate and saw the 777 waiting for me.

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Unfortunately boarding continued the theme of atrocious ground service. No queuing was evident as the mob waited. The ground staff was not able to board First Class first, and I was stuck behind 15 people on the way down the jet bridge.

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Finally, I got to the aircraft door though, and that’s where the story changes. If the ground services were worthy of Ryanair, the flight itself was worthy of the hype accorded to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the world’s best commercial flying experiences.

Cathay Pacific 841
New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arrive: 2:20 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014
Duration: 16hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The next 16 hours were spent relaxing, sleeping, eating, and being doted upon by an incredible crew.

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How was the seat, bed, food, entertainment, and service? (with tons of pictures)

I haven’t been home since February 16 when I boarded a plane from Honolulu for Newark. I have loved the I’m on trip because I finally got to play poker in Asia, see Angkor Wat, catch up with friends in Europe, see more of the Balkans, and experience the curiosities that are Macau and Singapore.

The trip took me to:

  • New York
  • Macau, China
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia
  • London
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Frankfurt
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia

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Along the way, I’ve flown and stayed at:

  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Singapore Airlines First Class
  • Lufthansa First Class (and First Class Terminal)
  • Wizz Air and Jetstar Asia (low cost carriers)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • The May Fair in London
  • A Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt
  • hostels in Cambodia, Singapore, and Ljubljana
  • a motel in Greensboro
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Lufthansa First Class, Hair Style by Nap

Booking Process

What was the booking process, how much time did I spend in each place, and what would I have done differently?

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This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul already and had a similar (great) experience on my flight from Istanbul to Tokyo also in Turkish Business, so I am skipping to the next segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was in Tokyo, and I wanted to add a quick side trip onto my main award, and Hong Kong seemed like the logical spot. I had British Avios to burn, there were several nonstops on JAL and Cathay Pacific from convenient Tokyo-Haneda, and one of Cathay’s was flown by their double-decker Boeing 747-400.

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As many of you noticed in my Lufthansa trip report, I’m obsessed with being on the top deck of planes (perhaps this translates directly from my bunk bed preferences as a child). The fact that Cathay Pacific is slowly retiring this plane from service provided added incentive to book.

Image from cathaypacific.com
Image from cathaypacific.com

How was the seat? Was the service up to Cathay Pacific’s high standards? Was this redemption a good use of Avios?

Cathay Pacific has initiated four-times-weekly flights from Hong Kong to the Maldives with an A330 aircraft with fully flat business class (but no first class.)

The route opens up an exciting ultra-luxury way for Americans to get to the Maldives with a combination of American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios on Cathay Pacific flights.

Cathay Pacific First Class

What’s the optimal use of your miles on these flights?

Last month, I mused about my dream trip combining Cathay Pacific First Class, Singapore Suites Class, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. I took the first step toward booking the awards necessary for the trip yesterday by putting Cathay Pacific First Class on hold.

In the process of researching my Cathay Pacific flights, I discovered I could add an extra four hours in Cathay Pacific First Class, that I can take a ferry from Hong Kong International Airport to Macao, and where to look for the best First Class space on Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific First Class. Soon to be pictured: me.

Edit 10/20/13: Two thirds of this trip is booked. See Getting Extra First Class on Cathay Pacific and Booking Singapore Suites. Lufthansa First Class will hopefully be booked in late February.

My five biggest points-and-miles goals for the next year are to fly:

  1. Singapore Suites Class
  2. Cathay Pacific First Class
  3. Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt to access the First Class Terminal
  4. the Island Hopper
  5. Etihad First Class

The first three are surprisingly easy and cheap to piece together into one short trip around the world. I’ve been working on a few permutations for fun that I’ll share in this post.

Yesterday’s post about the Coolest Thing to Do with 130k and 280k American Airlines Miles got me to look at the American Airlines’ chart again for value. I found what I think are the Five Best Values in premium cabins.

These values combine low miles, low taxes and fees, and the very best products from among American’s partners. How does First Class on Etihad or British Airways for 40k miles sound?

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