I’ve got 2.5 weeks between high school and law school reunions this spring. It looked like the perfect time to check out Egypt and Dubai for the first time and more of Thailand (only been to Phuket so far), while also flying some of the world’s nicest First and Business Class products.
I, like a lot of people, have a big American Airlines miles balance because of how easy they are to get at the moment with the personal and business cards each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months. I thought I would use some American Airlines miles to fly some of its nicest partners for part of the trip.
I had already booked myself from the United States to Dubai to Bangkok on two flights in Emirates First Class on its A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award.
Picking the Route
Now I needed to get from Bangkok to Egypt. From doing a bit of research, I knew that in Egypt I wanted to see sites around Luxor and Cairo.
To avoid backtracking, that means flying into one and out of the other.
I expected to fly to Egypt on Qatar Airways and back to the United States on Etihad Airways, so I went to Wikipedia to check whether they both served Luxor and Cairo. I really can’t oversell how valuable Wikipedia airport pages are for planning a trip.
It turns out both Etihad and Qatar fly to Cairo, but only Qatar flies to Luxor.
That means I would fly from Bangkok to Luxor and fly back to the United States from Cairo. Great! The order didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to save the time and money of having to fly two intra-Egpyt flights, and with a few extra minutes of planning I did. Also see: the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.
Picking the Airline to Fly
I already mentioned that I’d be flying Qatar from Bangkok to Egypt. Why?
Qatar flies its brand new A380 between Doha and London and Doha and Bangkok. Even though Qatar hasn’t released First Class award space on the plane yet, Business Class looks spectacular.
Each fully flat bed has direct aisle access, laid out with only four seats per row for a very spacious seat.
Just behind Business Class is The Lounge, which looks like a much snazzier version of the onboard bars a few other airlines feature.
Between Asia 2 (Thailand) and Indian Subcontinent / Middle East, American Airlines charges only 30,000 miles one way in Business Class and 40,000 miles in First Class, both of which are outrageously good deals!
In the off chance that Qatar opens up First Class award space in the next three months, I set free oneworld award space alerts with the Wandering Aramean’s search tools.
Searching Award Space
As I explained in Where to Search Award Space for All American Airlines Partners, Qatar award space is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.
I was specifically looking for award space on flight QR833, the daily flight served by the A380.
There is ample award space on the A380 in Business Class if you are flexible with your travel date, which I was. Unfortunately, the A380 flight is not the best timed flight with the once-daily flight to Luxor.
Qatar has a flight out of Bangkok that lines up perfectly with the Luxor flight…
I’m choosing to look at that as a positive because Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Class lounge in Doha is regarded as one of the nicest in the world and is open 24 hours.
After I’m done feasting in one or more of the dining areas that feature buffets and a la carte options, I can find the game room or “cocoon into one of the private work stations.” Surely I’ll take a nap too.
Booking the Award Space
The only way to book award space on Qatar Airways with American Airlines miles is by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.
I haven’t broken it down by trip, but these flights plus my return from Cairo to the United States only totaled $72 in taxes.
The reason I booked them together should be apparent to anyone who read the Complete Guide to Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges on American Airlines Awards. American Airlines charges a $35 phone fee to book awards, but usually just one per passenger per call. By combining two award bookings into one call and one record locator, I just paid the $35 once.
Trivia: I highlighted the 4 h 5 m flight time above from Doha to Luxor because it is wrong. In May, they will be in the same time zone, and the flight is 3 h 5 m. Apparently Egypt has daylight savings time for about two months, then goes back to standard time for Ramadan, then has two more months of daylight savings time.
Getting the Miles
American Airlines miles are super easy to get.
Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles 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.
The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.
We also 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 before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card 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 all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
American Airlines miles are ideal between Asia and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products and award space like Qatar Business Class on its A380.
Plus American Airlines charges the ultra-low price of only 30,000 miles one way in Business and 40,000 one way in First between the two regions. Check out five other under-priced awards on the American Airlines chart.
Planning on Wikipedia, searching on ba.com was easy, and booking by phone were all easy, and I saved myself $35 by booking this award at the same time as my Etihad First Class award back to the United States.