Bengali Miles Guru

Tahsir recently flew Singapore Business Class for twenty hours and was blown away by the service.

I recently had the opportunity to fly on Singapore Airlines Business Class from Houston-Singapore via Moscow. I was excited for this trip because of my last trip with them in which I flew in their Suites cabin.

Singapore Business Class

When I booked this trip, I made the reservation using the Avianca website as I described in this post.

So how was the trip?

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Great minds think alike? Yesterday I posted about my dream Singapore Suites, Cathay Pacific First, and Lufthansa First Class Terminal trip. I still think my trip idea is cooler, but Tahsir has actually booked something, so he’s beating me there! ~Scott

Tahsir–the Bengali Miles Guru–just booked himself a pretty sweet trip to combine Singapore Business Class with Cathay Pacific First Class to head around the world and sample a few Asian cities.

Introducing: The most ridiculous trip around the world in 6 days!

It’s been a long week for me as I have just spent a few days in Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The entire week was a blast and it was probably the best trip of my life. To make it even better, at the end of the week I was scheduled to fly Malaysia Airlines new A380 in their First Class cabin. Here’s how it went.

I left Paris around 9AM to catch my 12PM departure. Originally, I was supposed to be dropped off but the train seemed like a more viable option. I got to the airport at around 10AM and proceeded to look for the Malaysia Airlines counter for the next 15 minutes. Malaysia Airlines departs out of Terminal 1 at CDG and if you don’t know, the terminal is like a huge circle. I walked around for 10 minutes (in two full circles) until I realized that some airlines check in one floor below where I was. It was kind of odd, but I could see why they did that as soon as I got downstairs and saw the line. The economy line stretched so long that other airline counters were having trouble distinguishing who was flying each airline.

All the way to the corner was the check in desk for First Class. There was no line and I was checked in smoothly. As soon as I started walking away, the agent noticed that my bag looked a little big. She asked me to weigh it, and it weighed 12kg when the max was 7kg. I pleaded with her to let me take it on board and she replied “OK, just make sure you take your laptop out and put it underneath the seat.” I agreed knowing that my laptop doesn’t weigh 10 pounds.

After my boarding passes were checked, I was able to head to immigration/passport control. This is one part that could easily be improved as there is a priority line that is for frequent/premium passengers. However, Malaysia Air doesn’t give their premium flyers a card to access this line. I didn’t mind but the normal line stretched the length of the entire “circle” terminal and it took me an hour to get through just immigration.

By this time, it was 11:15 so I headed to the lounge.

The Malaysia Airlines lounge is the same lounge that Priority Pass users are granted access to, so anyone with an American Express Platinum can get in. It is called the Icare lounge and it has a pretty decent selection of food and snacks. It is a bit confusing to get to the lounge because right when you walk upstairs, a huge plaque tells you that Malaysia Airlines is actually partnered with another lounge. Either way, I made it and took a seat at which point I was served a croissant on a silver platter.

Twenty minutes later, boarding for First and Business class passengers was announced in the lounge. I headed to the gate and went through security. Afterwards, I immediately went to the gate and was let through to go to the plane. I was the first to board and I got to take a few pictures before anyone else sat down.

In some A380s like Singapore and Malaysia, the First Class cabin is downstairs, which I believe is a huge waste of space. While walking around the cabin, I noticed that there was a tremendous amount of wasted space by the front galley.

In addition, the First Class bathrooms were tiny! I was told by the purser to use the bathrooms upstairs as they are bigger. Upstairs they are the same size as Lufthansa’s A380 bathrooms, but without the bench. 

After boarding was completed, the purser brought by some pajamas for me to change into. She also noted that all my amenities were in the Malaysia Airlines bag that was on the ottoman. I think that the amenity bag Malaysia gives out is the best ever as often times, my suitcase is bulging with clothes and opening it midair means that I’ll never be able to close it again!

The amenity kit included a toothbrush set, socks, mouthwash and lotions by Bvlgari. It was a nice package with a nice toiletry bag. It also included noise canceling headphones.

I looked around my seat and found that the seat itself has immense amounts of storage space. There were 4 storage areas not including the huge storage area under the ottoman. In addition, every suite has it’s own built in closet! The seat itself is made of velour sidings.

Velour Walls

By this time, we were taxiing for takeoff. The MH A380 has an auto tailcam feature so that everyone can watch it at the same time while taking off. The tailcam is turned off about 5 minutes after takeoff and cannot be seen again until landing.

About 15 minutes after takeoff, the pilot came on air to inform us that it would take about 11 hours and 15 minutes to reach Kuala Lumpur. Right after, the lunch service began. The purser came around to my suite and chatted with me for about 15 minutes during which I learned a lot of things. Firstly, the crew at Malaysia Air only flies to the US once a year! That means that each crew member only goes to Los Angeles (their only North American destination) once a year. I’m not sure how they do that as I believe Malaysia Air has service to Los Angeles 3x a week! Her take was that Malaysia Air wasn’t really prepared for this plane when they got it because they only placed orders for the A380 due to competition from other airlines. By doing so, Malaysia will lose a lot of money in the long run. They did however, have a nifty app on their iPad that told the crew every detail about me. She offered to take a picture on her iPad that would later be sent to me.

The service by Malaysia Air is very friendly. Unlike other airlines that try to just serve you, the MH crew tries to personalize the service. I personally prefer this type of crew because I like to interact with them. One crew member literally stood at my suite for 20 minutes talking to me about my camera and where to buy it. I enjoyed that but I can see where some other travelers might have a problem with that, so you should consider whether you’d like this level of chattiness.

While looking around the cabin, I came to another realization. Malaysia Air caters to families. I was the only person in this cabin that did not know anyone. the other 7 people were all family members with 2 kids occupying 2 seats (good for them!) I asked the purser what the load is like in First Class and she said it’s usually families like the one today. The best part is that they upgraded 5/8 people from business class. That’s amazing and partially explains why they aren’t making a ton of money on this product.

After chatting for a bit, the purser told me to look at my menu card which was inside a leather folder.

I had pre-ordered a few weeks back so I just chose the Amuse Bouche and Soup; both of which were very good! The best part is that they have a great snack menu if someone get’s hungry between meals.

Amuse Bouche
Satay
Chicken Soup
Main Course: Beef Medallion
Dessert: Chocolate Cake

After lunch, I went and changed upstairs and also got to take some pictures of the business class cabin. There is also a business class lounge at the top of the stairs. I was advised that I could use the lounge upstairs to get snacks and also the lounge in the galley behind me except, there was no lounge behind me as it was just a basket with snacks.

Business Class

I came back down and my bed was made without even asking! I loved the service on this flight because this crew literally anticipated all of my needs. Water was placed on the side table and I was ready to get some sleep but couldn’t.

I started browsing the entertainment selection which had a few movies and TV shows. The selection was good, but the software itself is a bit sluggish. I found myself constantly going back and forth between programs because the system was so slow. In addition, I feel like the remote is very poorly made. When it was dark, half of the lights on the remote wouldn’t light up and it was hard to find the select button.

The seat itself is one of the most comfortable seats in the sky. It features a memory button so it can remember the exact position you like if you have to get up and do something or even switch positions to eat. The design of the suite is stunning and it offers a lot of privacy but I found it a bit hard to find the power and headphone jack because it was buried under an armrest. I would’ve easily found it, but the lighting in this suite is so horrible that you can see more without it than you can with it. For example, the reading light pointed towards the TV. The top reading light pointed to my face instead of the table. When the seat is fully reclined, another reading light that does not have any light power shoots at the TV as well. I literally had to feel my way around the seat until I got fed up and used my phone’s flashlight.

Although the lighting and entertainment are a bit off, I love everything else about this suite. At night, I felt like I was in my own personal movie theater as there was backlighting behind the 23 inch TV. It looked amazing! Also, the best part about this suite is that there is a dedicated air vent. This is a great addition because I get really warm under blankets when flying, and the air vent helped out a lot! The blankets on this flight were down comforters and the pillows were feather down. Both were extremely comfortable!

My own movie theater!
You get your own vent!

I slept for about 6 hours and was woken up an hour before landing. I foolishly pre-ordered king prawns for breakfast and was hitting myself on the head for eating something like that for breakfast instead of cereal. I asked the purser for corn flakes, which were brought out promptly.

At this time, we were 45 minutes away from landing and the captain came out to chat with everyone in First Class. Again, I felt like he knew all the other passengers as he started hugging them. I didn’t get a hug :(. The captain came over and thanked me for flying and that he hoped to see me again soon.

The seatbelt signs turned off and I experienced the smoothest landing of my life! I didn’t even know we touched down until I heard the reverse thrust.

And so we have it. One more A380 off my checklist and one great crew that really knew how to pamper their customers. As I left the plane, I looked back and saw the outside of the A380. I love the color scheme Malaysia Air put on the A380!

My overall thoughts about this product are: don’t fly it unless you are on a oneworld explorer ticket or unless you really need to go to Malaysia directly. Although it’s a great product, it’s not worth the amount of miles needed to fly it–70,000 American miles or 105k Avios each way from London or Paris to Kuala Lumpur.

Other than that, kudos to Malaysia Air for making such a comfortable and visually stunning seat!

Last but not least, I had to post a picture of my favorite drink! Iced Milo!

 

 

 

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Priority Pass is running a 20% discount on membership until March 15.

Priority Pass Discount Link

Normally, Priority Pass costs about $400 for their “full” package which includes unlimited visits to their 600 lounges, a list of which you can find here. The bulk of their lounges are independent lounges but they also have SkyTeam, Air Canada, and all United Clubs within their portfolio.

And for most people who want access to United Clubs, you are better offer getting Priority Pass membership than United Club Membership. Here are the United Club membership fees.

The normal option to buy United Club status is $500 plus a $50 member initiation fee.

Comparison

Priority Pass: $399 per year (On sale now for $319) then $399 for the years to come.

United Club $550 for the first year then $500 for subsequent years. If you are the highest tier member with United (1K), it will be $450 for the first year, then $400 for the following years.

What If I don’t travel as much but still want the benefits?

Priority Pass also has two other tiers of membership which includes a $99 option (now $79) and $249 option (now $199)

The currently $79 option gives you access to the lounges at $27 per visit. At that price, Priority Pass doesn’t make sense. There are cheaper ways to get into a lounge a few times a year.

The currently $199 option gives you 10 free lounge visits. This is like buying 10 lounge passes for $20 each. Again I wouldn’t recommend it unless you knew that you needed 10 lounge passes and found lounges you enjoyed more than $20 per visit that are affiliated with Priority Pass.

If you travel more than that, you should get the $399 option which is on sale now for $319. This gives you unlimited lounge visits throughout the year. This automatically saves you $150 from United’s club membership and if you take advantage of the sale, you save $231 the first year!

What if I already have a Priority Pass Select card? What is the difference between Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select?

You get free Priority Pass Select membership from American Express Platinum cards. Priority Pass Select gives you access to all Priority Pass member lounges except United Clubs. If you don’t travel domestically a lot or don’t travel much at all, then I think you should stick with the free lounge access you get from the Priority Pass Select card.

What about guest access?

Guest Access with Priority Pass is $27 per guest.  If you have to guest someone in, the value will go down immensely. United Club membership let’s you bring in 2 guests or your immediate family for free. That saves you $54 each time you go into the lounge.

Recap

Priority Pass is having a 20% sale on its membership tiers. Priority Pass membership at these discount prices could be a great deal for many. It’s especially a great deal for someone who wants access to United Clubs, since Priority Pass–which includes unlimited United Club access–will be $231 cheaper than an United Club membership during the sale.

This sale is not a good deal if you frequently invite guests to the United Club or you travel infrequently enough that you don’t need year membership or Priority Pass Select is enough for you.

Singapore Airlines is probably one of the best airlines in the world.

I’ve had the privilege to fly Singapore Airlines almost 2-4 times a year since I was born. I was even one of the first “children” to fly the nonstop LAX-SIN flight which was then dubbed as the A345 Leadership. Although I always flew in Economy, in the next few days, I’ll be flying Singapore’s Suites product from Singapore-Los Angeles. I’ve dreamed of this day since I first knew what the First Class product looked like. I plan on writing about every detail on an upcoming trip report after I fly but for now, I want to talk about how I booked it.

A few days ago, I wrote about Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program. I was able to show you guys some cool ways to redeem points with them and how easy it is to transfer American Express points to KrisFlyer.

Recently, Singapore Airlines started to release First Class A380 space. The Singapore A380 is easily on of the most luxurious First Class products in the sky. The A380s feature a fully enclosed sliding door suite. Singapore has worked hard to protect the product, and before it began releasing saver space, a flight on the A380 could cost up to 1 million points!

I wanted to take full advantage of this suite so naturally, I booked from Singapore-Los Angeles. I did this for a few reasons:

  • First Class Check In Experience
  • Access to Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge
  • Access to “The Private Room”
  • Some people say the food from SIN-LAX is better than LAX-SIN
  • Availability is really wide open

Now, although availability is open, only one First Class Suite is released per flight. This makes it extremely difficult to get two passengers onboard but if you’re traveling between London-Singapore and Australia-Singapore, Lucky reports that Singapore is opening multiple Suites on the same flight. 

In my decision, I also took into account that I had a free Singapore roundtrip ticket that needed to be used before March 31st. I pondered on this for a while and decided I would split my free roundtrip ticket into two flights and combine it with two awards:

LAX-SIN (Free Singapore Ticket in Economy)

SIN-LAX (KrisFlyer Points)

LAX-Europe-SIN (One Way Business United for 60K)

SIN-LAX (Free Singapore Ticket in Economy)

From Singapore-Los Angeles, it costs 107,500 miles one way in First Class. Singapore Airlines has a 15% discount on awards booked online so Singapore-Los Angeles in first class can be booked online for 91,375 miles!

While booking, I found dates with availability and started my American Express points transfer. It can take 24-48 hours to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Singapore. However, if you transfer the points before 10AM pacific time, it usually posts by 12 midnight pacific.

At 12:01, I logged in and saw my points had posted. I also saw that space on my flight was still available. The one issue with SIA is that they charge fuel surcharges on their flight (except for origination out of Brazil) and this can sometimes devalue an award. The taxes and surcharges on my flight were coming out to $475 SGD or $~383 USD. I consider this price worth the Suites product, so I booked it.

The confirmation email was sent to me instantly and was followed by the E-ticket.  My ticket was now booked and I’m awaiting my trip on Singapore Suites!

Has anyone else had a different experience booking SQ tickets?

By now, you may be well aware of the rule that on a United oneway award, you can’t take a stopover. On a roundtrip award, you get one stopover. (This is just for awards booked with United miles. Different airlines, different rules.)

In certain cases, though, you can add a stopover to your planned oneway award and even decrease the miles price.

Let use a sample itinerary to illustrate what I mean: Say you want to go from Los Angeles to Shanghai with a stop in Frankfurt.

United does not allow stopovers on oneway awards, so ordinarily this would price as two awards: Los Angeles to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Shanghai.

In business class those trips are 50,000 miles and 65,000 miles.

If you try to book these two separately or as a oneway with a stopover, that would cost you 115,000 miles!

The trick is to book this as a roundtrip flight and tack on a flight later on in the year even if you know you won’t take it. This flight should be in economy because Shanghai to Los Angeles in economy is only 32,500 miles. If we’re not flying the flight, let’s at least make it as cheap as possible.

How can spending 32,500 miles on a flight we aren’t flying save us miles?

Because a one way business class flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai is 60,000 miles. If we make it a roundtrip where the outbound is 60,000 and the “return” is 32,500, this itinerary can be had for 92,500 miles instead on 115,000.

The reason Los Angeles to Shanghai was pricing at 115,000 miles earlier was the stop in Frankfurt split the award into two expensive awards. As a roundtrip, we are allowed a stop in Frankfurt, and we are allowed to route to Asia via Europe.

All we have to do is find a “return” day to make our “roundtrip” work.

After you find your flights, just call up United at 1-800-UNITED-1 and put these flights together if you can’t book the award online, which may be difficult because the online pricing engine give a lot of error messages.

Bonus

If I booked one of these awards, I would be on the lookout for changes to me phantom “return.” If changes occurred, I would do nothing at first. After flying to Shanghai, I would then call United to cancel the rest of the award because of the changes to the schedule. Talking your way into a refund of the 32,500 miles for the return should be easy.

To maximize your chances of a favorable change for you, book the return for 11 months out to give the schedule plenty of time to change.

Hot off the heels of FTU LAX, I’m writing a post to show people how to construct an awesome, yet rare aspirational trip. It’s a trip with United, ANA, and Thai First!

For the past few months, I’ve been super busy with our Award Booking Service and haven’t had time to post here. I was amazed at how many people actually came to me this weekend and told me to write more! Everyone also asked me to write about my upcoming trip that I booked.

For many, the question is simple. “How do I get the most value out of my points?” Well, there are two types of people in the award booking world–one who wants to get from Point A to Point B and one who’s more interested in the line between Point A and Point B than either end point. This is for the latter.

I have to go with my family to Bangladesh for Winter Break, so that was the impetus for this trip, but I wanted to do more than just get there.

I used 60,000 United Miles for the outbound with the hopes that a few days before I travel, I can upgrade the award. This is a common technique I use.

Here is what I did:

I logged into United’s site, which I think is the best way to search for Star Alliance availability. I then proceeded to just do a generic Los Angeles to Dhaka (DAC)  booking. Of course, the calendar showed NOTHING.

The trick is to book everything in segments. The biggest “trick” I use is to look for the hardest segment first. Scott calls this searching method “searching the bottleneck first.” See Book Awards Like a Pro: Routing Ideas.

For instance, for my trip the hardest segment to book was anything going into Bangkok. Tip for my Bengali readers and anyone who wants to go to Bangladesh in general: Business availability is wide open from Bangkok.

How I Define Wide Open

You can also check Istanbul-DAC in business with Turkish, which opens a decent number of seats.

IST-DAC not bad either

If you are going to India, go into Bangladesh first and then buy a $100 ticket to India. I say this because if you’re flying in economy, you can save 15,000 miles roundtrip. India is 40K one way. Bangladesh is 32,500 oneway.

I knew that I would like to take my time going to Bangladesh so I wanted to fly east instead of west. That means instead of going over the Pacific from Los Angeles, I wanted to go over the Atlantic. This enables me to test out a few different airlines!

So with that, I started searching Europe-Asia availability. Particularly FRA-BKK or ZRH-BKK. There was nothing available on the dates I wanted so I did some more searching. I used some “secret” routes. I say secret because they always seem to be open in premium cabins.

“Secret” Routes include:

BRU-BKK

MXP-BKK

FRA-BKK

MUC-BKK

FCO-BKK

CPH-BKK

OSL-BKK

ARN-BKK

BCN-BKK

MAD-BKK

My Favorite ZRH-BKK

Also, there is a very weird once a week flight from CPH-HKT (Phuket) that runs on Saturdays. That also seems to be open. (Benefits of using my award booking service ;) )

I searched for the direct flight availability the way that Scott outlined in Tricking United.com’s Award Calendar.

Anyways, I found nothing going into Bangkok in First Class. Luckily there was a flight from IST-DAC open on the EXACT day I wanted to travel. I put that on Phone Order hold (Scott outlined this trick here) and continued my search to patch together my trip.

When patching together a trip, you need to take into account some things. One of which is how long you want to stay in your layover cities. In my case, I wanted a day in each layover city so I then looked for the right times. This is where it got fun. My flight from IST-DAC left a 9:45PM. That meant that I would have to get into Istanbul the day before after 9:45 PM because United and US Air allow 23 Hours and 59 Minutes to stop in a city before it is considered a stopover!

I then found a flight that got into Istanbul at 10PM from Frankfurt! That was awesome so I then looked for a flight that got into Frankfurt the day before as well.

There was space coming into Frankfurt from all over the U.S. It was pretty much Chicago, Houston, and Washington D.C. However, there was nothing from Los Angeles. I did find some flight that connected from LAX-ORD and then onto Frankfurt, but I didn’t want that because it got into Frankfurt at 9 AM, and that would create a layover more than 24 hours.

I then tried going to other airports in Europe and I really lucked out because I found LAX-LHR in United Business! I called United and added that to my previous phone order hold. It was now a breeze. I landed into London at 2:05 PM but I didn’t want to stay there, so I was going to catch the 4:30PM flight the same day into Frankfurt that arrived at 6:45PM, which meant that I could have one whole day in Frankfurt and then catch the flight the next day into IST at 6PM.

I built my itinerary and it priced out at 60,000 United miles. I was happy with what I got but I had to go back an check what was available a few days ago. I was sort of blown away.

LAX-LHR was now available in First

LHR-DAC was now available like this: LHR-MUC-BKK-DAC in Thai First.

I called United and changed the ticket immediately. The taxes were an additional $6. The agent put me on hold for 45 minutes and because of that she waived the taxes. She also forgot that by waiving the taxes, she waived the additional 10,000 miles needed to go from Business to First! United has a weird rule where if they waive the taxes/points once, it will continuously get waived on the same itinerary! I didn’t believe it, so I made some more changes and they completely waived the taxes and close in booking fee!

Anyways, I was now booked like this

LAX-LHR United Global First

LHR-MUC Lufthansa Business

MUC-BKK-DAC Thai First

Pretty aspirational, huh? I didn’t think so.

A little known fact about United is that as soon as you get to 10+ segments on a roundtrip, the agents have to price the ticket manually. They aren’t as bad as US Airways, but this manual pricing also helps waive any future fees. This is important to note because when the agents change the itinerary, the taxes don’t change since they manually calculated it!

Yesterday, I looked to see how I could make this trip better. I found a really really cool route by working backwards. Here it is:

LAX-LHR  United First

United Global First

LHR-FRA Lufthansa Business

FRA-NRT ANA First in their new 777-300ER Product

ANA New First Class 777-300ER

NRT-BKK Thai First on their leased 777-300ER that is configured with suites and a closing door!

Thai First Class

The United agent quickly put it together and my price was still 60K and taxes stayed the same. He said that the computer asked for a $75 close-in fee. I knew it wouldn’t charge the fee so I gave the info anyways. Sure enough, he came back and said that the itinerary is booked and that my credit card was charged $0.

I’m super ecstatic to go on this trip and can’t wait to write a trip report about this! MileValue is lacking some anyways. ;)

 

UPDATE: I’m now switched into Lufthansa Business Class from LAX-FRA direct on the new 747-8!

-BMG

 

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