Last week I used 27,500 Asiana miles + $38.30 to book myself a Business Class award from Honolulu to Bogota that I’ll fly next month.
This is a steal of a deal because United would have charged 45,000 miles for the same ticket.
While I am ticketed, one of my two legs is in economy, so I have set an automatic alert to let me know if Business Class space opens on the leg on which I’m currently ticketed in economy.
- Why use Asiana miles?
- How to get Asiana miles and transfer time
- Route planning
- Award Search
- Award Booking
- Setting alerts to improve cabin
Why Asiana Miles?
Asiana has a super cheap award chart that I’ve mentioned before for awards to Europe like 50,000 miles one way in Lufthansa First Class. Here is the roundtrip award chart for awards originating in Hawaii; one way awards are half price.
In general Asiana’s awards to South America are very cheap. Asiana only charges 27,500 miles one way in Business Class to Northern South America and 35,000 miles to Southern South America. United charges 35,000 and 55,000 miles respectively.
Plus United charges extra miles if you start in Hawaii instead of the continental United States. In this case, Asiana doesn’t.
Asiana collects fuel surcharges on awards except on United, Copa, Avianca, and TACA flights, making Asiana miles ideal for awards to Latin America.
How to Get Asiana Miles
The only reasonable way for Americans to get Asiana miles is to transfer SPG Starpoints. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles.
Plus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get 5,000 extra Asiana miles. That means I’d need only 22,500 Starpoints (=27,500 Asiana miles) to book Honolulu to Bogota in Business Class.
In the past, transfers from Starpoints to Asiana have taken me two weeks. My most recent transfer, initiated last week, took a few hours less than seven days.
For this award though, I already had Asiana miles sitting around from a transfer I made in May, in anticipation of possibly booking an award from the United States to Europe with Asiana miles that I never booked.
I prefer to fly as few segments as possible because it means less chance to mis-connect, less time spent on layovers, and longer individual segments, which is what you want when you fly in the comfort of Business Class.
There are several ways to get from Honolulu to Bogota with one stop. On American, you can stop in Dallas. On United, you can stop in Houston. With a combination of United and Avianca, you can stop in several places including Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles option was the best because of the short layover time. The layovers in Texas would have been all day layovers–no thanks!
To figure out possible routes, start on the Wikipedia pages of your starting and ending airports and look for common connection cities.
I could have just plugged Honolulu to Bogota into united.com, but I would get a lot of long, terrible itineraries. I wanted to isolate itineraries with award space from Los Angeles to Bogota, so I started by just searching that segment. There is very little award space on that route, but there is some if you’re flexible like I am.
Since this flight leaves in the morning, I next searched for Honolulu to Los Angeles flights for the night before.
Award space is very good on United’s many Honolulu to Los Angeles flights, but there is a lot more economy award space than First Class award space.
When flying international Business Class, you are entitled to hook it up to domestic First Class for no extra miles, but there just wasn’t space on the day I wanted to fly.
I decided to book the mixed cabin itinerary anyway.
I figure that a good itinerary with one stop, a short layover, and 7 of the 13 flying hours in Business Class for only 27,500 Asiana miles is better than not booking the award or booking the award in economy 17,500 miles one way.
I noted the date, flight, and cabin of each segment and moved on to booking.
Booking the Award
Booking the award is straightforward though not as streamlined as it should be. Always call the airline whose miles you’re using, so I called Asiana at 800-227-4262.
Here’s where it gets weird:
- First you need to reserve the ticket with reservations.
- Then you need to pay for the ticket with Asiana Club.
So I followed automated prompts to reservations. I gave the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment. (Remember to call domestic First Class “Business Class” though in this case I was flying domestic economy.)
The agent put the award together and gave me a confirmation number, then transferred me to Asiana Club. I gave them the confirmation number and my credit card. They ticketed the award for 27,500 Asiana miles + $38 in taxes. (There is no phone fee, and there are no fuel surcharges on either of my flights.) I got an email receipt a few hours later.
The miles came out of my account immediately.
Setting an Alert to Move Up to First Class
If United opens up award space in First Class on either of its Honolulu to Los Angeles redeye flights, I want to make a change and get that space. Asiana charges $30 or 3,000 miles to make a change. I would pay the $30, which is a steal to “upgrade” almost six hours from economy to domestic First Class.
I could frequently check united.com to see if space opens up in First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles, but there is an easier way. Set up an alert on Award Nexus.
Will space open up for me?
[Award space did open up for me, and I am now booked in United First Class on the first segment.]
No one knows for sure, but I think it will. I’d give my chances of flying First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles at 80%.
As I said in “Will You Find Last Minute Space? Here’s How To Estimate Your Chances,” the best way to estimate is to look at space on the route for the next few weeks.
Space is really good in United First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles for the next four weeks with 25/28 days having First Class space. That tells me that in a few weeks, space on the flight I want might open up!
I booked Bogota to Honolulu for 27,500 Asiana miles, transferred from 22,500 Starpoints, plus $38. United wants 45,000 miles for the same flights.
I couldn’t find both segments in a premium cabin, so I booked economy on the first leg and Business Class on the second. I then set an alert, so if the premium cabin opens on the first leg I’ll know, and I can make the change for $30. I do expect that award space to open up for me, but there is no guarantee, and I am happy with my award as is.