It's a fairly well-known fact that I am rather nerdy and obsessive about the use of awards and points in our own travels, whilst also helping clients incorporate them whenever possible.
Well it's been a while since I did a "points only" post and considering airline award charts reinvent themselves regularly or even disappear altogether (tut tut Delta), it's time to look at what can still be accomplished when everything falls into place. With our focus on the luxury market, I am constantly looking for value with Business and even First Class international flights, and aside from a few very rare instances where it makes sense to use miles for domestic economy travel, the most value you can possibly extract from airline miles and credit card points is booking flights at the front of the aircraft!
TOP 5 AIRLINE AWARD REDEMPTIONS FOR 2018
1. Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
Although, as part of the One World alliance you can book Cathay Pacific flights with AAdvantage points, I really like using Asia Miles themselves due to one factor - you can search for and book awards 360 days in advance, when almost all other programs are around the 330 day mark. This 30 day buffer has proven a real bonus to us in the past as availability is usually present in that window. I am likely to be looking for a LAX to HKG First Class award or 2 in the next few weeks as we know we are heading to Asia in Summer 2019. For west coast USA to Hong Kong (above) it's 110K miles and taxes under $100 for a 15 hour flight.
How do you get Asia Miles? Easily transferred from both Citi Thank You and Amex Membership Rewards programs at a 1:1 rate although right now there is a 15% bonus on transfers from Citi, reducing the cost above to just under 96K miles!
2. The World's Longest Flight
From October 18th this year Singapore Airlines will grab this coveted title when they introduce Newark to Singapore non-stop on their new A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) aircraft. We've already experienced the business class product (above) back in December from SFO to Singapore, but we might be tempted to use this route and award next year for our return from Asia. Singapore's Krisflyer membership program is one of the easiest to generate miles in. It's a better program than United's for long distance flights, so if that's your goal, you should credit your United flights to a Krisflyer account as they are both members of Star Alliance. Then, the 3 major credit card points programs can all be transferred at a 1:1 rate. The award above will be 92K miles + reasonable taxes.
3. Etihad First Apartment (above)
This redemption has long been on my radar and I'm finally going to figure it out in the second half of this year. It's a complicated process to say the least to find availability at the saver award level, but if it falls into place, Aadvantage points are the way to go! The one US route with this incredible product on the Etihad A380 is JFK to Abu Dhabi, but space is virtually non-existent, so it's likely to be a long distance route like Sydney to Abu Dhabi that this eventually works for. If you can persuade an AA agent that the award actually exists, this is bookable for 100K Aadvantage points and reasonable taxes. It's one of the most luxurious airline products around.
4. BA2 (above)
An intriguing experience and another on my list. British Airways fly a very small A318 between JFK and London City Airport. Just 32 seats and all business class. That sounds like an excellent semi-private experience to me. But only book it eastbound as the westbound route has to stop in Shannon, Ireland to refuel! This one costs just 50K British Airways Avios (transferable from Amex and Chase), but you do have to pay the heftiest taxes in the award world with BA, in this case just over $500.
Qatar Airways has become our favorite use of Aadvantage points over the last few years as both the Business Class product and the value of award flights to the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent are outstanding. In sight for a booking soon are the new routes from USA with the upgraded QSuites Business Class (above), which is about as good as any other airline's First Class, including the possibility of a double bed. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York routes to Doha, Qatar should have the new configuration by the end of this year. It's just 70K miles to get all the way to the Maldives via Doha, all in Business Class and possibly with the above product on the longest leg of the trip. Taxes are minimal. This is an amazing deal.
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