If you love to travel you will have a few huge adventures on your bucket list. Right now Charlene and I are getting ready for a 7 week trip to South East Asia starting at the end of December and running into February of 2019. The anchor and most expensive part of this trip will be the airfare to Asia. To save miles we usually fly coach but this trip is different, no matter how we do it flying to Asia to the U.S. is going to be around a 14 to 20 hour flight. The times when we opt for business class or first class are rare but this trip will require at a minimum a business class seat.
The strategy for buying long haul business class and first class seats is different then the purchase of a normal seat. First, unless your independently wealthy you’re going to pay for these tickets with points. In our search we were looking for first class tickets from Florida’s East Coast to Asia.
Step one for us was to get a feel for the cost of these long haul tickets, discover what the anchor flights from the U.S. to Asia we should be looking at.
To get the basic information we needed to start our points searches we fell back on our favorite stand by air travel website google.com/flights. Our search was set up from MIA (Miami) FLL (Fort Lauderdale) PBI (West Palm Beach) and MCO (Orlando) to all of Asia. Only Google Flights allows this kind of very wide search.
After this search we know two important things first we have a fair idea of which Asian cities in our area of interest that are “hub” cities. We also know that the very cheapest business class flights we will be able to find for cash are very expensive. It’s time to look at our second go to website rewardstock.com.
Using Rewardstock we are able to do searches that will show the best point deals for our proposed flights. By inputting a search for Miami to Hong Kong in December in Rewarstocks search page we were able to find out that the best deals on business class tickets from Miami to Hong Kong could be with AA at 70,000 points or AmEx with 75,000 points one way. Keep in mind this is not the answer to the problem but instead a clue. Rewardstock is a good site to go to when you want to narrow your search. Down below is the result of my Rewardstock search.
As you can see above Reward stock has identified American Airlines miles as one of the best point deals offering some business class flights from Miami to Hong Kong for 70,000 miles. With a little more research we discovered the $64.10 + 75,000 mile deal involved using 75,000 AmEx points to transfer to 75,000 Air Canada miles. If you have transferable reward points with AmEx, Citi, or Chase Rewardstock will search all the different airline point deals with the airlines that allow transfers to your points. On the left is the list of airlines that were searched by Rewardstock on our Hong Kong search. Doing this many airlines and possiblilities by hand would have taken hours but with Rewardstock it took 2 minutes.
This list of airlines is specific to the air mile partners that we have based on the air miles and reward points we have registered with Rewardstock. Just from this one list which is available on my search screen I can identify 19 airlines that offer flights from Miami to Hong Kong using their reward mile programs.
Just to double check the accuracy of the Rewardstock search we ran searches with United and Delta miles and found that the two options identified by Rewardstock were far better options.
Because the American Airlines option was only 70,000 mile per one way trip we decided to see if we could put our business class flights together with American. American Airlines offers a great search platform because it will show you the available flight for an entire month.
That’s the good news, with any American Airlines search the bad news is that you have to put in some effort with Americans AA.com web site to find the “MileSAAver” flights. One day you can look and find no “MileSAAver” flights and the next day there may be a dozen. Yesterday I wanted to do a screen shot of the AA.com site showing the “MIleSAAver” 70k business class to HKG and NOTHING! Not a single flight and I looked at months of potential dates. This morning I flip on the old computer and on my first search BINGO.
The lesson; just because you don’t see the flight you want today does not mean it will not be there tomorrow. It’s frustrating but if you want to find these amazing mile saving deals you have to keep checking the site until American allocates more miles seats. Don’t give up just keep going back. Out in that huge black hole we call travel bloging there may be some logic to when AA’s MileSAAver deals pop up and if I find that golden ring I promise to share, but right now my advice is just keep running searches.
One thing about these long haul business class deals that is important is that you are saving enough travel assets and money when you find these deals that you can justify actually building your travel dates around these deals. Charlene and I found our deals were good in late December and altered our travel dates for flying to Asia to fit the deals. Because the flights to places like South East Asia, Africa and Australia are so horribly expensive our first move in planning such a trip is always setting the trip dates based around the dates when the most affordable flights are being offered.
You’re putting out big travel assets because the flight is a just too long for a coach seat but the reality is not all Business and First Class seats are equal. On your flight you want a “Lay Down” seat so check to seats out and make sure they are the seats you want before you pull the trigger. A great tool for checking out what your high dollar (mile) seat will be like is seatguru.com. In seatguru you will be asked to ID your flight by Airline, Date and Flight number. When you share this information seatguru will give you information about your seat options in what ever class of service you have chosen. SeatGuru will ID the seats that are the best seats and tell you why. Some seats are too close to the lavatories and noisy some are subject to lights when the crew is working on meals and some don’t offer windows. All this is factored in and you are given insider tips on how to pick the best seat. If you are breaking the bank you might as well have the best business or first class seat available. The screen shot on the left shows a chart that rates seats in business class on our Hong Kong leg of our flight (16 hours) the seats in yellow are not considered good seats because of the noise associated with the crew ant the lavatories it also show how the seats are configured. With seatguru you will also get reviews of the seats by past passengers and photos of the seats. We don’t worry too much about the seats were getting on a 2 hour hop but on a long haul 16 hour flight these things are critical.
Before we finish this article just a word about paying for these long haul flights, the power of your miles. Because we took the time to hunt down a deal on our round trip, business class flight we paid 140,000 American Air Miles. The cost of that flight if you paid cash was $6389,01. That’s a return on miles of 4.56 cents per mile.
After a lot of computer time we have the first piece of our tip in place we know we will be traveling from Miami to Hong Kong and our trip will start on December 30th and our return flight to the States will be on February 12th. Now all we have to do is fill in the blanks.
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