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Posts in this series include:
- Tokyo, Hong Kong & Singapore Trip – How I Booked & How Much I Paid
- Why I Gave Up A Park Hyatt Reservation For A Hyatt Regency
- Japan Airlines (JAL) 777 First Class In Pictures
- Hyatt Regency Tokyo – King Room In Pictures
- Review: Cathay Pacific First & Business Class Lounge Tokyo Narita T2
- Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class (NRT-HKG)
- The JW Marriott Hong Kong Reviewed
- Review: Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong (First Class)
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suites – Regional (HKG-SIN)
For the second year in a row I decided to book a trip for Joanna and I without actually telling Joanna where we were going. Last year the trip was primarily paid for in cash while this year I was very keen to book as much of it as possible with miles and points.
Last year we flew in BA First Class from London to Las Vegas on a 747, we then stayed at Aria for three nights before flying to San Francisco in First Class with Virgin America. In San Francisco we stayed at the Grand Hyatt for five nights before flying back to the UK in British Airways First Class (this time on an A380).
British Airways A380 First Class
That was a pretty good trip and a lot of fun…but I knew I could do better.
The Wish List
- Joanna has wanted to visit Tokyo for years so I knew that I’d have to try to include that somewhere in any trip I was planning specially for her.
- Joanna is also a big fan of Hong Kong so it would make sense to stop off there considering we wouldn’t be all that far away.
- I had a large number of miles sitting in my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account thanks to a cancelled trip to Australia and I knew I wanted to use those up.
- Neither Joanna nor I had flown in Singapore Airlines Suites Class so this seemed like a good time to try to book that – this would mean a stop in Singapore
- I wanted to burn through my American Airlines miles if at all possible as they’re rapidly becoming harder to use and I don’t want to sit on a large AAdvantage Miles balance any longer than I have to.
- Aside from Singapore Suites Class I was happy to book Business Class flights.
- Our prior commitments meant that I only really had a 3 week window in July with which to work.
- To help keep the costs down without skimping on quality I really wanted to stay in properties that provided a good complimentary breakfast – that would mean using my Platinum status at Marriott properties and/or the Hyatt Club upgrades that are now given out with my Hyatt status.
- A further consideration that narrowed down the choice of hotel brands was that I wanted to give us the best chance of getting a good room upgrade – that would almost certainly mean using either Marriott or Starwood properties as I have top-tier status in both of their loyalty programs.
Hotels are a lot easier to book with points than flights so I always secure my flights first and then move on to finding hotels I’m happy with.
I started planning this trip in November last year and I actually reverse engineered it.
I knew that I wanted us to fly back to the UK in Singapore Airlines Suites Class so that was the first flight I searched for…and there was one date with 2 award seats showing.
Great! I had a provisional return date…now I just needed to work out how to get from either Hong Kong or Tokyo to Singapore – whichever offered me the best option would be the second stop on the trip (Singapore being the last).
Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suites
It turned out that Singapore Airlines had 2 awards seats (again in Suites Class) departing Hong Kong for Singapore 3 nights before the Suites Class flight from Singapore to London.
I liked the idea of 3 nights in Singapore so that worked nicely….but I didn’t book the award flight just yet. I had already paid a cancellation fee to redeposit my KrisFlyer miles when I cancelled a trip to Australia so I really didn’t want to pay another cancellation fee if/when I couldn’t get other flights to work into this schedule.
The routing our trip would take was now set. So far I had the Hong Kong – Singapore – London portion of our flights planned and this meant that Tokyo would have to be our first stop.
The full routing would be:
Europe – Tokyo – Hong Kong – Singapore – London
I knew that although ideally it would be nice not to have to take a positioning flight to catch an award flight to Tokyo the chances were that that’s exactly what we would have to do.
When I flew to Tokyo in January I had to position from London to Frankfurt to catch a JAL Business Class award flight on the 787 Dreamliner and when I had wanted to try out Cathay Pacific First Class last year I had to position from London to Zurich to catch that award flight – London isn’t exactly awash with award availability.
But on this occasion the travel gods were smiling down on me.
Almost unbelievably the British Airways website (one of the better sites to check for oneworld awards) was showing that JAL had 2 First Class awards available for travel between Heathrow and Tokyo Haneda…and the date worked for us!
This was all I needed to see and it was time to get booking.
I called up American Airlines and booked the JAL First Class awards between London and Tokyo at a cost of 90,000 AAdvantage Miles & $239.80 per person:
The surcharges on the awards were high thanks to the taxes imposed by the UK on premium cabin flights …but they were worth it as it meant that we didn’t have to position to Europe before flying on to Tokyo.
Immediately after booking the JAL awards through American Airlines I called up Singapore Airlines to book the Hong Kong – Singapore – London award.
The awards cost 104,125 KrisFlyer Miles & SG$482.30 (US$347.43) per person (booked before the recent Singapore Airlines award changes)
Strictly speaking Singapore Airlines charges $100 per person if you want to book a stopover on a one-way award….but, unless I’m reading the payment details incorrectly, in this case the agent forgot to charge me that.
As things stood at this point we had 7 nights between arriving in Tokyo and our flight from Hong Kong to Singapore…which was just about perfect.
I decided to split that into 4 nights in Tokyo and 3 nights in Hong Kong so all that was left to book (flight-wise) was the Tokyo – Hong Kong flight.
BA.com showed Business Class award availability on most Cathay Pacific flights between Tokyo and Hong Kong on my chosen date but, rather than just book the flight with the best timings, there was one last thing to take into consideration.
Most of the Cathay Pacific flights between Tokyo and Hong Kong have a regional seat configuration…..
……and that means that you get the older-style seats and cabins where not everyone in Business Class has direct access to the aisle.
But I happened to know that at least one aircraft on this route offers the more modern international seat configuration….
….so that’s the aircraft I searched for (there’s no discount for booking an inferior cabin so I always look to see which flights offer the best seats before I book).
It turned out that it was Cathay’s A330 flight which had the new all-aisle-access Business Class so, after again checking that award availability was showing on BA.com….
…..I called up American Airlines to book the flights.
The awards cost 30,000 AAdvantage Miles & $25.30 per person
I could have used Avios to book this award and it would have been a very good use of Avios indeed ( 20,000 Avios & $33 per person) but I was looking to burn AAdvantage Miles on this trip and I had other plans for my Avios balance.
This was a lot more straight forward than booking the flights….although I did have one dilemma which I’ll come on to later.
I was keen to make the most of my Marriott Platinum status on this trip as that would get Joanna and I access to the Executive lounges where we would also get complimentary daily breakfast – a very good money saver when traveling.
There’s a recently opened JW Marriott in Singapore which has a great location and, at the time I was looking, was getting very good TripAdvisor reviews. Add to that the fact that I don’t think any of the bigger US or UK blogs has reviewed this property and the choice was simple.
As the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach is a Marriott Rewards Category 8 property it cost 120,000 Marriott Rewards Points for 3 nights.
Had I chosen to pay with cash rather than points the same three nights would have cost me $915.54……
….meaning that I got around 0.76 cents of value out of every point. Hardly spectacular but it was cash I didn’t have to pay out
The JW Marriott Hong Kong also gets good TripAdvisor reviews and it had two other things going for it:
- It’s located on Hong Kong Island and, on my last trip to Hong Kong, I stayed in Kowloon so this would be a nice change of scene.
- Numerous reviewers mentioned how good the Executive Lounge at the property is.
That was good enough for me.
The JW Marriott Hong Kong is also Marriott Rewards Category 9 property so a 3 night booking cost a further 135,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Had I chosen to pay with cash rather than points the same three nights would have cost me $1,088.24……
….meaning that I got around 0.80 cents of value out of every point.
Still not an amazing return but, again, the points saved me from having to pay out hard-earned cash and, in my world, that’s their primary job.
The one dilemma I had when it came to booking hotels for this trip came when I had to decide which property to book in Tokyo.
I ended up booking the Hyatt Regency Tokyo in Shinjuku which I had visited back in January of this year…but not until after a serious amount of thought.
Hyatt Regency Tokyo Reception
In fact, I debated which property to book for so long that I’m going to write a separate blog post on my though process and explain why I ended up deciding on the Hyatt Regency and not the Park Hyatt.
4 nights at the Hyatt Regency Shinjuku cost 48,000 Hyatt points.
I have to confess that I forgot to check how much the cash price of the Hyatt was for the same nights but, at a guess, I’d say that I probably got in excess of 1.7 cents of value out of each Hyatt point.
Total Trip Cost
To sum up, this was the trip that I booked for Joanna and I:
- JAL First Class from London to Tokyo
- 4 nights at the Hyatt Regency Shinjuku
- Cathay Pacific Business Class from Tokyo to Hong Kong
- 3 nights at the JW Marriott Hong Kong
- Singapore Airlines First Class (Suites) from Hong Kong to Singapore
- 3 nights at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach
- Singapore Airlines First Class (Suites) from Singapore to London
Flights for 2 people:
- 240,000 AAdvantage Miles
- 208,250 KrisFlyer Miles
- $1,225.06 in taxes and fees
Hotels for two people:
- 48,000 Hyatt Points
- 255,000 Marriott Rewards Points
All in all it was a fantastic trip and, considering the aircraft cabins we flew in and the hotels we stayed in, I think an out of pocket cost of $1,225 for flights and accommodation is pretty good 🙂
Other Things To Note
- All the AAdvantage Miles used to book this trip were earned from flying one world airlines and crediting the flights to the AAdvantage program.
- All the Marriott Rewards Points used for this trip were earned from Marriott stays and from credit card spend on my Chase Marriott Visa credit card.
- I paid for all the airline taxes and surcharges using my Amex Platinum Card to make sure that I earned 5 points per dollar spent – I earned approximately 6,125 Membership Rewards points.
Look out for various reviews from this trip coming up in the next few days and weeks.
Up Next: Why I Gave Up A Park Hyatt Reservation For A Hyatt Regency