I previously wrote about how I’m returning to SouthEast Asia in 2015. While the primary purpose of this trip is to serve as a guest instructor in an annual field course that is held on a remote Indonesian island, I figured since I was half-way around the world I would do some exploring. With this in mind, I had two goals:
After six weeks of searching airlines, routes, and driving my friends nuts with my constant talking of itineraries and airlines, I think I’ve booked all of my tickets. I say “I think I’ve booked my tickets” because I’ve already changed my itinerary once.
One perk of being Executive Platinum (EXP) with American Airlines is that award ticket processing, change fees, cancellation, and mile reinstatement fees are waived. This can be dangerous, as I’ve learned. Since I don’t really have any particular place to be (other than Indonesia), I’ve been looking at the map and calling the AAdvantage desk to check on the availability of tickets. I’ve put countless tickets on hold (AAdvantage allows five days holds on award tickets) while trying to figure out where to go and how to get there.
My whole time in Indonesia has been constrained by a tiny fishing boat to get to and from the remote island. With this in mind, I wanted to quickly find my tickets to Jakarta and from Jakarta. Early in the search, I lucked out and found flights that I’m really happy with.
I was really hoping to be able to fly airlines I haven’t flown before and was fairly open to the routing to get from little ole-Austin to Jakarta. I really lucked out when the AAdvantage phone agent read what he found. I’ll be flying American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles in First Class. I’ll have five hours at LAX airport (lounge-hopping anyone?) where I’ll fly a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER in business class to Hong Kong. My connecting flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta departs the next day, so I’ll have 16 hours to explore Hong Kong. I’ll be in Business Class on a Cathay Pacific A330 from Hong Kong to Jakarta.
I spent $53.60 in taxes and burned 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Austin to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta one-way portion of the trip. Because I wanted to see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. Keep in mind that I did this search the same day I booked with miles. Prices vary, but this was the going rate for these flights on these dates. The cost for my exact flights was priced at $5,640.05.
Overall, I think I got an excellent value for my AAdvantage miles and the flights worked perfect with my schedule.
Leaving Jakarta, I wanted to find a flight that left really late at night or really early in the morning as I would be driving from the southern coast of Java to Jakarta and traffic could be a real problem. Just looking at flights for sale, I found a Qatar Airways flight leaving Jakarta just after midnight flying to Doha, Qatar. This flight would be perfect with my schedule and I crossed my fingers there was award space availability in a premium cabin (I was planning on using this flight as my hotel for the night). But where to go beyond Qatar? I was hoping for a long-ish layover there to explore Qatar, so I figured somewhere in Europe.
I called the AAdvantage award desk with hopes of finding some available seats. First, I threw out Madrid, Spain. I figured that since I was learning Spanish I would want to go explore more of Spain (I hadn’t been yet, but would be visiting Spain on my western mediterranean cruise). The agent was able to find business class award space on Qatar Airways from Jakarta to Doha, then on Royal Jordanian from Doha to Amman, Jordan with an overnight in Amman, before connecting on Royal Jordanian to Madrid. Since there was space on the Qatar flight I wanted, I put that hold for five days.
These flight options put Jordan on the map for me. I hadn’t considered it previously but the more I read about Jordan, I realized I wanted to spend enough time there to go see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra. So I called back to find award tickets from Amman back to Austin and found business class tickets on Etihad Airways from Amman to Abu Dhabi to Chicago to Austin. I booked this and then booked the Jakarta to Doha to Amman flights on Qatar. I thought I was set.
While the idea of visiting Jordan seemed exciting and exotic, I was a bit worried. With the increasing instability in the region and the recent report of the stabbing of an American in Abu Dhabi, and most all of my friends trying to tell me it was a bad idea, I relented and decided to look for new destinations. I looked at the globe once again and several places stood out: Helsinki, Finland; Budapest, Hungary; St. Petersburg, Russia; the Republic of Malta.
While AA.com doesn’t display all partner award availability, I turned to it see if there were any decent options from these destinations back to Austin. There were several options for SAAver Business Class awards from Helsinki and Budapest on British Airways via London, but I wanted to avoid those due to the high fuel surcharges the BA imposes on premium cabin tickets. But one routing from Budapest really caught my eye:
I will be flying from Budapest to Helsinki in Business Class on a Finnair A320. From Helsinki, I’ll fly on Finnair’s new Chicago non-stop flight on their A330 in business class. I’ll have a night in Chicago before I board an American Airlines Super80 to Austin in First Class. I spent $65.30 in taxes and burned 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles for the Budapest to Helsinki to Chicago to Austin one-way portion of the trip. I loved this routing as I would be able to fly a new airline for me, Finnair, and be able to visit Helsinki with a 20 hour layover.
Because I wanted to see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. From Budapest to Helsinki, the cost of a business class seat for my exact flights was priced at $719.90.
From Helsinki to Austin, the cost of business class seat on the HEL-ORD flight and a first class seat on the ORD-AUS flight, again for my exact flights, was priced at $5,793.08. Overall, I think I got an excellent value for my AAdvantage miles.
Now that I had secured my Budapest to Austin flights, I needed to get from Jakarta to Budapest. I looked online and saw that Qatar Airways had a flight to Budapest so I called the AAdvantage desk. After typing away, the agent came back and could confirm me in business class on the two Qatar flights.
I spent $0.50 in taxes (yes, the is correct: fifty cents) and burned 52,500 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles for the Jakarta to Doha to Budapest one-way portion of the trip. To see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. From Jakarta to Budapest, the cost of a business class seat for my exact flights was priced at $2,681.00.
Overall, I spent $119.40 and 157,500 AAdvantage miles to take eight flights and fly 23,468 miles all the way around the world.
Let’s hope I don’t change my mind on where to go and have to start the process all over!
What do you think of my itinerary? Have you flown these airlines/routes? What would you have done differently?
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