REVIEW – EVA Air: Royal Laurel Business Class – Bangkok to London (B77W)August 25, 2016
REVIEW – British Airways Concorde Room (First Class) – London Heathrow T5September 1, 2016
- Part 1:
- BA Concorde Room – Heathrow Airport
- Part 2:
- British Airways : First Class – London to New York
- Part 3:
- Andaz Wall Street, New York
- Part 4:
- AA Flagship First Lounge – New York JFK Airport
- Part 4:
- American Airlines : First Class – New York to Los Angeles
- Part 5:
- Andaz West Hollywood and L.A. sights
- Part 6:
- Qantas First Class Lounge – LAX
- Part 7:
- JAL : First Class – Los Angeles to Tokyo
- Part 8:
- Hilton Niseko
- Part 9:
- Dai Ichi Seafort Hotel
- Part 10:
- JAL First Class Lounge – Tokyo Haneda Airport
- Part 11:
- JAL : First Class – Tokyo to London
In the spring of 2104 my beloved US Airways Dividend Miles Program went through a major transition. As part of its integration with AA, out went Star Alliance and in came OneWorld.
Whilst I lamented the loss of ANA, Thai and Asiana I was also delighted at the prospect of actually being able to access the award space of this new alliance’s top carriers. Where Lufthansa, SWISS and Singapore all limit awards in their premium cabins, JAL and Cathay would welcome my Dividend Miles with arms wide open.
The first OneWorld trip I booked with USDM was the rather delectable : QR vs QF F showdown.
Being UK based I’d never really been able to accumulate the AA miles necessary to exploit this most lucrative of spots on the award chart, *A carriers just don’t have the coverage in the Middle East.
However, I wanted more…
The Europe – North Asia sweet spot
….I wanted to get a 100k First Class award to North Asia on the go.
A very good friend of mine lives in Tokyo and I’ve already been to visit him on numerous occasions, thanks to all of you wonderful people who contribute to FlyerTalk every day.
The Europe – North Asia spot on the USDM chart was always outrageously generous and ANA and JAL are permanently locked in a head to head race to the top when it comes to their premium cabins; a concept sadly lost on European and North American carriers.
Trying Cathay and JAL long haul were major goals as soon as I heard USDM awards would be available on OW carriers. Given the fact that I’d already flown Cathay before, I gave priority to finding a route on JL. Availability from HND-LHR was there but the outbound was proving trickier.
The Scenic Route
With the integration of OneWorld inventory to US computer systems came a couple of glitches. Of course, where there’s a glitch there’s an opportunity. For the first month or so, US airways agents were able to book award flights on BA without the hideous fuel surcharges that had hitherto plagued travel with them.
Up until this point I’d flown numerous carriers in First but never set foot in a premium BA cabin. This seemed like a good opportunity to judge first hand how bad our national flag carrier truly was…
If I was going to fly BA F, it would have to be in the nose of a 747. I’ll always jump at the ever dwindling opportunity to fly in this most salubrious of surroundings. I also felt that flying the flagship NYLON route ex-LHR would give me a chance to experience BA at their best.
Once there I planned for an onward connection 23 hours after our Friday evening arrival.
How? Where to? A trip on the all new A321T American Airlines transcon to LAX.
There are multiple frequencies between New York and LA each day. I was planning on taking my girlfriend Kamara along for this trip, award space to JFK from LHR was very easy to find, however it looked like we would have to take separate flights on the A321T – an hour apart – to get us to LA.
After two days in LA there was a JAL flight to NRT with two free award seats in First.
Once in NRT we would connect onwards to our final destination, Niseko in the Hokkaido region of northern Japan. This required separate Avios and cash tickets, a negligible cost given the APD of £5. After snowboarding for 3 days Kamara would fly on to Shanghai to spend some time with her folks; whereas I planned to fly home in JAL First, ex-HND this time, sampling the new flagship JL F lounge on the way back to LHR.
Getting it ticketed
There were many things that made USDM a great program. Cheap and easy to acquire miles, some real sweet spots on the award chart and best of all, manual pricing of routes by agents who sported that truly magical combo of total suggestibility and a deep lack of geographical knowledge.
I had the perfect route all mapped out: flight numbers, times, fare codes for each airline’s First cabin, knowledge of the fact that JL needed to be saved down in a ‘different system’. After three attempts I finally found an agent who was willing to ticket this as a North Asia award because it only stopped over in the US and “that’s US airways’ home base”.
Round the World in First Class for $1,400 worth of US Airways miles, plus taxes. Just for fun I checked the cash price for these flights in the cheapest non-flexible First fare buckets. $23,400.