The day finally arrived and my friend and I went to go see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Due to my membership with the Skypass Visa card, I was given two free tickets, free popcorn + drinks, and an exclusive screening of the movie.
I’ll say a little about the movie first: it was entertaining but I’m glad I didn’t pay full ticket price to see it. I really thought the first Jurassic World film was good (and might even buy it on Blu-ray for $5-$8) but this one was just not at that level of quality. The storyline was a bit derivative from Jurassic Park: Lost World and it didn’t have any new pizzazz, really. So, I recommend you wait until it’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime to watch it.
Now for the experience at the theater: my friend and I were greeted by folks at a desk and given our tickets and concession vouchers.
There were signs all over the place welcoming us to the movies and guiding us to our theater. Additionally, there was a cute photo booth wherein you could take your photo with blow-up dinosaurs. I couldn’t resist!
There were a couple of speeches by folks from US Bank (the issuer of the card) and Korean Air Skypass (the mileage program) and then the movie got started. Afterward, there were giveaways of posters and bags. I only took a bag because I am surely not going to advertise a movie I don’t think others should pay for!
Overall, it was a fun experience. Not only did I get a 45,000 mile bonus by meeting minimum spending requirements on the card, I also got this free screening. Sufficed to say, however, I cancelled the card the very next day. Since I don’t plan on using Korean Airlines exclusively and I don’t travel to South Korea often (although my wife and I will be there this summer) it didn’t make sense to keep it. Luckily, I used the points I had accumulated before closing the card, otherwise those would have been forfeit, too. Good thing I called!
After arriving home from a weekend trip to Toronto, I was greeted by a mailer from my Korean Airlines SkyPass Visa card. It was interesting because I don’t normally get anything from them since I don’t use it ever(I got the card for the special 45k miles bonus). This one, however, had a special invitation to view the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel for free! And in 3D, no less!
I love how these companies sometimes do random things for their members. AMEX has its offers section (which can be very lucrative on purchases at chain stores); airlines have shopping portals (also useful); and more.
While this doesn’t rival the time I went to do a test drive at a Chevrolet dealership for 7,500 AAdvantage miles, it’s still a good story.
I have a number of blog posts at-the-ready to put up here once my wife and I get a chance to look through all our photos together (it’s only fair) but in the meantime I have a small story that just shows how amazing some airlines can be (especially when flying first class).
During the course of our honeymoon travels we used Korean Air to get form New York to Bali (via Seoul) and Singapore Airlines to return from Europe (Frankfurt to New York). They were both amazing experiences vis-a-vis the seat itself, the lounge access, but most of all the service. Flight attendants were always at the ready to assist us and accommodated our every need – especially when we changed our minds or missed out on something.
So it was no surprise to me that when we forgot one thing on each airplane and contacted them, they responded quickly and positively.
Apparently, when we exited the Korean Air flight at the beginning of our honeymoon we were so excited that my wife left the pajamas she had received on the seat itself. These were some of the most comfortable pajamas I have ever worn. In fact, I used them for the rest of the trip as my primary sleepwear!
So, when we returned I sent them a request through their customer support portal asking for another pair to be sent to us. Their reply was stellar:
Singapore Airlines was very similar in this regard. During our flight the lead flight attendant – someone who I remember was named Jennifer – kindly brought us two small Singapore Airlines bears upon hearing that this trip was the end of our honeymoon.
She was so sweet and kind that when we finally got home and I realized I had dropped my bear somewhere along the way I was devastated! Luckily, after a brief contact at their online feedback form I received a similar response in my email:Despite the fact that my wife is definitively not called Mrs. Cohen, the rest of the email was amazingly kind!
So now I am waiting on two packages to be delivered and happily so. Thanks to these wonderful airlines that I will use again in the future.
On our way to Bali my wife and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea for a day. Korean Airlines offers free stopovers and since ours lasted more than 24 hours we were able to get our luggage from baggage claim and use it while we were there (those transit passengers in Seoul for <24 hours have to through-check their baggage to their final destination).
For our time in Seoul we used our Marriott points (and credit card) to book a one-night stay at The Plaza, a new addition to the Marriott Autograph collection. I booked us a “Deluxe room” costing 35,000 points (a pretty good deal for the center of a major city) and when we arrived they actually upgraded us to the Plaza Suite, possibly because we mentioned it was our honeymoon. They even gave us a little rose!
The Plaza Suite room was much larger than the Deluxe room we had booked and had a better view, more electronic amenities (i.e. the blinds were controlled from a cool pad next to the bed), and way more room. We even ordered some room service and easily sat down to eat it together. Right below the TV there was even a working fireplace (not that we needed it with 85 degree+ weather outside!). The bathroom also had a shower and separate bathtub (my wife loves those) as well as a bidet with controls next to the toilet. It was a really nice room.
After our overnight and exploration of Seoul (there are so many palaces, food markets, and other things to explore) we were ready for our flight to Bali. We booked it as a part of the same ticket on the A380 so it was also in a high class of service. Unfortunately, when I booked the tickets there were no first class seats available so I voluntarily downgraded us to Prestige Class. Since we were flying on the A330-300 I assumed we were going to get the “Prestige Suite“, a new version of this class of service that is more like their First class without the separate sectioning. Unfortunately, the plane was a bit more dated and we only had their “Prestige Sleeper.” It was still incredibly comfortable but not their highest version so I was, of course, disappointed.
In the Seoul airport there were a variety of lounges available to the public. The Korean Airlines lounge is one of their bigger ones with a much wider selection of food than JFK and even access to showers. I really appreciated this last point as I had been sweating a lot during our walk around town. We didn’t have an enormous amount of time in the lounge but noticed that the two other lounges we could have used from Priority Pass (SkyHub Lounge and Matina Lounge) both seemed to offer better food. That being said, they were both fee-based lounges so they were overcrowded and we were not allowed in.
It was a very easy 7-hour flight. The in-flight entertainment was the same as on the A380 and the meal service was similar. It was a shorter flight so we received a bit less food but could ask for anything at any time. There was no turn-down service and no pajamas, unfortunately, but the flight crew was still great. When I woke up from a 3 hour sleep the flight attendant immediately asked if I wanted the sandwich that I had missed. Honestly, there was not much difference between this class and first class (maybe a bit wider sleeper area at the feet) so we were not that upset about it. We arrived in Bali pretty well rested and got to our hotel just fine!
One of the ways frequent flyer programs make money is to offer their members to purchase miles at various rates. Sometimes there are even bonuses (like the current one offered by American Airlines). It is usually not the best idea to purchase miles for yourself since you will end up paying more for a flight with those miles than if you bought the ticket outright. Additionally, there are usually more direct flights when purchasing with cash (rather than miles) so you get more comfortable options also.
That being said, there are some times when it makes sense to buy miles outright:
- You are almost at the threshold to purchase an award ticket and just need a bit more to get to the requirements. For example, flying to Bali on Korean Airlines is 95,000 miles one-way for their fantastic first class product. If you only had 80,000 miles in your account, you could get that ticket by paying some cash for the 15,000 more miles you need. That would save money on the $18,000+ flight if you bought the ticket in cash.
- When the cost of the miles is less than the approximate value thereof. For example, if the value of AAdvantage miles is 1.7 cents/mile and you can buy them for 1.4 cents/mile, it would make sense to buy them and keep them banked for future use.
- You really really want to take a certain flight and the value of the ticket is worth it for the miles you would buy. For example, if a certain first class flight was $18,000 and to buy the miles would cost only $2,500, then go for it (that is, if you have the money).
Sometimes it makes sense to buy; most of the time it doesn’t. Just keep up with what you have in your account and what upcoming travel you expect to determine your best course of action.
At the moment I am putting a lot of effort into finding first class award tickets on a variety of airlines for a trip we are taking over Winter Break. While I recognize that we could get to where we are going on economy I have desires that are anything but. I’ve found a lot of amazing options for more miles than we have on various airlines that I would love to take. All of these options are available on the new-ish Airbus A380 (an amazing double-decker plane).
The first airline I’ve seen on my searches is Malaysia Airlines – one I did not expect to find with such a nice-looking interior. The first class seats are all aisle access (a requisite for a nice experience) and have a pod-like atmosphere, isolating yourself from the people around you. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) looks large and the seats are quite wide (26.1 inches) with plenty of length on their bed (87 inches).
I didn’t realize Malaysia Airlines had A380 planes but when I was searching I found that they fly from London->Kuala Lumpur twice daily on flights MH001 and MH003, returning on flights MH002 and MH004. Check out their timetable for yourself here.
Korean Air has also been a fascination of mine ever since I discovered they were a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can take 1,000 point chunks from your account and directly input them into your Korean Airlines account. While the redemptions can be exorbitant (142,500 for a one-way first class ticket from JFK->Bali) they have a lot of availability.
Their first class product is also in pod-styles with all aisle access with a divided that can go up or down in the middle two seats. Their seats are wider than on Malaysia Airlines at 26.5 inches but their bed is shorter at 79 inches long. They fly twice daily between JFK and Seoul on flights KE082 and KE 086 and return on KE081 and KE 085.
The créme-dela-créme to me, however, is the Singapore Airlines first class product. They are also designed in all aisle access fashion as small cubicles with doors that close on either side. The two seats in the middle can be purchased together and then share space as can be seen in this photo. The seats are very comfortable and have 35 inches of width with 81 inches of bed-length when closed. As you can see from the photo it does not feel like you are on a plane – it looks more like a fancy resting area in a lounge.
To top it all off, when it is converted to a bed for two in the middle, it looks like the photo on the right. It looks quite cushy, although you are warned not to take advantage of the situation too much, especially since there is no roof to the cubicle and the flight attendants can easily see inside.
I recognize that there are other major airlines out there with incredible first-class products but these are the ones I currently have access to and am pondering for various trips. I can’t wait to take advantage of the situation soon and flight on one of these bad boys!