ICYMI: Singapore Airlines has a very different devaluation scheduled for March 23

On March 1 I received an email entitled, “Important Changes to Flight Redemption.” In brief, it explained that Singapore Airlines will be changing their award chart for their own flights in some very important ways:

  • They are removing the 15% discount on flight redemptions.
  • They are reducing/removing many fuel and insurance charges from flight redemptions.

This is one of the more interesting devaluations as it actually might help some people get better deals at times. This has been reviewed several times already but is still worth noting. They even give an example of how this will affect long-haul flights in business- and economy-class:

This could be very major except there is a pretty big method of getting around it: use their Star Alliance award chart that hasn’t actually changed at all. Essentially, you can still use Singapore Airlines miles to book tickets that include both their own planes and others within the Alliance, at which point you will be using the other award chart that can be more lucrative at times.

It just means a bit more thought needs to go into using SA miles, but since they already have great redemption value, it’s not a huge change in my opinion.

The big miles post: comparing what we paid for what we would have paid

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I truly love finding a great miles/points deal. So when my wife and I started planning our honeymoon I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime to use our points to maximize our enjoyment of flights and hotels wherever possible. While we couldn’t use them all over the places we visited (specifically, in Indonesia) we received such benefit that our honeymoon was that much better and that much cheaper.

This all started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the miles/points game. We started signing up for credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Cash. Each had a lucrative bonus of Ultimate Rewards points that we stored away for safekeeping. I also signed up for the Citibank American Airlines cards (both personal and business) in order to get 100,000 AA miles to supplement some I had from before the US Airways merger. I added the CitiBank ThankYou Premier card as well as Citi Prestige to get 100,000 ThankYou points as well. Finally, we signed up for a few hotel-based cards: We got the Starwood Personal and Business cards when the bonuses were 30,000 and 35,000 instead of the base level of 25,000 and we also both got the Chase Marriott cards. Sufficed to say, we had a lot of points to spend.

So, in this post I want to analyze the difference between what we paid and what we should have paid if we hadn’t used any points.

The first use of our points was our flights from New York-JFK to Denpasar, Bali. We decided to use Korean Airlines because they are a transfer partner of Chase as long as you have either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus. We took two flights to get there: one from New York to Seoul and another from Seoul to Bali. We decided to take a one day layover in Seoul so the flights below are not entirely accurate.

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The total cost using miles was 190,000 points + $166 in taxes. 

If we bought the tickets outright, the cost would have been significantly higher.

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As you can see, the tickets from New York to Seoul alone would have been $20,063.60 in total. For some reason I can’t seem to price out the Seoul->Bali ticket right now, but it likely would have been at least $2,000 each.

For our next major journey on miles we flew from Singapore to London on British Airways. We used American Airlines miles to purchase these tickets before the big devaluation it actually cost us less than quoted below: only 70,000 American Airlines miles each.

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With taxes and fees, the total cost was 140,000 miles + $588.40 in taxes and fees.

Running total: 330,000 miles + $754.40.

The actual cost would have been much more (although less than Korean Air):

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Total cost for this flight with two people: $13,057.60.

Running total: $33,121.20

The last major flight was our return home from Frankfurt to New York-JFK with Singapore Airlines. Our two tickets used quite a few miles because the saver award was not available. I had two transfer over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points and Chase points to get it, but it was well worth it.

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With conversion from the date of purchase, the total cost was 221,000 miles + $621.62.

Final total for flights: 551,000 miles + $1,376.03.

From the example below our flight cost would have been $10,183.12.

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Final total for flights: $43,304.32.

One major aspect of this travel I am not including in cost was all the lounges we visited. As a first class passenger we had access to a number of lounges at each airport and with the Citi Prestige we had access to even more through the Priority Pass network. Even in Lombok Airport – a tiny blip on the screen in Indonesia – there was a Sheraton Lounge that took it. We must have saved a few hundred dollars on food and time due to this benefit.


Now we can start discussing the hotels we stayed in because they were also heavily discounted. The first use of points was at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Singapore. As it is a newly rebranded hotel there was a discount in the price although we used our points anyway. We booked to stay for 3 nights on points instead of paying the full price.

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Total hotel points used: 30,000

If we had paid for it outright, the cost would have been around $120/night, totalling $360.

Next, we stayed at a wonderful Sheraton property in London called the Park Lane Hotel. It is a beautiful old world hotel that has been converted to a Sheraton but retains much of its charm. Since we decided to stay in London for five nights we benefited from Starwood’s 4 nights + 1 free promotion when redeeming points. Normally the hotel is 20,000 points/night but it averaged to 16,000/night due to this deal.

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Total hotel points used here: 80,000. Running total of hotel points: 110,000.

Had we booked our room and paid fully, each night would have been a whopping GBP £218. Based on when we booked the hotel (i.e. before the Brexit), that would have been $316/night. Total cost would have been: $1,580. Running total: $1,940.

In Paris we switched gears a bit and stayed at a Marriott Hotel instead since we had all those points to use. I found a great location with the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. It was conveniently located to many restaurants, museums, and right on public transit lines. We stayed four nights there at a cost of 40,000 points/night.

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Total was 160,000. Running total is: 270,000 points. At this point it is important to mentioned that not all points are created equal, especially when it comes to hotels. Obviously Marriott properties require more points than Starwood ones. Just keep that in mind for the future.

Had we stayed there paying outright, the room would have been 243 Euro/night, translating to $275/night. Total cost: $1,100. Running total: $3,040.

For our last night we stayed at the Hilton City Centre Frankfurt. I had accumulated many Hilton points and even had Gold Status due to the Surpass Card I had signed up for two months prior. While the standard room rate is 50,000 points I actually found a discounted Deluxe Park View room for even less!

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So the total amount of points spent overall for 13 free hotel nights was 311,157 points.

Had we paid out-of-pocket for that room it would have cost 139 Euro, or $157/night. Total cost of hotels would have been: $3,197.


This was a truly amazing trip. The sites we saw were fantastic (and more blog posts to come in that regard). The transportation we took was lovely and speedy. And the places we stayed were welcoming and enticing. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!

Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

Our way back from Frankfurt was probably the highest-quality flight that we took: the legendary Singapore Airlines A380 Suites. Essentially your own comfy cubicle room with a door (and window shades!), the service is amazing, the food is fantastic, and the in-flight entertainment is hard to beat.

We took a cab to Frankfurt International Airport and quickly found our check-in counters. On the way we were impressed to see a sign for a Jewish Prayer Room. We didn’t get a chance to check it out but were glad it was there. We also saw the massive board with all the flights listed: it was quite extensive and impressive to look at.

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Once checked in and through security we went to check out the two lounges we had access to: the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. Interestingly, the Senator Lounge is actually for its Business class passengers; the First class passengers have their own terminal in Frankfurt airport. We did not have access to it.

Both lounges were quite spacious and had wonderful amenities. We could sit back and eat breakfast at either (we chose the Maple Leaf Lounge as I had done some research and read the food was better; it seemed similar enough to us that it didn’t matter). The chairs were comfortable and there was plenty of space. There were separate sleeping areas in each lounge, presumably for those in transit; they were not whole rooms but separated areas with beds or lean-back chairs. They looked comfortable enough.

 

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We then took some time to look at the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. It was much larger than the Air Canada lounge but had similar food and drink options. The chairs were quite comfy and there were plenty of power options. Probably the biggest difference is that Lufthansa offered actual beds to sleep on while you waited between flights. They were not as private as in the Air Canada lounge, but looked much more comfortable. Additionally, there was a spa you could use for various fees.

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Then we boarded the plane. On our passes it said boarding was going to start at 8am but when we arrived at that time we were almost the last ones on! We found our Suites and enjoyed how luxurious they seemed. Wow – so comfortable and all the amenities right at your fingertips. The chair was leather and high-backed to support your head. There were storage areas everywhere: by your hips, on the desk area, under your footrest, etc. The TV was an amazing 23in big! There would be no way not to enjoy this flight.

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We were given a luxurious three course meal once the plane was in the air. We used Singapore Airlines signature Book the Cook service from which we chose a few specific options ahead of time. I had some lamb rangoon which was quite tasty. My wife had ordered fish but for some reason they didn’t have it recorded so she had an omelette instead. She was still quite impressed. We watched a movie while eating and chatted a bit before putting on our pajamas and getting ready for a quick nap.

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While we were in the bathroom changing the flight attendants brought the beds down. Singapore Airlines uses a chair whose seat back folds all the way down to provide the most comfortable style of bedding. We each had our own place to sleep but the beds were right next to each other. Still, it is not the same as a true double bed because there is a wooden divider in the middle and you are supposed to keep your seatbelt fastened while in flight. We slept for a good portion of the trip (although I woke up earlier than my wife and watched some TV due to stomach pain).

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Upon arrival into JFK our passing through security was easy and uneventful. Because we have Global Entry we had an easier time getting through customs and immigration as well. That being said, I imagine it would be quick for many First Class passengers in general due to disembarking from the plane before the other passengers.

I don’t know when the next first class experience like this will be but my wife and I have already started to accrue more points. Check out this blog for more info on travel hacking as well as the next post which will compare exactly how much we should have spent on these flights/hotels and how much we actually spent!

4 hour travel and 15 hours in Frankfurt

For the last stop on our honeymoon journey we took one more train ride to Frankfurt and a plane home from there. While Frankfurt was surprisingly amazing the real reason we travelled there was for the flight home: Singapore Airlines A380 (I’ll write a post soon). We only spent 15 hours so we could explore a bit, stay overnight at a local Hilton Hotel, and fly out the next morning.

The train over was amazingly fast, as most European trains tend to be. We opted to take it for more comfort and because a plane would have been a bit more time due to security and waiting at the gate. It traveled incredibly fast, breaching 300 kmh (somewhere around 185 mph) while still being a smooth ride. We watched as the fields passed by.

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Upon arrival we had our first unexpected fun interaction: our cab driver spoke Russian! We were planning to depend on Google Translate using a SIM card that we purchased in Paris but instead my wife talked about finding a good woman for him and how we would enjoy our stay! Sufficed to say it was a fun cab ride.

We arrived at the Hilton Hotel City Centre Frankfurt and were immediately upgraded due to my status provided by my Hilton Surpass Amex Card. It would have been convenient to have access to the lounge and for free breakfast there but since we had such little time it was almost inconsequential. We opted to drop our stuff off and go explore.

We walked around quite a bit and window-shopped until we ended up at the Frankfurt Archeology Museum, which just so happened to have a special exhibit on where Lego pieces were used to depict the local history. My wife got an English audio guide but I relied on Google Translate to take photos of blocks of text and translate it for me on the fly. It was interesting to learn about the local history that way.

Our walk from the museum brought us back through to a part of Frankfurt called Old Town that models what it looked like in the 1800s. It was definitely touristy but so worth it to explore, souvenir shop, and have some tea and and cakes at a local coffee shop. It was such a funny little place.

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On our walk back to the hotel before dinner we stopped off at a local square celebrating something called Apfelwein, a distinct alcoholic drink from cider. It tends to be drier than cider and there was a whole festival to its exploration. We purchased some at a local shop but had a true taste when a local started explaining the history of apfelwein and his dream of opening a museum to it in Frankfurt. He had his own home-brewed that he provided us and it really was tasty!

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Our last stop before bed and the flight was for dinner. We listened to our hotel and ate at a local eatery that had steak for me and fish for my wife. It also had some great beer! I ordered a local brew (can’t remember the name) which tasted divine and it turned out to be a great conversation starter with the locals sitting next to us. We had a wonderful chat with them about their travels, the end of our honeymoon, and our desire to return to Europe in the future. They were so kind and it was a great way to end our trip.

Our way home was really exciting but I’ll have to wait on that until the next post!

Singapore and Korean Airlines are both class acts

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 theKorean-Air-A380-First-Class-024 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:

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010846_17048920_thumbnailSingapore 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:Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 7.47.06 AMDespite 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.

Getting ready for Singapore Suites

suitesThis morning I finally booked the homecoming leg of my honeymoon this summer: a sort-of holy grail I’ve been striving for since I started playing with miles and points almost a year and a half ago. Today, I booked passage for my wife and I on Singapore Airlines A380 in Suites class. For those unaware of what that can look like, feast your eyes on the amazing image to the left.

 

Yes, that is what it looks like: a double-bed in the champagnemiddle of an airplane, covered in rose petals and a bottle of champagne. Now, I’m not sure we will get the flora but we will definitely enjoy the choice of what we want to drink, along with many other amenities.

The total cost of this endeavor should be around 10,000 Euro for the two of us.

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We ended up paying significantly less:Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 7.52.57 PM

Yes, we had to spend a butt-load of miles on this trip (transferred from CitiBank ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points) but we are going to get such joy and comfort by returning home in serious luxury. And, if you do the math, we are getting a pretty darn-good redemption value from those points (22.9 cents/point).

I am more psyched for the 5 week vacation I get with my wife, but now I also know we get to return home in style.

Free money and free miles

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – don’t worry, I’m still “flying” fine. My fiancée and I are just knee-deep in wedding planning so I’ve been out of it.

In any case, there are a few free deals going on right now that Gary Leff from View From the Wing has posted on his blog and I wanted to share with you:

5000 free Singapore Airlines miles if you register for a KrisFlyer account. These can be very lucrative for use, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points also transfer into KrisFlyer. You can use 53,750 miles to travel in their Suites class one-way from JFK to Frankfurt.

1000 Club Carlson points just by following them on Twitter. Admittedly, I haven’t used or know much about these points. But they’re free!

Maybe a few dollars for a price-fixing settlement of airline carriers flying to/from Asia and Oceania, as long as the flight started or ended in the US. The settlement is for anyone who has taken a flight to places like Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Since I’ve gone twice in the past 10 years, I qualify for this! Check if you do, too.

That’s all for now. More updates soon!