Maximizing AAdvantage Award to SE Asia

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by LarryInNYC, Jan 24, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Sometime this week I'm going to try to book my first "big" AAdvantage award to Southeast Asia for this coming summer (we have to travel in the summer because we have kids who are subject to a school schedule). I'd like your advice on how to get the most from the trip.

    My preferred destination is Bali, although I would love to add a second stop if possible.

    I have 250,000 AAdvantage miles in the bank. I'm guessing that we'll wind up in economy on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. If I can find the seats and put them on hold, I can buy enough extra miles to get all four tickets as awards in coach.

    My questions:
    1. Can anyone suggest a way to quickly get the extra miles I need without buying them?
    2. We'll have something like a three week window we can leave in, and will want to stay away about four weeks. Can anyone advise me on availability issues -- is there likely to be any, is more likely to open up between now and the summer, if there is availability (in coach) can I expect four seats on one flight or will we have to split up?
    3. Does anyone have any suggestions on alternate carriers, routes, or even destiations that might be interesting and/or more available?
    4. I believe that with AA I am not entitled to a stop-over. Is that true? Is there any way to get around this rule?
    5. (Biggest one): I would consider getting one-way awards as an open jaw (maybe into DPS and out of BKK, or something). Can anyone suggest (A) what would be two good cities to use for an open jaw ticket (that is, with cheap and available transportation between them, air or overland) and (B) whether this is a good idea in terms of logistics.
     
  2. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    There's a lot there! Let's see.....

    1. Do you already have all the AA credit cards available to you? LINK. How about opening a BankDirect account? LINK.

    2. I always say award availability is crystal ball reading. Lots of people will give you their tips/hints/advice on when the award booking "sweet spot" time is, but at the end of the day there are so many factors and elements being juggled by the airlines that your best option is to, starting right now, just keep an eye open and check often for availability. I will say that the more seats you want on a single plane, the harder it will be to book. While you might be able to get that done, you'll most likely have better availability if you split into two groups. Of course you should try for 4 seats first though. :)

    Also consider using a service like KVS/ExpertFlyer/AwardNexus which will allow you to research award seat space and sometimes even set up alerts that will email you when space becomes available. Some services offer a free trail membership, but for 4 people doing 4 weeks in SE Asia, it might be worth the investment to buy some credits/access.

    3. This question is difficult to answer because you haven't provided much information that would be helpful. Where are you flying from? Do you value direct flights or do you prefer a better experience? What types of activities interest you and your family? Are you beach people or do you like adventure? Sightseeing? Culture? Food? etc....

    4. You can have a stop over on an AA award, but only at your North American gateway city. So if you are flying BOS-LAX-HKG-DPS, you are allowed to stop over at LAX because this is your gateway. I suspect that you want to do a stop over somewhere in Asia on your way to DPS though. In that case, you'll need to do a OW award which allows more than one stop, however, your mileage cost will most likely increase.

    5. Southeast Asia is a great location for open jaws since there are many low cost airline carriers that connect cities in that region. Inexpensive transport should not be an issue. Most carriers center around SIN and KUL. If you're considering this I wouldn't limit myself. Research the carriers (Air Asia and Jetstar are pretty reputable and easy to work with) and their destinations and see what interests you.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Many, many thanks for such a detailed response! Sorry, I neglected to include so many details.

    I have the AMEX and Visa from last year (75K miles each). My wife has neither.

    Flying from NYC area, or any place relatively easy to reach (eg, Boston-DC corridor). Normally prefer direct flights but for a trip of this length we don't care. Would like to experience international business/first at some point, but not expecting to do so with this number of redeemable miles available. We're adventure people, not interested in chain hotels and my wife and I traveled extensively in the area in the early 1990s.

    With Cathay Pacific, the most interesting gateway would be to stop in Vancouver for a few days. Just to check -- it's "North American", not "United States" gateway, and Vancouver counts?

    I'll have to look up stop-over one-ways (was not aware that was an option).

    I did a quick Matrix search for BKK to DPS and found that it came up with one-way costs of $500! Are the low cost carriers in the ITA database, or do I need to go to them directly?
     
  4. DestinationDavid
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    Perhaps your wife can consider applying for the new AA cards linked above and use those miles to cover her part of the trip?

    Yes, North American, so you can make stops in Canada. If you can't work out a stop over with the award space but still want something interesting, you might try the new BOS-NRT flight on JL with the 787? Not sure this is a published fare though.

    The multi-stop awards are called oneworld awards. Here's the chart: LINK. And here's the rules: LINK.

    ITA does not have the SE Asian low cost carriers, just like it does not contain Southwest Airlines for US domestic travel. You'll have to go to each company individually.
     
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  5. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I plan, this week or next, to try to rearrange her credit card portfolio to better reflect our new interest in frequent flier miles. So yes, I could apply for that card for her then. However, I doubt the miles would post in time to be used for this award.

    Is there a list of low cost carriers in the area someplace? Especially serving BKK and HKG?
     
  6. DestinationDavid
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    With 4 weeks that gives you a lot of flexibility! Some thoughts on SE Asia (my opinion of course, but I do love Asia):

    Everyone is pretty familiar with the typical destinations - Bangkok, Singapore, etc. For some destinations others might not get to as frequently....

    Sanya, China is called the Hawaii of China: LINK.

    Boracay in the Phillippines is hard to get to but I've heard it's worth the struggle: LINK.

    How about some time in Sri Lanka? Great sights to see in Galle: LINK, Anuradhapura: LINK, and Kandy: LINK.

    Some more standard options -

    A bit longer of a flight but you could also take a few days to the Golden Triangle in India - Delhi, Agra, Jaipur?

    Angkor Wat/Siem Reap/Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

    Moving up and down the coast in Vietnam.
     
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  7. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Originally had been thinking of India for this trip (never been) but my Indian friends essentially forbid me from making the trip in summer.

    Spent a month there in 1991 traveling independently (at the time, the official regulations said "independent travel in Vietnam is not applicable", love the language there) but would prefer something more relaxed this time.
     
  8. DestinationDavid
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    BankDirect would be a quicker avenue, but access to free miles without spending $$$ is not easy.

    LINK.
     
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  9. DestinationDavid
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    I went during June/September. The heat kills you the first few days but you do get used to it after awhile. Still my 2nd favorite trip of all time. :)
     
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  10. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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  11. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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  12. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    Also, a lot of people have villas for rent in Bali, complete with extra rooms, breakfast and housekeeping. It might be cheaper and more comfortable than renting 2+ hotel rooms for your family. See flipkey.com and other sites.
     
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  13. edog22
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    edog22 Silver Member

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    I just added Bangkok Air to that wikipedia entry-- in Dec it was cheaper than AirAsia on several intra-Thai routes for us.
     
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  14. DestinationDavid
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    Don't you love how the FFer world works? ;)
     
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  15. edog22
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    The more I learn the less I seem to know!
     
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  16. MSPeconomist
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    This is a good idea. Otherwise, four weeks for two places seems long and tough for a family to spend in hotels.

    Depending on how much international travel experience your family has, I would suggest Singapore or Hong Kong for the second stop. These would be easy.

    Don't forget to check passport and visa requirements.
     
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  17. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    As a family, we've been to Holland, Italy, Barcelona, Menorca, Mexico (four times), PR, Nicaragua, England, and numerous camping trips throughout the US. My wife and I (before the kids) have traveled extensively through SE Asia, including having spend a month in Bali. I'm not worried.

    I plan on a cheap guesthouse on MFR or elsewhere near Ubud while on Bali. If we do wind up with three or four weeks in Bali we'll probably spend 7 to 10 days on Bali proper and then travel east to Lombok and possibly as far as Flores, which we remember with great fondness. Or west to Jogja.

    If we have a second stop in BKK we wouldn't spend more than a day or two in the city itself but head out probably to an island somewhere. Wonder what flights are like to Burma right now?

    If HKG, I'd want to see if the overnight boat still travels from Guanzhuo to Yangshuo. I did that trip with a friend in the mid 80s. But I expect the tourist situation in southern China has developed a great deal since then.
     
  18. ShrinkTheGlobe

    ShrinkTheGlobe Silver Member

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    For your open jaw question, don't forget about Jakarta. Air Asia usually has cheap DPS-CGK flights.
     
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  19. MSPeconomist
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    Don't forget than mainland China requires advanced visas. You must either deliver the application in person or use an expeditor service. All of this is expensive as well as an inconvenient hassle.
     
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  20. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    It seems to me that using the OW award instead of an AA award would be better in this case. or at least an option worth looking into.

    20,000 miles of flying for 260k total (slightly more than OP says he has available i realize) for 2 people in Business.

    If OP wanted to find 50k more they could get 25k miles worth of flying 2 people in business for 300k.

    http://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/oneworld_awards.jsp
     
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  21. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    OP is flying 4 people though, not 2.
     
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  22. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Ah. A detail i missed.
     
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  23. DestinationDavid
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    Still gives him something to think about though ;)
     
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  24. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I would consider flying 2 in business and 2 in economy if the economy were relatively cheap, trading of one parent and one child in business in each direction. But I expect the economy fares will be about $2000 each on whatever awards we manage to get. Would rather pay for all four with miles in economy.
     
  25. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Answering my own question, checking Air Asia for a single day in July I found a promotional rate of US $12.64 pp for BKK — Yangon, or $59 pp all in.

    Also, found BKK — DPS for about $125 pp all in.

    So, currently thinking about

    NYC - DPS (award)
    DPS - BKK (paid Air Asia)
    BKK - RGN - BKK (paid Air Asia)
    BKK - NYC (award)
     
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