A Birthday Present to Myself: Business Class on the World’s Longest Flight for $2.50

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This is an installment in my March 2012 Asia Trip Series which includes: A Birthday Present To Myself: Business Class on the World’s Longest Flight for $2.50Help Me Plan My Asia Trip Starting With SingaporeFlight Review: Singapore Airlines All Business Class Flight From Newark To SingaporeHotel Review: Intercontinental SingaporeVideo Trip Report: SingaporeHotel Review: Le Meridien Bangkok Avantec SuiteVideo Trip Report: BangkokHotel Review: Le Meridien AngkorVideo Trip Report: Siem ReapHotel Review: Intercontinental Phnom PenhVideo Trip Report: Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge Killing FieldsHotel Review: W Hong Kong.

Today I turn 29, which is a pretty uninteresting birthday if you ask me, so I thought I’d add a little novelty to it by booking a really interesting award. Taking stock has made me break my recent habit of points hoarding, which I hadn’t realized I was doing, and burn some of my hard-earned miles.

Last year I amassed well over a million new points and have only spent a fraction of them. This year I’ve already accrued several hundred thousand points and miles through credit card signups, brokerage accounts and Amex referrals but the tricky part about redeeming lots of miles is that you don’t earn elite status on most redemptions. This year I’m focused on maintaining top tier status on American Airlines (already have 95,000 EQMs year to date thanks to their Double EQM promo) and Delta Platinum and possibly going back to Diamond. That being said, I’m accruing lots and redeeming little. It’s not a bad situation to be in, however I’ve been itching to burn some miles on a unique redemption.

I’m currently planning a trip to Southeast Asia for later this month and right now I have Cathay Pacific first class tickets booked before British Airways increased their long-haul partner awards in November with their new Avios program. However, the dates  no longer work and there isn’t first class availability on the days I want. Business is available, but I’d have to re-price the award at the new redemption rates, which isn’t worth it.

However, Singapore Airlines recently announced that they’d be opening up more award space on their “premium” routes to Star Alliance partners, like on the all-business class Newark and Los Angeles to Singapore routes. The changes were supposed to happen in March, so I decided to load up united.com (which is hugely improved since they use the robust continental.com award engine) and checked my ideal date to leave for Singapore and lo and behold, there were seats available. In fact, on my preferred date there were 3. Since this is a partner award, it priced at the saver level, which was 60,000 miles one-way and only $2.50 in fees!

That's what I call a bargain!

I don’t have many United miles, because I spend them often and I don’t fly on paid Star Alliance fares generally. However, in the last 7 months I’ve gotten the 50,000 point sign-up bonuses for the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards, plus the 7% annual Sapphire Preferred dividend was just deposited into my account. All together I’ve got a good number of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and they transfer instantly to United at a 1:1 ratio, so I transferred enough to top up my account to 60,000 and then booked the one-way ticket and I’ll fly Cathay First Class on the way home. Tough life, I know.

Singapore's "Premium" Business class

This flight is the world’s longest passenger flight at over 18 hours and 40 minutes schedule (by the way, I love how united.com shows that there is no meal service – could you imagine?!). To buy this flight would cost $4,556, so my 60,000 Chase points = roughly 7.6 cents a piece. Granted, I wouldn’t have paid the $4,566, but this redemption perfectly encapsulates why I personally don’t use straight up 2% cash back credit cards because there’s still tremendous value in miles, despite what some people may say. It’s also pretty incredible to think that this flight will be free almost entirely from just the sign-up bonus on a credit card!

I’ve flown Singapore’s 747 business class product, which was nice, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I’ve heard good things about their premium business class seat and it looks really wide, though I’ve been told its actually pretty short. Either way, as an aviation geek I’m excited to fly on an 18 hour and 40 minute long non-stop flight and I’m excited to go to Singapore for the first time and explore some other parts of Southeast Asia and hit up Hong Kong. Stay tuned!

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