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

by on March 7, 2012 · 90 comments

in Singapore Airlines, Trip Reports, United

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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!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • DrDavidSkoletta

    Not one, but two sapphire preferred links? Really?? You took a good article and ruined it for me.

    I think you should just write an article that says Buy the Sapphire Preferred with a link over and over again!

  • thepointsguy

    The point is that I got a $5,000 flight with the miles earned from a single credit card sign-up bonus. People always think the crazy travel I do is unattainable, but it’s really not if you get the right cards.

  • Chrisrhopkins

    Happy Birthday!

    I saw you mention this yesterday and it definitely piqued my interest. I’m trying to plan a trip to SE Asia, and I just got the Sapphire Preferred card, so once those miles hit in a few months I’ll have enough miles to try this flight if I can find award availability. I think I’m going to try getting there on Singapore in business and then back in Swiss or Lufthansa First Class if I can make the miles work.

  • Jackie

    Happy Birthday! Great redemption story! …and you’re right – it’s just as important to use and enjoy your miles as it is to accrue them!

  • JosephM

    Happy Birthday!!!
    (from the teacher’s pet)

  • Ted L.

    Why is this affiliate link thing causing such a problem for people? I think it’s well-known by now that bloggers get kickbacks from referrals. If you don’t like the way a particular blogger links out to offers, it’s pretty easy to avoid — just stop reading the blog. It’s not like there’s a shortage of FF blogs on the web.

  • http://twitter.com/windycityflo Windycityflo

    Happy Birthday!
    Thanks for putting Singapore on my radar. Thanks to your blog I have enought miles and points for a free trip somewhere! I’ve been to Singapore, but now I have an excuse to revisit.
    P.S. I used miles for a First Class trip to Bali on Cathay. It was an experience everyone should encounter once in their lifetime!

  • Asdfasdfsd

    did you have CX F round trip booked with BA miles?

    So you are keeping one way CX F?

    Do they let you redeposit the other way CX F back to BA miles?

    Do they charge you a fee?

    Why don’t they reprice at the new high rate if they are removing the one way?

    Are you throwing away the one leg?

  • Travel light

    Happy birthday, Points Guy!

    I have been appreciating your carefully written, substantial posts, delivered to me fresh each morning via RSS feed. Today’s are no exception.

    This post moves me to reflect on responsibly using the air travel that I obtain.

    It is truly marvelous to be able to fly luxuriously and for little money.

    That this is possible does not mean that air travel has no cost. From the finite inheritance of hydrocarbons that fuel the planes to the delicate balance of carbon in our planet’s atmosphere, there is a price paid with each takeoff. The exhaust from our flights is injected high above the earth, magnifying the damage to the ozone layer (which shields us and our fellow beings from skin-cancer causing ultraviolet radiation.) Near airports, people live with the sound and fury of jets flying low over their homes.

    We can debate how much each individual flyer contributes to this price. However, I do not think we can seriously question whether our flying does contribute. There is some amount of responsibility here.

    Changing individual flying practices will not be sufficient to resolve the ecological crises we are facing. We will also need to transform our society. But we can make rational individual decisions about when it makes sense to fly, and when it does not. We can model sensible flying behavior to our families and friends. Our decisions about flying matter.

  • http://twitter.com/WanderngAramean Seth Miller

    What day are you flying? I’m booked on the 28th.

  • Ram Kashyap

    Happy Birthday TPG.

  • Rebecca D.

    Happy birthday Brian! I’m looking forward to your trip report on the Hong Kong portion. I’m planning to go in January 2013 via first on CX, assuming I can get 1 seat from JFK-HKG and then onto BKK. I hope you have a great birthday dinner planned and that you let someone else pay tonight (I know that will be hard to give up the double UR points!).

  • MilesRunner

    Happy Birthday! I know about 6 people with B’days in the first two weeks of March, including mine. It is a popular time to be born.

  • Raj B

    Happy birthday, young man! Heard Singapore is really nice — it’s on my wife’s list of places to go as soon as her husband becomes rich lol.

    That’s a great deal, but good lord! 18+ hours on a single flight?!? What’s the longest segment you’ve flown so far? Mine is almost 11 hrs in KL economy, AMS-ATL when they had to take a “detour” to avoid bad weather.

  • sfobuddy

    I LOVE SIN. I imagine you will as well…

  • http://osnews.com David Adams

    If you can stay at the Conrad, it’s an amazing hotel.

  • http://twitter.com/vanmatthew Matthew Nguyen

    I wish I had time for a birthday trip to Singapore. I turn 29 in 5 days.

  • Krish

    Happy Birthday to you. Its my Birthday too :)

  • DBest

    Would it take extra miles to fly United to either EWR or LAX from your home city in North America? e.g. can you go YYZ-EWR-SIN? Thanks and HBD!

  • nathan

    don’t read the blog then.This is capitalism. Do you do your work for free

  • thepointsguy

    Same amount of miles- you just pay the extra taxes.

  • thepointsguy

    Happy birthday to you as well! Lots of good people born on this day

  • thepointsguy

    Ill email you- the trip in this post isnt the actual one I’m taking

  • thepointsguy

    Im keeping the CX F segments and I’ll just fly them on another trip since they are good for a year

  • Phuucnguyen

    my date came out with $87.10 fee + 60k. anyone know why the different in fee? Thanks

  • Federico

    Happy Birthday TPG. Today is my birthday too (now I’m 32) ;-)… PS: I live in Miami too

  • Phuucnguyen

    wonder if you can do lax-ewr-sin?? Thanks

  • TheRookie

    Happy Birthday, I hope you enjoy my gift. It was a portion of this flight, assuming you get bonus UR after I signed up for CSP from your site.

  • http://twitter.com/mgalicki Mike Galicki

    You do know TPG does this for his job? He does like to eat sometimes. Your other choice besides not reading would be if the TPG put up a paywall to read the articles. Maybe you would like to pay $25 a month to read TPG.com? I prefer for Chase to pay TPG for his invaluable services.

  • Rowergirl7531

    Happy bday, Brian! I don’t know why you think that your 29th isn’t an interesting birthday … I think that the FIRST time anyone turns 29 is very interesting!

  • AKold

    Late ticketing fees?

  • http://twitter.com/mrknoxsf Bryan

    So awesome!

  • Phuucnguyen

    not really, the date was apr 27.

  • RakSiam

    CX seems to be very good about having availability. When I was planning my trip there were plenty of seats. Since they have multiple flights per day out of JFK that helps too.

  • Yotzmakh

    That’s good

  • mileagenut

    Brian, Happy Bday. I think you will really enjoy flying Singapore business. Last month I flew Cathay in F to HKG and came back to NY with Thai and Singapore. I flew from Germany-JFK on Singapore’s A380. I wrote Singapore an email when I got home telling them how much more comfortable I thought their seat was.

  • thepointsguy

    :-) I’m looking forward to the next couple 29s!

  • thepointsguy

    Just having you as a reader of the site is more than enough of a gift!! :-)

  • thepointsguy

    3/7 is a good day for bdays! Happy birthday- shame the weather here in Miami isn’t nicer!

  • Yotzmakh

    I am making popcorn for ecotroll responses should be interesting.

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t have any Hilton points, but will look into it if the price is right!

  • thepointsguy

    Yea- really looking forward to it

  • thepointsguy

    My longest segment so far has been JFK- NRT

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=41900029 Josh MacDonald

    Happy early birthday and enjoy the flight, I’m really looking forward to the review

  • Houstonmama

    Happy birthday! Hope your having a great day!! I agree with mike…link away my brother :)!!!!

  • rpm

    I pity how you have to slum it in SQ J and then CX F while flying between some of the coolest cities in the world. My best wishes are with you :)

  • arcticbull

    Happy Birthday, and enjoy your flight! I’ve always wanted to try SQ21. It’s my birthday today :D And for my present, the KE A380 in a few days. Presents all around :D

  • AKold

    Odd. It’s more in the reverse direction, because of various Singapore Airport taxes (security charge, service charge, tax) + US Immigration/Customs fees, but should only be about $40 in that direction.

  • BothofUs2

    Happy Birthday-sounds like an awesome trip you have planned!

  • Hansone7

    I just pulled a 17:10 flight from JNB-ATL… in coach! Painful… but the round trip logged almost 20,000 miles on my Delta account, so if there’s a next time, I’m hoping it’ll be easier.

  • AC

    Happy birthday Brian~ Just use your link to apply for Bold Ink as my birthday present to you :)

  • thepointsguy

    Having the best blog readers ever is quite the gift in itself- thank you!!

  • KP

    Save it hippy, no one cares about your go green agenda!

  • Raj B

    Or could be the 4th anniversary of your 25th birthday.

  • SitInFirst.com

    SQ has meal service even on SIN-KUL!

  • Latimer

    Happy Birthday, man! That’s a hell of a deal.

  • AlwaysTravel

    Happy belated bday! Hope it was great – thanks for all the hard work you do, your blog is teriffic!

  • http://www.facebook.com/elipsky Eugene Lipsky

    Just booked EWR-SIN(SQ J) – 18 hour sotpover SIN-MEL(SQ J) destination MEL-LAX-JFK (UA J) using 110K US Airways miles. Total with taxes came to $241.70 including $50 ticketing fee (no US status) and $75 close in fee (leaving in less than 21 days). I get to fly the same EWR-SIN in SQ J, finally. Also SQ J on the 773ER. So happy I was able to book this. Thanks points guy. Learned a lot from this blog.

  • thepointsguy

    Only 110?! It’s 120 for just ewr-sin-ewr! Nicely done

  • Dan6681

    It seems like the SQ availability is back to the way it was. They seemed to have blocked the “premium” routes again. I hope I am wrong, has anybody else noticed this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/elipsky Eugene Lipsky

    Exactly. Take a look at US Airways chart. It’s 10K less to go to South Pacific from North America then to South East Asia and no issues with my routing.

  • http://www.felipeyang.com Felipe Yang

    I understand his passion though, I tell people I meet at restaurants about the Sapphire Preferred when they ask about the look of the card. It IS the best card out there, nothing wrong informing people of it.

  • Gac

    Honestly….

  • PJ

    would this also mean around 120K for business to Far East round trip with one additional stopover ?

    it seems you avoided the phone booking fees

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.pilz Jeff Pilz

    I’m flying out in August for my birthday on AA awards and Hilton awards. I’m looking forward to tips, I haven’t been there either. I’m going coach with transfers in LA and Hong Kong. Looks like a pretty cool place.

  • Osvald9

    You don’t need to come hear and read his post if you don’t like the advertising, no one is forcing your hand, the blog is free and full of needed information, tired of people like who wants to be critical of everything the blogger does.

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  • http://twitter.com/zeehand Dan Zeehandelaar

    +1!

    This is an awesome loophole in the US award chart. You’re even allowed to take a multi-day stopover at your southeast Asia connection point. I once booked PHL-LAX-AKL (US/NZ J), destination, AKL-SYD-BKK (NZ/TG J), 3-day stopover, BKK-LAX-PHL (TG/US J) for 110K as well.

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  • http://twitter.com/workingnomad Working Nomad

    nice work, i love sin air

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  • Ruy

    Hello Brian,
    I’m doing the same trip next week and it was great reading your report.

  • rick

    Hi TPG, are there any tricks to finding this flight on united’s website? I tried all kind of searches and it always says there are no non-stop flights between EWR and SIN for any dates I try. Even getting this flight to show up on travelocity and similar sites takes some work.

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