How My Chase Sapphire Reserve Sign-Up Bonus Got Me a First-Class Ticket Home From Bali
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In August of last year, the St. Regis Maldives had a pricing fluke where overwater bungalows cost only 32,500 Starpoints a night. So, I booked a five-night stay (for 26,000 points per night since you get the fifth night free with SPG) and then planned a larger trip around it — with five nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives (you have to compare!) and six nights at Travel + Leisure‘s No. 1 hotel of 2016: Nihiwatu in Sumba, Indonesia, where I’d spend New Year’s Eve. Shortly after I booked this trip, Chase launched the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, and I was able to bank the 100,000 points (thanks to the help of my Chase Private Client banker) and use them toward a 95,000-mile Korean first-class redemption.
I needed to find a way home from Bali on January 4, and I wanted my flight to depart after 3:00pm. There was no Cathay Pacific availability, and another option would have been Garuda Indonesia to Guangzhou and then China Southern first class using Korean miles. I generally like flying new carriers, but Korean doesn’t allow partner awards at half the round-trip price. So I ended up booking Korean business class on the A330 from Bali (DPS) to Seoul (ICN), leaving Bali at 11:55pm (which would give me 12 hours in Bali), and then connecting in Seoul for two hours before flying first class back to New York (JFK) on the A380, arriving at 10:00am on January 5. Perfect — even though I’ve flown Korean’s A380 in first class and would have preferred trying the new 747-8, I had to come back to work after nearly three weeks away!
In all, Korean first isn’t the best first class, but it’s far from worst.
- The first-class cabin features huge, comfortable beds:
- The beverage options were fantastic. There was great Champagne (Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2004) and wine:
- Generally speaking, the food was very good (but the menu was somewhat limited):
- For Korean first-class flights, there are often empty cabins — Korean makes it hard to upgrade to first class, so every time I’ve flown I’ve been one of the only people in the cabin. For this flight, I was one of three people in the 12-seat cabin. Many TPG readers have reported the same:
- Connecting in Seoul is a breeze.
- Solid service — the language barrier is there, but not as bad as the Japanese carriers (in my experience). But, it lags behind Cathay and Singapore.
- Comfy pajamas and solid amenity kit — they even hand out face spritzers:
- Korean typically has amazing award availability — especially for multiple seats.
- Terrible lounge at ICN — it’s a mediocre business-class lounge at best.
- The suites on the A380 lack privacy:
- The first-class cabin is rather large and includes 12 seats and one bathroom.
- There are no showers.
- There are somewhat limited in-flight entertainment choices.
- No caviar on board, but there is foie gras instead.
To start meal service, I had the scallop amuse bouche:
Next, I tried the foie gras starter:
And to round out my appetizer selection, I chose the red pepper soup:
Flight attendants brought the salad bar through the cabin. I made my customized salad with lemon dressing:
For my main course, I chose the bibimbap, which was excellent. To go with the meal, I chose the Ghost Block Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, which was awesome:
After the first meal service, I went to sleep for about six hours — those beds are comfy! When it was time for the second meal service, I woke up and had the Ramen snack — it was so spicy!
There was also an in-flight bar. I didn’t take advantage of it, but when I did the Facebook Live, apparently the Johnnie Walker Blue piqued a lot of people’s attention!
Comin’ in well rested and fed! Great flight on @koreanairworld A380 First Class. Only 3 passengers out of 12 seats in first. Amazing service and wine (Ghost Block cab and Perrier Joeut Belle Époque 2004) plus solid food- bibimbap and ramen- not the fanciest, but ??. Bali-Seoul-JFK for 95k Chase points transferred to Korean +$120. Not bad for a $7k+ flight ✈✈
A photo posted by Brian Kelly (@thepointsguy) on
Overall, Korean first on the A380 is a winner for me. It’s a great way to travel in comfort, and with lots of availability it’s easy to book online — even on partners now. Korean SkyPass is a quirky program, but a redemption can be a great way to maximize your Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000-point sign-up bonus. That said, the bonus will be decreasing to 50,000 points after January 11, so act now if you want to score the higher offer. Considering this flight would have cost me more than $7,200, I think this was a pretty great value from a single credit card sign-up bonus.
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