Cleared for Takeoff: Business class for two to Kathmandu
Today's Cleared for Takeoff story comes from reader Butch Lott, who needs to book two tickets from the U.S. to Kathmandu, Nepal. Here's the snapshot Butch sent us of his points and miles balances:
"I need two tickets to Kathmandu to arrive by April 22, 2022. I have 110,000 MR [Membership Rewards] & 250,000 UR [Ultimate Rewards] but I have a year to earn more. I'd love to fly business or first, but will be satisfied with economy just to be able to pay for the whole flight with miles.
My home airport is [Tampa] TPA but I don't mind doing a pre-positioning flight to a major port. So, I'll be flying out of TPA unless I pre-position to [New York] JFK or [Los Angeles] LAX (depending on what flights I find)."
Now, Kathmandu is a far-flung destination that can be hard to reach with limited flight connections. That said, Butch has a sizable number of transferable points and time to earn more. So, let's take a look at his points options for booking both flights and hotels.
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Butch has two types of transferable points currencies, including:
- American Express Membership Rewards: 110,000 points
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 250,000 points
By focusing his rewards strategy on earning transferable points that can be redeemed with numerous hotel and airline partners, Butch has built in some flexibility that should come in handy when planning a trip like this. That said, in the future, I'd like to see him expand his points portfolio to include some hotel points too. Don't worry — I'll discuss this later in the article.
Related: Transfer and maximize: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards
Airfare to Kathmandu
While no U.S. carriers fly to Kathmandu, a handful of international carriers do. Some of these include Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines, all of which offer excellent business class products. Here's how to book flights to the Nepalese capital from Butch's home in Tampa (TPA).
On the outbound, we can book Butch and their travel companion on a combination of United and Turkish Airlines. The route will first take them from Tampa (TPA) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD), where they'll then fly Turkish Airlines to Kathmandu (KTM) via the airline's hub in Istanbul (IST).
At the time of writing this article, the airline is showing award space available on Apr. 20, 2022. This will get them to Kathmandu on Apr. 22, meeting Butch's deadline of arriving on that date. Unfortunately, the Tampa to Chicago leg only has economy award space available.
To book the ticket, Butch can transfer 94,000 Chase points to United MileagePlus for one ticket and 76,000 Amex points to Avianca LifeMiles for the second ticket. Both have reasonable taxes and fees attached, but no high fuel surcharges.
This leaves Butch with 156,000 Chase points and 34,000 Amex points to book hotels and return tickets.
Butch didn't give me a return date, so I searched for flights in mid-May. Turkish Airlines has plenty of award seats open throughout the month to various U.S. airports, and the itinerary we found takes the travelers from Kathmandu to Tampa via Istanbul and Newark (EWR). The two long legs are on Turkish Airlines while the Newark to Tampa leg is operated by United in economy. Unfortunately, there's a long layover in Newark, but if that doesn't matter, this is probably the best option.
This time, Butch will want to transfer 34,000 Amex and 66,000 Chase points to Air Canada Aeroplan to book one ticket for 100,000 points.
Then, Butch can transfer the remaining 90,000 Chase points to United MileagePlus and buy 4,000 miles to book the second return ticket (which is pricing out at 93,500 United miles). Alternatively, he can earn the points over the coming months by spending on his Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card.
How to book this award with points
Thankfully, Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and United MileagePlus partner awards can all be booked online. Butch can head to the airlines' respective websites, search for desired flights and then transfer points to book. There's no need to call any of the airlines.
How to earn enough points for this award
Looking to emulate this trip? Consider opening a card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points. Each of these cards has different fees, benefits and, of course, welcome offers.
Here's a look at some of our favorite Amex cards for earning Membership Rewards points:
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in the first six months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, cruises, taxis, tours and more), and 1x points on other purchases ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x points), 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel, and 1x points on all other eligible purchases ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts, and 1x points on other purchases ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
Related: Transfer and maximize: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards
Booking hotels in Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a handful of points hotels, most of which fall under the World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy programs. If I were in Butch's shoes, I'd focus on earning World of Hyatt points to book the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, which costs a mere 5,000 points per award night.
This is a five-star hotel located in a tourist-friendly part of Kathmandu. It's stocked with amenities, including a spa, pool, fitness center and assorted dining options. It sits on a huge plot of land and is sure to be a great jumping-off point for Butch's trip.
The points price can't be beaten either. Paid rates start at $108 per night next April, meaning that 5,000 points per night give you more than 2 cents per point in value.
How to book hotels with points
You can book this hotel right on the Hyatt website. Just log in with your World of Hyatt membership number, search for hotels in Kathmandu, enter your travel dates and make sure the box that says, "Use points" is ticked. Then, you can follow the on-screen prompts to finalize the booking.
How to earn hotel points
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to World of Hyatt instantly at a 1:1 transfer ratio. This is the best way for most travelers to earn Hyatt points as credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points tend to have excellent bonus spending categories and high bonuses.
Here's a look at current offers:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Its earning rates include 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on dining and 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel purchases.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Its earning rates include 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining purchases.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months from account opening. Its earning rates include 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent per account anniversary year (then 1 point per dollar) on shipping, internet, cable, phone, advertising with social media sites and search engines and travel.
That said, Butch already has Chase points, so I'm not sure if he's eligible for another welcome bonus on these cards. Because of this, he should consider opening the World of Hyatt Credit Card. This card offers a few great benefits, like an annual free night certificate worth up to 15,000 points, and Discoverist elite status. With the card's current welcome offer, Butch can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point per dollar, on up to $15,000 spent.
This card will diversify Butch's points portfolio beyond transferable points and make it easier for them to redeem World of Hyatt points for free nights in Kathmandu and on future trips. If Butch maximizes the World of Hyatt card's intro bonus, Butch will have enough points for a staggering 12 award nights at the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu.
Related: The most award-friendly hotel program: Everything you need to know about World of Hyatt
Butch has nearly enough points to book round-trip business-class tickets from Tampa to Kathmandu, Nepal. Plus, Butch can book a handful of free nights at a top-notch hotel by simply opening another credit card and earning the signup bonus. By taking that simple step, Butch can turn an expensive trip into an affordable jaunt around the world.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Feature photo by Maksym Bugaiev/Shutterstock.com.