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Cleared for Takeoff: Business class for two to Kathmandu

Sept. 21, 2021
11 min read
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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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Points stash

Butch has two types of transferable points currencies, including:

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

Business class on board Turkish Airlines' new Boeing 787-9. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy).

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).

Outbound flights

Route: TPA-ORD-IST-KTM

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.

Inbound flights

Route: KTM-IST-EWR-TPA

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

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

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy)

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 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. 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 100,000 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).

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Transfer and maximize: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards

Booking hotels in Kathmandu

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

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.

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of hyatt.com)

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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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 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 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

Bottom line

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.

Featured image by (Photo by Maksym Bugaiev/Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

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  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees