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January 12, 2013 / oneworld82

2013: the year of my first Round-the-World trip

There are tickets that are outrageously expensive. Think First Class on any decent carrier (alas not AA, UA, or DL – just to name a few) from North America to either Europe or Asia. Think 12-15k (at a minimum) for a roundtrip. If you try to buy just a one-way ticket, it’s likely going to be more than half the price of a round-trip. Sometimes you can find “deals”, of course. As of today, Jan 5th, 2013 you can go r/t LAX-ZRH-LHR on Swiss First/Biz for “only “7500 usd r/t. Not bad indeed and that puts the price of a one-way leg at less than 4ooo usd. Yet, miles and points can almost always offer a better deal/value.

Like many people out there, I have got hooked up on the miles game. I have always loved traveling, and I have done my fair share of uncomfortable travel. Plus, I have spent most of my life in Europe with a short stint in Asia – places where outrageous credit card sign-up bonuses are unheard of. So, of you happen to live in the Old Continent or in one of the Asian Tigers, you either pay for yourself for nice hotels (which I did for a long time) and for airfares (which I was never able to afford before graduating from business school), or else you stay at shabby 3-star hotels and sit on the back of the bus. No big deal, especially if you are in your twenties and excited to see the World.

But once I moved to the US, a new World of opportunities opened in front of me. Granted, my income increased greatly and my job allows me to travel a lot. Yet, the USA (and Flyertalk.com) introduced me to the miles game. I will not go into the specifics here – there are so many blogs and websites explaining how to earn and redeem points giving you the best bang for your buck that I will let you the pleasure to explore them all (if you like). Suffice to say that it took me a while to start “playing the game”, as I had to build up credit score and history.

Now that business school landed me a stable, well-paid job and that I have been in the country long enough to be able to get almost any credit card I want, things have changed. Not only that: I have discovered that – sometimes – buying miles from airlines during exceptional promos can be totally worthwhile.

In recent months I have taken advantage of multiple bonuses:

1. United 40% bonus miles: I spent around $1200 to get a total of 50,000 miles. Not a bad deal and I wish I bought more.

2. US Airways 100% bonus on miles purchases: $1880 for 100,000 miles.

3. US Airways 100% bonus on shared miles: again, for a little more than $1,000 I got 100,000 extra miles.

4. American Airlines 50% bonus miles: for $1880 I was able to get 90,000 AAdvantage miles – an amazing 2 cents per mile!

I agree I spent quite a few dollars on these promos but as I plan to redeem miles on first class tickets to Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic flights I know I will get a good value out of it.

Together with these promos, I have applied for a bunch of credit cards as well – not as many as I should have, but enough to round up some miles:

1. AAdvantage Business Mastercard

2. Chase United VISA

3. US Airways Dividend Miles

4. Alaska Air VISA

5. Hilton AMEX

6 Chase British Airways VISA

As I bought a car, my credit score suffered a bit and I won’t apply to any other card for a while. Yet, rest assured that I am all set (and with AA Platinum and Hilton Gold status) for a while. In fact, even after booking the trip I am describing here I have:

AA AAdvantage – 125,000

US Airways Dividend Miles – 191,000

United Mileage Plus: 115,000

Alaska Airlines: 50,000

Hilton HHonors: 65,000

To which I will add in a while more AA miles from future paid flights and 125,000 British Airways Avios. Like I said, I am set for a while.

Now, ever since coming back from Australia late July 2012 I knew I was going to go back in 2013 – this time I decided to add New Zealand as well. That place is simply magic (read my blog post to know why and how); and I decided I was going to OZ in style – First Class all the way.

To do that – in theory – the best/fastest way is on QF First Class. Perhaps on the A380.

Easier said than done.

Qantas is EXTREMELY stingy on First class award seats, and for some reason it seems impossible to find a F award from the US to Australia. The other way around gives a little more hope (like, 5% more chances), even though booking at T-331 is a must (especially of you want to grab  2 seats in the same flight!). It was one of those things that you book regardless of your plans.

Leg 3

Leg 3

So, now I had a ticket AKL-MEL-LAX-DFW (wish I took the chance to book the last segment LAX-SEA-DFW on Alaska Airlines…). But how do I get there? I checked some routings on oneworld and star alliance, but nothing really satisfied me. I decided that oneTrans-Pacific was going to be enough… and I decided to get to Australia the long way around: this would be my first around-the-World trip.

What drove my decision was an important fact that happened a few weeks after I booked my Qantas ticket: Qatar Airways announced it would join oneworld. Now, this brought fears that – sooner or later – Etihad Airways would cease its codeshare with American Airlines. Heaven forbids. Flying Etihad First class has been one of my recent dreams, and I had to make sure this happened… before too late!

I so decided to book an Abu Dhabi-Sydney-Adelaide (ok ok, AUH-SYD-ADL) on Etihad First/Qantas J. There you go! But now… how do I get to Abu Dhabi??

leg2

Leg 2

At this point I had enough miles to decide to fly on Star Alliance DFW-FRA-VIE-DXB in Business Class and try the upcoming, apparently awesome premium product on Austrian Airlines. But the prospect of the old J/F on LH put me off. After having flown British Airways Club World in December for the very first time, I then decided that I had to try BA’s First Class. A quick search online landed me availability on a DFW-LAS-LHR-AUH itinerary (Dallas-Las Vegas-London-Abu Dhabi) on American Airlines, British Airways, and Etihad Airways First Class. Sweet. What seemed difficult to achieve before, became reality: a round-the-world trip ALL in First Class (except for short haul flights where F class isn’t offered).

leg1

Leg 1

All this will cost me 72.5k+90k+60k AAdvantage miles – not exactly peanuts but cheaper than the oneworld explorer fare (270k miles). Sweet. On the way, I will stop-over in Abu Dhabi, visit South Australia and Victoria, and say hi to Auckland. Sign-up bonus to credit cards provided me 75k AAdvantage miles, and the latest AA promo haned me 90k miles for less than 1900 usd. The rest? From flights I would have done anyways and that I had paid for. I still had to pay BA’s ridiculous fuel surcharge. But that’s a minor bump, if you ask me. Had I bought this itinerary with these airlines, the ticket would have cost me a whopping $27,000. No kidding.

Could be worse, if you ask me.

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