Author Topic: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings  (Read 20195 times)

Offline AJK

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A Waterfall on the way back from Milford Sound

Introduction:

The catalyst of this trip to New Zealand was that during a brief stint earlier this year, upon US Airways’ (US) entry into the OneWorld alliance, US neglected to impose and collect fuel surcharges on British Airways (BA) redemptions, which normally amount to hundreds of dollars per passenger per way.  Knowing full well that I’d likely never fork over this “ransom for loyalty” (at least not as long as I am able redeem miles on other airlines and avoid these pesky evil charges), the odds of my experiencing BA First Class were slim.

Armed with the knowledge of this “glitch” I set out planning. And down the rabbit hole I went.  Considering US’ lax routing rules and their quite attractive pricing from USA to North Asia (where business class is 110,000 miles/person round trip, and for a nominal 10,000 miles more—120,000 p/p—I could do the whole thing in First Class), I booked the following beauty:

JFK-LHR (BA F)-DXB (QF F)-HKG (CX J) // HKG-DXB (CX J)-LHR (QF F)-JFK (BA F)



With two segments in BA F, two segments in very-hard-to-snag Qantas’ (QF) First Class (the only 5th Freedom QF F flight), and two segments in Cathay Pacific’s business class, a sure contender for the best business class in the market, I was quite content.

At the time, however, I didn’t know where our ultimate destination would be. I figured I could work that out later.

[Skip the following if easily bored when regaled with passionate tales of the birth pangs of a masterpiece award booking]

Two months after booking (but several months before departure), I got notified of a schedule change (from Award Wallet actually, and not US or BA), that not only one of my BA flights had been cancelled, but both had been.  While we wouldn’t lose our opportunity to fly BA F, we were automatically moved onto the BA flights that immediately followed our originally scheduled flights.  Ordinarily this would not have presented a problem, but the fact that we were moved onto a later departing flight meant that our already short connection in LHR would become “an illegal connection,” and we wouldn’t be able to make our flight to DXB in QF F. That part I was less content with.

Upon trying to fix this issue, I learned that unlike other airlines, US will almost never accommodate a schedule change on an award by booking you into a revenue fare class, especially so in a case where, as here, the schedule change was not the fault of US, but of another airline, BA. You’re restricted to award availability only, and there was none, so I waited.

A couple days later, I noticed that BA had apparently fixed the illegal connection issue on their own: I was now booked JFK-LHR-DXB all in BA F, with everything else remaining the same. As above, however, I didn’t want to replace the superior QF F segment for an inferior BA F segment, even sans YQ, but I knew I’d have an excuse to call back when/if something opened up that suited me better. If worst had come to worst, I’d simply cancel the award, and go back to the rabbit hole (which I’ve become quite fond of).

Sure enough, in August, while in Singapore, I got notified that the two seats on the non-stop flight from JFK-HKG in Cathay Pacific First Class had opened, something that very rarely happens three months before departure, considering two seats account for 1/3rd of their first class cabin.  Because I had only flown CX F on a “short-haul” of five hours JFK-YVR, and this afforded us with an additional 36 hours of vacation time, I popped out of bed and rang US.

Initially, I was given some push back. “Oh, we see you’ve already been accommodated, and there is no longer an illegal connection, sir.” When I firmly explained that I had no part in choosing that particular fix, and then explained once and twice again, the US rep made the change after speaking to a supervisor, stating “this is an absolute exception, sir, and we will not make any more changes to this booking without imposing a change fee of $150 per/person.”

Success!

Now I was booked: JFK-HKG (CX F) // HKG-DXB (CX J)-LHR (QF F)-JFK (BA F)



So I had us booked to Hong Kong, but knew that I didn’t want that to be our final destination, so when Singapore Airlines (SQ) upgraded one of their daily flights from Singapore (SIN) to New Zealand (AKL) to an A380 with Suites Class, and correspondingly made available two seats on nearly all of those flights (something that is akin to a miracle), I jumped on it.

Despite the miracle, however, someone seemingly beat me to the punch and the flight I needed from SIN-AKL was unavailable, so I booked the first part of our return, AKL-SIN, in SQ Suites instead.

We were going to New Zealand!

We had wanted to visit for a while, but especially since our return from Cape Town, South Africa, when we told the Lufthansa crew how jaw-droppingly beautiful Cape Town was and their unanimous response was “wait till you see New Zealand, my friend!”

Now, for all you paying attention at home, you’ll realize I still needed flights from HKG to AKL, as well as a flight from SIN to HKG to hook up to my original award. On the to-do list it went.

Sometime later, I was smiled upon when SIN-AKL opened up in Suites Class, which I booked.  The award was beginning to take shape.

Unfortunately, the HKG-SIN segment, which SQ also operates with an A380, was not available, and I had to waitlist the segment, but doing so I made a rookie mistake (which I’ll explain later). To be safe, thought, I booked the HKG-SIN segment with CX in economy as a placeholder. So I was fully booked on my outbound:

JFK-HKG in CX F; HKG-SIN in CX Y; SIN-AKL in SQ R.



Now to finish the return:

For reasons that aren’t worth explaining (having to do with the scheduling of the SIN-HKG on the return), I realized I needed to substitute the AKL-SIN segment in SQ Suites with something else.  After some research I decided to take advantage of what is perhaps the best redemption on the United Airlines award chart: Oceania <> North Asia in First Class for 40K per person and $25.00.

I found availability for AKL-SYD-BKK-HKG in Air New Zealand (NZ) Economy, Thai (TG) First, and TG First and put it on hold.

The only problem was that the BKK-HKG leg arrived after my HKG-DXB was scheduled to depart, so I had try and move the HKG-DXB flight from the first of the day, at 1:30AM, to the second and final flight of the day, at 4:50 PM. So back on the phone with US I went, expecting that I’d definitely need to pay the change fee this time.   

Of course, the US rep saw the note that the previous rep put on my reservation: “Absolutely no further changes to award without collection of change fee” and would only change it for $150/pax. I light bulb went off in my head and I pushed back and said “Well, if you’ll notice, I had two flight cancellations, one on the outbound, and one on the inbound. The note you’re seeing refers only to the outbound, which I had a say in fixing, but the flight I want to change is on the inbound which I have not yet had a say in fixing.” Nothing doing.

Escalate to supervisor.

Back and forth.

Back and forth some more.

Finally, with the call nearing 60 mins, the supervisor relents and changes me to the later flight without a fee!

I login to check the changes (as you should always do), and am horrified to discover that she did in fact change us, but put us in coach! If the flight was only a couple hours, I wouldn’t have cared, but this HKG-DXB leg was nearly 9 hours and a lie flat bed on a flight of that length definitely makes a difference, so even though I dreaded the thought of having to call US again, I decided to pick up the phone.

I explained the situation and the first US rep I got said “Oh, I see this clearly was a mistake, let me fix that right up for you.” And with that, it was complete. <sigh of relief>

Booked this way, I saved myself about 100,000 miles + $600 in taxes and fees. 

A week or two before departure, I got an email informing me that my SQ waitlist on the HKG-SIN had cleared.  I had gone from a 12.2 to a 9.36!

Except I hadn’t. 

As I alluded to above, I made a rookie mistake: I had waitlisted the HKG-SIN segment on a separate PNR. Even though I suspected the
answer, I called to see if SQ could merge the PNRs, or, at the very least, add the waitlist to my main PNR and insta-confirm me since I had already gone through the process. No dice.

A couple days later, I noticed that SQ R was available outright in Saver for the HKG-SIN segment, so I called and asked them to confirm me because it was clearly available. Though it wasn’t explained well by the SQ agents, it was clear I was rebuffed again for reasons of “married segments.” The only thing I could do at the time, they said, was to book it separately outright. Ha, no thanks, considering it’d cost me an additional 75K SQ, whereas if I added it onto my original booking, it’d cost me 0 additional miles. So I waited.

Alas, all is well that ends well, and about 24 hours later, my HKG-SIN leg was confirmed in Suites! Now I was officially at a 9.36 :)

[Those bored folks can continue here]

After much tinkering, then, my main award(s) getting me to New Zealand and back were set:



Red = US Award of 120,000 per passenger + $150 taxes/fees
Green = SQ Award of 63,750 per passenger + $200 taxes/fees
Orange = UA Award 40,000 per passenger + $25 taxes/fees

Outbound: JFK-HKG in CX F; HKG-SIN-AKL in SQ R; AKL-SYD in NZ Y.

Inbound: SYD-BKK-HKG in TG F; HKG-DXB in CX J; DXB-LHR in QF F; LHR-JFK in BA F.

Next up:

Intra-New Zealand Flights & Hotels
« Last Edit: July 06, 2015, 07:08:03 PM by Dan »
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2014, 06:09:04 PM »
I know who i am talking to for booking ideas and help :)

Great stuff as always.
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline Dan

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2014, 06:15:37 PM »
Awesome man.  All I can think about is how long it will be before I can do a trip like this again...
At least we got in a good number beforehand.
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2014, 06:18:11 PM »
Awesome man.  All I can think about is how long it will be before I can do a trip like this again...
At least we got in a good number beforehand.
I'm going to attempt a slightly scaled down version this summer. Not set on location yet, but want to do some different plane testing.
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline ilherman

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2014, 07:11:46 PM »
As always, awesome! Waiting for the rest. It seems that you left just on time...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2873855/Gunman-takes-hostages-cafe-Sydney.html
You can say what you think when you think what you say.

Offline smart brit

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I'm Speechless!
Just when I thought he can't do this again, here he comes!
# Unbelievable # jealous

Offline srap

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2014, 07:26:54 PM »
WOW!  I love your talking aloud to allow us to hear your step by step thinking. 
(It just feels like an overwhelming amount for me to learn.)

Offline MeirS

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Nice! The part I found most interesting is the part you thought we would find boring!

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2014, 09:46:08 PM »
I'm Speechless!
Just when I thought he can't do this again, here he comes!
# Unbelievable # jealous

Nothing original to say, so I'll just +1 :) - Can't wait for next part!

Online Hershelsdeals

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2014, 09:49:49 PM »
Wow! #Jealous

Offline TimT

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2014, 10:04:22 PM »
Just love that waterfall pic.

Offline Devorah

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2014, 10:19:04 PM »
when did this trip take place?

Offline DMYD

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2014, 11:01:32 PM »
Just love that waterfall pic.
Yeah Looks like a picture that hangs in the Succah

Offline morgs

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2014, 02:55:50 AM »
WOOHOO!! another tr from the AJK's-cant wait for more!!

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2014, 07:38:17 PM »
Thanks for the detailed booking process breakdown. I wouldve gone crazy not knowing which flights Im confirmed in.. I wonder how far in advance you made the bookings from the actual flight date