Thursday, May 29, 2014

SIN-HKG-CTS in Cathay Pacific business class

Since economy class to Singapore was painful, I spend the extra 10k AAdvantage miles to book business class for my return.  In order to make it onto the token 9 am flight for HKG-CTS, I had to fly on a redeye flight for SIN-HKG, which would be killer in coach.

SIN-HKG Cathay Pacific biz

SIN is a massive Star Alliance hub and one of the best airports in the world.  With access to Europe and North America, it's strategic location makes it a good stopover for the Kangaroo Route.  However, Oneworld flights are limited to a handful of intra-Asia routes, Australia, and London.  CX flies mostly regional planes to SIN, so the seat disappointingly wasn't even angled lieflat, which is the standard for intra-Asia biz.

I was one of 3 passengers in the cabin as it appears that all the business travelers skipped out on this one.  The seat was similar to AA's old transcontinental business class recliners, which are comfy but not conducive for sleeping.

Recliner seats defeat the purpose of biz seats for a redeye flight, but I was so tired that I passed out nonetheless promptly after dinner.

HKG layover

The flight arrived into HKG at 5 am, which gave me nearly 4 hours at the CX Wing first class lounge.  I grabbed breakfast at the lounge's famed Haven Restaurant, booked a private Cabana room, and crashed on the futon.  The next thing that rang was my 8:30 am alarm clock reminding me of my 9 am flight.  Since my gate was at the opposite end of the terminal, I essentially raced to make it.  For a full review of the Wing first class lounge, see my previous post.

A la carte breakfast menu

HKG-SIN in Cathay Pacific biz

I got to the gate 15 minutes before departure and was amongst the last to board the plane, thanks to the Wing's awesome sleeping room.  I had pre-selected the upper deck seat right behind the cockpit, which is as private as they get for a biz seat.  It's also been a good 15 years since I last got to sit on the upper deck of a 747, which CX is phasing out within a year.


CX uses their old herringbone seats on their 747s, which offer good privacy but can be claustrophobic and overly seclusive if flying with a companion.  The vast number of complaints stemming from claustrophobia prompted CX to change to their flagship reverse herringbone configuration that can be found on 773s and A333.  Fortunately, my flight was only 4 1/2 hours and I only wanted to sleep.

Shortly after takeoff, lunch was served.  I opted for the seafood meal, which consisted of a shrimp appetizer and grilled sea bass main course.

As usual, I wasn't especially hungry after coming out of the first class lounge.  After finishing the food, I slept until landing.  Behind the cockpit, I could hear the captain and first officer verbally issue altitude readings upon landing: "50 . . . 30 . . . 10 . . ."

Bottom line

Cathay Pacific intra-Asia biz seating configuration is a mixed bag, so be sure to do your homework to make the most of your miles.  I wasn't given much of a choice with only 1 daily flight between HKG-CTS and only one SIN-HKG flight that could connect me there in time.  I was surprised that CX would use a subpar product on SIN-HKG, which is a heavily traveled business route.  Last year, I flew on their flagship 773 on a 1 1/2 hour flight between HKG-TPE, which is a second-tier route with over a dozen daily flights.  Always shoot for the 773 and A333 to maximize your experience.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

US Airways 40,000 miles credit card sign-up bonus and 100% bonus miles sale

US Airways 40k Barclays credit card

Newly minted oneworld member US Airways has been at it lately with their new 40k miles credit card sign-up bonus, which is awarded after the first purchase using your card.  This takes a substantial burden off frantically meeting spending thresholds, which can be as high as $10k.  The US Airways Barclays card also gets you a good spread of useful benefits when flying with US Airways:

  • Enjoy your first bag checked free on eligible bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • Get one companion certificate for up to two guests to travel with you on US Airways operated flights at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Take advantage of priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Relax with a complimentary US Airways Club day pass
  • Check in at the First Class counter

The $89 annual fee is NOT waived for the first year.  Spending $25k+ in a year will also net you 10k miles towards elite status.  With the merger scheduled to be fully implemented by early next year, the Barclays cards' days are numbered as AA has stated that they're going with Citi.  So now would definitely be a good time to sign-up for this card as these miles will be merged with your AA miles.

100% bonus miles sale

US Airways' trademark promo seems to be their quarterly 100% bonus miles sale, where you can purchase award miles for as low as 1.88 cents each.  Although US Airways meticulously devalued their award chart overnight without notice last month, they still have phenomenal redemption rates.  With this promo, a business class flight on Cathay Pacific between Sapporo and Hong Kong (~5.5 hours) will only cost you $564 plus taxes and fees (30k miles), which is a steal considering that you get to fly on CX's flatbed biz product.

North America to North Asia in biz was recently upped to 110k ($2,068), so you're better off in first class for 120k ($2,256).  However, North Asia to Europe in biz has remained at 80k ($1,504), which is by far the best deal on the market.  Add that to the fact that you get a free stopover possibly even in North America, buying miles for the sole purpose of flying in a premium cabin could be cheaper than buying a discounted economy class ticket.

$1,504 in business class

Be on the lookout for swift devaluations in the near future, so buy miles only as needed.  US Airways phone agents are generally lousy to say the least, which is frustrating but at the same time rewarding when they allow you to book ridiculous routes such as Tokyo to Paris to San Francisco and back to Tokyo for 80k miles.  The double miles sale is a tiered bonus, and you'll only get 100% bonus miles if you purchase 30k+.

Limited time offer!
Buy miles from May 3rd until May 25th, 2014 and get up to a 100% bonus – up to 50,000 miles.

• Buy 10,000 to 19,000 miles, get 50% bonus miles
• Buy 20,000 to 29,000 miles, get 75% bonus miles
• Buy 30,000 to 50,000 miles, get 100% bonus miles

Bottom line

US Airways still carries the best mileage purchasing promos, and these deals most likely won't survive the merger.  If you've always been dreaming of that trip in premium class to Asia or Europe this summer, then this would be your ticket for the best value.  The Barclays card for sure won't outlast the merger, so mooch those miles while you still can, because chances are that we've got rough waters ahead with devaluations and stripped benefits.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chase Ink cards with limited time 60,000 point sign-up bonus

A while back, I posted on how the Chase Ink Plus card is the master when it comes to churning points coupled with a juicy 50k sign-up bonus.  Although the Ink Plus has recently lost some ground in the churning business with retailers no longer accepting credit cards for Bluebird transactions, the new 60k sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership is now the king of card sign-up offers.  This bonus is good for both the Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards.

Ultimate Rewards, which is the points currency used exclusively by Chase, is one of the most valuable point currencies out there.  Points can be transferred to the following partners at a 1:1 ratio:
  • United
  • British Airways
  • Korean Airways
  • Southwest
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Marriott
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Amtrak

I value UR at 1.8 cents per piece, thanks to Hyatt, Korean, and British Airways.  United was formerly their best transfer partner until their royal devaluation earlier this year.  That being said, 60k points is worth roughly $1,080 if redeemed with their top partners.  Among the other benefits of the cards:
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limits.
  • Points do not expire.
  • No foreign transaction fees on international purchases.
  • $95 annual fee waived for the first year.
  • 2 free airport lounge passes per year with Lounge Club.
A $5k spending threshold within the first 3 months of card membership may be difficult for some, but there are easy ways of meeting it, like using Amazon Payments or buying Visa gift cards at Staples, which shells out 5X points per dollar.  The Points Guy lists 10 unique ways of easily meeting credit card minimum spend.  The Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards are nearly identical with one major exception in that the Ink Bold is a charge card that needs to be paid back in full monthly, whereas the Ink Plus is an actual credit card.  Remember that you also don't need to own an actual business to be eligible for these cards.  The "thought" of opening a business or even an eBay sale technically qualifies you as a small business.  For more on how to qualify as a small business proprietor, see Million Mile Secrets' post
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