Hot off the heels of FTU LAX, I’m writing a post to show people how to construct an awesome, yet rare aspirational trip. It’s a trip with United, ANA, and Thai First!
For the past few months, I’ve been super busy with our Award Booking Service and haven’t had time to post here. I was amazed at how many people actually came to me this weekend and told me to write more! Everyone also asked me to write about my upcoming trip that I booked.
For many, the question is simple. “How do I get the most value out of my points?” Well, there are two types of people in the award booking world–one who wants to get from Point A to Point B and one who’s more interested in the line between Point A and Point B than either end point. This is for the latter.
I have to go with my family to Bangladesh for Winter Break, so that was the impetus for this trip, but I wanted to do more than just get there.
I used 60,000 United Miles for the outbound with the hopes that a few days before I travel, I can upgrade the award. This is a common technique I use.
Here is what I did:
I logged into United’s site, which I think is the best way to search for Star Alliance availability. I then proceeded to just do a generic Los Angeles to Dhaka (DAC) booking. Of course, the calendar showed NOTHING.
The trick is to book everything in segments. The biggest “trick” I use is to look for the hardest segment first. Scott calls this searching method “searching the bottleneck first.” See Book Awards Like a Pro: Routing Ideas.
For instance, for my trip the hardest segment to book was anything going into Bangkok. Tip for my Bengali readers and anyone who wants to go to Bangladesh in general: Business availability is wide open from Bangkok.
You can also check Istanbul-DAC in business with Turkish, which opens a decent number of seats.
If you are going to India, go into Bangladesh first and then buy a $100 ticket to India. I say this because if you’re flying in economy, you can save 15,000 miles roundtrip. India is 40K one way. Bangladesh is 32,500 oneway.
I knew that I would like to take my time going to Bangladesh so I wanted to fly east instead of west. That means instead of going over the Pacific from Los Angeles, I wanted to go over the Atlantic. This enables me to test out a few different airlines!
So with that, I started searching Europe-Asia availability. Particularly FRA-BKK or ZRH-BKK. There was nothing available on the dates I wanted so I did some more searching. I used some “secret” routes. I say secret because they always seem to be open in premium cabins.
“Secret” Routes include:
My Favorite ZRH-BKK
Also, there is a very weird once a week flight from CPH-HKT (Phuket) that runs on Saturdays. That also seems to be open. (Benefits of using my award booking service )
I searched for the direct flight availability the way that Scott outlined in Tricking United.com’s Award Calendar.
Anyways, I found nothing going into Bangkok in First Class. Luckily there was a flight from IST-DAC open on the EXACT day I wanted to travel. I put that on Phone Order hold (Scott outlined this trick here) and continued my search to patch together my trip.
When patching together a trip, you need to take into account some things. One of which is how long you want to stay in your layover cities. In my case, I wanted a day in each layover city so I then looked for the right times. This is where it got fun. My flight from IST-DAC left a 9:45PM. That meant that I would have to get into Istanbul the day before after 9:45 PM because United and US Air allow 23 Hours and 59 Minutes to stop in a city before it is considered a stopover!
I then found a flight that got into Istanbul at 10PM from Frankfurt! That was awesome so I then looked for a flight that got into Frankfurt the day before as well.
There was space coming into Frankfurt from all over the U.S. It was pretty much Chicago, Houston, and Washington D.C. However, there was nothing from Los Angeles. I did find some flight that connected from LAX-ORD and then onto Frankfurt, but I didn’t want that because it got into Frankfurt at 9 AM, and that would create a layover more than 24 hours.
I then tried going to other airports in Europe and I really lucked out because I found LAX-LHR in United Business! I called United and added that to my previous phone order hold. It was now a breeze. I landed into London at 2:05 PM but I didn’t want to stay there, so I was going to catch the 4:30PM flight the same day into Frankfurt that arrived at 6:45PM, which meant that I could have one whole day in Frankfurt and then catch the flight the next day into IST at 6PM.
I built my itinerary and it priced out at 60,000 United miles. I was happy with what I got but I had to go back an check what was available a few days ago. I was sort of blown away.
LAX-LHR was now available in First
LHR-DAC was now available like this: LHR-MUC-BKK-DAC in Thai First.
I called United and changed the ticket immediately. The taxes were an additional $6. The agent put me on hold for 45 minutes and because of that she waived the taxes. She also forgot that by waiving the taxes, she waived the additional 10,000 miles needed to go from Business to First! United has a weird rule where if they waive the taxes/points once, it will continuously get waived on the same itinerary! I didn’t believe it, so I made some more changes and they completely waived the taxes and close in booking fee!
Anyways, I was now booked like this
LAX-LHR United Global First
LHR-MUC Lufthansa Business
MUC-BKK-DAC Thai First
Pretty aspirational, huh? I didn’t think so.
A little known fact about United is that as soon as you get to 10+ segments on a roundtrip, the agents have to price the ticket manually. They aren’t as bad as US Airways, but this manual pricing also helps waive any future fees. This is important to note because when the agents change the itinerary, the taxes don’t change since they manually calculated it!
Yesterday, I looked to see how I could make this trip better. I found a really really cool route by working backwards. Here it is:
LAX-LHR United First
LHR-FRA Lufthansa Business
FRA-NRT ANA First in their new 777-300ER Product
NRT-BKK Thai First on their leased 777-300ER that is configured with suites and a closing door!
The United agent quickly put it together and my price was still 60K and taxes stayed the same. He said that the computer asked for a $75 close-in fee. I knew it wouldn’t charge the fee so I gave the info anyways. Sure enough, he came back and said that the itinerary is booked and that my credit card was charged $0.
I’m super ecstatic to go on this trip and can’t wait to write a trip report about this! MileValue is lacking some anyways.
UPDATE: I’m now switched into Lufthansa Business Class from LAX-FRA direct on the new 747-8!