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I had a blast spending 70 hours in Beijing with my brother this week using the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit rule.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 2.10.52 PM
on a section of the “wild” Great Wall near Jiankou

The rule requires you to enter China from one country and leave China to a third country within 72 hours among other requirements.

Since the time you can spend in Beijing under the rule is so limited, I would not fly directly from the United States to China, starting the clock when you’ll be severely jet lagged. We started our Asian trip in Hong Kong and got over jet lag there, so when we flew to Beijing (same time zone), we could hit the ground running.

Since starting in Beijing is not recommended, I looked at award space next May for awards returning from Beijing to the United States. Why May? The temperature was perfect for us in September, and May has similar weather. (September 2015 will be bookable next month.)

There are a number of direct flights from Beijing to the United States and Canada on Air China, United, Air Canada, and American Airlines that I’ll look at in this post. I’ll ignore the Delta flights because they can’t be booked one way until January 2015.

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  • How is award space for two people from Beijing to the United States in May 2015?
  • What miles can you use to book the flights?

Using United Miles

Flights on United, Air China, and Air Canada can be booked with United miles. Between mainland China and the United States, United charges:

  • 35,000 miles each way in economy
  • 70,000 miles each way in United BusinessFirst
  • 80,000 miles each way in United Global First, Air Canada Business, or Air China Business
  • 120,000 miles each way in Air China First

Air China serves six North American cities from Beijing plus Honolulu. Air Canada flies to Vancouver and Toronto. United flies to Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles.

The best award space next May and June is between Beijing and Washington-Dulles. There is economy award space almost every day and many days have award space for two passengers in United Global First Class.

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The Sunday departures arrive on Sunday night in time to make work the next day.

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Award space to Chicago shows a similar pattern in the premium cabins with less space in economy.

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On Air Canada, there is decent award space for two passengers to Vancouver. Air Canada Business Class features fully flat beds on the route.

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Other routes like New York, Newark, Houston, and Honolulu show plenty of award space for two passengers in economy, but none in premium cabins.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.42.49 PMUsing American Airlines Miles

American flies between Beijing and Chicago. Next May there is substantial award space from Beijing to Chicago in Business Class and First Class on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

American charges 67,500 miles each way in First Class.

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American charges 55,000 miles each way in Business Class.

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The flights is operated by a 777-200 (not the superior 777-300ER). I flew First Class on the same plane to Buenos Aires and gave this trip report.

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First Class is fully flat, but Business Class is angled lie flat.

You can also use American Airlines miles to fly home on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, but that would add many hours to your journey. It might be worth it, though, if those hours are spent in Cathay Pacific First Class (trip report).

Bottom Line

Next May should have fantastic weather for three days in Beijing. I recommend not starting your trip in Beijing because you won’t want to spend your 72 hours battling jet lag. If you end your trip in Beijing, you have ample options for direct returns to the United States with American Airlines and United miles.

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