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Some people are plane enthusiasts. They’ll do anything to fly the new mega-jet A380, which I’ll be doing in Qantas business in January. Or one of the new Dreamliners, which United’s taking more deliveries of and releasing the routes they’ll operate on. Or one of Lufthansa’s new 747-8s, which Lucky will review soon and already teased.

I’m not a plane freak, but I got an interesting question from reader Herb, so I thought I’d try to solve the puzzle:

My brother and I were debating if it would be possible to get on a 747, an A380, and a 787 all on one Star Alliance award flight, all in a business or first cabin, and do it as a pseudo “around the world” trip.  In theory it seemed possible, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts or suggestions on how to piece something like that together and have it count as one award.  I’m based out of Denver…

I’ve upgraded the challenge from any old 747 to a brand new 747-8 Intercontinental.

My reply was this:

DEN-NRT will be on a United 787 starting March 31.
NRT-BKK is operated by a Thai A380, as is BKK-FRA.
FRA-IAD is on a Lufthansa 747-8 (with fully flat biz).

So a routing of Denver to Tokyo to Bangkok, returning Bangkok to Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles to Denver would enjoy the A380 twice, a 787 Dreamliner, and a 747-8 plus it would be a mini-round-the-world trip.

The routing is perfectly legal. Both Denver to Bangkok and the return are well below the Maximum Permitted Mileage for those routes. And of course, a stopover can be taken anywhere en route in addition to the stop in Bangkok, the destination.

Unfortunately, I can’t find space on the above routing in a premium class. As of yesterday, I couldn’t find any business class space on DEN-NRT. And United didn’t configure the plane with any first class seats.

But I don’t give up, so I did find a single United award with flights on all three of the new big birds, though it features only two airlines and the Lufthansa A380, which doesn’t have fully flat seats in business. (What is this, 2005?)

I was tipped off by the Bengali Miles Guru that Houston to Amsterdam, which the United Dreamliner begins flying December 4, does have space in business class.


Lufthansa flies its A380 from Houston to Frankfurt, with angled lie flat business class seats.

And Lufthansa flies its 747-8 from Frankfurt to Delhi and Bangalore to Frankfurt, with fully flat business class seats.

Then I pieced together an open jaw award that used all these planes. It was a simple multi-city search on Behold:

This itinerary priced at 120k United miles and $146 including the phone fee:

Of course, if you actually wanted to fly this itinerary you could jazz it up with a stopover en route or a free oneway. United allows one stopover and two open jaws on roundtrip awards, so a stopover could be had in Frankfurt or Amsterdam.

Or if you preferred not to use the stopover en route, you could make the stopover in Houston at the end of the trip and add a free oneway after the trip. (The bible on United free oneways.)

Can anyone find a better routing that gets premium cabin space on all three of the new big planes? What about one that goes around the world? First person to comment with a valid routing and send me a screen shot gets a drink on me.

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