|"Somewhere Up There"|
(I keep getting distracted by how beautiful the colors are in this picture, and it's making this post hard to write!)
2016's mileage runs ended with a satisfying requalifying run to Quito wherein all the highs and lows of mileage running were had. There were some beautiful flights, very nice planes, even nicer lounges, and also a fare share of delays and missed connections. It was also bittersweet, as it was the last year of 'good old fashioned' mileage running, before the new requirements kicked in.
In case you missed it, starting in 2017 AA has made some fairly drastic changes to their elite program, including adding a qualification level, making the elite tiers 25k, 50k, 75k, and 100k, respectively, as well as adding "Elite Qualifying Dollars" to the mix. Under the basic letter of the law, this means to qualify for elite status, you ALSO have to spend 3, 6, 9, or 12 thousand dollars to reach your target level.
This, as I've written about [HERE] is only the basic letter of the law applied to flights on American itself, which makes flying partner airlines a good workaround to those new spend thresholds if you know where to look. My plan for trying out this new system is to scour the Oneworld airlines for highly discounted fares in premium economy and business class. Because many of these fares do not originate in the US at all, this requires a healthy (err...I use that term flexibly) sense of adventure.
Speaking of adventure, let me tell you about what I've got on tap for February this year:
It all started with a seemingly innocent tip-off from another mileage running friend about a pretty lucrative premium fare on Qatar Airways. The basic itinerary was from Columbo, Sri Lanka (CMB) to Doha, Qatar (DOH) to Boston (BOS) and back. A good long haul, available on weekend dates, mostly on Qatar's brand-spanking-new a350, and in business class on top of it all. Can't go wrong with that!
|Qatar's a350 business class. Yes, please.|
|Yup, that's a walk-up bar in the business class cabin.|
Yup, I live in neither Boston, nor Sri Lanka. However, the flight was available at the discounted price on a very limited basis, and for just a couple of days. So I went for it and figured those pesky details (like where the flights actually come from, and where they go to) would most likely work themselves out. You know, like geography has a tendency to do, right?
Best worst decisions, indeed.
|Why hello, beautiful. I'll be seeing you soon!|
So now I needed to "position" to CMB to get this thing started, and then just get home from Boston at the end. Boston was simple enough, but CMB proved to be a little stickier. The issue is that to get to CMB from LAX on one itinerary turned out to be too expensive for a mileage run. However, because of Malaysia Air's Oneworld hub in Kuala Lumpur, there were some cheap fares to Malaysia, from which it was a short and cheap award ticket using some of my Amex Membership Rewards points to CMB. Done and done.
What's even better, is that the flights allowed us to plan a full day (er..12 hours) in Hong Kong, and a full day and night in Kuala Lumpur.
|Oh Hong Kong, I'll see you again soon, my friend.|
|Le Meridien, KL Sentral- $68|
|Yasss, KL! A night out at one of the top hot spots can run you as little as $25, all in.|
What results from this kind of split ultra long haul booking is that you are able to fly COMPLETELY around the world with one continuous set of flights. The trips is booked on four separate itineraries, so I'm keeping everything crossed that things go smoothly, at least as far as CMB. After that, Qatar will have to get me to Boston somehow, and once I'm back in the US, AA will one way or another get me home.
To protect against misconnects, most of the itinerary has very long stopovers so hopefully even a several hour delay shouldn't make the whole thing implode. As much as I love travel, the idea of being stranded in Sri Lanka at 3am doesn't sound all that great.
I say again, Best Worst Decisions.
|Long layovers also mean time to enjoy the airports and lounges- like the Golden Lounge in KUL|
Flight 1- LAX-HKG on American (cross the Pacific)
12 Hour stopover in Hong Kong
Flight 2- HKG-KUL on Cathay Pacific
22 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur
Flight 3- KUL-CMB on Malaysian Air
4 hour stopover in Colombo
Flight 4- CMB-DOH on Qatar
2.5 hour stopover in Doha
Flight 5- DOH-BOS on Qatar (cross Europe and the Atlantic)
5 hour stopover in Boston
And finally, flight 6- BOS-LAX on American
Plus, it only takes 4 days. This is also the moment when I realize I just booked a 4 day trip, and only one hotel night. Oh well, I never was good at math. As crazy as it sounds, I'm actually really looking forward to this trip. It's an even bigger challenge than I've done in the past, and at least half of the flights are guaranteed to be in business class. Plus it puts me well on the way to requalifying for my EXP/Oneworld Emerald status for the next year.
Then in June...I do it all again, just backwards and in heels (so to speak.) However, that's an (even more convoluted) story for another time.
Read the next chapter: Around the World In 80 Hours Part 1- In the Clear!