More on my award trip booking

I'll just give you a quick recount of what I had booked and what I have booked now for my trip to China. As I mentioned in a previous post, my trip to China was supposed to be this week and next, but for various reasons I elected to move it to December.

This was my routing for this week:

  1. LX F LAX-ZRH  
  3. stopover in London
  7. destination, Shanghai
  10. NZ C LHR-LAX

Not a bad award for 145,000 UA miles, no?

I booked this a couple weeks before the trip, when first class award space seems to open up.

It was much harder finding availability for my December/January trip, especially with Lufthansa blocking back. So here's my initial itinerary:

  5. stopover in Bangkok
  7. destination, Shanghai
  10. US F ORD-PHX
  11. US F PHX-LAX

photos courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper

You can see that this itinerary is not nearly as attractive, though by avoiding London my taxes fell from $369 to $150. My goal will be to change the outbound UA flights to either LX or LH, change the PVG-FRA flight to either LX, LH, or ideally SQ via SIN (Air China's F-product is rated worse than even United), and the final three flights from UA/US to NZ on the LHR-LAX route, though I will certainly take SQ via JFK or perhaps even LH or LX in order to gain access to the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt.

Any award gurus have any suggestions?


John July 20, 2010 at 07:08 pm

Air China (CA), a *A member, is based in the Mainland China, the People's Republic of China. China Airlines (CI), a partner carrier of DL, is based in Taiwan, the Republic of China. CI's onboard service in premium cabins is much better than those of CA or UA.

@John: Thanks for your comment. Have you had a chance to compare EVA and CI?

Hamurabi2008 July 21, 2010 at 02:21 am

Shanghai in Dec is really not a good time to go. I used to reside there and Dec is NOT the time to be there.

The PVG-FRA and PVG-ZRH is packed with Expats going home for X-Mas from 10-Dec onwards. I took a Dec 19 LX flight to ZRH last year and F was only booked w 3 pax. However, LX is really hard to score as an award. Good luck.

You might also want to check which flight you have on TG from BKK to PVG. In the last year they had a brand new plane as well as one very old 747 on that route. The 747 had great availability on discount tickets and awards - the new one nearly nil. However, the old bird was VERY old and C (which I took on several occasions) was really bad.

Enjoy your trip!

Ham Depending on the metal CA F can be quite nice. But not from PVG - the good birds fly from the capital (PEK). Or used to do. Is your flight the one from PEK via PVG to FRA or is this the one from PVG via PEK to FRA? You might want to check that since the latter is very frequently delayed.

John July 21, 2010 at 04:45 pm

I took CI quite a few years ago, but never had a chance to fly BR(EVA). From my friends' perspective, BR's new 77Ws are quite good. CI has better service (and more beautiful FAs, according to my friends).

If you have time in the afternoon in Boston, you might want to have lobsters at the No Name Restaurant, which is about 5-minute walk from the World Trade Center T station of the Silver Line on your way to the airport. The seafood there is quite cheap and fresh. On the same road of No Name, there is Harpoon Brewery offering free beer tasting tour in the afternoon.

Darren August 25, 2010 at 11:37 am

Hey Matthew... how did you get this for 145K? I have a booking on hold right now LAX-SEA-FRA-BKK-FRA-ORD-LAX and they are wanting to charge me 170K. They claim I'm over the MPM (BKK is the destination, 13-hour stopover in FRA). The agent says I'm transiting a third region (Europe), so has to charge the higher award (Europe-South Asia).

@Darren: Ugh. An agent that goes by the books...

It is true that "If award travel crosses a geographic area to reach another region, member is subject to the higher of the two award levels." (,,1141,00.html)

But what does this mean? Maybe it means that because EU-South Asia is more expensive than US-South Asia, you have to pay the higher price. But it could also mean if you are flying, say to Northern South America via Southern South America, you would be charged the Southern South America price. In your case, from LAX to Europe is 135K in First Class and LAX to South Asia is 145K in First Class. Perhaps the rule simply means that if you flew to Europe over the Pacific through South Asia (not a legal routing, but just saying...) you would have to pay the higher South Asia award rate, even if your trip was to Europe.

Perhaps Gary can clarify.

You are not over the MPM, though. MPM from LAX-BKK is 14,125 miles o/w. You are only at 11,661 for your outbound.

In the future, if you are being quoted a higher mileage cost, just say thanks and hang up before the award is put on hold. In my many calls to UA, I never had this "problem", but you just got an agent who went strictly by the rules.

It probably won't work, but you can try calling back and saying you were charged an extra 25K miles because the agent claimed you went over the MPM when you really did not.

By chance, do you know what call center you spoke with? I'm not sure what difference that will make, though--I spoke to all five call centers (DTW, ORD, HNL, MNL, and India) and never was quoted the higher mileage price.

Darren August 25, 2010 at 01:15 pm

@Matthew... thank you. I'm actually going to cancel that one (or let it expire) and start anew. I'm willing to risk the seats going away, and in fact, there are still more available. LH seems to be generous right now for Labor Day weekend. Thanks again!

@Darren: Anytime!

Darren August 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

@Matthew: Forgot to answer you about the agent... don't know where I was speaking for the first booking (I canceled that one), but I just made a new booking with a Chicago agent, and she put a new one on hold for me at the 145k. I wanted her to ticket it right away, but she insisted that the new "rule" is to hold these for 12-hours in order to ensure the confirmations come back from LH.

So here's my new question for you. Should I call the ICC tomorrow to ticket it? I don't want to run the risk of the next agent going by the books and charging me 170k. I wouldn't enter my MP#, of course, to avoid getting a 1K agent.

Thanks Matthew... love reading your blog.

@Darren: The Chicago agent probably just did not want to wait the few minutes it sometimes take for LH to confirm the seat. I am not surprised...

I would call back 1-800-United1 and complete your ticketing today with the Manilla call center. Hang up if you get India--talking to them may work, but they always want to transfer 1Ks to the 1K desk when you protest them charging a telephone booking fee.

Darren August 27, 2010 at 03:36 pm

@Matthew: Thank you, Thank you. Wow... just got off the phone with a MNL agent. All went as planned. Dinner and/or drinks are on me your next trip home!

@Darren: Excellent! Happy to hear your trip is booked.

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