It took some major effort, some waiting for points to transfer, some more money expended than I had anticipated… but in the end, I have a premium class itinerary scheduled for trip to Cape Town. The trip back is still up in the air at the moment, but I am definitely on my way to Africa in October. So how did I do it?
As I spoke about a little in the past few days, trying to find a routing that worked with current available awards was a bit tricky. Airlines tend to release award space on their flights either really far in advance, or at the last minute, with some random openings in between. So while it is a long way off, the way i like to plan things, last minute is not always my preferred choice. I suspect I will have to eventually adapt to the last minute stylings of the award space market, but for now I haven’t submerged myself that far yet.
Looking through the available awards, there was a lot of issues trying to match up my Emirates return flight and my outbound flight for Cape Town. Emirates has lots of space available in first for my return from Dubai… basically I can come back whenever I want. Emirates award space was not so generous for the flight from Africa to Dubai and that required some working around. Luckily in some trial and error searching, I was able to find some consistency to the business class space on Emirates. This consistency allowed me to be a little more flexible to nail down my incoming flights.
Taking a direct flight from the US to Cape Town is literally impossible, US Airlines just don’t fly there. So I had to rely on flying with US Airline partners, but how to route is the big question. I cover this the other day a bit, but British Airways is well known for being really bad business class, so i knew I wanted first class. Citi has been pretty lackadaisical in getting the 30,000 miles to me that they owe me from a checking account signup (yes, I wish I had waited and gotten the 50,00 miles offer, but I wasn’t aware that it was coming). So I didn’t have the 100,000 miles to route from US to Cape Town. Actually I’m glad, because this allowed me to search for a different routing.
My flight to Africa comes out of London Heathrow, lands in Johannesburg and then makes the short leg to Cape Town. The London to Johannesburg leg happens on the queen of the skies, a 747-400. I’ve been wanting to fly this plane forever, almost had that chance in 2014 on my return from Sydney, but they swapped back out to an A380-800 at the last minute. So I am finally going to nail down my desire to fly on a 747, this means the only Boeing commercial plane I’ve never flown on is the only one no longer in service… the 707… a little before my time.
The 747 isn’t the only new airplane I’ll be adding to my flown list on this trip, the Airbus A340-600 is going to be added to my list as well. Since my flight was departing from London, and I don’t live in London… I obviously need to get there somehow and that’s where my new found Delta miles came into effect. I had 55,000 miles from my recent credit card sign up, some previously flown miles, and some credit card spend meeting the minimum on the card. The flight costs 62,500 miles though, well the beauty of being an SPG member is that 95% of their points transfer 1:1 to airlines, so I transferred points from my SPG account to cover the difference. once those posted last night, I booked my segment from Atlanta to London… a minimal cost of $5.60 for this flight segment.
The segment to London is flown by Virgin Atlantic. I chose to fly the A340-600 for a few reasons. First was that I had never flown that aircraft, second was that Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class is more spacious on the A340. The new A330 Upper Class looks beautiful, but is pretty tight.
With this segment added to my flights to Cape Town, I add 2 airlines to my flight list for this year:
I also am adding two planes to my list of flown aircraft
The trip back still has yet to be booked, but that should be taken care of fairly soon.
As you can see, a great trip is book ended by great flights. Miles and points have made it very possible for my to make a flight to Cape Town that would have cost me over $18,000, and I spent less than $600. Really I count myself pretty lucky to be able to do this.