As mentioned before, we all initally booked our air through Viking. I’ve never used cruiseline air as I usually like to have more control over timing of flights and more importantly because Mike and I hoard our frequent flyer and credit card points for long haul travel so we can fly in business. But because we booked the cruise more than 335 days ahead of our departure, we weren’t sure we would be able to get award flights so we included Viking air. It was cancelable (is that a word) up until Viking booked the ticket which they said would be 90 days or so before our cruise.
We had used most of my Delta points for Mike’s birthday Italian adventure (you can see it in the blog archives – April 2013). But Mike had a bunch of Delta points and I had plenty from USAirways/American. Prior to the award window opening I began to explore routing options.
Since we live in the 3rd or 4th largest city in the US, I really wanted to fly nonstop from Houston to Munich and from Budapest back home at the end of the trip. Unfortunately no airline flies either of those routes year round and so that wasn’t an option. Of course given the limitations of using our OneWorld and Skyteam Alliance points it would not have worked out anyway. After lots of research our choices boiled down to Air France (using Delta points) and British Airways, Iberia, or Air Berlin (using AA points). For some reason, both Delta and AA don’t put their saver level awards on the nonstop flights from the US to Europe.
British Airways and Heathrow charge a hefty fee/tax/surcharge even when using points so Air France was the cheapest option (insert Mike saying “croissant? Croissant?”) but we didn’t have enough Delta points to go round trip. So that meant one leg needed needed to be on American or one of its partners. After looking at AirBerlin and Iberia both of which would require at least one connection in Europe and one connection in the US, we decided to bite the bullet and pay the surcharge and fly (for the first time) British Airways.
After researching flight times and overall costs (for some reason the surcharge is lower flying FROM London rather than TO London). We booked Air France biz class from Houston to Paris and then on to Munich. Our cost was 62,500 points each plus 5.20 in taxes. If we had of purchased the tickets they would have been around $7,800 each. We are supposed to have their new(ish) lie flat seats which they call BEST but given our previous experience with last minute equipment changes, we are prepared to not be too disappointed if we end up in angled flat seats. But hopefully when we board next Wednesday afternoon we will see this:
For the return we leave Budapest at 7:55 am and are scheduled to land around 6:30 pm which sounds like a long day especially when you factor in the time difference. We had originally booked British Air business class for 50,000 points and $300 of taxes each but after reading reviews on FlyerTalk of how crowded Beitish Air’s biz cabin is (they put eight across seating on the 777) …first world problem huh? We decided to splurge and spend an additional 12,500 points and the same taxes and go in First. The cost for these tickets would have been about $12,500 each. While some say BA’s first is the best business class in the world, as our FirstFirst I am sure we will think it’s wonderful. Here is a picture of our expected seat:
Those of you in the know may be saying, “but Clay I thought you said you were on a 777 and that is clearly a new 787-900”. That’s right! finally an equipment change has worked in our favor (presuming they don’t change it again) and we get to have a triple First! In case you can’t tell I’m excited! The 787 is Boeing’s newest plane – lots of carbon fiber, bigger Windows (including in the toilet!), mood lightinf, etc. The other interesting thing is that rather than having to share “our cabin” with 10 other folks, there will only be six others joining us-probably as close to a private jet as I am ever going to get!
One of the other perks of BA First is that we get to use the Concorde Room in London and since we have over 5 hours there, we intend to make the most of it! Earlier this week I got confirmation from the Concierge that our complimentary massages are booked and we have one of the three private cabanas booked. These are private rooms with an ensuite bath and shower. We figure since we have an early flight we will just get up and fly and then shower in our cabana while drinking vintage champagne before we board the 10 hour flight back to Houston.
So in conclusion, sorry I ran on so long, I continue to believe that spending airline points on short haul domestic flights is not the best value…there is no way this frugal traveler would ever spend $20,000 to fly round trip but I’ll gladly fork over points to be comfortable for these long flights. Hopefully I won’t be disappointed in that decision!