Asia 2012 Trip Report: Introduction

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 7: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 8: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Bangkok to Singapore

Part 9: Exploring Singapore

Part 10: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Mumbai

Part 11: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Mumbai to Singapore

Part 12: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Hanoi

Part 13: Hanoi / Ha Long Bay

Part 14: Qatar Airways Economy Class, Hanoi to Bangkok

Part 15: Bangkok / Park Plaza Soi 18

Part 16: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Bangkok to Hong Kong

Part 17: A weekend in Hong Kong

Part 18: Thai Airways/United First Class Lounges at HKG, Thai Airways First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 19: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok

Part 20: Thai Airways Royal First Class 77W Suites, Bangkok to Frankfurt

Part 21: Lufthansa European Business Class, Frankfurt to London (plus a day in London)

Part 22: Star Alliance Lounge at LHR, BMI Great British Lounge

Part 23: United Global “First” Class, London to Los Angeles

Part 24: How I Booked This


A cousin of mine was getting married in India. I hadn’t seen most of my family there in over 3 years.

Also, my sister wanted to visit Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam.

Next, relatives of mine in Hong Kong had given me an open invitation to visit a city I’ve been wanting to see for a long time.

Lastly, I am a victim of wanderlust, so tacking on as many places as possible for a minimal addition of airport taxes was necessary.


One of my favorite parts of flying to India from the western United States is the sheer number of routing possibilities, through either Asia or Europe. Growing up, I flew several of these routes, through cities like London, Frankfurt, Seoul, and Tokyo, all on a smorgasbord of airlines, aircraft, and alliances. Lax stopover rules allowed me to see much of the world en-route to the (grand)motherland.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the majority of these trips were funded with miles and points, many courtesy of my parents’ American Airlines Citibank Business Mastercard. However, since we were often 3 or 4 traveling at a time, all these trips were in the back of the bus. Boarding meant having to walk past the posh interiors of business class, as the curtains to the first class cabin were already rung up by the time I was lucky enough to board such marvelous jumbo jets.

No worries back then, as just being on a plane was joyful enough — I could always bug my parents to let me have the window seat, and so spent many hours of my childhood peering out above the clouds (an activity I still enjoy to this date). Not only that, but flying 40 hours in economy round-trip on airlines like Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific was actually a delight back then.

But on my last trip to India, I spent a rather dreadful 36 hours crammed into a small Delta Economy Discomfort seat from Atlanta to Mumbai, the world’s longest economy class route at the time, clocking in at 18 hours one-way. While I had my usual window seat, the flight took off at midnight in Mumbai and landed at 6am in ATL, before the winter sunrise, negating any views. Not only that, but Delta ran out of meals. Seriously.

Upon arrival, I left the airport and went directly to class, still in a daze, the usual post-flight high no longer apparent as it was when I was younger. That trip was the impetus to figure out how to leverage my miles and status that I had earned but not yet burned.

I played the US Airways Grand Slam promotion last year and racked up 184,000 miles for under $700 through some very very meticulous planning. It ran from September to November and was a really fun thing to do! The idea was to do “activities” with mileage-earning partners of US Airways. That meant ordering anything from SkyMall (including a $4 portable stain remover), doing your normal online shopping through US Airways’ shopping portal, renting cars, etc. Probably the weirdest thing I did was find a cheap Hertz Local Edition rate for a one-day rental for under $16. On 6 separate days, I rented a car for 5 minutes and returned it (without even seeing the car). I did it 6 times, spending under $100, but earned 30,000 miles just from those 6 rentals. I hope it returns in 2012, and I will definitely be posting about my strategies for that.

US Airways charges 120,000 miles round-trip from the United States to North Asia for First Class. They allow routings via Europe.

They also charge 30,000 miles round-trip for Business Class within the South/Southeast Asia region, as far west as India, as far east as the Philippines.

Lastly, Emirates flies an A380 between Hong Kong and Bangkok, with their stellar Business and First Class products. Because this route has heavy competition, the prices for Business and First Class are actually very reasonable for what you get for a 3-hour one-way flight. It’s shorter than Los Angeles to Dallas, but the feel is long-haul … First Class gets a suite with closing doors and access to the “shower spa,” while both Business and First can go to the onboard bar at the back of the upper deck. Considering that a longer flight in First goes for tens of thousands of dollars, I figured this was a great way to experience Emirates First Class.

So in the end, I had an itinerary that looked like this, with the red flights achieved with the 120K US Airways award, blue flights with the 30K intra-South Asia US Airways award, and the 3 green flights bought with cash:

Los Angeles-San Francisco-Frankfurt-Zurich-Hong Kong-Bangkok-Singapore-Mumbai (with an overnight at Bangkok)



Bangkok-Hong Kong

Hong Kong-Bangkok-Frankfurt-London-Los Angeles (with an overnight at each connecting city)

In the end, with the promotion and cash tickets, I paid less than the price for a round-trip coach ticket just to India. This one’s a long one! Follow along …

  1. May 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    If you don’t mind, how many miles did this cost roughly? Thanks!

    • Amol
      May 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      @ James Merrill – I booked Los Angeles to Hong Kong round-trip in First for 120K US Airways miles. You can route North America to North Asia via Europe, and even make a stopover in Europe (which I didn’t do because of lack of time). Bangkok to Mumbai to Hanoi open-jaw was 30K US Airways miles for business class (intra South Asia). You can’t have a stopover for awards within 1 region but you can have an open-jaw.

      I paid cash for Hong Kong to Bangkok round-trip on Emirates, and Hanoi to Bangkok on Qatar. HKG-BKK has several ways of redeeming miles, one of which is BA Avios for Cathay Pacific for 7500 Avios each way. I would have gone that route, but I paid cash for Emirates First Class since I really wanted to try out their unique A380.

  2. May 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks. When I showed my wife the Emirates part of the trip she didn’t believe me at first that it was a commercial airline as all we have ever flown is domestic first.

    • Amol
      May 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Yeah, it’s crazy, probably the coolest premium class I’ve ever flown. First is great, though even Business Class on their A380 is great since you get access to the lounge/bar at the back. If I was going with friends, I’d definitely choose Biz over First.

  3. Mohan phansalkar
    December 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Amol, enjoyed your trip report. Mohan Phansalkar

  4. Shannon
    January 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    can you give an idea how much it would cost for the F class from HKG to BKK by Emirate?

    • Amol
      January 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Fares are dynamic, but you could find it one way for $700 or round trip for $1050 US.

  5. January 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Greatly informative and entertaining! A good job, Amol!
    Sulabha Natraj

  1. October 22, 2012 at 4:04 am

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