What does travel that’s entirely about the journey and nothing else look like? What would you plan if the entire purpose, the entire goal, was to experience the best that airlines, airports, and hotels have to offer all while laying out the minimum of value, and earning plenty of benefits in return? Well, if you’re willing to take my advice on the matter, I’ll be happy to tell you.
In a little over a week, I’m headed out with a friend or two for a whirlwind literal ‘trip around the world.’ I’ve done a similar flightpath before, and I’m excited to be able to do it again. This is a case where you anticipate the repetition, and aren’t the least bit tired of it.
It’s an intricate set of flights, months in the making, that tracks around the globe, moving ever westward until I return back to my home airport of Los Angeles. It’s a run through 6 flights, on five separate itineraries, three Oneworld airlines, and six airports. It takes roughly four days, and only requires one night in a hotel. In the end, it earns roughly 30,000 qualifying miles with American Airlines, and will finish out my Executive Platinum status for the qualifying year. By my calculations, I’ll cross the 100,000th mile someplace over the ocean northwest of Belfast, and South of Reykjavik, depending on the day’s flightplan.
The story of this trip begins months ago when Qatar Airways had essentially a two-for-one sale on already discounted business class tickets from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Philadelphia. This seems like an impossible routing when you’re starting in Los Angeles, but with this particular hobby, this is just par for the course. Since it was two for one, I was lucky to have a friend who was willing and able to go along. We picked up this part of the trip, and then set about finding the rest of the needed flights.
As it happens, a month or so later, American discounted (and continues to discount) their premium economy fares between the US west coast and many Asian destinations. This deal works for round trips, or as was needed here, one way tickets. I applied a further discount using the airline credit on my Amex Platinum card, and booked a ticket that got me as far as Hong Kong.
Soon after, while cruising around Expert Flyer and British Airways’ website, I caught sight of a partner award ticket on Malaysian Airways from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur in business class on their lie-flat a333 product. Some Membership Rewards points and a few dollars in taxes later, and I had my ticket to Malaysia. Now I was getting closer.
I’d been watching fares for the economy tickets between Kuala Lumpur and Colombo like a hawk, trying to decide whether to buy one or cash in a few more MR points, when the exact flight I needed dropped their business class tickets to economy prices for about 48 hours. Some fast thinking and wading through MYR to USD conversions later, and I was almost done!
Now, all that was left was to get home from Philly to LAX. Early on I managed to find a milesaaver first class ticket through Chicago, and booked it with my AA miles. It wasn’t all that many miles, but I’m running low after taking everyone around Europe this summer, and the ticket got me home at 11pm after a long weekend of flying. So, I had an option, but I kept an eye out. A few months later, I realized I had some more AA cash to spend through Amex, and there was a cheap one way fare on AA’s a332 widebody where I could pick a Premium Economy seat for no extra charge. Plus, it would get me home hours ahead of my mileage ticket. Sold! I cancelled my award ticket after booking for free, which is one of the best benefits of being Executive Platinum.
So, about five months after booking the first part of this trip, and less than two months before I start the journey, it’s all put together. The one hotel night is a repeat. I booked a cash and points award for just $55 and 3000 points at the stellar Le Meridien KL Sentral, which is one of my favorite travel hotels worldwide. It’s right on the train station that goes direct to the airport, has a great pool and common areas. Plus, due to it’s truly amazing lounge offerings, is famously one of the only hotels in the world where “you can eat and drink well in excess of your room rate for free.”
This trip is a redux of my first experience on Qatar Airways last year, which was a wonderful experience in many ways. Though many things are similar, there are still some new experiences that I’m excited to have and review. It will be my first time flying Malaysia Air’s business class, and I’ll be doing it twice- once on their a333, and once on a 737.
I’ll also have some more flights in AA’s Premium economy, unless the upgrades clear, of course. I have flown this product on some short flights domestically, and once to LHR, but haven’t done an trans-pacific route. After spending some time on long haul World Traveller Plus on BA, it will be a good comparison refresher.
Last, but certainly not least, while keeping an eye on my flight on Expert Flyer, I recently noticed that our flight from Colombo to Doha has had a seat map change that indicates that they’re flying a 777-300 that’s been upgraded to their new “Q-Suites” business class product! I’ve been hearing great things, and can’t wait to see it for myself.
We’ll only have this one flight to experience Q-Suites, since our connecting flight to Philadelphia is on their regular a350 cabin. However, that is nothing to complain about, as it only came into service a few years ago. Combined with Qatar’s stellar onboard service, there’s really not a bad option in their fleet. Plus, this is the airline that’s currently offering free nights at the Ritz Carlton Doha if you happen to have a long layover. We don’t on this trip, but I’ve enjoyed their hospitality before.
The planning done, I’m counting down the last days until departure. The flights aside, I’m also looking forward to traveling with friends I haven’t seen in months, and who I generally only see in airports since we live in different cities. We’re working out what to do on the layovers, what highlights to see in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, as well as what airport lounges are worth an extended stop. However, what happens between jetbridges is subject to change when unexpected adventures present themselves, as they always do. When the only goal is the journey, this is doubly so. I can’t wait to find out what this one has in store.
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