Using Miles to Get Myles Home: Tips on Lap Infant Award Tickets

I haven’t written a post in FOREVER here, but I think this last trip calls for it. Long story short, some medical issues during our Philippines trip forced us to cancel and rebook our flight home within a day’s notice and I’m glad that my stockpile of miles could alleviate some of the stress of the whole situation.

I know that Cathay Pacific is great about releasing premium cabin award space in the last 2 weeks leading up to a flight so that was my primary target in my search. I’ve booked these awards several times in the past and this time was no different.

Using the British Airways website, I found 2 first class seats available for Joann, Myles (as a lap infant) and me. Next step was to call AA and hope that the reservation agent could actually see and book these seats for us.

The agent I got was very good and confirmed that the first class award seats were available at 110,000 miles + very minimal taxes per adult. I asked him to get me a quote on the lap infant fare for Myles. It’s a different policy for every airline but AA charges 10% of the adult fare. Do some googling to find out which airlines charge more or less than others. To me, 10% is reasonable on a coach fare but when you’re talking about a first class tickets upwards of $18,000 one-way, it can be pricey. Sadly, he came back with the fares and they were as expected – $1,800 for Myles, about 10% of the first class ticket I just mentioned.

Price for 1 First Class ticket from HKG to JFK

Price for 1 First Class ticket from HKG to JFK

However, since I read on FlyerTalk that not all agents know how to request lap infant fees correctly, I decided to just have the agent book the tickets for Joann and me and then HUCA (Hang Up Call Again). The following morning, I called back AA to request a quote for adding Myles as a lap infant. After a long hold, the agent came back with an all-in fee of $283! I don’t know how she got that number but I really didn’t care! Trying to contain my excitement, I told her I was ready to book his ticket, credit card in hand.

Pro Tip: If you have time before your flight, practice the HUCA method to try and get a more favorable quote for lap infant taxes & fees. You never know; you might hit the jackpot like we did!

After finalizing everything with the agent, I took to Twitter to direct message Cathay Pacific. I gave them my confirmation number, asking them to ensure that everything was ticketed properly, specifically Myles’ ticket. They said everything was good to go and I was ecstatic to have saved so much on his lap infant fees.

Pro Tip: Most hotels & airlines nowadays have great social media support. There’s no waiting on hold or emailing and waiting days for a response. They often get back to you within hours so give it a try.

Needless to say, we were happy to make it home (very very comfortably might I add) and Myles enjoyed his first international First Class flight. Can you tell from the pics?

Myles enjoying his seat

Myles enjoying his seat

He was really into that orchid

The only way to fly

The only way to fly

Enough room for 2!

Enough room for 2!

 Breakfast for 2

Breakfast for 2

Trip Report: Korean Air 747-8i First Class ICN-JFK

ICN (Seoul Incheon) – JFK (New York)
KE 85
06/05/2016
Boeing 747-8i
First Class

Seats 1A, 1J

Well this flight was a full-on treat. We haven’t been in long haul First Class in a few years so it was great to be able to experience 2 of them during this trip. This Korean Air flight easily out shined the Japan Airlines flight we took to Japan. I can easily say that this was one of the best flights we’ve ever taken.

Boarding

We arrived a few minutes after scheduled boarding time of 7:00p. They were only pre-boarding those who needed assistance, but the queue in every line was already extensive. We showed our First boarding passes to the attendant and he escorted us to the front of the premium line.

After a few minutes, an announcement was made & all the gate attendants bowed in unison. Our boarding passes were scanned and we were off to the First & Business Class jet bridge. The chief purser (who would introduce himself later) had us escorted to our suites – 1A & 1J, right in the nose of this still-fresh 747.

Cabin

The First Class cabin was beautiful. Clean whites, mellow creams, and then of course the signature Korean Air Celadon Green seats. The overhead lighting was set to bright white & blue for boarding, something that would change during the stages of the flight.

The cabin was very spacious with only 6 First Class suites. Like other 747 First Class cabins, the rear of the cabin was used for staging drinks & snacks for passengers, of which there were only 3 on this flight. Up front where we were, the cabin narrowed to the contours of the nose of the plane; so much so that the space between 1A & 1J, only one person could fit.

Korean Air First Class

Settling In

As we got to our seats, the flight attendant was quick to offer to stow our bags in a closet at the very front of the cabin. She then asked if we’d like anything to drink which was quickly answered with “Champagne!”

She came back shortly with Bose noise cancelling headphones, an amenity kit (advertising the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang), and facial mist. After that, she offered Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2004 & macadamia nuts.
2016-06-05 19.14.13

2016-06-05 19.17.37

Korean Air First Class

Korean Air First Class

She came back again and asked what size “comfortable clothes” (pajamas) I’d like. I don’t wear them on planes because I get way too hot but I’ll certainly take them home as a souvenir. Slippers & menus were already at the seat so I put my shoes away & perused the menu for the flight while she returned with the Gianfranco Ferre pajamas.

Korean Air First Class

The Seat/Suite

First impression of the suite was that it was great. Reminiscent of Cathay Pacific First Class with 4 windows-worth of space and a wide seating area, it is designed slightly better with a wider footwell and a bigger screen above that. There’s even a little lamp about head-level behind you, which reminded me of Swiss First Class.

Korean Air First Class

Korean Air First Class

There’s plenty of small storage to your side; max capacity is probably the size of my Tom Bihn medium cafe bag.

The seat itself was very comfortable; maybe it’s because the plane is fairly new & the cushions aren’t worn in yet.

Because this is technically a suite, there were, of course, doors that made you feel quite secluded. Since I was traveling with my wife, we only used them when sleeping. They’re easily deployed via a release button on the top of the door.

Korean Air First Class

Speaking of sleeping, the completely flat bed is quite comfortable. The flight attendant only added a thin foam mattress pad, but that seemed to be enough because it felt more pleasant than the last Airbnb we stayed at in Tokyo. It was definitely more comfortable than Japan Airlines’ air weave foam mattress pad. The duvet is substantial yet soft, but it was too hot for me (any duvet on a plane will be).

Korean Air First Class

The best thing about the suite, BY FAR, was air vent on the side of the suite. I hate that premium cabins don’t have dedicated air vents because I get hot VERY easily. It might be stupid to some but the existence of this vent ensured I had a pleasant flight and, most importantly, an agreeable sleep.

Korean Air First Class

Overall

Korean Air must have one of best First Class offerings on the market right now with this new Kosmos Suite 2.0. The cabin is well designed and the suite is private enough if you want it to be. The seat is comfortable & the service was amazing, both personable & attentive. The only shortcoming was probably the food, which I’ll get to in another post. I really just wanted to write about the rest of the flight which we loved. It was certainly worth the 80,000 miles per person we redeemed (more on that in another post, too).

British Airways Avios Devaluation

The biggest news going around the travel blogosphere lately is one we’re sadly all too familiar with… devaluation. British Airways announced some pricey changes to their loyalty program that will take effect April 28, 2015. The last time they changed their loyalty program was over 3 years ago so I suppose they’re due.

Earning Avios

There are changes to earning rates that, honestly, don’t concern me because I don’t ever fly or credit my miles to British Airways. You can read about them here.

Redeeming Avios

The changes that I care about most are the ones for redeeming Avios. Luckily, economy awards aren’t changing, but Avios amounts for premium cabin awards are definitely changing. Below is the new award chart for British Airways & Iberia metal.

New British Airways Award Chart

New British Airways Award Chart

Below is the peak calendar for 2015. Not bad if you fly BA/Iberia because most of the year is off-peak.

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

 

What if I use Avios to fly on partners instead of BA or Iberia?

Again, economy award rates won’t change. Premium Economy, Business and First class rates will definitely change.

Business Class redemptions will increase 50% on any route Zone 4 and beyond. This is unfortunate because there were some great sweet spot routes that fell in Zone 4. BOS-DUB & JFK-YVR are very popular.

Examples:

Boston to Dublin (Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Aer Lingus, probably one of the best deals with Avios. On & after April 28th, BOS-DUB will be 37.5k in Business.

New York to Vancouver Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific’s Fifth Freedom flight, another top redemption with Avios. This will be 37.5k in Business going forward as well.

New York to Hong Kong (Zone 8) is 70k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific. On April 28th, JFK-HKG will be 105k in Business.

What do I do now?

If you have a huge stockpile of Avios, it’s time to start thinking of redeeming the premium award you were saving for. Come April 28th, that award is only going to get more expensive. Devaluations are always good lessons for us; don’t hoard your miles & points!

As for me, I have less than 70k Avios in our household account so I won’t be employing any drastic measures. I also like to use Avios for their short-haul leverage; I flew to Montreal twice in 2014 for a mere 4,500 Avios each way. Since that award isn’t changing, I think I’ll keep some Avios handy for it.

Overall, this upcoming devaluation is bad news for those of us who like to redeem for premium travel. British Airways’ last devaluation made long-haul premium travel more expensive; this time around they might as well be unattainable.

Snowboarding in Whistler: Cathay Pacific First Class New York – Vancouver

TRIP INDEX

As is always the beginning with us and Cathay Pacific, the story starts out with us getting dropped off at Terminal 7 at JFK. Right away we went to the First & Business Class check-in desks around the corner from the Economy ones.

When the gate agent saw all our snowboard gear, she immediately asked if we were heading to Whistler. Why, of course!

After checking our 50+ pound bags (70 pound allowance for First Class), we walked toward the separate security checkpoint. Unlike last time we were at T7, it was open! I was relieved because I knew this meant passing through in about 5 minutes time and then more lounge time.

British Airways First Class Lounge

We actually didn’t take any photos this time because nothing much had changed. If you’d like to see pictures of the British Airways First Class Lounge, check out my RTW post.

The lounge was pretty packed. There were no empty lounger seats available so Joann and I grabbed a table by the bar and helped ourselves to some Veuve Clicquot champagne. A few glasses of that made up for the less than desirable seating.

Gate & Boarding

Soon enough, it was time to start heading to our gate for our 10:00 pm departure. Since we were only flying to Vancouver, I wanted to make sure we got on ASAP and maximized every minute possible in First Class. Hell, I’d take a ground delay as long as I could wait it out in the suite!

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RTW to Bali: United Airlines First Class Montreal – Newark

TRIP INDEX

After an amazing First Class flight on Swiss, we landed at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, Montreal.

IMG_3654

There was a United agent waiting for transiting passengers right out of the jet bridge. We were the first ones to her and she had only my boarding pass… not Joann’s. She instructed us to stop by a United-staffed desk as soon as possible. We weren’t too worried because we had a three hour layover.

We followed signs to immigration and it was our first time using our NEXUS memberships. We had gotten these about a year prior to the trip because the fee is reimbursed if you have an American Express Platinum Card.

NEXUS/Global Entry is AWESOME! Press one button on the screen and then look into the iris scanner. Good to go! It printed out a card with all our flight information on it already for each of us to present upon exit. It sure beat waiting in line for a few hours by the looks of the crowd.

We just walked all the way past baggage claim since our bags were checked all the way through to Newark and handed our NEXUS receipts to the customs agent. From plane to exit in less than 10 minutes; most of that was walking.

NEXUS receipt

NEXUS receipt

Then, we made the trek across the terminal to the United check-in area because we had to see an agent to figure out Joann’s lack of boarding pass.

After quickly sorting that out and catching a breath of fresh Montreal air, Joann and I walked towards security. The line wasn’t bad so we didn’t think anything of it but DAMN, was this SLOW! We were averaging one person through the backscatter machine per minute or so. It was really painful. And here I thought US security checkpoints were bad!

Since there is no United Club at YUL, there was nothing for us to do but grab a snack and sit at the gate. It was kind of disappointing to not be in a lounge before our last flight of this amazing trip, but hey, it happens.

YUL (Montreal) – EWR (Newark)
UA3558
3 SEP 2012
Canadair CRJ-700
First Class

Seats 1D, 1F

We took our seats on this little CRJ-700, operated by a rather surly, obviously NJ/NY-based, ExpressJet pair of FAs. After we were seated and the rest of the plane was boarding, a few passengers had to have their bags gate checked. Some resisted, as usual, and the lead FA was not having that at all. What an attitude… ahh regional carriers, gotta love ’em!

Sad to be going home

Sad to be going home

The flight was smooth and quick, just enough time to serve us some drinks. We landed at Terminal A in Newark Airport (where all the United Express flights arrive/depart) and proceeded to wait for our bags at baggage claim, now having realized that our whirlwind journey was over.

How bittersweet! Stay tuned for the last installation of this Trip Report where I wrap up this RTW trip and fill you in on how you can do the same!