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Day 221: Flying to Bishkek in Business Class for Economy Prices

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Day 221: Bored? Take a flight using miles... read more at the bottom of the post!

Day 221: Bored? Take a flight using miles... read more at the bottom of the post!

As most of you know by now, I’m heading back to Kyrgyzstan for a month at the end of October for some Bishkek-related fun, Russian language study and food adventures.

What you may not know is that I’m flying all the way there, to the middle of nowhere, from Sydney, in business class!

You also may not know that I’m stopping for 4 days in Istanbul on the way there and 1.5 days in Bangkok on the way back.

And guess what…

This all cost me a total of $1543 round-trip. In business class!

Just to put this value into perspective, I did a random search on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Bishkek (return) in business class, and it returned a price tag of $2,200 for the one leg! This one little leg cost me more than my entire routing.

How did I do it?

Being a member of the Travel Hacking Cartel, I get notifications of new mileage program deals as they come along. One day back in June, I got an email notifying me of a mileage deal for US Airways where you would get double miles for any miles purchased (up to 50,000 free) until the end of the month. I started thinking…

First off, it was around this time that I was doing random searches for budget flights from Sydney to Bishkek. I found a fare on some random China Southern airline, with 3 stopovers in *really* random parts of China, in economy class, for around $1200. That was my base price for consideration.

When I initially saw the double miles deal pop up, I immediately thought that I wouldn’t really fly on US Airways; when I read that the miles could be used to book flights on any Star Alliance routes, my interest piqued. I started researching how I could use the miles to take me to far-flung places around the world.

It must be some crazy fluke, but according to the US Airways alliance mileage chart, the amount of miles needed to get from Australia to Kyrgyzstan (in the middle of freaking nowhere) in business class is only 90,000, a number less than a simple award flight to Europe. Yes, they count Kyrgyzstan as being in North Asia, but the funny part is that the only airline in the alliance that gets you TO this North Asian country is Turkish Airlines. In other words, there is a mandatory routing into Turkey (uhm… Europe)!

So, with only 2,000 miles in the US Airways account, I purchased 44,000 miles for $1300 (after tax), which resulted in 44,000 bonus miles in my account. Grand total = 90,000 miles.

bishkek mountains

Normally, I wouldn’t even consider buying miles as I feel they are often expensive. However, this first go has taught me a few valuable lessons: double miles are totally worth it, using miles to get to far-flung places is a great idea, and business or first class tickets will give you the most value for your money.

How I Booked My Ticket

When you have miles with a certain mileage program, you must call their reservations office to make the booking for Star Alliance routes, even if you aren’t actually flying on that specific airline to begin with. Since my miles were with US Airways, I had to phone them in the USA to start the long and arduous journey of booking my ticket to my unknown land. Sure, it only took me two phone calls and about 4 hours of my time, but we got it done.

Tips: Know the airport code of the destination. It helped when I said I wanted to go to Bishkek, which was unknown and unpronounceable to the woman on the other end. Also, ask about possible stopovers at the beginning. If I hadn’t requested stopovers, they would have just flown me on 4 flights direct to Bishkek. Make it clear that you have time to stay in a place there and/or back. It helps you to get more bang for your buck!

My Ticket and Grand Total

The routing to Kyrgyzstan from Australia is quite spastic, which is another reason why I’m happy to be flying business class. I’ll be on planes A LOT, especially since I have to go to SEA and then on to Europe before landing in Central Asia. But, hey, that’s fine with me. I’ll get some reading and writing done while in transit.

  • Sydney to Bangkok: October 25th, Thai Airways
  • Bangkok to Frankfurt: October 25th, Thai Airways
  • Frankfurt to Istanbul: October 26th, Lufthansa
  • Istanbul to Bishkek: October 30th, Turkish Airlines
  • Bishkek to Istanbul: November 26th, Turkish Airlines
  • Istanbul to Bangkok: November 26th, Turkish Airlines
  • Bangkok to Sydney: November 28th, Thai Airways

Total Cost: 90,000 miles ($1300) + additional fees ($243) = $1543

How You Can Do the Same

Did you know that you can do the same, or at least something similar right now?! While hanging out (and bored – see daily photo) at the library last night, I received an email from the Travel Hacking Cartel that said US Airways was at it again! Boredom solved!

Instead of offering exact mile matching, they are giving away 10,000 bonus miles for every increment of 10,000 miles you purchase. So, if you purchase 40,000 to 49,000 miles, you get 40,000 bonus miles.

To take advantage of the offer, you must be an active Dividend Miles account holder for 12 days. Lucky you, you have plenty of time to make a new account (it’s free) and have it active for 12 days before the September 15th deal closing date! Yay!

Figure out a far-flung destination you’d like to travel to and see where that fits in the mileage map. Once convinced, purchase your miles and call to make your bookings. Easy!

Note: Bookings are limited to the available award seats on the flights. Being flexible with dates, or booking well in advance, will help you with the process.

This deal is apparently available worldwide (not just for US accounts), so I made Pat sign up for an account last night. Who knows; we might be purchasing more miles in a couple of weeks… and that means more plane tickets!

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19 Responses to Day 221: Flying to Bishkek in Business Class for Economy Prices

  1. Adventurous Kate August 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Brooke, you’re a genius! I already have 40k US Airway miles…and it NEVER crossed my mind that I could use them anywhere but the US! 100k would get me from Europe to NZ…hmmm…

    • Brooke August 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

      Well, thanks! 😀 I think it works best if you fly somewhere business class, or if you choose some really random location in South Pacific like PNG or Fiji. That might also have a stopover in Oz or NZ on the way! Just something to consider 🙂

  2. Lisa August 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Brilliant! You’ve really done some work to make this happen. I’m impressed! Wondering if this is safe to do for peak travel periods? I’m hoping to get to the US for Christmas and already have some US Airways miles…..

    • Brooke August 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      I believe the mileage is the same, but there is a blackout date list to keep in mind: http://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/programdetails/blackoutdates.html Also, award seats might fill out quicker at that time of the year. My suggestion: call the reservation team and ask if there is availability, then buy the miles and book 🙂

      • Lisa August 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

        I’m getting really excited about this. Just calculated all of the costs, etc. and am going to call tonight. You are seriously good at this thrifty travel thing 🙂

        • Brooke August 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

          How did that work out for you?

          • Lisa August 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

            Waiting for the 12 days to elapse. I was a member, but Sam wasn’t. Fingers crossed there are seats available on SOMETHING in a week.

  3. Alouse August 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Wow that seems like a pretty great deal, considering you get to stop for a few days in Istanbul and Bangkok. I got an email about the double miles from United, but didn’t really consider it seriously until now. I might have to look into it/

  4. Salih August 11, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    Why u not try bkk-ist direct with turkish airlines?

    • Brooke August 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      It’s an award ticket so I was stuck with trying to find available seats on certain flights.

      • Salih August 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

        you could try SIN, SHA, BJS instead of BKK…

        • Brooke August 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

          Ticket has already been booked as listed above, but I’ll keep those in mind for next time.

  5. Megan August 12, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    OMG you are an airfare superstar. So going to try and hack my next airfare!

  6. Bethany August 14, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    That is awesome Brooke! Good for you! I really need to join this cartel. I’ve been thinking about it for a while but you make it seem totally worth it. I haven’t been lucky on stop overs ever but you have 2 awesome ones lined up!

  7. Michael March 16, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    What a great score Brooke! Can’t believe that you managed to use the points for affiliate airlines too. Keen to hear what you think of their business class.

  8. Jin May 11, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Just saw this. THANK YOU!

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