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Thrifty Thursday: Flying Business Class to the Middle of Nowhere for $1500

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fancy biz class dinner

Meals are fancy in business class.

They say that once you fly business class, you can’t go back.

Or… wait…

Well, it’s sort of true. I’ve finally, after all my years of traveling in cattle class — squished up against loud sleepers, odd Danish hand doctors, and passengers who ever so kindly steal my armrest — had a taste of the good life.

It’s a magic travel land of relaxation where you’re gifted an overflowing chalice of wine, lay-flat beds and 4 course meals. I didn’t even know you could feel so comfortable on a long-distance flight until my last flight from Sydney to Istanbul – Bishkek – Bangkok.

Guess what: I’ve done it again.

Only this time, I’ve booked the routing with Patrick, so I’ll be able to share this glorious mode of transport with another — mostly as a way to say, “See, I told you it was awesome!” but also because it will be so much fun for some thrifty travelers like ourselves.

>> We’re using these flights as part of our big 2012 trip.

While some people might spend $4k for a round-trip business class flight from Sydney to Bangkok ALONE, we got these lovely tickets for a grand total of… wait for it

$1511.62!

map travels 2012

We're flying business class on the long blue line.

That flight takes us, in business class, from:

  • Sydney – Bangkok
  • Bangkok – Istanbul (stopover)
  • Istanbul – Bishkek (destination)
  • Bishkek – Istanbul
  • Istanbul – Bangkok (overnight layover)
  • Bangkok – Sydney

For less money than we spent in cattle class going to the USA in June.

Unbelievable, right? Here’s how we did it:

Double Miles is the most popular term coming from my mouth these days

Frequent flyer programs have been a target of random attention from myself since my first trip overseas — the time where I knew I had to travel more. In college, a classmate of mine said her parents bought her plane ticket for study abroad in Italy on miles, and of course, I was intrigued. Ever since my first credit card, images and ideas of getting free travel using these elusive miles danced in my head — but the fact is simply that accumulating said miles can be difficult.

cheap soda

As if shopping in America isn't already cheap enough?!

My drive, however, at wanting to game the system and get some free or highly discounted travel came after being back in America and watching an addictive TV show called “Extreme Couponing”. It was this show that actually made me want to move back to America right then and there to be able to grocery shop for free (coupons aren’t popular in Australia).

I started thinking about miles again, which are sort of like coupons. Instead of dumpster diving and talking friends into giving me newspaper coupons, I had to think of ways to creatively accumulate the miles… but who has the time for that?!

Then it hit me: double miles.

I saw a deal for double miles from US Airways and started doing my research. Yes, I could buy miles (something I had never considered before) and get twice as much FREE, making those miles half as expensive. Cool.

What makes this better is the fact that US Airways is part of Star Alliance, meaning you can then use your US Airways miles to book flights on any airline on the alliance. Awesome.

The last step was to research how many miles it would take to get to different parts of the world, which is when I discovered a small blip that caught my eye. Kyrgyzstan was considered part of North Asia, and to get from the South Pacific to North Asia, in business class, only cost 90,000 miles! Fantastic.

I was able to book my flights to Bishkek in October with the first round of double miles I bought, and when I saw that US Airways was doing double miles again, I talked Pat into buying them as well in order to use on our flights this spring.

It was an exciting time when I went to call US Airways in December to make the booking for both of us, but US Airways had something else in mind…

This is where I recount the details of the few hours of stress involved with booking the tickets

“No flights are coming up on Turkish Air into Istanbul or Bishkek,” she said, unaware of the extreme disappointment and mental chaos this was about to cause for me and my plans.

“Ok, so how else can I get to Kyrgyzstan?”

I fumble around on the Star Alliance website, searching for the Bishkek airport and trying to see if any other airlines besides Turkish are now flying in and out of the country. To my surprise, BMI was now flying into Bishkek as well! I announced the find to the phone rep, and she started plugging in possibilities. Unfortunately, the only routing on BMI was through London, meaning I would have to fly from Sydney to London before going into Kyrgyzstan.

At least it’s possible, I tell myself, but I couldn’t make the call at that minute because I knew that Pat also had his heart set on going to Turkey. I told the woman I would have to call back.

My mind started racing when we hung up. I started to get worried. What if all the award flights book up? April is a very popular time to travel, and would Easter play a part in the decision? I ran the new plans past Pat and decided that we should just go for it as London would be better than nothing!

Here is where a surprise event took place

I call back and speak to another rep and tell her the story, but when she looks in the system, she sees plenty of flights into Istanbul and Bishkek. We’re going to Turkey!

We spend a very long time going through flights and picking the ones that would work on my routing until I’m pleased, at which point she sends the tickets off to be priced. Credit card in hand, I wait patiently on hold to finalize the details.

The woman comes back on the line. “The system says this is an invalid routing. We cannot book it.”

Oh my effing goodness, really? I go into panic mode again. “How else am I supposed to get to Kyrgyzstan? I just did this routing a couple of months ago. Here’s my ticket reference number. Can we get someone else to evaluate the ticket?”

I wait on hold for an hour.

Relief came over me when I finally heard back

“We had to do a manual override on the system. Please consider this a one-time courtesy.”

Wooooo!

I paid the $181.31 in taxes and booking fees per ticket, took down my flight details and ended the call in absolute elation.

Pat, we’re going to Kyrgyzstan!

I’m going to take the time to give some additional details

For the second round of double miles, we had to purchase 50,000 miles, getting 50,000 free, in order to have the 90,000 miles for the ticket. We each still have 10,000 miles in our US Airways accounts, making the cost of the 90,000 miles just 1330.31. Booking and taxes cost just $181.31, for a total cost of $1511.62.

I would keep a close eye on US Airways as they just did the double miles promo again in December! I was tempted to buy more miles, but Pat somehow managed to talk me out of it. Psh. Right now, they are offering a 50% discount on mileage purchases if you own the US Airways credit card.

The unfortunate part of this is that I believe they just also raised the price of their miles. You will not be able to do my route for as cheap, but it would still be a bargain.

Also, I recommend calling ahead and confirming you can book the routing before buying the miles since I had trouble this time around.

Have you ever used miles to get a great airfare deal?

Thrifty Thursday is seeking guest bloggers to share their very own mind-blowing budget-busting travel tips. DIY tours and gear, extreme savings, how-to-have-a-$25-travel-day posts — anything that shows the numbers and is not your standard “don’t eat out” type tips are welcome. Contact Brooke.

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13 Responses to Thrifty Thursday: Flying Business Class to the Middle of Nowhere for $1500

  1. DanielW February 3, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Yep i’m a total airmiles hound too. Here in the UK they have changed it from Airmiles to Avios but it’s the same kinda reward program. I collect most of mine via a credit card but also through online shopping, my mobile phone and fuel purchases.

    I have had two free return flights to Prague, free car hire in Crete and one free return flight to Kiev thus far. I’v still got enough for two more return flights to Kiev leaving a bit left over. I’v flown with Ukraine International Airlines quite a few times and have enough “panorama” points for a business upgrade too, im going to hold back until I have enough for a free flight.

    As they say, you gotta be in it to win it.

    • Brooke February 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      That’s awesome! I’ve pretty much held out for flights — I have a few accounts with a fair bit of miles — but maybe I should think about the car rentals and such, too.

  2. Jeremy Branham February 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I’ve never been to any of these places. However, on my first ever trip overseas, I met a group going to Kyrgyzstan.

    • Brooke February 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      It’s a cool place 🙂 Follow along, I’ll be there again in a few months!

  3. Christine February 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Ahhhh how i love business class! My dad treated my mom and I once to business class to Paris, and it was BLISS. When I backpacked through Europe after graduating college, I used my Air France points (all duly built up over years of studying and visiting France) to buy my ticket–and with the Star Alliance, it was just a few more points to fly business class on KLM and go via Amsterdam. YES PLEASE. Had to fly coach home, but either way–such a luxurious way to kick off my first big solo trip! Still have brilliant memories of kicking off the trip with a glass of champagne 🙂

  4. Antoinette B. February 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    I looovee Business Class! I actually “accidently” ended up on Business Class on my flight from Istanbul back home to NYC. I think a huge family got all separated so they changed my seat last minute and that’s how I ended up there. It’s one thing to look forward to it, it’s like the best thing on earth when least expected! A glass of champagne waiting for me; I wanted to jump up and down the aisle! haha I’m really big on miles as well. Three years ago I flew to Brazil RT for only $300 and stayed with friends for free. I’m with AA and they’ve got a great airline miles team as well; the only unfortunate thing was that when I tried to book business for my flights to Australia and leave out of New Zealand, EVERY seat was already booked so that was pretty unfortunate for me :o(

    • Brooke February 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

      Yeah, there are only select seats available for miles — that’s what I was fearing on this round of bookings. Oh, business class… so amazing, and I love the champagne waiting!

  5. Cheryl Reynolds February 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I booked flights for this past Christmas with United Miles. SFO LHR MAN (husband’s family) MAN DUS EWR (my family) EWR SFO, 110k miles + 300 USD for two people for peak holiday flights. If you liked extreme couponing, you’ll love flyertalk.com.

    Cheryl
    Twitter.com/cgirl2wgirl
    CollegeGirlToWorkingGirl.blogspot.com

  6. Julie February 14, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    haha this sounds like me. I get OBSESSED with scanning websites for good ticket deals.

    • Brooke February 17, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      It’s like a game for me 🙂

  7. Kyle May 9, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    LOVE it. I used miles to buy a business class flight to Brazil in July. They were on sale 2×1 so it ended only costing me 10k kilometers more than it would’ve to fly in economy…ridiculously awesome!

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