Last week I was having lunch at my favorite little Thai restaurant and it reminded of an amazing trip I took earlier this year that all started there. I was having dinner about a year ago and while surfing travel forums on my phone I caught wind of a brewing travel phenomenon.
Online posters were finding premium cabin award travel on Singapore Airlines that was bookable using United Mileage Plus miles. The forums were lighting up with excitement. This was too much to pass up on so I had my half-eaten dinner boxed up and sped home to spend the night in front of the computer.
Singapore Airlines consistently ranks at the very top of the list in airline rankings. Unfortunately, because of their well-deserved reputation, it’s pretty much impossible to use miles to book a trip in business or first class unless you belong to their frequent flyer program. They are in the Star Alliance with United but generally only allow United members to book economy class tickets with miles. That’s why this discovery was so amazing. It appeared that a temporary technical glitch had opened up all of their inventory for the coming months.
As both a travel and aviation nut, I enjoy travel for the sake of travel in addition to the actual destination. Singapore had a number of things to entice me with these unprecedented mileage awards: world-class premium cabins, opportunities to fly on new aircraft, and a trip on the second-longest nonstop flight in the world.
Within a couple of hours, I had exchanged 130,000 United miles for a round trip ticket on Singapore that would otherwise have cost well in excess of $7,000. While those miles were earned with some long hours in less-than-glamorous travel, I would soon be sampling the high-life, both figuratively and literally! The itinerary had me going from Los Angeles to Singapore on its 18-hour nonstop flight in a specially-configured Airbus A340-500 that consisted entirely of business class seats and free-flowing champagne.
After Singapore, I had a flight to Tokyo for a few days and then a flight home on the Airbus A380, the largest plane in the world. Again, these flights would be in Singapore’s extraordinary business class that has the widest seats in the industry and fold into a full-flat bed for a good night’s sleep. Add in the amazing service and finely catered meals and the actual time spent in Singapore and Tokyo pale by comparison!
This was really an amazing experience, but one that did require quite a bit of research and planning. One of the things I’ve learned about travel opportunities is that they can come and go in just a few minutes. Sometimes I’ve searched for flights only to find the availability dry up when trying to book them just an hour later. In the case of these Singapore flights, I certainly wasn’t going to let that opportunity disappear.
When redeeming miles for flights, everyone has a different philosophy. I like to use my miles for trips that I would normally not be able to afford or would be unwilling to indulge in. Others might be happy to use fewer miles for economy class tickets but get to take more trips than if they redeemed them for first or business class tickets. No one can really tell you what the miles are worth – it’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself.