Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN
Just typing out the contents page for this trip report made me realise how momentous the next 40 or so days are going to be. Over this period, I’ll be flying 31,767 miles on 21 different flights and writing reports on 16 different hotels and 10 different airlines. The contents page got so long I had to group a few trip reports I feel might be repetitive (eg 3 domestic flights I’ll be taking in the States) or nothing to shout about (eg my intra-Europe J experiences with British Airways and Iberia). And yet the contents page alone still takes up more than one screen. This is gonna be fun.
Reviewing the routing
Due to various reasons and routing decisions that shaved more costs off the total trip price, the route map has changed a bit since I first wrote about the trip a few weeks ago. The flight plan currently looks like this
Planning a RTW trip is never easy because of the sheer number of moving parts, but I’m quite proud that I managed to keep everything within budget while actually decreasing the total cost compared to last year’s trip.
For example, I figured out that Qatar Airways was charging ridiculously high fares if your final destination was Doha. See in the example below- to get from Dar Es Salaam to Doha would cost US$2.6K. (in case you’re wondering why I had to buy this ticket separately when Qatar is part of Oneworld, it’s because I ran out of segments on my RTW ticket)
But when I put Dubai as my final destination (with a stopover in Doha), that price dropped to US$811!
I was thinking about just throwing away the DOH-DXB leg, but then realised that my flight from DOH-DXB was booked in first class. Apparently, Qatar calls business class on its intra-Middle East flights first class. And although the hard product onboard is still the regular business class product, you get to access the Qatar Airways First Class lounge in Doha!
So all I had was to buy a budget flight back from Dubai to Doha to continue my RTW ticket, and I’d still be coming out at ~US$1.7K less, while getting to review what should be a very great first class lounge. Plus, I’d rather spend my weekend in Dubai than Doha anyway. It’s finding out little money-saving-yet-experience-enhancing tricks like that which make travel hacking such a joy.
What’s different from last year?
Obviously, the biggest difference from last year’s RTW trip is that I’ll be doing OneWorld this year, giving me a chance to write about some new airline products.
The destinations are different too. I’ll also be spending about a week in Africa, in Ghana and Tanzania to be precise. I’ve technically been to Africa before (Morocco + South Africa) but given how diverse the region is, I think it’s safe to say my experiences in Ghana and Tanzania are going to be totally different.
In terms of hotels, I’m pretty much sticking to Starwood wherever we have good corporate rates with them, but I’m throwing in several Marriott brands as well, most noticeably the Courtyard madrid Princesa in Spain (as the Westin Palace is pricing out at a ridiculous 400 Euros a night)
and the Ritz Carlton Bengalore (where we have an amazing US$120 corporate rate)
The reason I’m ok with non-Starwood stays is I’ve already planned my route to 50 Starwood nights this year. I know that some time in 2018 the SPG and Marriott Rewards program will be merged into one, and I’m assuming they’ll combine both my SPG lifetime nights and my Marriott Rewards lifetime nights into 1 when counting my qualification towards lifetime status in the new program.
As a side note, I will hit SPG Lifetime Gold on this trip, as soon as I hit the 25 night mark (on 20 so far). I don’t think you get a fancy membership kit for Gold like you do with Platinum, but it’s still nice to know at the age of 29 that I don’t need to worry about requalifying for elite status the rest of my life. At least, assuming the combination of SPG and Marriott Rewards doesn’t mess all that up…
So that’s the game plan! I realise that the credit card world continues to churn (heh heh) with or without me, so I’ll be doing my utmost to keep the site up to date with the news in Singapore even when I’m on the road. I’m sure my trusty guestwriters will chip in too (ahem). Come on guys, stock options in it for you.