Tag Archives: miles

Garuda is offering 90% off redemptions. How do we make this work?

Garuda has announced a 90% off award redemptions sale for all routes, all cabin classes. This is real. This is happening. The interweb is going crazy.

The biggest upside of this promotion for us in Singapore is that it excludes the majority of US-based flyers because

(1) Garuda doesn’t fly to the USA

(2) You need to physically go down to a Garuda office to ticket an award booking, and there are only a few across the whole USA

(3) According to some comments on OMAAT, Gaurda’s US offices don’t take US issued credit card (I have no idea how that makes sense, but could not care less)

Take that, you MSing, card churning, better sign up offer having yanks!

I love you guys, really. 

But their misfortune is our gain. The clock is ticking, so let’s get down to brass tacks.

Step 1: Figure out if you can get Garuda Miles

This is a non-starter if you do not already have Garuda Miles, or Citibank Premiermiles/Thank You points. That is the only credit card I know of in Singapore that allows you to transfer to Garuda.

If you don’t have Citibank points, all is not lost. Garuda allows you to buy miles at US$30 per 1,000 miles. Is this a great rate? Not really. But given how few miles you need it can still work. The main issue here is it is unclear how long the miles will take to post. Garuda lets you book without any miles in your account but you must ticket within 1 week (see point 2). If the miles come in post 31 December then you just have a nice little stash of unusable currency.

Step 2: Plan your dates

You need to issue your tickets by 31 December 2016 for travel between 1 Feb 2017 and 31 May 2017.

You will need to physically go down to Garuda’s offices in United Square Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Which means that you only have next week to get this done (and need to transfer your Citibank points today if possible)

Unless you already have leave blocked or can block leave on short(ish) notice, you might be looking at taking a long weekend and going somewhere nearer like Japan.

There are 3 potential long weekends for you to do this

  • CNY (28-30 Jan)
  • Good Friday (14-16 Jan)
  • Labor (29 Apr-1 May)

Do note that if your plans change post 31 December 2016 and you wish to change dates, you will need to pay the full award price. Therefore it’s wise to freeze those dates right now.

Step 3: Plan your route

Image result for garuda indonesia first class

Image result for garuda indonesia first class

Garuda’s new First Class is amazing and everyone wants to try it. Unfortunately it only appears to be available on 3 routes serviced by 77Ws

  • DPS-NRT
  • CGK-SIN-AMS
  • CGK-SIN-LHR

Moreover, I cannot find any availability for DPS-NRT in F during the promotion period.  DPS-NRT in F is available for revenue bookings but not for awards so they might be blocking it.

This means that unless you can free up the time (and flexibility of travel dates) to pay Amsterdam or London a visit, you’re going to be looking at business (which is still a great deal at 90% off).

When booking Garuda business you want to be careful about what aircraft you’re flying.  Garuda has full flat 1-2-1 business class on its 777Ws

Image result for garuda 777 business class

And some of its A333s. I cannot confirm which routes have them.

Image result for garuda a330 business class

However, the rest of its A333s and all of its A332s only have the old, angled flat product in a 2-2-2 configuration. This one is probably not worth trying.

Image result for garuda a330 business class

I’m sure if you do a dummy booking online and fiddle with seat selection in business class, you should be able to see what type of A330 is servicing your route. In the interest of getting this article out asap I’ve not done that.

My experience booking with this promotion

I’ve gone and locked in a trip to Japan for the long labor day weekend, more to review the business class product than anything else. As much as my heart was set on trying the First Class product (because it’s supposed to give even SQ a run for its money), I just couldn’t find the space or make the timings work. I do hope some lucky reader is able to do this (and writes a detailed guest post trip report!)

I called up the Singapore call centre and after waiting about 5 minutes got through to an agent. She was very patient and knowledgeable as we went through various permutations of routes to see what worked. In the end I booked DPS-NRT-DPS, which requires me to position to Bali. SIN-DPS-NRT-DPS-SIN was available but required an overnight stay in Bali on the way back, which really didn’t work for me. Plus, the SIN-DPS leg left at 1655 on a Friday and I probably wouldn’t be able to make that work either.

The final damage was 12,600 miles(!) plus $134.50 in taxes for the round trip. I didn’t have the miles in my account yet but she was able to hold the award for 7 days. So now all I need to do is transfer over some of my Citi TY points.

I cannot tell you what ridiculous value that is, even if I’ll need to position myself to Bali (or I could redeem miles and fly SQ to DPS with $160 of surcharges…).

Is it safe?

I know it’s inevitable that people are going to be asking this question. And although it’s somewhat understandable, it’s also annoying in the sense that we do so many things on a day to day basis that have a higher inherent risk than flying. We take car rides without thinking twice about it.

No other form of transportation is as scrutinized, investigated and monitored as commercial aviation. Here’s a good summary

DEATH BY: YOUR ODDS

  • Cardiovascular disease: 1 in 2
  • Smoking (by/before age 35): 1 in 600
  • Car trip, coast-to-coast: 1 in 14,000
  • Bicycle accident: 1 in 88,000
  • Tornado: 1 in 450,000
  • Train, coast-to-coast: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Lightning: 1 in 1.9 million
  • Bee sting: 1 in 5.5 million
  • U.S. commercial jet airline: 1 in 7 million (if you look at global airline travel the figure is something like 4-5 million. I still fancy those odds)

People generally have a very poor understanding of probability and how incredibly safe air travel is today. To hear people who have never flown the airline put it down based on absolutely no hard evidence is just upsetting.

Years ago, I would not have flown Garuda. They had a terrible safety record. They were banned from flying to the EU. But the airline has undergone one of the most amazing transformations ever. It’s started winning awards like “most improved airline” for service and safety. It is now a 5 Star airline on Skytrax (and yes we can all argue about how valid Skytrax rankings are but still) and has resumed flights to the EU. It has amazing looking cabin products on its brand new 77W and A330 aircraft.

Or as this article on Coconut’s Jarkarta site puts it

It’s hard to remember now, but the perception of Garuda used to be quite different. In the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s, the company was hit by financial and operational difficulties that caused its service standards suffer severely. It was even banned (along with all other Indonesian airlines) from entering Europe due to the country’s poor safety ratings.

But after that low point, the company initiated a series of programs, dubbed the Quantum Leap expansion plan, to turn the struggling airline around. Since then, its performance has consistently improved by leaps and bounds each year, earning it the aforementioned praise and awards. Buoyed by Garuda’s performance, the whole Indonesian airline industry has also seen great increases in standards, leading to the United States upgrading the country’s safety rating this year, allowing Indonesian carriers to operate routes to US cities for the first time in over a decade.

So I have absolutely no qualms about flying with the new and improved Garuda.

Good hunting everyone. Update me with what you get.

UOB PRVI Miles new targeted 10K miles sign up promotion

UOB’s sign up promotions are typically lackluster. And by lackluster I mean awful. Here’s an example of a recent promotion they ran for new card members.

Be among the top 6,000 spenders to earn 3 miles on all spend for the first 3 months, with a maximum of 3,600 miles!

Ok so-

(1) I need to be among the top 6,000 spenders
(2) the maximum bonus I can earn is 3,600 miles
(3) I have no way of knowing beforehand how much I need to spend to enjoy this bonus

Which is why it’s such a surprise that UOB’s latest (targeted) promotion is somewhat better

Thanks to a reader for sending this in-

This email was circulated to selected Krisflyer members, and offers a sign up bonus of 10,000 miles when new cardholders spend $1,800 within 30 days of card opening.  This is valid for sign ups by 31 Jan 2017

T&C can be found here. The main catch here is that you must be a new UOB credit card holder. That’s right, if you own even 1 UOB credit card you’re not eligible.

If you don’t, this would be as good time to get a UOB PRVI Miles as any, given that there is no limitation on the number of people who can earn the bonus miles (assuming you’re targeted, of course).

 

How to get from Singapore to Miami, or why March can’t come soon enough

I finally had time to sit down and plan my leave for 2017. Although the vast, unexplored spaces of South America and Africa beckoned, I consider myself to be pathologically boring and decided to visit the USA (again). But just so no one could call me predictable, I decided to explore the great state of Florida this time round.

Image result for florida america wang
Florida, aka America’s wang

Miami would be my first port of call. My virgin US open experience had whet my appetite for more high quality tennis and the Miami Masters were scheduled to take place at the end of March/start of April.

Image result for miami masters tennis

But Miami is also known for great beaches, beautiful art deco buildings, Cuban and Argentine influenced cuisine and much more.

Image result for miami art deco

And since I’m in Florida, it only made sense to visit Orlando too. I do love theme parks and the idea of visiting the theme park capital of the world, excites me to no end. Orlando boasts Disney World, the Epcot Centre, Discovery Cove, Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Legoland. Seaworld…the list goes on and on.

Image result for orlando

I’ll definitely do a separate writeup on Orlando and Miami with things to do ala my DC trip report, but let’s first look at the higlight of the trip- getting there!

Getting to the States

map

It’s not that straightforward to get from Singapore to Miami on miles (if you’re wiling to pay revenue prices you could fly SIN-LHR-MIA, with the LHR-MIA leg operated by Virgin Atlantic). The closest major international airports to Miami were Houston and New York, both of which were about 2.5 hour connecting flights away from Miami. SQ25/26 is one of the hardest routes to clear award flights on, so I decided to look at Houston instead.

SQ recently announced that it would start routing its IAH flight through Manchester instead of Moscow, presumably due to the downturn in the global oil sector leading to less oil-related travel between Houston and Moscow. The flight is currently operated in a 3-class 77W (with the 2006 premium cabin products) but eagle eyed observers noted that from 1 Jan 2017 First Class space was no longer available for redemption or revenue bookings. The most logical conclusion was that SQ has identified this route for deploying the A350.

Image result for sq a350

I’m going to fly Thai’s A350 in December from Bangkok to Singapore, but this will be my first long haul A350 experience and I’m really excited.

Image result for sq a350 business class

SQ’s A350 has its newest (2013) business class seat, and although there are some complaints out there about how narrow the cabin is, I think it’ll still be a great trip report to write. The cost of a one-way redemption was 72,250 miles + S$412 of taxes.

Once I land in Houston I have 90 minutes to make my connection to a domestic flight to Miami. It’s a short connection for international-domestic and some might say I’m playing with fire, but I’ve recently been approved for Global Entry which gives me a good feeling about this. What could possibly go wrong!

Here’s where I took advantage of one of the great sweet spots on the Krisflyer partner award chart– the ability to redeem domestic US tickets for only 12,500 in economy.

Image result for united economy

I did so because the one-way ticket prices from Houston to Miami that matched my schedule were in excess of S$400. 12,500 miles and S$8 of taxes got me my United economy ticket. It’s a 2.5 hour flight and since Netflix now lets you download movies to watch offline, I figured I’d be just fine.

Getting back to Singapore

map

The next problem I faced was how to get back from the States. I had two options.

I could fly back to IAH and take EVA back to Singapore. The problem was that flights between Orlando and Houston were expensive and didn’t suit my timings. The most workable option was to fly with United, but that would get me into Houston at 5.55pm for a flight that took off after midnight.

And that would be an awkward kind of layover, because it’s too long to stay in the airport and too short to go out and explore. Plus, I didn’t really fancy paying US$70 for an Uber roundtrip to downtown Houston for just a couple of hours, with my bags in tow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I looked at option 2 instead, which was to fly to JFK and take EVA’s 1.25am flight home. And that solved it- Jetblue was offering S$219 tickets one way from Orlando to JFK (with a bag included- any FYI, Jetblue flights now earn Krisflyer miles) that got me into JFK at 11pm. That was plenty of time to make the connection.

Despite hearing so many great things about Jetblue, this is actually going to be my first time flying with them, It’s unfortunate I couldn’t take advantage of their great points matching promotion not too long ago, but I’m nonetheless excited to see why this LCC is so much more loved than the legacy carriers in the states.

The only downside of this arrangement is that EVA operates its Hello Kitty service to Houston but not New York.

Image result for eva air hello kitty

Image result for eva air hello kitty

High on my to-do list is try one of the EVA Air Hello Kitty flights at some point in the future. But I guess that’ll have to wait until I travel one of the follow routes…

Sidenote: I cannot access the EVA Air Hello Kitty website from my office. why? Well…

The flight cost me 78,000 Lifemiles +$30 of taxes for a total outlay of about US$1,100 (I bought my Lifemiles at 1.375 cents during the last sale)

My only regret is that I really wanted to try a new cabin product this time round. I suppose SQ’s A350 sort of counts, but I was secretly hoping there’d be award space on Asiana’s Business/First class or something available with one of the European carriers.

Has anyone been to Miami/Orlando? Any highlights/must dos?