How to fly First Class Suites worth $18 000 paying only $320

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Award Redemptions discussed in this post:
Etihad First Class Apartment with American Airlines miles, from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. (Around 14 hours)
Singapore Suites & First Class with Krisflyer miles (Converted from Citi ThankYou Points),
from Hong Kong to Sydney connecting through Singapore. (4+8 hours)
Qantas First Class with American Airlines miles from Dubai to London. (Includes a leg in business with BA from London to Oslo)

Interested in learning how I did it or why? Read on!

I am fortunate enough to have the privilege and possibility to travel the world and work simultaneously. Some people call this being a Digital Nomad, I call it being homeless, lucky and a little bit clever. After about 7 months without visiting Norway, I decided it was time to take a trip home. (Also I have an error fare flight booked from Oslo to San Diego in end of March, so had to relocate anyways.) I am currently located in northern Thailand, and the upcoming “Burning Season” in Chiang Mai starts in February/March. Farmers burn their fields, preparing the land for a new season after harvest, and this makes the air quality dip quite significantly.

So I started looking at flights back home in end of December, and found out that one-way tickets are really expensive from Asia. A couple of weeks later, I ended up booking Chiang Mai – Hong Kong – Singapore – Sydney – Abu Dhabi – London – Oslo. 

Main reasons for doing so:

  1. I have yet to be in Australia, so doesn’t hurt to finally get to see the land down under. In the previous 12 months I have been on every other continent. (Except Antarctica)
  2. American Airlines are implementing their new award chart on March 22nd. It’s a hard devaluation, which has made a lot of people in the business angry. The result of the new chart is that the cost of some award redemptions will increase by 40%. American Airlines had a lot of cred as one of the US airline mileage programs not based on spending, and it had a pretty awesome award chart for redemptions. (Award tickets from North America to Asia 1 for 62,500 miles in first class, Australia to Middle East for 60,000 in First Class.)
  3. I had an amazing experience flying with one of the best First Class services in the world, Singapore Suites Class. With the devaluation mentioned earlier, the cost of flying Etihad First Class Apartment will increase significantly. The 14 hour flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi for 60,000 AA miles + 60 USD is an amazing price.

So how did I go about booking all these redemptions?

Step 1: Chiang Mai to Sydney


Our Singapore Airlines Suites, exclusively on board the A380 aircraft, provide the distinguished few with their very own haven of tranquility. You can luxuriate in your very own private space in our largest ever armchair hand-stitched by master Italian craftsmen Poltrona Frau.
Singapore Suites Class Dark Leather

How do I get to Australia from Chiang Mai, Thailand? One option would be to cheap out, and fly with AirAsia through Kuala Lumpur to Sydney for about 200 USD. But that’s not happening, especially since I know that it is actually possible to get reward tickets with Singapore Airlines on this route. (I did book a 3-hour flight from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong with AirAsia for 60 USD. I love flying AirAsia for shorter legs)


So I logged in to Singapore Airlines to check availability from Singapore to Sydney. However, I realized after some research, that it would cost the same for a redemption from Hong Kong to Sydney. I love Hong Kong, and 4 extra hours in Singapore’s First Class doesn’t exactly hurt.

 

Cost for HKG-SIN-SYD in First Class with Singapore
Cost for HKG-SIN-SYD in First Class with Singapore in miles.
Price in cash. Approx $ 4600 USD
Price in cash. Approx $ 4600 USD

Finding availability in Singapore Suites Class isn’t usually easy, and so far it seems like I have to settle for 4 hours in Singapore Suites Class on their Airbus A380 and 8 hours in their “regular” First Class on Boeing 777-300ER. Still a great product, but no Suites Class. I am waitlisted for 2 legs in A380, but so far no luck. It’s still another 2 weeks before my flight, so I might get lucky.

Cost:
63,750 Krisflyer miles + 182 USD
I transferred 60,000 Citi ThankYou Points, which took about 30 hours to show up in my Krisflyer Account. I already had some miles in my account from my last redemption with Krisflyer. (Business class from Medellin to Rio De Janeiro with Copa, 20 000 Krisflyer miles)

Expectations: Impeccable service, my choice of Krug and Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004. I have a 14 hour layover in Singapore, and Singapore Airlines offers up to $40 Singapore Dollars for connecting passengers that can be spent in Changi Airport. Changi Airport is repeatedly mentioned as being the best airport in the world. The evening meal and breakfast in Singapore Airlines “The Private Room” is also quite epic.
I have also booked food through their program: Book The Cook. For people flying Singapore Suites Class/First Class for the first time, I can highly recommend Lobster Thermidor. It’s one of the classics from Singapore Airlines, together with their in-flight Singapore Sling.

Step 2: Sydney – Abu Dhabi

 

We have revolutionised First Class with the First Apartment. More than just a seat, it has a large leather armchair and separate bed of 6 feet and 10 inches. There is even space to walk around after closing the privacy doors.

Etihad First Class Apartment

The award slots for Etihad First Class Saver are limited, so I wasn’t sure if I would find any open award seats for early March. After checking a few different days, I found an open slot for March 3rd!!! I grabbed my phone (Edit: Google Voice/Hangouts) and called American Airlines US, but they could not find any open award seats. Since I am an avid reader of Flyertalk, I knew better. For some reason, AA USA often can’t see the availability for Etihad. So I found the number for AA Australia, and called them up. Customer rep Carolyn immediately saw the award seat, and 5 minutes later I was set for my trip in Etihad First Class Apartment.

Cost:
60,000 American Airlines miles + 60 USD
The miles for this redemption came from actual butt-in-seat-miles. Last fall, I flew AA quite a bit, including Toronto – Rio De Janeiro for 380 USD and New York – Honolulu for 350 USD.

Expectations:
This is supposedly the best first class product in the world, and I am going to enjoy it for a grand total of 14 hours. It will include taking a shower, sleeping in my bed, using my in-suite mirror and minibar + visiting the onboard bar/lounge area for business class and first class passengers.

About $ 7100 USD
Real cost $ 7100 USD

 

Step 3: Abu Dhabi to Oslo

Experience a new level of inflight comfort as you stretch out in your fully flat, extra-wide bed. Our Bedding Down service features luxurious pillows, blankets, a duvet as well as a sheepskin mattress.
Controls at the end of your armrest move your seat, leg rest and lumbar positioning from a relaxed reading position, to a fully flat bed of up to 212cm on our A380 and 200cm on our B747s. Your space also features an ottoman so you can host a companion inside your suite during the flight.

Qantas First Suite

 

How to get from Abu Dhabi to Oslo? Another redemption with American Airlines miles. The next product I want to try out before the AA devaluation is Qantas First Suite – A380.
Qantas fly from Melbourne through Dubai to London with their A380. I will be joining them on the last leg, from Dubai (Only 2 hrs from Abu Dhabi by car) to London. From there I will fly BA’s Club Europe product to Oslo. It was easy to find availability online, found the date I wanted and booked.

Cost:
40,000 AA miles + 80 USD.

Expectations:
Qantas First Suite is supposed to have a solid hard product and decent service. It is not exactly a suite, but you do get a bit of privacy.

21360 United Arab Emirates Dirham equals 5815.49 US Dollar
21360 United Arab Emirates Dirham equals
5815.49 US Dollar

 

510 British Pound equals 739.81 US Dollar
510 British Pound equals
739.81 US Dollar

 

Summary:

Redemption 1:
Singapore Suites Class – A380 Flight SQ863:
Hong Kong – Singapore, 4 hours.
Singapore First Class – 777-300ER Flight SQ211:
Singapore – Sydney, 8 hours.
Cost:
63,750 Krisflyer miles + 182 USD

Redemption 2:
Etihad First Class Apartment – A380 EY455:
Sydney to Abu Dhabi, 14 hours.
Cost:
60,000 AA miles + 60 USD.

Redemption 3:
Qantas First Suites –  A380 Flight QF9:
Dubai – London, 8h 20m.
British Airways Business Class – A320 Flight BA770:
London – Oslo, 2h 15m.
Cost:
40,000 AA miles + 80 USD.


Total for trip if someone would pay for it in cash:
Approximately 18,200 USD

TomPoints paid:
100,000 AA miles + 140 USD
63,750 Singapore Miles converted from Citi ThankYou Points + 182 USD

Do you want to fly first class? Read more about How I earned all these miles or contact me through the contact form.

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