A Royal (dis)HHonor: Introduction

I have a confession to make. Even though I (in part) plan other peoples’ travel for a living, I suck at planning my own trips. This is probably because I’m both a perfectionist and have tried just about every premium cabin product out there, so I’m always looking for a new “high,” though I’ve come to realize there are very few new “highs” out there.

The trip planning started innocently enough. Last April I booked a Cathay Pacific first class ticket to Bali for this March. As an Executive Platinum member with American I can always make changes or even cancel as the departure date approaches at no cost, and the fact is that Cathay Pacific first class award space is outrageously good, especially out of San Francisco. They usually release two first class award seats per flight, and at 135,000 AAdvantage miles per passenger it’s an absolute bargain.

But as the departure date approached my trip changed completely. Not only that, but I dragged someone along with me thanks to how good last minute space is. As a matter of fact not a single segment remained the same as I originally planned, and I made changes literally up until two hours before departure for the outbound, and changes to the return while in Asia.

Initially the idea was to go to Bali, but once the Hilton devaluation was announced I figured going to the Conrad Koh Samui would make more sense given how much it’s going up in price. The issue is that OneWorld doesn’t fly to Koh Samui, so it’s not quite that straightforward. You really have a few options for getting there. You can book Cathay Pacific as far as Singapore and then grab a SilkAir flight from Singapore to Koh Samui, you can fly Cathay Pacific as far as Bangkok and then grab a Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui, or you can fly Dragonair as far as Phuket and grab a Bangkok Airways flight from there to Koh Samui. There are other ways too, but those are the easiest.

I’ll spare you guys the gory planning details, but in the end the routing looked as follows:

3/22 AS328 Seattle to San Francisco departing 2:00PM arriving 4:19PM
3/23 CX873 San Francisco to Hong Kong departing 12:05AM arriving 6:00AM (+1 day)
3/24 CX691 Hong Kong to Singapore departing 8:00AM arriving 11:50AM
3/25 MI772 Singapore to Koh Samui departing 9:00AM arriving 9:50AM
3/29 PG1172 Koh Samui to Bangkok departing 6:50PM arriving 7:55PM
3/30 RJ182 Bangkok to Hong Kong departing 3:25PM arriving 7:00PM
3/31 CX872 Hong Kong to San Francisco departing 12:30AM and arriving 10:10PM (-1 day)
3/31 AS311 San Francisco to Seattle departing 9:15AM and arriving 11:17AM

As I mentioned earlier, the “shell” of the trip was taken care of with 135,000 AAdvantage miles per person in first class, which included the segments between Seattle and San Francisco, San Francisco and Hong Kong, Hong Kong and Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong, Hong Kong and San Francisco, and San Francisco and Seattle. The total taxes on that ticket were about $100.

Cathay Pacific first class

Then in Singapore I decided to book the St. Regis. As I wrote about in this blog post, I find Singapore to be one of the most frustrating hotel markets for those trying to redeem points. I’ve stayed at the Conrad, Crowne Plaza, Grand Hyatt, InterContinental, Marina Bay Sands, and Shangri-La. So I figured it was finally time to try the St. Regis, especially given we were there for just a night. The rate was 360SGD (~$290USD), which seemed like a better deal than redeeming for a free night or cash & points, given that this is a category six hotel.

St. Regis Singapore suite

Then I used Singapore KrisFlyer miles (transferred from American Express Membership Rewards) for the tickets between Singapore and Koh Samui, which cost 17,000 miles per person (ordinarily 20,000, but there’s a 15% discount for booking online), plus about $80 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

SilkAir business class

The Conrad Koh Samui cost a cool 145,000 HHonors points for the four nights, compared to the paid rates of over $1,000USD per night. Not a bad value, if you ask me!

Then we paid for coach tickets on Bangkok Airways from Koh Samui to Bangkok, which cost about $100USD per person. I would have paid for business class (which retails for just a modest premium), though the only flight available was one of their aircraft with just one cabin.

“Meal” on 50 minute Bangkok Airways coach flight

In Bangkok we booked the Le Meridien, which I have stayed at before. It was $100USD per night and close to where we wanted to be for a quick overnight in Bangkok.

Le Meridien Bangkok

Anyway, since I have lots of upcoming travel (though fortunately not much this month) I’ll try to post this trip report pretty efficiently. If you have any questions or comments just let me know!

Filed Under: Alaska, American
  1. You would pay a (modest) premium to upgrade a 50 minute flight? What would make that worthwhile? Just curious.

  2. Seems like a perfect trip – not sure why you consider it anything less than great trip planning. Was it more than two iterations?

    I know you had to revamp it but that was Hilton’s fault, not yours and you capitalized it well.

  3. @ Colleen — Yes, I’d gladly pay $50 to upgrade a flight if it means priority check-in, boarding, seating, and baggage. Koh Samui Airport is an absolute zoo and the check-in queues can be upwards of an hour, so saving that for a modest premium seemed well worth it. Besides, the pitch in coach on Bangkok Airways is tight. *Really* tight.

  4. @ beachfan — Hah, you’d be surprised, that wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I think I considered just about every destination in the world at one point or another in the planning process. I do a lot of second guessing in my trip planning, unfortunately.

  5. You’re right, koh samui airport is a complete zoo. Glad when I flew out of there on TG I was connecting in BKK to TG C class!

  6. The issue is that OneWorld doesn’t fly to Koh Samui, so it’s not quite that straightforward.

    What about the FY flight PEN-USM booked as an MH codeshare?

  7. FWIW, that FY flight cost me about $160 when I bought it outright (not sure if you can book FY as part of an AA ward as the MH codeshare, but you certainly cannot as part of an AS award). No business class, though. This should give you a good idea what flying on FY is like.

  8. @ eponymous coward — To the best of my knowledge you can’t redeem OneWorld miles for that flight.

  9. Ha. I feel your pain. After SPG/Hilton/Marriott devaluations in this spring, I ticketed, and then canceled 6 reservations in the span of a month. So thankful for waived EXP award fees!

    But I think I’m set… For now.

  10. Wow, just wow! I can’t believe that value – 135k and $100 for that length of return trip in F? Am definitely going to be boosting my AA balance!

  11. @ Colleen On PG the modest fee gives you 10 KG more bag hold allowance (also join their frequent flyer program for another 10 KG) and as lucky says USM can be a zoo, so having 1-3 separate Blue Ribbon counters is great. There is even an air-conditioned lounge with food/drinks available. The Blue Ribbon (Business class) seats offer way better leg room than coach.

    @lucky, why not use PG (who code shares with MI) on SIN-USM? Price to high? I found PG better in C than MI. With the separate car on arrival for C you even beat the immigration circus in USM.

  12. Excellent. I’m flying CX873 SFO-HKG in F on the 15th, so looking forward to your report on the flight and the lounges on both ends. In HKG, transferring to a CX flight to BKK in C (two class service), but my understanding is I should be able to access The Wing due to arrival on F flight.

  13. Lucky,

    Just curious – but why did you fly to SIN on the outbound instead of BKK? Also, you said it was 17K for biz on the Silk Air flight – how much more is that over coach and do you feel it’s worth the premium in points for such a short flight?

    Need to plan the same exact intin for a couple months from now since I’ve got my Conrad Koh Samui AXON reserved – but no luck on the Cathay availability yet – wondering if I have to wait until 2 weeks out (looking for 2 F or Biz seats).

    Thanks! I’ve been really looking forward to this report! 🙂

  14. @ Sven — I don’t think PG was operating a flight the day I was traveling as I didn’t see it in the schedule. And also got a separate cart for business class on MI from the plane.

  15. @ stacey — It’s 10,625 miles vs. 17,000 miles. I have hundreds of thousands of Membership Rewards points, so the premium was no big deal. For a two hour flight got a much bigger seat and priority boarding, baggage handling, and disembarkation. All seemed worth it to me.

  16. My wait at USM for check in in Y was exactly 0 seconds. With web check-in, you can use the same line as Business class.

  17. Thanks Lucky! Any tips on scoring 2 F or biz seats from LAX? Wait till 2 weeks before?

  18. Stacey – you do know Lucky runs a booking service, right?

    I would strongly suggest using him – the cost is not too high, and the value is incredible!


  19. @ Stacey — Cathay Pacific does release a good bit of business class award space close to departure so I’d keep monitoring for that. They also release last minute first class award space, though I find it’s especially tough to snag out of LAX. If you’re willing to connect at SFO you should have better luck.

  20. I tried adding singapore to my aa redemption but was told that i couldnt have a layover in hk. Was that info oncorrect? Great that you wete adpble to add it!

  21. @ Hung — As long as you’re connecting within 24 hours you can add it to the award.

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