Introduction: AAround The World Using AAdvantage Miles

Filed Under: American, Awards

Two of my favorite places in the world are Hong Kong and Bali. It had been well over a year since I’ve spent any amount of time in Hong Kong, and it had been several years since I’ve visited Bali. While I’m all for visiting new places, sometimes it’s nice to return to places which feel like home.


Ford had never been to Asia before, so I thought it would be fun for us to visit both Hong Kong and Bali. We had decided on this trip literally a couple of days before departure, meaning we were booking each flight as we went along.

In this instance we decided to spend five nights in Hong Kong so we could take our time, before continuing to Bali for a few days.

At that point Ford flew home, while I flew to Abu Dhabi, so I could take the Etihad A380 inaugural flight to New York, which was on November 23, 2015. I had taken the very first ever commercial Etihad A380 flight, so was excited to also be on their inaugural US A380 flight.

In the end my routing looked as follows:


With that in mind, let me walk through how I booked the flights and hotels:


Los Angeles to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific is pretty stingy with releasing first class award seats in advance nowadays, and I had been keeping a close eye on space nonstop out of Los Angeles. Cathay Pacific has 3-4 flights per day between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, so I figured between them we’d almost certainly be able to snag two seats on one of the flights.

While a single seat opened up on several of the flights, none of them had two seats open up, unfortunately.

The good news is that there was award space on a routing through San Francisco, so we ended up booking the following literally the morning of departure:

11/06 AA353 Los Angeles to San Francisco departing 5:15PM arriving 6:40PM [First]
11/06 CX873 San Francisco to Hong Kong departing 11:05PM arriving 6:00AM (+2 days) [First]

This cost 67,500 AAdvantage miles plus $5.60 in taxes/fees per person. That’s a killer deal!


Hong Kong to Bali

This was a bit trickier. As we were in Hong Kong, a volcano was erupting in Bali, which unfortunately was causing tons of flight cancellations. As a result, the Cathay Pacific nonstop flight between Hong Kong and Bali initially showed as being wide open, though unfortunately they “zeroed out” availability on these flights, presumably in anticipation of a cancellation.

When we were sure we wanted to go to Bali, the only option with AAdvantage miles was to connect in Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines:

11/13 CX729 Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur departing 4:05PM arriving 8:00PM [Business]
11/14 MH853 Kuala Lumpur to Bali departing 3:20PM arriving 6:20PM [Business]

This cost 25,000 AAdvantage miles plus $26.40 in taxes/fees per person.


I was especially excited to check out Cathay Pacific’s new The Pier First Class Lounge before this flight, which opened earlier in the year. While we were only in business class, we’d be able to access it thanks to my oneworld Emerald status.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 2

Bali to Abu Dhabi

Ford had to return to the US at this point, while I headed to the Middle East. AAdvantage has exceptionally good award prices for travel between Asia and the Middle East. I managed to book Qatar Airways business class connecting in Doha, as follows:

11/18 QR963 Bali to Doha departing 5:30PM arriving 10:05PM [Business]
11/19 QR1056 Doha to Abu Dhabi departing 8:15PM arriving 10:25PM [First]

This cost 30,000 AAdvantage miles plus $5.50 in taxes/fees. That’s a killer deal, given that Bali to Doha alone is a ~10 hour flight. It would also allow me to visit the new Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha, which just recently opened.

That’s because Qatar Airways markets the forward cabin on all their intra-Middle East flights as first class, even though it’s the same as the business class cabin operated on longhaul flights. AAdvantage prices this award at the business class rate, since they realize that the flight within the Middle East is really “only” business class.


Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

For this flight I first locked in the Abu Dhabi to New York flight, which would be operated by the Etihad A380. Initially I had a same day connection from New York to Los Angeles in American’s A321 first class. Unfortunately I had a commitment come up in New York, which meant I had to fly the next day from New York to Los Angeles instead.

As I’ve written about, American has gotten extremely stingy with releasing A321 first class award space lately, so unfortunately nothing opened up nonstop. Instead all that was available was first class from Newark to Los Angeles via Charlotte, on ex-US Airways planes. Better than nothing, especially since it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The routing looked as follows:

11/23 EY103 Abu Dhabi to New York departing 3:20AM arriving 9:10AM [First]
11/24 AA1987 Newark to Charlotte departing 5:00AM arriving 6:51AM [First]
11/24 AA1993 Charlotte to Los Angeles departing 7:30AM arriving 9:56AM [First]

This cost 90,000 AAdvantage miles plus $39.30 in taxes/fees.



I’ll talk more about how/why I booked the hotels I did in the introduction of each hotel review, though very briefly:


Bottom line

I was excited about this trip for a variety of reasons. For one, it would allow me to show Ford some of my favorite places in the world, including Hong Kong and Bali, both places he hadn’t been before.

But beyond that it would allow me to review over a dozen lounges, airlines, and hotels I haven’t yet visited. Yes, I know I’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific first class once or twice (or a dozen) times, but there are lots of new elements as well — new lounges, new hotels, and new flights on other airlines.

I plan to roll out this trip report pretty quickly, as I still have to write about the trip I took before that.

Stay tuned, and in the meantime if you have any questions, let me know. Thanks for reading!

  1. Whoa, so how many trip reports has it been without Lufthansa first?! Lucky, you feeling okay there? I’m getting worried 😛

    Anyway, looove these trip reports. Keep ’em coming, and thanks for all the hard work!

  2. Did you get Cathay’s reverse herringbone business class or was it their regional again?

  3. @lucky: Love your blog and especially your trip reports. One request though, would you mind reviewing uncommon airlines like Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Air, Egypt Air, Air India etc.?

  4. “For one, it would allow me to show Ford some of my favorite places in the world, including Hong Kong and Bali, both places I haven’t been before.” – You mean HE hasn’t been to those places before, right?

  5. Awesome, a new trip report!

    I was charged taxes and fees of $27.80 plus a fare of $6 for a Cathay First award from JFK-CAN… is there a reason as to why, since you were charged $5.60? I was also charged for a US Int’l Departure Tax and a US Pas Facility charge. I have 2 more of the same awards ticketed, albeit in Business but the taxes were all the same so I didnt think much of it. Did I make an error somewhere along the way?


  6. Awesome RTW trip! Don’t lose your voice based on the trolls and hyper-sensitive commenters who lose their sh*t if you say something remotely non-PC or make fun of their favorite airline. I noticed your final BA review did not reference the disgruntled appearance as in your original “worst FA ever” post. I will take Lucky uncut.

  7. @ David W — I believe it depends on where you’re terminating travel as well. You shouldn’t be charged any US customs fees when departing the US as far as I know, as that’s charged when arriving instead.

  8. “While I’m all for visiting new places, sometimes it’s nice to return to places which feel like home”. It’s your life and blog, but for someone who is living on hotels full-time for over a year, you haven’t published any significant new place or air company. There was very good content, as usual, but it was more of the same variation.

  9. How about reviewing the gay bars in Hong Kong and Bali?

    And don’t tell me you never went or turned on grinder 🙂

  10. Ben, we’ve been waiting your old trip reports for months. Tell us once for all if there is any chance to read the Iceland, Portugal etc. trip reports! I think a lot of people would like to know if you lost all the pictures and files about those trips.

  11. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice post indeed but the problem is the same I’ve mentioned before. You tend to fly AA, BA, CX, QR, EK and EY. I just want you to know that we’ve seen plenty of trip report about these products. Now we would love to see other airlines that you have flown less often or you haven’t flown at all.

    Nice post, have a great Sunday!

  12. “Don’t lose your voice based on the trolls and hyper-sensitive commenters who lose their sh*t if you say something remotely non-PC or make fun of their favorite airline”

    Girl, try removing your head out of a certain someone’s anus, and you might see that it didn’t quite go down that way…

  13. “For this flight I first locked in the Abu Dhabi to New York flight, which would be operated by the Etihad A380.”

    Would love to know how you did that… You must own some magic stones or something.
    Seriously you hope the damn readers will buy anything you say, right?

  14. @ Tyler – What’s so shocking about blogs being moderated by their owners? As for FT being a bastion of free speech, comments posted there also must meet the moderators’ standards or they are removed even after posting.

  15. @PM

    Lucky has review Royal Jordanian in the past, don’t think he will do it again anytime soon.

    Just to give you a hint after the RJ flight the purser said that the Captain was planning to retire because he was scared to fly again. Think Lucky said he was writing his will or last message on a napkin or something like that, been a while don’t remember the details 100% except it was bad flight.

  16. @Cristiano – I think you can give up waiting as that ship has long sunk. Now all we have to look forward to reading is Ford this and Ford that.

  17. Cool, how did you book Ford’s way home? Was it in Y or was it on another F product?

    @ Al – Come on, the man is in love.

  18. At the risk of the shitstorm of fanboyz screeching “hater” “homophobe” etc for daring to pick nits with their Dios of all things…

    “since they [AA] realize that the flight within the Middle East is really “only” business class.”

    Methinks this is just a function of the alignment of OneWorld tariffs whereby (wooooo your new favorite word [hater/homophobe how dare I do that?]) the shortish connex and/or inter-regional segment is “upgraded” to whatever exists as the “top” cabin [hater/homophobe how dare I do that]).

    Multiple examples but most relevant to me are the Central America biz fares to pretty much anywhere on the west coast of the US — in the “old” days, I could add MIA-JFK and fly Flagship” F on JFK-LAX/SFO, albeit on the ancient (and missed) 762s. Similarly in daze gone by, I could connect to F on the 772 MIA-LAX.

    Fast forward and I can still connect to F on 2-class transcons but only biz on 3-class transcons. Looking at paid fares for many regions, it appears to me (hat… oh never mind!) most fares on OW carriers are similarly aligned.

  19. so do you set up all these awards online yourself or do you call aa to make the award reservations?
    do you have the whole itinerary reserved when you leave on the first flight and set up the next leg right before taking it?
    how do you find out about allowed layovers?
    i am interested in the cathay pacific first class to thailand but would not mind making stops if i can get it all on one award ticket.

  20. Ben, I love your blog, but I have to raise the issue again that this was not Ford’s first trip to Asia. The UAE and Oman are in Asia. If this were a cooking blog or something, I would let it slide, but come on man, this is a travel blog, geography is important. This can all be remedied by adding a simple “East” in front of Asia (or Eastern, or East and Southeast, or Asia outside of the Middle East, or something).

  21. @ray: “i am interested in the cathay pacific first class to thailand but would not mind making stops if i can get it all on one award ticket.”

    AAdvantage awards do NOT allow stopovers (well, no more than 23h59m on int’l awards).

    Redeem on Alaska and you can have a stopover even on a one-way award. Just beware the short segment (HKG-BKK) will most likely be in business class as CX only has one or two flights on that sector with a first class cabin.

  22. Wondering how Ford got home. How do the simple folk fly.


    I heard a rumor you once flew TAP in business. Is this true. I’d love to hear about it.

  23. Please ask Ford to write a trip report on his trip from Bali to LAX. It would be interesting to see a report by Ford that isn’t a rehash of Lucky’s opinions.

  24. I’m always exited to read your trip reviews, both flights and the hotels. And be more exited to review Bali, one of my hometown.
    I read your Aman reviews several times and was wondering if you will try and review Bali Bvlgari hotel sometime.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward for this trip reviews!

  25. Any words of advice on talking AA into giving me back the 250,000 miles I had that expired recently?? Don’t ask – I know it was stupid to let them slip away, but I live in an area of the world where AA is the least convenient airline. I can buy back 115,000 for $600, but really don’t think miles should expire (the money I gave them didn’t expire!) Yeah, I did learn a lesson… but perhaps someone knows the magic words to get the miles back.

  26. ~200k for the above itinerary? The same itinerary(in the same class) can be had for 20k less by using a few tricks

  27. Is OMAT now a car blog? It is Ford here, Ford there. OMG!!! If this is turning into a car blog at least talk about a Porsche or a Ferrari but not about Ford.

  28. @Alvin That’s not a trip report. I was being sarcastic. I could call you obtuse, but that would descend into name-calling.

    “While I’ll have a full trip report soon (I’m a couple of reports behind, so it will be a couple of weeks), I figured I’d share my initial thoughts.”

  29. @Alvin.

    The TAP flight is the TATL beginning of Portugal and Iceland trip from last year that Lucky have not published.

  30. @smithee smith, call AA and ask them about a miles reinstatement challenge – I don’t recall how much it is for larger amounts (250K, yikes!) but it was pretty easy since it just required flying on AA or spending money with a partner.

  31. @ Stvr – “I’d love to hear about it.”

    That differs from “I’d love to see the report”. I referred you to what you asked for.

  32. Hey Lucky! I’m a bit of late comer to this report. Would you mind making the links to the different sections of this report live? Thanks!

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