BOOKED: Bamboo Airways, Gulf Air, Singapore, Austrian, And Air Canada!

BOOKED: Bamboo Airways, Gulf Air, Singapore, Austrian, And Air Canada!

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As 2023 kicks off, my single biggest goal for the blog is to take as many review trips as possible. These will mostly be “pure” review trips, in the sense that I’m trying to take whirlwind trips that allow me to review as many products as possible, while minimizing my time away from home.

With that in mind, I’ve just booked my first such trip of 2023, whereby I’ll be flying to Southeast Asia via Europe in both directions. It just occurred to me that this will be my first time traveling to Southeast Asia since 2019. Yow.

This trip is booked entirely with Air Canada Aeroplan points. Below are the basics of what you can expect, and then of course I’ll share more details about how I booked when I publish the trip report series.

Austrian Airlines 777 & A320 business class

To kick off this trip, I’ll be flying Austrian Airlines across the Atlantic. I’ll be flying to Vienna on the Boeing 777-200, which I haven’t reviewed in around a decade. Then I’ll be flying an Austrian Airbus A320 within Europe, to position for my next flight. While I reviewed Austrian several years back on the 767, I’m curious to see how the rest of the fleet and soft product is holding up.

I’ll be flying the Austrian Airlines Boeing 777

Gulf Air A321neo & 787-9 business class

I’m not sure whether I’m more excited about this or the next portion of the trip. Bahrain-based Gulf Air has reinvented itself in recent years, and I should experience that with all portions of the journey.

I’ll be flying from Europe to Bahrain on a Gulf Air Airbus A321LR, featuring fully flat beds. Then I’m excited to check out Gulf Air’s new terminal and lounge in Bahrain. Then I’ll be connecting to Southeast Asia on Gulf Air’s Boeing 787-9, featuring Apex Suites, among my favorite business class seats out there.

While I think Gulf Air’s hard product will impress, I’m curious how the carrier’s soft product is. I last flew Gulf Air nearly a decade ago, when the airline flew Airbus A330s.

Gulf Air has Apex Suites on the Boeing 787

Singapore Airlines 787 business class

While I’ve flown Singapore Airlines many times before, I haven’t flown the carrier’s Boeing 787-10. This is a fairly new addition to Singapore’s fleet, and features a new regional business class product. I’ll be flying this on a short hop within Asia, and am curious how this compares to previous Singapore Airlines flights. I’m also excited to check out Singapore Airlines’ new lounge at Changi Airport.

Singapore Airlines’ new Boeing 787 business class

Bamboo Airways A321 & 787 business class

Okay, this is where the trip gets really fun, and where Aeroplan shines with its huge variety of airline partners. Bamboo Airways is the fascinating/strange Vietnamese airline startup, which has started operating long haul flights.

I’ll be flying the airline both on a short and long haul flight. First I’ll fly the carrier’s Airbus A321 on a regional flight, and then I’ll be flying the Boeing 787-9 to Frankfurt. I can’t wait to see how this experience is, as I have no sense of what to expect. I’m also curious to see how it compares to Vietnam Airlines’ product, as I’ve flown the carrier on the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787-9.

Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787 business class

Air Canada 777 & 787 business class

While I love Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, it has been many years since I’ve flown Air Canada on a long haul flight. Amazingly enough I managed to find saver level award space on Air Canada, so I’ll be flying from Europe to Canada on the Boeing 777-300ER, and then from Canada to Miami on the Boeing 787-8. I’m looking forward to seeing how Air Canada’s soft product is nowadays.

Air Canada’s Boeing 787 business class

Bottom line

I’m excited to kick off 2023 with a fun review trip that I booked with Aeroplan points. I’ll be flying Austrian Airlines, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Bamboo Airways, and Air Canada. I’m thrilled about the routing and overall points value I got, and will lay that all out with the actual review series.

Thanks for reading, and if anyone has any predictions about these flights (which will be awesome, which will be awful?) or tips with these airlines, please let me know in the comments section!

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  1. Jason Weickert Guest

    Seems totally legit to me. I just booked a month long trip from Canada to Oman, UAE, Seychelles, Napal, and India on Aeroplan all in business class on a host of different airlines for reasonable points. I've been with Aeroplan since its inception and I think the key here is understanding the Aeroplan system. Know what is allowed and what is not and be willing to invest some time looking for the flights you want....

    Seems totally legit to me. I just booked a month long trip from Canada to Oman, UAE, Seychelles, Napal, and India on Aeroplan all in business class on a host of different airlines for reasonable points. I've been with Aeroplan since its inception and I think the key here is understanding the Aeroplan system. Know what is allowed and what is not and be willing to invest some time looking for the flights you want. I believe Ben has also made the point that if you call Aeroplan and don't get the answer you want from one agent call back and talk to someone else. This trip took three calls to get one particular leg sorted out. Please be kind to the call center agents, they do not have an easy job these days with all the chaos in the travel sector.

  2. Tryinginvain Guest

    Congrats on the booking, looking forward to reading the specifics as to how you booked it! I recently made my first S.E.A. Aeroplan (mostly) point booking in 3 years. Mine was a lot more last minute than what I used to do and I found it really hard to find availability. I’m also in Mexico right now so that made it more complicated. My return is Y because that’s all I could find. I’m going...

    Congrats on the booking, looking forward to reading the specifics as to how you booked it! I recently made my first S.E.A. Aeroplan (mostly) point booking in 3 years. Mine was a lot more last minute than what I used to do and I found it really hard to find availability. I’m also in Mexico right now so that made it more complicated. My return is Y because that’s all I could find. I’m going to keep looking for something better and make the changes if I can.

    I’m mostly curious if you found your one-ways on the site/app or if you can still find segments and call in to give them the flights to put together the itinerary? Not sure if you’re willing to share that detail yet?

    Thanks in advance!

  3. Dan Guest

    Just had flight with Bamboo from Bkk to Sydney via SGN, the transfer desk is a disaster. Bangkok cannot issue the boarding pass for SGn-Syd segment, transfer desk is only opened 3 hours per-flight. Be prepared waiting non sense if your Fra flight is much later when you arrive in SGN. Helpless, but the service is good for 45K aeroplane

  4. Vancouver - Char Gold

    Happy New Year! Let me wish you a happy series of flights ahead

  5. Steven E Guest

    Well I hope the Gulf Air experience is better than a few of the most recent airline blogs out there- specifically with taking pictures or recording whilst onboard their aircraft as well as their food offering - in any case I’m very much looking forward to your reviews

  6. Luke Guest

    I flew Gulf Air LHR > BAH > RUH last year and was pleasantly surprised! Great hard product on both 787 and A321, and From memory the food and service was very good. I was the only person in the business cabin on the A321 from RUH > BAH, that was a fun novelty. I liked their lemon and mint signature drink more than the Qatar lime version. The Arabic coffee and dates was also a nice touch. Enjoy!

  7. Denise Guest

    How many Points did you use altogether?

  8. TheAirlineKid Guest

    Can’t wait for this trip report!
    I assume you also have some hotel reviews lined up for this trip?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ TheAirlineKid -- I do indeed, I'll be staying at two Hyatts during this trip. Stay tuned. :-)

  9. Joe Dennie Guest

    You must have 5 million miles to get all of that Business class, my friend. Something fishy in this story

    1. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

      A longhaul ticket costs around 100,000 miles maximum, and 5 million miles is 50 flights. I didn't count 50 flights.

      Also how fishy is it for someone who does this full-time to have 5 million miles?

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Joe Dennie -- The entire ticket cost 202,500 Aeroplan points. I'll share all the details of booking with the actual trip report.

    3. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

      Interesting how there can be around 8 flights for 202k, when the cheapest cost in the linked Aeroplan chart is already 60k for a business redemption.

      We look forward to how this booking was made, the biggest surprise being that you managed to get it booked and ticketed with 5 airlines involved, this is a miracle with current airline IT & websites!

    4. Matt Guest

      You will be really upset that I managed to book LHR-SIN-SYD in F (advantage rates) on SQ then SYD-RAR on NZ, PPT-LAX with QF (both in Y) and LAX-LHR on UA in J class. No magic IT. Just luck in availability and a stashnof saved miles.

  10. tuotuo Gold

    If you will stay in Hanoi do check the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.It's a Accor but worth a try.

    1. Liam Guest

      Gulf Air soft product was excellent. Catering out of FRA was absolutely perfect - in some ways better than that provided in JL F out of HND a few weeks later. Be sure to try the orange juice, and if you see a pasta dish on the menu don't be afraid to try it - they absolutely nailed mine. As for hard product, I actually felt the A321LR was more comfortable than the Apex Suite...

      Gulf Air soft product was excellent. Catering out of FRA was absolutely perfect - in some ways better than that provided in JL F out of HND a few weeks later. Be sure to try the orange juice, and if you see a pasta dish on the menu don't be afraid to try it - they absolutely nailed mine. As for hard product, I actually felt the A321LR was more comfortable than the Apex Suite on the 787. Yes, the Apex Suite does excel in privacy, but not in comfort, at least in my opinion, but the all-too-common Diamond seat on the A321LR was actually very comfortable, even if it wasn't all that private.

      Whatever you do, don't take row 1 on the 787 - the bathroom right in front of it emitted foul smells whenever someone decided to go #2. I would choose a window seat in row 4 as you are furthest away from this, and row 3 from what I remember is missing some windows. On the other hand, on the A321LR, I would definitely go for row 1 as it has bigger footwells.

      You'll like the lounge in BAH, but the shower was very lackluster as some have pointed out. Food in the lounge was good for the most part - would not call it outstanding but it had pretty well anything I would want.

    2. Nathan Guest

      The new Capella (no loyalty program) is a welcome addition to Hanoi. SO much better than the old Sofitel.

  11. Dinh Guest

    I will be flying QH73 from HAN to FRA on February 3. When is your Bamboo flight?

  12. Robin homes Guest

    Could you share the booking process?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Robin homes -- Yep, when I publish the trip report I'll discuss the booking process in more detail.

  13. Tim Guest

    Hey Ben, you‘re definitely gonna have interesting flights on Gulf Air. Their hard product really is excellent, while the soft product is consistently inconsistent. The crew tends to be lovely and proud of their airline, while the food is often meh…and most disappointing is the IFE, very dissatisfying selection. The lounge in Bahrain is quite good but the overly long layovers from Asia to Europe are a pain and even after 20 rounds of snooker,...

    Hey Ben, you‘re definitely gonna have interesting flights on Gulf Air. Their hard product really is excellent, while the soft product is consistently inconsistent. The crew tends to be lovely and proud of their airline, while the food is often meh…and most disappointing is the IFE, very dissatisfying selection. The lounge in Bahrain is quite good but the overly long layovers from Asia to Europe are a pain and even after 20 rounds of snooker, 5,5 h is hard to kill ;-)

  14. JB Guest

    Air Canada has upgraded its flights to MIA from A320/A220s to 787-8/9s and 777s (both 77L and 77W) in recent weeks. And it's not just one frequency, but rather many of them have these aircraft.

    And they recently started flying from MIA to Vancouver, which is blocked at 6:45 on a 737MAX. That has to be the longest continental North American flight. AA and AS also recently started flights from MIA to SEA.

  15. D3kingg Guest

    Have fun Ben. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  16. AirlineInsider89 Guest

    I can't wait to read this, been way to long Lucky!!! Congrats on the new member of the family aswell!!

  17. Clem Diamond

    I'm so exhausted just reading that itinerary :D ! But looking forward to reading those reviews!

  18. Ian Guest

    Very much looking forward to the Bamboo airlines review - Once apon a time, when covid was not yet a swear word and money not quite so tight, I met a guy on a diving trip on (adjacent to?) Phu Quoc VN who said he had just started a new airline... Bamboo! I remember my first thought was "Holzklasse" (wooden class - economy)
    :)

  19. Tom Jackson Guest

    Ben Ben Ben….I love your posts but…please don’t fall into the seemingly increasing trap of doubling down…..come on, Europe to Canada? Vietnam to Frankfurt? How can we plebs ever dream of enjoying these trips when you do not use specifics…and then completely forgetting or avoiding to put any point usage or values on anything…pls bring the old you back…virtual New Years hugs from Newfoundland…tj

    1. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

      This is yet another 'magic' opening up of award space for all flights on this itinerary, total coincidence people!

      Don't ask for specifics and move on please.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ TheBestBlackBrent -- I planned my trip around the award space that was available. To somehow suggest that I'm in cahoots with Aeroplan and that they somehow worked with five airlines to open award space for me (when it's readily available in many markets) is absurd.

      Please just come out and say it -- is this what you're trying to suggest? If so, will you apologize when I post all the screenshots of the...

      @ TheBestBlackBrent -- I planned my trip around the award space that was available. To somehow suggest that I'm in cahoots with Aeroplan and that they somehow worked with five airlines to open award space for me (when it's readily available in many markets) is absurd.

      Please just come out and say it -- is this what you're trying to suggest? If so, will you apologize when I post all the screenshots of the award flights available on Air Canada's website for anyone to book?

    3. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

      Your privacy concerns mentioned below are obviously valid, but I do think some screenshots and elaborate booking process description would help, instead of just dropping this bomb of an itinerary of a lifetime on everyone.

      For example the details that you planned around certain dates and were not picky regarding airlines which you would fly would help a lot for people to understand how this itinerary was 'built'. Now it seems you magically find airlines...

      Your privacy concerns mentioned below are obviously valid, but I do think some screenshots and elaborate booking process description would help, instead of just dropping this bomb of an itinerary of a lifetime on everyone.

      For example the details that you planned around certain dates and were not picky regarding airlines which you would fly would help a lot for people to understand how this itinerary was 'built'. Now it seems you magically find airlines that you have not flown for a while, planned to review and it all worked out in a whirlwind trip with premium award space at a discount.

      On the Aeroplan suggestion: considering the credit card reviews & referrals and multiple posts on Aeroplan miles sales, you obviously do have a stake in promoting their business and rewards. Nothing wrong with that, it is your business after all, but I personally consider most of the redemption stories as 'sponsored content' as a result.

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ TheBestBlackBrent -- I will share all the screenshots (and lots of details) once I actually take the trip in the coming days. This is intended to be a teaser post to give OMAAT readers who like reviews something to look forward to, and as always, I'll have very detailed reviews when I return home.

      Each airline has its own process for releasing award availability, so it's baseless and even counterintuitive to think that somehow...

      @ TheBestBlackBrent -- I will share all the screenshots (and lots of details) once I actually take the trip in the coming days. This is intended to be a teaser post to give OMAAT readers who like reviews something to look forward to, and as always, I'll have very detailed reviews when I return home.

      Each airline has its own process for releasing award availability, so it's baseless and even counterintuitive to think that somehow Aeroplan was working with all these different airlines to open up award space for me.

      For what it's worth, while I do get referrals for people who apply for most travel credit cards, I don't get any sort of commission when people buy Aeroplan points. I write about those promotions because I consider them to be a good deal. So it's far from sponsored content.

      If you're going to always be so skeptical about what I write, could you at least wait until I publish the actual detailed review to do so?

  20. --- Guest

    Pity you're flying Air Canada westbound across the Atlantic. Otherwise you could go for a flex award and also review Air Canada's fantastic Signature Suite lounge!

    1. Klaus Guest

      Oooops…sorry. Again what learned. he could access it:

      „Only Aeroplan flight rewards booked as a Business Class Flexible Reward or a First Class Flexible Reward in J, C, D, Z, P, I booking classes are eligible for access.“

      But he would also be able to access a Polaris Club on his journey to Europe.

    2. Eric Guest

      That only works if he departs from the international area of the terminal, which the routing he is taking would not allow as the flight departing Canada is transborder :(

  21. simmonad Guest

    We're flying CDG-BAH-BKK in April in Business too.

  22. Taylor Guest

    I flew Austrian this past spring and was disappointed. The hard product is definitely showing its age, and not having wi-fi in 2022 feels like a miss. The crew was surly and just barely went through the motions — this particular crew was less friendly than the average United TATL crew, by way of comparison. The food was delicious and well-presented, but that alone isn't enough to save the rest of the experience.

  23. Klaus Guest

    Austrian from ORD?
    While you are allowed to access the Polaris Lounge, you will have to change terminals. OS is departing from T5.

    Or JFK or BOS?
    No Polaris lounges?

    Or LAX?
    That would actually make sense as it also is a longer flight to get some rest.

  24. Euro Member

    "Amazingly enough, I managed to find saver level award space on Air Canada" from Europe to the US? Huh, because I find it to be... reasonably available. At least when I was checking in 2021 and for one of my trips later this year. If anything I am surprised that you found award availability on Austrian in business class; I was expecting to see a lot more when I was looking.

    Air Canada is an...

    "Amazingly enough, I managed to find saver level award space on Air Canada" from Europe to the US? Huh, because I find it to be... reasonably available. At least when I was checking in 2021 and for one of my trips later this year. If anything I am surprised that you found award availability on Austrian in business class; I was expecting to see a lot more when I was looking.

    Air Canada is an overall pretty good solid product. I find the seat upholstery unappealing though, seems to be patterned off a carpeted door mat.

  25. D3kingg Guest

    Wow. I would say experiment with some Tik Tok or You Tube short videos.

  26. FMLAX Guest

    Loved flying the OS 777 from VIE-BKK this past summer. The seat and bed were as expected - nothing fabulous, but I slept well. But the soft product was wonderful - polite, well-executed service and wonderful food.

    It helped that they had a very good selection of Austrian snacks and meals in the non-Schengen lounge as well. Wouldn't hesitate to fly again!

  27. Craig Guest

    I'm amazed you've taken this long to try the Singapore Airlines 787. I flew it twice in 2019 and once last year. I've also got Bamboo Airways booked already.

  28. Eli Guest

    Very excited looking forward. If there is any change with the Air Canada part of the trip just take a flight to London and fly Virgin Atlantic's new business class to Tampa

    1. JB Guest

      Yes please! When you review Virgin's A330-900, please fly it to or from Tampa!

  29. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    Ben: flies Lufthansa Group airline in business class

    Action: Destroy
    Weapon: 2/5 rating
    Lufthansa Group shields with paper thin blankets, non-existent mattress pad and Wi-Fi, it's not very effective

  30. Jack Guest

    Be prepared to be disappointed on AC business class... the seat + IFE might be the only saving grace, the rest is acceptable for "North American" standards.

    1. SM Guest

      I agree, I flew on Air Canada business class to Vietnam via Soeul in Dec and the food was awful. Chicken was rubbery, couldn't get my 1st meal choice. Why don't they ask us when we check-in our meal selection to ensure that there was enough. Secondly, on the menu there was no veterinarian choice. Disappointing as I paid a lot for the flight.

  31. ArnoldB Guest

    Regarding Austrian: Their onboard cook gimmick has fallen victim to the corona pandemic, just so you can temper your expecations a bit. There is also still no wifi on Austrian longhaul. The airline will hopefully get some 787-9s in the future, as LH boss Spohr recently mentioned that they are in negotiations with Boeing regarding extra 787-9s (which would go to Austrian) as compensation for the 777X delay.

    1. Cedric Guest

      Yeah, the two OS long haul flights (YUL-VIE and VIE-ORD) I had last summer where "ok" but bellow usuall LH group standards so I'm not expecting much from your review. Mind you the AC flight I had (ZRH-YYZ) was also pretty crappy. LX was the one that was almost the same as pre covid travel (YUL-ZRH).

  32. Laurel Guest

    Did Aeroplan let you book this routing as an RT US to SE Asia ticket?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Laurel -- Yep, the whole thing is two one-way awards.

    2. John Guest

      In the future trip reports can you
      outline the cost in miles and taxes (maybe you already plan to) . I know you’ve shared plenty of times but with so much content you pump out it can be hard to find!

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ John -- When I actually publish the trip report I'll have an exact breakdown of the cost, routing, etc. I'm not intending to be vague, but I don't like to disclose exact routings before I actually travel, because I've had people try to cancel my travel plans in the past. Stay tuned! :-)

    4. Eli Guest

      How and why would someone do that?

    5. Derek Guest

      Yikes, sorry to hear that. I too am curious to hear how someone could try to cancel or otherwise change your flights (presumably) without knowing your PNR.

    6. Marco Guest

      I was about to ask you the exact Aeroplan points used to book each flight. I guess it will now be revealed when you post the trip report.

      That's quite scary that someone would be able to cancel your flights.

    7. glenn t Diamond

      Being a recent convert to Aeroplan, I have booked a 2 sector trip SYD-AUH-CDG on one award which was a straightforward process vanilla-like process.
      Keen to learn the mechanics of combining more than 2 sectors on different airlines on the one award. Hoping your reviews cover this!

  33. Andy Diamond

    Sounds great, looking forward to your reports!

    However, I'm a bit surprised you didn't include STARLUX in your plans, while you are in Far East. I guess you also received the email that you have to fly six segments this year to maintain status ... that's a bit steep, given their limited network.

  34. Moe Guest

    Love this, sounds great. Anticipating these trip reports.

  35. Mike O. Guest

    Happy New Year to Ben and all readers! Next time, do ANA's A380, Starlux's A350, Air Premia, Zipair.

  36. Never In Doubt Guest

    That sounds great.

    Please provide specifics in the reviews on how you found all those open seats on Aeroplan!

    1. Mick Guest

      I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have complained about aeroplano availability but I’ve found it reasonably useful lately. I saw a lot of air India space from ord to Sydney in august including in first. LifeMiles saw some of it and United none. Not the most amazing product lol but a good redemption to try at 150k arrollan or 110k LifeMiles.

      I also saw a lot of helpful routes from the Middle...

      I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have complained about aeroplano availability but I’ve found it reasonably useful lately. I saw a lot of air India space from ord to Sydney in august including in first. LifeMiles saw some of it and United none. Not the most amazing product lol but a good redemption to try at 150k arrollan or 110k LifeMiles.

      I also saw a lot of helpful routes from the Middle East to Asia (on gulf and Oman air (and air India)). Maybe a little niche but I assume the vanilla fligts from USA to Europe are the same availability as any star alliance member thereabouts.

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Clem Diamond

I'm so exhausted just reading that itinerary :D ! But looking forward to reading those reviews!

2
Alvin | YTHK Diamond

Ben: flies Lufthansa Group airline in business class Action: Destroy Weapon: 2/5 rating Lufthansa Group shields with paper thin blankets, non-existent mattress pad and Wi-Fi, it's not very effective

2
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ TheBestBlackBrent -- I will share all the screenshots (and lots of details) once I actually take the trip in the coming days. This is intended to be a teaser post to give OMAAT readers who like reviews something to look forward to, and as always, I'll have very detailed reviews when I return home. Each airline has its own process for releasing award availability, so it's baseless and even counterintuitive to think that somehow Aeroplan was working with all these different airlines to open up award space for me. For what it's worth, while I do get referrals for people who apply for most travel credit cards, I don't get any sort of commission when people buy Aeroplan points. I write about those promotions because I consider them to be a good deal. So it's far from sponsored content. If you're going to always be so skeptical about what I write, could you at least wait until I publish the actual detailed review to do so?

1
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