Introduction: A Detour Across The Pacific

Filed Under: Hotels, Malaysia

Welcome to my next trip report, covering travel in business class on Qantas and Singapore Airlines, first class on Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines, and something inbetween on Malaysia Airlines (“Business Suite”).

Planning the trip

Ford and I took a trip to Bora Bora (the trip report I just finished up), and this had us returning to San Francisco. As a hobby I always look at award availability (this is how I stay on top of trends), so just out of curiosity, I looked at what award seats were available out of SFO that day.

After all, being based in Miami now I don’t get as many Pacific trips in as I want to, and I figured a review trip was in order, given the number of products I want to try.

Well, much to my surprise, Qantas had 787 business class award space from San Francisco to Melbourne the same day. Qantas is extremely stingy with award availability, so I figured that was an opportunity I couldn’t turn up. Maybe flying from San Francisco to Miami via Melbourne is the long way to go, but that has never stopped me before. šŸ˜‰

From there the rest of the trip sort of came together based on airlines I wanted to review. Again, this was solely a review trip, just to review some new products for the first time.

Booking flights

As mentioned above, planning for this trip started when I found Qantas business class award availability from San Francisco to Melbourne. Note that even though American’s website shows Qantas award availability, what they show isn’t always accurate. In this case I found the space on ExpertFlyer but not American’s website, so I had to call to book (American’s call center agents see the correct space).

I booked the following for 80,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $20.50 in taxes:

12/12 QF50 San Francisco to Melbourne departing 8:10PM arriving 6:45AM (+2 days) [Business]

One of my other priorities this trip was reviewing Malaysia Airlines’ A350 Business Suite. The airline recently rebranded their first class as Business Suite, and I was curious to give it a try. They fly the A350 primarily to London and Tokyo, and I only saw availability to Tokyo for my dates.

I booked the following for 40,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $25.70 in taxes (I’d note that’s quite a good deal, given that this is a seven hour flight):

12/16 MH70 Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo departing 9:40AM arriving 5:30PM [Business Suite]

As you can see, I then had to get from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur. At this point I was booking very close to departure, and managed to find award seats in Singapore Airlines’ new 777-300ER first class, featuring just one row of seats.

I booked the following for 80,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles plus $67.11 in taxes:

12/15 SQ238 Melbourne to Singapore departing 10:35AM arriving 3:15PM [First]
12/15 SQ115 Singapore to Kuala Lumpur departing 6:40PM arriving 7:40PM [Business]

Lastly I had to fly from Tokyo back to the US, and I found award availability in Japan Airlines’ first class. While I had flown Japan Airlines first class before, it had been several years, so I was curious how the product was holding up.

I booked the following for 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles plus $52.43 in taxes:

12/17 JL10 Tokyo to Chicago departing 10:50AM arriving 7:30AM [First]

In the end, my routing looked as follows:

Booking hotels

While this trip spanned about five days, I was only spending three nights in hotels. First I had a night in Melbourne, then I had a night in Kuala Lumpur, and then I had a night in Tokyo.

In Melbourne I decided to book the Sheraton. I needed one more Marriott stay to requalify for Ambassador Elite status, and based on that, this seemed like the best option. The rate for my one night stay was 145USD.

Then in Kuala Lumpur I just had a fairly quick overnight, as my inbound flight arrived shortly before 8PM, and my outbound flight departed shortly before 10AM. Kuala Lumpur has quite a few good hotels, and while I was tempted to return to the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur, I decided to book something closer to the airport.

Specifically, I booked the Sama-Sama Express KLIA, which is the airside transit hotel at the airport. I wanted to review Malaysia Airlines’ new lounges and get to the airport early anyway, so this seemed like the most convenient option. I booked a 10 hour block, which cost ~111USD.

In Tokyo I just decided to stay at the Hilton Narita, since I had a quick overnight. The rate was ~120USD. I won’t be reviewing the Hilton Narita this time around, as I’ve done so in the past.

Bottom line

I always enjoy these whirlwind review trips, and this trip was no exception. I’m especially happy that I was able to review some products that have been on my list for quite a while, like Qantas’ 787 business class and Malaysia’s A350 first class (or whatever you’d like to call their forward cabin). Truth be told, on this trip all the flights were roughly what I was expecting, which often isn’t the case.

I’ll also be reviewing quite a few lounges.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

  1. Can’t wait for your Malaysia Airlines Business Suite flight review!
    Hope your FA mastered difficult things like ‘saying hello’ and giving passengers silverware in “First Class”…


  2. Just curious what made you choose to use 80K AA miles instead of 55K AS for the QF segment Ben ?

  3. @ hamiltus — I tried to use Alaska miles, but unfortunately this was one of those instances were they couldn’t see Qantas award space, rather annoyingly.

  4. @ JB — Thanks! After this it will be the review of my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I stayed at Amans and flew Japan Airlines, SriLankan, and KLM.

  5. So since you booked this trip while on another trip, it was quite unplanned. How do you pack your things for this? Do you wash your underwear in the hotel sink?

  6. IĀ“m not sure if itĀ“s a typo or itĀ“s the real name of the lounge: Malaysia Airlines Business Suite Lounge Kuala Lumpur Airport.

  7. @ Carlos — They’ve rebranded their first class as business suite, and accordingly have also updated the branding of the lounge, hence the name (unless I’m missing something obvious here).

  8. @ Jim — Hah, so I always travel with a lot of underwear, since I figure that’s the one thing you should change every so often. šŸ˜‰ As far as the rest of it goes, the reality is that I was wearing airline pajamas almost this entire trip, so this five day detour didn’t require much extra clothes.

  9. Wow, very quick trip but excited to read the reviews as I’ll be traveling to most of these countries this summer.

  10. is there a reason you didnā€™t book KUL-NRT-ORD as a single itenary on AA for 110k rather than splitting them up and paying 40k AA and 70k AS?

  11. A little off topic but what’s your guys opinion on the best 5 star hotel in Kuala Lumpur? So many cheap options.

  12. Fun suggestion and not a criticismā€“ how cool would it be if you posted this trip report intros right after you booked the trip? That way we as readers have weeks to months to look forward to the trip, just as you look forward to it! Also, by posting the intro right away, the readers get to see your logic and maybe we could share some ideas as well. A collaborative effort to trip planning perhaps! Love your blog lucky.

  13. Seems like you also spent a night in Tokyo, based on your 12/16 arrival and 12/17 departure from that city the next morning. Where did you stay?

  14. Really looking forward to this review as it’s “my turf”, so to speak. Excited to hear what you have to say about all the different products šŸ™‚

  15. @Alonzo: Try Ritz Carlton in KL, one of the Best suites I have stayed at.Location is great too!Breakfast is amazing as long as you don’t go around Chinese New Year.

  16. @Lucky, how do you decide which airport hub to return to in the US? Are you maximizing the paid service via flyertalk to know the best miles rate on return, or?

  17. Looking forward to this! Just wanted to give you a huge thank you @Ben (Lucky) for keeping up the good work. OMAAT is the only website (across all categories) that I visit every single day, without exception.

  18. Say the Hilton NRT was 2013 were you mentioned more than once about needed renovations. Have this happened? Has Breakfast buffet improved? Traveling minds want to know. Iā€™m staying in May on RTW19 2.0 šŸ™‚

  19. @Lucky – QF isn’t “stingy” with award space. They reward those with status with preferential availability and there’s plenty of availability for members with flexibility.

  20. Lucky – Im sure that you are ahead of game but wanted to make sure that you know Alaska is showing business class on QANTAS from LAX to MEL as I m flying with them in December šŸ˜‰ Better than AA’s 80K!

  21. @ David — Mostly through actually flying American, through Bank Direct, and through their co-branded credit cards.

  22. @ Ben/Lucky

    Any reason you booked the JL flight with Mileage Plan and not Aadvantage? It’s only 80k on AA which seems better than using 70k mileage plan miles

  23. @Ben

    Are you aware of any other avenues to book a Business Suite using miles? There’s zero availability on AA or BA on any date, LHR or NRT. Plenty of pretty steep cash fares available, however.
    Many thanks.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *