I’m Flying From San Francisco To Hong Kong And Back In 32 Hours… As One Does

Filed Under: Travel

Over the weekend I jumped on the opportunity to book a seat on United’s brand new 777-300ER between San Francisco and Hong Kong. There was saver level business class award availability on the flight, which seemed like a good opportunity to try the new product only days after it entered international service.


When I saw the availability I pulled the trigger immediately, without even considering how I’d get back to the US.

I was flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong on a Tuesday, arriving at around 7PM on a Wednesday. I have a commitment in the US Friday night, so figured I’d spend a night in Hong Kong and then fly back, or maybe even spend two nights in Asia before returning.


There were a few return options I was considering (all with the intent of reviewing new products):

After much consideration, I decided I’d try Singapore Airlines’ new business class between Hong Kong and San Francisco. I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed the product yet. While they also had first class award availability, I figured business class would make a more useful review.

Furthermore, I thought it could be fun to compare United and Singapore head-to-head between Hong Kong and San Francisco in business class.

Singapore’s flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco departs at 11:30PM and arrives in the US at around 9PM, so originally my plan was to fly on Thursday night. That would give me a bit over a day in Hong Kong.

But the more I thought about it, I decided I was best off just returning to the US the same night I arrived in Hong Kong — so fly United from San Francisco to Hong Kong, land at 7PM, and then fly Singapore Airlines from Hong Kong to San Francisco, departing at 11:30PM the same night.

Before I try to justify this, let me admit that I’m probably a bit crazy… but I suppose that would be stating the obvious. Even with a flat bed, this is so so so so bad for me. But I keep doing it.

Why did I decide this made the most sense? Because I typically stay mostly on US east coast time no matter where in the world I am. I figured that if I returned the following day, I’d be awake in my hotel working until about 2AM, then I’d probably be awake by 7AM (just due to jetlag), and then I’d probably struggle to nap the rest of the day.

Crazy as it sounds, I figure this itinerary minimizes my exhaustion, in a way. This way I can work at the airport for a few hours (fueled by plenty of coffee, of course), and then eventually pass out on the Hong Kong to San Francisco flight.

I take a lot of crazy trips, but flying leaving from San Francisco to Hong Kong at 1PM on a Tuesday and returning at 9PM on a Wednesday is especially crazy even by my standards.

When I arrived in Hong Kong I had to go to the Singapore Airlines transit desk to get my boarding pass. They asked for my inbound boarding pass, which I presented them.

“Sir… you are coming from… San Francisco?”

Rather than try to justify myself, I just smiled and said “yes.” The agent and her colleagues exchanged a few words quietly, and issued my boarding pass, though they did look at me like I was from another planet.

And that reaction pales in comparison to when I called my mom yesterday morning and explained I was going to Hong Kong for just a few hours. You’d think she would be used to it by now.

I guess I’ll find out later tonight whether or not I regret my decision.

  1. Wow I’m doing basically the same thing! EWR-SFO-PVG-SFO-BOS this coming weekend and back to work on Monday :p

  2. I feel like I would have gone through the immigration gates (assuming you have e-entry) and picked up the boarding pass at departure to avoid the discussion. There are e-gates on exit as well – so no human discussion on the ‘issue.’

  3. It’s not cool…its a waste even by your “standards”. To be honest it just comes across as vulgar!.

    In years to come you will regret these types of trips (for reasons you couldn’t imagine today).

    Also, I do hope you get checked for radiation on a regular basis.

  4. Lucky-

    I might have you beat…

    I am flying SEA-HKG-SEA for a mileage run. We land at 9pm HKG time on a Saturday night and then depart on Sunday morning at at 10:30am HKG time. Good old 12 hour layover!!

    We are planning to get a room at the Marriott next to the airport, but are going to try and sleep the entire flight and then stay awake the entire layover. And then sleep again on the flight back to the states.

    Any tips for going through immigration on a 12 hour layover and then returning to get my outbound boarding pass before my return flight home? I was going to try and obtain this before immigration from the Delta transit desk or e-kiosk, but I haven’t been able to get a straight answer on if this is possible or not?

  5. haha..there is no radiation in front of the plane..everyone knows that This is work for him..few thousand eyeballs and few comments make it possible for him to do it again. I don’t like these justification posts that are coming more and more from lucky but I guess posts are posts, still money. I would have rather wrote about service on united polaris even if anecdotal but i’m sure its coming.

  6. @Jordan Lucky’s still pretty young. I dont get how this comes across as vulgar or a waste. And if radiation was ever an issue, you’d probably hear it from the crew first.

  7. @jordan very true. I have a friend who works for an upcoming airline in Asia and he travels around regionally three times a week to inspect outport stations. He’s young and been doing this for two years and he noticed that it’s starting to take a toll on his health.

  8. @Jordan, how is it a waste when you fly (and review planes) for a living, would you say the same to pilots and cabin crews?

  9. @Mark LOL your’s is a 12 hour layover while his is 4 and a half.

    You shouldn’t have problems with immigration – just be truthful. I dont see why the transit desk or the check in desk cant issue you a boarding pass when you arrive since its within the 24 hour check-in period. You just have to find a contract Delta agent.

  10. Etihad F from Del–>Auh
    Transit 4 hours
    Etihad Apt from Auh–>NYC
    3 hours wait
    Qatar Bus from NYC–>Doh
    5 hour transit
    Qatar F from Doh–>Bkk

    Don’t ask why I’m doing it! But not a bad way to do it…

  11. I’ve got you all beat. SIN run with a ~5 hour layover in SIN.

    CX PEY and I’m bringing along little work2fly for the ride.

    If all goes well, we’ll do a few more for EXP.

  12. I do not envy you AT ALL. Flying is torture even if in first class if just for the sake of…well…flying. I fly international first class all the time now that I cam afford it on trips with friends and family and even so I must say I dread the idea of flying, the time change and the numbers long flights do to your body including contamination, catching germs and dehydration. For me, the destination is the objective and not the flight itself. And food on the ground in fine dining restaurants will always surpass those served 35000 feet up no matter how much airlines try. When I fly first class long haul I typically clock in 8-10 hours of sleep (that’s what I pay for) and only take light snacks just adter take off and before landing. But hey, to each his own!

  13. Yeah this is crazy. Ostentatious. Most of us will never understand how you afford the tickets or points. Apparently ads pay very well. I follow this post to view the insides of different aircraft. Flying first/business class around the world and snapping pictures and reviews of the salad, bread, rolls etc is not a job. Calling it a “job” or “work” is pretty much an insult to other 99.99% of the world who actually does work. You have a very expensive hobby and get paid for ads. That ain’t work.

  14. @Jordan

    >It’s not cool…its a waste even by your “standards”. To be honest it just comes across as vulgar!.

    Why? I disagree.

    >In years to come you will regret these types of trips (for reasons you couldn’t imagine today).

    Such as?

    I’ve done countless mileage runs over the years, and with one exception (a mileage run to HKG shortly before my mother passed away), I don’t regret any of them.

    To the contrary – I’m a MM today in part because of them, and my wife and kids have enjoyed considerable comfort on flights thanks to some of those trips I did 20 years ago.

  15. Would love to know what kind of commitment on Friday night is important enough to make you only spend 4.5 hours on the ground after flying 7,000 miles…must be pretty damn important!

  16. Meh, I’ve done something similar. JFK-YVR-HKG-LAX, JFK-YVR-HKG-LHR-HKG-JFK, JFK-YVR-HKG-YVR-JFK.

    No overnights, just a few hours all on CX

  17. My wife flew the non-stop SQ from SIN to SFO in Business. She confirmed other bloggers’ assessment that the best business cabin seat is the bulkhead. If you are not seated in bulkhead, the lie flat position will not be very comfortable since one has to sleep diagonally. It is much better than coach mind you, but non-bulk head seat is inferior to standard reverse herringbone.

  18. Let’s hope United doesn’t change planecat the very last minute. Otherwise, Ben, you will be one pissed off dude!!

  19. Going for MM this year (which will end up being early may), so I’ve been doing almost weekly MRs to SIN with a 3-8 hour stop in SIN, in on UA895/1, out on 896/2. But I do it all in economy (250K miles and won’t even meet platinum spend). Transfer counter and gate security agents all but know me by name. Only question from them these days is “are you coming from Hong Kong or San Francisco?”

  20. I definitely have you beat. 4 mileage runs last year on AA DFW-PVG RT for $500 each. Saturday, 11:30am -Sunday 4pm, Sunday 5:30pm – 4:30pm. I had one close call when the flight delayed for an hour landing at PVG…luckily you can check-in on the mobile app in flight.

  21. @Brett2879: LMAO! If Lucky is able to earn money doing what he loves even if it is a “hobby,” doesn’t make it less of a “job.” You seem to resent the fact that he enjoys what he does for a living, something which many people would kill for. I’d posit that musicians, athletes, and even coders turn “hobbies” into careers. BTW getting paid for ads is pretty much the business of Facebook and Google so are saying that is not a legitimate way to earn money? The green-eyed monster is a treacherous beast methinks…

  22. @Ben are you an attractive HK girl? If so, see you on the 6th! Unlike some people I plan to actually stay a couple of nights in HK after flying CX F.

  23. Hi Lucky, these types of posts do nothing except drive page views IMO. One would like to think youre better than this.

  24. OK, so all the haters need to take a breather. I don’t get the vitriol. Maybe it’s just jealousy that you get to make money doing what you love?
    I appreciate the updated posts because they’re fun to read, for those who find it lame, just move on.

  25. Did the same thing this weekend: ARN-LAX-ARN with SAS. Double miles this month.

    And doing the same with the ET sale. BKK-ADD-YYZ-ADD-BKK with 2,5 hours in Toronto… 🙂

  26. PS Any takes fora bet that Lucky follows this up with one of his “im so tired / unwell and dont know why i do this” posts 🙂

  27. This isn’t completely crazy. By another name, this is a mileage run, and they happen all the time. (Yes, I know Lucky wasn’t doing this for miles.)

    Just out of curiosity, Lucky – did you clear immigration in HKG at all? From your post, it looks like you had approximately 4.5 hrs between flights, which would be enough time to get through and back airside. Curious as to what US immigration said when you got back stateside without a stamp in your passport.

  28. Imagine the conversation:
    – Sir… you are coming from… San Francisco?
    – Yes.
    – Ah you must be doing a mileage run then?
    – Hum… No… Everything was bought with miles…!
    – …!

    On another note, I’m looking forward to the review of Singapore’s new business class! Is there award availability if I’d like to use Aeroplan miles for that flight (from and to the US) ? If there is, how long before is it released?

  29. @RTBones
    I believe they no longer stamp passports at HKG (unless you are a citizen from a country which has a visa requirement).

  30. Lucky should definitely do what he wants, fly where he wants and when he wants. And even post about the fact that he’s going to do it. As much as I love the blog, I am getting worn down by Lucky constantly telling me how “crazy” the next thing he’s doing it. As is clear from the comments, this blog, and the MR community, this is not crazy in the slightest. Try a different tact for a less yawn-worthy post.

  31. @Marc most longhaul flights on SQ in their premium cabins are only available for redemption using KrisFlyer miles. The same could be said when they use their longhaul aircraft on intra-Asia routes.

  32. Do so-called “mileage runs” really make any sense? You pay real money to take flights that have no purpose, only so you can eventually get a free flight?

    Isn’t life too short? I like to max out miles and points, but I still would never take a flight I didn’t need to. Obviously different if someone is paying you to review flights, but not otherwise.

  33. @R B – interesting. Did not know that (though I haven’t been to HKG in a few years). Just about every place I’ve gone through immigration has stamped mine.

    @Martin – it depends. Particularly close to the end of the year, if you are trying to maintain status with an airline. I’ve known multiple work colleagues to take a quick trip at the end of the year so they can maintain status. It was nice being PLAT or EXP when traveling international as it allowed easier check-in and int’l lounge access.

  34. I love it! We are all nuts! I flew FRA-YYZ-LGA, then my LGA-BNA cxld due to weather and my only option that night was to fly out of JFK-LHR biz. So I got an ok sleep and went straight back across the pond. Once in LHR, I went to FRA then back to NYC on LH First…..then onwards to BNA. A good amount of travel in 24hrs.

  35. @JetLagged&Drunk hopefully Nashville was great to you during your visit! As a bna based flyer, is rare to see our city mentioned in worldwide blogs like these. I hope you enjoyed the music city! I bet bna was different than Heathrow

  36. I admit to often feeling envy at what I see in this informative and very useful blog, but this is one occasion where I feel thankful about not having to endure back to back overseas flights. Unless I was on an airline’s payroll, that is an experience I would never wish to have.

  37. “Before I try to justify this, let me admit that I’m probably a bit crazy… but I suppose that would be stating the obvious. Even with a flat bed, this is so so so so bad for me. But I keep doing it.”

    Haha, this is awesome. I laughed out loud when I saw your itinerary. Keep up the good work Ben!

  38. Those who are criticising Lucky for either:

    1) making this post to drive page views;
    2) calling his website a hobby not a job; or
    3) calling this a waste,

    are clearly missing the point. This is how full time bloggers earn a living.

    This blog is what Lucky does for a job, and likely earns him substantial revenue based on the number of page views he gets. Just because you earn your money stuck behind a desk 9-5 mon-fri and get a monthly cheque at the end of it doesn’t make what you do any more of a job.

    Are sports starts not just doing their hobby for a salary? Singers are not just doing their passion for royalties?

    If you’re on this website you clearly enjoy and have a passion for flying in the nice part of a plane, and it is posts like this and trips like this which enable Lucky to get to do this full time instead of that boring office job.

    I agree with the poster above – jealousy is a terrible thing.

  39. I flew JNB to HKG recently (and, no, there’s no passport stamp in HKG now) and sat beside a fellow who was flying for business. Once a month he flies to HKG, arriving in the morning, has meetings all day, then returns on the same plane that evening. He sleeps on the lumpy South African A340 seats, which at least are fully flat. Then once month he also goes to Europe, same routine. Saves him from dealing with jet lag.

  40. I love my family and friends and spending time with them. However, I also love flying, especially long flights in premium. For 10+, I get to eat great food, drink whatever I want, watch tv/sleep/listen to music/read/stare at the ceiling without interruptions. It’s me time, and for anyone who has ever had to deal with a job or business that you don’t ever really get to clock out of and/or the day-to-day hectic life of managing a busy family, me-time is a luxury, made even more so with a premium class seat.

    So no, I don’t imagine this is a waste, nor do I think it’s crazy. Jordan can stand by whatever position he wants to, he hasn’t contributed anything value to this conversation or to this blog anyway, so what does it matter what he thinks.

    Plus, I imagine it would be pretty fun to fly on a new product. I’m envious of people like Lucky who get to do all of these fun trips. Whether or not the experience is no longer [as] exciting after the thousandth time on a long-haul premium flight, I would always appreciate the peace of having my own space/time for the duration of the flight. Especially in Etihad’s first apartment, wow, those flights are amazing…regardless of the cost-cutting they’ve had recently.

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