Here comes my next trip report, which covers some travels I had earlier in the month. I’m actually on one very long, continuous journey, but I’ll be breaking this up into a few different trip reports (once this report is complete, I’ll have reviews of business class on Lufthansa, Meridiana, and Azores).
The only reason I took this trip was to review several new airlines, and in particular a few airlines that have been on my list to review for a very long time. I’m always good at procrastinating on stuff like this, so figured it was time to just book already, given that I had about a week in my schedule without any location commitments.
Planning hotels for this trip was an afterthought, so this wasn’t a destination trip where I had certain cities or hotels I was looking to stay at. It was all about the flights.
With that in mind, let’s talk a bit about how I planned this trip:
UPDATE: Unfortunately, in 2018, Chase Ultimate Rewards removed Korean Air as a transfer partner.
The planning for this trip started with my desire to fly Saudia first class. I flew Saudia several months back in business class, and had an interesting experience, to put it mildly. So I was keen to check out the new first class suite they offer, which looked solid. Could Saudia actually have a good first class product?
The good news is that Saudia first class award tickets are wide open when booking through Korean Air SkyPass. Saudia belongs to SkyTeam, though the catch is that SkyTeam as an alliance doesn’t allow international first class award redemptions. Instead such opportunities are negotiated between individual airlines.
Korean Air SkyPass has the best access to first class on SkyTeam airlines, and you can easily redeem Korean Air miles for travel in international first class on China Eastern, China Southern, Korean Air, and Saudia. Saudia first class award availability couldn’t be much better, with most flights having 4-5 award seats per flight, no matter when you book.
Korean Air SkyPass is even transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, meaning that you can use points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. The cost of a roundtrip first class ticket between the US and Middle East is 160,000 miles, though the catch is that you have to book a roundtrip.
In this case I decided that it made the most sense to book the outbound for this trip, and then book the return for travel in about six months, since I figured four Saudia first class reviews in a row would be a bit repetitive (furthermore, this lets me avoid the electronics ban for a bit).
So I booked the following outbound, with the entire roundtrip ticket costing 160,000 SkyPass miles plus $145.19 in taxes and fees:
06/09 SV22 New York to Riyadh departing 5:00PM arriving 12:05PM (+1 day) [First Class]
06/10 SV552 Riyadh to Dubai departing 6:10PM arriving 9:00PM [First Class]
From there, another airline I’ve been meaning to review in first class is Jet Airways. I’ve reviewed Air India, so was curious how India’s other first class product compared. Jet Airways has a first class product from India to several points in Europe, Toronto (via Amsterdam), and some points in Asia. Based on availability I figured I’d book myself from Dubai to London via Mumbai, with the second segment in Jet Airways first class.
American AAdvantage is partners with Jet Airways, so I booked the following for 62,500 AAdvantage miles plus $21.80 in taxes:
06/12 9W535 Dubai to Mumbai departing 3:10PM arriving 7:55PM [Business Class]
06/13 9W120 Mumbai to London departing 1:45AM arriving 6:45AM [First Class]
Lastly, another airline that has been on my radar for a while is Tunisair. Their only transatlantic route is from Tunis to Montreal, and it’s operated with a fairly new A330. They don’t belong to any alliances or have major airline partners, so I booked the following for ~$1,400 in cash:
06/13 TU791 London to Tunis departing 5:55PM arriving 8:50PM [Business Class]
06/14 TU202 Tunis to Montreal departing 4:15PM arriving 8:10PM [Business Class]
In the end my routing looked as follows:
As you can see, this trip was pretty light on the hotel front, as I was flying almost nonstop. So for this trip I had the following substantial layovers:
- 2 nights in Dubai
- A long day layover in London
- 1 night in Tunis
I did plan two nights in Dubai at the beginning of the trip. In Dubai during summer (and especially during Ramadan) you can stay almost anywhere for cheap, so I could have done a true five star hotel for well under $200 per night. however, I was keen to try the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights, which is fairly new, and is one of the few Hyatts in Dubai I haven’t stayed at. It’s near the airport, and was under $100 per night.
Then I had a long layover at Heathrow Airport, and both my arriving and departing flights were out of Terminal 4. I’ve long been fascinated by the Yotel concept, so I figured I’d get a day room at the Yotel Heathrow Terminal 4. The room for an eight hour block cost just under $100. While not cheap, I knew I’d need the rest between flights. My other practical option was getting a day room at the Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4.
Lastly, I had one night in Tunis, where I stayed at the Sheraton Tunis, which was ~$150. The hotel was a 15 minute drive from the airport, so had a convenient location. Tunis isn’t a great hotel city overall, though it’s getting a Four Seasons later this year, which I’d like to return and check out.
Fortunately since my flight only left the following afternoon, I could do some sightseeing in the morning.
This was a trip of many surprises, as at least two of the three airlines weren’t as I was expecting them to be. I’m looking forward to sharing the full details of the flights. While my time on the ground was brief, I enjoyed my morning sightseeing in Tunis, and am hoping to return soon. What a beautiful place.
Thanks to everyone for reading, and of course for making my “dream job” possible! 🙂