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Old Nov 21, 16, 9:43 pm   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Kansas City, MO
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First Award Redemptions: Away to Asia - CX J, SQ Suites, WN Y

PROLOGUE
I love trip reports. Well, reading them, at least. This is my first attempt at scrawling into the tablets of FlyerTalk a written testament to our travels. I hope you’ll enjoy following along on the journey.

My wife and I began planning our trip to Southeast Asia in December 2015. We had just returned from South Africa (a potential future report) and were a bit remiss about not having another major destination on the horizon. Through several years of study and mistakes, I’ve caught on to the points and miles game and learned a number of lessons along the way. (Redeeming your American Express Membership Rewards for statement credits is, generally speaking, a horrible idea.) We have accumulated a number of miles through the past few years and I finally felt comfortable stepping out and making my first award booking.

I wanted to experience a true international business class on a long-haul flight, so we booked a one-way ticket from Kansas City to Hong Kong via Chicago on Cathay Pacific. Initially, we wanted to split our time between Hong Kong and Singapore, but in the end we decided to spend a few days in Bangkok in the middle of our trip and add an extra day to the end. We then proceeded to Singapore for a few days before heading back to the U.S. These intra-Asia flights were both on Cathay Pacific in business class on long-haul configured aircraft.

As the icing on the cake, I redeemed for two seats on Singapore Airlines in Suites class, which would take us from Singapore to New York City via Frankfurt. For the final leg of the trip, we then transferred to LaGuardia and took a nonstop Southwest flight to Kansas City. Yes, you’re reading the correctly: from Singapore Suites to a middle seat on Southwest.

Final routing:


I plan on updating this report every few days as I process through the images and eventually listing all the links to travel posts on this original.

A few selected teaser images:

Not our plane; just a gorgeous British Airways 747:


Tian Tian Buddah in Hong Kong:


The raccoon-faced Cathay Pacific A350:


Garden at Wat Pho in Bangkok:


Central Business District of Singapore:


Singapore Airlines A380 at dawn, Frankfurt:


Please let me know any feedback, good or bad, along the way. Thanks for reading!
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Old Dec 5, 16, 10:06 pm   #2
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Delayed Departure

FLIGHT BOOKING: To book this leg of the journey, I used 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the flight to Hong Kong. I booked this flight in December of the previous year, so availability was not an issue for us. After the 10 percent mileage credit for being a BarclayCard Aviator cardholder, the net price was 49,500 miles and $5.60 per person.

We woke up on Thursday, October 20 and headed to the airport. Kansas City International Airport (located in the state of Missouri) is north of the entire metropolitan area and is about a 35-minute drive for us. Upon arriving at the terminal we entered the line for Priority Check-In and checked our bags through to Hong Kong. From there, it was a short walk to the security line for our gates.

For those who are not familiar with the Kansas City airport, it was designed in the 1960s and, depending on who you ask, is either completely awful or perfectly serviceable. The original design of the terminal allowed passengers to be dropped off and have less than 100 feet to walk to be in the gate area. Post-9/11, gates became clustered into groups of 3 or 4 and TSA checkpoints are located at each cluster, meaning that when several flights are all leaving at once, the line can get quite long. Only certain checkpoints are certified for PreCheck, but generally, the lines are so short, you’re through security in a matter of minutes.

There was no one in the line at our checkpoint, so we were in the boarding area about 5 minutes after arriving at the terminal. Awaiting us was our ride to Chicago O’Hare.



AA 3237 (Operated by Envoy Airlines)
MCI -> ORD
Miles: 406 miles
Duration: 58 minutes
Seat: 2C
CRJ-700

As is to be expected, everyone gathered around the gate agent about 10 minutes before boarding began, jostling for the best position in Group 4. When first class was called, we stood up to board, but thanks to the horde, it took us a few minutes before we were finally making our way down the jet bridge. We were pointed to our seats and offered pre-departure beverages and a newspaper.







Opting for some apple juice from a real glass, we settled into our seats and enjoyed what would be our first of many hours that day in a sealed tube! Boarding was completed quickly and on-time (due to everyone being ready to jump on the plane) and after a quick taxi to the runway, we were off.

The flight was uneventful – drinks were offered, along with a snack from the AA snack basket. A little more than an hour later, we were on the ground in Chicago.

Coming from an airport that almost exclusively features regional jets and 737s, seeing widebodies abound always piques my interest, and my eyes are generally glued out the window the entire taxi to the terminal.



We pulled up at the gate and were quickly off the plane. However, my carry-on had been gate-checked, so I had to wait for it to be removed, which took about 10 minutes. Heading into the terminal, we walked straight toward the Admiral’s Lounge in Terminal 3, Concourse G. It may not be the largest or most spacious, but it was the closest, and we had a four-and-a-half hour layover to kill.

After a bowl of the coconut curry chicken soup and a cocktail, I was ready to wander O’Hare. With the exception of the international terminal, all other terminals are now connected at O’Hare, so it’s easy to move between them while staying airside. Given the large presence of United and American at O’Hare, I went for a walk to see what I could.



While walking around, I took a peek at a nearby departures board to see where some of the planes nearby were traveling. Reading down the board, I noticed an ominous sign: that day’s United flight 895 to Hong Kong was cancelled. Pulling up my phone, I searched Google for CX807 and saw the dreaded: CANCELLED. At this point, I learned that a typhoon was on track to hit Hong Kong right around the time our flight was scheduled to arrive. After calling my wife and informing her of this unpleasant news, I began the trek back to the Admiral’s Lounge. We then collected our carry-on bags and headed for the international terminal to see what news awaited us there.



That would be no news. Or bad news. Our flight, along with a number of other flights were cancelled. There were about a dozen Cathay Pacific staff members at the check-in desks assisting passengers, but since we had arrived more than 3 hours before departure, we seemed to miss the crowd. We were informed the flight was cancelled until at least tomorrow, and that the flight on Friday had a 90 percent chance of departing on-time. Since we had checked our bags through to Hong Kong, the staff offered to retrieve them for us since we would be spending the night in Chicago. However, our carry-ons carried a change of clothes, and we weren’t looking forward to lugging them around for an extra day.

Annoyingly enough, our flight still showed as On Time on the Departures board, even when we left the airport. Cathay Pacific never called or emailed or texted to tell me the flight was cancelled and American didn’t either. I was surprised that this fell through the cracks, but it didn’t change the outcome of the situation.



So what do you do when you’re stuck in Chicago for 27 hours and the Cubs are in the NLCS? You call your friends to see what they are doing. Not wanting to stay in the hotel near the airport, we declined the offer of accommodations from Cathay and boarded the CTA into the city. A very well-known brewery in Chicago is Goose Island, and their taproom was extremely accommodating for two travelers in need of some beer.



After the brewery, we met up with our friends at their apartment in the River North area and had a few pre-game drinks before heading to Wrigleyville to watch the game. *Important note: I’m a fan of baseball, in such a way that if the Kansas City Royals are playing in the playoffs, I’m hooked.* Watching two teams play that I have no rooting interest in is much less interesting. However, drinking beer was much more fascinating. As such, I enjoyed several local IPAs and in no time was finding myself cheering along with a crowd of Cubs fans.

After the Cubs won, we made the infamous “one more stop” on our way back to their apartment. A few final beers and some board games later, we made it home, much later than we should have been on the night before a transpacific flight and much less hydrated.



Fast-forward to late the next morning and the instant regret from the previous evening’s transgressions. Although slow, we stumbled to our feet and headed back to the airport to find out if we would be heading to Hong Kong that day or not. Arriving at the check-in desk, we found out that in rebooking our flights, our separate reservations had been split onto two flights – I was supposed to leave October 21, but my wife’s flight had been moved to October 23. Fortunately the agent was able to move her to the same flight as I, although our carefully chosen seats on the plane had been completely reshuffled. However, given the circumstances, we were happy to be on the plane at all. We ended up switching seats with a woman so she could be closer to her husband, and in the end our seats were 18D and 18G.

CX 807
ORD -> HKG
Miles: 8,180 miles
Duration: 15 hours 12 minutes
Seat: 18G
777-300ER

This was it. My first true international business class experience on a well-renowned carrier. All the anticipation from 10 months of planning and a day’s worth of delays was worth it as we boarded the plane and were pointed to our seats. As soon as we stepped on board, I could tell it was going to be an amazing experience. Flight attendants were passing around champagne and I opted for a glass of Deutz. After settling into my seat, the crew began distributing menus and amenity kits.













The amenity kit contained the following items and came in a nice bag that I found useful for storing future toiletry items.





Our taxi was short and after a long takeoff roll, we were bound for Hong Kong! As soon as we were high enough, I kicked back in my seat and browsed the entertainment selection. I watched “The Angry Birds Movie,” which is worth its comedic weight in gold, along with a documentary called “The Last Man on the Moon.”

I wasn’t too hungry during the on-board meal service, and the options I was interested in were gone by the time the wheeled entrée cart came to me, so after dozing off for a while, I ordered a cheeseburger from the on-demand menu.

The flight was blocked at 15 hours and 50 minutes, but landed almost 40 minutes ahead of schedule (although a day behind). This allowed me to catch up on some sorely missed sleep from the night before and enjoy the amenities that Cathay Pacific’s business class had to offer. I found the lie-flat seats to be quite comfortable, with a number of options for reclining and watching a movie. Additionally, the bedding and pillow were sufficient, with the duvet keeping me from getting cold, but not being hot, either.

Prior to the flight I was concerned about the cabin temperature being too warm and hindering my ability to sleep. However, the temperature was never an issue, and I think that sitting in the middle of the larger business class cabin aids in the circulation of air. Additionally, any concerns about turbulence were mitigated by the smooth flight conditions we had for 99 percent of the trip.

Several hours before we landed in Hong Kong, the flight attendants began coming through the cabin to offer meal service.

I had the vegetarian lasagna and the lemon meringue with raspberry sauce, which was delicious. As expected, the crew on this flight was excellent, responding to any requests quickly and courteously. Unlike certain US airlines, where the call button is forbidden territory, our flight attendants were happy to help in any way possible.

After a smooth landing we taxied for about 15 minutes before arriving at our gate. Exiting the cabin, I got a sneak peek at the mini-cabin (where our seats were originally) and a glance at the vaunted first class section. The friendly crew bid us goodbye and we took our first steps into Asia!



Apologies for not documenting the bedding or food options very well. Stay tuned, as there's much better photographic evidence to come in future segments!
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Old Dec 6, 16, 2:20 pm   #3
  
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Great report! I'm hoping that ORD-HKG will be my first time redeeming a reward.
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Old Dec 6, 16, 9:36 pm   #4
  
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Glad your IRROPS situation was resolved rather nicely! And how lucky you and your wife were to be "stranded" in Chicago during the NLDS!

Looking forward to the rest of your report
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Old Dec 8, 16, 7:19 pm   #5
  
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Glad your IRROPS situation was resolved rather nicely! And how lucky you and your wife were to be "stranded" in Chicago during the NLDS!

Looking forward to the rest of your report
My thoughts exactly. Good recovery and I hope that the rest of the trip goes according to plan.
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Old Jan 14, 17, 5:32 pm   #6
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Conrad Hong Kong

Apologies for falling so far behind on this trip report.

Upon landing in Hong Kong, made our way through the airport and cleared immigration quickly. We exited the terminal and made our way to the Airport Express station, which provides quick service to Hong Kong Station in Central. The fare is only $180HK, which is about $23USD.

Airport Express tickets


The best part of the train is that even with stops in Tsing Yi and Kowloon, the trip takes about 25 minutes. Additionally, there are minibuses at Hong Kong Station that operate on certain hotel "loops" that can deliver you to hotels in the area as part of your Airport Express ticket.

Anyway, we were at our hotel about an hour after we landed in Hong Kong. We were staying at the Conrad, which I booked using my Citi Prestige card, so I could utilize the fourth night free benefit.

Conrad exterior


Courtesy of the typhoon, we arrive at the hotel a day late, but the staff at the hotel was quite accommodating and checked us in quickly. Not sure if this is the norm at Conrad hotels, or if it's standard at Hong Kong hotels, but there was a porter who took our bags and showed us to our room. Our room was 5106, a Harbour View room with a king bed. The rate was right at $300USD per night, but the fourth night was $338, so the fourth night free benefit worked in our favor!

Conrad Hong Kong Harbour View room











The view from the bed was pretty decent.



Conrad Hong Kong pool (it's always hot and humid - the pool would have been a worthy stop).



The staff at the hotel was great. My wife's birthday was during our stay at the hotel, and one afternoon they brought a piece of cake up for her with a candle in it. Nice touch!



Hong Kong has been extensively covered on this forum, so I won't bother filling in too many details of every picture, but rather I'll let them describe the city.





View from the top of Victoria Peak.



Inside of Hong Kong Park.









We took the MTR to Lantau Island, where we then took the cable car to Tian Tian Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. It was a cool place to spend the afternoon, and the views from the cable car were incredible.












Random Hong Kong markets.







Tesla gallery, because why not.



Giant Apple Store.



Holy food. We usually scarfed down what was placed in front of us before we could document it. Once you've been there, you'll understand. Documented below are a few pictures featuring food.







The Symphony of Lights is a 15-minute light show each night that takes place on the high-rise buildings around Victoria Harbor. It's not worth planning an evening around, but if you're around and want to watch, it's cool to see.





Hong Kong was an incredible experience. The city was a great introduction to Asia, with great food, fun attractions and some of the best people-watching opportunities I've had.

Stay tuned for Bangkok and Singapore, still to come!

Thanks for reading.
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Old Jan 15, 17, 11:49 pm   #7
  
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Some pretty great shots you got there! Mind me asking what camera these were taken with?
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Old Jan 16, 17, 5:13 am   #8
  
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Great TR so far.
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Old Jan 16, 17, 8:30 am   #9
  
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Great that you restarted this TR! Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Jan 16, 17, 9:52 pm   #10
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Originally Posted by teriyaki View Post
Some pretty great shots you got there! Mind me asking what camera these were taken with?
Thank you, teriyaki. I have a Canon 6D that does most of the work for me. The lenses I carry are the Canon 50mm f/1.8, the standard Canon 24-105mm f/4 and a Canon 16-35mm f/4 wide angle lens.

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Originally Posted by stevie View Post
Great TR so far.
Thanks, stevie. I appreciate you reading.

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Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
Great that you restarted this TR! Looking forward to the rest.
Thank you, roadwarrier. I’m hoping to get a few posts completed this week!
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Old Feb 5, 17, 3:06 pm   #11
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CX 751 - HKG to BKK

Noticed this trip report hasn’t written itself since I stepped away from it. However, I’m now committed to getting this thing knocked out. We left off in Hong Kong after a great stay at the Conrad. Getting to the airport from Hong Kong is simple - we booked a ticket on the Airport Express, which was less than $13 per person. Since we had a decent amount of luggage and the humidity in Hong Kong is ridiculous, we opted to grab a cab from our hotel to Hong Kong Central Station.

IGNORANT TOURIST INTERLUDE: Our cab ride took about 5 minutes and we were quickly at the station. Upon arrival, our cab driver added four $5HKD charges for our pieces of luggage - a cost I hadn’t contemplated when we left the hotel. We had used all but about $20HKD, which I thought would be more than enough for our trip. The driver was obviously unsympathetic to our lack of money, but he was more than happy to accept a $20USD bill from me in lieu of the HKD fare. After presenting this, he leapt out of the cab and unloaded our suitcases for us.

TL;DR: Carrying American dollars never hurts when you’re abroad.

Now what everyone reads for: Our trip to the airport was efficient and we arrived with plenty of time for our quick hop to Bangkok. I’d booked our flights using British Airways Avios, and award availability was wide open. Our cost per person was 15,000 Avios and $16.46. We benefited from an equipment change that would let us fly one of Cathay Pacific’s brand-new A350s on the short 2 hour and some change flight.

CX 751
HKG -> BKK
Miles: 1,051 miles
Duration: 2 hours, 41 minutes
Seat: 14K
A350-900

Once again, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.





Beautiful view from The Wing, one of the business class lounges available to Oneworld elites and passengers traveling in business class. Our transport to Bangkok was parked right outside the window.



I'd never seen an A350 before, so I was borderline giddy at the opportunity to see one up close. The main competitor for the A350 is Boeing's 787, but I haven't flown on that, so I can't comment on the difference between the two. However, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing such a new machine.





Curve of the wing is absolutely beautiful.






Cathay Pacific uses an updated version of their popular Zodiac Cirrus on the A350. Having spent 16 hours in the old version on our flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, I was glad to have an opportunity to fly on the new version. Some cabin shots below:





















Yes, the bathroom has a window in it.



Traffic at Hong Kong's airport is incredible to watch if you're an aviation fan.

Ethiopian 787


South African A340


Singapore Airlines A380


And obviously tons of Cathay Pacific traffic.




The Asia's World City livery 773.




Upon boarding, Billecart-Salmon Brut was being poured, and I was more than happy to accept a glass. Our flight to Bangkok was just over two hours, but there was still a full meal service on the flight. After champagne, I made the switch to a gin and tonics. Food service started pretty quickly, due to the short nature of the flight. Appetizer was a mixed salad with tuna, which was good. For the main, I selected the Thai red chicken curry with mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice. Finished the meal with some raspberry ice cream and another gin and tonic. Food pictures...









There was no shortage of entertainment on the flight for me, as noted by my excitement traveling on the A350. IFE was stellar and the cameras on the tail and undercarriage provided great views throughout our trip. The controller was touchscreen and made it easy to navigate through the screens.







My first trip on an A350 was amazing. Great opportunity to try a new aircraft and fly in business class. Service was top-notch and the flight was uneventful. I'll be curious to see if Cathay Pacific ever replaces any 777 routes on US to Asia flights with an A350 - I'd love to fly it again!

Thanks for reading!
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Old Feb 7, 17, 7:33 am   #12
  
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The resolution of the exterior cameras on the A350s are leaps and bounds better than those on the 777.

Finally caught up with your report. Great pictures and text!
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Old Feb 8, 17, 10:26 am   #13
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Excellent TR! Love seeing the A350s, I've yet to fly one yet (or even see one in person) but look forward to eventually finding my way onto one.
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Old Feb 8, 17, 10:38 am   #14
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mccluresonthemap View Post
FLIGHT BOOKING: To book this leg of the journey, I used 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the flight to Hong Kong. I booked this flight in December of the previous year, so availability was not an issue for us. After the 10 percent mileage credit for being a BarclayCard Aviator cardholder, the net price was 49,500 miles and $5.60 per person.
Nice pics.

Can you share the mile used for your other legs? Also was it 55k per person, right? I have a similar trip like this planned and trying to see how it stacks up.
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Old May 7, 17, 6:46 pm   #15
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Originally Posted by dat4life View Post
The resolution of the exterior cameras on the A350s are leaps and bounds better than those on the 777.

Finally caught up with your report. Great pictures and text!
Thank you, dat4life. The A350 benefits from a number of technological improvements that make older airplanes seem dated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke787 View Post
Excellent TR! Love seeing the A350s, I've yet to fly one yet (or even see one in person) but look forward to eventually finding my way onto one.
Thanks, Duke787. I hope Delta will be taking delivery of several of these in Fall 2017, so you may see one soon!

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Originally Posted by Explorer789 View Post
Nice pics.

Can you share the mile used for your other legs? Also was it 55k per person, right? I have a similar trip like this planned and trying to see how it stacks up.
Thanks for the compliment, Explorer789. I apologize for the delay in responding.

The Kansas City to Chicago to Hong Kong segment was 55,000 AA miles per person. This amount has now increased to 70,000 miles per person.

Additional legs were the following amounts:

HKG-BKK 15,000 Avios per person and $16.46 in taxes and fees.
BKK-SIN 15,000 Avios per person and $22.12 in taxes and fees.
SIN-JFK 93,500 Krisflyer miles per person and $321.01 in taxes and fees.
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