I caught myself being judgmental again, one day I will stop… I saw a post over at Points Summary from Jamison where he spoke about being downgraded from First to Business for his Taipei- Hong Kong (TPE-HKG) flight (schedule to be 1:40 in duration) as it is Cathay Pacific you could spend British Airways Avios and travel there for the following rates:
- First 13,500
- Business 9,000
- Economy 4,500
Me, being the old cheapskate that I am would never have thought to fly that route in First, or Business for that matter! I could suck it up in Economy for 1:40hr and frequently airtimes are quite shorter than listed, so it wouldn’t be a struggle at all. Why waste the 9,000 Avios I thought?
As I wrote my comment there I felt bad for slapping my cheap judgement on his choice to experience First class and I tried to see it through his eyes, and tried to see if I could find value there also. Thankfully I could.
I managed to find it agreeable by thinking more about what that First Class ticket gets you. For 13,500 Avios you aren’t just getting the short flight, but you could also easily get a few hours in the Lounge too. And if you can slam back enough champers and fill your pockets with crackers you could be onto a real winner.
I looked up the lounge in Taipei and it sounded a bit crappy, but if you were to flip the flight around and start in HKG and you could gain access to it for just 9,000 additional Avios there is massive upside potential to be had. The First Class lounge in Hong Kong is the flagship for Cathay Pacific, and has some seriously nice touches, such as a champagne bar (two types of Moet, and a Veuve Clicquot) and other goodies – for a review check out One Mile at a Time’s post here.
Let’s assume that you want to arrive early for your flight so you don’t have to stress out, you could easily check in at the airport 4hrs or so before your 1hr flight. This would give you 4hrs of free flowing booze and snacks for that price of 9,000 Avios. Still too expensive? What if you brought a guest with you, double the bubbles for the same 9,000. I know if I went there in the right frame of mind with a good ‘wing man’ we could sink a good few bottles in 4hrs. Heck, we might say bollocks to the flight and just hang out 🙂
Fifth Freedom Flights can be fun!
This type of flight is called a Fifth Freedom flight, not because you are free to debauch yourself (that is always an option though) but because you get to experience international First Class service on a short hop. These are created for a variety of reasons, and allow international carriers to be competitive in foreign markets.
As a New Yorker, and a busy one at that, I wouldn’t want to worry about getting myself to Hong Kong for this great little Avios route, but we do have our own – the quite well known JFK-Vancouver on Cathay Pacific. This one is 6hrs for 37,500 Avios. Due to the duration I would imagine you could score a lot of extra value from actually flying this route, as you have some solid drinking time there!
This route would otherwise cost 12,500 in Economy as Avios works as 1x, 2x,3x base fare (excluding some exceptions when heading southbound) so you are looking at an ‘investment’ of 25,000 Avios for what – 10hrs of stuffing your face full of booze and goodies… some might say that is quite the bargain! The best example of debauchery like this I have seen was a Trip Report on Flyertalk where a guy managed to polish off 8, yes EIGHT bottles of Dom Perignon on one trip from LA to Bangkok on Singapore Airlines First Class. That’s value…
For the lightweights out there, you probably want to get the best price per pint of grog, and talking with MilesAbound he informs me that most of the time people reach for the Champagne when the real ‘value’ is in the wine selection. Some airlines offer exceptional red wines that offer a much better dollar per pint value. While Krug Grand Cuvee (retail price $150-170 per bottle) is pretty solid value, do keep your eyes open for the Grand Cru offerings from Bordeaux, some may retail for less than the Krug, but they may well drink a lot better too.
Doing the JFK-Vancouver Math
25,000 Avios at 1.3 cents each = $325
- British Airways Terraces Lounge at JFK serves Laurent Perrier 1812 Champagne (retails $35 per bottle)
- In flight Krug at $150 per bottle
As you can see, for that $325 you could get a lot of value if you are able to follow the guidelines above, I personally recommend only eating Caviar as it is the most expensive option, and it will fill you the least so you can drink more.
Finally, should you wish to really ‘go big’ you could consider bringing some sort of CamelBak system concealed in your bra or underpants, this could allow you to either stock up on more booze for later, or avoid trips to the bathroom. I would recommend that you approach this as an either/or endeavor as there are stories of people confusing what was thought to be Krug later on….
So folks, I was wrong, there is a lot of value in such short flights, and I shouldn’t be so judgmental about how others want to spend their hard earned Avios. And to be clear, I am not saying Jamison would do this, I am saying that I am thinking about getting myself over to JFK and loading up!