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Getting to China

Discussion in 'Award Booking Help' started by projectx, Nov 16, 2017.

  1. projectx

    projectx Level 2 Member

    I'm considering taking a family of 5 to China during the summer months. Where exactly I'm not sure... this is just trying to figure out a general idea of getting to/from. Now, this crazy trip is still a couple years out, but with all the new restrictions in CC apps I figure it doesn't hurt to start early. For arguments sake let's use current redemption values. Yes, they will probably devalue but it at least gets me a starting point.

    To be frank, the thought of spending 16 hours in the air sounds rough. I'm 6'4" and can't sleep on a plane. Now a lay-flat business class seat? That I could do. The problem is availability. Our youngest kids will be in the 8 or 9 year old range.

    From what I gather my best options are United and Alaska. I figure it would be easier to book two one-ways on different airlines then trying to accumulate the points needed in a single currency. So, 350k United miles, and 250k Alaska miles. We live in CVG but can get to a hub like ORD easily. In doing research I've discovered a lot of award availability on United (for Summer 2018 as a reference), and this is without even logging in. Getting Cathay Pacific seats are a bit more difficult, but they are there. As I understand it the best availability using Alaska miles is about a year out.

    Acquiring the United miles won't be too difficult and I have a nice stash of UR already. The Alaska miles seem harder to come by. However, a 35k SPG bonus and then convert to Alaska is a nice boost, plus applying for a personal and biz Alaska card. With the minimum spend that puts it around 100k miles right there. But how easy is it to churn the biz card these days? They used to pass them out like candy but with the new 2/3/4 rule in place I'm not so sure.

    The question I pose to the experts is, are these the best programs to be using in terms of award availability and ease of earning/using miles? And one more wrinkle... let's say we wanted to add a stopover in Australia. How doable is that?
  2. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    I've read many DPs that BOA biz cards don't seem affected by the 2/3/4 rule. For now.

    Yes, UA miles are great for China. Air China is a partner so you can reach anywhere in China.

    Might also consider Korean Air. Reportedly endless premium availability.
  3. ChrisM

    ChrisM New Member

    Another consideration could be ANA. Assuming you have multiple people in your household that could apply for PRG/platinum cards you can rack up MR points pretty quickly and award availability seems pretty decent, especially if you'd be willing to split your family in both business and economy. I just did a quick search for a couple of iterations of 5 people in business/economy from ORD to PVG in Nov 2018 and found availability. I booked my honeymoon using ANA miles from MR and SPG transfers - top notch product, great service, great food, and lots of airports available.
  4. HariOm

    HariOm Transcendent Level

    Anecdotally, I've been looking for India flights lately using United miles and have seen an abundance of China connections, so +1 to what @italdesign noted. One caveat is that on FT it's reported that Air China business awards booked through United sometimes get cancelled for no reason. I haven't researched it but might be worth some reading. Korean has some well-documented booking quirks so you might take a look at that before committing there.
  5. projectx

    projectx Level 2 Member

    Yes... this post from MPD makes me want to avoid Korean:
    Unless I'm missing something, if I'm going to book a Star Alliance carrier, there's no reason not to book United. I've found plenty of award space during the summer months for 5 seats in business class. And that's without carrying a United CC, or even logging in for that matter.
  6. El Ingeniero

    El Ingeniero Level 2 Member

    Main points of entry flying direct from North America are PEK or PVG, although there are a few oddball flights like SFO-WUH which might be worth exploring. Unless PEK or PVG is yur final destination, you are not going to arrive in much less than 23 hours unless you are departing from ORD, LAX, SEA, DTW, SFO or one of the other big gateways as you will have 2 stops.

    If I was going to points in eastern China, you'd be fine transiting Tokyo or maybe Seoul. I'd avoid transiting Taiwan (EVA, China Air) or HKG (CX) to get to the mainland, unless you want to spend several hours going out of your way or you are going to Shenzen.

    For me Air China is a last resort. China Eastern and China Southern are OK domestically and for the last leg to your final destination from Tokyo or Seoul, but not for the trans-pacific segment. Best carriers for crossing the ocean are Korean, Asiana, JAL, ANA. In a pinch I'd do AA/UA/DL in lie flat business class. I did NRT-SEA in DL premium economy, never again.

    Domestically, I'd always take a bullet train if possible for anything under 500 miles: it's usually cheaper than and always more comfortable than economy. Nowadays you can buy your tickets ahead of time online for pickup at the train station; back in the day you could only buy at the train station. Pay no attention to the propaganda about empty bullet trains; in my experience they are always packed and you need to buy when they are available for sale.

    I'd take overnight soft sleepers in a K train for anything up to 1000 miles. I've even done hard sleepers on slower trains (18 hours for Beijing-Shenyang) back in the day when I arrived the day of Spring Festival and had to buy the ticket second hand (paid 100 yuan over normal price and was happy to ... better than waiting an extra 1/2 day for standing room only on a slower train).

    The extra time for a slower mode of travel is made up for by being able to take a short taxi ride to arrive at the station maybe 1/2 hour before departure, and taking at most 10 minutes to exit the station and maybe spending 20 minutes waiting in the taxi line. Plus you are usually right in the middle of town so you aren't spending an hour driving to and from the airport way out in the boonies. You might have to wait 15 to 20 minutes in a taxi line to get to your hotel, but that's it.
  7. projectx

    projectx Level 2 Member

    Thanks @El Ingeniero , good stuff.

    I'm in CVG so connecting in ORD or just driving direct is my best option. Plenty of direct flights to Hong Kong or Bejing. You mentioned "in a pinch" you'd do United... why is that? What do the other carriers you mentioned offer that United doesn't?
  8. El Ingeniero

    El Ingeniero Level 2 Member

    I said, "In a pinch I'd do AA/UA/DL in lie flat business class". Nothing against the US big 3, I think a good overseas carrier will almost always have a better soft product in business and first class: top shelf booze, better food (usually) and service that more consistent and generally at a higher level. Hence my recommendations for ANA, Korean, Asiana and JAL.

    I will say that the seat is a bigger deal to me, and I think the US big 3 are pretty much on a par with everyone else out there in business class seating (not so in coach).
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