I enjoy puzzles. Recently the puzzle I’ve been playing around with is Airline frequent flyer programmes. If you’re from New Zealand, you’re probably well familiar with Air New Zealand Airpoints. There’s not really much ‘point hacking’ you can do with the programme. One Airpoints Dollar equals one NZ Dollar.
But not all airlines have such simple programmes. My current favourite is Alaska Airline’s Mileage Plus programme. You can buy Alaska Airline miles, and occasionally, they have bonus purchases. The best offer I’ve seen is get 40% more miles. So I ended up purchasing 60,000 Alaska Airline miles for around $1800 NZD.
Next, have a look at redeeming those miles with Alaska Airline partners using their redemption chart. The best value redemption for 60,000 miles is a return flight from Auckland to Hong Kong flying business class. And that’s what we booked!
Now, this is a saving of about $4000 NZD compared to buying a business class flight. But there are some caveats of course. First, availability isn’t very strong. Use the British Airways website to find out when there are seats available on a particular flight. Once available, call Alaska Airlines to do your reservation. Another concern is buying points in advance. Points aren’t cash – airlines can devalue them, cancel partners, change their programme at will. So we waited until there was a good sale, then looked for seats we could buy, then while on the phone to Alaska Airlines reservations, we purchased the points online.
And as for our Cathay Pacific experience? A really nice hard product, i.e. the seat. And an OK soft product, i.e. the people. We flew up Air NZ the day before and they weren’t worried about our carry on bags. But Cathay Pacific wanted to weigh ours! Turns out one bag was 9kg, and we had to remove some stuff from it. Also turns out that Business class passengers are allowed 10kg for carry on. So a mark down there for a lady giving us grief over something she wasn’t correct about.
The lounge access was for the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge. You really can’t complain about it – it’s very nice, the food is fine, and oh my goodness, the showers. SO GOOD. Shower pressure was intense, and there was a rain shower! You can’t beat that.
On board the flight, things were OK. The seat and surround is really good, but the food was a bit average. Ho hum bircher muesli tasted like cornflakes sitting in milk getting soggy for two days. Maybe that’s just what bircher muesli actually tastes like? The sausage and egg omelette tasted generously like that of an airport hotel. The omelette was next to mushrooms, and so the omelette turned grey in colour. The entertainment system is really nice, with live streaming CNN. And there’s WiFi onboard – a reasonable $20 USD for the 10 hour flight, which is a good deal.