Trip Introduction: Dodging Volcanic Ash; Bali and Singapore via Delta, Asiana, KLM, and Japan Airlines Business Class


Around this time, I started to get a bit more creative with the frequent flier redemptions. Instead of just collecting the points, I started with the “buy low / sell high” method of purchasing points to redeem against outsized value. In this trip, I maximized point redemption values to put together a fantastic family trip for a lot less than expected.

Trip Introduction: Dodging Volcanic Ash. Bali and Singapore via Delta, Asiana, KLM and Japan Airlines Business Class.

Trip Background:

I was born to two sets of first generation Canadians, having immigrated to the United States from Singapore and the United Kingdom. When I was ten years old, I was being taken overseas to visit grandparents and aunts and uncles; travelling from Canada to Singapore. We mostly traveled on Cathay Pacific from Vancouver, through the old Hong Kong Kai Tak airport. My dad was taking me in the other direction, to the United Kingdom and Guernsey in order to visit the other side of the family. I didn’t know it then, but I really enjoyed those trips and it made me into the world traveller and explorer that I am today. 

Now that my own son is 11 years old, I wanted to give him a similar experience. Although it’s been challenging, he’s been given the opportunity to travel to Singapore, Thailand, Costa Rica, Maui (Hawaii) and now Bali, Indonesia. MrsWT73, the gracious host, has accompanied me and my son (who is from the previous administration) on all these trips. It won’t be long before we have one of our own. 

We picked Bali as a destination as it involved beaches with a little bit of culture that I’m sure an 11 year old would find different than our life at home in Canada. It was also close to the family home in Singapore and we could get in a visit at the same time. I personally enjoy South East Asia as a destination to visit and this trip was no exception. 

Trip Planning and Constructing the Trip:

The goal on this trip was to visit both Bali for holidays and Singapore for a family visit. Bali, Indonesia is a bit of a tricky destination to get to from North America. I had thought about getting from Vancouver to Singapore, then purchasing a round trip ticket to Bali from Singapore but that added cost and time to our vacation.Instead, I happened to find 3 business class reward seats on Asiana Airlines from Los Angeles – Seoul Incheon on their Airbus A380, and onwards to Seoul Incheon to Denpasar Bali on their older Asiana Boeing 767. I was able to redeem 65,000 Avianca Life Miles per person for this award, along with $25 award fee and $14.90 in taxes, totalling $39 USD in ticket fees each. I purchased the Lifemiles outright on one of their famous two for one promotions, meaning that I was able to purchase 32,500 miles (at $35.40 USD per 1,000 miles, totalling $1,150 USD) with promotion doubling to total 65,000 miles. I found that getting two flights in full business class to get to Bali from Los Angeles was worth $1,150 USD one way, and not much more than half the price of an economy ticket.

Given that the Lifemiles booking engine was not very complex at the time of booking, we weren’t able to add on a flight on Air Canada to get to Los Angeles for our Asiana Airlines A380 flight. While Air Canada had economy flights Vancouver – Los Angeles available for $210 USD one way, Delta Airlines had First Class flights available Vancouver – Seattle for $250. As a result, I paid cash for a positioning flight Vancouver – Los Angeles in first class to get to our Lifemiles ticket which started in Los Angeles, USA.

There were quite a view ways to get from Bali to Singapore. While there were several low cost carriers flying the route such as Jetstar and Valuair, in addition to the prestigious options like Singapore Airlines, I also noticed that KLM was also flying a fifth freedom flight on the route: Bali – Singapore – Amsterdam. Being a fifth freedom flight, their business class between Bali and Singapore was deeply discounted. As a result, I purchased this ticket for $315 USD along with taxes and fees of $42.70 totalling $357.70 USD, which I found to be of good value for an international business class flight. It included lounge access and free overweight checked baggage; something the low cost carriers did not.

For our options to get home, Singapore had great connectivity in both Star Alliance and One World networks. I had a bunch of AAdvantage Miles that are a little difficult to use from Vancouver given that it is Star Alliance territory. As a result, I was able to locate two business class seats on Japan Airlines Singapore – Narita – Vancouver. MrsWT73 flew home a little earlier in the week on Japan Airlines Singapore – Haneda / Narita – Vancouver using the co-terminals rule at Haneda/Narita, Japan. My flights included a flight on the Japan Airlines “Sky Suites II” on their Boeing 767, and their newer product on their Japan Airlines Boeing 787 “Shell Flat Neo” serving Vancouver. I redeemed AAdvantage Miles that were converted in from Royal Bank of Canada Avion Visa Credit Cards for 55,000 AAdvantage Miles and $62.55 CAD in taxes and carrier imposed fees per person.

In terms of accommodation, as we were travelling as a family, we opted for a little extra space. We ended up staying at the Westin Nusa Dua in Bali. As a Category 5, a regular redemption was 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Points with the fifth night free or 40,000 points for 5 nights. There was a little known feature that suites were double the award price, so we redeemed 80,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Points for a Garden Terrace Family Suite. We got the fifth night free as always. We also used a certificate for a standard room on our initial arrival night when we arrived at 1 AM, courtesy of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Credit Card.

We stayed at the family house in Singapore and didn’t incur any accommodation expenses for our 7 days there.

All in, our tickets cost us $1,785 USD per person for seven flights North America – South East Asia in full business class, along with the redemption of 65,000 Lifemiles, 55,000 AAdvantage Miles and 80,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points. Our routing ended up looking like follows:

YVR-LAX (paid)
LAX-ICN-DPS (LifeMiles Award)
DPS-SIN (paid)
SIN-NRT-YVR (AAdvantage Award)
Our Routing Ended Up Like This

Unfortunately, about four days before our trip, Mount Ruang in Indonesia decided to erupt and steam over an extended period of time, causing havoc with the flights. It was a slow eruption and steaming over several days that caused hundreds of flight cancellations. BBC News was our best source of international updates:

Volcano Closures in Bali, Indonesiafour days before our travels

I considered on several occasions cancelling the whole thing and changing to Thailand. However, when I checked hotels, there was really nothing interesting available with the best properties being fully booked in the height of summer. Eleven year old in hand, travelling on two tickets, we decided to roll the dice it and proceed with the original plan and take our chances. 

It was a test of nerves until the point that we actually landed, and then again until we left Bali. Instead of freakishly checking for award space inventories, I was freakishly checking the VAAC Darwin center ash advisory warning that covered the ash cloud pattern warning. How did we fare? Did we make it in and out unblemished? Stay tuned to find out!

This post is one chapter on our trip to Bali and Singapore. This trip was redeemed through Lifemiles, AAdvantage and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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If you’ve got a favourite method of getting to South East Asia on Reward miles, do you have any strategies that often help?

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