Date: March 29 – April 8, 2019
Route: YYZ – IAD – NRT – SIN | SIN – HKG – PEK – IAD – YYZ
Booking Class: First, Economy
Total Cost: $795.76 + 40,000 BA Avios
This was one of those spur of the moment trips that I impulsively booked after seeing cheap prices online. Over the years, I’ve learnt that if you see prices that are very decent, or even termed “mistake fares”, you HAVE to book the moment you see it. I can’t tell you how many mistake fares I’ve discovered, then sat on it for a day (or even an hour!) and subsequently lost the opportunity – along with massive regret afterwards.
Anyway, one Friday night I got a secret flying email showing Toronto->Singapore, Beijing ->Toronto for $517, with the option of adding a Tokyo stopover for another $120 (this was also covered on Redflagdeals). After replicating the route on Google Flights and playing around with the dates a little, I booked the following for $653.
Since this is an Open jaw ticket, I had to find my own way from Singapore to Beijing. The logical choice was to use British Airways Avios points, which is ideal for short flights as their redemption chart is (sort of) distance based. Since Avios allows you to book only OneWorld carriers, I had to fly either Malaysian or Cathay Pacific – meaning a transit in either Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong.
I chose Cathay since I always enjoyed flying it (HK National pride, I guess) and I can always do with another couple days in HK with friends and relatives! This means I have to price/book a Singapore->Hong Kong leg and a Hong Kong->Beijing leg.
Singapore to Hong Kong
Annoyingly, British airways showed no availability on any Cathay flights on the date I wanted, and I really didn’t want to stay in Singapore for more than 1 day.
Another OneWorld search with no availability that works for me!
However, Google Flight showed Scoot Airlines (Singapore Airline’s low cost subsidiary) charging a mind blowing $85 for this flight, which made it hard to pass up.
Being a low cost carrier, Scoot charges for everything including checked baggage, food and seat selection. However, since I didn’t plan on checking any baggage, have lounge access already via Amex Platinum and didn’t really care where I sit (being a short haul and all the seats are identical anyway), I was totally fine with it.
In addition, Scoot charges $10 to pay by credit card, but this can be offset by signing up to be a Scoot Insider, which gives you a code for 15% off your first flight. In addition, you can earn krisflyer miles by saving your ticket number and claiming it retrospectively on Singapore Airlines website.
One final caveat here for everyone – I assumed that Scoot would charge my credit card SGD – after all that’s what it says in the total price, so I used my HSBC WE card which has no FX fees. But when I checked my transactions, I noticed I was charged 87.98 CAD, which is nowhere near the exchange rate! (yes I check these things).
It turns out Scoot automatically converts to CAD at their own exchange rate (which is quite far from the market I might add) – notice in the receipt above in small letters the line “Transaction Currency”. In the future I would try and change my local region to Singapore and make sure I am actually charged SGD before making a payment.
Hong Kong to Beijing
Here’s where things get fun. British Airways shows availability wide open for flights from HKG to PEK on both Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific. Many flights show first class availability and as I will be sitting in the back of the plane for the rest of this trip I decided to reward myself and book first class.
I will also get to try out Cathay’s first class lounges in Hong Kong that I keep hearing bloggers raving about!
My flight time leaving PEK at 6:25pm throws a little wrench into the equation, however. There doesn’t seem to be any flights arriving 2-4 hours before that time, so I can either take a early morning flight (and cut into my first class lounge experience) or take a risky afternoon flight arriving at 5:20pm and hope to God I make my trans-Pacific flight in time.
Note this will be on a separate ticket – and therefore no assistance if I do miss my flight (I also spent hours researching minimum connection times at PEK). I concluded this was not worth the risk – instead, I decided book a flight the previous day.
While this will reduce my time in HK, I feel it was worth it to get the full first class experience. In addition, I should be able to squeeze in a trip to either the Forbidden palace or the Great wall (always been a bucket list item for me) in the morning before my United flight.
This ticket costs 40k Avios and 54.78CAD (no hidden FX fees this time!).
For reference, the cash cost of this flight is $1,470, giving a CPM of 3.5 cents. This is respectable for Avios which is a lot harder to hit those 10c CPM we get with Aeroplan.
Putting it all together, I will be flying over 21 thousand miles on the following flights:
Toronto – Washington [UA] | Economy | CRJ-200 | 2 hr layover
Washington – Tokyo [ANA] | Economy | 777-300 |6 day stopover
Tokyo – Singapore [ANA] | Economy | 787-9 |1 day destination
Singapore – Hong Kong [TK]| Economy | A319 | 2 day stopover
Hong Kong – Beijing [KA] | First | A330 | 1 day stopover
Beijing– Washington [UA] | Economy | 787-8 | 2 hr layover
Washington – Toronto | Economy | E175 | back home!
The total cost for this trip was $653 + $88 (Scoot Airlines) + $55 (Avios booking fee), giving a final cost of $796.
The trip also cost me 40,000 Avios, but that was free with 2 churns of the RBC Avion Card (which I documented what I did at the end of my Westjet guide).