Asia, the Long Way: An Introduction

As I alluded to earlier, I booked a second business class Star Alliance award with Aeroplan in December during the business class for the price of coach “glitch.”  Coupled with the Aeroplan transfer promotion, the award cost 50k Membership Rewards points (all from my Amex Platinum signup bonus) in addition to taxes and fees.

When I booked my trip to Sydney and Auckland, I transfered 76k Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan.  At the time, Aeroplan was offering a 25k mile bonus if 100k miles were transfered from a single program.  I went ahead and transfered an additional 24k points to Aeroplan, waited a few days for the points to post, and then transfered an additional 26k points to Aeroplan.  Fortunately for me the booking glitch lasted while I waited for my bonus points to post, allowing me to book this Asia 1 business class award (normally 125k miles) for 75k Aeroplan miles which I obtained by transferring 50k Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan.

From credit card signups, promotions, and actual flying, I’ve wound up with globs of frequent flier miles and I want to make the most of them.  Since I was on a United revenue ticket for my trip to Europe in January, I did not make use of my US Airways Grand Slam-obtained Dividend Miles as I had originally planned to.  Since US Airways places Thailand and Singapore into its “South/Central Asia” award category (and thereby requiring 160k miles instead of 120k for first class), planning a trip there using Dividend Miles instead would not be as efficient.

Since this trip was booked roughly three months in advance, scarce award availability on other transatlantic flights and fuel surcharges from Aeroplan on Lufthansa-operated segments led me to pick my routing via Copenhagen and Berlin on United.  As I have never been to Denmark and last visited Berlin in 2005, both stops were reasonable concessions to make.

A further constraint of award travel are the routing rules imposed by the airlines.  IATA-set maximum permitted mileage (MPM) figures between city pairs can be used to validate revenue ticket routings.  The MPM for EWR-TYO is 12511 miles via the Atlantic and 8084 miles via the Pacific.  For comparison, the great circle distance is 6751 miles.

On a similar vein, MPM’s can be used to validate award tickets with some carriers.  United permits the MPM to be exceeded by 15%.  Aeroplan permits a (comparatively) meager 5% overage.  Since this is an Aeroplan award ticket, these rules gave me 13136 miles to work with in each direction for travel via the Atlantic (practically speaking, this means “via Europe” both ways due to distance restrictions and the Star Alliance route structure).  I made the most of it on my outbound leg (at 12979 miles) and comparatively less on my inbound leg (at 10666 miles).

As a continuation of this mental exercise, we could validate the itinerary as a EWR-BKK award.  The MPM for EWR-BKK is 11734 miles via the Atlantic and 10648 miles via the Pacific; the MPM+5% is 12320 and 11180 respectively.  While this works for the outbound journey, my now convoluted return from Bangkok (BKK-NRT-IST-TXL-EWR) exceeds the limit at 13555 miles.

Given these constraints, I arrived at my trip itinerary:  Newark to Copenhagen to Zurich to Bangkok to Tokyo to Istanbul to Berlin to Newark.  Aeroplan permits two stopovers (a stop over 24 hours) in addition to the destination itself; I’m stopping in Zurich, Bangkok, and Tokyo.  I have extended layovers in Copenhagen, Istanbul, and Berlin.

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