I’m enroute to Jakarta for the long-awaited 90%-off first class award redemption on Garuda Indonesia. Although I am very excited to try Gardua First Class, I must admit my routing to Jakarta is giving it a run for the money.
When I booked the one-way first class award from Jakarta to Amsterdam in December for 90% off (19K miles instead of 190K miles), I did not even consider how I would get to Indonesia. Finally last month I sat down to figure it out.
My first thought was to take United to Hong Kong, Seoul, or Taipei so I would have a chance to try the new Polaris soft product. But then an unexpected trip Germany gave me that opportunity in late January.
Maximizing Flight Time
When I redeem awards for solo travel, the most important consideration for me is to maximize flying time in premium cabins. If I am going to try out one new carrier, I’d prefer to try two if possible, or even three. Generous routing rules make that possible. Still, award routing rules have tightened up quite a bit. United, for example, does not allow customized routing any longer (searches must be origin to destination).
In looking at carriers I have yet to fly, the Star Alliance and oneworld lists are quite small while the SkyTeam list remains long. Ultimately, I opted to make this a SkyTeam trip. But finding the right product still proved difficult.
I’ve been wanting to fly China Airlines ever since it refreshed its business class cabin and there was award space in business from Los Angeles to Jakarta via Taipei for 80K Delta miles. But I wanted something more.
The KLM delft blue houses interest me and that is reason enough (for me, at least) to fly KLM. The Dutch carrier has a Fifth Freedom flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta so I thought if I could build something like LAX-TPE-KUL on China Airlines connecting to KUL-CGK on KLM I’d really get my money’s worth.
A SkyTeam Epiphany
Just as I was about to book it, I noticed that KLM is operating a 787-9 from San Francisco to Amsterdam. Then I noticed that China Airlines is operating its A350-900 from Amsterdam to Taipei. Now that is a cool routing. But would there be space?
I’d have to book the trip via Air France/KLM Flying Blue for two reasons. First, the KLM space was available to Flying Blue members but not to partners. Second, Flying Blue allows routing to Asia via Europe. The 100K price-tag plus fuel surcharges is steep if you are just flying via the Pacific, but becomes a much more acceptable price when routing the long way.
Such a routing does not show up online, so I had to pick up the phone and call. The North American call center refused to build my routing segment by segment, but the French call center did. 100K miles and about 500EUR later, I was booked! The final routing would be SFO-AMS in KLM 787-9 World Business Class, AMS-TPE in China Airlines A350-900 Business Class, then TPE-CGK in China Airlines A330-200 Business Class. I later found out that the TPE-CGK flight made a stop in Hong Kong, giving me four flights to get to Jakarta instead of three. Both the KLM and China Airlines longhaul flights advertise wi-fi, so I hope to remain connected during the journey.
Off I go! The trip report will go up quickly for this series of flights.