Ultimate Award Redemptions: Biz/First Class Round The World Using Airline Miles for 102,000 Miles + £207

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A trip Round The World using airline miles is the ultimate redemption for many points/miles collectors – at least in daydreams, even if it doesn’t always seem practical in reality. There’s something ineffably romantic about the idea, particularly if it can be done in style, flying Business and First Class. By collecting and redeeming miles smartly, it doesn’t have to be an idle daydream though, it really can be a lot easier and a lot less taxing on your miles (and bank) balances than you might think.

View from Intercontinental Hong Kong lobby bar

There are a huge number of variations you could pick, depending on your preferences, so I thought I’d run a few different posts working through different examples to kick off the New Year. The core idea is always to combine award chart ‘sweetspots’ with additional award discounts and/or ultra cheap cash fares.

Note that my examples are only designed to be the backbone of a round the world trip – the heavy lifting for the long distances between regions. You could, of course, spend as much time travelling around and exploring each region as you like, using low cost carriers and/or additional Avios/Miles redemptions.

Madrid – Johannesburg – Hong Kong – New York – Edinburgh

I thought we would start with something relatively straightforward…

Step 1: Madrid – Johannesburg Iberia Business Class for 32,000 Avios + £76

OK, technically this one starts in Madrid as that’s where things begin to get interesting – but you can easily find very cheap cash fares (~£20-£40) from throughout the UK to Madrid using Skyscanner.

Madrid is a fantastic city to spend a few days and is also the major hub of British Airways‘ IAG stablemate Iberia. You can transfer Avios freely across from your BA Executive Club account (or Avios.com account) to Iberia Plus, which is worth doing for 3 main reasons when booking Iberia flights:

  1. Fewer Avios required
  2. Frequent temporary award discounts
  3. Lower ‘surcharges’

As Craig highlighted recently, Iberia Plus is currently offering a 25% discount when redeeming Avios to a large range of destinations, which means you can book a one way from Madrid to Johannesburg in Business Class for just 32,000 Avios + £76 in taxes/fees.

Not a bad start!

Iberia Business Class

Step 2 + 3: Johannesburg – Hong Kong (- and then New York…) Cathay Pacific Business Class 62,500 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles, First Class 70,000 Miles

I’ve written frequently about how valuable Alaska Mileage Plan Miles are and why it can even be worth purchasing them if you find them otherwise difficult to collect.

One of the very sweetest spots on the Alaska award chart is for travel between Africa and the USA via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Crucially, Alaska allows you to stopover for free for as long as you want in Hong Kong en route to the US, even on a one-way award.

Business Class for the whole route is 62,500 Miles, but I’d actually recommend paying an extra 7,500 (so 70,000 in total) for a First Class award. Unfortunately, Cathay don’t have a First Class cabin on the planes they use on the Johannesburg – Hong Kong leg, so you’ll be ‘stuck’ in Business Class for that despite paying more Miles. The Hong Kong – New York leg will be in First Class though, and is well worth paying the slight premium for in my opinion.

Hong Kong to New York takes about 15 hours. The amount of Krug champagne you’ll get through is probably worth the extra 7,500 Miles by itself!

Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t charge surcharges on Cathay Pacific redemptions, so you’d only have to pay the unavoidable taxes and airport fees, which shouldn’t be higher than ~£70 in total.

Step 4: New York to Edinburgh in Norwegian Economy for £60.50

As we covered recently, Norwegian offers some ludicrously cheap one way fares from the US to the UK, including New York (Stewart Airport) to Edinburgh for £60.50:

If you’d rather fly from JFK to London, you’ll have to stump up an extra £30.

At those sort of prices, I personally find it difficult to redeem precious Miles and will (admittedly slightly grudgingly) forget the high life of Business and FIrst Class for 6-7 hours. My top tip when flying Norwegian is to spend ~£25 on an extra legroom seat – it’s a small amount of money for a lot more space.

Sum total:

32,000 Avios and 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles + ~£207. 

You can regularly buy Avios for about 1p each and Alaska Miles for roughly 1.4p each, so even if you were starting with zero Miles, you could put a trip like this together for a little over £1,500 including everything!

If you can’t bear the thought of finishing such a great trip stuck in the back of a plane, the current 25% Iberia discount allows you to fly from Boston or Chicago to Madrid in Business Class for 25,500 Avios. Cathay flies from Hong Kong direct to Chicago and Boston too, so you wouldn’t even necessarily have any additional connecting costs (though getting from New York to Boston is extremely cheap and easy and Chicago isn’t much harder).

Bottom line

Miles and points are a wonderful thing. Stay tuned for more ways to travel round the world using airline miles next year!

Comments

  1. James M says

    I couldn’t find any J availability on CZ HKG to JNB.

    There was only Prem Econ.

    Have you seen availability for 2 seats and if so which months…

    • Joe Deeney says

      It’s not the easiest route in the world to find availability on, but certainly not impossible either. If possible, book as far in advance as you can as there’s usually 4 biz seats in both directions to begin with (have a look at end of Nov now for example). Availability outside of that often requires a bit of searching, with JNB-HKG generally offering a bit more joy than HKG-JNB. Hope that helps!

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    Sweet! I hadn’t even thought about tagging the IB 25% off destinations onto a Cathay / Alaska reward.

    But then you threw it all away by flying home on Norwegian. 🙁 Chicago / Boston to Madrid in Business is a much better way forward! 🙂

    • RichT says

      Haha – Ending this with a Norwegian flight is even worse than my continuing insistence to get TFL buses at LHR in the free travel zone before heading into the First/Business class check in!

      This has got me thinking I NEED some Alaska miles though…

      • Joe Deeney says

        Excellent work on the free bus! – I do enjoy mixing up my travel style. Eating chips off a tin plate with a toothpick and drinking rubbish beer at Santos bus station in Brazil before flying home BA First from Sao Paulo sipping chilled LPGS, just a few hours later, was a highlight.

        TBF, I maintain that a direct Norwegian flight with extra legroom on a 6-7 hour overnight flight is genuinely preferable to messing about with an early morning connection in Madrid – I’m not going to get more than a couple of hours sleep either way. If you have time to spend a day oe 2 in Madrid then it’s a different story, but if not I’d rather just get home quickly. Also, £60.50!!! 🙂

          • Joe Deeney says

            Sadly not – beautiful city! I’m in Leeds so Edinburgh and London are about as (in)convenient as each other for me.

          • Andrew McLoughlin says

            I believe Leeds isn’t too shabby either (though I’ve never actually been there – the rest of the world is calling me!). Edinburgh is VERY windy today – I wonder if the fireworks and street party will be cancelled…

          • Joe Deeney says

            Leeds is a great city in many respects, but even its most ardent fans would struggle to describe it as beautiful 🙂 . The Yorkshire countryside is splendid though and you only need to head 5-10 minutes out of the city to start enjoying it. Fingers crossed for the fireworks!

          • Craig Sowerby says

            There was an article in a Spanish newspaper the other day suggesting that Leeds was worth a visit. I was shocked! All I know of Leeds is that it’s a good place for men to give each other a good thumping – and that’s just the football…

    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha! I really couldn’t help throwing that one in – and to be fair, it is probably what I would actually do myself.

  3. Andrew McLoughlin says

    If anyone wants even more Krug, they can take one of the Cathay flights that route through Vancouver en route to New York. It should also be possible to take Vancouver as your stopover point instead of HKG. I very much doubt it would be possible to have HKG and YVR as stopovers on the same redemption (it goes against the rules) but there’s no harm in asking!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      🙂 Except the YVR to JFK and vice versa flights have shockingly bad timings. I’ve also struggled to find even J space to YVR, much less F.

      Perhaps you can squeeze in a 23-hour layover in HKG or YVR if you can’t get away with two stopovers…

      • Andrew McLoughlin says

        I wonder if an open jaw-stopover is allowed? For example flying with Cathay into YVR, using it as your stopover but then taking the beautifuly scenic train journey down to Seattle. From there you could pick up another flight or flights using the extensive Alaska and Virgin America network to most places within the US. Not sure if it would work but it would add some flexibility for people who don’t want to visit New York again.

        • Craig Sowerby says

          Definitely no open-jaw stopovers using Alaska miles. But there is an Alaska flight from Vancouver down to Portland or Seattle and from there to any number of cities as you mention.

          Personally I would rather stopover in HKG than do a JNB-HKG-North America without really stopping. If only because you can enjoy both legs. Coming off a long flight from JNB, you’re hardly in the mood to truly enjoy the F flight to North America.

          • Andrew McLoughlin says

            Yeah, it would certainly be a long trek to do JNB-HKG-YVR in one go, though probably bareable in Biz/First! I stopped in HKG the last time I did the flight with Alaska miles so I was trying to think of another, creative option for the stopover this time. Of course just taking an Alaska flight from YVR via Portland or Seattle would be a great and easy option – which is probably why I didn’t think of it!

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