Flight 5/15: Bangkok to Singapore

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I took during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling in the late spring of 2016.

Airline: Tigerair

Date: May 13, 2016

Type of plane: Airbus A320

Duration of the flight: 2 h and 25 mins

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General info: Tiger Airways, operating as Tigerair, is a no-frills airline and a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. It operates flights to 40 destinations across Asia. Our flight was an evening flight from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to Singapore’s Changi, a.k.a. the best airport in the world. Above other things, Changi has some fish ponds, three movie theaters, a sunflower garden and even a butterfly garden (that we sadly didn’t get to visit).

What was special about this plane: It was your standard Airbus A320, but the layout was a bit different than what legacy carriers have. There were 180 economy seats instead of the usual 150, and no business class at all. The plane was new and clean, with comfy blue leather seats.

Highlight: There were a couple of Buddhist monks boarding the flight with us! I was surprised to see them flying, as I thought monks had to live a more modest earthly existence… then again, flying with low-fares airlines is pretty much the most modest way to travel nowadays anyway, as it’s often even cheaper than taking the bus.

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Bangkok’s main airport has some nice decorations.

What I would do differently next time: Tigerair doesn’t provide any entertainment on board – not even big shared screens. So I would make sure that my laptop battery was well charged instead of practically empty…

Food served: None was given for free (not even water), as is typical 0f no-frills carriers. Luckily we were not hungry at all, as we had just visited the Louis’ Tavern CIP First Class Lounge at Bangkok airport’s Concourse A that served pasta, puff pastries and cookies.

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Thanks for yet another lounge visit, Priority Pass!

Turbulence: None. Yay! I’m not a fan…

Price: We bought a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Perth through the Tigerair website, which included a 12-hour layover in Singapore. The price of this entire ticket was around $180 per person so about $90 per flight. This whole ticket could have maybe been been cheaper since we had to pay $20 extra for checked-in luggage that we didn’t even have. For some reason Tigerair’s website didn’t allow me to book the flight without luggage – maybe because our second flight was with Scoot Airlines and not Tiger? Who knows…

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Some parts of the Singapore airport are so pretty!

Miles earned: None, though I could have earned some Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer miles from this flight: Tigerair awards KrisFlyer miles to people who buy their Flexicombo fare. However, I didn’t think it was worth paying an extra 50 Singapore dollars (around $37) just so I could earn a measly 60 miles. Even if you get the Flexicombo fare and the miles, these Tigerair flights won’t count towards elite qualification. This means you can’t get silver or gold status with Singapore Airlines by flying one of these low-fares subsidiaries. As is mentioned in the terms and conditions, “Only KrisFlyer Elite miles earned on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Star Alliance partner airlines, Virgin Australia*, and Virgin Atlantic^ will count towards KrisFlyer Elite Silver and KrisFlyer Elite Gold membership.”

Overall experience: OK.

 

Flight 4/15: Tokyo to Bangkok

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I take during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling.

Airline: ANA, which stands for All Nippon Airways

Date: May 13, 2016

Type of plane: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

Duration of the flight: 6 hours

Delays: Nope

General info: ANA is the largest Japanese air carrier. When you enter or exit any of their aircrafts, they play this soothing boarding music that aviation blogger Ben Schlappig calls “the second classiest thing in the world.” The tune is really catchy and peaceful at the same time. You can listen to it here, but start from 01:50 as that’s where the music seemed to start onboard. Our flight was from Tokyo’s Haneda to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport (I know – that’s probably the most difficult airport name in the world!).

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The business class was the usual size – not gigantic as in our earlier flight from NYC to Tokyo.

What was special about this plane: It was a fairly new-seeming Boeing Dreamliner. This was my first time flying a Dreamliner, as far as I can remember. It was definitely a pleasant experience. Dreamliners apparently have all sorts of extra benefits, such as having more cabin humidity which helps you avoid getting dry eyes or headaches.

Highlight: I managed to sleep for almost the entire flight! We were pretty exhausted after sleeping for just a few hours at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Not that there was anything wrong with Kiba Hotel – that place was great and it was nice and cool inside the capsule. Instead it was the darn jet lag that awoke us after just a few hours of shut-eye. Well, at least it meant that I could visit the hotel jacuzzi early in the morning. And sleeping through a flight is always nice as it makes the time pass quicker.

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What I would do differently next time: As with the earlier ANA flight, the TV shows offered on the personal screen were pretty basic. It would be good to bring alternative entertainment options like books or downloaded TV shows (though I was happy to sleep).

Food served: We were only served one meal during the flight, which was lunch. Again we got a menu from which to choose: The Asian option was simmered freshwater eel with eggs, served over steamed rice,IMG_7710 and the Western fare was roasted chicken with basil flavor. I chose the chicken, though I had a bite of my boyfriend’s eel meal and that was clearly the better choice.

Turbulence: Just a tad.

Price: This flight was part of a super cheap flight deal to Thailand that I scored a while back through Secret Flying (my favorite website!). We basically got roundtrips from New York to Bangkok for $375, with stops in Tokyo both ways and Chicago on the way back. Strangely, this “roundtrip” finishes in Montreal instead of New York, so it’s actually a multi-destination ticket. Either way, it works well for us since Montreal has direct flights back to Guadeloupe.

Miles earned: This second section of the trip, Tokyo to Bangkok, netted us 1,425 airline miles with Air Canada’s AeroPlan program. I chose to bank the points to Air Canada as our tickets were in booking class K, which earns no airline miles at all on Singapore Airlines (my usual Star Alliance program of choice). Also, it would earn very few miles on United because United gives airline miles based on the price you paid instead of the distance flown. These types of revenue-based programs are no good when you fly long distances on discounted tickets (thus I don’t credit my flights to the programs of Delta, United and soon American Airlines).

Overall experience: Solid great ANA quality.

 

 

 

 

 

The crazy, wacky Ultimate Flight Marathon

Happy May everyone!

As I write this, I’m about to embark on an epic journey – a dream trip to New Caledonia. Where exactly is that, you may wonder… Well, it’s a French island, or actually an archipelago, located in the Pacific Ocean. Geographically, it’s about as far from France as possible. It’s also pretty darn far from my home base of Guadeloupe and the Caribbean in general. But it’s only a couple of hours from Sydney, Australia, by plane.

The idea for this trip came from my French boyfriend. He visited New Caledonia 15 years ago and considers it the most beautiful place he has ever seen. We’ve wanted to take a trip there for a while already, and now it’s finally happening!

This is where the Ultimate Flight Marathon comes into the picture: to get from the Caribbean to New Caledonia’s capital of Noumea and back, we will be taking a total of 15 flights over the next 3.5 weeks. Yikes. This includes flights with 11 different airlines. The shortest flight is just 1.5 hours, and the longest one over 13 hours.

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This photo is from my home beach of La Datcha in Guadeloupe – I’m having a hard time believing that New Caledonia can beat this view! But let’s see.

To make this gargantuan air journey a bit more exciting, I decided to review each flight segment and airline on this blog as we move along. I will be commenting on things like on-time departure and arrival times, food served onboard, possible turbulence and other trouble, as well as my own state of mind after all that flying. This should help you decide if this type of an Ultimate Flight Marathon might also be your cup of tea. (Or it might encourage you to pay whatever is needed to get a direct flight to your destination instead!)

I’ll also make a note of the cost of each flight and tell you the airline miles earned and the airline programs I used. I may also talk about things we did during layovers, as well as the airport lounges on various airports (as I’m a happy owner of the Priority Pass lounge membership program due to my awesome Citi Prestige credit card).

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This is the Global Lounge in the airport of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s one of my favorite lounges as it’s so swanky and stylish! However, the food options are very basic, as is customary for American lounges.

In a way this project will be similar to Quality Hunters 2, a Finnair project I took part in back in 2011. During that project I had 13 flights over seven weeks – and I thought that was a lot! But now I’m setting off to break my own record with these 15 flights. Taking the duration of the trip into consideration, on average we will be taking one flight every two days between early May and June 2.

With 11 different airlines being a part of my Ultimate Flight Marathon, the chances are high that you will find your favorite airline mentioned among those (or alternatively you may learn more about an obscure airline you didn’t even know existed). The blog entries for this Ultimate Flight Marathon can thus serve as a helpful reference point to anyone contemplating flying some of the same segments or airlines in the future.

Here’s the route on the outward trip:

Guadeloupe – Puerto Rico – New York- Tokyo – Bangkok – Singapore – Perth – Sydney – New Caledonia

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And here’s how we’ll be coming back:

New Caledonia – Auckland – Sydney – Bangkok – Tokyo – Chicago – Montreal – Guadeloupe

Now, I know what you must be thinking: There is no way this is the most direct way from the Caribbean to the Pacific! And you are right – it’s most certainly not. The most direct way for us would have been Guadeloupe – San Juan/Miami- Los Angeles – Sydney – New Caledonia. But that’s also a really expensive way – about $2,500-$4,000 roundtrip.

By transiting through Asia and Australia and by making use of some great flight deals and utilizing a bit of frequent flier miles, we were able to get the total cost of this dream trip down to less than $1,000 per person. This way we will also be able to visit some old favorite cities of mine in Asia and Australia during our respective one-day layovers. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how my Aussie home of Perth has changed since I lived there back in 2006! It will also be great to catch up with friends in various friends along the way.

(Note: You can even get to New Caledonia for a couple of hundred dollars, if you happen to have access to a stash of Air France miles. It costs just 60,000 miles and around $300 in taxes to fly to a roundtrip to Noumea from Los Angeles, and you’ll get to pass by Sydney too. However, award availability was scarce for our wanted dates, so we skipped this opportunity.)

Without further ado – welcome onboard the Ultimate Flight Marathon! Hope you stay tuned for updates on how the trip is progressing, and feel free to send any tips my way with regards to New Caledonia or any of the cities we’ll be visiting on the way!