Round the World – April 2011

In late March and for most of April 2011 I travelled around the world with my partner and our 4 month old. As an ex-pat Brit, I’ve travelled back to Europe enough times to know that I didn’t want to travel up the back in Economy with an infant if at all possible, so I pulled out all the stops (burnt a ton of miles) to get us into Premium Economy and higher.

Our full itinerary was…

SYD-LAX – Qantas Premium Economy – 747
LAX-JFK – Qantas Business Class – A330
InterContinental The Barclay New York
JFK-LHR – BA Club World – 747
London Heathrow Hilton
London City Crowne Plaza
LHR-FRA – BA Club Europe
FRA-SIN – Qantas Business Class – Upper Deck 747
InterContinental Singapore
SIN-SYD – Qantas Premium Economy – A380

Qantas A380 Premium Economy Review – QF32 Singapore to Sydney

QF32 Qantas A380 Premium Economy

This was booked as a paid Economy fare, one way Singapore to Sydney. Qantas tickets departing Singapore are usually more flexible and cheaper than one-way’s departing from Australia. They book into a more permissive booking class, allowing upgrades using points, and changes and refunds too.

As such, we applied for upgrades to Premium Economy using points as soon as the ticket was booked. They both cleared at a cost of 25,000 points each.
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Holiday Inn Atrium Singapore Review – King Superior Room

We needed an extra night in Singapore on top of my initial booking with the InterContinental, thanks to award availability changing on me during the booking process. By the time I got around to sorting the extra night, the IC was too expensive, and I reverted back to the Holiday Inn, which was booked via Hotels.com – earning one night in their Welcome Rewards program, in which which I’m slowly building up to a free night.

After arriving at the Holiday Inn in our Jetquay Mercedes, we checked in quickly and headed up to our room on the 14th floor (I think). It’s kind of obvious why this hotel is named ‘Atrium’ – it’s the centre-piece of the place, a huge glittering cylinder that works it’s way up over 20 floors, with all rooms facing outward (it would seem) from the central atrium. You can see more in the following video, taken the next morning. Continue reading…

JetQuay VIP arrival, lounge & transfer service review – Singapore Changi Airport

I learnt about the JetQuay VIP arrival and transfer service at Changi from Gary Leff’s JetQuay review, and given we would be arriving with bags, infant and long flight behind us, I figured I’d give it a crack.

I emailed the InterContinental after making my booking to double check on the price and arrangements – they got back to me confirming the $150 SGD cost, and asked for inbound flight numbers and times. I had a couple of special requests such as an infant seat in the car taking us into the City, which were handled easily too.

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Qantas 747 Business Class Review – QF6 Frankfurt to Singapore 747 Upper Deck with kids

QF6 Frankfurt - Singapore in Qantas Business Class

Research & Booking

Getting back over to Asia and onto Australia from Europe was only possible in Business on points by departing from Frankfurt on QF6. QF5 (to Frankfurt) and QF6 (from Frankfurt) is Qantas’ last non-London European beachhead, and operates daily – departing Frankfurt in the late evening, and one of the first Qantas flights arriving into Singapore and then Sydney.

Qantas normally operate this with a three-class Boeing 747 which have been recently upgraded to include Premium Economy. This gave me the opportunity to sample the legendary 747 upper-deck for the first time. Having previously sampled the 747 nose section I was keen to check out the upper deck – and it didn’t disappoint. More on that later.

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British Airways Club Europe & Heathrow T5 Galleries Lounge Review – BA914 London to Frankfurt

London–Frankfurt on BA914–British Airways Club Europe

Booking

I couldn’t get award availability out of London to Singapore for two of us in Business, so needed a connecting flight to Frankfurt to pick up Qantas’ other European service, QF6 to Sydney (via Singapore). Both our tickets were originally booked in Economy – one a BA points award and one a paid booking at a total cost ~$160. The paid booking was in my name – again for the Qantas status credits.

BA offer paid upgrades to bookings made through BA directly on short haul european flights – either 100 Euros or 100 GBP one way, depending if you’re departing from Europe or the UK. It’s not horrendous value – we had extra luggage that would have cost 28 GBP per bag, so upgrading one person to take two extra checked bags covered most of the cost of one upgrade – and it jumped me from earning 10 to 40 SC’s – another step closer to Qantas Gold for next year. Continue reading…

London City Crowne Plaza Review – Executive Club Room

Research & Booking

Before heading out of the UK we were due to spend a couple of nights in London catching up with some friends and enjoying the city we lived in a few years back. I was looking for a central, but not too obvious location that would be close to either Victoria or Blackfriars stations after a train journey up from the South Coast, and with the ‘stay one get one free’ rate available from UK ICH properties, the London City CP fit the bill quite well – near to Blackfriars, with a discounted rate and with some good reviews around the web to judge it on.

Thanks to the 50% discount on the booking, I upped our room to a Queen with Club access. After some great and back and forth customer service by email with the CP London City reservations team I managed to score a further upgrade to a ‘King Studio’. I think Priority Club Gold status probably helped with this, but it was more their willingness to work with my queries and ensure I was satisfied that gave us the larger room, and it was much appreciated. Kudos to their reservations team. Continue reading…

London Heathrow Hilton Review – Standard Room at Heathrow Terminal 4

London Heathrow Hilton Terminal 4 - Standard Room review

We needed a brief overnight stay after landing at Heathrow on BA178, and the Sofitel at T5 was too expensive. I wanted a hotel that was as close to the airport as possible as we were connecting onto a BA flight to Glasgow the next morning, and wanted to minimise any transfer and connection issues.

I’m not an active member of the Hilton Hhonors scheme, so decided not to book this directly through Hilton – a hotels.com offer and clear pricing in AU $ meant I decided to book there instead, instead accruing a night to their ‘Welcome Rewards’ scheme, which gives an effective 10% discount on all stays.

As an aside, I think this scheme is an excellent option for the casual traveller who doesn’t care to stick to one brand or another. Yes, you can accrue decent points and bonuses through the major hotel schemes, and yes, these can (for the most part) then be transferred over to airline partners, or used for hotel redemptions. But for the infrequent hotel stayer, I think the Welcome Rewards scheme is a good option as it’s just so simple – one free night for 10 stayed, across all brands, as long as you book through hotels.com. Continue reading…

InterContinental New York Barclay Review – King Executive Room

As part of my round the world trip we had around a week in New York, visiting friends and family. When we first arrived I was keen to stay in a full service hotel with everything taken care of; after a couple of nights we’d then move into an apartment rental for the rest of the stay for more room and flexibility.

InterContinental New York Barclay - Executive Room Review

I booked us in at the IC Barclay on the Friends & Family rate for just $182/night in a 1 King Bed Superior room. As an InterContinental Ambassador I was given a room upgrade to a King Bed Executive Room on the 14th floor, which was perfect for our needs. Not many InterContinental’s offer room upgrades to Ambassadors on the Friends and Family rate, but The Barclay is one. Continue reading…

Qantas Premium Economy & Business Class Review – QF11 & QF107 Sydney to New York via Los Angeles

Sydney - New York via Los Angeles - QF11

The first and second legs on our around the world trip were from Sydney to New York, via a 23 hour stopover at LAX. Qantas treated us admirably in Premium Economy, and we scored an Economy -> Business points upgrade about 22 hours prior to departure for LAX-JFK – win! Full review and more pictures at AusBT →

So, I bought these tickets outright. When it comes to points, maybe that’s cheating… but it wouldn’t have been possible without a healthy points balance. Points availability between the USA and Australia is some of the toughest to grab out there, so if there was going to be a leg on this trip where I needed to buy a fare outright, this was going to be it.
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Introduction – Around the World in Premium & Business Class – April 2011

The lack of updates around here has been because I’ve just returned from a round the world trip in Business and Premium Economy, for roughly the cost of an Economy ticket – by using British Airways Executive Club miles and Qantas points.

I was traveling with my partner and our 4 month daughter, and was determined to not have to deal with Economy whenever possible as we were on the road with someone so small. In typical new-father fashion, I wanted our paths smoothed, but certainly couldn’t afford to splurge on Business tickets. Continue reading…