To Hong Kong – Pre-Departure Dramas & a review of The Cranky Concierge

Last year I planned a brief trip to visit a friend in Hong Kong for a few days. I had collected around 13,000 miles from travel back from 2001/2002 (!) on Continental which had been sitting in an account for 8 years – it’s actually amazing they didn’t expire. Combined with a few thousand AAdvantage miles from odd promotions and a discounted offer from AA to buy the rest, I set about transferring the Continental OnePass miles to AA using points.com ($125 US for the transfer) and purchasing the remainder for my next taste of long haul business, Cathay Pacific style.

In order to feel somewhat human on arrival in HKG, and to enjoy Cathay Business, I decided to head over on CX110 – A 7.35 departure from Sydney, arriving at about 3.15pm. That meant I could enjoy the rest of the evening and head off to bed to sleep off the travel and relatively minor 3 hour time difference.

The return was made with maximising Qantas Status Credits in mind so I could retain Gold for this year – I booked myself onto a Jetstar Hong-Kong Singapore, on a flexible JetFlex ticket to earn the necessary SC’s; overnighting and then Singapore-Perth-Sydney the following morning – avoiding red-eyes (I’m not a huge fan) – and possibly upgrading myself from SIN-PER as well.

A Spanner in the Works

Unfortunately, 2 days before I was due to leave a very ill family member in the UK took a turn for the worst and I had to make a decision about to do with my trip. I was manic at work trying to get loose ends tied up before going away; and knew that I couldn’t cope with trying to resolve this myself. I quickly enlisted Brett Snyder, AKA the Cranky Concierge, to help me with my changing travel plans – for $100 US I purchased their Urgent Assistance– he and/or his team would be able to research replanning my bookings – points and all – while I pondered what to do.

What follows are excerpts of the actual emails with Brett, somewhat edited for brevity – but you get the idea. This hopefully will show how much of a pro he is and how worthwhile the urgent assistance service can be.

You can sense my stress and tension in this one, my first cry for help.

From: Keith
To: Cranky Concierge

Hi,

I have a travel predicament I need your help with. I’m based in Sydney, Australia, and am due to be traveling to Hong Kong this Wed, the 21st, for a short break. This is a solo trip.

Unfortunately a relative has been taken ill in the UK and I now need to combine my HKG trip with getting there as quickly as possible- most likely leaving tomorrow, the 20th.

Here’s what I have booked –
21st CX110 SYD HKG business one way AAdvantage award
24th ow HKG SIN Jetstar Asia fully refundable
25th ow SIN SYD via PER Qantas Y ticket (refundable less 200 SGD cancellation fee, about 1/2 the original fare, or moveable for 75 SGD)

I will share details with you in tripit.

I need to get to the UK asap – but would still like the possibility of doing a stint in HKG on my return, maybe arriving on the 23rd not 21st and leaving on the 25th/26th

Clearly my award booking stuffs the changeability of this up a bit, but can canx that if necessary for the fee.

To add into the mix I have about 190k Qantas FF points at my disposal if required. I am Qantas gold/oneworld sapphire so would prefer oneworld options if possible.

I don’t have a requirement for premium classes etc but if on a Qantas ticket on QF metal I do have the option of using those points to upgrade me.

I am so crazy busy with lots going on right now, would appreciate an experts help and time to research options.

Thanks

Keith

His first reply was 30 minutes later –

From: Cranky Concierge
To: Keith

Hello Keith – I am on the road right now but will be able to look at this soon. I will be back with you within an hour with some ideas. Brett Snyder

Reassuring. Another hour later, this landed in my inbox –

From: Cranky Concierge
To: Keith

Ok Keith – I’ve had a look and there are some options around. First, I spoke with American, and you could change your ticket to go from Sydney to Hong Kong on the 20th instead of the 21st. There is availability and the change would cost you nothing. We could also look at the possibility of changing the return flight as well.

If you did that, we could focus on getting you from Hong Kong to London and back. You could look at using miles for that, and it appears possible on the 20th/21st (I’d have to double check), but the return is problematic unless you want to go in First Class on the 23rd. A roundtrip paid in coach from Hong Kong to London could run you as low as $1,500, if you preferred to go that way.

If you have date flexibility on the return (or destination), there would potentially be some other award possibilities, but for now, this is what I’m seeing.

I realize this just throws some options out there, but I wanted to get back to you quickly and get the conversation going. I will be on a flight in one hour, but fortunately, it’s only an hour long flight. Let me know your thoughts on this and I’ll keep looking for options for you.

In the space of an hour – in which it seemed he was getting ready to travel in 60 minutes himself – he managed to talk to airlines, research availability and present some options. Awesome.

I then remembered –

From: Keith
To: Cranky Concierge

Hey Brett- also remembered I have 31k BA miles sitting in account waiting to be used- I think BA let you do part pay part points if there’s a suitable reward flight HKG LHR or vv. HKG LHR is 40k points from memory.

9 minutes later –

From: Cranky Concierge
To: Keith

Are you willing to fly in World Traveller Plus (premium economy)? If so, it’s only 30,000 miles and there is availability on the night of the 20th arriving the morning of the 21st. It looks like Club is showing at 60,000 miles, so I’m not sure if you want to bother.

We went back and forth on different options for the next few hours – to summarise, I had already been presented with a handful of excellent usable options, few of which I had considered, within the space of an hour and a half – so far beyond my expectations.

I was due to fly in 36 hours and I still couldn’t make up my mind about what to do. About 4pm, Sydney time, he left me with a raft of options to consider and this reassuring signoff –

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need
help. I can always sleep tomorrow. We just need to make sure this gets figured out for you.

I will make sure I’m available. Your purchase entitles you to assistance throughout your entire trip. So if anything comes up along the way, just let me know and I’ll be there to help. In the meantime, I will plan on following your flights and keeping you updated with flight status information. Is it best to keep you updated via email? Text message? Just let me know and I’ll be there throughout your trip.

Brett

Seriously, how awesome was that? I felt like I had an expert on my side, just what I needed in a time of extreme stress.

That evening I decided to stick to my original plans, and not bring my flight forward and head directly to the UK. I headed off to Hong Kong as originally planned, and The Cranky Concierge was on standby throughout my whole trip. Towards the end I called on him again so I could return home more directly, without the overnight in Singapore, as I wanted to be back with my family in Sydney sooner.

From: Keith
To: Cranky Concierge

Hey Brett,

For various reasons am thinking it might be best for me to return to sydney directly rather than via SIN/PER. Leaving saturday PM or eve. Could you look into paid or FF options for me, pref using those 30k BA miles if poss?
Thanks

Keith

Again, just 1/2 hour later, this came bank –

Unfortunately, since BA doesn’t fly the route itself, the 30,000 mile option isn’t there. There are not seats available in coach, but Cathay does have a couple business class seats available. That would be 50,000 miles on BA.

If you want to buy a ticket, it looks like Virgin Atlantic would be cheapest. They have a flight leaving 720p arriving Sydney at 635a the next day. Prices are as follows:

HK$7318 for coach (A$1061, US$941)
HK$9598 for premium economy (A$1392, US$1234)

Biz class is a lot more.

If you’re willing to make a stop, I can send you through Nadi on Air Pacific. Flights are:
Air Pacific 392 Lv Hong Kong 450p Arr Nadi 645a
Air Pacific 911 Lv Nadi 9a Arr Sydney 1140a

If you do that, you can do it cheap.

HK$4785 for coach (A$689, US$615)
HK$9295 for business (A$1338, US$1196)

And of course, you can earn Qantas points on Air Pacific.

The Qantas nonstop that night is sold out except for a single First Class seat. That’s not likely to be a good option.

Thoughts?
Brett

I went for it, and returned to Sydney on Air Pacific as he suggested. I was found a cheap seat that all of my requirements, and Brett even called and requested extra leg-room / exit row for me, which I got all the way to Sydney. It was $100 very well spent, and if you’re ever in a similar predicament, I can thoroughly recommend it – Brett, I applaud you for your hard work and excellent service.

I also used Cranky Concierge for our most recent trip to the US, Europe and Singapore – but didn’t end up needing any of their rebooking or research services as we (thankfully) had no dramas. More on that coming soon, as well as the write-up of the trip to Hong Kong.

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To Hong Kong – Pre-Departure Dramas & a review of The Cranky Concierge was last modified: June 23rd, 2015 by Keith