Let’s Make Travel Great Again

The sad truth is I haven’t been travelling for some time and won’t be for the next few years as I undertake a PhD back in Australia. The microblog is collecting dust and this blog is now looking worst for wear. But it is hard to avoid needing to go places occasionally, so I might as well make the most of each occasion. We are heading back to Singapore in a fortnight for a few days, as Liz moves to Japan for her research. Since there’s always a lot of options to Singapore, let’s discuss the options we went through and how I can’t help myself.

I already had a return (of sorts) booked, from my previous departure in January which I was unable to use due to the air show crash and runway shutdown at Changi. KUL-BKK-MEL had been booked on a flexible business revenue fare, but partially using a credit card rebate/travel credit, which was non-refundable. I’d received a small amount for the difference lost, from insurance but was hoping to still use the booking up and not cancel/refund it. So ignoring a few simple short hauls, we just needed flights up to Singapore.

Getting out of Canberra isn’t the easiest at the best of times, domestic flights are costly based upon the going market rate and international flights are still relatively a new thing here – SQ and QR currently rotate one of their flights out of SYD on the return sector. Getting to SIN however is one of the easier options, with countless flights from every major Australian port including the direct here in CBR. Lacking some much needed enthusiasm, I looked about what was available.

The Painfully Obvious Option

The tried and true way for those from Canberra is to get yourself to SYD, which is a few hours up the road. Car, bus or (least likely) train are all options. From here take your pick of any of the carriers heading up to SIN. This of course leads to…

The Cheap Option

Definitely Scoot, SYD-SIN prices like most of their AU flights – just got to get lucky with the daily yields. My couple experiences with them, both in premium economy ‘business’ class, have been mostly positive. They were perfectly fine for a day flight but lacked departure lounge access. We paid a measly $370 AUD with them at the start of this year to fly OOL-SIN, which they fly exclusively, and fit our location and destination perfectly. I also flew them from SYD a couple years ago, for a similar price to what is available now, just over $500 AUD. The great thing with SYD is there’s an American Express departure lounge we get access too, which complements Scoot perfectly.

Scoot’s day flights up to SIN on Dreamliners frequently offer cheap premium economy options

The Direct Option

Scoot contrasts the simplest flight, operated by its parent company Singapore Airlines. The direct CBR-SIN flight, used to fly onto Wellington but now operates daily as SIN-SYD-CBR-SIN. We had found this flight cheap previously down to CBR for a couple hundred in economy, but this time it was upward of $1000 AUD, as expected. There were however Business Saver Awards available for our preferred day, so we finally had a good option. Krisflyer has changed a bit since I last used them, but fundamentally they were still worst value if flying to SIN and not transiting. We would be looking at 58k + $120 AUD, which is perfectly good mind you, with great business seating and at least some lounge access.

SQ Business Class makes me hungry

The Normal Options

The most ‘normal’ option would be to book a flight transiting Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. Go to any travel agency here, most people will end up on Qantas, possibly Virgin to connect to an international flight. Qantas still has a simple award price structure by overall distance, so I already knew we’d be looking at 60k for business (which, personally are worth less than the SQ equivalent). My final, complementary year of platinum status is coming to an end soon with them, so it seemed a fitting time to hit the F lounges one last time… before surviving with lifetime gold for the next many decades and getting BA Gold to get back into the F lounges anyway.

The Qantas award booking engine spits out plenty of flights, with short and moderate connection times and plenty of erroneous options like Jetstar ‘business’ and mixed-class awards where only the 1hr connection is actually in business. We were likely to also make one booking with Asia Miles which has slightly cheaper rates. On our preferred day we had 3 options:

Transit EQP Class Seat Lounge
Sydney A380 Premium Economy Recliner Flagship F
Melbourne A380 Business Flat Flagship F
Brisbane A330 Business Suite Shared J/F

Premium Economy is 45k, which is not much less than business (but still cheap if there were no other choices!). Sydney and Melbourne have the F lounges, but Brisbane has a new premium lounge that could be worth checking out. A380 business has the old seating, which is now quite behind current standards, the A330 out of Brisbane on the other hand might have one of the best hard products out there… so tough decisions. Better lounge or better seat? You can see the dilemma now faced. And I already tried the A380 once not in First class, so yeah no need to rush and do that again.

Qantas First Lounge in Sydney

The Luxury Options

Surprisingly in all this process was the plethora of premium award choices, even for two pax on both QF and SQ, however I was quietly hoping for something better. QF F might be nice but awards unlikely. BA still run their kangaroo route LHR-SIN-SYD and although they’re mostly spoken poorly of, I had yet to fly them First class. Availability often opens up a fortnight prior to departure ala LH, so we waited patiently. The only frustration with BA is QF charge more for oneworld airlines than their own metal or ‘partners’. One could use Avios, but at 68k needed, which would equal a lot of shorthauls. BA wasn’t also the best option with an early afternoon departure, we were really hoping for something late that provided a bit of lounge time to relax. In reality, Qantas points are only good for a few things these days:

  • Their quasi-RTW oneworld awards provide limited distance but plenty of sectors
  • They calculate award distance by city pairs – not individual sectors – so mid hauls are okay value
  • Upgrades, I suppose, if someone else is paying for your economy ticket – particularly as their Premium Economy is pretty darn good
  • And partner awards, with a few interesting options around the Pacific. Obviously there’s Jetstar (although mostly rubbish for awards) and Emirates

Emirates is an interesting one, as they still share a close agreement, reciprocating elite status benefits, lounge access etc. EK also provide chauffeur drive only on EK and QF ticketed awards (apologies to all the AS burners out there), although QF has reduced this substantially for flights to Asia.

Finally, I found the perfect option. Great seat, F lounge access, ideal departure time, and very cozy transit time etc.

So you probably already guessed what happens next. Emirates First Class on the A380 for an evening MEL-SIN sector. Most CBR-MEL QF domestics are now jet flights, and the latest with business award availability on the day was the one lunch service with a few hours transit… oh how unfortunate /s

At 90k and $370 each in cash from Qantas, it is slightly pricey, but what price can you put on the best flight option? Well $4000 apparently.

Summary

There are always plenty of choices to get to Singapore and we had numerous flight award options.

Sector Airline EQP Class Lounge Points Cash (AUD)
SYD-SIN Scoot B787 Premium Amex $510++
CBR-SIN Direct Singapore B777 Business VA Domestic 58k (SQ) $120
CBR-SYD-SIN Qantas A380 Premium SYD F Lounge 45k (QF) / 35k (CX) $360
CBR-MEL-SIN Qantas A380 Business MEL F Lounge 60k (QF) / 50k (CX) $360
CBR-BNE-SIN Qantas A330 Business New J Lounge 60k (QF) / 50k (CX) $360
CBR-SYD-SIN QF/BA B777 First SYD F Lounge 68k (BA) / 110k (QF) $230
CBR-MEL-SIN QF/Emirates A380 First MEL F Lounge 90k (QF) $370
CBR-MEL-SIN QF/Emirates A380 First MEL F Lounge $4000

All cash amounts are approximate, and vary slightly between programs and currencies.

The one option missing above is SQ First Class, but really this quickly became an exercise to get back into the QF First Lounge either in MEL or SYD one more time. Between its restaurant and day spa, the Emirates MEL lounge, the onboard bar, the F suites and showers, this made for an ideal return to flying.

 

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