Saturday, April 25, 2015

It Happened One Night: China Edition

It happened one night. No, not the classic 1934 movie. We were watching some TV when Brian read an e-mail sent out by one of our favorite travel bloggers, Ben Schlappig, aka Lucky, at One Mile at a Time.

What he described was a $450 Business Class fare on American Airlines from the East Coast to Beijing that had just appeared. That sounded intriguing, to say the least, especially since American is a partner of Alaska Airlines (Alaska gave us a status match to their top tier, MVP Gold 75K, in late 2014 and we've been flying them with some enthusiasm).

There was one awkward detail: The fare was only good through May or so, and we already had two big trips booked, our recently concluded transatlantic cruise / Poland junket which took up the early part of April, and our upcoming May trip to Fiji and New Zealand for Oz Fest, our ninth consecutive attendance at this Flyertalk "Do."

There was no time to procrastinate - we scrambled and checked dates, knowing this deal wouldn't last long. We booked it. This deal was only from the East Coast - our China flights originate and end at IAD (Washington-Dulles) - so we had to reposition ourselves there. A little time on the Alaska website solved that.

Some years ago we "did" Beijing on one of our very first big trips, a marvelous five days on the ground in a small tour group. Air fare on Northwest (economy of course), five nights in a luxury hotel, and the amazing tour itself set us back a total of $650 each. That was a bargain even 10 years ago and we've continued to look for bargains ever since.

We decided this time to overnight at PEK (Beijing) and fly to Xi'an, the home of the Terracotta Warriors and a lot of other amazing sights, the following morning for a four-day tour. We then fly back to Beijing, spend two nights at an airport hotel, and take a day tour of a section of the Great Wall we haven't previously visited, Mutianyu. The tour company has warned us that our May 2 visit is in the midst of China's Labor Day weekend, but we'll deal with that as best we can. Besides, we've never before seen Labor Day celebrated in China.

We fly out of Bellingham on AS less than three hours from now. Excluding hotel stays and tour days, our airport schedule between April 25 and May 4 boils down to BLI-SEA-IAD-DFW-ORD-PEK-XIY-PEK-ORD-MIA-IAD-SEA-BLI.

Yes, we'll be earning mega-miles on this trip; in fact, on the AA flight to PEK we'll be making a distinct profit on the miles earned versus the fare paid. We learned from the Flyertalk Master Thread wiki that there will a minimum of four other "FTers" on our outbound flight, including our young friend, Daniel, known on FT as "Friendly Skies." We'll see him again a short while later in New Zealand at Oz Fest. Such coincidences are the spice of life.

The purpose of the foregoing description is to explain (justify?) the reasons for our April-May travel schedule. An alternative title might have been "Really, We're Not That Crazy." You'll have to decide for yourself.

Stay tuned for progress reports.

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