There are a lot of perks being in the military. Travel is definitely one of them as I move from base to base almost every year. Another perk of being stationed overseas in consecutive tours is that I am given a travel allowance up to the cost of a plane ticket to my home of record which is Los Angeles. They do this to soften the blow of being away from your home of record for an extended amount of time. The military will obviously shoulder my expenses to reach my next base in Italy. Combined, they authorized $3000 in transportation allowances. I can use this allowance in any combination of flights that I wanted.
I could’ve used the allowance to go to different countries that I haven’t been to but I already decided that I wanted to go back to the Manila again (my 4th trip there in the last year!) and spend a couple of weeks with my family in LA before heading to Italy.
I knew that with $3000, I can be very creative with the routing and booking possibilities. Since Manila-LA is the longest flight, I looked up tickets for business class options. I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal to find the cheapest flight available and it showed a China Southern A380 flight that was within my price range! Because I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and went thru the UR portal for my flight tickets, I received 3x points per dollar which netted me over 6,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. Once I had this booked, I had a little under $1000 to spend for two more flights. I then booked ICN-MNL with a low-cost carrier (LCC) Cebu Pacific. For the LAX-Venice, Italy leg, all the cheaper options have dried up. I waited a couple of weeks and finally found cheap flights thru cheapoair.com. It was my first time booking with them but discovered that they had competitive rates compared to kayak.com. The flights were with Aeroflot Airlines, a Russian Airline company. The most important part of all this is that all the long-haul flights are with Skyteam partners and being a Platinum Medallion, I would get a 100% mileage bonus on them. I wound up collecting over 25k miles from the flights with all the bonuses which is good enough for a domestic airline ticket!
I’ve had previous experiences with China Southern and though they are still a notch below the top-tier Asian carriers like Asiana, Thai, Cathay and Singapore, they are still a very competent and cheap option especially when flying business class. Check-in and boarding via the priority lanes was a breeze. The MNL-CAN leg was uneventful but finally it was time for the CAN-LAX flight on the A380! As I boarded the A380, I was blown away by the sheer size of the seats, they felt like first class seats as they had so much space and they felt so private. After some welcome drinks, we were offered our Bvlgari amenity kits as well as some nice Pajamas. Now, I’ve been to several international business class flights and this is the first time they offered pajamas. These are normally only available in First class flights so that was a nice touch. The food and service were great throughout the flight. The seat felt so private and comfortable that I slept for most of the flight! This flight definitely exceeded my expectations. Looks like China Southern has stepped up their game since the last time I flew them. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the seats and how much space there was for each passenger. This was probably a direct benefit of flying on the A380 where there is a lot more space in the cabins compared to other aircraft. I can honestly say that this was one of the best business class products I have had the pleasure of experiencing.
Here are some pictures..