I’ve flown most Star Alliance and oneworld carriers, but very few on SkyTeam. When Garuda Indonesia offered 90%-off first class award redemptions, I sensed an opportunity not only to try SkyTeam’s premier first class product, but also sample additional SkyTeam carriers on my way to Jakarta.
Planning the Award
My first thought was to book China Airlines from Los Angeles to Jakarta via Taipei. It would have been an easy routing with a great business class product. Plus, taxes/fees are low on China Airlines flights ex-USA no matter the booking source.
But that got me thinking: is there another way? I looked at going via Europe – perhaps partially on Aeroflot, Air France, and KLM. But space was very limited out of Los Angeles. If I left a day early I could fly to Paris on an A380, but Air France has a decidedly unimpressive business class on that aircraft.
I’ve always wanted to fly KLM – mostly for the little porcelain houses they present to business class passengers – but LAX-AMS had no space.
Then it came to me.
I noticed that KLM was using a 787-9 on the San Francisco to Amsterdam route with its new reverse herringbone business class. There was award space for Flying Blue members! The logical connection would have been KLM’s evening 777-300 non-stop to Jakarta, but I was not done being creative.
Next, I noticed that China Airlines operates its A350-900 from Amsterdam to Taipei. Would there be space? Yes there was! Now I just had to find a connection to Jakarta. Thankfully, China Airlines had space from Taipei to Jakarta as well!
Booking the Award
With the itinerary finalized, now I just had to book it…no easy task.
This sort of customized routing did not appear on the Flying Blue website. I would have to telephone the call center, which is about as fun as a prostate exam.
The North American call center was of no help. The agents could not grasp why I would want to customize my routing and flat-out refused to help me construct it segment by segment.
> Read More: Air France/KLM Flying Blue Lives in the Stone Age
Thankfully, the French call center (24/7 and a far better alternative to the North American call center) was much more helpful. It took mere moments to add in the flights I wanted and I managed to immediately ticket the reservation for 100K miles.
Why Would You Book with Flying Blue and not Delta?
Although Delta charges only 80K miles to SE Asia and does not collect fuel surcharges on KLM flights, there were two reasons why I had to book it with Flying Blue.
First, Flying Blue makes additional saver business class space available to its own members. The KLM SFO-AMS flight was only bookable with Flying Blue.
Second, routing from North America to Asia via Europe is permitted on Flying Blue but not on Delta. So even if this space had been available with Delta, it would have cost 70K miles from San Francisco to Amsterdam then another 80K miles from Amsterdam to Jakarta, so 150K instead of 100K.
The Final Cost
Flying Blue does levy fuel surcharges on not only KLM but apparently on China Airlines out of Europe. My taxes/fees came to EUR431.79 or about USD456. Of that, EUR374.15 was the bogus “carrier surcharge”.
I know this itinerary is not for everyone – why go via Europe with those hefty charges if you do not have to? Fair point: my reason for the itinerary was because I simply enjoying flying for the sake of flying and so I could bring you trip reports of two new products.
Stay tuned. The trip report starts today.
Killin it Matt. Excited for the read
I don’t see EUR 432 as a terribly hefty price to play for the avgeek and pure enjoyment factor. As I tell others, if it gets you excited, it’s a good deal. Looking forward to your trip reports!