This is going to be a fun week!
For months Ben (“Lucky”) from One Mile at a Time and I have been talking about another trip together. We share a mutual desire to try out as many new airlines as possible. We also like going to new places…like the -stans in the heat of summer.
Uzbekistan Airways is operating non-stop flights this summer between New York and Tashkent. Usually the flight, operated by a 787 with lie-flat seating in business class, stops in Riga but now flies non-stop once per week.
We paid for this flight–I’ll have details about pricing in a future post.
Unlike many of our trips, we are actually going to have some time to explore Uzbekistan, so I am really looking forward to checking out Samarkand even though we’ll be based in Tashkent.
From Uzbekistan we will fly to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, another new city and new country for both of us.
As it turns out, both Tashkent and Dushanbe have Hyatt properties, which is quite convenient as I attempt to re-qualify for Globalist Status in 2018.
Our Original Plan – Kyrgyzstan + Mongolia
Our original plan was to fly from Dushanbe to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, stay a couple nights there (there is also a Hyatt there), then take an odd Turkish Airlines Fifth Freedom route from Bishkek to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
We’d spend a couple days in Mongolia then fly to Frankfurt on MIAT Mongolian Airlines’ seasonal 767 flight with cheap paid business class fares.
That plan fizzled when Ben saw that he could add on a free ticket from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar during his recent Air China First Class trip. It just made sense to do it then and I’ve actually been to Bishkek before and stayed at the Hyatt so it wasn’t a huge loss for me either. I’ll visit Mongolia some other time.
Our Back-Up Plan – Qatar QSuites
So our next thought was to fly to Tbilisi to take advantage of a cheap TBS-DOH-LHR fare and get to experience QSuites. Two problems: a quick DOH-LHR flight is hardly enough time to properly experience Qsuites and the fare was pulled while we were still discussing it…
Thankfully for both us, an incredible deal from Ho Chi Minh City to New York popped up last week and we both secured at a trip on what should be QSuites by the time our travel date rolls arounds (we will not be traveling together on that trip).
Two Choices Left: Turkish or Kuwait Airways?
We bounced around several choices, including flying to Copenhagen, then taking Air Greenland to Greenland, Air Iceland to Reykjavik, then WOW! Air back to Los Angeles. That was quite expensive and would have been quite hectic.
Two viable choices emerged.
Choice One: Kuwait Airways
The first would be to take flydubai to Dubai, then Kuwait Airways first class to New York (via Kuwait City and Shannon, Ireland). The fare is relatively attractive and it would help each of us further our goal of eventually reviewing every first class product in the world.
The drawbacks: it would allow only one day (or five) in Dushanbe and overnights in Dubai and Kuwait City. A night in Dubai is never a bad thing, but the flight schedule is hectic. Plus, the trip terminates in New York and so figure another few hundred bucks for a ticket back to LA.
Choice Two: Turkish Airlines + Avianca
The second choice would be to fly from Dushanbe to Istanbul then from Istanbul to Buenos Aires on Turkish Airlines. I’ve written so much on Turkish Airlines, but never reviewed a longhaul 777-3ooER flight in business class. Istanbul to Buenos Aires makes a stop in Sao Paulo, but the overall duration is over 17 hours. That would be a mammoth flight!
And that’s not all. I would continue from Buenos Aires to Bogota on an Avianca 787, another product I have not yet reviewed.
All four flights (DYU-IST-GRU-EZE-BOG) would run 85K United miles and $25 in taxes. I value United miles at 1.8 cents each, so that is $1530, just a tad less than the Kuwait Airways ticket cost. Plus, I’d have to get home from Bogota to Los Angeles. Avianca has no award space — I could fly Copa through Panama City (never flown Copa) or try United through Houston.
I did book this award flight just so I have some way home, but I can still cancel it within the 24-hour cool-off period.
I Don’t Want to Travel Alone
Ben and I have discussed parting ways in Dushanbe and flying home separately, with him on Kuwait and me on Turkish. While I have no trouble flying alone, my best flight memories have been with friends and family. Since Ben has already reviewed Avianca and is the authoritative voice on all things first class, the Kuwait Airlines review may make more sense for him. I’m very tempted just to book whatever he ends up booking.
I’m really looking forward to this trip and traveling with Ben again. Let me know if you’d rather read about Turkish Airlines + Avianca business class or Kuwait Airways first class.
While Samarkand is for sure a great destination, and easily reachable with the fast train from Tashkent, I’d strongly vouch for Bukhara as well. Far less tourists, a more compact city and I thought even more to see. And if you’re lucky, you’d even get the fly with the Il-114. Don’t forget to check the black market rate of the Uzbekistani Som to the USD before you leave.
Il-114 …Very tempting.
Instead of flying to IST, go a bit further and then take the south atlantic pass. 100k UA should get you back to LAX in C. Email me if you need more detail, I already guided TPOL through the concept last year ;-).
That sounds like an incredible trip – you’ll be retracing a part of the Old Silk Road by air! Tashkent and Dushanbe have sort of fascinated me for about 10 years. I’d see them as dots on the moving map on the way to India, and they seem like quite interesting places to visit.
I’d vote for Turkish + Avianca though I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice.
I’d rather read about Turkish/Avianca personally because that is more accessible to me…BUT how can you turn down any F experience? I wouldn’t if I were you, since you are flying. So it’s a wash!
I have a feeling that the TK J experience will be better in all respects (except hard product) over KU F. But I guess that’s part of the fun of flying Kuwait Airways.
I had an 11 day trip to Uzbekistan that started and ended in Tashkent. I LOVED seeing the preserved and rebuilt mosques and amazing history the country has. Even with a private guide and driver it doesn’t break the bank.
I would rather see the Turkish Airways review. I think that would be a lot more useful to your readers and for your business bookings in the future.
I vote for Turkish/Avianca. I, and your clients, would be much more inclined to fly them.