Beijing bound!

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On Tuesday evening, I plugged in my phone and went to bed early – like, grandpa early.  I hadn’t slept well for the past few nights and was extremely tired.  Then, as I was close to drifting off, my wife mentioned that my phone was making noises – people were Tweeting and texting me.  Curious, I shuffled downstairs to find my phone and see what was up.  I discovered that I had posted a Quick Deal regarding a $450-ish mistake fare on American Airlines in business class from DC to Beijing!  That woke me up!

image

OK, obviously I hadn’t posted this deal myself.  One of the advantages of having Shawn Coomer on the team is that he lives in the Pacific time zone and so can cover what are, to me, late night deals (I live in Ann Arbor Michigan which, despite popular belief, is in the Eastern time zone).  Anyway, some were already reporting the deal dead, but I tried it anyway. I found several dates via Google Flights that were listed in the Flights calendar at around $450 and would work with my schedule, but when I selected those flights, the listed price rose dramatically.  Finally I found one that still showed a low price on Google Flights, but when I clicked through to book on AA.com I got an error message.  Then, I tried the same dates directly on AA.com, and it worked!  I had the option of putting the flight on hold or booking right away.  I booked it because I wasn’t sure AA would honor the on-hold reservations.  In total, I booked a round trip business class flight to Beijing for only $462.

It turned out that AA did in fact cancel most on-hold reservations.  So, it was good that I paid to book the ticket right away.  A smarter approach would have been to book the flight through an online travel agency (e.g. Orbitz, Expedia, etc.) because that would have made it possible to cancel within 24 hours, if needed.  In my case, I felt lucky that I got the fare to come up at all on aa.com and so I didn’t want to risk messing around with another web site.

Flight to Beijing
Map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper (gcmap.com)

In addition to the $462 for the ticket, I will, of course, also have to pay to position to DC for the flight, and for transportation and lodging in Beijing.  Overall, it is only a three day trip and I’ll only have one full day in China to be a tourist.  I’m hoping to find a good private or semi-private tour guide who can help me make the most of that one day.  I’ve heard that China has a good… no… great wall somewhere around there. Hopefully I’ll be able to go take a look.  And, I’ll need a visa too. Fortunately, China visas are now good for 10 years, so I expect to get good value from it beyond this one trip.

The flight I booked routes through Chicago and should net a total of 14,382 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) round-trip.  As to redeemable miles, I’ll earn a 100% bonus thanks to my elite status, plus a 50% bonus for flying business class, plus bonus miles for paid premium class tickets.  The last leg of my trip (Chicago to DC) was booked in coach, so it’s a bit tricky to work out the details, but I think I’ll earn around 43,000 redeemable miles (43,149 if my math was correct).  I’ll also earn 50% extra elite qualifying points (EQPs) on the premium legs.  These are different than elite qualifying miles in that the amount earned varies depending upon fare class.  Anyway, the extra EQPs could possibly open another route to top tier status, but only if I purchase a lot of premium or full fares this year.  Discount economy fares earn 100% EQMs, but only 50% EQPs.  Either way, it is necessary to earn 100,000 EQMs or EQPs in one year to reach or maintain Executive Platinum status.

AA_elite_requirements

In the post “10 Things You Need To Know About American’s Business Class Fare To Beijing,” Lucky answered all of the questions I could think of about these flights including “What kind of a business class product does American have to Beijing?”  The answer is that they fly 777-200s with crappy old-style 2-3-2 seating.  This means that, unlike most modern business class products, these seats neither lie fully flat nor do they offer all passengers direct aisle access (which means that either you or your neighbor may have to climb over the other to get to the bathroom).  Of course, it would still be leaps and bounds better than economy so I’m sure I’ll survive Smile.  That said, first class has lie flat seating and direct aisle access.  So, as soon as I receive my AA systemwide upgrade certs in a few weeks, I’ll call to see if I can apply two of them to these flights.

Do you remember my post, “Top tier AA status secured. Now what?” where I debated whether or not to chase top tier AA status for 2016?  Yeah, I decided.  I’m going for it.

Reader input

I’m curious who else got in on this great deal?  And, for those who know Beijing well, I’d love to hear recommendations for my two night and one day trip.  Where should I stay?  What should I definitely not miss?  Do you recommend a particular tour guide?  Please comment below.  Thanks!

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