Looking For Others’ Opinions on “Once in a Lifetime” Flights for a Tokyo Olympics Trip
Decisions, decisions. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics coming up next year, my wife and I are anxiously awaiting ticket sales, looking at flight options, and making plans to go. We are looking at some great luxury flight options but can’t decide on which one to choose.
Going to the Olympics has been a bucket list item for a long time. We want to make a “splurge” trip for the games (which also will be our first time seeing Japan), and then taking something crazy, something “once in a lifetime” for our flights home. I’m looking at options and can’t decide which is best. What would you choose from these options?
Background info for the trip
You might be wondering “why now?”, since the games are over a year away. Most airlines make award space available 355 days in advance. With big events like the Olympics, when you have a bunch of people trying to travel to the same place at the same time, award space goes fast. I want to be ready on the day options become available. Thus, here is what we’ve narrowed it down to for 2020 Tokyo Olympics flight options.
About us: we live in Brazil, which has some positives and negatives for this trip. For one, we want to avoid routes that will go through the US, mainly because everyone will be clamoring for award space between the US and Japan around the time of the Olympics, but also because clearing US customs/passport control is a headache that we can avoid if not necessary. There aren’t direct flights between Japan and Brazil, so that complicates routing, as well.
We have a lot of AA miles at present and want to use these as part of the equation. Routing through the US would cost more miles with AA than avoiding the US, which seems funny. We also have a decent amount of points in other places (Amex MR, Chase UR, Citi TY) that we could add together, if using an airline that accepts all of these. However, we don’t have enough in one place to book ANA first class or Emirates first class or other options that accept only minimal transfer partners.
When you look at wanting to use AA currency or an airline that accepts all types of transferable points, the choices here for “once in a lifetime” premium cabins look like Etihad Apartments or Singapore Suites.
Tokyo Olympics – Flight Options Going Home to Brazil
Here are the routing options, some relevant details, and associated costs. Help us make our decision!
Option 1 – Etihad Apartments and British Airways/LATAM business class
Step 1: Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Cash fare: $99 each
Etihad Apartments don’t fly from Tokyo, so we’d need to go to Seoul to get to the starting point. That would mean taking a Korean Air economy flight for around $99 a person to get to Seoul.
At this price, it’s worth the cash fare for a flight that lasts 2:45 and would only save me $65 after the taxes on Delta + 7,500 Delta SkyMiles each, booking onto the same flight.
Step 2: Seoul Incheon (ICN) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) to London Heathrow (LHR) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
90,000 AAdvantage miles + $35.10 taxes, each
Etihad Apartments first class to Abu Dhabi (10:35 flight time), 3.5hr layover, then Abu Dhabi to Paris (7 hours) or London (10 hours).
Step 3: London Heathrow (LHR) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU)
87,500 AAdvantage miles + taxes ($287 or $115), each
London offers British Airways or LATAM as options for business class home to Brazil from Europe, while Paris gives only LATAM as a One World Partner. London would have $287 each in taxes, while departing from Paris would require only $115 in taxes. Flight times are roughly the same (11:30-11:50 duration).
Total: 177,500 AAdvantage miles + $249.10 / $421.10 each
Option 2 – Singapore Suites and British Airways/LATAM business class
Step 1: Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Singapore (SIN) to London Heathrow (LHR) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
153,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $40.18, each
Singapore Suites first class to Singapore (7:40 flight time), 6hr layover, then Singapore Suites to London or Paris (roughly 13 hours flight time each).
Step 2: London Heathrow (LHR) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU)
87,500 AA miles each + taxes ($287 or $115), each
Same options split between London and Paris as the previous option. London would have $287 each in taxes, while departing from Paris would require only $115 in taxes.
Total: 153,000 KrisFlyer miles + 87,500 AAdvantage miles + $155.18 / $327.10 each
Option 3 – Singapore Suites and Qantas business class
Step 1: Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD)
115,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $62.45, each
Singapore Suites first class to Singapore (7:40 flight time), 3hr layover, then Singapore Suites to Sydney, Australia (9 hours flight time)
Step 2: Sydney (SYD) to Santiago (SCL) to São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU)
82,500 AAdvantage miles + $72, each
Qantas business class to Santiago, Chile (12:20 flight time), 1:20 layover, and then LATAM business class to São Paulo (3:55 flight time).
Total: 115,000 KrisFlyer miles + 82,500 AAdvantage miles + $134.45
Weighing the options
All of the options have positives and negatives. Let’s look at them from my perspective.
First, they all have the same negative: changing from one booking to another requires claiming luggage and doing a new check-in, which means also going through passport control and airport security during the change-over.
Second, they all take a lot of time, but we are aware of that. This is a “splurge” trip for us, and we know it’s going to take at least a day. We’re looking at this as an experience, rather than something that’s about efficiency.
Obviously, these are going to eat a lot of points, but we don’t splurge like this all the time, so it won’t kill us.
Some of the negatives that are different and need weighed are “more points vs less taxes” and how one rates LATAM against British Airways against Qantas for business class products and whether these differences can be justified or not by points or taxes involved.
The positives include trying great products, clearly.
I’ve been to Singapore, but my wife hasn’t. We’ve both been to Australia, but neither of us has been to Abu Dhabi. A first time seeing new airports and viewing new cities on take off/landing could be seen as positives. There also are new, premium lounges to try (check our reviews on Abu Dhabi and Singapore airport lounges).
One positives of the Australia route over the Europe route is not needing to jump to Seoul, South Korea to start, since we’ll be starting from Tokyo. This saves some time, cost, and effort.
A positive for using Singapore would be the fact I already have 40,000 points in my account from an award disappearing while I was waiting for points to transfer a few months ago.
Also in this decision
Other things we’re considering in this scenario: we also want to go to the Qatar World Cup in 2022, so we could use Middle Eastern airlines like Etihad or Emirates at that time. We are flying Qatar Airways QSuites business class home from Maldives next month, so we ideally want to continue trying new products when going to the Middle East for the 2022 World Cup.
Obviously, a lot can change in these next 2 years. Will booking Etihad Apartments with AAdvantage miles still be possible then if we don’t take it now (there have been rumors about this ending in 2019)? Will booking Emirates have new routes or new paths for the best use of points?
Booking Singapore Suites with KrisFlyer miles isn’t going to go away, even if the currencies they accept might change in some ways (or if they devalue awards again). The process of making the booking likely won’t change much, if at all. This is a product we could book later, if we don’t book it now.
However, booking Etihad via American Airlines might go away in 2 years, since things are always changing. Booking with Etihad itself (Amex MR transfer partner) requires significantly more points. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a small part of the decision on “can we book this later?” for us.
If this were for you and a partner, which Tokyo Olympics flight options would you choose? Why? Is there a path that I’m missing or a better use of points I’ve overlooked? I’d love to hear pros and cons in making a big choice like this. Thanks!