Monday, 5 October 2015

HOLIDAY 2015 , FLIGHT CHANGES UPGRADES AND SUMMARY

The underwater restaurant at the Conrad
The last entry told how I'd booked all the flights out of Dublin for a Maldives/Dubai dual centre holiday, and also booked the Conrad Maldives for six nights.

At the start of 2015, I became aware that Etihad's newest plane, the A380, had been scheduled to fly between Heathrow and Abu Dhabi. Reading up on this plane, it became clear that Etihad's first class (F) cabin design was recognised as the best implementation in the industry. If possible, I wanted to get on this plane.....

 I actually wrote about this A380 in a previous blog article, that you can see here.
As a reminder, here's a conceptual image of two first class apartments set up for a his'n'her arrangement.
Two apartments back-2-back suitable for a couple flying together

My booked itinerary wasn't going via London Heathrow (LHR), my last leg was flying Abu Dhabi (AUH) - Dublin direct. A quick check showed that there were two F apartments available using Etihad miles for the AUH-LHR flight, just 1 day earlier than my intended AUH-DUB flight. Given I don't fly very often, this was a chance that might not occur for me again, and so I was prepared to sacrifice a day in Dubai(and book a separate LHR-DUB flight), if it meant I could experience this seat. I didn't have enough AA miles to amend my existing booking. However, my partner had a good balance of American Express reward points. These can be converted into Etihad guest miles. We'd need 110K Etihad miles for 2 F tickets. What I'd need to do was transfer her Amex MR points into an Etihad account, book the flight with Etihad, then ring AA to cancel the AUH-DUB leg of my existing itinerary.( Follow this link to find out how you can get 22K American express points )

And that's what I did. I set my partner up with an Etihad frequent flyer account and then, via the American Express website, initiated a transfer of her MR points over to her Etihad account. As a great coincidence, Etihad was running a promo that give 25% bonus for points transferred from Amex, so those 110K Etihad miles only cost 89K Amex MR points. I had an anxious wait, as it took a few days for the points to appear in the Etihad account, with the worry that my two F seats might disappear in the meantime.

As soon as the points arrived in her Etihad account, I booked the seats. The taxes and service charges worked out at a grand total of £29.21.

Canceling the final leg of my original AA booked Etihad flights involved a cash payment. Technically, it doesn't cost you anything to cancel a flight, however unless you are one of their premier frequent flyers, you lose the AA miles. If you want the miles re-instated, you have to pay $150, plus $25 for each additional person. I'd be getting 60K AA miles back, and some taxes and fees would be refunded, so it was definitely worth the $175.

With the decision to fly into LHR, we decided to stay a couple of days in London, my partner has always enjoyed the Intercontinental Park Lane. So 100K of IHG points later, we had 2 nights booked. Then it was just a case of booking two 1-way flights LHR-DUB, to get us back where we started, which cost 4.5K avios plus £17.50 each.


DUBAI HOTEL

During all this time, I didn't have any hotel booked in Dubai. As I mentioned earlier, Dubai has loads of hotel options, and so this was low down in the priority list, I was sure I could always find somewhere to stay.

Now knowing my exact date of arrival and duration, I reviewed my options. It wasn't long before I realised that my Hilton gold card would again swing things for me. It would guarantee breakfast in any Hilton property. As we would only be there for 4 nights, I wanted to be somewhere that had plenty to do in the immediate area.  I eventually settled on the Hilton Dubai the Walk Residence. At 70K a night it was quite steep. But then I noticed an anomaly in the pricing. I could book an executive room for the same price as a non-exec. An exec room, gets you access to the executive lounge. This would mean we'd have some free snacks and some free drinks, hey another win !

Rooftop bar at the Hilton

The Hilton's executive lounge
WHAT IT COST

In total, I've used:

110K AA miles (including the 60K coming back from the change in itinerary)
110K Etihad (from a 89K American Express MR transfer)
9K Avios
755K Hilton (mostly from Tesco and Virgin miles)
100K IHG points (from previous stays / promos)

In cash, it has cost me:-
£175 approx, for the AA bookings, including the re-instatement fee
£29 for the Etihad booking
£35 for the Avios booking
£200 to transfer Hilton points

Other known costs.

Approx £300 each for the sea plane transfer from the Main Maldives Island to the Conrad hotel.
Approx £428 in Conrad upgrade costs.
 
WHAT I'M GETTING
  • Business class flights from Dublin to The Maldives via Abu Dhabi. In Dublin and during the 2 hour layover in AUH, we will have access to the business lounges, giving us good food and drink options.
  • Six nights in the Conrad Maldives, including breakfast throughout the stay (due to have Hilton gold status). The first four nights in a Beach Villa, and the last two in an over-water villa. Having never previously experienced an over-water villa, and working on the basis of not knowing when I'll have another opportunity, I contacted the hotel, and they offered the upgrade at $340 a night.
  • Business class flights from the Maldives to Abu Dhabi.
  • Chauffeur car from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Most business class flights on Etihad (including award flights), come with a chauffeur option.
  • 4 Nights In the Hilton, Dubai The Walk, Residence. Breakfast each day, plus snacks and drinks in the evening, due to booking an executive room.
  • Chauffeur car from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, with access to the Etihad lounge at the airport.
  • First class flights from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow, in their flagship A380 apartments.
  • Two nights in the Intercontinental Park Lane, and chauffeur transfer to it.
  • Flights from London Heathrow to Dublin on BA.

If you total the cash, it comes to around £1500. If you were booking the holiday in cash, I'd roughly estimate it to cost around £12,000. Am I saving over £10,000 ?, definitely not, I'm not in the earning bracket that would allow me to spend anything like that on a holiday. But what I am getting is a £12K experience, at a cost price of £1,500, and that can't be a bad thing in anyone's book.

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