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Testimonial: From Sydney to Montreal in First Class on Points

To the point Here is a description of the planning process for an intercontinental trip from Sydney to Montreal, flying first class with Singapore Airlines and Emirates using points and miles.

This post is also available in: FR

To return home from an upcoming work trip in Australia, I decided to book my own travel using points. I work in ocean mapping using sophisticated sonar systems on ships and underwater vehicles to map the ocean floor. Because of this, I travel a lot to oceans around the world. To get to and from work, my client will generally book flights for me.

However, for this trip I will remain in Australia for a few days to visit with some friends. And since I haven’t been to this area of the world for a few years, I decided to plan my own way home in order to score some major first class bucket list award redemptions. These have been high on my list for a while so I am excited to finally get a chance to try them out!

The flights

My trip will begin in Sydney, Australia and take me to Singapore, Delhi, Dubai, Toronto, and finally home to Montreal. I will fly over 15,000 miles in just a few days.

Flight Map

SYD-SIN-DEL on Singapore Airlines

My first flight is actually my number 1 bucket list flight in the world : Singapore Airlines Suites on the Airbus 380. I will be flying this not once, but twice. First from Sydney to Singapore, then from Singapore to Delhi.

singapore a380

This is one of the most sought-after hard products in commercial aviation today, and isn’t really a seat but more of a full cabin experience to yourself.

The Suites are located in the forward section of the upper cabin of the A380. It features a single aisle, and a single cabin on each side of it, for a total of just 6 first-class passengers.

Compare this with economy class which has 10 seats across in the same space! Each suite has a full reclining chair and a separate bed. In addition to this, the first two suites in the first and second rows can be combined to form a larger suite with a double bed if travelling with a companion. You can read Jean-Maximilien’s full review of the product here.

I’ll be flying this route in the same product twice, both arriving and departing Singapore. This will allow me to experience the full ground experience in both directions, including Singapore Airlines best first class lounge : The Private Room. This features premium drinks, à la carte dining, showers, nap rooms, along with very attentive service.

Singapore Airlines First Class - How I booked it with points

The cash fare for these two flights is CAD 6,200. When you think about it, that’s actually a pretty fantastic fare. You can easily pay CAD 5,000 for a one-way flight across the Atlantic from Montreal to Europe in business class with Air Canada.

So to have that price for not one, but two long-haul flights (including the full ground experience in Singapore with The Private Room) in one of the best first-class cabins in the world, is quite a bargain.

singapore airlines the private room
Singapore Airlines - The Private Room Lounge

For my ticket, I’ll be using 213,000 KrisFlyer miles plus a very reasonable CAD 100 in taxes and fees.  While that is a lot of miles to burn, I’m thankful to have a guaranteed seat in what can be a very difficult cabin to book with points.

Singapore Airlines has both “Saver” and “Advantage” awards, with the latter being more flexible and costlier. Saver fares are few and far between, so I was expecting to pay the Advantage fare from the start since I wasn’t very flexible with the dates I could travel.

In addition to this, even with the costlier fare, you often have to be put on a waitlist, meaning your seat is not guaranteed. You need to have a refundable backup booking in case your waitlist doesn’t clear.

I did NOT want that to happen to me considering this was the most important part of my flight experience, so I was lucky to actually get a confirmed seat with the miles that I paid.

singapore airlines a380 first

So why am I stopping in Delhi instead of flying straight to Dubai from Singapore you might ask? I don’t really need to go there, I just really wanted to experience the full Singapore Airlines flight experience twice, particularly departing from Singapore to enjoy the full ground experience.

Since the price of two segments is significantly less than the price of each segment purchased individually, I just found a destination which had first class availability, and would allow me to connect on to the next part of my journey.

To earn KrisFlyer miles in Canada, the best way is to transfer them from HSBC Reward Points. I earned mine using the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®. They can be transferred with the below conversion rates, however since the acquisition of HSBC by RBC, the future of the ability to do this is in doubt.

HSBC Conversion
HSBC Conversion

DEL-DXB-YYZ on Emirates

For my second major section of my trip, I will fly with Emirates in first class from Delhi to Dubai on the Boeing 777, then Dubai to Toronto on the Airbus 380.

emirates a380

While the flight on the B777 no doubt will be great, I’m mostly looking forward to the segment on the A380. While the seat and service is similar (check out Audrey’s review here), the A380 features the onboard bar and shower which takes the bling factor to a whole new level!

Emirates First Class - How I booked it with points

The cash rate for these flights is about CAD 10,700. While that’s a lot, again when compared with the cost of a shorter business class flight with Air Canada, it certainly isn’t unreasonable.

For Canadians the most easily accessible method of booking Emirates is through Aeroplan. They have a special mileage chart which can be used to book flights with them, and there are no carrier-imposed surcharges to pay.

Aeroplan Emirates Mileage Chart

While Aeroplan points are easy to earn in Canada and the taxes and fees payable on Emirates redemptions are low, the points requirements are quite high and there is more limited availability than with Emirates’ own Skywards miles.

Since there was no first class Aeroplan availability for the flights I needed, I paid using 163,500 Skywards miles.

Similar to Singapore Airlines, you get a much better deal with points if you book two segments instead of one. The Delhi to Dubai segment was only a negligible increase in points making it a better deal, and a chance to fly in first class on two different aircraft, with both an arriving and departing experience in Dubai.

emirates a380 first

While there is increased availability with Skywards, it does come at a cost with taxes and fees. Mine for the two flights were a significant CAD 1,580.

This is expensive, however it still is an 85% reduction from the actual revenue cost of the ticket. And even with these fees factored in, I am still redeeming for a value of 5.6 cents per point which is excellent value.

If you’re travelling with a family of four, there certainly are more economical ways to fly around with points. But for just one person, crossing a major bucket list item off my list, with fairly inflexible dates, then this still was a great point redemption.

To earn Skywards miles, you can accrue them by flying on revenue fares with the airline or its partners, and by using a transferrable points currency on US-issued credit cards. I used my American Express Membership Reward points for the transfer, and you can also use Citi ThankYou points and Capital One miles.

YYZ-YUL on Air Canada

My last flight home from Toronto to Montreal will be a short hop with Air Canada on their A220.

I’m currently booked in economy class at a cost of 7,700 Aeroplan points and CAD 47 in taxes and fees. Closer to the date of the flight I will attempt to use my eUpgrade credits to secure a seat in business class.

For such a short flight it doesn’t bother me much either way. What I do know is that being on a North American narrow-body jet on a short domestic flight sure will be a massive shock after four international first class flights in a row with some of the world’s top airlines!

A220 300 ac business

The hotels

The hotels for this itinerary definitively take a backseat to the flights which are the star attraction. I really only needed a transit hotel in both Singapore and Delhi to get some rest overnight between my inbound and outbound flights there.

While the first class cabins will be very comfortable, nothing really beats a large bed in a hotel room to break up the journey with some good quality sleep.

In Singapore, I will stay at the Yotel Singapore Changi Airport. I’ve stayed at the Yotel at Heathrow a couple of times, and really enjoyed it.

The concept was developed to replicate a really nice first class suite on an airplane as a hotel room. This results in a smaller and more affordable transit hotel at an airport, without sacrificing any quality.

You have a small “cabin” which has a very comfortable bed, mood lighting, a desk for working, and a compact yet fully functional ensuite with sink, toilet, and rainfall shower.

Since staying at Heathrow I’ve been looking forward to trying out another location. It’s perfect when your only need is to sleep and shower, which is all I’ll be looking for.

The cost to stay there for a night is $235 CAD with the taxes and fees included. You can also book Yotels for hourly rates during the day if you don’t need to stay overnight.

The hotel is in the Jewel complex of the airport. Despite being to Singapore many times, it has been years since I’ve been there so I haven’t actually seen the Jewel yet. As a major fan of Changi Airport, I can’t wait to finally see it in person! After checkout I will spend some time exploring it, then head to the Singapore Airlines Private Room before my flight.

Jewel Singapore Changi

In Delhi, the only transit hotel available right at the airport is the Holiday Inn Express. The main attraction of this hotel is its convenience right at the airport, otherwise there’s nothing particularly exciting about it. The cost is CAD 259 with taxes and fees. Again, my only goal will be to just have a quick sleep and shower, then head to the airline lounge.

holiday inn new delhi

To pay for the hotels, I will use Scene+ points, primarily earned with my Scotiabank Gold American Express card. With these, you have a value of 1 cent per point. The nice thing about it is you can book travel any way you’d like, then get a statement credit to be reimbursed after your trip.

In addition to the Scotiabank credit card lineup, Scene+ points can be earned with the Scene+ Rakuten shopping portal, as well as purchases at many choices of restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, plus entertainment and travel purchases.

Conclusion

I’m very excited about this trip, which definitively will be one of my more memorable return journeys home from work!

While the cost in points is high (213,000 KrisFlyer and 163,500 Skywards miles), it’s still overall quite good value, and I was able to score four very premium first class flights with both Emirates & Singapore Airlines on the exact dates I needed them.

This is all made possible by using miles and points, with the ability to use multiple point currencies for various airline products. The A380 is a joy to fly in, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it in some of the best products available in commercial aviation.

This post is also available in: FR

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Kristian
Kristian is a marine engineer who travels around the world using underwater sonar to map the ocean floor. He has a young family and now uses miles&points to finance his family getaways.

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