Last fall, after realizing I was a few thousand miles short of re qualifying for Premier Executive status on United, I took a quick same day mileage run (LAX-ORD.) United had matched AA’s double EQM promo and the fare was reasonable. (This was before they announced the devaluation of the program…but that’s another post.) While waiting in ORD for my ride back home, I logged onto flyer talk for a quick gander and to pass a few minutes. I still needed earn a significant amount of EQM’s before the end of year, so I checked the Mileage Run Deals forum for some ideas. Bingo – right at the top, $402 to China all in on United! Would the dates work for me? After plugging in some options, I came up with an itinerary that would allow me to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, the office would be quiet, and I’d only need to take a couple of vacation days. Booked. The caveat? The trip originated from Seattle. I would have to reposition. Still, I had never been to China, and welcomed the opportunity to make my first visit.
The itinerary was SEA – SFO – PEK, with the return the same in reverse. I booked my one way reposition UA flight from LAX to Seattle, which was very inexpensive, and also booked a night at The Radisson SEA as my first flight left at 7am. This nicely coincided with the Club Carlson 50K bonus promo, and total cost for the night was around $85. I also booked a return flight back, SFO-LAX for $150, for which I used a $150 credit I had received thanks to a jumpy video screen on a previous flight. Since my flight was so cheap, and I was making a holiday of the mileage run (a “mileage run with benefits…” ) I decided to treat myself to a nice, 5 star hotel. In my quest for lifetime AA platinum status, I had amassed a very significant bank of miles, so I checked Useaamiles.com for some options. Redemption amounts are based on your status with AA, and there are sometimes some very good deals. I decided on the Fairmont Beijing – 6 nights for 82,000 AA miles with free breakfast. Score.
The trip to Seattle was uneventful, and the Radisson was surprisingly nice! I arrived early enough to take the train into downtown Seattle for some quick window shopping and food. I checked in for my flight at around 5am the following morning. The Radisson was also very conveniently located, and it took me all of 5 minutes to walk from the hotel to the check in counter. After passing security, I went to the lounge where I met another person who had capitalized on the same fare! I arrived at the departure gate to a zoo. Since my fare was in a non upgradable fare bucket, I had no high hopes of being upgraded. But seeing the mob of people at the counter, I began to panic. I waited for the right moment and approached the gate agent. I asked him if there was any way at all that I could upgrade using miles and money. He didnt know, but took my ticket and said he’d see what he could do. Soon my name was being announced over the intercom and I was handed a business class seat in the massive 747! While coach was filled to the brim, Business was nearly empty and I had a row of 4 seats to myself the entire trip.
I had arranged for the hotel to pick me up for about $85. I figured I would be tired, and since I had spent virtually nothing so far on the trip, I decided to treat myself. I was met at the gate by an airport agent who took me down a secret back corridor to my waiting Audi, and we quickly zoomed off to the hotel. The Fairmont Beijing is beautiful. It is a new hotel, having opened only the year before. There was a tv in the bathroom! It was also very convenient to the subway, which I found extremely easy to use and very cheap! Beijing is a huge city. I have never seen so many cars and so much pollution (and I live in L.A.) I hit all the usual touristy areas – Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City, Chariman Mao’s mausoleum, a day at The Great Wall, Peking Duck dinner with friends (for Thanksgiving!) There was one day I stayed in and used the amazing spa at the Fairmont. I had been watching the smog levels (monitored by the US state dept.) and they had deemed it ‘hazardous’ to be outdoors that day. My 1.5 hour massage was divine, and the steam room was refreshing. I didnt use the pool or exercise room, but they looked mighty nice. Overall, I really liked the city and wished I’d had more time there. But the smog makes it a very unpleasant place to be if you are sensitive to such things. I was lucky that I had clear skies for 3 days, but the rest of the time was pretty unpleasant.