Last summer, before all this COVID-craziness, I made my first long-haul premium cabin redemption for EVA Air's Royal Laurel business class experience back to my home in Taiwan. For 160,000 points and ~$50 in taxes, I redeemed for a round trip between the US and Taipei, with a (free) getaway to my (other) home in Beijing in between.
It all started the moment I secured my summer internship. Even before I had signed my offer, I had been keeping an eye out on possible redemption options.
To complicate things, my trip needed to originate in San Francisco (where I was interning), stop in Taiwan with a round trip to Beijing in between, and finally terminate in Seattle (where I would be attending a friend's wedding). This routing also presented itself an amazing opportunity to utilize United's excursionist perk, where you can essentially get a free third destination in the same region for free when booking a round trip flight (or in my case, an open jaw).
I ended up with the following routing, booked for a total of 160,000 Chase UR points (at the time United charged 80k each way, but a recent devaluation increased redemption costs by about 10%) which I transferred to United MileagePlus to make the booking (EVA Air is a Star Alliance partner), with an additional $51.93 in mandatory taxes & fees:
SFO > TPE (80k) TPE > PEK (excursionist perk, FREE!) PEK > TPE > SEA (80k)
If all this is too confusing, read this part:
So how much is 160,000 Chase UR points worth? This may be a pain point for more novice travel hackers. Here is a simple example...
- Redeemed for cashback: $1600 (this is because each point is worth $0.01, multiply by 160,000 and you get this number if cashed out directly)
- Redeemed for Chase Travel: $2400 (this is because Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 50% more value when used booked through Chase Travel, so multiply the cashback number above by an additional 50% and you get this number)
- Transferred to United MileagePlus: $8000+ (80,000 Chase UR points gets you a one-way business class trip, so 160,000 points gives you enough to fly a round trip. This is the method I used to redeem this flight)
Next, it's time to pick the seat. I recommend going to seatguru.com before booking to check aircraft type and seating chart, as certain aircrafts feature older (mostly inferior) interiors and not all seats are created equal. Avoid seats too close to the galley and restroom if you are sensitive to noise/smell, and avoid certain seats with less windows (SeatGuru will tell you).
For my Taipei-bound flight, it was on EVA's Boeing 777-300ER, typical for their long-haul international routes. These featured EVA's most premium offering at the time, but they are beginning to roll out Dreamliners with a completely revamped cabin design by BMW's DesignWorks. For my flight, the business cabin is divided into two sections, a forward cabin (Rows 1-6) and rear cabin (Rows 8-11). I had read many reviews about how the rear cabin is more private inflight, since there are only 4 rows. However, since all passengers walk through during boarding, it does create a more chaotic pre-flight experience. In the end, I opted to try both - the forward cabin on the way to Taipei and the rear cabin on my TPE-SEA return flight.
I don't know why but, for some reason, the thought of having a boarding pass with 1A just seems pretty cool. However at the time of booking, the seat was unfortunately taken already, so I resorted to the next alternative, 2A (lol...). In hindsight, I really liked the forward cabin and had no issues with my seat choice.
More details of my booking here:
A quick search on Expedia showed that had I paid for this trip in cash, it would've cost me over $8000!
This works out to be an incredible 5 cents per point (cpp)! Chase points are usually valued at 1-2cpp, but as often is the case when booking "crazier" flights or hotels, you can stretch the value many times over.
If you are interested in more articles/examples on how to book, let me know in the comments down below! Also check out these credit card offers so you can book a trip like this too!
San Francisco to Taipei EVA Air Experience:
Taipei to Beijing Air China Experience:
Taipei to Seattle EVA Air Experience:
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