Frequent flyer points and lofty loyalty tiers go hand-in-hand with solo business travel, but they also pair well to create dream getaways in your downtime.
Whether that’s a quick getaway with your spouse or several weeks away sunbathing and working on your respective tans, here’s just one way to parlay your frequent flyer points and those shiny loyalty cards into an unforgettable adventure with your significant other.
Planning your journey: the basics
We’ll leave the destination at your discretion, instead using a real-life example: this author’s five-day trip to Asia to mark a special occasion.
I’d decided this voyage would follow three main rules
- to treat my partner to cities she’d never visited before – Singapore and neighbouring Kuala Lumpur
- to not fly there in economy, and enjoy great five-star hotels along the way
- and to do all that as a surprise and without breaking the bank.
A healthy mix of Qantas Frequent Flyer points, United MileagePlus miles and Hilton HHonors points would do much to keeping costs down, and as the itinerary came together piece by piece, you’ll be surprised how far even a modest points balance can go.
Step one: fly from Brisbane to Singapore (via Melbourne)
When booking a frequent flyer ticket, Qantas doesn’t collect extra points for same-day domestic stopovers – and with Emirates’ Melbourne-Singapore flights departing at 7pm, it was the perfect opportunity to take an early domestic flight from Brisbane and sneak in lunch at Rosetta.
I quickly snapped up two business class tickets: Brisbane to Melbourne with Qantas and Melbourne to Singapore with Emirates on the same itinerary for 120,000 Qantas Points and $691 in taxes, fees and surcharges, which also comes with Emirates’ free Chauffeur Drive service at each end.
Diligently clawing back 200 of those 120,000 points, I used the Qantas Restaurants website to book the table at Rosetta, at which my partner’s personal loyalty status was dutifully upgraded from girlfriend to fiancé.
Unbeknown to the future missus, I’d also secretly used Qantas Points to swap our confirmed business class tickets for adjoining couples’ first class suites when frequent flyer award seats became available with Emirates: just 60,000 points more plus 7,000 points in change fees.
Almost like clockwork, that meant an invitation to the superb Qantas First Lounge in Melbourne where we each snuck in a massage at the Aurora day spa before settling back to an endless supply of celebratory Dom Pérignon 2004 en route to Singapore.
What you’d normally pay: $10,164 ($1,898 Qantas + $8,266 Emirates)
What the flights actually cost: $691 + 187,000 Qantas Points
Step two: book a hotel in Singapore
Armed with a Hilton HHonors Gold card that guarantees free breakfast, in-room Internet access and bottled water, I went with the Conrad Centennial Singapore and its ongoing 48,000 Hilton HHonors points + S$299 (A$283) deal for a two-night ‘points and money reward’.
Given that a totally-free night sets you back 60,000 HHonors points and that basic rooms retail for around S$350/night, getting two nights from fewer points and less cash seemed a no-brainer.
Having booked only a basic King Classic room, my Gold status also procured us a free upgrade to a (A$445/night) King Business room on a higher floor with better views, a confirmed 3pm late check-out, a S$20 daily laundry allowance and what became several boxes of pralines throughout the stay.
What you’d normally pay: A$946 ($890 Business room + $56 Wi-Fi)
What the stay actually cost: A$283 + 48,000 Hilton HHonors points
Step three: fly from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
At just 55 minutes from gate to gate, I was happy to disregard my ‘no economy’ rule on the short hop from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur: locking in stellar fares on Malaysia Airlines for just A$70 each, plus a A$19 premium to secure extra-legroom seats.
Through Malaysia’s Oneworld membership, my Qantas Gold/Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyer card also guaranteed us access to the Qantas Singapore Lounge, where the staff thoughtfully whipped together a scrumptious congratulatory dessert on hearing our news:
As icing on the proverbial brownie cake, the airline also accepted an offer of S$45 (A$42) per passenger for business class upgrades via its online bidding system which provided a chance to sample those legendary Malaysia Airlines satay skewers. Yum!
What you’d normally pay: A$790 (business class)
What the flights actually cost: A$262 (incl. fees paid for extra legroom)
Step four: book a Kuala Lumpur hotel
Served will full lounge privileges atop the regular HHonors Gold perks, an Executive Room for just A$225/night at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur hotel was too good to ignore – not to mention the points earned for future cut-price stays.
There’s a good chance we’d have been upgraded to the next room category at no charge, but as it was near-identical but with a lake view, I used Hilton’s ‘eStandby Upgrade’ system to tease a A$65 offer for a Grand Executive Suite: otherwise selling for A$375/night during our visit.
With a dash of luck and a sprinkle of confidence, my upgrade offer was accepted to a palatial suite with a dedicated living and dining room…
… plus an office space, two walk-in closets, a private bedroom with those lake views and two bathrooms – one with an oversized bath and a separate shower.
What you’d normally pay: A$399 (A$375 suite + A$24 Wi-Fi)
What the stay actually cost: A$290
Final step: fly from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane
Having stocked up on United miles in September last year amidst a strong Aussie dollar and a sweet 2-for-1 deal from United, 60,000 miles was enough for two business class tickets home on Thai Airways.
Picked up for just A$1,246 and with only A$105 in taxes and surcharges payable when making the booking, it gave the opportunity to break the journey at Thai’s Bangkok hub for a little market shopping, an afternoon boat ride on the Chao Phraya River and dinner by the water.
Back at the airport, complimentary half-hour massages at the airline’s Royal Orchid Spa were also squeezed in before journeying home in Thai’s ‘honeymoon’ seats at the pointy end:
The only snag along the way? My luggage decided that an Asian jaunt wasn’t complete without including Japan, but made its way home the following day after a brief visit to Sapporo.
What you’d normally pay: A$3,790
What the flights actually cost: A$1,351 (taxes + buying 60,000 miles)
Frequent flyer points and status: the real savings
Without the aid of frequent flyer points or shiny loyalty cards, a journey this extravagant pushes past the $16,000 mark – and that’s before adding meals, sightseeing, and airport transfers that don't come free.
Looking at our figures above, we booked the same for only $2,877 of real money plus 187,000 Qantas Points and 48,000 Hilton HHonors points, and a flash of each loyalty card for the little extras along the way.
That's just $1439 per person, or about what you'd pay for a simple economy ticket during holidays to just one of those cities – and that certainly doesn't come with five-star hotels or first class caviar included in the price.
So the next time you’re planning a surprise romantic getaway or even just a simple weekend away, see how far your frequent flyer points and miles can take you.
When your partner spots their name on a ‘free’ business or first class boarding pass, how you booked the flight won’t matter in the slightest.
More ways to save on business and luxury travel:
- Slash your hotel costs: flash your NRMA, RACV or RACQ card
- Low-cost Qantas business, first class buying AAdvantage miles
- How codeshare flights could be costing you thousands...
- Five expert tips for buying miles and frequent flyer points
- United Airlines exec: buying miles is good for business
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