Maldives on Miles Update: Switching to EVA Air

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Earning miles is only half the battle in the miles and points world, the other half is redeeming them in as rewarding a way as possible (for you).  Sometimes that is pretty easy and straight forward, and sometimes it is a bit more complicated.  I would say that my trip next year to the Maldives falls under one of the more complex award bookings I have personally done (though I know it just scratches the surface for those who book true round-the-world tickets).

In my original post on booking our tickets, I outlined the process I went through in booking what turned out to essentially be an around-the-world trip, as well as the routing and carriers we chose.  There are lots of different options to get to and from the Maldives, but none of them are direct or fast.  Since we were flying in business class, our goals were #1 to have lie flat beds whenever possible and #2 get home as quickly as possible.  I think we are doing pretty well with #1, though getting home is still taking a massively long time.

Originally our return was booked Male – Singapore – Seoul – San Francisco – Houston.  See, told you it wasn’t direct!  We were on Singapore Airlines for the first two segments, and then on United across the Pacific and on home to Houston.  We were still in coach from Singapore – Seoul, but the rest were confirmed in business or domestic first.  With that much travel, we have to be able to get sleep on airplanes, or else the trip just wouldn’t be all that fun for us.

I have several alerts set for reward availability on different flights thanks to Expert Flyer, but I still manually go in and check the options myself at least once or twice a week to see if anything better had opened up.  The beauty of Platinum status on United is free changes to award tickets.  If you don’t have elite status with United then changes to award tickets booked via United that keep the same origin and destination now carry a fee of $75 21 days + out.  This was a new fee as of June 19th, so if you booked an award before then you should still be able to change the routing and dates up until 21 days from departure for free.

Today when I went in to do a routine check on the different options, I saw a new option on EVA Air.  To be fair, EVA isn’t a new partner with United, but checking for their award space via using United miles has recently gotten a lot easier since they recently joined the Star Alliance last month.  There have been some glitches in the past month or so with the ability to accurately see and book award flights with them via the United website, but that seems to be improving.  Honestly I hadn’t paid too much attention to this carrier based in Taiwan joining Star Alliance since I am not a regular visitor to Asia.  However, I am transiting Asia for this trip, so this is an option worth exploring.

For my travel dates that are still almost 10 months out, award availability was quite good on EVA.  After brushing up some on their business class product thanks to some online reviews and a quick email to my buddy Gary, I confirmed that their business class product on the 777-300 from Taipei to LA was indeed the way to go for our trip.

A “quick” phone call to United and we are now flying:

Male – Singapore (Singapore Airlines)

Singapore – Taipei (EVA Airlines)

Taipei – Los Angeles (EVA Airlines)

Los Angeles – Houston (United Airlines)

All except our LAX – Houston flight are confirmed in business, and I bet we are able to get that one moved up before our flight next year.  It is still costing us “just” 120,000 United miles each for the round trip flight.  There was an increase of about $5 each in faxes/fees for switching to the EVA flights.  As a side note, Air China now offers a new nonstop flight from Houston to Beijing that just started in the last week or so.  It just goes four days a week, and isn’t operating on the day we are traveling, but there was good availability in business class around our travel dates.  I have had good luck with solid award availability on new routes in the past, so it is always worth a check.

While I know not everyone is in the middle of planning a trip to the “Maldives on Miles”, the point of this post is that routes and partners are somewhat fluid in the aviation industry.  The “best” award you could book last week may be very different this week.  We were fortunate to be able to improve our award, and with many months to go it is possible it will improve again.

Have you been able to use new partners or new routes to your advantage when booking award tickets?

Comments

  1. I’m sure both of you have Global Entry, so you’ll be ok, but normally, I’d prefer to transit SFO than LAX.

    I’ve had 2 bad experiences coming back to the US through LAX…and these were with connections of > 2 hours.

  2. My wife and I are going to the Maldives in late Sept using United miles. Was able to get every single flight in business (total of 10) except out first flight (ATL-IAH). Anyways, it took me literally 4 calls all averaging about an hour before an agent was able to book it. Now I want to change one leg of my trip (actually getting rid of one connection because I found a more direct route). Is there a chance an agent could screw the whole trip up? Should I just stick with my original itnerary?

  3. might want to avoid Air China. Worst business class I’ve ever flown…the seats weren’t flat, the food was uneatable for fish/veggie peeps, and the flight attendants didn’t speak English (yeah, air china, but the flight took off from SFO…)

  4. I’m Executive Platinum w American so my strategy is to hold best flights available (like you, no change fees) and then if something opens better, I switch — I also bought 300k us air miles when they were selling for 1.2-1.5 so I have that option if something opens up in the last 14 days of travel (like LH F!)

  5. Would someone care to give me a brief explaination on how you find out if there are awards available on non-United flights but that are United partners?
    Thanks

  6. David, we do have Global Entry, and thank goodness for that! Was going to do SFO, but it got us in another hour later…minor in the grand scheme, but that’s why we went LAX.
    MilesAbound, very nice!
    Tony, I have made a couple changes with no issue. I am very clear about which segments to leave alone and they have.
    leftpinky, that one would cut several hours off the trip, so it would get us home faster which would be great. Read a couple of reviews on Air China that seemed okay, but I have not flown them personally. http://thepointsguy.com/2012/10/flight-review-air-china-777-300er-business-class-beijing-los-angeles/
    Michael, always good to have options! Not sure you can use your miles for LH F though. ;(
    IV, nice – we have a couple of the same segments!
    Kris, yeah and thanks for sharing!
    Seth, as soon as I hung up I remembered I should have done that. Wasn’t too concerned about that segment since I hope to clear Global Entry in time to hop on the earlier flight from LAX to IAH, but prob worth doing just in case so good reminder. 😉

  7. Cathay Pacific is also flying to the Maldives from HK four times a week starting later this year, so yet another option if you want to use Oneworld miles.

  8. I also think its worth mentioning… try and find a arrival into Male before 3pm as the seaplanes that take you to your resort stop flying at 4pm. Otherwise you will have to overnight in Male.

  9. I miswrote: I have UA miles for the LH F redemption which are bookable within 14 days, but LH J 747-8 are available via USAIR. (Although Lucky recently redeemed LH F using USAIR via a manual sale, I believe).

    @Wandering — I went to your site to see if I could set an alert for UA miles booking LH F LAX-CDG one way on Thursday, October 3, but could not figure out how to do it.

    Can you kindly provide me a link for instructions?

  10. I was able to book on united website the following for next march….
    LAX -> ICN (OZ)-> SIN(SQ) -> MLE (SQ)
    MLE -> SIN (SQ)-> HND (4 days) (SQ) -> LAX (NH) all on the united website. all in Business with the exception of SIN -> HND… I was thinking about going MLE -> SIN -> TPE -> LAX on eva because of the true flat business class… But the wife wanted to go to Tokyo…

    • “wow 120k united miles spent on business class on these flights. lol what a joke. you should stop blogging.”

      Maybe you should quit commenting. What’s the point of that comment anyway?

    • Went with UA due to the ability to make changes for free throughout and the free AMS stopover. Maldives on US Airways is also 120k miles. Just flying to AMS would be 100k miles rt in business, so an extra 20k to get to the Maldives and circle the globe is a great deal in my book…but we all play by different books. 😉

    • OK Dumbho…
      Put your miles where your mouth is and post the routing for 90,000 that matches MP’s routing.

  11. Hi fellow Houstonian. I’ll be tracking your site since I find finding good deals from Houston so difficult because United’s monopoly. If the same trip was done in Economy, how many miles would it cost? The reason I ask is that I only have 130k miles and two people. I’m Gold on United for 2013 if that helps.

  12. Mommypoints, glad that I remembered seeing your post about changing over to EVA through SIN! We were setup DFW-FRA-IST-MLE in biz, but then all economy on the return MLE-IST-HOU-DFW. I just called and was able to switch the return to MLE-SIN-TPE-SFO-DFW, very similar to yours, and just one leg economy of SIN-TPE on Singapore Air. TPE-SFO on EVA. 40k additional UR points well spent for the wife and me. Thanks!!

  13. Good for you! Will you be in TPE for longer than a layover? Based in TPE, I like how EVA has refreshed their product although their FF program is not as friendly as the US ones. Right now we’re relying mostly on Delta (partner with China Airlines) but are evaluating switching to UA now that EVA has joined *A.

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