The Last Push! The Final 700 Tier Points to BA Gold!
Featuring American Airlines, OpenSkies, Air France and Eurostar
- Why do I do this to myself? (The introduction)
- Off to Birmingham Airport, Air France AF1656 to Paris CDG
- Ibis Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport
- A Rushed Check in, AA Lounge
- AA45 Paris CDG to New York JFK
- A Delayed Transit, AA85 New York JFK to San Francisco International
- Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport
- Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
- One Time Special – Around the Bay and Under the bridge
- Two Time Special – 3 and a half miles. Across the Golden Gate Bridge and back
- Escaping San Francisco to the Crowne Plaza
- Early Morning San Francisco Airport, AA24 San Francisco to New York JFK
- A Dash Across Manhattan and NJ, Newark Airport
- BA Galleries Lounge, EC8004 OpenSkies Newark Airport to Paris Orly West
- Paris. City of Dreams, Romance and Pickpockets?
- Eurostar 9013 Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras, Chiltern Railways London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill
- 700TP: Job Done
Why do I do this to myself? (The introduction)
The Shiny Gold Card of course is the sole reason why I am putting myself through this pain once more it seems. Its benefits are both quantifiable and tangible to me (in terms of lounge and luggage, but in also when I’ve been a scrape or two), so I face a tier point run to get this in Gold Card in the bag for 2014 and be done with it.
For those outside the BA scheme, BA uses Tier Points and Avios in their programme. Avios is the miles you earn for flying on a plane, shopping, etc. whilst Tier Points are used as the qualification method to get the shiny oneworld cards of Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. The longer you fly and the better class you fly, the more Tier Points you earn.
I had been toying with tier point runs, which involved the Club World London City Route (with varying degrees of success on pricing it – only to face massive fuel surcharges). At one point I was considering a cheap trip on any airline to the USA, for a positioning run to San Juan and back (and probably back again).
Then Iberia dropped a fare – €999 Return to the USA in Business Class from France, with most West Coast destinations available with a change in New York, Miami, Chicago or stopoff points.
This is very important for me, as West Coast destinations are past the 2000 mile magical point marker if changing in New York or Miami, meaning provided the fare was booked in the right ticketing bucket, I would net a total of 700 Tier Points.
So, with trepidation, and a bit of good luck, I decided to attack the Iberia website.
And whichever person designed this rubbish excuse of a website needs to be taken away and hung, drawn and quartered. Repeatedly.
User friendliness is all well and good, but it was bailing left right and centre, telling me no matches were found, and any other excuse under the sun.
In the first few attempts to book the ticket, I tried to use Google Chrome with Auto-translate to help me out. This, whilst a good idea in principle, and got me part way through (without Google screwing up the translations… much), but it did like to collapse when you blew at it the wrong way, or tried to actually make the booking engine do anything.
In the end, I decided to see how much of Secondary School French I could use (studied until I was 14 – I preferred German to French as a foreign language to study), and crossed my fingers with the flights. This was equally important, as I needed to force I/A/A/I ticket earnings buckets as opposed to I/I/I/I earning.
What’s the difference?
- I/A/A/I = 140 + 210 + 210 + 140 = 700 Tier Points
- I/I/I/I = 140 + 140 + 140 + 140 = 560 Tier Points
As I need 685 tier points to wrap up my renewal, this means I needed to target 2-class flights whilst in the USA (operated with First and Coach), and praying aiming for AA marketed and operated flights as opposed to Iberia code-shared flights (as they would had pushed the fare into I).
I also wanted some spice with the trip, so I decided the last segment had to be something interesting – and I got it in the form of British Airways… but not in the form that most of us know it as.
BA has a unit called OpenSkies – set up in 2008 as an open access airline to utilise the open-skies pact between the USA and the EU. Whilst its been through multiple changes (from merging with L’Avion, Going from a 3 class product to a Business only product, back to a 3 class product), it’s another one of those airlines that use a 757 over the pond in an odd configuration.
And at GhettoIFE, I like odd. Heck, you’ve seen some of the routings I’ve had to do things in the past ;).
Of course, I was silly enough to book the OpenSkies flight from NEWARK. Which means a Four-hour and Fifty Minute transit through JFK, Manhattan to New York. This can only go one way.
And I’m not referring to the words “good” or “well”.
Anyway. That’s the core of the flights done (although the pain of the ticket was bigger than I’m letting on – I’ll explain later what Iberia did…). Now the positioning in and positioning back bit.
For positioning in, I’ve got a choice: either go in via Eurostar or catch a plane from Birmingham to CDG. With me working the day before, there’s only one choice on the cards – fly in.
However, this brings up one of the conundrums of pricing engines. I first queried the Air France booking engine, which gave me a wonderful £260 Premium Economy class fare.
However, the flight is code-shared with FlyBe… who offered the fare at £50 on an Essentials fare.
So. Do I spend £50 or £260? What do you think? :p (although in fairness, FlyBe was pricing the premium economy ticket at a stonking £270. I honestly give up with fare engines these days).
Getting back would be an interesting dilemma – mainly as I would be arriving back at Paris-Orly, which leaves 3 options on the table:
- Wait for a flight from Orly, and trek back to Birmingham via Heathrow
- Head back to Charles De Gualle, and either catch a direct flight to Birmingham or to Heathrow, trekking back to Birmingham
- Catch a Eurostar to St Pancras, and home via the train.
Not all bad options, but there was a simple fact emerging that in terms of time, I would end up in Birmingham about 5pm no matter which route I selected.
Therefore I chose comfort over airports, and selected Eurostar as my choice of transport back to the UK. This would provide a reasonable connection back St Pancras, and onto Marylebone for the onward train journey home. At an all-in cost of £40 for the train €10 to transfer from Orly to Paris-Nord (and a spare return ticket for onward travel to Birmingham), it works out favourably in terms of time and cost.
And besides, I wouldn’t be hamstrung with any silly restrictions on luggage and stuff…
Hotels were a much more difficult matter – I can’t remember the last time I’ve spent a solid 5 days at one location.
The overnight in Paris was originally going to be a Holiday Inn (especially when they launched a cheap UK+EU sale for £25/£35 a night)… except that the hotel I wanted had conveniently “opted out” of the offer. Which was rather annoying.
Thankfully, the Accor Group came to the rescue with a 40% off sale and a night in the Ibis CDG (which is on the CDG property) for £51 all in.
For the first night in San Francisco, it would be wasted if I head downtown (as lets face it – after 17 hours of travel, I’ll be cream crackered and only fit for the bed in the hotel). I’ve therefore gone and splurged on a Hyatt – the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport… on points. Mainly as I’ve cooled dramatically on Hyatt brand since my last experience at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, and that prices were $200 a night. 8000 points is near enough reasonable value for that – that and after my last Hyatt stay – it would be a chance for the brand to “redeem” itself (even though my expectations have been set reasonably low).
For the main stay in San Francisco, I wanted a property close to Union Square – as it’s a reasonable base for the city I find, but I was open to ideas.
Thankfully, I have an IC Ambassadors Voucher to hand – which made life a lot more simpler, opening up the Mark Hopkins at a very good price of $202++ for two nights vs the $522 that they wanted (sadly the IC San Francisco SOMA was coming in at $400… a night)
For the final night, I’m falling back to the Crowne Plaza at San Francisco Airport. Whilst not the shiniest of choices, it is reasonably cheap – which counts on this trip. It also puts me closer to the airport so I can roll out of bed at 4:30am, be on a shuttle at 5am, and be on the plane for the 7:05am departure
Well it could be worse. I could had gone with the hotel I went with when I was here for San Francisco MegaDO 08. That makes even a Travelodge look like a four star luxury hotel.
So, with that all done, here’s your map for this session of chaos:
Image – Great Circle Mapper – www.gcmap.com
So, how could this possibly go wrong? Oh wait… this is a Kevincm trip report. Things going wrong is “par for the course” (and if you’ve read the contents of this… you should be able to guess where)….
Next up: Off to Paris!