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Flight Review: Brussels Airlines Business Class JFK-BRU

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Back in August 2016, I booked round-trip Business Class flights from JFK to Brussels on Brussels Airlines using ~37,000 Etihad miles (transferred 1:1 from Citi ThankYou points). That was an incredible value. Now it’s 44,000 Etihad miles each way, which is still a cheap price for Business Class to Europe. But not nearly as awesome, obvi.

I took the flights in May 2017 – a full 9 months after booking. It’s the farthest in advance I’ve ever booked a trip. So I was looking forward to it for a long time.

Brussels Airlines Business Class

Our bird to Brussels

As the date neared, I firmed up my intra-European itinerary. And booked positioning flights to and from New York.

Here’s a look at what Business Class on Brussels Airlines looks like.

Brussels Airlines Business Class seat

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NYC-BRU J Award Seats on Brussels Open May & June 2017 – Book With Citi ThankYou Points!

I just so happened to be casually looking for JFK-BRU Business Class award space on Brussels Airlines because that’s what Saturday mornings are for, right?

Space is open nearly every day in May and June 2017 in Business Class to AND from Brussels

Space is open nearly every day in May and June 2017 in Business Class to AND from Brussels

I was able to find a Business Class award seat on the JFK or EWR to BRU route nearly every day in May and June 2017 (with a few dates in March and April, too).

The reason I’ve had my eye on this award is because Citi ThankYou points transfer 1:1 to Etihad Guest miles. And Etihad has a very generous award chart on this particular route.

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37K round-trip in Business Class? Yes, plz!

A round-trip ticket in Business Class costs just 36,620 Etihad Guest miles. Of course, you have to transfer in increments of 1,000, so realistically this will cost 37,000 Citi ThankYou points. Which is a steal. 

Look

Look for SAVER award space

United would charge 70K miles each way, or 140,000 miles, round-trip. So you’ll save a huge number of points by booking through Etihad instead.

How to find the space

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Review: Etihad Pearl Class MEL-AUH

I was beyond excited to get on this flight, for a number of reasons. It was the capstone to an amazing trip, afforded us a day in Abu Dhabi, and I had two Lufthansa flights (my first!) to look forward to after the day passed.

I hoped that somehow, some way, mayyybeeee, we’d get upgraded to Diamond Class. I knew the cabin was full when I booked, but stuff happens, and I had hope. I asked at checkin at AUH (which was smooth as silk and the agent was textbook perfect) about the upgrade, but there weren’t any. But I didn’t care. We were invited into the (name of lounge) and waited there until the flight left off at THREE A.M. This was the earliest/latest flight I’ve ever taken so I was curious about how they’d worked out the timing of the meals and what amenities would be offered. The lounge was fantastic, but by the time 2am rolled around, I was veritably nodding off.

First impressions

We boarded the flight and quickly found our seats. Walking through the Diamond Class cabin was rough, though. Those suites are gorgeous, opulent, spacious… everything that everyone says about them. The colors used on the plane are wonderful neutrals with black and white splashes here and there (i.e. the famous black and white striped pillows). As soon as I saw those pillows in the seat, I could already feel the comfort setting in. And it felt NICE.

Seat in Etihad Pearl Business Class

Seat 7F in Etihad Pearl Business Class

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Just booked: JFK-LAX-NAN-AKL-SYD-MEL-AUH-CAI-JFK

And I’m super freaking excited about it.

So the title is a bit of a fib: I have a flight alert and fare tracker set for LAX-NAN and will buy it if I have to, and I haven’t gotten the initial JFK-LAX but am not really so worried about it.

This is what the trip will look like:

25,000 miles and all around the world

25,000 miles and all around the world

 

So far, I’ve used 132K miles per person and gotten over 6 cents of value out of each one. This trip would be nearly $17,000 if bought at retail price.

It’ll be from Dec 24th, 2013 to January 7th, 2014. It includes Christmas in Fiji, New Years in Sydney, stopovers in New Zealand and Melbourne, and a quick trip to see the pyramids on the Gaza strip in Cairo.

So how’d I book it? Segment by segment, and with a combination of AAdvantage, MileagePlus, and Avios miles.

The breakdown (notice there’s no Delta!):

JFK-LAX: will most likely use AAdvantage miles when I earn a few more, or maybe MileagePlus if necessary

LAX-NAN: would like to use AAdvantage miles for this. Might have to purchase it, and it would be the only leg I’d have to buy. However, it’s only $750 right now and would net me a nice amount of miles as I’m Platinum on American and the flight is on Air Pacific. Still, I’m holding out for award space.

NAN-AKL: 17,500 x 2 (so 35,000) MileagePlus miles on Air New Zealand

AKL-SYD: 9,000 AAdvantage miles for one and 10,000 Avios for the other – both on Qantas

SYD-MEL: 4,500 x 2 (so 9,000) Avios on Qantas, baby. Wonderful redemption rate!

MEL-AUH: 45,000 x 2 (so 90,000) AAdvantage miles for Etihad business class to Abu Dhabi

AUH-CAI-JFK: 60,000 x 2 (so 120,000) MileagePlus miles transferred in from Ultimate Rewards. Includes a 17-hour stopover in Cairo, then back to NYC in business class on Egyptair.

All-in-all, a very good award IMHO. 5 new countries, four new airlines, and two new business class products (I didn’t feel the need to book the short hauls in business) – not to mention an amazing life experience! This is exactly why I’m so crazy about collecting points and miles: I can go on awesome trips like this and actually 1) afford them and 2) travel in style. And the best part is that, with a little strategic planning, you can really maximize what you get for free.

As a litmus test, I went and found the exact flights over on Kayak and priced out how much the itinerary I booked would cost on the retail market. Here’s what I found:

FIJI

 

When I factor in the two remaining legs to book, I estimate this itinerary will be over $17,000. Cray!

Here’s where I was able to extract even MORE value out of this booking aside from the goal value of 2 cents per mile:

  • Having the Citi AAdvantage Select card gives me 10% of redeemed miles back per year, up to 10,000 miles. I just redeemed 100K miles and will get 10K back – making my cost here only 90K miles. I value 10,000 AAdvantage miles at roughly $200, so it’s totally worth paying the annual fee of $95 to get those miles back.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival came with a $440 signup bonus, which I will redeem for the taxes, booking fees, and fuel surcharges. This means that there was literally ZERO out-of-pocket expense in booking these awards. Amazing.
  • My partner has a Chase United Explorer card which gave us access to Saver awards even when the site told us none were available. That’s huge.
  • I just need to add that this booking really shows the value of Avios. I know the program gets knocked quite a bit, but I was able to get some great value out of it. I also am factoring in the flight times into the equation. I had the pick of literally dozens of flights – all for free. Having all those choices is something I really loved.
  • Lastly, thinking of this award booking as one project instead of individual segments really helped me justify the “not amazing” redemption values of some segments. The first on Air New Zealand, for example, only got 3 cents of value per mile. However, on the Etihad segment, I got over 13 cents of value for each mile. That is a huge WOW. By thinking of it this way, the average value of all my miles really came into focus.

 

Very much looking forward to the flights, trip reports, and of course all the amazing new places. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, and my heart is bursting with excitement and gratitude at being able to actually do this. More soon as always.