I have officially cancelled my Japan trip in August. It makes me sad, but I also get to start thinking about the next trip in April, which I wrote about the other day.

Routing Options

Broadly, I want to get three people, in business class, from the US to Asia to Europe and back to the US. I’m not too concerned about having to buy a positioning flight in some regions, but I’d like the intercontinental flights to be booked with miles. Additionally, given that I now have 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, I would like to use those if possible.

Virgin charges fuel surcharges on almost all transatlantic flights, including those operated by partners such as Delta, so if possible I would also like to use the Virgin miles for the transpacific segment. Conveniently, there do seem to be a number of options for awards on Delta.

North America to Asia

Although you can also redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA and Air China, ANA does not allow one-way awards and I would prefer to avoid China. Therefore, we’re looking at non-stop Delta flights from the mainland US to Asia, which they fly from their hubs in Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis (MSP), Seattle (SEA), and Los Angeles (LAX), as well as a flight to Tokyo from Portland (PDX).

Award availability looks pretty good in April on most of these, so we have some good options. Most of the options are on the A350 too, which would be really cool.

Based on the Asia to Europe routing, we will likely have to decide whether to go to Japan or Korea first, but it seems that both are options.

Asia to Europe

This one is a bit trickier. For non-stop routings from Japan or South Korea to Zürich, we are looking at Swiss or Korean Air. There are a lot of potential one-stop routings, but most programs charge more for an Asia to Europe flight in business than a North America to Asia flight (about 75,000 miles, though there are a few programs that charge less). This is where I likely expect to use American Airlines miles.

There are three major ways to get from Asia to Europe using AA miles:

  • You can fly from a oneworld hub in Asia; your options in east Asia are Tokyo (Japan Airlines) or Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific). Cathay Pacific does have a nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Zürich, however I don’t currently know how the political situation in Hong Kong will evolve within the next year.
  • You can fly to a oneworld hub in Europe; your options are London (British Airways), Helsinki (Finnair), or Madrid (Iberia). Finnair has a quite large Asia network and is geographically favorable compared to the other two, but may not release award seats in long-haul business to partner airlines.
  • You can fly through the Middle East; you can redeem American miles on Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Currently I have not decided what I want to do, but I am leaning towards flying through Helsinki. It seems that though Finnair does not release award seats in long-haul business readily, Japan Airlines does.

Europe to North America

There are several good deals here (as well as a lot of bad deals):

  • Aeroplan charges 55,000 miles for a non-stop flight on Swiss.
  • American charges 57,500 miles for a flight via London or Philadelphia, though they add fuel surcharges.

Right now I think I am inclined to go with Aeroplan.

My Tentative Routing

With all of these routing restrictions in mind, here is the routing I am thinking of:

For 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles + $5.60 per person:

  • Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN) — Delta Air Lines, A350 (Business)

For 7,500 Delta SkyMiles + $23.46 per person:

  • Seoul - Gimpo (GMP) to Tokyo - Haneda (HND) — Korean Air, 777-300 (Economy)

For 75,000 American Airlines miles + $45.70 per person:

  • Tokyo - Haneda (HND) to Helsinki (HEL) — Japan Airlines, 787-9 or Finnair, A350 (Business)
  • Helsinki (HEL) to Zürich (ZRH) — Finnair, A321 (Business)

For 55,000 Aeroplan miles + $54.38 per person:

  • Zürich (ZRH) to Boston (BOS) — Swiss, A340 (Business)

Amazingly, all of these routes currently have three award seats for the dates I am interested in. Luckily, the fuel surcharges and taxes total about $130 per person, which I think is pretty great for flying around the world in business class. It’s not the 115,000 mile ANA deal, but it’s still pretty good in my book.

Bottom Line

Assuming the Coronavirus has subsided enough to travel by next April, this should be a great trip. I have been to Japan enough that it is still quite cool but not amazingly special; this trip has the “trip of a lifetime” feeling to me, because I get to go with my friends and circumnavigate the world.