Two months had passed since I returned from my 11-day trip around the world and I was starting to itch for more travel. With Brad leaving for Mainland China in a couple of weeks, I had been spending a lot of time looking at flights to Asia and thought it might be nice to go back myself. Originally I was planning to visit Brad while he’s doing his community field experience in Chongqing, however, a combination of work and poor reward availability meant it wouldn’t work out this time.
Two weeks ago I was browsing flights and stumbled across an Air Canada direct flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver. While not an aspirational product by any stretch, I got excited for a few of reasons:
- Air Canada reward flights between Hong Kong and Vancouver are hard to come by (for direct flights)
- Aeroplan redemptions on Air Canada have high fuel surcharges, which are not applicable on the direct flight from Honk Kong (due to their laws)
- I had been in Hong Kong recently, but only stayed one night near the airport at The Marriott SkyCity Hotel and knew I wanted to go back for a couple days to experience the city
Recently Aeroplan started releasing more reward seats on Air Canada metal for Aeroplan redemptions only, which One Mile At a Time recently wrote about. This was the case here, as I couldn’t find award availability on the direct flight using ExpertFlyer or United Airlines. I transferred 75,000 American Express Membership Reward points to Aeroplan (which post instantly) and made the booking online.
As mentioned above, taxes and fees were minimal as Hong Kong has unique laws regarding fuel surcharges.
Now that I had my return flight home, I was tasked with finding a flight there. Vancouver to Hong Kong is serviced directly by Air Canada and Cathay Pacific, with multiple one-stop options through Taipei, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. A quick search showed plenty of award space on all three Cathay Pacific flights out of Vancouver, including the brand new CX855 route operated by a new Airbus A350. I really enjoyed my business class flight on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to New Delhi, and have heard great things about the slightly refreshed seat on the new A350.
I didn’t have quite enough Alaska miles for the booking. Thankfully, Starwood preferred guest transfers at a 1:1 ratio with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points converted. Unfortunately, the points don’t transfer instantly like American Express to Aeroplan, with the official transfer time at 2-4 business days. For anyone familiar with reward seats, this wait time can be a dealbreaker, as availability changes quickly, and it’s not uncommon for space to vanish within a couple of days (or hours).
Cathay Pacific reward flights can only be booked by calling into Alaska, and a $12.50 partner award booking fee and $15.00 phone booking fee (both non-refundable) apply. Similar to the Air Canada flight, taxes and fees were low and the total cost was 50,000 Alaska Miles and $62.60.
I like to start any trip out of YVR with a stay at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. Located inside the terminal, this hotel is about a 5 minute walk to the international check-in counters, and also provides airport lounge access with certain room categories (regardless of cabin class). With my flight departing at 9:30am on Thursday, I opted to book a one-night stay on Wednesday to be up early for a stress-free morning. It will also give me more time in The Cathay Pacific lounge prior to my flight, which continues to be one of my favourite airport lounges in North America.
I decided to use Marriott points to book a room at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, which is the tallest hotel in the world, and 10th tallest building overall. Located on floor 102-118 of the International Commerce Centre, the hotel looks stunning, and features impressive views of the city and Victoria Harbour.
Hong Kong is an expensive hotel market, even on points, so for my second night I decided to book at the new Marriott Hotel Nanshan in Shenzhen, China. This is Marriott’s newest property in Shenzhen, and looks really nice!
Having Gold elite status in the Marriott Rewards program means that I’m eligible for lounge access, including daily breakfast and late checkout. The hotel emailed me proactively and thanked me for my loyalty (I always get a kick out of this since all of my hotel status is through my American Express Platinum Card), and was informed I had been upgraded to an Executive King Studio room, which looks fantastic!
I’m really looking forward to my weekend in Hong Kong! Not only will I get to try the new Airbus A350 on Cathay Pacific, I’ll also get to (finally) experience long-haul business class on Air Canada, which is long overdue as a proud Canadian! I’m also excited for the opportunity to stay in the tallest hotel in the world, and am curious to see how it compares with a Marriott property in Mainland China for a fifth the price. I’ll be posting regularly throughout my trip, so be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the photos, with full reviews coming to the website in the weeks ahead!