One Last Suites Hurrah — A Week in Central Europe via Singapore Suites and Lufthansa First
- Introduction and Booking
- Singapore Suites Check-in JFK and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
- Singapore Airlines Suites Class JFK-FRA and FRA EasyPass Enrollment
- 36 Hours in Prague and Czech Airlines PRG-BUD Review
Singapore KrisFlyer, as most are likely aware, recently made some changes to award redemptions, most notably increasing the cost of some awards and eliminating the 15% mileage discount for online bookings. I had flown Singapore’s fantastic Suites class product on their A380 from FRA-JFK previously but it was several years ago and given both the KrisFlyer changes and the upcoming decrease in Suites seats that will likely further decrease award availability, I decided that I wanted to squeeze in what would likely be my last Suites award for the foreseeable future.
Suites awards at the Saver level are of course incredibly difficult to snag unless booking very far out, and so while I wasn’t particularly concerned with the increase in cost from 57,375 KrisFlyer miles (with the 15% online booking discount) to 76,000 miles for Saver awards after the KrisFlyer changes, I was more interested in being able to take advantage of the online discount for a Standard level award. While the cost of a Standard award JFK-FRA did not change and remains at 130,000 miles (without 15% online discount), I only paid 110,500 miles with the discount when I booked.
For my return, I knew from the outset that I wanted to fly Lufthansa first class back to the US. As with Singapore Suites, it had been several years since I had flown Lufthansa First, and I had only previously experienced it on the A380 and the B747-400. Lufthansa is one of a few carriers that operates the newer Boeing 747-8i for passengers (plenty of carriers fly the B747-8 Freighter variant) and as an aviation geek I was a bit ashamed that I hadn’t yet gotten to experience it, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to check that off my list. Finally, I wanted to make sure I had some extra time in Frankfurt for the Lufthansa “Porsche First Class Excitement” experience, a unique perk for Lufthansa first class passengers and HON Circle members that provides a 3-hour Porsche rental during a layover for only 99 Euro.
While my days of product chasing are largely over, this trip was an exception and I had more or less figured out how I was getting to and from Europe before thinking about how and where I would actually spend the 6-7 days I had. Having never been to Central Europe and having heard generally good things, I decided to spend my short time in Europe visiting Prague and Budapest. As a fan of good wine, dirt-cheap beer, and meat-heavy dishes with minimal vegetables (see: pečená žebra, svíčková, gulyás), I figured that if nothing else my unquestionably refined gastronomic tastes would at least be satisfied.
Singapore Suites JFK-FRA: As expected for a booking roughly two weeks out, there were no Saver level awards for the flight I wanted. Because points transfers to KrisFlyer can take a few days, I didn’t want to transfer points only to have the award space I wanted disappear before the miles showed up in my KrisFlyer account. So despite the ability to search for and book flights on Singapore metal online, I chose to call in and place a hold on the flight I wanted before transferring points. Various sources say different things about the official KrisFlyer policy on holds, but the general consensus is that KrisFlyer does allow award holds. There is supposedly another rule requiring 50% of the miles needed for the award to be in the account to place a hold, but I have found this to not be the case in multiple instances. While I didn’t have a negligible amount of miles in my account, I was considerably under the 110,500 required for the award, and the agent placed the hold without issue. A final point to take note of is that while technically the 15% discount is only available when booking online, agents generally will honor the discount for held awards that are bookable online if asked.
Once I had the award on hold, I transferred in a combination of Citi ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to top off my KrisFlyer account. As Citi Prestige cardholders will soon be losing the ability to redeem points for AA airfare at 1.6 cents per point as well as Admirals Club access, I am planning on ditching the card and was at the time actively trying to use up all of my Citi points. TOTAL COST: 110,500 KrisFlyer miles + $203.60 for JFK-FRA in Singapore Airlines Suites class.
Lufthansa First Class BUD-FRA-JFK: While MileagePlus was my previous go-to program for booking Lufthansa first class awards, the changes to the program last autumn have made it significantly less useful for complex itineraries or those with extended layovers. Having had several friends rave about the Lufthansa First Class Porsche experience, I knew that I wanted some extra time in Frankfurt to be able to try it. As almost all of Lufthansa’s US-bound flights leave in the morning and I didn’t want to overnight in Frankfurt, I used Expertflyer to find flights from Budapest to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to the US that would allow me a good chunk of time in Frankfurt. I ended up picking an early morning departure out of Budapest and Lufthansa’s evening FRA-JFK service, allowing for almost 9 hours in Frankfurt. While some might argue that this is overkill, 3 hours on the Autobahn in a Porsche + 5-6 hours of single malt and schnitzel in the First Class Terminal is, in my book, a pretty damn good way to spend a day. This particular itinerary of course did not show up on the United award search, nor did it with Aeroplan. Fortunately and as I covered previously, Aeroplan phone agents are very good and were able to piece together the individual segments I wanted for this trip. TOTAL COST: 80,000 Aeroplan miles + $392.40 for BUD-FRA in Lufthansa business class and FRA-JFK in Lufthansa first class.
Intra-Europe Flights: Because KrisFlyer charges extra for partner awards, my award ended in FRA and thus I needed a way to get from Frankfurt to Prague. Paid fares in coach were quite reasonable, and in the end I booked a ticket from FRA-BRU-PRG on Brussels Air for $157. To get from PRG-BUD, I booked a coach revenue ticket on Czech Airlines, for $81.
Accommodations: For a number of reasons, I ended up going with AirBnB for the entire trip, so there won’t be any hotel reviews in this trip report. Outside of the very high-end properties, hotels in Europe are, in my experience, fairly lackluster. As someone who is loyal (perhaps irrationally so) to Hyatt, and then Starwood, I was disappointed to find that there are no Hyatt properties in either Prague or Budapest and that the Starwood/Marriott options in both cities were unexciting or, in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Budapest, priced higher than what I wanted to pay. As a solo traveller visiting both cities for the first time, I thought that AirBnB would be a good way to meet some fellow 20-30 year olds wanting to hang out — ultimately I ended up very happy with my decision and got to meet some great locals while saving money and points.
This will be a fairly short trip report. There are plenty of people who do trip reports much better than I could ever hope to, so rather than doing comprehensive, photo-heavy reviews like the many high-quality ones that are already out there, I’ll be focusing more on planning/booking/logistics and my personal reflections of the trip.
I’ll be doing reviews of my long-haul flights and their associated lounges, as well as quick recaps of my intra-Europe flights and brief overviews of the time I spent in Prague and Budapest. I’ll also quickly cover the process of signing up for the German EasyPass Trusted Traveler Program at FRA, as the program is something that many US citizens may find useful. Finally, I’ll have a separate post reviewing the Lufthansa First Class Porsche experience and will detail in that post how I went about booking it. So thanks for reading along, and please feel free to share in the comments what you’d like to see/read about.