How and Why I Planned My RTW Trip

First Class on Etihad Airlines A380

You saw in my previous post that my RTW itinerary is Chicago – Hong Kong – Dubai – Abu Dhabi – London – Dublin – Dallas.

This is undoubtedly the most random but interesting itinerary that I’ve ever cobbled together. People have been asking my how and why I selected those cities.

A Christmas Present to Myself?  Sure!

It all started on Christmas 2014, the day of the infamous Etihad Airlines Christmas mistake fare.

I woke up early and, as usual, I checked my phone, with a quick look at e-mail, Facebook, and twitter. Yes, I am one of those people. There were lots and lots of posts about some amazing fares from the US to Abu Dhabi for only $187 round trip. At first I ignored the information.

This was a Christmas that I had decided to stay home, and there are no little kids at home, so there wasn’t much activity going on in the morning. Sometime midmorning, I went online and began reading more. People were bragging about the fare still being around, and — more importantly — that they were able to book itineraries that included stops in Paris or Manchester or Dublin for just slightly over $200. Things began to sound more interesting to me.

Earlier in 2014, I had obtained dual citizenship with Ireland (grandparents born there.) Since then, I wanted to make a return visit to the Emerald Isle. The idea of going to Ireland, with a “side trip” to the middle east for just under $200 sounded like an ideal Christmas present to myself. Sure it was in coach class, and required getting to Chicago. But still. A deal is a deal, right?

So I found an itinerary that had stops in Dublin both ways. Cost $237. My plan was to fly to Abu Dhabi, visit the UAE for 4-5 days, fly back to Dublin and not continue. Then I could find a return flight from Dublin to my home using frequent flier miles. I booked a one way return on American Airlines in business class for 50,000 miles.

Etihad Airlines Throws A Monkey Wrench Into the Deal

All was looking great until Etihad airlines mixed things up. To its credit, Etihad quickly announced that it would honor what was clearly a mistake fare. But then they decided to minimize their costs by changing itineraries to eliminate stops (which involved codeshares on American Airlines which cost Etihad more money), and put people all on nonstop Etihad flights. So my nice Irish plan turned into two 14-15 hour nonstop flights in 10 across coach seating. Ouch.

By that time, I had done lots of research about Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and was looking forward to visiting. So I started looking at other options.

Amazing Alaska to the Rescue

Enter the fabulous Alaska Airlines mileage program. Alaska has great partners, including Cathay Pacific Airlines. With 70,000 Alaska airlines miles, you can book an amazing FIRST CLASS trip to Hong Kong and beyond, including to Dubai. And include a stopover in Hong Kong. With some frequent searches I located a First Class seat from Chicago to Hong Kong, and then on to Dubai in business. So I booked it.

That got me from Chicago to Hong Kong and Dubai, and the AA award had me getting home from Dublin. So the final step was getting from Dubai or Abu Dhabi (just 45 minutes by car from Dubai) to Dublin.

Etihad First Class Apartment

The “final” decision was made easier after reading about the ultra luxurious Etihad First Class “Apartment” on its A380 which was available from Abu Dhabi to London for just 40,000 American Airlines miles. Then just 9000 Avios points for a first class short flight from London to Dublin. Add in great Club Carlson hotel availability in Dubai, London, and Dublin – and doing the trip was a no brainer.

Lessons Learned

  • Booking a mistake fare is like drunk booking.  Sounds like so much fun when you are “under the influence” – crazy travel geeks endlessly posting about their great deals on somehow make you want to jump in on the deal.  Later, you could end up signed up for 30+ hours in coach, and saying “what was I thinking?”
  • Sometimes even when you do crazy things, the end result can be good.
  • Having frequent flier miles in a variety of airline programs gives you more flexibility (duh).

    Etihad Airlines A380 First Class Apartment

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