Posts tagged Bali
The main reason I do all of my mileage runs is to earn enough miles to travel internationally in the great luxury of either First Class or Business Class, a trip I could otherwise not afford.
My goal has been to accumulate enough miles to purchase two Business Class tickets to Bali, Indonesia, returning to the place where we had such a wonderful vacation two years ago. Each ticket required 110,000 AAdvantage miles. When we made the trip two years ago we flew on AA from Austin to Los Angeles, Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and then Cathay to Bali. (Trip Report)
As soon as my AAdvantage account hit 220,000 miles I called the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk and told them I wanted to reserve three business class seats to Bali in November of this year. (Three seats: my wife and I, and our good friend. He had the miles in his account to pay for his seat.) I wanted to reserve the seats, put them on hold for five days so that we could give it some thought, be sure it was the itinerary we wanted. and then make the purchase.
As I said, I called AA, explained what I wanted, the customer service rep (CSR) looked and told me there was no availability for the dates I wanted. Things can change, I was calling 10 months in advance, maybe something would open up soon.
I called back a few days later and was told there was no availability.
I called back a few days later and was again told there was no availability.
I called back a few days later and this time the CSR checked 37 consecutive days and found no availability.
I waited almost a week, called back, and was again told there was no availability. This time the CSR suggested I call back twice a week for the next four months, maybe something would open up. She put the blame on Cathay Pacific, saying they offered very few award seats.
Needless to say, I was not happy with this. Then I remembered an article I had read on the wonderful Million Mile Secrets blog. Darius and his wife run the blog (and travel around the world in First Class at no cost), I had met them at a Chicago frequent flyers seminar and seemed to remember that he had written an article about how to find Cathay availability when told there was none. I looked around his site for a little while and soon found what I was looking for.
His system involves using the British Airways website to find seats that American Airlines apparently did not know about. I suggest you read his article to get the full story. (Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability Using the British Airways Website)
So, pen and paper in hand, I started my hunt. We wanted to get to Bali, spend 13 nights, and wanted to make the trip in November. Using Darius’ suggestions, I found an itinerary in less than 90 minutes.
I wrote down all the details, called the AA EXP desk, and asked if there was availability on the specific dates I needed. The answer, of course, was no.
So I asked the CSR, “Can you book us on this flight from Austin to DFW?” Yes she could.
“Great, can you get us on this flight from DFW to Hong Kong.” Yes, she could.
And this continued. Each time I gave her a flight number, she was able to find awards seats for us. In very little time, our itinerary was complete.
- Austin to DFW, First Class, MD-80 on American Airlines
- DFW to Hong Kong, Business Class, Boeing 777-300 ER on American Airlines. (DFW-HKG is a new AA route that will launch in June, and will be the longest flight the airline offers)
- Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, Business Class, Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300
- Kuala Lumpur to Bali, Business Class, Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 ER
And the return trip:
- Bali to Singapore, Business Class, Qatar Airways, Boeing 777-300 ER. (After visiting the Qatar Airways website and seeing the service they offer, I wish I was on a longer flight than three hours!)
- Singapore to Hong Kong, Business Class, Cathay Pacific, Boeing 777-200 ER
- Hong Kong to DFW, Business Class, American Airlines, Boeing 777-300 ER.
- DFW to Austin, First Class, American Airlines, Boeing MD-80.
And there it is, our trip to Bali on dates when AA said there was no availability. As you’ll see later on, this would not be the first time that we got incorrect information when calling AA.
First Class on the flights to and from Austin on AA really does not matter, we’ll only be in the air for 32 minutes.
Business Class on the AA 777-300 ER from DFW to HKG will be very nice: lie-flat seats, aisle access from each seat, only four seats across in each aisle. (more details). The flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on Cathay’s Airbus A-330 will offer similar comfort.
The Malaysia Airlines 777-200 will not be as nice. Seating is a 2-3-2 configuration, which means we will not have lie flat seats: they will be nicer than coach, but not really luxury seating as the earlier flights are.
The Qatar Airlines 777-300 ER offers six across seating (2-2-2), but lie-flat seats and highly acclaimed customer service in the air.
The Cathay 777-200 from Singapore to Hong Kong offers similar service to the Malaysia Airlines flight. Nice, but not luxury.
We’ll then take the wonderful AA-777 300ER from HKG to DFW and then the MD-80 back to Austin.
We had what we wanted. Until a problem came up.
I had made a reservation for three of us. My friend called the AA Platinum desk and tried to use his miles to pay for his seat, and was told that wince the reservation was in my name, only I could pay with miles; the representative suggested he transfer the miles to me so that I could use them.
This was a BAD idea. It costs money to transfer miles, and takes several days for the transaction to process. (I don’t know why this is, the system is computer automated, it is not run by someone sitting in a basement with a pad and pencil, it should go through very quickly.) My friend pointed out that the several day wait did not work, the seats were only on hold for another four days and the miles would not transfer in time. The rep’s reply was “We’ll make a note of that.”
We’ll make a note of that? That’s another bad answer from AA customer service.
I called the EXP desk to see if they could do any better, and thankfully, they could. The CSR was able to put my friend on a separate locator so that he could use his miles, while keeping him on the same flights as I had reserved. A good answer from an AA CSR. Yaay! And yes, I sent a note to customer service at AA.com thanking her for her wonderful service.
So, my friend used his miles, I used mine, and we now have our confirmed reservations for our dream trip to Bali in November. It’s a unique itinerary: eight flights on four airlines — one North American, two Asian, and one Middle Eastern.
And we made it happen when AA incorrectly told us there was no availability, and the only way for my friend to get his seat was to transfer miles to me,
We’re looking forward to the trip. Many thanks to Darius at Million Mile Secrets for providing a way for me to find our route.
Disclaimer: I own stock in both American Airlines and Boeing.
- Trip Report: Austin to Bali, Cathay Pacific Business Class
- The Bali Hyatt Hotel
- Walking Around Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
One of the nice things about the Bali Hyatt is its location. I’ve stayed at resorts in the past that were far removed from any other businesses, restaurants, etc. If you wanted to shop or go to a restaurant for dinner, you had to take a cab into town. Thankfully, that is not the case at this property. Several stores and many restaurants are within easy walking distance of the hotel.
We wanted to see what the neighborhood had to offer so we left the hotel and made a right turn on the main street. I had heard that we could walk to a Hardy’s Supermarket where we could buy snacks for our room.
One of the first things we saw was a utility pole that might not meet the standards here in Texas.
We also saw a reminder that we were in a low-lying coastal region.
We went into Hardys department store and supermarket and bought a variety of snacks — cookies and crackers, tea bags, sugar for our coffee. My wife even bought a swimsuit. One thing I noticed about the clientele is that very few of them appeared to be locals, most were American/European/Australian. I am not sure if that was because they were all tourists like we were, or they were part of the expanding expat community in Bali. The low cost of living is attracting more and people to the area from overseas.
When all was said and done, we had the best of both worlds. We were staying at gorgeous tropical retreat, but also had stores and restaurants within easy walking distance. We were in a great location!
- Austin to Bali, Cathay Pacific Business Class
- The Bali Hyatt Hotel
- Walking around Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
Forty hours after we left our home in Texas we finally arrived at our destination, the beautiful Bali Hyatt Hotel at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia.
The Bali Hyatt is an exceptional property for two reasons: its outstanding location among acres of beautifully landscaped trees and shrubs, and the very high level of customer service that the staff provides. You’ll see photos of the property in this article, but first, I want to talk about the service at the hotel.
I have never been to a hotel where every employee, and I mean every employee, from the manager to the gardeners and the man who swept the stairway in the morning, greeted me with a smile whenever he saw me. Along with that I got a cheerful “Good morning sir!” or if my wife was with me, a bow and “Good day, madame.” And as I said, this happened every time we saw an employee.
On our second day at the hotel I called the front desk to let them know that the sliding door to our balcony would not close properly. In less than 15 minutes two engineers came to our room and made the repair. Later that afternoon, when we returned from the pool I found a note from the hotel assistant manager.
He apologized for the problem we had with the door, said he had called our room several times during the day to verify that the repair had been made to our satisfaction, and asked that I call immediately to let him know if it had been taken care of. I called and explained that the repair was 90% complete — I could close and lock the door but my wife could not.
Just a few moments later engineers were back in our room and they fixed the door so that it closed properly. I thought that was the end of the story until later on that evening when there was a knock at our door. I opened it and was greeted by a bellman who presented me with another letter from the assistant manager, who apologized that the door had not been fixed properly the first time, thanked us for being so cooperative with them, and as a sign of their gratitude towards us as guests, asked that we enjoy the complimentary bottle of wine that the bellman left in our room.
That is exceptional customer service and is an example of the wonderful service you can expect when you are a guest at this property. The staff of the Bali Hyatt will truly make you feel welcome during your visit to the Island of the Gods.
When we arrived at the Bali Hyatt, our van pulled up to the property entrance where we had to stop for a quick security check: all doors of the vehicle were opened, the trunk was opened, and one guard used a mirror on the end of a pole to look beneath the chassis of the vehicle. It was a quick inspection and a necessary precaution followed by all properties after the 2002 terrorist attacks.
We pulled up the driveway to the hotel entrance and got our first view of the beautiful landscaping at the property. It’s hard to see that there is actually a hotel entrance behind these trees.
As we got out of the van we were greeted by several members of the hotel staff: two men who took our luggage, and two ladies who put leis around our necks, then escorted us into the hotel lobby.
I thought we would go to the front desk to check in, but instead we were seated at a comfortable sofa across from it. As the desk clerks got our paperwork. we were presented with cold Balinese beverages that were greatly appreciated. We were also starting to get an idea of the level of customer service at the property.
A clerk came over and explained my bill, what charges there would be, confirmed my reservations, etc, and graciously presented me with the room cards. There have been so many times when I have checked into a hotel and the clerk has either dropped the cards on the counter or handed them to me with a “Here you go” attitude. That is not what I got this day, this clerk truly made us feel like welcome guests.
A bellman already had our luggage loaded on a cart and escorted us to our room. The hotel consists of four buildings, each four stories tall with an open courtyard. Our room was in the second building on the top floor, facing the landscaped area towards the SPA.
The view from our balcony was spectacular.
The balcony view was not unique, the property is full of stunning views. I hope you enjoy these photos of the hotel grounds.
I highly recommend the Bali Hyatt hotel for singles, couples, and families. it is a beautiful hotel with wonderful customer service, and is also quite a good value. At the time we were there, a king-room was less than $120 per night or 5,000 Hyatt points. That is quite a good deal for such an outstanding property. Visit the Bali Hyatt, you will enjoy it!
After doing more American Airlines mileage runs earlier this year than I care to count, I had built up enough miles for my wife and I to take a special trip. I put my miles and hotel points to good use, booking a two-week vacation to Bali, Indonesia. The trip report follows:
- Austin to Bali, Cathay Pacific Business Class
- The Bali Hyatt Hotel
- Walking around Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
We had reservations on American Airlines, First Class, from Austin to Los Angeles (LAX), then Cathay Pacific Business Class to Hong Kong (HKG) and then on to Bali (DPS).
We arrived at Austin Bergstrom-Inernational Airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare for our 7:05 p.m. non-stop flight to Los Angeles. We spent some time in the Admirals Club then went to our gate. We’d fly an MD-80 to LAX, with seats in First Class.
The flight was uneventful, other than leaving 10 minutes late due to the extra time needed to seat an elderly passenger who was in a wheelchair. This was not a problem for us since we had a 5½ hour layover at LAX — 10 to 15 minutes would not make much of a difference to us.
We arrived at LAX and had to leave the secure area to walk to from Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for our flight to Hong Kong. We went to the Cathay Pacific counter to check in as we had done when we made our last trip to HKG; four years ago Cathay issued us new boarding passes and a ticket to get into their premium lounge, but that did not happen this time. The agent told us we could use the boarding passes that American Airlines gave us in Austin, and those passes would also get us into the oneworld First Class Lounge located on the terminal’s fifth floor.
I expected the oneworld lounge to be as nice as the Cathay premium lounge was a few years ago: spacious, quiet, with a wide selection of food from which we could choose, I could not have been more disappointed.
The oneworld First Class Lounge was long, narrow, crowded, and very loud. It was so crowded that I didn’t think my wife and I would be able to find a place to sit together, but we walked the length of the club and were fortunate to find two seats together. We were not impressed. But ten minutes later an announcement was made that a Qantas flight to Australia was leaving and with that the club quickly emptied.
We spent a few hours in the lounge then made the very long walk across the terminal to get our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 1:30 a.m. Shortly before 1:00 they began the boarding process, taking the passengers in wheelchairs to the jetway. My wife and I were among the first people on the line for Business Class seating. At 1:15 I noticed the wheelchair passengers were still at the end of the jetway, and no one else had been called to board. Could they load the plane in just 15 minutes?
No, they could not. At 1:20, ten minutes before departure, they announced the flight would be delayed because it did not have a Second Officer: new departure time was 3:30. An audible groan went up from the hundreds of people waiting to board the plane. I found it to be odd: was it 10 minutes before departure when they finally realized they had no Second Officer?
My wife and I talked about returning to the oneworld lounge, but it was such a long walk back that we decided to stay in the gate area. Cathay did the best it could to make the situation better. There were frequent announcements updating the situation. They offered free refreshments: cookies, chips, water, warm soda. The passengers greeted those refreshments as if they were part of an emergency food mission to a country full of starving people — they made such a commotion trying to get at the refreshments that we decided to pass on them.
At 2:15 I suggested to the gate agent that he allow First Class and Business passengers to board so that we could at least get some sleep at our seats. He did not think that was as good an idea as I did. He did announce that a Second Officer was coming in from San Diego, and as soon as he called and said he was 45 minutes away from the airport, they would begin the boarding process. Just a few moments later that call came through, we started to board, and took off at 3:00 a.m., 1½ hours late.
Cathay Pacific Business Class is wonderful! We each had our own individual mini-compartment with a seat that would lie-flat to give us a chance to sleep. The flight attendants are personable, always smiling, anxious to help, and always addressed me by name.
There are two Business Class sections on the 777-300ER. One section is near the center of the aircraft, 12 rows with 4 seats in each row for a total of 48 passengers. The other section is directly behind First Class and has only two rows of seats, for a total of eight passengers. This is where my wife and I were seated, almost in our own private world, with only six other passengers in our area.
My wife fell asleep shortly after we took off, but I stayed up to eat dinner, then took advantage of the lie-flat seat, pillow, and down comforter, to sleep for 4-5 hours. When I woke up I had time to read from my Kindle, listen to some podcasts and music on my iPhone, and then eat breakfast.
We landed at Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific has a camera beneath the fuselage of their aircraft, passengers can watch it at their seat. This is our landing at Hong Kong.
I had hoped to spend some time at the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge in HKG, but we were so late on our arrival that we could only go to our departure gate. We came in at gate 21, I looked at the departure screen — it said we were leaving from gate 33, so we started to walk towards that gate. I soon noticed something odd: we were the ONLY people walking in that direction and the two moving sidewalks were both going in the opposite direction from us. I figured out the problem when I read a sign under the departure screen; we were in the arrival terminal and had to get to the departure terminal.
Now the only flights that HKG has are international flights, no local ones. But no difference. We still had to take a train to the other side of the airport and then clear security again. By the time we got to our gate we had barely 10 minutes to spare before our departure.
We boarded our flight and saw how much less upscale our flight was. We had gone from international business class, 4 seats across, to regional business class with 7 seats across. Seats reclined but did not go flat, and instead of sharing a cabin with 6 others, we had more than 60 people in the cabin with us.
The flight went smoothly except for the air conditioning. When we were an hour out of HKG many people in our area were using their magazines to fan themselves. We complained to the flight attendant who said she would do what she could to lower the temperature. She was able to get it a little bit cooler, but it never become comfortable.
We landed at the Ngurah Rai International Airport at Denpasar, Bali, and immediately realized we had arrived in a third-world nation. The arrivals area is old, run down, with no air conditioning.
The fist thing we had to do was wait on a very long line to buy our entrance visa, $25 per person. Then we went to the immigration line which was even longer than the line for the visa. All this in a crowded terminal without air conditioning.
The Shakedown, Part I
As we were waiting on this intolerably long line for immigration, an airport security person, in uniform, came up to me and said he could take us to the front of the line. Great, what a friendly gesture! But then he added we would have to pay him an extra $40 per person for him to do this. Again, this was a government official in uniform asking me for the bribe! I told him no. Can you imagine what would happen if a TSA agent asked for a bribe like that? Interestingly, a friend flew in the following day and agreed to pay the bribe, but he was only charged $20. I might have said yes at that price.
We eventually got through the immigration line then had to get our bags and go through the customs line. Several attendants grabbed our bags from the luggage carousel and headed off with them. They get us through security (yes, we had to have our bags scanned and go through a metal-detector to get INTO the country.) When we were done, I had to tip the guys to get our bags back.
When we finally left the terminal, the ride to the hotel was waiting for us: they met us with cold bottles of water, and drove us to the hotel. We may have been tired after the long flight, but the ride to the hotel certainly woke us up! I could never drive here. They drive on what we Americans would call the wrong side of the road (like I did without trouble in Ireland a few years ago) but it seems that almost everyone here rides motorcycles. They pass on the left. They pass on the right. I saw them go on the sidewalk to get past traffic congestion! They cut us off countless times, I had no idea how we were not in an accident. The driver of our van put it very well when he said the motorcycle drivers did not follow the traffic laws, which meant it took “great instinct and imagination to drive here.”
Watch this video: we’re on a two lane street, and our van is in one of the lanes — look at how many other lanes the cars and motorcycles create, and note that the motorcycles go on the sidewalk to get past the congestion,.
After a 25-minute ride we arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Bali Hyatt in Sanur. More about that in the next post.