South African Airways: Beijing – Johannesburg, Business Class

Since I have already written a guide on how to get to South Africa using frequent flyer miles, I will jump right into the review of the flight.  Business class awards are becoming an endangered species and it can be pretty tricky trying to get one on South African Airways since they are one of the best airlines serving JNB, the major gateway airport to this amazing country.  This trip was originally going to happen in 2015 but was brought forward to 2014 as I was getting worried about the availability of amazing awards like this and couldn’t afford another devaluation by United.

First look at the plane from the gate in PEK.

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Comfortable seats that lie flat!IMG_2558

Seat controlsIMG_2559

The seat backs were already loaded with magazines, headphones and a nice amenity kit.IMG_2560 IMG_2561

I was REALLY glad we weren’t going to do a 14 hour flight in economy!IMG_2562

The flight attendant took our orders for both dinner and breakfast.  It was late and all I really wanted to do was sleep so I asked for a nice liqueur.  She recommended Amarula which was absolutely divine and became my addiction for the rest of the trip (when I didn’t have a rental car to worry about).IMG_2564 IMG_2565 IMG_2566

With seat in the bed position, I slept like a log and was astonished to be woken a couple hours out of JNB with breakfast.  Maybe the two layover excursions in Taipei & Beijing helped as I was totally exhausted.  Best sleep I ever had on a plane!IMG_2568 IMG_2570 IMG_2573 IMG_2576

These fruit crepes were delicious!IMG_2579

We landed right on time at JNB.  The camera showed the plane’s position, it was pretty cool.  IMG_2580 IMG_2581

Business class got our own bus to immigration which was a breeze.  You don’t even have to fill in arrival cards!  Why can’t all countries be this smart & efficient?IMG_2582

To say the least, I loved South African Airways!  Great service, punctual, comfortable, what more could you want?  We still weren’t at our final destination:  King William’s Town.  One more short flight on British Airways/Comair and we would be there!

 

Air New Zealand Announces Auckland – Buenos Aires……….So What?

I really love traveling to South America because of the wide diversity of birds to be seen there.  Any other time I would be thrilled to death that there was a new route to South America from Australia.  Currently there is only service from Sydney to Santiago on Qantas and LAN and you need OneWorld miles to book them.  Traditionally, I have had an easier time collecting Star Alliance miles on either United or Singapore Krisflyer and theoretically these would be useful to redeem these new flights.

However Air New Zealand is the stingiest of all the Star Alliance carriers in releasing award seats, even in Y class.  I haven’t seen even Y class available between Brisbane and Auckland in 3 years!  So unless they change their ways, there is little to get excited about.  Below you see a typical search on United for partner awards on a popular trans-Pacific route.  I suspect the results will be the same on the new AKL-EZE route.

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How We Killed 8 Hours In Beijing

Here we go, another whirlwind layover, this time in Beijing.  We were enroute to Johannesburg from Brisbane and I maximized the routing so we could get a peek at Taipei and Beijing.

We had to pass a temperature test before they let us in due to ebola, but other than that our 72 hour transit visa (only used for 8 hours) went smoothly once we reached the front of the line.

If our layover had been during the day, we would have grabbed a taxi to the Great Wall but since we arrived at dusk, I decided the best options was a quick look at Tienanmen Square.  This was easily accomplished using the air train and local subway.  Details of public transport are on the airport’s website.

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The long lines at PEK left us with no time to check carry on backpacks so we took them with us.  It was dark by the time we got there so it was all lit up. IMG_2541 IMG_2544 IMG_2545 IMG_2546 IMG_2548

 

We didn’t stay long, I was worried about possible delays getting back through security so we headed back after a quick walk around.  Lines were indeed long so it was good we weren’t late.IMG_2550 IMG_2551 IMG_2552

Back at the airport, we wandered around the shops.  We stopped in at the lounge for drinks but I knew from our previous visit in Sept that the wifi was painfully slow and they don’t warn you about flights being called so we went to the gate shortly afterward.  Not the most exciting layover we ever had but at least we were exhausted enough to sleep well on the South African flight to JNB!IMG_2554 IMG_2557

 

Airline Miles For Grocery Shopping – Chase Freedom (USA) Visa Card

People often wonder how I get so many frequent flyer miles when I rarely ever pay for an airline ticket.  This is one of my techniques.  Using the right credit card can get free miles for simply doing your normal grocery shopping!

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Maxing out your $1500 during 3 months is basically $500 a month and most families will easily spend that on groceries.  You can also buy gift cards for any other merchants (such as gas stations, restaurants, department stores) you do business with at most grocery stores.  You then end up with 7500 free Ultimate Rewards points that can be converted to airline miles if you also hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus card.  The best partners to transfer to are United Airlines and British Airways.

 

If you don’t already have a Chase Freedom, you can post here asking for a referral as I sometimes have them to give out.  My most recent referral just expired on 8 Dec but I still have referrals for the Chase Sapphire Preferred valid until 31 Jan 2015.  Or you can read this Flyertalk thread to see if there are any specials going on.  The most recent special has been this one, but please read the thread to see if it is still active when you wish to apply.

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Air China Business Class Taipei-Beijing

One good whirlwind layover deserves another, right?  Hence the 2nd leg of our convoluted routing to South Africa giving us 7 hours in Beijing.

The Air China flight from Taipei to Beijing was in a regional Airbus A330-300 and right on time.  The recliners were fine for the 3.5 hour flight.  The food was decent, my husband went for the seafood as usual and I went for the pasta.  Then we watched a movie (can’t remember which one) until arrival.  No complaints about the hard or soft product.

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This Needs To Stop – NOW! How You Can Help

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself as I usually blog a trip in chronological order but this is more important.  This happened in Antananarivo, Madagascar.  When we were in the taxi going from the hotel to the airport, I noticed a bunch of cages on the street.  We were on the opposite side of the road so I didn’t get a good look but having an 18 megapixel camera was enough to get the real scoop.

IMG_5803 IMG_5802I can identify Grey-headed Lovebirds and Vasa Parrots in a few of the cages which would clearly be captured from the wild.  One green bird I can’t identify appears to be dead (lying on its side on the floor).

THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO STOP!

The World Parrot Trust has the experience to help these birds.  Right now they are doing their annual campaign in which everyone’s donations are matched by an anonymous donor.  So give $25 and it becomes $50, give $100 and it becomes $200 and so on.