Single Worst Devaluation: Australia – Sri Lanka……& What You Can Do About It

One thing that seems to have escaped most other travel/miles/points bloggers regarding the American Airlines devaluation is that Sri Lanka has shifted to the Middle East/Subcontinent category as of 22 March 2016.  Although redemptions from the USA to this region and the Asia 2 region are now equal in cost, there is a HUGE difference for Australians!

Sri Lanka miles1Previously it had been in the Asia 2 category which made the beautiful eco-tourism destination of Sri Lanka a much cheaper award with AA miles – 25k in economy and 35k in business increasing a mere 5k to 30k economy and 40k business.  Look at it now – a whopping 42.5k in economy and 80k in business class!  It’s more than doubled in cost!

Sri Lanka miles2Sri Lanka has some of the best birding in the world, see my reports on Kithulgala and Sinharaja.  So what can we do to get there at a more reasonable rate?

United Airlines is now a better option than American.  Most Aussies will fly via BKK on Thai as Singapore rarely releases J seats for partner awards.  However most Australians can’t get United miles unless they buy them during a “buy miles promo”.

Sri Lanka miles360k miles would cost me $1050 USD, that’s $1488 AUD at today’s rate!  Ouch!

Sri Lanka miles7So what about Singapore Airlines?  Most Aussies can earn them easily enough from credit cards.  It’s still going to cost over 60k miles & fuel surcharge of $472 AUD in business class.  Better than both options so far!

Sri Lanka miles6But can we do better and still get to Sri Lanka in a lie flat bed?  Enter Air Asia.  Better known as a low cost carrier, they still provide pretty good service.  We flew them in Y last year from Surat Thani to Kuala Lumpur.  Check out the prices from the Gold Coast (nearest airport to Brisbane they serve) to Sri Lanka.  Economy is dirt cheap and premium flatbed is still excellent value!

Sri Lanka miles4You don’t have to spend miles and you are only paying $371 AUD more to travel in a lie flat bed.  So it all comes down to whether you would rather save 61,000 SQ miles (or use your credit card points elsewhere that doesn’t have fuel surcharges) or would you rather spend an extra $371 AUD for this?

Sri Lanka miles5BOTTOM LINE

If you want to go to Sri Lanka on American Airlines miles, book it before 22 March 2016!!  Otherwise, I think it’s time to get better acquainted with Air Asia!

Can Low Cost Carriers Bridge The Gap When Miles Let You Down?

As I’ve mentioned before, the miles and points game is getting harder and harder to win.  Credit cards are harder to churn and airlines have tightened up on releasing award space, especially in business & first class.  You will find yourself in economy class more often than not, not because you don’t have the miles but because you can’t find any other seats.

Yesterday, one of my favourite travel bloggers – Drew from Travel is Free posted an intriguing round the world trip using only low cost carriers (LCCs).  One of the commenters led me to a similar post by Trevor of Tagging Miles.

So I started thinking, “I am an eco-tourism & birding travel blogger based in Australia, what could I do with LCCs”?

Air Asia is a given with a wide network all over Asia and serves several Australian airports.  The closest to me in Brisbane would be the Gold Coast OOL.  Cebu Pacific also has a nice network but only serves Sydney but once you get to Asia it is very cheap and very useful.

Air Asia OOL Air Asia KUL Cebu Pacific mapSo even after the miles & points game is dead, I can still get to some amazing birding hotspots in Asia!  But what if I want to go further away, say all the way to Africa?  I’ll need to switch to a different LCC’s network.  Enter FlyDubai.  Now we can use either Colombo, Sri Lanka or Kochi, India as a connecting point and the best thing is that both places have access to great birding destinations – Thattekad and Kithulgala respectively!

FlyDubai mapSo here’s an example of a one-way trip from Brisbane (via OOL) to Entebbe, Uganda which is one of the countries on my proposed “Godmother of All African Adventures“.

We would fly on Air Asia to Colombo on Air Asia and stopover a couple days to re-visit Kithulgala which I loved the first time we were there.  I’ll convert everything to USD to suit most readers.

LCC challenge 1 LCC challenge 1.5Next we fly from Colombo to Entebbe on FlyDubai.

LCC challenge 2Please note that some LCCs will charge extra for checked bags, meals, seat assignments so you need to check the T&Cs of each carrier and consider if you would have any checked bags.  If you can make these flights work for you, you can get from Brisbane to Uganda for $573.

If you booked direct from BNE to EBB, the cheapest fare I could find on Expedia to use as an example is this one on Etihad (which is a really good airline) for $811.

LCC challenge 3So you can save $238 by using the LCC option which may or may not be significant to you but you also gain the opportunity to stop over in Sri Lanka enroute!  Or you may decide $238 isn’t enough to lure you away from flying a top rated airline that would earn you some miles in AA or VA’s programs.

I can think of many people who would prefer to pay more for Etihad and many who would choose Air Asia & FlyDubai.  But it’s always nice to have choices!

Lomprayah Ferry & Air Asia To Malaysia

Our next birding destinations were in Malaysia so after a couple lazy days on the beach at Koh Samui, we were rested up and ready to bird!  As I mentioned, flights to and from Koh Samui are not cheap and I had run out of stopovers to cram into the generous United award ticket.  So we took the Lomprayah ferry from Koh Samui to Surat Thani and Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur.  From there, a 5 hour bus ride would get us to our first Malaysian destination – Taiping.  We could have gotten up early and done it all on one day but I was wary of cutting the connections too close as ferries can be cancelled if weather is bad.

Actually if it had not been Songkran (major holiday in Thailand) we would have taken the train to Butterworth, then bus to Taiping but you can’t book Thai trains online and I didn’t want to risk not getting a sleeping car.

The Lomprayah van picked us up and took us to the jetty.  The ferry left a bit late but was a pleasant and speedy way across the sea to the mainland.

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It wasn’t full so we spread out and enjoyed the ride.

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Most people will have booked combo tickets that include a bus ride to your final destination in Thailand.  I had booked us to Surat Thani town where we were dropped at the office in town and had to get a taxi to the hotel.  They arranged it but we had to pay something ridiculous like 300-400 Baht!

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The second part of this journey was Air Asia from Surat Thani to Kuala Lumpur which I booked online well in advance (due to Songkran) and got an insanely cheap price of around $35 per person!


Lovely welcoming committee!  I don’t know if these ladies are always here or it was special for Songkran.  At this small airport you have to wait until about a hour before boarding to go through security to the gate.

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