Via Joe Brancatelli’s (subscription-only) Tactical Traveler,
Hainan Airlines, the Chinese carrier, says it will launch nonstop flights between Chicago/O’Hare and Beijing. The airline will fly two-class Airbus A330-200s four days a week starting on September 3
And believe it or not, there are people who should care.
Already, Hainan Airlines flies Seattle-Beijing. To many, they’re just an obscure Chinese airline. To savvy flyers, though, they’re probably the cheapest ‘out of pocket cash’ airline to upgrade with between the U.S. and Asia.
Their frequent flyer program is the Fortune Wings Club. The only Western carrier they partner with is Air Berlin. But you can transfer Wyndham Rewards points into Fortune Wings Club miles.
International upgrades are permitted — without cash co-pay — from M fares and above. I’m currently seeing M fares from $1390++ roundtrip on both the Chicago – Beijing and Seattle-Beijing routes.
Here’s the catch. Their upgrades cost a bunch of miles. Flights between 8500 and 11000 kilometers (which both the Chicago and Seattle to Beijing flights are) cost 55,000 points to upgrade (each direction).
But it’s a unique airline that offers upgrades off of reasonable fares without cash co-pay — no $500 or $600 upcharge on top of miles in order to get out of coach.
For folks that aren’t United or American 100,000 mile flyers with access to their top tier upgrade certificates, this can offer a reasonable strategy. Especially since – given the lack of airline partnerships, especially with US airlines — there’s just not a ton of competition for upgrade seats.
Sadly, upgrades used to be cheaper but the mileage price got raised back in September.