Well dear readers, it has been an interesting few months here at Points Envy. The harsh reality is that we have spent most of the last hundred days or so in a not-quite-first class prison camp somewhere outside of Pyongyang, Korea. Thankfully, it seems we have not missed anything exciting in the points world, with the exception of another unexciting cash back card from Barclays that has the usual suspects in the blogosphere all hot between the loins.
By way of background, we point you to a revolutionary points-earning strategy we pioneered in December of last year. Given how well this method was working in “the States,” we decided to expand our operation overseas, confident that human physiology and DNA everywhere dictate that drugs are awesome. Coincidentally, we had been eager to try Asiana’s new first class suites, so we decided on Korea as our first stop and booked a ticket from ORD to ICN in late December.
Asiana’s new suite, with some gibberish.
Given that it was our inaugural trip, we kept things simple and only took along five pounds of “points.” The flight was predictably luxurious and boring, aside from a few nice views of Siberia. Maybe it’s just us, but we find few things in life more comforting than sipping a nice Scotch in a cozy suite while peering down on an icy wasteland.
The only Scotch on the rocks we tolerate.
Upon arrival in Seoul we grabbed our bags and headed towards the Priority Lane at customs. On the way, we stopped by the Priority Information Desk and asked the agent where we might find the Koreans most in need of medicine. She mentioned a place in northern Korea called Pyongyang, so we began to look into flights while still at Incheon. We quickly found space in Air Koryo’s premium cabin direct to Pyongyang, and we were even able to redeem some old Cubana miles we had lying around from our “Hemingway years.”
Our flight was strange in that it lacked champagne and had only a single channel of IFE starring a pudgy but likeable Chinese man, but ultimately it was rather uneventful. Upon arrival in Pyongyang we searched for the Priority Lane for roughly an hour before finally relegating ourselves to waiting behind a couple people in the normal customs line. Although the customs official did address us as “sir,” he did not seem to otherwise recognize that we were first class passengers and people. More importantly, it seems they have never heard of The Constitution in Korea, as these corrupt officials felt free to invade our G-d-given privacy rights by searching through our designer luggage.
Unlike in most other world countries, Korean officials apparently cannot be bribed with points, and we were summarily sentenced to thirty years in prison because of our desire to help the sick and needy. With our one phone call we naturally dialed the American Express Platinum Card Concierge line. Apparently Platinum Card benefits are not limited to just getting reimbursed for airline gift certificates and replacing “broken” electronics, because within a few months our new best friend Jennifer had secured our release and also booked us a return flight in Cathay first class via Hong Kong. We would have been home sooner, but there was no first class award space available, and while we have yet to experience economy class, we imagine it to be a far worse place than prison.
The Korean prison’s kimchi was surprisingly delicate and fragrant.
The flight home was slightly less pleasant than the flight to Seoul, but we were overjoyed to be back in our natural element, and particularly pleased to see our favorite Cathay purser onboard (shout out to Grace!). After our awful experience, we realized we should focus our efforts in areas where people better understand service, so our next expansion will be to Singapore. In the meantime, we hope to be more productive here on the site, though that is probably too much to ask.
We are excited for Frequent Traveler University this weekend, mostly for the free coffee at Starbucks courtesy of Million Mile Secrets. Look out for our review next week.
Speaking of Million Mile Secrets, this week they taught us how to use elite traveler security lines by fooling the TSA with a flashy frequent flyer card. The comments section of the post heated up quickly, with people throwing around fighting words as they tend to only do anonymously on the internet. Our favorite comment was by E, and we quote: “OK Seems some incentive is needed for the loser line cutters. When i’m in the line (Either one) and I see Darious and or Emily i will call them out in Pubic.” That’s taking it a bit far, don’t you think?
Everybody is talking about getting rid of virgins by way of a Hilton, or something like that. Kinda reminds us of high school.
In a feat we didn’t think possible, The Points Guy runs through some ways in which Delta’s Skymiles program could get even worse.
In case you somehow hadn’t heard, THE CHASE FREEDOM CATEGORIES FOR 2013 ARE NOW AVAILABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thankfully, our dealer was recently reclassified as a “drugstore,” so the first quarter is already looking good for our Ultimate Rewards balance.
The Mr. Pickles is back to blogging. As practitioners of the occasional blogging hiatus ourselves, we understand the need for a break, but it is very good to have him back. Here he reminds us of an oldy but goody (and unfortunately deady). We used the diamond ring thing to prank propose to numerous girlfriends. They didn’t think it was funny, but we earned a lot of points.
The Points Guy outlines a fairly surefire way to get your PayPal account shut down, in case anyone was looking to do that without actually having to contact PayPal.
Frequent Miler issues a rare review of card benefits specifically for domestic travel, and an even rarer trip report. We find the comparison of Delta and Cathay Pacific downright offensive, but then again, we haven’t flown Delta since they updated their award booking procedures.
Last, but by no means least, the Points Envy travel blog contest will close at 5pm PST today. Winners will probably be announced sometime in the next week, or at some point after that.
Back before the Avios devaluation in November of last year, we redeemed 100,000 British Airways miles for a roundtrip from New York to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific’s updated business class product. In musical terms, this flight should have been what Avril Lavigne’s version of “Imagine” was to John Lennon’s: a heavenly update of a boring and uninspired original. Instead, it quickly turned into sixteen hours of sheer terror.
We started off the trip with a visit to the British Airways Terraces Lounge at JFK, which proved incredibly uneventful. Although all the normal amenities were provided and the staff was friendly and attentive, we had hoped for something special, a man dressed in full butler attire perhaps. You can see from the image below that is was, disappointingly, just a very nice lounge.
Nice lounge, no butlers.
Once on board, we settled into our comfy lie-flat seat and felt at home. Service was impeccable and the food was also quite tasty. We opted first for the scallops course and had no complaints. In fact, our only real complaint about Cathay Pacific’s dining options would be that the beverage selection is lacking somewhat in the sparkling wine options.
Scallops, with fork and knife.
After the meal, we decided to watch Senna, a 2010 documentary about the life of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. The film was captivating and, in combination with the decent bubbly and hot pork buns, we were nearing a moment of pure bliss towards its end when, with no warning whatsoever, Senna crashes his car into a wall and dies. [Spoiler alert.] The entire flight was instantly ruined.
Why Cathay Pacific chose to include such a depressing film as part of its in-flight entertainment is beyond us. You would think they would want to maximize the happiness of their business class passengers, and instead they smack us directly in the face with a massive tragedy fish. Completely crushed from this experience, we did not take time to peruse the rest of the films available, but we can only assume they included Schindler’s List, Bambi, Titanic, and Star Wars: Episode I.
We spent the remaining eleven hours of the flight in a state of emotional shock, unable to do much of anything. After a few more drinks, we managed to mumble out a breakfast order, and the resulting omelette was delicious, albeit a little salty from our tears. We landed a couple hours later and, despite this rough introduction, our time in Hong Kong was wonderful. On the return flight, we made sure to avoid the in-flight entertainment entirely.
Would you like sadness with that?