Deutschland Adventure - Selecting my flight

The Deutschland Adventure

When I set out to find my flight, I actually did not know exactly where I wanted to go. I had amassed sufficient American AAdvantage miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard and the Barclay US Airways MasterCard, so I spent a lot of time on the American Airlines award-booking page at I reviewed many potential routes looking for open first class award space – I wanted to use my new miles more for luxury than quantity of trips. I found some options including a leg from New York's Kennedy International Airport to London-Heathrow. This airport pair was appealing because, on this route, American uses 777-300ER equipment featuring their new first class cabin. I also found some available space to Kansai International Airport in Kyoto, Japan (using the British Airways award booking tool) from San Diego featuring JAL’s 787 Dreamliners. As a plane geek, a chance to fly on the Dreamliner was very appealing. Add to that, Japan has been a dream destination for a long time.

It was around that time I came across a post at One Mile At A Time about “amazing business class fares for travel this summer between New York and Paris" on oneworld, including British Airways, OpenSkies and American Airlines. Some of these fares were as low as $1,700, but what got my attention was an additional discount that was available (though, since that time, the rules on this discount have apparently changed):

But you can do better than the above. Keep in mind that if you’re an AARP member (anyone can join AARP for $16 per year, regardless of age — I’m a member) you can save $400 on roundtrip business class tickets booked with British Airways. The booking process is even really straightforward.
— One Mile at a Time - "AMAZING DEAL: ~$1,000 Business Class To Europe This Summer On Oneworld"

Being only in my early 40s, my ego did not want to sign up for AARP – never mind that my friends and family would make fun of me unmercilessly -  but for a net gain of $384…well my ego is not quite that fragile.

Last year, after my first trip to Europe, I started a global travel savings account. I had not planned to dip into that this year since my intention was to use points and miles for most of any international travel I might do this year. However, after seeing that I could take advantage of the oneworld promotion to fly paid business class for roughly the same money – if not less – than I would have to pay for coach next year (unless I did not have a fresh stash of miles by then!), I felt paying for a ticket this summer made a lot of sense. On top of that, I could earn American AAdvantage miles on a oneworld flight which would help get me to the point total I would need in 2016 for a round-trip first class award ticket. Another advantage to buying this year and using my miles next year was flexibility. Because I had a short window from the time my credit card bonus miles posted to my AAdvantage account to when I would travel, my award ticket options were limited. However, with a much longer time horizon for 2016, I would have many more flights available for using miles. (As luck would have it, after I booked my paid BA flight, a football game between Georgia Tech and Boston College was confirmed for Dublin, Ireland on Labor Day weekend in 2016. I am very happy now that I will have miles available to ensure I get to see the Jackets play across the pond!)

OpenSkies 757 at Newark-Liberty International Airport (click to enlarge)

Once I decided to seriously consider the paid route, I had to find BA flights that would work for my summer schedule. Using Google Flights, I identified several date combinations that appeared to have seats at the sale price. I went to to verify this and ultimately found an OpenSkies flight from Newark-Liberty International Airport to Paris-Orly. I was not familiar with OpenSkies but a little bit of Googling informed that they are a subsidiary of British Airways and they operate 757s between Newark and Paris with fully lie-flat seats business class seats which they call "Biz Bed." I knew I wanted a lie-flat seat so I could get some rest on the flight. During my first day in Europe last year, I was basically a sleep-walking zombie after having gotten almost no rest in Delta's Economy Comfort.  There was one last thing to check out before I bought my ticket.

Because this flight was out of Newark and I live in Atlanta, before I pulled the trigger, I had to be sure that I could get from ATL to EWR at the appropriate time at a reasonable price. I went to the website of my “hometown airline,” Delta Air Lines, and found several options that worked with my departure from and return to Newark. Having verified I would be able to position myself for the OpenSkies flight, I pulled out my new Citi Prestige Card - so I could get the $250 airline credit! - and booked an EWR-ORY roundtrip in OpenSkies Biz Bed class. I did not immediately book the Delta flights as I had an idea that I wanted to look into and mull over first.

Since I was on different tickets to get to Europe and to get to Newark, I did not have as many limitations on coupling my return to Atlanta with my return from Europe. Since I was returning on 3 July and I had long wanted to stay in Manhattan – on previous trips, I had always stayed in a hotel or with my sister in Connecticut – I thought this would be a golden opportunity enjoy New York City and see the legendary Fourth of July fireworks. Fortunately, I was able to find a ticket at a reasonable fare that took me into Newark for my departure and left from LaGuardia on 5 July for my return to Atlanta. Needless to say I was pretty excited about the trip I had planned: Paris, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne and New York City. With the fundamental transportation booked, it was time to begin filling in the details!