I flew a lot in 2015…
Enough to earn a ton of miles and upgrades, hit the American Airlines top tier Executive Platinum status, and “learn” a bit more about how airlines price fares.
Even though I’ll sometimes fly first or business class, I’m still very much a travel hacker at heart and it warms me when I find an incredible deal.
On my last mileage run, I got stuck for the night in Hong Kong. It wasn’t too bad, the always excellent staff at Cathay Pacific whisked me through customs and into a mid-tier business-ey hotel.
By that time it was too late to do anything fun, but the free flowing lounge champagne actually made me quite tired and I slept for four hours before trying to get to Ho Chi Minh City again.
The only thing I seem to remember from the night were the number of signs pointing me towards the ferries for Macau…
Upon arriving back to the lounge, I asked about visiting.
The excellent Cathay Staff informed me:
- Americans do not need a visa to visit Hong Kong
- Macau is only a short 55 minute ride
Wow I thought. That’s super easy.
It was probably Anthony Bourdain who originally put the idea of traveling there into my brain.
Basically Macau was a Portuguese territory until 1999, but it is now commonly known the “Las Vegas of Asia”. It’s filled with casinos, wonder, spectacle and broken dreams.
Except here the broken dreams don’t solely belong to the gamblers.
A recent Chinese crackdown on corruption has kept the high-rollers out, which has in turn sent GDP and gaming revenues tumbling.
I know this because I’ve become very interested in the casino business and how they utilize player loyalty programs.
This is probably because:
- I ranked up in the airline loyalty program and it was cool
- I watched Martin Jacobson win $10 million at the WSOP and it was cool (see our doc)
- Stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales are total shit at loyalty and I want to fix that
Mostly true travel fact:
When the economy is down, everything is cheaper.
Know that and after a night of high level discussion, drinks and shisha spread across Saigon’s many rooftop establishments with some of my favorite badass entrepreneur friends… it was decided that Macau 2016 had to happen.
Planning the 2016 trip
I probably go to google.com/flights to look for deals as much as I check reddit for lolz during the day.
It’s easy to set your home location and then play Google Earth and see all of the places you can travel in the world and how much it would cost for your selected dates. It’s so easy I’m not really sure how millennials with wanderlust chose where to travel to before.
Going into it I knew that I wanted to get on the American Airlines direct flight to from Dallas to Hong Kong.
It’s over 8,000 miles and currently the longest flight in American’s system. So yes it’s a grind, but you can’t beat waking up at your final destination.
The plane is a Boeing 777-300ER, fully stocked with lie-flat beds in business + first plus wifi is available throughout the whole trip.
So when I first looked at this route for my birthday weekend this came up:
Even though it’s Asia, $1,514 TOO MUCH for this flight.
The last time I took this route it was Austin -> Dallas (hub) -> Hong Kong (hub) -> Ho Chi Minh City and it only cost me $738. If you’re going economy, there’s no reason why you should ever have to pay more than $800 for a round trip to Asia.
So why is this one more expensive?
American Airlines has a ton of other options with connections to get you to your final destination. They want to sell those first and will do so on a discount compared to this price.
However this is not an optimal strategy and not the best way to save.
**The trick is to find flights from other airports that connect you to the hub. **
I call this the reverse Skiplagged method.
Here’s how it works in this situation:
Instead of searching from the Dallas (the hub), I enter Austin / Houston as my starting location.
You’ll notice that I’m able to find a flight that takes me from Houston -> Dallas (hub) -> Hong Kong on the direct flight that I want to be on.
Because we’re adding an extra flight to the itinerary, naturally you would expect it to be more expensive.
However if you keep scrolling down you’ll notice that it’s wayyyyyyyyy cheaper.
Yes, that’s a roundtrip flight from the US to Asia for only $670.
Yes, it’s a savings of $844 and more than 50% off!
I live in Austin, so I could buy a flight, redeem some miles or even drive to Houston first. I would want to avoid the long layover in Dallas on the way back, so I’d probably book a flight from there to Austin once I got back in the states.
But when you are able to save that much money on a flight, you have a ton of options available to you.
The reverse Skiplagged strategy summarized
Find the flight that you want to take from the hub airport (list here).
Search for flights to your final destination from regional airports that connect to the hub.
Buy it when the deal comes up.
edit: It’s been brought to my attention (thanks Zach!) that skipping a leg of a flight is considered “hidden city ticketing” and can cancel your whole itinerary. Every time that I’ve done this, I have called American Airlines and explained the situation and they have worked with me. This could be because of my frequent flyer status though, so you want to proceed with caution. If you don’t check a bag you can always skip the final leg of your flight. I updated the post to reflect this.
Regardless you can still save a TON OF MONEY by booking flights into the hub!
If you guys have any questions, please leave a comment and I will answer it asap!
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