I Just Paid $45 for a 3 Hour Flight on a Full Service Airline!

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Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
Bali Hyatt before renovations. Looking forward to a return to this hotel to see what it looks like after a full renovation.

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles – Bali

Miles and points are a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to air travel. For our upcoming family trip to Asia, my wife, daughter and I will be flying 17 hours 50 minutes nonstop in Singapore Airlines Business Class. Those long haul tickets would have cost thousands of dollars, but instead I’m only out 88K points + $5 per person.

Of course on any trip there ends up being flights where mileage doesn’t make a lot of sense. After spending a few days in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we need to make our way to Bali. There are a ton of options to do this, so surely miles are the answer. Right?

Best Mileage Options Southeast Asia to Bali

Not quite, but let’s look at all of our options first. According to Award Maximizer, here are my best options with miles from KUL-DPS.

  • American AAdvantage: 17,500 miles one-way
  • United MileagePlus: 17,500 miles one-way
  • Delta SkyMiles: 22,500 miles one-way
  • Alaska MileagePlan: 12,500 miles one-way
  • British Airways Avios: 10,000 points one-way
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer: 7,500 miles one-way

There are other programs of course, but they are either more expensive or don’t make much sense. In this case the two best mileage options for Southeast Asia to Bali are clearly British Airways and Singapore Airlines, so let’s take a look at those options.

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2008.

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Redemption Option

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer is definitely an attractive option given that the airline has top notch service and a very attractive price. Krisflyer is also transfer partners with Chase, Citi, American Express and even Capital One, meaning their miles are easy to accumulate.

Fortunately Singapore Airlines did have award space available for my date as well. An award flight from KUL-SIN-DPS for three people costs the following:

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
22,500 miles + ~$47 USD

British Airways Avios Redemption Option

Now, let’s take a look at Avios to see if they have space. British Airways is partners with Oneworld carrier Malaysian Airlines, meaning any available flights would be direct. They too did have space available on the date I needed. Here is the cost for a nonstop flight KUL-DPS:

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali

Not terrible, but can I do better!

Other Options

Budget Airlines have become popular everywhere, but nowhere as much as in Asia. Air Asia and a ton of other carriers dominate the landscape and often provide much lower fares than their full service counterparts.

For example, here are my best options KUL-DPS according to Google Flights:

  • Air Asia – $28 per person one-way
  • Malindo Air – $42 per person one-way
  • Malaysian Airlines – $106 per person one-way

These results are important for a few reasons. Obviously I want to book cash given these rates, but there is more to unpack and look at. First, let’s take a look at Malaysian Airlines.

Malaysia Airlines Cash vs. Points

While we will look at the other options, there is something important to note here about Malaysia Airlines. I can spend Avios to fly them and pay 30K + $32.31 or pay a cash rate of $285.69. That values my points at .0095 cents each or well below my target. I regularly get 1.5-2 cents for each one of my Avios and have redeemed for 10+ cents per points in the past.

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
Our first Air Asia flight circa 2008.

Malindo vs. Air Asia

While money is a huge factor, the next consideration is flight experience. Low cost carrier Air Asia will get me there for $28 per person, but we will have to pay for at least one bag and the seat pitch is a terrible 28″. I have flown most major budget carriers in the world on shorter flights without issue, but at 3+ hours I might want something more comfortable.

And that seems to be what Malindo offers. Malindo Air considers themselves a full service airline. Their newer Boeing 737-800 aircraft feature a shockingly good 32″ of seat pitch (Malaysian and Singapore only have 30″ pitch on their narrow bodies) plus they serve food/drinks, have WiFi and full IFE at every seat. Heck, their business class only costs about $130 per person on this route each way, although we opted to just go with economy.

Booking Malindo Air

My first goal when paying “cash” for something is to try to use flexible currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou to book. Unfortunately many low cost and regional airlines don’t show up in the Citi or Chase search engines. While Chase’s engine didn’t list any carriers other than the majors, Citi’s did better with Scoot and a few other budget carriers. Unfortunately, Malindo was nowhere to be found on either.

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
Grand Hyatt Bali 2013.

Splitting Up to Save More

Ultimately I had to actually pay cash for these tickets, but it wasn’t that simple. I found out that Malindo had two tickets available at their lowest cash price of 189 MYR or about $42. The price if I searched for 3 tickets jumped to 249 MYR each. To solve this I split my booking into two itineraries. My wife and daughter were booked for 189 MYR and I booked myself at 249 MYR. When converted to dollars, my total cost was 587 MYR or about $144! So cheap.

How Travel Is “Free”

Even though the flight is cheap, I still hate to pay simple cash for anything. Fortunately a number of my premium cards have available credits for airfare. In this case I chose to pay with my Citi Prestige card. That card’s $250 annual travel credit will offset all of these airline tickets. Similarly I could have used a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of a credit or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture cards to redeem their miles for travel purchases.

Our Final Cost vs. Alternatives

After breaking it down, here were our best options for this flight:

  • 30K Avios + $32.31 nonstop on Malaysian Airlines
  • 22,500 Krisflyer + $47 with a connection on Singapore/Silk Air
  • $144 TOTAL nonstop on Malindo Air

You already know which one we chose!

Southeast Asia Booking with Miles - Bali
Bali Hyatt Kite Festival 2013.

Conclusion

While this is a good exercise in maximizing value, I’m actually just excited to book and fly a new airline. I have flown Malaysian, Singapore, Silk Air and Air Asia before, so this will be something new if nothing else. Of course the space and other amenities should hopefully make for a pleasant flight.

Have you ever flown Malindo Air? Which option would you have chosen? Let us know in the comments!

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I had a bad experience with Malindo before I even left the ground. They changed my flight time, as a result, I would have misconnected with the second flight. I happened to notice this because I was just verifying the reservation–they didn’t send out any alert. Their system didn’t figure this out.

    Just *try* getting in touch with them by email or phone. I had to wait til their call center opened on southeast asia time, try to explain things, and the agent still didn’t understand what my issue was. I asked for a refund and to cancel the ticket and he said they could do it but it would take 3 months to process!

    No thanks, I reached out to my credit card company and contested the charge so I wouldn’t be liable for the cost for three months, which they were happy to do. I never got confirmation that my reservation was actually canceled.

    • Wow. I had read some bad stories online but opted to book since it is only one leg and we are leaving from their hub. That should eliminate a lot of the chance of us getting stuck. Hopefully. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your experience with them. Fingers crossed here.

  2. 30K Avios + $32.31 nonstop on Malaysian Airlines
    22,500 Krisflyer + $47 with a connection on Singapore/Silk Air
    ==
    If only these two options are available, which one would you choose? It seems Avios are better out of the two.

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