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Travel Hack: A better way to find cheaper (cheapest) flights

Different travellers have their own “travel hack” on how to get the cheapest travel deal.

For some, it means booking on a Tuesday (Don’t ask me why but there appears to be some rumour that that the cheapest deals are on Tuesdays). For others, it might mean arranging your holidays such that your flights are scheduled on less popular weekday slots or odd hour slots. Then you have package deals on Expedia where bundling gets you a better value than you would have had booking separately. Why not also include the price guarantees offered on travel sites?    

Is there a simpler way? Something like a “An Idiot’s Guide to Travel Hacking”?

Have a look at Matrix Airfare Search.

This search engine is amazing as it offers what appears to be an independent search of  available flights (Note: the engine appears unable to identify budget airlines). “Independent” here is reflected by the fact that the engine is not managed by a travel agency. The operator neither sells any tickets nor earns any commission from your purchases. The site will show the relevant airlines and you can either book your tickets directly with the airline online or through an agent. If booking via an agent, Matrix will provide you the relevant booking codes.

Use the site as either a confirmation of your other price research or as a preliminary search to get a sense of the price for a particular leg.

Make sure to search both “Cheapest Available” and “Business Class or higher” options when using the search feature. Sometimes you may find good bargains where flying business will cost you just a few hundred dollars more. For example, for my upcoming trip to Delhi from Singapore. A direct return flight via Jet Airways would have cost me S$400. Flying business class via Malaysia Airlines with a stop in KL would just require a top up of another S$400. Definitely worth the bit more for a better flight experience.

There are also better examples like this where the options on Expedia although cheaper is just slightly cheaper than if you had flown business:

Expedia: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Assuming you are unable or unwilling to fly Scoot):

Vietnam Airlines Economy S$830.50

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Cathay Pacific Economy S$1,387.60

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

6.50am – 2.10pm

13 February 2018 (KHH-SG)

9.25pm – 11.55am

 

Matrix: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,125

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Economy)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business, Part)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,624

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Business, Part)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business)

7.30am – 7.25pm

This opens up a lot of options for you.

For example, instead of flying economy on Cathay and paying S$1,387, you have the option of flying the cheaper Vietnam flight at S$1,125 to experience Business Class for one part of your journey or topping up slightly for the S$1,624 flight for a more complete Business Class experience.

While using Matrix doesn’t guarantee that you will find cheaper tickets, it opens up more options to choose from. I hope you will find it useful and will incorporate it into your holiday planning.

Remember to like and follow for more travel hacks and tips!

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My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

This is a continuation of my previous article where I shared my experience flying business class for the first time whilst backpacking. You can’t blame me for flying business if the tickets were so cheap (Approx SGD1100 return). For that poor chap who grumbled to his significant other as to when they could afford to fly business, it ain’t so difficult. Hehe. I guess my business class seats costs just slightly more or if not the same as their economy seats. The joys of travel hacking.

Checking in at Haneda Airport

It had been a fast paced holiday for the both of us. In a matter of 7 days, we covered Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and a tiny weeny bit of Tokyo. And we were now at the tail end of our trip. But unlike other trips, this was still going to be an awesome experience. We were flying business back to Singapore!

Checking in was easy. Although I could sense some confusion among the JAL airline counter staff. They took some time to process my tickets. They claimed that there were errors or some problems on their system.

Haha. =D I think, they were just confused by the odd nature of my ticket. You see, we had just spent a week long layover in Tokyo and were trying to continue with our single flight from Bangkok to Singapore (Hint: That’s part of the hack).

After a few “Is there any problem with our tickets” and a few “We are sorry. We are checking your tickets’ validity”, we were issued our business class tickets. Yahoo!

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While it may seem a bit frightening especially since deep down you know the reason why their systems are raising mini-alarms, I didn’t really feel much panic/scare. Somehow, I had faith in JAL’s staff making things happen (actually I think for most decent airlines) when dealing with Business Class passengers. You can say its some form of privilege or them going an extra mile to make their customers happy.

Sakura Lounge at Haneda Airport

This lounge didn’t disappoint. If you remember my earlier post, I actually complained about the food on offer at the Bangkok lounge. Their Haneda Lounge is much better.

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First off, as I am a beer fan, I was completely blown away by their beer dispensing machines. Yes, machines with an “s”. One was for Asahi. The other was for Kirin. This ensures that each schooner is always a perfect schooner with that nice layer of foam crowning the glass. For those who don’t frequent such lounges, lounges typically either offer canned beers (Booo!!!) or beers on tap (eg. SQ’s lounges at Changi). While tapping your own beers seem fun, the overall glass of beer may not be perfect. So a plus one for the beer dispensers! There are also other beverages on offer if beer is not your thing.

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Second, the food spread was better. Like the Bangkok Lounge, the lounge had the usual fare like curry rice, miso soup, bread basket and salads. Unlike the Bangkok Lounge, this lounge also offered other stuff like dumplings, siew mai, udon, spaghetti, sushi, different types of soups. While I would have preferred a more western offering (the variety was still very Japanese oriented), the food was satisfactory.

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Third, the lounge actually has lockers available for guests. I believe this is a good feature to have especially for lone travellers who don’t want to be bogged down by their hand carry. They can just deposit it in one of those lockers and retrieve them when they leave the lounge.

Fourth, shower facilities are available as well. I always appreciate a shower just before boarding especially if I had been out the whole day before the flight. Hehe. I made sure to snap a few photos for your guys this time around. Very inviting right?

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Business Class : Haneda Airport to Changi Airport

Okay. If my Bangkok-Narita flight was awesome, this flight must be “awesomer”. Is that even a word?

The seats are more spacious or appear to be more spacious since the airline did away the mini-cabins that I described in my earlier post. Instead of constricted cabins, the seats are now more open concept based so you don’t feel wrapped in or forced into a small area.

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Everything feels right. The seat reclining buttons are now located on the arm rest within easy reach from your fingers. This was unlike my earlier experience where the buttons located in an awkward position.

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There is also a cabinet attached to each seat. In it was a thoughtfully placed bottle of water which was a nice gesture especially for those drinkers who may need to hydrate after those many glasses of champagne. While I did not drink champagne, that bottle of water came in handy after I downed a bottle of sake ><

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An interesting thing I found while on the flight was the toiletries displayed in the washrooms on board the plane. You have the usual toothbrush and mouthwash. You can also find eye masks displayed. Do not confuse this with the eye mask you wear to block out the light while you try to catch some sleep. This eye mask is similar to the face mask (the kind you put on your face to help moisturise/beautify your skin) but for your eye region. Something odd but definitely a plus point for me!

The menu for the flight:

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As usual, since this is a night flight, there’s a late night snack on offer. This time round some kind of pastry. It was a nice experience as I did not have to ask for the night snack. The crew had offered it when I ordered my drinks. Hehe, I could have forgotten about the snacks but for their reminder.

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Breakfast was either Japanese or Western. I went with Western after my bad experience with JAL’s Japanese breakfast on the flight in. I guess it was a good choice with the smoked duck and the omelette. You can’t go wrong with that kind of combination. The omelette was, however, slightly dry (i.e. overcooked). The best I had so far was on SQ’s business class. The omelette there was actually moist. JAL, please do something about it!!!

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Verdict

Would I fly JAL again? 100% yes. While I find the food can always be better, the price (if I can continue my travel hacking) is definitely affordable and a bargain especially when flying to Japan.

Please remember to like if you enjoyed reading this port. Follow if you don’t mind supporting this blog.

A heads-up: Do drop by again soon. I will be flying Malaysian Airlines’ Business Class in March from Singapore to Delhi (Found a real bargain for the tickets SGD810 return!). Expect Malaysian Hospitality and more awesome reviews for you all.

 

Backpacker on Business Class! WHAT?!

Backpacker on Business Class! WHAT?!

While I have flown business on a number of occasions as a young associate accompanying my bosses for meetings overseas, I have not flown business for leisure my last 28 years on this planet. That was until now. Whilst backpacking to boot. This is my experience flying on Japan Airlines Business Class from Bangkok to Narita, Tokyo for cheap (Approx SGD1100 return ><). 

Checking in @  Suvarnabhumi Airport

We arrived early after having done a whole day’s worth of shopping at Chatuchak Market and Platinum Mall. And I was sure glad that we were on Business Class. Shorter queues while checking in and also a chance to grab a well needed shower at the Sakura lounge after lugging my backpack with me all around Bangkok. For the uninitiated, Business Class passengers are entitled to use the airline’s lounge. Such lounges typically come with a small buffet spread, drinks, wifi and shower facilities.

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Jumping the queue – Surprisingly, there was still a queue likely because its a shared lane with JAL’s Premium Economy Class.

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We were given a Premium Lane pass as well as a Miracle Lounge pass. The former allows you to use a special lane for faster custom clearance. The latter offers passengers a chance to use the Miracle Lounge (I believe its a pay to use lounge) instead of JAL’s Sakura Lounge. The reason being that Sakura Lounge may be too packed. For us, we decided to risk it and try out the airline’s main lounge. Of course, I felt duty bound to ensure that you readers get a first hand experience of the Sakura Lounge from me.

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Sakura Lounge @  Suvarnabhumi Airport

Surprisingly, the expected crowd did not materialise. Maybe all the passengers decided to play safe and decided to hop over to the Miracle Lounge >< The lounge looks spacious and relatively new having been renovated recently. There are two main seating areas. One is more of a lounge setting. The other is more of a dining area with proper tables.

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The Japanese buffet spread was decent. While it adds a more authentic experience to flying a Japanese airline, I believe the lounge can offer a better and more varied selection of food. While there was a spread, most of the food was more like an appetizer and/or light. Don’t get me wrong. The food tasted fine but could have been more substantive and/or heavier (i.e. more meat and/or fish). Maybe some chicken katsu instead of small chunks of fried chicken? Or maybe some sushi?   

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The drinks on offer was okay. You have the usual soft drinks, milk, tea and coffee. For those who like to indulge themselves, the lounge offers cans of Asahi (and if I remember correctly Singha beer) and also different kinds of wine / spirits and also recommended sakes!

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While I was there, I also got a chance to use their shower facilities. Unlike the lounges I have been before, Sakura lounge offers a more private experience. Instead of shower cubicles in a shared washroom facility, the lounge has several private shower rooms. These rooms are cleaned and the towels / toiletries replaced after each use. Just approach the attendant outside for the key. Sorry no pictures as I forgot to bring my phone in =[

Business Class on JAL flight

For this flight, the seats are arranged into mini cabins separated by a panel. 

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Each mini cabin is spacious enough. This is with the separator screen down. However, I would have preferred a more open seat arrangement and less of a feeling that I am confined in a box. I can imagine the flight be less comfortable (psychologically since there is no difference in terms of the actual physical space) if the screen was actually raised.

The flight kit is pretty decent. You have your usual toothbrush, ear plugs, slippers and eye mask. There was also a “Moisture Mask” which is essentially a glorified face mask that help filter the dry air. The Sony earphones were pretty good as well.

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Once you are settled, the flight attendant will confirm your meal selection for the flight. For those wondering, this was the menu for my flight. Way different from what you see in Economy. No?

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Late night snacks and ordinary snacks

 

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Breakfast Menu

 

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Drinks Menu

 

For such late night flights, dinner is not served. Instead, breakfast is served just before you land. Business Class passengers can have a late night snack to help tide them through till breakfast. I had a plate of sushi and a “Sky-time Kiwi” for my late night supper while watching Pirates of the Caribbean ^_^ before falling asleep.

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Did I mention that the seats recline till they are flat? Really comfortable and as though you are sleeping on a bed! I am really considering splurging for my next trip to Europe and flying business and avoid having a stiff neck at the end of the flight.

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I went with the Japanese Breakfast. Of course, I had to try something unique to JAL right?

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View while having breakfast

 

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My verdict? Skip the Japanese Breakfast and just stick with the Western selection. Somehow, the Japanese Cuisine just doesn’t taste right with the reheating. The rice balls were disappointing. The reheating made them a tad bit too dry. The rice was also bland. The food was also so-so. Maybe Japanese food isn’t a flight suitable type of food (Did you know our taste buds taste things differently when we are way up high?).

Other than the average breakfast, I found the entire experience enjoyable as a whole. In fact, having flown the return flight back to Singapore, it appears that JAL’s Business Class is actually something that I would recommend and/or fly on again if I have the opportunity.

If you want to read more about my flight back from Tokyo to Singapore and/or the lounge in Haneda Airport, please remember to like and follow!!!

 

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