Ah, ChinCOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, the air quality. Anyways, China. Founded in 1986 by three brothers, the country has exploded in size dramatically, so much so that actually I’ll bet none of you are reading this because I just claimed China was founded in 1986, which is ridiculous.
Ok, China. One of the oldest countries in the world, with an exciting and palpable history spanning thousands of years. Everything about China has a hyperbolic quality to it: the MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY in the world, the FASTEST GROWING ECONOMY in the world, the AIR QUACOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, air quality again. It’s hard to wrap your head around a country of 1.6 billion people. Their “small university towns” will have millions of people and millions of college students. They’re modernizing at the fastest pace in known history, and, to put a real interesting number out there, it’s estimated there are more people in China that speak English than there are in the USA.
At times the USA and China share an uneasy friendship, but China’s doors are relatively open for American tourists and there are plenty of sites to see in an incredibly “foreign” land.
I love mistake fares this much [holds arms far apart]. It still baffles me that mistake fares are possible, but I try to take advantage of them whenever possible. In October of 2013 there was a post on the Flyertalk boards about a fare to Beijing that looked way too low. After the collective group of posters took a look at the fare, it appeared that someone had left a zero off of the fuel surcharges, so instead of $440 of surcharges there were only $44. This resulted in a fantastic $443 roundtrip airfare to China! I figured “why not?” and made a booking. I figured it’d be a good way to get started on requalifying for Executive Platinum status as well.
The only thing was, the mistake fare started from Philadelphia. I live in Dallas. Fortunately, US Airways was running some really cheap flights from DFW-PHL ($69 one way), so everything was coming together quite nicely.
Getting to China
Now, since this was going to be part trip to China and part mileage run, I had to try and maximize the routing possibilities of the fare. Starting in PHL, the routing rules were actually pretty flexible. The first flights from Philly generally take off about 6am, and I had to get to Chicago by about 5pm central time. This gave me quite a bit of leeway, which I feel like I maximized. From Philly I flew down to Miami on the first flight out. From Miami it was a short hop to Atlanta, then a reasonably long layover before a flight from Atlanta to Chicago. From Chicago it was a lovely 13 hour nonstop to Beijing.
Flying out of the way a bit I know, but it was for a bigger purpose. Also, at that point I had Executive Platinum status, so all of the domestic flights were in First Class anyway.
Chinese visas aren’t hard to get, but they do take a couple of weeks and typically require a bit of documentation in terms of where you’re staying, etc., in addition to a $140 fee. Recently, however, China introduced a Transit Without Official Visa (TWOV) program, where visitors who are transiting for less than 72-hours can go to China without a visa. In order to take advantage of this, you have to transit China on your way to a third country (for the purposes of TWOV, Hong Kong and Macau are considered not part of China). All this means is your next flight needs to be out of China and to a different country than whence you came.
I was determined to use this program, which meant I couldn’t route back the same way. I knew though, from previous trips, that American operates a great flight from Tokyo nonstop to DFW. So, I ended up using the following routing:
This routing would satisfy the Chinese officials, as I was arriving from the USA and my next flight from China was nonstop to Japan.
I like saving vacation days at work so I really try to maximize three-day weekends whenever possible. This trip would take place over the MLK Day holiday weekend in January 2014. In the spirit of a mileage run, I wasn’t going to be in China or Japan very long, so some of you will roll your eyes at trying to do China in less than 3 days, but I hope you’ll indulge me and stay tuned for a really enjoyable trip!
All the best,