Introduction: San Diego to Seoul on United, Air China, and Asiana

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01. Introduction: San Diego to Seoul on United, Air China, and Asiana
02. United Airlines economy class San Diego to San Francisco
03. United Global First Lounge San Francisco
04. United Airlines Global First San Francisco to Beijing
05. Air China First Class Lounge Beijing
06. Asiana Airlines business class Beijing to Seoul
07. Hyatt Regency Incheon
08. Three days in Seoul
09. The Plaza Hotel Seoul
10. Air China business class Seoul to Beijing
11. Air China business class Beijing to Los Angeles
12. United Express (Skywest) economy class Los Angeles to San Diego

I don’t fly United Airlines much at all these days, but by the beginning of this year I had somehow ended up with about 275k miles in my Mileage Plus account. It was a long and slow effort to get to that point over the years, with occasional UA or Star Alliance flights (like the ANA business class trip we took last fall) and even less occasional use of my Mileage Plus Visa card from Chase.

To be honest, I hadn’t even planned on redeeming miles for anything this year – I was content enough to just purchase tickets out of my own pocket so I could continue to build up my account balances and gain status along the way. But that all changed when United announced a pretty severe devaluation to their award chart, effective April 1, 2014. Time to burn some miles!

I already had a list of places I want to go at some point in my life, with South Korea being near the top. Don’t ask me why, but part of it may be because I work with a lot of Korean engineers who always say good things about their home country. Another reason is that I have spent a lot of time in nearby Japan (my wife is Japanese), and I’ve grown to like that region of the world. These aren’t deep reasons, I know, but South Korea has been interesting to me for many years.

So – Korea was the first destination I searched for, and a quick check of first class (or business class) award availability to Seoul from San Diego was shockingly good. There were many options available at the lowest award levels, though most of it was on UA metal. If I wanted to be a bit more adventurous and try some new airlines, the choices were fewer. I decided to think about it for a couple weeks, which is about the worst thing one could ever do when planning airline award travel. That waiting cost me dearly, because by the time I eventually got around to booking the trip several weeks later, there were very few options left. I almost missed my opportunity, but I think I did ok. For 130,000 miles (and $81.30 in taxes and fees), here’s what I was able to reserve:

4/16/14 UA1579 San Diego to San Francisco (economy)
4/16/14 UA889 San Francisco to Beijing (Global First)
4/17/14 OZ336 Beijing to Seoul (business class)
4/20/14 CA126 Seoul to Beijing (business class)
4/20/14 CA983 Beijing to Los Angeles (business class)
4/20/14 UA6342 Los Angeles to San Diego (economy)

Yes, it’s going to be a quick trip! But I actually like that sort of thing when I’m traveling alone – it’s the way I’ve always done it and I’ve never felt rushed. You’ll also note that I haven’t yet taken this trip – but it is coming up very soon. I normally start posting my trip reports (beginning with an introduction like this one) immediately after returning, but this is going to be my largest trip report yet with many segments to cover. Because of that, I thought it would be ok to publish this intro before I actually leave.

Stay tuned…I’ll start posting the rest when I return!

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