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On April 5th, Air China started flying from Houston To Panama on Tuesdays and Sundays. The route allows Air China to service central America from their hub in Beijing. The route is an interesting one, and my speculation is that it has something to do with Panama’s proficiency in tax avoidance, and Air China recognizes an increased demand in their clientele looking for ways to get their money into other markets. Purely speculation on my part, but of all places, Panama is a peculiar destination to pinpoint from China. The cool part is that you can experience a Air China’s first class suites on a short flight, or try out their business class with almost guaranteed avail. It is a fifth freedom route which means you can book these legs separately from any continuation from/to Beijing.
It’s pretty wide open for the entire schedule.
Here are prices in Econ, Biz, First from the States on various airlines
- 18k, 36k, 46k
- 20k, 30k, 42,5k
- Singapore KrisFlyer:
- 17.5k, 30k, 40k.
- United MileagePlus:
- 17.5k 30k, 40k
How you can buy miles, use stopovers, transfer, etc
Avianca often puts their miles on sale for under 1.4 cents which means you could buy business class for less than $500 and first for less $640. Pretty solid deals. Singapore Airlines has a great stopover policy, meaning if you were to fly business class from Manchester to Houston, you could pay $100 and then later in the year fly from Houston to Panama all for 70k miles. You can of course transfer Amex into Aeroplan or Singapore, Chase UR into Singapore and United…Citi transfer direct to Avianca.
One of the biggest complaints of Air China is that the service sucks. This flight is less than 4 hours, so if you’re considering flying them on a much longer flight, you’d get a taster with this flight. Air China is one of Star Alliance partners you’ll often see with tons of avail to Asia, and also facilitates a great sweet spot with Virgin Atlantic miles ( 75k in first R/T from LHR to PEK).
Business Class on Air China features seats very similar to what is found on American’s transcon business class A321T or their 757s.
First class is massive and personally, I’d spring for the extra 10k miles just to try it out.
You could buy the route as well…although prices get steep fast.
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