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elvisoliver Sep 13th, 2004 10:05 AM

NWA - Advice Please...
We're only 3 mths away from our departure to Thailand. Have been trying to upgrade to biz class but have been told by Northwest's agents for the last several mths that there are no "upgrade" seats left (but revenue seats are avail at $5400+). It's been almost 3 yrs since we flew to BKK and can't recall such hassles. Anyhow, does anyone know what the deal is? We're leaving on Dec. 16th which I thought was days before the peak season. Also, will be traveling w/a toddler, in your opinion, what seats are best in coach?

elr Sep 13th, 2004 10:16 AM

you can check out the aircraft and best seats with It's an amazing site.

Also, not to say there aren't great minds on this fodor's board, but you might want to try the NWA forum at The people on that site live and breathe airline travel.

good luck.

rkkwan Sep 13th, 2004 10:30 AM

International upgrades using miles on most US airlines have been hard to get for a long time. Especially if your coach ticket is a deep discount one with a low fare class. That's the deal.

Really, the only way to get business seats on these popular routes like BKK are:

1) Pay for the ticket;
2) Call ahead and find out on which date and flight you can get upgrades and then get the guaranteed upgrades right away;
3) Use miles only, again after finding out which flights have the seats available.

Buying a discount coach ticket and then hope for an upgrade is unrealistic these days.

BillT Sep 13th, 2004 10:44 AM

Another alternative is to fly EVA Airlines to Bangkok. We flew them from Houston (Continental to LA and then LA to Bangkok on EVA Air). Round trip from Houston to Bangkok using EVA Air Evergreen Delux Class (almost equal to Business Class) is about $1000. I also get full mileage credit on my Continental FF plan.
Now this is not available in a lot of cities - but if you can get to LA it is certainly available from the west coast and at a lower rate that the $1000. (My guess is about 200-250 less)

Kathie Sep 13th, 2004 11:19 AM

Typically, in order to get an upgrade you must reserve it as soon as seats are released, usually 11 months before a flight. Any time in Dec is peak season to Thailand, with the possible exception of flying on Christmas Day. Your chances of getting an upgrade at this point are basically zero.

elvisoliver Sep 13th, 2004 11:33 AM

Thanks for all your gloomy answers...on to plan B. By the way Kathie, we bought "upgradable" tickets the day we were able to buy them. We immediately called for upgrades after obtaining the conf. number but was told no but to keep checking back. Never flew NWA to the far east before, therefore, had no idea that it would be such a pain. Flew United prior to their demise (hated it) and thought we'd try the lesser of two evils. Will need to check out other airlines next time.

Kathie Sep 13th, 2004 02:56 PM

I always fly United as I'm a Premier Exec. I can buy an upgradeable ticket from them and get my upgrade in one call. They seem to be the only airline that will do upgrades that way. Since upgrading my seats to Business Class when I fly trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic is the most important benefit an airline can give me, I'm sticking with United. (PS - they aren't dead yet!)

rkkwan Sep 13th, 2004 03:19 PM

You can buy a upgradeable fare and clear an upgrade on most airlines with one call. I know I can do that with Continental. The problem isn't that, but the very limited availability.

KimJapan Sep 13th, 2004 04:55 PM

We've found with NWA, we can get the upgrade with miles on an M or B fare economy class ticket (we don't pay for Y fare economy class as it's close to business class price) from Japan to the states and back, BUT I have to call every day...every day...and upgrade one by one. We just did this in August, which is THE busiest time for overseas travel in Japan - bigger than December! Dec 16 isn't really high season, and I suspect that closer to the departure date, seats will be released. You can check yourself on to get a good idea of availbility. The upgrade seats for international routes on upgradable fares in econ to business come from the Z bucket...but not all Z bucket seats will be allocated for upgrades - they will actually try to sell them. If you see a 0 next to the Z bucket, then you can be pretty sure there are no upgrades up for grabs. When there is a 9 next to the Z, there may be seats so you should call.

In coach, I personally like rows 63 and 64 in the back and on each side. There are only 2 seats side by side, but you get just a bit of extra space between the seat and the window so row 64 window seat gets extra legroom beside row 63 window seat, and having 2 side by side is easier for bathroom and stuff. We are a family of 3, and reserve row 63 aisle and row 64 window and aisle. Often, 63 window is left unseated unless the plane is completely full.

Don't give up at all on the upgrade. This summer, our last upgrade came 6 hours before the fllight (until then, 2 of us had business, and one of us econ). Just keep checking and calling.

orgy7 Sep 13th, 2004 07:19 PM

I recently redeemed for free tick bkk-bdl-bkk on the day it could be ticketed 11 moonth prior, and that barely got threw. the biggest prob with using NWA in asia is that it's used by customers of 2 other major US cariers DELTA, and Continental.. so redeeming/upgrading miles too asia is a huge pain.

elvisoliver Sep 14th, 2004 05:11 AM

kimjapan: Great insight. We won't give up hope yet. Thanks much.

elvisoliver Sep 14th, 2004 05:19 AM

Kathie: United might as well be dead to me. I was pre. exec until 2 yrs ago but after many many bad experiences, my husband & I vowed to nvr fly them again. Also hate flying thru Chi. as have spent many nights at a hotel or driving 3 hrs home because they couldn't get us home on lovely United express until the following evening. Just my bad luck with them I guess.

Kathie Sep 14th, 2004 05:49 AM

I live in Seattle, and United is the most convenient carrier for me. But you are so right, where you live does make a huge difference on which airline is best for a person. United has a Seattle to Narita flight which makes it a great carrier for me. While NW also has such a flight, my history of problems with NW (and their somewhat antiquated planes) make United my carrier of choice. Good luck getting an upgrade - it's really hard to do!

rkkwan Sep 14th, 2004 06:37 AM

Kathie - NW's SEA-NRT flights will be switching to the new A330-200 November 1.

Kathie Sep 14th, 2004 07:11 AM

I'm glad to hear that they are finally getting new planes on that route. I have to admit that the 777 is my favorite plane to fly on. After all, I'm from Seattle, home of "If it's not Boeing, I'm not going!"

Craig Sep 14th, 2004 07:27 AM

My point of reference is United as well. Upgrades are given out on a very limited basis 11 months in advance and only for "upgradable" fares. They are also given out at the very last minute and that until then you are told that there are "no upgrade seats left". Since we fly out of Hartford, CT via Chicago to the far east, we have an additional leg of upgrading to deal with as well. The Hartford - Chicago upgrade is usually the hardest to get. I am also a fan of As for Northwest (north worst?), we could always do Hartford - Detroit then on to Asia but to me that is just as bad as flying through Chicago and our credit cards don't give miles on NWA.

BillT Sep 14th, 2004 07:46 AM

All this just points out the obvious- when it comes to travel to Asia - the US airlines do a very poor job- its the Asian airlines that shine head and shoulders above United/NWA/Continental etc. Singapore Air, EVA Air, Cathay Pacific- why??? because they know how to deliver customer service

Kathie Sep 14th, 2004 08:18 AM

I know this is heresy, but I'm not convinced that the Asian airlines do it better. Yes, there are many excellent Asian airlines. But the biggest differences in air travel experiences have to do with what class you're flying. My experience with Business Class service is that it is good to excellent on every airline I've flown on in recent years. I normally fly transpacific on United which gets dissed a lot, but I've always had good service in Business Class. I've also had good service with Thai transpacific, though their planes are older and they don't have the newer entertainment options. I've flown Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Air, Singapore Air, Thai Air, Silk Air and have had good experiences on all of them in Business or First Class. Ok, the one airline that I try to avoid, even in Business Class, is Garuda.

I think we all complain about our ability to get Business Class upgrades because they are typically the most valuable frequent flier perk we can get. I know, I complain too sometimes. But I have been able to get upgrades on United for at least two international trips per year for many years. Sometimes I have to juggle my dates a bit, but I always manage to get the upgrades.

BillT Sep 14th, 2004 09:08 AM

My comments were directed at coach service- the US airlines do a very poor job for international service- Singapore Air is always rated number one or two- having flown them, Asianna,EVA Air again - no comparison- these airlines know how to serve- in part its a cultural thing.

rkkwan Sep 14th, 2004 11:22 AM

I have always flown coach between the US and Hong Kong. Have done it many times since 1983, on CX, SQ, UA, NW, AA, AC, JL. Will fly CO this December.

In recent years, it's all N. American airline I've flown for these reasons:

1. Price. SQ and CX really consider its product premiere to others, and have priced it accordingly. For the budget-minded ones, NW, UA and AC usually have the lowest price. [KE and CI are also cheap, mostly because of their bad safety record from the late 80's to late 90's.]

2. Schedule. UA really has the best schedule in terms of connection and total time of travel. It has both non-stops from its hubs in SFO and ORD to many cities in Asia, as well as a hub in NRT. Can't beat that. And for those who lives east of the Rockies, the arrival time of many Asian airlines into SFO/LAX is too late to connect. That means 7-8 hours to wait for a red-eye to connect. Very inconvenient.

3. FF programs. For those of us who reside in N. America and who also fly other domestic and Atlantic routes, flying CX or SQ often means no or reduced miles and EQM for US-based FF programs.

Now, yes, CX/SQ and the like do have better onboard service - better food, amenities kit, friendier FA, personal video screens. However, they don't always have an advantage. For example, all of them have 31-32" pitch in coach, while UA's "Economy Plus" and all of AA's seats have more. AA, UA and CO's 777 and NW's 330 do have personal video screens now. So, unless your defintion of "good service" is strictly having young, attractive Asian women serving you food, then the gap isn't really that much.

For me, with the $150-200 I save, I can buy a lot of eye-shades, toothbrushes, DVDs to watch at home, and get some good food at a local restaurant. Even better if I can get the extra legroom on AA or UA's E+ seats.

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