SLC Traveler

SLC to Asia

When I first started flying to Asia (usually Taiwan or Hong Kong) I had no idea what I was doing. Delta's site wasn't quite as user-friendly back then, I didn't know what ITA Matrix was, we didn't have Hipmunk and I would end up accidentally booking trips with 40 hours of travel time (each way!).

Here are a few tips and trips that I have learned from various trips to Asia including flights to Tokyo (NRT and HND), Bangkok (BKK), Hong Kong (HKG), Taiwan (TPE), Shenzhen (SZX), Shanghai (PVG), Seoul (ICN), Manila (MNL), Jakarta (CGK), Bali (DPS), Singapore (SIN), Beijing (PEK), Guangzhou (CAN).

Getting to each city can be tricky, eventually I would like to add information about each city including options for routes, ways to minimize total travel time for efficient travelers and ways to maximize MQM's for mileage runners.

Direct flights from SLC to Asia
A few years ago Salt Lake had a direct flight from SLC-NRT. This was supposed to be a seasonal route that would run during the summer months (if I recall correctly it would have run from April through October).

Unfortunately when Delta stopped offering the route in 2011 (which I thought would be seasonal as it had been in the past) they never resumed operation in 2012. It appears that Delta has no plans to reinstate the flight.

Efficient Routing
These days a flight from SLC to Asia on Delta requires a stop in LA, Portland or Seattle which all connect directly to Tokyo through either Narita airport (NRT) or Haneda (HND). Delta travelers going anywhere in Asia will need to go through one of these airports. (Note: if you are traveling on a Delta partner you may be able to bypass Tokyo).

With a short layover in one of these cities you can get to Tokyo in about 14 hours and you can get back in 12 hours. Since you cross the international date line you will always arrive at least one day later (sometimes two depending on when you leave) and should usually land in the US "before" the time you left Asia.

Mileage Running
Usually when you are flying somewhere you want to get there as quickly as possible. Some travelers, though, prefer to earn as many Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM's) as possible and use long trips to boost their Medallion status. Flying to Asia is a great opportunity to earn status; if you are traveling to southern China (Hong Kong) or southeast Asia with some careful planning you can usually jump a full status level (25k miles flown).

To get your mileage up you will usually have to fly east before heading to Asia. This probably sounds counterintuitive because it is - you are initially flying away from your intended destination. Until August 31st, 2012 you had a great option for mileage running AND reducing your total travel time with Detroit to Hong Kong (DTW-HKG). I was sad to hear that this route is also being discontinued due to lack of demand. Some people are speculating that Atlanta (ATL) will replace the route which would be even better for mileage runners.

I flew the DTW-HKG several times but not to increase my mileage (I fly enough as is). I preferred taking this route even though total travel time was a couple hours later than going through Tokyo because I hate going through security after 14 hours of travel time (yes, even passengers connecting to an international flight have to go through security in Tokyo which is basically like normal airport security in the US without having to remove your shoes). The flight was also on a Boeing 777-200LR, a big, comfortable, new plane.