You are planning a nightmare trip to Armenia

Flying is now a nightmare for casual travelers and seasoned road warriors alike. Here is the creepy itinerary I planned for my trip to Armenia.

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Business travel, but also budget tracking

In addition to being an award-winning travel writer (not really), I’m also a partner in several businesses. As an owner, I keep a much closer eye on expenses than when I work for someone else’s business. It’s wrong, but it’s true. Therefore, I am more careful with my company’s funds and I think that some expenses are simply intolerable, but necessary.

I had a business trip to Yerevan, Armenia that I had to complete within a very specific date due to upcoming commitments. But for anyone who has flown recently, the costs are ridiculous, especially in service class.

Ideally, I was looking for a reasonable bus fare that I could upgrade with instruments or miles. But bus fares from Pittsburgh were over $3,000 any time of the week I needed, and none of them included the business class/first class segment, even domestically. In fact, the best price I could find in any nearby city (New York, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia) never went below $2,000, no matter when I flew on any carrier from any of those airports. Due to the long journey, business class was mandatory, so we were stuck looking for a seat and patching up a ticket.

Finding space

After searching nearly 100 different permutations from the above airports to anywhere with direct flights to Yerevan, which became major hubs (Paris, Warsaw, Athens, Frankfurt, Vienna and Dubai), I found a unicorn.

Not only did United Airlines have a reasonable flight from Washington Dulles to Paris on the date I wanted, but they also had a confirmed upgrade seat on even the cheapest economy ticket using Plus Points, which I hadn’t been able to use until now. But it was only one leg and only Paris. It didn’t take me to Dulles or out of Paris.

When looking for onward flights, Google directed me to an absolute bargain for over $800 round trip bus travel, making this short leg excruciatingly long. Air France wanted $1,600 for a nonstop A320. I also worked to use SkyTeam miles to complete the segment, but there were no seats available for 171,000 Air France miles. Oneworld has almost no routes to the city (only Qatar flies from Doha after the suspension of S7).

I went back to United.bomb where I found one-way economy space at 17,000 miles or 28,500 miles in business. I tried to complete the reservation in economy, but I couldn’t get a ticket, so I turned to business class with the unique advice. Matthew Klint, awards expert.

On the way home during the week of my trip (plenty of flexibility is allowed) there were no decent coach seats (upgradable or durable) and no business class seats from the city. Returning to Paris, not leaving the same magic I found when I left.

The American Airlines website showed phantom space via Royal Air Maroc, but it was not bookable online or even by phone. The agent could restore and display available seats, but not flight tickets. Not from Yerevan, not from Dubai, not even from Paris.

That’s how busy and bad travel is right now. For two weeks there is not a single reserved seat in any alliance from Yerevan.

I hope that changes, but for now it looks like I’ll be traveling to nearby Tbilisi, Georgia, only to eventually fly the excruciatingly painful route home. Here is my journey:


  • Pittsburgh-Washington Dulles
  • Washington Dulles-Paris
    • 8 hour flight
    • 13 hour layover
  • Paris-Vienna
    • 2.5 hours flight
    • 25 minutes connection!
  • One is Yerevan
    • 2.5 hours flight
    • Arrival at 3:55 a.m

to come back

  • Yerevan-Tbilisi
  • Tbilisi – Warsaw
    • (departure at 6 a.m.)
    • 2.5 hours flight
    • 12 hour layover
  • Warsaw-Brussels
    • 2.5 hours flight
    • 12 hour layover
  • Brussels-Washington Dulles
  • Drive back to Pittsburgh

To make it work

The trip from Pittsburgh to Armenia is always a long affair, even with the tightest of connections. Almost exclusively overnight flights to Yerevan from Europe arrive very early in the morning due to the short distance but several time zone changes. For example, a departure from Paris to Yerevan with just a 25-minute layover in Vienna (fun) leaves just after 8pm, but doesn’t arrive until 4am. in the morning, although the distance is only about 4.5 hours of flight.

The rest of the journey presents exciting new challenges. I’m hoping I can adjust my return as space opens up closer to departure, but as it is now, I’ll just have to do it.

All told, I spent about $800, 80 plus points, 97,000 miles round trip in business class, which seems like a bargain, but I will earn those savings.


I have never seen it so difficult to book a trip on short notice or in the height of summer – never in my life. That being said, I was still able to get this trip into something I can live with at a price I can live with and a trip…adventure – no – experience that will at least be interesting.

What do you think? Have you come up with such an open-ended trip before?

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