Monthly Archives: January 2020

Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

For the first leg of this adventure I exchanged 80,000 American AAdvantage miles and $28.20 in taxes for 10,676 miles of flying. If you value those 80K AA miles at 1.4 cents each, that’s just under $1150 in value when you add in the taxes. Compare that to the $4800+ that American wants for similar flights next October and I think that’s a pretty good deal!

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, we’d found our return flights first and about two weeks later we found two business class seats on Qantas from San Francisco to Auckland via Sydney. From Memphis the only flights American made available in business class were on the regional jet via Phoenix. My friend flying from Chicago could not even get a business class (domestic First) ticket on a non-stop to San Francisco so she paid for an extra legroom seat.

Initially AA had me leaving Memphis around 2:30 PM and arriving around 6:30 PM before the Qantas flight left around 9:30 PM. In September, SFO airport was re-paving runways which meant closures and delays. Though I knew they were supposed to be done well before my trip, it made me nervous. Couple that with how often fog causes delays into SFO and I decided to take advantage of American’s generous change policy on award tickets: as long as the origin and destination remain the same, you can change the routing or the dates. So I left home about 7:30 AM and made it to Phoenix on time, a little after 8:30 AM. And there the delay kicked in. SFO ATC would not let us take off due to fog in the area so we were 49 minutes late leaving Phoenix and we arrived 39 minutes late. While a delay of that length would not have made a difference should I have kept my original flight times, I felt my decision to go earlier was validated because there might have been a lengthier delay later in the evening.

Another factor in making the switch was that my friend flying from Chicago could change to a domestic First class seat on the Alaska Air non-stop. It cost $100 to make the change to the award ticket since Alaska is not part of oneworld but they refunded her extra legroom seat and it was definitely worth it to her for the four hour flight as she’s tall and is much more comfortable in the larger seats, just like I am.

The early arrival meant we had a lot of time to kill at SFO and we even kicked around the idea of going out to a movie but ultimately decided just to wander a bit, have a decent early dinner and get to the lounge as soon as was reasonable. This was our first time connecting to an international flight at SFO and we were disappointed to learn we’d have to re-clear security. At least the line was far less crowded than it was two years earlier when I was departing on my China trip. Since we didn’t have to wait for the Qantas counter to open so we could check our bag, we weren’t in the security line with dozens of others at the same time.

Qantas flyers can use both the Air France/KLM lounge and the Cathay Pacific lounge. We spent a little time in each and, perhaps due to the times their flights depart, the Cathay lounge was a lot less crowded.

Qantas B747-400
(image courtesy qantas.com)

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Categories: Flight Review, OneWorld, Qantas | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Each year my friends and I try to take a two week vacation in the fall. We have a system that whoever had the birthday ending in 5 or 0 that year gets to pick the location. That’s served us well and covers 6 years out of any decade. This year the birthday girl decided on spending most of our time exploring New Zealand with a few days on the end on the beaches of Australia.

That decision was made late in 2018 so our first task was finding business class award space on the longhaul segments for two of us (one doesn’t mind flying coach). We were fine buying our positioning flights as long as we could lock in business class for those 14 hour flights!

I was looking for award space on American, Qantas and United as well as keeping an eye out for space on Air New Zealand. I knew that American was pretty stingy on longhaul award space in premium cabins but they look positively generous compared to what Air New Zealand typically opens up. As luck would have it I found three business class award seats from Brisbane (near the Australian beaches we wanted to visit) back to Los Angeles for the last Wednesday in October. That was perfect so we snagged those even though we didn’t have our outbound tickets yet. I used my miles for the birthday girl’s return ticket which cost 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $81.83 for each ticket. However, thanks to my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard I get a rebate of up to 10,000 miles each year so the net cost was 150K miles. I considered using 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per ticket instead but our friend who lives in Chicago was using her AA miles to get one of the tickets and I know that sometimes Alaska has access to one less award ticket than oneworld alliance airlines and I just wanted to make things easier by having the two of us on a single PNR. I bought a United domestic flight from LA to Denver to Memphis for my return flight and my Chicago friend bought a United ticket home as well. However, when United made the fall schedule adjustments, I would land in Denver too late to catch the afternoon flight back to Memphis so they re-routed me through Chicago. While I was stuck on a one-cabin plane for the Chicago-Memphis leg, at least I got to fly back with my friend as far as Chicago.

After buying the return flights we sweated for a couple of weeks until Qantas opened up two business class seats on their 747 from San Francisco to Sydney. The seats were available two weeks and one day before the return flight. That couldn’t have worked out any better for us. My friend from Chicago and I were even able to include positioning flights with the cost of our tickets: 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $28.20 in fees

Long haul flights: the green line indicates my outbound flight while the blue is my return flight.

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Categories: Award Travel, Hilton, Hotel, IHG, New Zealand, Oceania, OneWorld, Other Hotels, Qantas | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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