Qantas

Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

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

It was time for our flight back to the US. As I mentioned in the intro to this trip report, this was the leg I booked first, simply because we found 3 business class tickets on the same flight. And I got to give the birthday girl the present of a business class flight when she usually chooses to fly economy.

Our bird for this flight

Qantas 15 BNE-LAX
Boeing 787-9
Seat: 7A (Business Class, Window)
Scheduled Departure: 1010 (Actual: 1019)
Scheduled Arrival: 0545 (Actual: 0535)
Scheduled Duration: 12h 50m

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Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, 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

We arrived into Sydney about 0620 and followed the signs for transit security. It seemed a little strange that we had to go through that again when we’d never left a sterile area. I thought perhaps I could bring the water bottle given to us on the plane but, nope, that had to go into the recycle bin. The vast majority of passengers on our flight were not transiting and the line was quite short so it didn’t take long at all to clear it. That completed we took the escalator up to the main floor of the airport.

From there we took a second escalator up to the next level where we passed by the Qantas First Class lounge and entered the Qantas Business Class Lounge.

We were greeted warmly and efficiently. At that early hour the lounge was quite empty which was nice after being on a plane with a lot of people for 14 hours! We were also fortunate that it was a sunny day and we had nice views outside. We could have taken an earlier flight to Auckland but our friend who was joining us from LA wouldn’t have been able to catch that flight, so we ended up with a 5+ hour layover in total. Our friend was arriving about two hours after us, so we probably spent about 2.5 hours in the lounge since she didn’t have access.

The lounge is quite large and stretches in both directions from the entrance. There’s loads of seating in many different forms. It was a bit surprising that not all seats had electrical outlets. I assume next time there’s a refresh that will be rectified.

Qantas Business Class Lounge Seating

Qantas Business Class Lounge Seating

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Categories: Airline Clubs, Australia, Oceania, OneWorld, Qantas | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Flight Review: Qantas A300-300 Sydney – Auckland

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

We finally arrived in Auckland on Qantas flight from Sydney. Normally I wouldn’t review a 3-hour trip but our A330-300 was in an international configuration with lie-flat seats so I thought I’d include a brief overview.

Qantas 145 SYD-AKL
Airbus A330-300
Seat: 4E (Business Class, Aisle, Center Section)
Scheduled Departure: 1135 (Actual: 1150)
Scheduled Arrival: 1640 (Actual: 1647)
Flight time: 3h 7m (Actual: 2h 57m)

We boarded through door 2L. We’d originally had two seats in the center section, but as on the previous leg, when my friend changed the first leg of her journey from an American flight to one with Alaska Airlines, her seat assignment was lost. Fortunately she was just across the aisle.

We were offered our choice of pre-departure beverage: champagne, still water or sparkling water. As I didn’t select it, I’m not sure if the champagne was the Duval-Leroy Brut or the Jacquart Brut Mosaique.

The cabin felt so fresh compared to the one we’d just flown on the 747, but that’s to be expected. I imagine the daylight helped the cabin to feel much airier as well.

QF145 A330-300 Business Class Cabin

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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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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

SPB Flying to/from Uluru

SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW

Our next stop was Uluru, the giant red rock practically in the center of the continent. I think many of us, myself included, forget how large the continent of Australia is and misjudge the distance between cities. For comparison purposes, the distance between Sydney and the Ayers Rock airports is almost exactly the same distance as between Washington Dulles and Amarillo, Texas – just over 1360 miles!

GC Map to Uluru

When doing our original trip planning, I was hoping to leave the US on a Friday or Saturday to minimize the amount of vacation time we’d take off but the availability of the DFW-SYD flight mid-week changed that plan. Now I’m glad it worked out that way because if we’d left the US on the weekend, we’d be flying to Uluru the following weekend and as I found out, Qantas doesn’t seem to release many (any?) award seats to Uluru on the weekends. We’d have been fine flying in economy but booking 11 months in advance the only award seats we found were in business class (equivalent to US domestic first class). Not only that but I only found two seats from Sydney and two from Melbourne. Fortunately there were plenty of SYD-MEL seats available. So my friends got to sleep in a bit while I got up for an early morning trip to Melbourne. We all met in Alice Springs at its cute little airport and took the last leg together.

I did stop in the Qantas lounges in Sydney and Melbourne and had a bite to eat. They were quite busy so I didn’t take any photos. But both offered hot and cold foods and had quite a large selection.

Since we were in business class we also had food on the plane so I didn’t have to worry about going hungry at all.

GC Map to Melbourne

On our flight back to Melbourne, there were only two business class seats available so one of my friends bit the bullet and paid cash for a ticket. Fortunately it wasn’t too expensive and for a relatively short flight she said it was fine.

So that’s how we got around the country. Next up, our visit to the Red Centre!

Categories: Australia, Oceania, Qantas | Tags: , | Leave a comment

SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney

SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW

The day finally arrived when I was on my way for this much-anticipated South Pacific birthday vacation. Since I had booked the DFW-SYD flight on a separate ticket, I booked my MEM-DFW flight to arrive well in advance so that if something should go wrong and the flight should get canceled, there was still another MEM-DFW flight that would get me to Dallas in time to catch my flight to Sydney. That meant I got to Dallas mid-afternoon and the Sydney flight didn’t leave until after 9 PM, but I was fine with that. I have a friend who works near the DFW airport and we went out for a light dinner at the normal dinner time though I didn’t want to overeat knowing I’d have a full mealĀ on board.

Qantas Lounge DFW

Once I got back to the airport, I decided to visit the Qantas lounge in Terminal D. It’s actually one of several small contract lounges located on the second floor of the terminal. To reach the club, enter the generic airline clubs entrance and take the dedicated elevator to the second floor. There the folks at the desk will point you to the correct lounge.

Qantas Lounge DFW Entrance

Entrance to airline clubs in DFW Terminal D

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A South Pacific Birthday Trip

SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW

 

I have a couple of friends I like to travel with and over the years we’ve all had a birthday that ends in a zero (with different leading digits!). Our tradition has become whoever has the “zero birthday” gets to pick the vacation spot and we try to do it up right. About two years ago I first got into the miles and points game and it wasn’t long before I set a goal of celebrating my next “zero birthday” in Australia and using miles and points to pay for as much of it as possible.

My dad, who’s a 2 million miler on American, offered to give me whatever AA points I needed to make my trip happen. That left me a goal of helping my friends accumulate the miles they’d need to fly Down Under too. Then, of course, there would be points needed for hotel rooms. Lofty goals but with two years to get things planned, we were able to accomplish it relatively cheaply – well, cheaply as compared to what it COULD have cost!

The itinerary

I had visited Australia before, in 2006, and was eager to go back. One of my friends had been there as well but the other had not. So I knew that meant I’d need to re-visit some of the iconic places but I also wanted to be sure to visit some places I’d never been. My prior trip had involved stops in Sydney and Cairns, which is up near the Great Barrier Reef. While I would have loved to have gone back to the GBR, there were other places I wanted to visit as well, and with a total trip length of two weeks, we just couldn’t squeeze everything in this time around. In the end we flew from the US to Sydney and stayed there four days. Next we flew to the Red Centre of the country and visited Uluru (Ayers Rock) for a couple of days. Then it was down south to Melbourne for a bit more than two days.

During our trip planning we had talked about stopping off somewhere a little more exotic on the way back, somewhere we could just enjoy the beach, the sun and the surf. Since we’d be using primarily American Airlines miles, I quickly realized that due to their routing rules we’d need to stay in Oceania for our beach time. That led us to look at Fiji as our final stop before heading back to the US.

My friends and I each make our homes in different cities in the US so here is how our trip worked out:

The various routings for our trip. Map made on gcmap.com

The various routings for our trip. Map made on gcmap.com

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Categories: American Airlines, Australia, Award Travel, Chase, Fiji, Fiji Air, Hilton, Hotel, Hyatt, Oceania, OneWorld, Qantas, Sapphire Preferred | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Citibank Adds Qantas As Transfer Partner

Like other credit card issuers, Citibank offers a card that earn a transferable points currency. I don’t yet have a card that earns Citi Thank You Points (TYPs). TYPs can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners on a 1-to-1 basis, except where noted:

  • Asia Miles (currency for Cathay Pacific and others)
  • EVA Air Infinity Mileage Lands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Air France Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hilton HHonors Worldwide (1:1.5)

All transfers are for a minimum of 1000 points and must be transferred in 1000-point increments.

Recently Qantas was added as a transfer partner, making Citi the first US card issuer to allow direct transfers to Qantas Frequent Flyer (QFF). Several bloggers have pointed out that it’s not particularly a great deal given that Qantas awards are distance-based and international flights will incur fuel surcharges.

What this transferability does offer is flexibility. Qantas is part of the oneworld alliance along with American Airlines, British Airways and others. Qantas (and BA) open their booking schedules approximately three weeks before American opens theirs. This, combined with how few premium cabin seats Qantas makes available, mean that award seats can be booked using QFF (or BA Avios) as soon as they’re released – leaving those with only AA miles to pick up the crumbs that are left.

The downside is that Qantas charges 168K QFF miles and BA charges 150K Avios each way in first class from North America to/from Australia. And both programs incur fuel surcharges of $390 each way to go along with the taxes and fees.

Short-haul flights using QFF miles are cheaper than the US legacy carriers at 8000 miles each way for flights of up to 600 miles but BA only charges 4500 Avios each way.

So would you ever want to transfer your Thank You Points to Qantas? Probably not, but it depends on your situation. If you’ve been saving up TYPs for a trip Down Under this will get you in the door more quickly though you’ll still have to shell out over $400 for first class flight. But it may be worth it to you to lock in a first class flight well in advance. Once the American Airlines calendar opens up, you could cancel your ticket bought with QFF miles and watch for the seat to go back into award inventory and then use your AA miles to pay for it. The question is: is the reward worth the risk of losing your first class seat? For me, the answer is no. I’d rather pay the $400 and lock in my flight than risk losing it. Since a first class ticket goes for $9600-$10,300 (depending on whether you depart from Los Angeles or Dallas) each way, it’s absolutely worth it to me to lock it in and not worry about the $400 – but as always, it’s your call.

HT: The Frequent Miler

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