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.
(image courtesy qantas.com)