Pacific-bound!

The two regions of the world I put off until I had flexible time were West Africa and South Pacific. Last month I made a huge circuit of West Africa, today it is South Pacific time.

Several months ago I booked one of those ≈$400 ANA/United US Singapore/Bangkok fares. Though I booked it under different personal circumstances and was undecided to use it, I found a plan that works. I will pass through Singapore with a stop in Sumatra to see orangutans, then continue to Australia on AirAsia. Some of this brings back memories, such as Singapore Airport’s transit hotel still does not have live booking confirmation.

I had planned to also take in Indonesia’s Moluccos and West Papua, then I found Qantas release rare award space for Lord Howe Island so am diverting there. Lord Howe Island typically has one or less seats in either direction per month released to partners, a few more for its members, because Qantas has a monopoly and they get away with typically charging USD$1,000+ for the trip. 16,000 Citi ThankYou points transferred (overnight) to Qantas (no award holds) plus US$43 taxes/fees is the deal I have been searching for two years.

Air New Zealand is even worse with Norfolk Island. I have never seen a partner award seat on any Norfolk flights.  Getting points into their program is a Starwood transfer at terrible rate or credit flights. I don’t know their program or if members get seats on these flights.

Aircalin is hit or miss using Air France FlyingBlue. Lots of business availability for these short flights, not much economy close in.

Fiji Airways is an award bright spot if you don’t mind economy. Booking one week out, every flight except the cheapest had economy availability. None had business. I used American Airlines miles instead of Alaska Airlines, even though mileage price was higher. Alaska miles are more valuable to me and I am conserving them for a time I can better use their generous stopover rules. Tarawa and Tuvalu come to mind. It may be a challenge, though. Fiji seems to price tickets between Pacific islands that transit Fiji as separate tickets, which causes award trouble. It took some time for my same-day Tonga-Christmas Island via Fiji to price as a single 15,000-mile award instead of 30,000. The American rate desk sorted it out in the end.

Oh, and I could not get an American Airline award for Los Angeles – Las Vegas to finish the trip on the same ticket. A cash ticket on United was all of $44, while Delta and American were selling for $64 (or 30,000 American miles!).

Here’s the outline:

  • Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Lord Howe Island, Australia (via Sydney, my first time)
  • Norfolk Island, Australia (only Air New Zealand service, yeah, it’s a geopolitically quirky place)
  • Tonga
  • Christmas Island, Line Islands, Kiribati (you can do a 10-hour layover same-day turn, or stay a week and 10 hours)
  • Fiji
  • Wallis and Futuna (France)
  • New Caledonia (France)
  • Vanuatu

Readers, your suggestions and experiences welcome!

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  • Looks like it’s going to be another great trip! Looking forward to seeing your instagram posts 🙂

  • Andrew C

    I’ll second that, hopefully the internet access is decent – excited to check out some of these places vicariously!!

  • Obi Ongklungel

    I just want to warn you that FJ’s service to CXI is extremely sporadic – often delayed or cancelled. There have been people stuck there for up to a week because of either weather or mechanical issues. I haven’t seen a CXI flight operate normally in months. And FJ has ATROCIOUS IRROPS handling. Just have a backup plan.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Obi Ongklingel – thanks for the warning, I have heard plenty of stories about FJ, people stranded in Suva trying to get to Tuvalu, etc. I did not realize the CXI service was so fraught. Once in CXI there is not much of a backup plan except wait, since I am planning the same-day turn, if it is not looking good from Nadi I will bail on the outbound entirely and try again another time. I do have two nights in Fiji on the return as buffer but beyond that my plan would really get messed up. Any thoughts?

  • Shan non

    Rapid travel chai is at full speed again.

  • John

    How long will you be in Australia? I’m just back and have a Lebara unlimited IDD calls SIM card that expires at the end of the month. Can post to you in Singapore if logistically possible. Yours if you want it. Sadly, no more data left on the card and, a word of warning, Lebara uses the more spotty Vodafone mobile network.

    In Sydney, you have to do the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. Beautiful views at every turn. It is perhaps the best two-hour hike/walk I have taken in a very long time, anywhere in the world (although my definition of world is less expansive as yours!). Better time spent than crossing the Harbour Bridge or even walking around Circular Quay or the Opera House.

    Just took at look at Lord Howe Island. Not sure what the specific appeal is there, since there are so many nice islands in Australia. Hard to say one is better than another. I was pleasantly surprised by the service on my QantasLink flight recently. Note the checked luggage allowance of 14kg (presumably not an issue for ya).

    It sounds like your are tossing the return segment of your outbound ticket, and booking an American award from Fiji back to the mainland?

    How many miles/$$$ in total for your routing? and how much time spent planning/booking (which is always the hardest part)?

  • John

    Just noticed you already started your trip. Hope you have a great time.

    There seems to be decent (as in at least 1x per week) award space to Lord Howe from SYD or BNE in the coming weeks for two pax, if anyone wants to follow in Stefan’s footsteps.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John – yes, now with Citi as a Qantas transfer partner it is more feasible for us to book, note that shared Citi points from another Citi account cannot be transferred to airlines/hotels. Lord Howe Island is a Travelers Century Club destination, which I confess is what brings. A number of members with the highest counts rave about it. Going in I do not see what is the big draw so am looking forward to be surprised. From May 1 it is their off-season and hotel rates halve. I will give a longer reply to your earlier comment when off the bumpy Sumatra roads.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John – I appreciate the offer, as you subsequently noted I am on the road and wouldn’t catch up with it. T-Mobile will carry me to the Pacific Islands.

    I only have a morning in Sydney this time, I will see if I can squeeze in that walk at dawn.

    Qantas has me concerned about carry-on size. Last time in the county Virgin Australia did not care but a over-dedicated security line staff at BNE security weighed my backpack and wouldn’t let it through.

    Correct on tossing the return and an American award from Fiji.

    Several days if planning, a fait number of miles, more cash than I want. I will get a post together later.

  • John

    Couple days of planning is impressive for so many transfers, even with a super fast internet connection! It took me months to figure out my Australia trip, but then again it was 17 days, multiple cities, internal flights, a 10-day car rental, new accommodations on average every other night, and perhaps most relevant, the entire family.

    I have a bad habit of tossing plane tickets out, including Colombo this week, but sometimes the idea of going somewhere is good enough!

    I flew a Dash 400 recently. Don’t recall if the LDH flights are on the 300 or 400. Anyway, it’s 2-2 seating and pretty tight overhead space. It was big enough for a fully loaded rucksack but probably not for a rollerboard. I found the service to be pretty good overall on QantasLink.