Is the Pacific the Next Big Thing in Miles and Points?

I centered my Ann Arbor Art Fair DO talk on the Pacific, leading with the Pacific according to FlyerTalk:

There’s a lot more between Hawaii and New Zealand than Tahiti. The miles and points community fixates on a few things: Paris, Maldives, first class (to Maldives) on Gulf carriers.

Even in the general travel world Micronesia has all but disappeared with the last dedicated guidebook published in 2003 and Lonely Planet dropping coverage after 2006, while scaling back South Pacific coverage to a few major destinations.

In my talk I got Drew of Travel is Free thinking with this FlyingBlue snapshot of last minute Aircalin Tokyo-Noumea, New Caledonia business class award availability. Look for him to publish something way cooler than I could imagine.

Aircalin NRT-NOU

I have been island hopping a lot the past few months, finding the region on the cusp of going mainstream beyond Australia/New Zealand package tourists. Fiji is the hub and I have been hearing more American accents than I expected. When One Mile at a Time heads that way this fall, coverage in our niche will increase.

I will be devoting a series of posts over the coming weeks on developments in the Pacific, such as:

  • Vastly improved, reliable airlines such as Fiji Airways, Aircalin and Nauru Airlines, in addition to the Australia/New Zealand carriers
  • Flexible mileage earn and redeem options
  • Better US flight options and codeshares that help ticketing beyond LAX (see, for instance recent fare deal on LA-Rarotonga, a weekly Air New Zealand flight that I just took in poor man’s economy – 3 across all to myself)
  • Increasing points hotel stock, and not just in Fiji (plus, Park Hyatt Auckland in 2018)

The Pacific has fewer general purpose, affordable beach options than the Caribbean. Indeed, I have been in the water rather few times on my trips. Many islands are very specialist appeal so picking wisely is key.

Noumea New Caledonia

Readers, what Pacific islands have you visited?

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  • Michael Miscisin

    We used AA miles to book DEN-AKL in business class. Fiji Airways had good availability. Planes and seats are new – angled lie flat. Food was good and quite spicy. Our crews seemed to have a pride about their jobs and even commented that flying on Fiji helped the local economy.

    There was a typhoon in Fiji and our flight was severely delayed out of LAX – they got our luggage and rebooked us that same night on Qantas via SYD – on an award ticket. We were very happy and surprised!

    While maybe not the first airline you’d think of or an innovator on hard and soft product, we thought it was solid with good service and would definitely fly them again!

  • Have you been to PNG?

  • Clare N

    A cruise out of Tahiti or Australia is a good way to sample a lot of Pacific islands without having to book many different different airfares or hotels. I’m signed up for one on the Norwegian Jewel which stops in Raitea, Bora Bora, Samoa, American Samoa, 2 stops in Fiji, Vanuatu, 2 stops in New Caledonia and end in Sydney. Also Holland America runs a number of cruises which visit some of the islands of French Polynesia, including the Marquesas. They are all reasonably priced if you are able to book your airfares on points.

  • Matt

    Have not yet dug into the Pacific beyond a bit of French Polynesia…but things like the Aircalin line (and award space as you mention) from Tokyo to Noumea have been tempting me as well – as have the options via Fiji. We’re currently considering Palau, Noumea/Isle des Pins, or some other further-flung Pacific destination for early 2017.

    And specialist appeal is great – after all we spent the bulk of our honeymoon on I think the only Caribbean island without a beach – and one I believe you had enjoyed as well – Saba. General-purpose beach destinations are overrated – I’d rather some degree of exceptionality, even if that includes other tradeoffs. If you want the beach you can hit it in-transit.

  • john

    This is interesting; thank you for writing. I just booked a mileage trip to micronesia and the samoas (finally). It used up way more miles than I expected and surprisingly there is a real dearth of information about these destinations (I have the old LP).
    So I am really looking forward to anything you can add about the pacific because I am planning to start exploring it.

  • @john – more than a decade old but get the Moon books and the Lonely Planet 2006, the later Lonely Planet editions are awful.

  • @RoamAmore – yes, to Port Moresby and Rabaul. Rabaul is cool. PNG is mega-expensive.

  • @Clare N – sounds like a great way to take in some excellent stops. With the airfare situation that is a great solution. Routes that should exist but don’t include Fiji to French Polynesia, so flying around is an expensive challenge. When you say Marquesas you have my attention because that is a Travelers Century Club destination that I am missing.

  • Dominik

    Haven’t been much to that region other than Hawaii and Easter Island. What are some of your favorite places in the region?

  • @Dominik – I will go through all of them in posts, for all-around islands with lots to do, Samoa and Tonga, my personal favorites are WWII sites including Guadalcanal and Peliliu, that later boosting Palau along with Rock Islands and Jellyfish Lake to my top.

  • john

    Glad to see this post. It is on my Radar for 2017 and between you and Drew, I am sure we all will have better information using miles and points.

  • Interesting option for this neglected part of the (miles/points) world. Wouldn’t have ever thought of Aircalin.