Trip Introduction: Fiji, French Polynesia and New Zealand via Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui Business Class.

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The islands of the South Pacific are among the hardest in the world to get to using frequent flier reward miles. With a remote physical location in the world, a lack of airlines serving this part of the world, and limited airline alliances that allow for connectivity to and from this area, it’s a challenging region to visit on miles and points. This story is how we set out to visit several islands in this corner of the world and used almost exclusively frequent flier points in international business class to get us there and back.


Trip Introduction: Fiji, French Polynesia and New Zealand via Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui Business Class.


Trip Background:

After several awesome Round the World and adventures to South East Asia, MrsWT73 had her sights set on going to Tahiti. I didn’t relish the fact that it was among the hardest of places to get to on points and miles. Add the fact that it is also quite an expensive destination and there has been good reason that we haven’t yet stopped by for a visit. Never deterred by a challenge, I started extensively researching the options.

Trip Planning and Organizing:

Airfares:

After some substantial research, I put together two award tickets on both Alaska Mileage Plan and AAdvantage. I figured it would be cheaper to use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan over AAdvantage for the Fiji Airways flights. Alaska Mileage Plan was offering a point savings of 27,500 points per person, get us to Fiji for a stopover, and onward to New Zealand.

Heading down, I located award space on Expert Flyer on Fiji Airways. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines was unable to book all seats showing as available on Fiji Airways and I had to locate a day with “4” expert flyer seats available (with Alaska only getting access to 2 of those business class seats). I booked these at about 6 months out and paid $250 in taxes and fees and 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per passenger. The flights with Alaska Mileage Plan included a free stopover in Fiji. I was able to find seats on their wide body aircraft; Airbus 330’s all the way through to Auckland. I wasn’t able to find Alaska Airlines connecting flights between Vancouver – Los Angeles (our overseas gateway) in First Class. I ended up booking the ticket Los Angeles – Nadi – Auckland to lock in the overseas portions in Business Class. I set seat alerts on Expert Flyer for the segments between Vancouver – Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines. Eventually, award seats opened up at about the 4 month mark. I called into change the tickets, which was handled promptly and without fees as it was more than 60 days before travel.

I had to pay for a revenue seat for travel within New Zealand between Auckland and the Marborough wine region. I was going to book Premium Economy between Auckland and Papeete but by the time I got around to booking the tickets about 4 months out, the fares had jumped considerably to the point that it was only a few hundred dollars away from business premier. Since the business class price point was three times an economy fare, and with Star Gold Status in hand, we just settled for economy for the 5 hours flight between New Zealand and French Polynesia. Thanks likely in part due to Air New Zealand’s Airpoints frequent flier program, the fare categories in the Tasman / Pacific Islands area booked into non earning Star Alliance frequent flier programs. We ended up with a Air New Zealand Sky Couch for our trip at no extra cost, and got the opportunity to test out this feature of their Boeing 777.

Coming back from the South Pacific to North America, I located awards space on Expert Flyer on Air Tahiti Nui. There were no problems finding business seats at the 6 month mark with two seats of availability almost every third day. I couldn’t find any American Airlines connecting business award space between Los Angeles and Vancouver. I booked the French Polynesia to USA legs of the trip. I again set Expert Flyer seat alerts between Los Angeles and Vancouver and at about the 3 month mark, 4 seats opened up on an American Airlines Compass Air non stop flight later that evening. I called in to get the tickets changed but it took several calls as the tickets would show as “on request” for about 6 weeks. These tickets cost $79 USD in taxes and fees and a steep 82,500 AAdvantage Miles per passenger.

Hotels:

When it came to planning the hotels, I had read that the outer islands were much nicer than the beach resorts on the main island of Fiji. We ended up at the Sheraton Tokoriki Resort which was almost brand new on an island in the Manumaca Islands. Thanks to an early morning departure from Nadi, Fiji, we also had a one night stop over at the Westin Denaru which appeared to be the best of the Marriott / Starwood options at the time.

With hotels in New Zealand, it was off season for wine tourism. We stayed at the very comfortable Marlborough Vintners Inn which was a lovely stay in the middle of Blenheim. We rented a car through Thrifty’s to get around to the various wineries and around northern New Zealand.

For booking hotels in French Polynesia, I was really surprised at how busy French Polynesia was. Most hotels were sold out of the cheaper advance purchase rates well over 4 months in advance and most of the over water villa options had quickly disappeared. We ended up paying for our hotels and earned a stack of points as there were several promotions running at the time of our visit and the redemption rates for a reward stay were astronomical. We started at the Le Meridien Tahiti on the main island of Tahiti for two nights, followed by four nights at the Sofitel Moorea La Ora. We then transferred to the classic and to the original home of over water villas Le Meridien Bora Bora for three nights, prior to our return trip home.

Although the trip didn’t feature the world best lounges or business class products, I hope you’ll join us on this trip to a remote part of the world.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Fiji, New Zealand and French Polynesia. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan and AAdvantage frequent flier programs and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Read More from This Trip


If you’ve gotten to French Polynesia, New Zealand or Fiji on Frequent Flier Programs, how did you maximize value in getting there ?

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