Alternate Business Class Options to Australia using AA miles

Introduction:

So there are actually many options to get to Australia using AA miles. There are four airlines that AA partners with that has direct flights from US to the South Pacific region:

  1. Qantas (#1 choice)
  2. Hawaiian Airlines (#2 choice since can build in stopover in Hawaii)
  3. Air Pacific (#3 choice, see below)
  4. Air Tahiti Nui (#4 choice, see below)

In this post, I will be focusing on Hawaiian, Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific (now renamed Fiji Airways, even though the rest of the world, Kayak, AA customer service, etc is still calling them Air Pacific). I believe that there have been some recent updates to Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific that warrants another look at flying to Australia on AA miles. Also, getting business class seat on Qantas may be a challenge as others may have booked it 355 days in advanced using Avios, versus 330 days using AA miles.

Here is an exhaustive primer on all four options as of October 2012:

http://milevalue.com/how-to-get-to-australia-and-new-zealand-with-american-airlines-miles-part-1/

http://milevalue.com/how-to-get-to-australia-and-new-zealand-with-american-airlines-miles-part-2/

Ranking:

Here is my ranking for flights to/from Australia on AA miles (not counting the option of stopover in HNL)

  1. Air Pacific (#1 choice, see below)
  2. Air Tahiti Nui (#2 choice, see below)
  3. Hawaiian Airlines

So why would you want to book business class on these airlines when Qantas is much better? Well, availability may not be very good on Qantas, depending on time of year. It’s always nice to have a backup plan. I believe the first two options are pretty good and they don’t require you sit in a recliner type seat across the Pacific. The last option with Hawaiian would be good if you want to have an stopover at HNL as it is an AA gateway city.

Air Pacific:

So here is the post i discovered two months ago.

http://www.airlinereporter.com/2013/06/flying-business-class-on-fiji-airways-new-airbus-a330/

The article reviews Air Pacific’s new A330 with a angled lie-flat business class. I didn’t think much of it until I realized that i can route through Fiji to get to Australia and New Zealand. I went on Kayak to make sure that they were scheduling NAN-LAX with the new A330 and they were:

KAYAK Search Results

Before, there was no availability on AA.com in business class back from Australia to US on May 25th-2014. I called up AA and instantly got two seats on the date I want on the new business class on Air Pacific. My itinerary is SYD-NAN-LAX. I did not check availability for other dates, but I am hoping this is not common knowledge so there may be good availability.

According to http://www.ausbt.com.au/first-look-inside-air-pacific-s-new-fiji-airways-airbus-a330:

“The USA will see Fiji Airways A330 flight to Los Angeles on July 1st. The current schedule of four Boeing 747 flights a week to LAX will be replaced with a mix of A330 and Boeing 747 services offering extra frequencies until November, when the A330s will fully take over the route with daily service.”
Additional details about Air Pacific A330 service is on the link above.

From the article, they will also be flying the A330 to Australia so the entire flight to LAX would be angled lie-flat. Flight time of SYD-NAN is 3 hours and NAN-LAX is 10.5 hours, which is a great upgrade from a 13.5hr trip in coach on a direct flight from Qantas.

This is my #1 business class alternative as you spend the most amount of time in an Angled Lie-flat seat and its a shorter flight than with Air Tahiti Nui (#2 choice)

Air Tahiti Nui:

My second choice would be Air Tahiti Nui due to the number of connections (see below). They recently went through and removed first class, and put in a new angled lie-flat business class seats instead. They go from 24 business class seats to 32.

http://upgrd.com/matthew/air-tahiti-nui-removes-first-class-adds-new-business-class-seats.html

The unfortunate thing is that you would need to connect through Auckland, NZ and Tahiti, so it would be two stops to LAX. However, you would get to spend 13 hours in a lie flat (and 3 in coach), versus 13 hours in a coach seat on a direct flight from Qantas. Air Tahiti runs the A340 from Auckland all the way to LAX. The timing works better as well since you land at around 10am in LAX, so you have more connection options to fly back to the east coast.

KAYAK Search Results2

There seems to be decent availability in May 2014:

(Saturday, 5/10/14 didnt have any LAX-PPT availability)

(Sunday, 5/25/14 did have a pair of open seats back to LAX)

Departing Flights

SearchDeparting LAX on 05/11/14 12:00 AM for PPT
Returning on 05/26/14 12:00 AM
Flying TN on booking class I
Direct/Non-Stop Only
Flight Stops Depart Arrive Aircraft Frequency
Reliability
Available Classes
Description Code Seats
0 Connections
TN 1 0 LAX
05/11/14
3:30 PM
PPT
05/11/14
9:05 PM
343 Su,Th,Sa
NA / NA
Business – Award I 0


0 Connections
TN 83 0 LAX
05/11/14
11:59 PM
PPT
05/12/14
5:35 AM
343 Su
NA / NA
Business – Award I 2


Returning Flights

SearchDeparting LAX on 05/11/14 12:00 AM for PPT
Returning on 05/26/14 12:00 AM
Flying TN on booking class I
Direct/Non-Stop Only
Flight Stops Depart Arrive Aircraft Frequency
Reliability
Available Classes
Description Code Seats
0 Connections
TN 8 0 PPT
05/26/14
7:55 AM
LAX
05/26/14
7:05 PM
343 Su,M,T,Th,Sa
88% / 9m
Business – Award I 2


0 Connections
TN 102 0 PPT
05/26/14
11:50 PM
LAX
05/27/14
11:00 AM
343 M,W,Sa
89% / 11m
Business – Award I 0


Hawaiian Airlines

This would be my third option. It relies mostly on the availability of AA8 or AA102 (AA5 or AA123 on the outbound) in business, which can be scarce as its an angled lie-flat business class option on a 767 between HNL-DFW. The routing from SYD (based on availability on May 25th) would be SYD-BNE-HNL-DFW, but SYD-HNL-DFW exists. Availability on Hawaiian in business isn’t very good either in May 2014:

Reservations   Book Flights   Select Dates   AA.com

Unless you are desperate to get on a lie flat back home, this routing isn’t recommended. You are still going to spend about 10 hours in a coach seat, and then another 7.5 hours flying into Dallas. At least the 7.5 hours will be in an angled lie-flat. As it routes through Dallas, its not very convenient either unless you were in from the midwest or east coast.

Summary:

  1. Air Pacific offers a one stop angled lie-flat flight from SYD to LAX and availability seems to be good. Flight arrives at LAX at 1:30pm
  2. Air Tahiti offers a two stop angled lie-flat flight from SYD to LAX and availability is good. It also arrives at LAX at 10am so better US connections are possible.
  3. Hawaiian has a recliner type from SYD-HNL but you can take AA8 or 102, or AA5 or 123 to DFW as it is a lie-flat. It still doesn’t make up for the 9.5 hours on a recliner seat for the cost of business class.
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2 thoughts on “Alternate Business Class Options to Australia using AA miles

    • That is another option, but I believe that AA does not let you transit to another region to get to South Pacific without paying for two awards, US-Asia 2, and Asia 2 to South Pacific. That would require 90k one way, compared to 62.5k direct from US to South Pacific. Personally, I would recommend CX to HKG then connect down to Australia. Availability from EWR-HKG in business looks good.

      I have updated the post to reflect that I am analyzing a direct US to South Pacific region AA award flight, which only costs 62.5k AA miles one way.

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