Along the way, I flew on some of the world’s best airlines and shared my thoughts on the ground and in the air. The cash cost for the airfare alone would have been well more than $17,000. Using miles and points, however, I knocked the cost down to around $500. Learn how to travel like I do with PointsAway: The Definitive Guide To Free Flights & Nights.
I made my way back to Nadi International for my first award ticket’s final flight. I thought about how far I’d already come on little more than AAdvantage miles – and in what style – and was blown away. A domestic First Class ticket, what I would’ve needed to go from Orlando to Los Angeles alone, would have been 25,000 miles. A seat in First on its new transcontinental A321T planes would go for 32,500 miles. Yet for 62,500 miles and about $135, I’d have traveled more than four times the distance of a transcontinental hike.
10 hours out from Los Angeles, with another 4 hours to go after spending a night in Fiji, the cash price of over $4,000 for the same flight was beginning to look not so outrageous given the distance and level of quality. If gas were $4 per gallon, I’d end up at 269 miles per gallon for this part of my trip, while the cash passenger was lucky to hit 9.
I strolled up to the Business Class check-in counter at Nadi and the agent began processing my ticket for the flight. She gave me an inquisitive look, one eyebrow raised: “You were Business Class from Los Angeles to here, too?” I answered in the affirmative, maybe a little eagerly and got an innocuous smirk that seemed to say, “Ain’t you fancy?” as she went about printing up my ticket. She directed me toward the lounge, located past customs and security in an area secluded enough to hold several snoring passengers sleeping through a layover on the nearby padded benches.
This was the Tabua Club, Fiji Airways’ own lounge, and not one shared with other carriers, as was the case in Los Angeles. This lounge was much nicer, with a fair array of food available for breakfast, WiFi speedy enough for a few VoIP calls to home and a nice view of the Fiji Airways hangar and tarmac.
I grabbed a bowl of cereal and a Coke – caffeine was welcome – and later followed it up with some toast with raspberry jam. To the side of the buffet were a pair of computers good for passengers not traveling with their own equipment:
Near the front was a bar area, stocked with reasonable but brand-name liquors and a variety of sodas and potential mixers.
The lounge also featured shower areas for passengers to freshen up between flights. Not all layovers are overnight; had I been continuing directly onto Auckland rather than stopping for the night in Nadi, I would have taken advantage of this for sure.
Soon enough, I made my way up to the terminal for the flight to come. I suspected, but was not certain, that I’d be on another A330-200, as I was for the previous day’s flight, meaning I’d once again get to enjoy its exquisite Business Class cabin. One of Fiji Airways’ 737s might have been a possibility, with a more limited Business Class, but sure enough, we’d be flying on their best equipment once more.
The previous night, I’d been in a window seat on the right side, a few rows back. Today, I’d be in 1A, the bulkhead seat to the very front-left of the cabin. The last time I’d flown in 1A was on an otherwise unmemorable flight from Denver to Orlando on Frontier. This would be quite a bit better.
Because the first row is against the bulkhead, the video screen is embedded into the wall ahead and the various forward compartments for storing things was gone, replaced by an unremarkable elastic pouch. Having the screen a bit farther away is a slight negative, but vastly overshadowed by the insane amount of leg room. At a shade over 6-feet tall, there was probably a solid foot between my fully outstretched legs and the bulkhead. While I certainly didn’t feel cramped before, the amount of room afforded by this seat felt downright unfair to those farther back on the plane.
An attendant offered me a Fiji water (of course) and an orange juice while Economy began to board.
Once again, some of the Bula Rice Snacks I’d enjoyed the day before were offered, though this time in a package instead of in a bowl:
A few minutes later, we began to taxi and I soon had my first real view of Nadi. I wish it had been possible to spend longer on the ground exploring, but the rules of my award ticket required me to press on. Still, the aerial tour on the way out was a nice compensation prize:
There were only five passengers in Business Class for this flight: a couple and their son, myself and another man traveling on his own. The couple’s son took turns in various seats around the cabin, enjoying the opportunity to have so much of the plane nearly to himself. I can’t blame him; I was, too!
As we began to level off, the attendant came by to inform us that lunch service would begin shortly. It was a bit early for lunch based on local time, but I didn’t gorge on breakfast in the lounge and it was already past dinner time at home, so I couldn’t complain.
The menu started with a salad, followed by either a chicken curry, grilled wahoo, roast lamb or chick pea curry.
The salad arrived first, along with a glass of the Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by the attendant.
The salad was good, but some of the greens were more exotic than I was willing to experiment with. I couldn’t recall seeing these vine-like greens used in a salad before, as yet another reminder that I was quite a distance from home. The wahoo was served shortly thereafter.
Tougher than the salmon from the night before, as would be expected, the wahoo had an even better taste to it and fell apart in layers nicely. The carrots and sweet potato concoction were both also yummy. After the main course, I was offered cheese and crackers as a dessert.
I liked both cheeses quite a bit more than the ones served on the previous flight and made quick work of them.
The seat was identical to the one I’d enjoyed the night before. I realized I forgot to take a picture of it fully deployed on my first flight, so I took the opportunity to do so now:
As you can see, it lies almost flat, but not quite. That might be a liability for picky sleepers like me, but it makes for an outstanding lounge chair when configured into its recliner setting. I flipped on the airshow to see how far out from Auckland we were:
After a bit of time working, I looked out the window and saw the first glimpses of New Zealand below the clouds:
By the time we began to see more substantial islands, there was zero doubt of where we were. This was exactly the New Zealand I’d expected and hoped to see from the skies.
As we came in for landing, I could track the silhouette of the plane across the cityscape and then the fields, growing ever larger until touchdown:
I saw one of Emirates’ giant A380s parked at a gate near ours; this plane makes stops in both Sydney and Auckland and provides a rare opportunity to catch an A380 on a short flight if you purchase a ticket between these two cities without continuing on to Dubai. I saw some of Emirates’ flight attendants making their way through immigration, underneath one of Auckland’s more welcoming entranceways:
I grabbed my bag, made my way through customs and a biosecurity check even more quickly than in Nadi, and found the row of Supershuttles. I hopped on and took off right away with three other passengers toward our destinations. Jucy Hotel was my next stop.
This was the final of three segments on the same American award ticket. For 62,500 miles and $135.70, I traveled First Class from Orlando to Los Angeles on American and on to Nadi with Fiji Airways in Business Class. The final segment came the following morning, from Nadi to Auckland again on Fiji Airways in Business Class.
The cost for Orlando to Los Angeles on American in First Class and Los Angeles to Fiji to Auckland route in Business Class on Fiji Airways would have been $4,076.25 had I paid with cash.