We received an interesting reader submission from Betsy, who wants to travel to Fiji sometime during the Fijian summer, lasting from December to March. It’s a bucket list trip for her, and I’m sure it’s on many other people’s lists, too! I was fortunate enough to spend just a few hours in Fiji in July on my way to Auckland, and I know it’s a place I’d like to return to someday return to someday.
Today, we’ll show you how you can get to Fiji on the cheap using miles and points, and as a bonus, we’ll show you a way to continue your journey on elsewhere in the Pacific or to Australia or New Zealand without shelling out any extra miles!
Off The Beaten Path
Getting to Fiji from the United States is difficult, perhaps even more-so than you’d expect! Even though I was on the flight a few months ago, I was unaware that I had boarded the only direct commercial flight from the mainland United States to Fiji when I found my seat on a Fiji Airways flight departing Los Angeles. Sure enough, though, only one carrier offers direct service from the US to Fiji – Fiji Airways – and from only two locations: Los Angeles and Honolulu.
There are other ways to get there, of course: you could fly to Hong Kong or Auckland and then double back to Fiji from there. However, these routes add many hours of additional flight time and compound costs both in miles and time. The good news is, I can’t see why anyone would try to avoid the direct route, especially when traveling in Business Class.
Fiji Airways – A Primer
Fiji Airways operates the largest aircraft in its fleet – the Airbus A330-200 – on its routes to US destinations. Fiji operates a two-cabin service, with 24 Business Class seats in a 2x2x2 configuration up front and 249 Economy seats behind in a 2x4x2 layout.
Though these flights came early in Project Pacific Circle, they were among the highlights of the trip. Fiji Airways’ Business Class cabin is absolutely gorgeous. Service was impeccable, the food tasty, the seat-back entertainment up to snuff, and the list goes on. I consider it a world-class flying experience, despite the fact that the seats don’t lie flat, but angled. Each of the reviews linked to above can show you much more about what makes Fiji Airways special.
Flying Fiji With Miles!
Fiji Airways doesn’t participate in any of the major airline alliances, but thankfully, they partner with three programs that can be of use for miles-and-points travelers.
American Airlines – AAdvantage
Fiji and American’s partnership is the one that makes this route accessible to the greatest number of people. AAdvantage miles are fairly easy to earn, between flights on American and partners, the fleet of personal and business AAdvantage-branded credit cards offered by Citi, the AAdvantage Dining Program and the AAdvantage eShopping Portal.
It’s possible to fly on American from your origin point to either Los Angeles or Honolulu prior to continuing passage on Fiji Airways without parting with any additional miles. That opens this itinerary up to those residing just about anywhere in the US.
Economy seats can be booked for 37,500 miles each way. Business Class redemptions are available at 62,500 miles. Fiji Airways doesn’t offer First Class seats, so the 72,500 mile redemption option for those wouldn’t normally apply here. Business Class tickets grant you access to American First Class on two-cabin connecting flights, as well.
For example, I flew in American’s Domestic First Class from Orlando to Los Angeles before connecting to Fiji Airways Business Class to Nadi, Fiji earlier this year. On the few routes where American offers three-class domestic seating, such as some New York to Los Angeles flights, you’re entitled to a Business Class seat on a Business Class redemption instead.
Unfortunately, American does not allow for stopovers, so if you’d like to visit Hawaii on your way to Fiji or someplace else in the Pacific afterwards, you’d need to book two separate award flights.
However, there’s a small exception to this rule: if you’re traveling on to a destination like New Zealand or Australia, it’s possible to use Fiji Airways to get there. Some Fiji flights leaving Los Angeles don’t arrive in Nadi until late in the evening, meaning connections aren’t possible until the next morning. You must take the next connecting flight onwards or your award will be priced as two separate award tickets, but this can buy you an overnight stop in Fiji before heading onwards.
This is precisely what I did in July: I flew from Orlando to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Nadi on day one of the trip, then took the first Fiji Airways flight on to Auckland from Nadi the next morning, allowing me a quick stay at the Tokatoka Resort near Nadi Airport.
Should you want to stop in Fiji for a longer period of time and then head elsewhere in the Pacific using American miles, award flights to elsewhere in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand come in at 20,000 miles in Economy and 30,000 miles in Business Class. Flights back to the US from any of these destinations cost the same 37,500/62,500/72,500 miles per person as they did on the way out.
Alaska Airlines – Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines is another partner of Fiji Airways. The cost in miles differs for awards originating in Honolulu or Los Angeles. HNL redemptions cost 37,500 miles in Economy or 45,000 miles in Business Class. LAX redemptions cost 40,000 or 55,000 miles each way.
If your journey isn’t starting in LA or Honolulu, you may connect to these flights via any route on Alaska Airlines. Unfortunately, only Alaska-operated flights can serve as connections; flights on American, Delta or other partners aren’t allowed, as only one partner airline can be used per award redemption.
Thankfully, Alaska offers service to many destinations across the country, including Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and many cities up the Eastern seaboard. This will likely mean a connection in Seattle if you’re coming from the East Coast, but the extra flights will only set you back a couple bucks in taxes, with no extra miles necessary.
Not only are redemption rates lower in Business Class using Alaska miles than on American, but it’s possible to build in a stopover even on one-way redemptions no matter what class of service you fly! That’s tremendous news if you’d like to spend longer than I did in Fiji and head on later to another destination in the Pacific.
For example, Orlando to Los Angeles to Nadi to Auckland costs 62,500 miles in Business Class with American if you hop between each segment as quickly as possible. If you spend some time in Fiji before heading on to Auckland, your price would jump to 82,500 miles. With Alaska, just 55,000 miles would be necessary, no matter how long you’d like to spend in Fiji on the way to New Zealand.
Alaska miles are, regrettably, more difficult to accrue than AAdvantage miles. Bank Of America offers an Alaska Airlines credit card with a modest sign-up bonus and earnings potential, but your best consistent earnings tool for Alaska miles is actually the SPG American Express.
As we discussed in our last post, SPG’s Starpoints are incredibly valuable because they can transfer to so many airline programs at a 1:1 rate and because every 20,000 points transferred at the same time earn a bonus of 5,000 miles. That means 40,000 Starpoints can become 50,000 Alaska miles, or nearly enough for a one-way Business Class ticket to Fiji or onwards.
Alaska miles can also be purchased directly from Alaska Airlines. Unlike most frequent flyer programs, there’s no limit to how many miles you can purchase annually from Alaska. The airline often offers purchase bonuses of up to 40%; there’s one such promotion going on now through mid-October, as an example. When a 40% bonus is available, buying the 55,000 miles necessary for a one-way Business Class award from scratch would cost $1,100.
That’s a lot of money, but still a tremendous value in comparison to the cash cost. Flights from the US East Coast to Los Angeles in domestic First, then onwards to Fiji in Fiji Business Class for a stopover before continuing on to Auckland were competitively priced around $5,500 in our checks. That means even buying miles from scratch can save nearly $4,400 per person each way on this itinerary, or allow you to fly in Business Class for less than the price of an Economy ticket! This is a trick we’ll absolutely have in mind for future travel.
Cathay Pacific – Asia Miles
One last partner of Fiji Airways to be aware of is Cathay Pacific. Their Asia Miles program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, making redemptions accessible to those in the US with points-earning cards. However, their distance-based redemptions aren’t kind to such a long journey. For simply the flight from Los Angeles to Nadi, 40,000 miles are required in Economy and 70,000 in Business Class.
These awards do not allow for a connecting carrier to be used, unless the carrier is Cathay Pacific. As such, this option will be most useful to those trying to reach Fiji from elsewhere in Asia or the Pacific as part of a broader itinerary. Using Asia Miles for Fiji Airways travel is an option to keep in mind, but not a great choice for the typical US traveler.
Finding Fiji Award Space
Sometimes, miles and points travel isn’t as easy as it should be. Fiji Airways flights will not show up when searching on American, Alaska or Cathay Pacific’s websites. That means you’ll need to call the program you’re using in order to book your travel. There’s one partner that reliably shows award space for Fiji Airways, and that’s Qantas, the Australian airline. You may search for flights from Los Angeles to Nadi on Qantas’s site and any award availability shown there will also be available to American, Alaska and Cathay Pacific’s members for booking.
While having to use Qantas’s website and call in to book Fiji Airways awards is a pain, it’s also the reason why award availability on these routes tends to be more open than, say, flights on Qantas to Australia that can be booked on American’s website. Most frequent flyers don’t even know Fiji Airways is a possibility and assume there’s no availability when American’s search tool doesn’t pull up any seats. That means more seats are left for the savvy traveler! For example, this sample of dates in late February and early March offers many possibilities. Blue seat icons represent Economy availability, while Grey icons represent open Business Class seats:
Fiji Airways also tends to open a fair amount of seats to partners just a couple weeks prior to departure, making them a good choice for last-minute getaways.
It seems almost quaint that in our modern age, there are so few options to go from the United States to Fiji. Facing a bottleneck of just one carrier, we’d often find ourselves hard-pressed to use miles or points.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with Fiji. Whether you book using American, Alaska or Cathay Pacific mileage, and whether you earn those points directly or transfer them in via a program like SPG or Membership Rewards, there are a variety of ways to earn and book tickets on one of the world’s best Business Class services to one of the world’s most exotic respites. Best of all, by using miles and points effectively, you can easily save nearly $10,000 per person on this trip, or make a luxury Business Class getaway possible for less than what others pay for an Economy seat!