Considering A New Caledonia Diversion…

Filed Under: Travel

A bit over a week ago I wrote about my first review trip of 2020, where I’ll be flying ANA’s new 777-300ER first & business class, Lufthansa A350 business class, and Delta’s new 777 business class.

I don’t know why I’m even considering doing this to myself, but…

The Part Of The Trip I’m Considering Changing

When I go on “pure” review trips I do what I can to review new products as efficiently as possible, even if it means I have a crazy schedule. I want to minimize my time away from home for these trips, so a Miami to New York to Tokyo to Munich to London to Tokyo to Minneapolis routing sounds pretty normal to me. 😉

There’s one area of this trip that doesn’t seem terribly efficient, and that’s the last portion, as I’ll be flying Delta’s new 777 business class from Tokyo to Minneapolis. The “issue” is that I’ll have two days in Tokyo due to award availability.

As much as I love Tokyo, I’m not sure a solo trip in early January is really going to be the most fun I’ve had in Tokyo, given the weather, and also given that I’m anti-social (I am looking forward to going to Osaka and Kyoto with Ford in the spring, though).

What Could I Book Instead?

My thought is that I could get some more interesting reviews out of this while returning home around the same time. There are several interesting award options.

ANA’s A380 Business Class

One option is that I see ANA A380 business class award availability from Tokyo to Honolulu. This is the only A380 out there that I haven’t flown, so I am tempted to do that. At the same time:

  • This would be my third ANA flight in days, and I’m sure it won’t be as good as ANA’s new 777 business class
  • I’m not sure what interesting reviews I could get on flights from Honolulu back home

Air New Zealand Business Class & More

The other option I’m looking at is to quickly go to New Zealand. Air New Zealand has some award availability from New Zealand to North America, and I could book that for just 62,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles one-way, which is an incredible value.

How would I get from Tokyo to New Zealand?

The option that intrigues me most is to fly Aircalin from Tokyo to Auckland via Noumea, and I could even spend just over 24 hours there. I’ve never been to New Caledonia, Aircalin is an Air France-KLM Flying Blue partner, and Aircalin has brand new A330-900neos.

There’s a Le Meridien in Noumea, though if I go to New Caledonia I’d much rather go to the Le Meridien Ile Des Pins, but that isn’t practical for such a short stay (since it requires taking an additional domestic flight). Still, a day in the New Caledonian sunshine sounds nicer to me than a wintery day in Tokyo, personally.

Alternatively, ANA has business class award availability to Australia on the 787-9, which would also be a new review for me. Then I could fly Qantas’ A330 business class to Auckland, which I haven’t flown before.

Bottom Line

I’m quite conflicted about which of these options to go with. Yesterday I shared the most read OMAAT reviews of 2019, so logically I’d say the Delta review would be the most widely useful. However:

  • Aircalin sure does intrigue me, as does a quick visit to New Caledonia
  • On the other hand, an ANA 787-9 review is probably more useful, even if it would be my third ANA segment of the trip
  • Either way, an Air New Zealand review might be useful

I feel like this trip was crazy enough to begin with, so I’m not sure why exactly I’m even considering this. 😉

Which of these options do you want me to book/review (or should I just keep my current Delta 777 return)?

Comments
  1. Ben,
    New Caledonia is beautiful. The Le Méridien in Noumea is excellent and we had a beautiful suite. Air Calin is nice. The airport is far from town but the shuttle service is excellent. Schedule time to see the Tjibaou Center designed by Renzo Piano. So worth it.

  2. Do Air Calin then Air New Zealand. not even a question. Friends of mine were in New Caledonia for 2 weeks last year and loved it – it’s totally French. Have fun.

  3. Is there no possibility of staying longer in New Caledonia? I’ve always thought the Isle des Pins looked amazing. I’ve visited Ouvéa (part of New Caledonia) and found that beautiful.

  4. AirCalin! You’ll have plenty of opportunity for Qantas and ANZ and ANA. But when would AirCalin be back on your horizon?

  5. Ditto to @the nice Paul. Save New Caledonia for a romantic getaway. I think some of the various options back from Hawaii could be useful, as lots of folks in the US look to go there and might want a comparison of the different options and airports to get there, especially from the East Coast. You could do a whole post about the different options to get there and a ranking of those options (I’m sure you’ve already reviewed plenty of the planes).

  6. I second Karan. The new DL BOM-JFK sounds more useful. I do like the Air Calin idea for the sake of reading it but I would find the BM-JFK route more practical given how many of us would probably end up on this flight sooner than NRT-NOU.

  7. I’ve never seen a review of Air NZ ex-AKL on OMAAT. Correct me if I’m wrong. This will be an excellent review opportunity for the Airline of Middle-Earth.

  8. My vote also goes to Air Calin and New Caledonia. I love reading your reviews about more “out there” airlines and less common destinations

  9. I just flew akl to Ord on air nz. It’s not great.

    Air nz does seem to be opening up a lot more availability recently though.

    Note that you can’t fly akl to Ord using virgin Atlantic points!! That route is not part of the deal they have. Avianca wasn’t showing it either.

  10. Wow Ben you haven’t finished the A380 F circuit yet? I finished it this year in November. Question for you.. if you were to guess how many people in the world has flown every A380 F product?

  11. I know that it probably wouldn’t be as useful as Air New Zealand, but there does seem to be some (although only on a few days in January) availability on Fiji Airways from Nadi to LAX on their new A350 (you could fly originating in Sydney or Auckland) for only 55K miles. I know the dates for Fiji Airways probably wouldn’t work out for you and you’re trying to make more useful reviews, but from an avgeek perspective, this definitely would be a more interesting review than Air New Zealand.

  12. I’d suggest a similar routing to Karan’s, ANA 787-9 to Mumbai from NRT and then to EWR on United / to JFK on Delta. United seems to have better award availability and upgrades from K to Polaris are only $700 (heck of a deal if you ask me).

  13. Hi from Germany 🙂
    I would definitely switch the LH A350 flight – it’s all still the same haha … nothing new – no need to review LH‘s business (as usual) seat again – the A350 doesn’t make the difference!
    Oh man …. I am flying LH C all the time and I wish they would finally get this new seat asap – Or rather get another seat because the seat the planned to get will be so outdated once roll out starts!
    Have a happy happy new year Ben!
    Reading your blog EVERY day!

    Stefan

  14. Agree with others save New Caledonia for a longer trip/with Ford/one of your parents and also you might as well do it once and do it right and stay at the further away IC

    My vote is to ANA QF and Air NZ as haven’t seen an air NZ review on here for a while

    But another even better alternative and it might be too crazy but you could fly from Tokyo to Perth on the ANA 787 and QF A330 to Singapore then 787-10 reg SQ back to Tokyo from SIN or do it the other way around which would get you back to Tokyo for your Delta flight which would be useful but also uses up that wasted time (the 2 days) flying new products and it is sunny and hot in Perth at the moment not cold and wintery like Tokyo or you could go SQ/ANA to Perth then QF/NZ to NZ could go QF A330 all the way to AKL or could go PER – AKL NZ on the 787-9 and then to the US, so many options!

  15. +1 for Air Cailin & New Caledonia!

    Esoteric reviews are what make this blog the most special imo. Plenty of reviews of the other products out there

  16. If you want to do something which includes less flying, you could also travel from NRT to VVO on S7. I think this would be the last Oneworld member you haven‘t reviewed, so far. If your Russian visa has expired, VVO is one of the destinations offering the new and quite cheap eVisa.

  17. NZ + New Caledonia all the way!!!!!!!!

    Do those A330 neos have individual air nozzles? How are their on board cappuccinos? We *need* to know and you’re our only hope

  18. @Lucky, I’ll probably read whichever trip review you end up writing. New Caledonia could be fun. If you end up in Hawaii, an interesting option might be the 12 hour domestic flight HNL-BOS.

    If you are in Tokyo around Jan 5-8, and if the owner of Sushi Zanmai chain ends up buying the first tuna at the first auction of 2020, you can see the tail (and eat the fish as sushi) at their head restaurant in Tsukiji. You would have to brave a long line and a loud, crowded restaurant, though.

  19. A Le Meridien in New Caledonia is not many’s idea of a romantic getaway lol. I vote for Air Calin, and wouldn’t recommend more than 24 hours there

  20. I did not love noumea. Did a status run earlier in 2019. I also stayed at Le Meridien. Nothing special at all. I think after enjoying Maldives and Bora Bora you will find it rather ordinary. I flew QF (Mel to Bne to noumea).

  21. As much as I’d love to see an Aircalin review, I think it’d be best to save it for a future trip. That way you could potentially review both Le Meridien properties and enjoy New Caledonia more. I’m for NH & NZ J.

  22. Ben – Wife and I went to the Noumea Le Meridien and Ile Des Pins Le Meridien back in 2013 on our 70 day around the world trip.
    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1490232-trip-million-lifetimes-30-f-j-flights-around-world-69-days.html (See installments #39, #40, and #41)

    Noumea is pretty interesting in that it literally feels like you are in France except you are in the South Pacific. The Le Meridien was fine but nothing special. The island Noumea is on has some amazing exploration to be had – Noumea itself feels like a smaller size French city.

    Ile Des Pins was magical. Truly special. But requires a lot of travel to get there – definitley not somewhere you want to spend only one night.

    Happy to take questions/reflections.

  23. I definitely would not be recommending Noumea for one day! In fact I wouldn’t recommend it at all but that is beside the point. The city is quite a way from the airport on a poor and windy road which is fine if you are there for a while but not out and back in 24 hours. Lots of Aussies use it a status run but its hard going even with added Status involved. Le Meridien is old and very dated & expensive. Plus of course it is Australian/NZ main summer school holidays so everything is stretched to the gills. If do want to visit, wait till you can go to Ile des pins but honestly, New Caledonia is in the sounds better than it is destination category as is Air Cailin!

    You also have to remember that January in Australia & New Zealand is the equivalent of August in the northern hemisphere ie peak domestic travel time, so I’d think carefully about your decision as it may make Tokyo look more attractive which would in fact be my choice. Sydney is warmer than Auckland but both are in summer so either would be a welcome relief from Winter for you. I’m flying the QF A330 J to Auckland in two weeks, just hoping they don’t change the aircraft to the crap 737 they mostly have on that route.

    Look forward to hearing your decision but sounds like there is some demand for QF & NZ reviews!!

  24. (1) I like the idea of saving New Caledonia (and associated AirCalin flights) and a visit to Ile des Pins with Ford.

    (2) I also like Karan’s suggestion of travelling west around the world which is much easier on the body (and I say that as someone who has made 4 trips around the world — 3 of them going East).

    (3) I liked your suggestion of flying to HNL — but then I was thinking you could fly Air Tahiti Nui from there which sounded suitably exotic — although I have no idea if there is availability.

    (4) Tokyo is actually not bad in January. I was there for a week in January 2007 and my recollection is that it was in the 40s and sunny. Not as warm as Miami but for us New Yorkers — perfectly fine.

  25. Literally never heard of New Caledonia until you posted about it. I swear there’s an infinite amount of places on this earth that would take many lifetimes to visit…..

  26. The main value of the ANA A380 would be reviewing the lounge they’ve built for it in HNL with direct boarding, IMO. So an NRT-HNL direction flight would be somewhat less interesting, as well as being a pretty short overnight flight with presumably limited service.

  27. I did 24 hours in New Caledonia in 2014 (it was initially a purely practical way of getting from PPT-SYD without paying TN prices) and while it’s clearly not enough time, with a rental car I was surprised how much of the main island I was able to see. I will go back at some point though

  28. If you go to Noumea, do this.

    Stay at Le Meridien, and have lunch at Le Fare, their beachfront restaurant.

    Use the beach and pool in the morning.

    After lunch, get a taxi to take you up to the Geant supermarket fifteen minutes away and get the driver to wait while you buy French stuff. The route to the supermarket takes you past lovely beachside walking tracks. This supermarket – but not the others – is twenty years ahead of anything in North Anerica.

    On the way there or back, get the driver to take you up Ouen Toro Hill far above Le Meridien to admire the view.

    In the evening, walk down the beach at Le Meridien, past the former Club Med, until you reach a dilapidated staircase up to the street. Then stroll five minutes to Le Bilboquet brewery for dinner.

    Noumea is a bustling, working city, and not very attractive downtown, but if you restrict yourself to Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons you experience a gorgeous tropical beachside town.

    It’s like St Tropez sixty years ago in the Brigitte Bardot days!

  29. Good advice from @DavidF and others who advocate a visit.

    New Caledonia, is Pacific attitude with European infrastructure. Noumea is not that special, but worth visiting. Unless you do a flop and drop holiday or sun and surf, 24 hours is enough to see main tourist sites, which others have identified. Avoiding Australian school holidays is advised.

    Le Meridien is the best offering, and is nice enough, but not outstanding, except for the friendly staff and a quite good french restaurant. Book a Voyageur Suite to get a room in the better wing overlooking the pool, and aim for the 3rd (top floor?).

    The Airport is a loooong way from Noumea, and remember this island has a pacific attitude to time. Private transfers are expensive from memory.

    Air Cailin – I’ve only travelled in Economy from Sydney, but it’s nice enough for that short flight – worth reviewing Business as they have some interesting routes.

    We fell in love with the people and will be back with Ile Des Pins on our list.

    Just go!

  30. If you are just going to stay at the Le Meridien and not get out to see the island and especially IdPins…why bother?

  31. Taking all these flights just to review them is strating to sound ridiculous in the times of climate change….

  32. @Lucky would love a United 757 review HNL-EWR or HNL-ATL review on delta to compare long haul (9+ hour) domestic flights. Would be interesting to see your thoughts vs Tiffany’s Hawaiian long haul business class in terms of domestic experience. You said it yourself people are interested in these reviews as they fly these products much more. Last A380 operator and new product for you would be a plus.

  33. Re to S7 option: The eVisa for VVO does not seem to available to German citizens, I’m afraid. Only the ones to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad are.

  34. I would follow Karan’s advice and fly to BOM and then Delta One to JFK. While New Caledonia and Aircalin is an esoteric and interesting option, it would make more sense to do a detailed review and bring Ford along, rather than only spending one day on the island. Either way, I look forward to reading about what you picked.

    Travel Safe and Happy New Year!

  35. I’ll never get enough of Japan but By ALL means, go to New Caledonia: a fabulous, much underrated (=not many people have heard of it) destination.
    A brief look will make you want to come back with Ford and have a real holiday!
    AirCalin deserves some attention too!

  36. Surprised that everyone seems to be raving about a pretty dated Meridien and no one seems to know about a brand new Ramada in Noumea. Anyone been there lately?

  37. @Julian,

    We just flew home on Fiji’s A350 in business and it was nice, typical super diamond seat with not enough leg space, decent food, good Fiji time service. That said, it’s just another Super Diamond seat… I think the ANA A380 is more interesting.

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