Introduction: A Very Short Trip To Fiji

Filed Under: Fiji Airways, Hotels

While I take a lot of crazy trips, usually they’re structured that way by design. This trip was different, unfortunately.

As you guys know, my goal is to review as many new airlines in business class as possible. While flying airlines like Pakistan and Saudia in business class might not sound like the most desirable thing out there, I’ve really been enjoying trying new products, possibly more than flying the same great first class products over and over.

The planning for this trip started back in March, and the goal was to review both Fiji Airways and Air Tahiti Nui business class, given that they’re the two biggest Pacific island airlines I’ve never flown before, yet they’re both quite useful airlines for redeeming miles.

Booking the flights

Alaska Mileage Plan is a great frequent flyer program, and they have some very unique airline partners. One of those partners is Fiji Airways, where they have an intriguing redemption opportunity.

For 55,000 miles you can book Fiji Airways business class one-way between the US and Australia or New Zealand. The best part is that Alaska Mileage Plan allows stopovers on one-way award tickets, so this is a fantastic way to do a stopover in Fiji enroute to another destination.


I managed to find availability on dates that worked for me, both from Los Angeles to Nadi, and then a few days later from Nadi to Auckland. The outbound itinerary looked as follows:

08/13 FJ811 Los Angeles to Nadi departing 11:30PM arriving 5:50AM (+2 days)
08/18 FJ411 Nadi to Auckland departing 8:45AM arriving 11:45AM

Cost: 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles + $148.50 taxes/fees

Fiji-Airways-Business-Class-A330 - 57

Then for the return flight the goal was to fly Air Tahiti Nui business class. The timing of booking this trip was really pushed along due to American’s award chart devaluation in March. The cost of a one-way business class award between the US and South Pacific was increasing from 62,500 miles to 80,000 miles, so I wanted to book before that price increase kicked in.

As a result, I booked the following just a couple of days before American’s March 22 devaluation:

08/18 TN102 Auckland to Papeete departing 2:55PM arriving 9:45PM
08/18 TN102 Papeete to Los Angeles departing 11:45PM arriving 10:55AM

Cost: 67,500 American AAdvantage miles + $38.26 taxes/fees


In the end my routing looked as follows:


As you can see, in this instance I was doing a direct turn in Auckland. This trip was simply for review purposes and I’ve been to New Zealand before, so my new destination on this trip was Fiji, where I’d have three days. Then I’d just have a few hours in Auckland, between my Air Tahiti Nui flights.

Everything worked well on the outbound, though unfortunately just hours after getting to Fiji I received news that Ford’s stepfather suddenly passed away, so obviously I wanted to return to the US to be with him and his mom.

Fiji is probably one of the worst possible places you can be if you have an emergency and need to get back to the US, given that there’s one daily flight between Fiji and the US mainland. There was no award space, though fortunately paid business class tickets weren’t horribly priced. I managed to book the following in business class for ~$2,100, while a one-way economy ticket would have cost ~$1,400, so I thought business class was worth the premium:

08/15 FJ810 Nadi to Auckland departing 9:40PM arriving 1:25PM
08/15 AA22 Los Angeles to New York departing 3:30PM arriving 12:05AM (+1 day)

Unfortunately the Los Angeles to New York flight ended up being delayed by hours because American is incompetent, so I ended up being rerouted through Philadelphia and then to Providence, which was perhaps a blessing. Suffice to say it was a crazy few days of flying.

Booking the hotels

Based on everything I’ve heard about Fiji, the gorgeous parts of the country are the smaller islands, many of which have resorts. There are almost a dozen resorts in Denarau, which is about a 15 minute drive from the airport. I had heard it’s not the most picturesque part of Fiji, but in this instance it’s where I decided to stay, since I was in Fiji during the week and knew I’d be working most of the time anyway.

It’s also worth noting that some hotels on the smaller islands in Fiji are still closed after Cyclone Winston, which hit earlier this year and did some damage. For example, the Sheraton Tokoriki Island is closed until February 1, 2017.

Since I originally planned on a three night stay, I booked the Sheraton Denarau for the first night, and then the Westin Denarau (which is next door) for the next two nights. That way I could compare the two, since I was unclear about which was better prior to my stay.

Both are Category 4 SPG properties, and retail for 10,000 Starpoints per night. That was a better value than the ~$300 per night rates at the properties, I thought.

So while I spent a day at the Sheraton, unfortunately due to the emergency back in the US I never had the chance to stay at the Westin.

Sheraton-Fiji-Resort - 36

Bottom line

This trip didn’t end up being quite as enjoyable as I had hoped, but that’s life sometimes. While I didn’t have a chance to see much of Fiji, even on my short stay I enjoyed incredible Fijian hospitality. I’ve always said that Balinese people are the nicest that I’ve come across in my travels, though I think Fijians rank up there with them.

I’m also happy I had the chance to fly two longhaul segments on Fiji Airways, as it allowed me to get two good samples of their service. Overall I was impressed by Fiji Airways, despite their subpar hard product.

However, I guess I’ll have to fly Air Tahiti Nui sometime soon, as I didn’t have the chance this time around.

Stay tuned, I’ll have this trip report published over the coming week!

  1. Hoping Ford, his mom and you are all alright, but pretty sure you didn’t book TN102 all the way from Auckland – it only flies PPT to LAX.

    “08/18 TN102 Auckland to Papeete departing 2:55PM arriving 9:45PM
    08/18 TN102 Papeete to Los Angeles departing 11:45PM arriving 10:55AM”

  2. Did TN in biz a month ago PPT-LAX – not that exciting. The reclining seats that are angled are a real pain to try and sleep in. You keep sliding.. Food was ok, not spectacular. It was fine, unmemorable. There I just summed it up for you 🙂

  3. Would be great if you could do a post about how it works to change or redeposit your AA award and how you managed that decision process. Did you just lose the 62,500 miles? What about if it had been with a carrier where you don’t have elite status

  4. Can you mention if you did, or will be using any form of trip insurance for this trip? That would be a useful post for lots of us as it’s something that doesn’t come up often but is very helpful when needed.

  5. @ Alvin — Thanks for the kind wishes. Might be missing something, but TN102 seems to be the “direct” flight from Auckland to Los Angeles (via Papeete), and is what I had booked. Did something change, maybe?

  6. @ Stvr — In this case not a terribly exciting story. Since I’m Executive Platinum I could cancel the ticket for free (and get the miles and taxes redeposited), though if I weren’t Executive Platinum that would have cost me $150. That’s still totally worth it to save the miles and taxes.

  7. First of all, sorry for your loss, and I hope Ford and his mom are doing alright. That was great of you to be there for them in their time of need.

    To piggyback off of Stvr’s comment, I’d also be curious if the travel insurance on the credit card(s) you used to book these trips were able to defray some of the costs involved in rushing back home. Just a suggestion for a post once things settle down a bit.

  8. When you paid $2,100 for the one way ticket return did you accumulate any mileage or points ? What credit card did you use ?

  9. @ Justin H — I credited the miles to American AAdvantage, and even benefitted from the fact that AAdvantage is now revenue based, since it earned me a lot of miles. I used the Citi Prestige Card to earn triple points on the airfare purchase.

  10. @ MeanMeosh — That’s a great question, didn’t even think of looking into that, but I will. Not sure if this situation technically applies since it’s not someone I have a blood relation to, but I’ll look into it and report back.

  11. How far in advance did you book the Fijian flight? I want to take them in J with my family next year (is isn’t open yet) and it will be tricky with 4 of us. We will end up splitting up, I am sure.

    PS – Virtual hugs to Ford and my best to all of his family.

  12. You write that when you returned to the U.S. unexpectedly, you flew from Fiji to Auckland and then were scheduled from lax to Jfk. But didn’t you actually fly from Fiji to LAX, not Auckland?

  13. Lucky, trip insurance may apply in this case if you and Ford live together, especially since you are a couple. It usually has to be a blood relation of you or someone in your household, so it may count. However, keep in mind that they usually only pay for economy flights, so I don’t know if you’d be excluded altogether since you bought business class or if you’d just get reimbursed for the economy price. Each plan is different, but it’s certainly worth checking into.

  14. Sincerest condolences to you and Ford on the whole situation. Despite the tragic circumstances, it’s been good to keep up with the things through your updates. I am looking forward to the forthcoming trip reviews/reports.

  15. Sorry for the loss Ben and condolences to Ford! Regarding Air Tahiti Nui, I’d love to see you do a trip report in the future on them. Perhaps that time you could actually enjoy French Polynesia for a few days, maybe use the ambassador weekend certificate to stay at the Thalasso and check out Moorea. Had a great honeymoon there and would love to see a trip report from you on it.

  16. I’ve done Fiji Air LA-Nadi several times, and even though I will go to Nadi again (business) I won’t do so again on Fiji Air. Last time I got to the airport and they had no record of my reservation. Nightmare. Time before, I got to the airport and discovered the flight was cancelled — they never called. I had to go the next day.
    Going again in a few months and will take AA to Auckland and then Qantas to Nadi. Not even listed on AA website as an option, but it is.

    the dozen or so times I’ve been to Nadi I always stay at the Denarau Westin. Best choice.

  17. Sadly doesn’t seem that Fiji Airways redemptions in J are actually a remotely real option with Alaska miles anymore. There’s nothing between LAX/NAN or HNL/NAN through end of schedule (well, one or two random flights). RIP great redemption route…

  18. Hey Ben quick question. Did alaska stop showing the award flights for Fiji Airways business class because I searches award flights for Fiji airways between LAX and NAN and for each day I saw the main cabin ticket for 40k miles but there was no partner business class option for Fiji Airways. Jusr wondering where it went.

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