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Airline advice/experience requests - USA to Australia/New Zealand

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    Airline advice/experience requests - USA to Australia/New Zealand

    We've bought our tickets for the 2023 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand and are now looking to purchase our flights. In 2019, we were able to use Southwest points to book flights to France via British Airways through American Airlines, but we can't do that this time. (Not sure if it's the locations or if Southwest discontinued the international sharing points program altogether.) We're planning to use Southwest points to get us from BWI to LAX, at least. We were able to get pairs of seats near the back of the plane in 2019, which was great for the long flights to not have me (the shorter one) stuck in the middle seat for so long. I was hoping to do the same for these much longer flights, but I'm running into trouble finding planes with coach/economy pairs, even in a premium economy class.

    My partner saw that Fiji Airlines can do a day-long (13 hours eastbound, 9 hours westbound) layover in Fiji AND they're the least expensive option, but I haven't known anyone to fly on that airline. I'm a bit concerned about how crowded the seat plan and cabin pictures look from what little information I've found, but none of it is recent - they could've made upgrades in the past few years.
    Is the airline good enough for the lower cost?
    Is a day in Fiji worth sitting against a stranger for 10 hours?
    What's their in-flight food like?
    Does the Nadi airport really make it as easy as they say to do the tourist layover?
    Is doing the layover and splitting the flights into 10/5 hours a better option than a direct 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney? My partner has done that direct before and hated it because Qantas didn't have WiFi in 2015 (do they now? it doesn't look like it).

    I've been looking at Delta, which looks nice, but is expensive - I don't think we could get enough Delta points from family members to make it worth it. American has pairs in Premium Economy, but that's getting as expensive as Delta. Hawaiian Airlines would add days to our trip on the way back because they don't fly on certain days of the week. Air New Zealand looks good but would be a bit different logistically, also how much more expensive are those Skycouches so you get all three seats? United might be able to give us those pairs of seats in Economy, but have they improved their service at all?

    We're probably going to be able to use Marriott points for hotels, but the flights between each city (Sydney, Auckland, Brisbane, Wellington) will add up in costs. Is Jetstar the least expensive option? It doesn't look that much cheaper than regular Qantas for the flights between the two countries. Is there another lower-cost airline?
    Are there expedited customs for foreign citizens when going between Australia and New Zealand or will we have to go through the regular ones? (Not the e-passport kiosks, but the bag inspection and person kind.)

    Thank you in advance for any advice (any other kinds of advice are welcome, too!). We are really excited!

    #2
    I have no experience with Fiji Airlines, but people seem generally happy with it.

    As for Jetstar, well, it's colloquially known as "One Star" locally. If you want to be sure of getting to a game, don't book it. If a flight gets cancelled for whatever reason, the replacement flight can be some days away. Air New Zealand and Qantas have more frequently scheduled flights, so they are able to get passengers on a replacement flight sooner. Trans Tasman flights are horrendously expensive at the moment, due to limited capacity, which may improve a bit by mid 2023.

    Regarding the Skycouches, I saw this article recently which compared Air NZ premium economy and Skycouch offerings, complete with value assessment.


    Customs - there are no expedited customs for anyone, unless you happen to be a particular sort of VIP. Some airports are better than others. Sydney is pretty awful, but Wellington can be very fast because it's a small airport with few international flights. In both Australia and New Zealand, pay very close attention to the biosecurity regulations and make sure you don't have any prohibited food items in your luggage.
    A30 in original halcyon/wasabi. Side Kick in verde/northwest sky and cloud/viridian, Pop Tote in Mars Red and Nebulous Grey, Travel Cubelet in Mars Red, Viridian and Grass, A30 packing cube backpack in northwest sky, large travel tray in sitka, packing cubes, pouches and cubelets

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      #3
      Just to add a little bit more. it may also be worth looking at Air Tahiti Nui for the flights to/from LA, and Rex for internal flights within Australia.
      A30 in original halcyon/wasabi. Side Kick in verde/northwest sky and cloud/viridian, Pop Tote in Mars Red and Nebulous Grey, Travel Cubelet in Mars Red, Viridian and Grass, A30 packing cube backpack in northwest sky, large travel tray in sitka, packing cubes, pouches and cubelets

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Denises View Post
        As for Jetstar, well, it's colloquially known as "One Star" locally. If you want to be sure of getting to a game, don't book it. If a flight gets cancelled for whatever reason, the replacement flight can be some days away. Air New Zealand and Qantas have more frequently scheduled flights, so they are able to get passengers on a replacement flight sooner. Trans Tasman flights are horrendously expensive at the moment, due to limited capacity, which may improve a bit by mid 2023.
        Yikes! We have some pretty tight travel times with going to games on consecutive days in the two countries, so that would be absolutely awful. I did think it looked a bit sparse with the scheduled flights, but hope they'll add some more with the number of people who will be going to many games.
        I know it's winter - do people travel to the more northern holiday spots which might lead to more flights? Or is that just a summer thing? (Some airlines in the USA will add a few more flights to tropical/resort-beach-type places from northern cities in the winter. Or at least they used to - so many fewer flights now.)

        I wasn't sure if there was some customs arrangement like a few USA/Canada crossings have, but it makes sense that intercontinental ones wouldn't be modified at all.

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          #5
          Originally posted by Denises View Post
          Just to add a little bit more. it may also be worth looking at Air Tahiti Nui for the flights to/from LA, and Rex for internal flights within Australia.
          Air Tahiti Nui looks good but unfortunately doesn't have flights on the travel days we would need for the return (preferably Monday, but possibly Tuesday if it would get us back to LA late at night to make the 6am direct back east). We want to book a round-trip because it's a long international trip and that works much better with customs!
          We are still deciding between Sydney or Auckland for that round-trip - either way, we'll need an additional flight to get to one of the cities on either end.
          We actually only have two intra-Australian flights - Sydney to Brisbane and back again - but Rex looks good for those. (Games will be Auckland, Auckland, Sydney, Sydney, Wellington, Brisbane, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Sydney - unless the USA does horribly and we want to see other quarterfinals. I'm still advocating for going earlier to see Ireland/Nigeria in Brisbane, but that's pushing my partner's work schedule too far.)

          Thank you so much!

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by marbenais View Post

            I know it's winter - do people travel to the more northern holiday spots which might lead to more flights? Or is that just a summer thing? (Some airlines in the USA will add a few more flights to tropical/resort-beach-type places from northern cities in the winter. Or at least they used to - so many fewer flights now.)
            There are a couple of standard travel trends that happen in winter. People do head north to Queensland for warmer weather. This can be the Sunshine Coast just north of Brisbane, but also much further north around Townsville and Cairns. The other is that it's ski season and many people fly to Queenstown in New Zealand's South Island, so there are extra services for that. In fact Virgin only flies into Queenstown now, whereas before Covid, they also offered services to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

            A30 in original halcyon/wasabi. Side Kick in verde/northwest sky and cloud/viridian, Pop Tote in Mars Red and Nebulous Grey, Travel Cubelet in Mars Red, Viridian and Grass, A30 packing cube backpack in northwest sky, large travel tray in sitka, packing cubes, pouches and cubelets

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by marbenais View Post
              We actually only have two intra-Australian flights - Sydney to Brisbane and back again - but Rex looks good for those.
              Definitely check and double check the weight and dimension restrictions for REX baggage. I'm Australian, and staff on regional airlines are vigilant about checking baggage, regardless of the plane size. All airlines will check to some degree, but regional staff will ask you to use their sizer, whereas Qantas/Virgin, for example, checks the weight and not necessarily very strict on size (within reason).

              Regarding extra flights, I would strongly suggest the airline schedule is fixed already and no more flights will be added. There has been a huge shortage of airport staff, and widely reported in our local news of cancelled flights domestically over the past 6 months. Many domestic flights are triple the normal price due to this issue.


              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by bijoux View Post

                Definitely check and double check the weight and dimension restrictions for REX baggage. I'm Australian, and staff on regional airlines are vigilant about checking baggage, regardless of the plane size. All airlines will check to some degree, but regional staff will ask you to use their sizer, whereas Qantas/Virgin, for example, checks the weight and not necessarily very strict on size (within reason).

                Regarding extra flights, I would strongly suggest the airline schedule is fixed already and no more flights will be added. There has been a huge shortage of airport staff, and widely reported in our local news of cancelled flights domestically over the past 6 months. Many domestic flights are triple the normal price due to this issue.

                My partner will likely be checking her big suitcase and carrying on her regular daily backpack (or an equivalently-sized one), and I'm not sure which bags I'll be bringing, but I'll suggest that we get one of those weight-measure-pulls to bring with us to make sure we fit in those restrictions - it's usually more about the dimensions than the weight, here.
                I've been able to use my Synik 30 as the personal/under-seat item and then the Aeronaut 45 as the overhead bin item for long, multi-city trips here in the USA, but Southwest is pretty generous about letting you try to shove a bag in unless you're in the C (last) boarding group (with my partner's work travel accumulated status, we're always within the first 10-20 people boarding). I see that Rex is stricter about their personal item size (and contents!), so that wouldn't work.

                I thought the prices looked extremely high for domestic flights - some more than international ones - but that now makes sense, thank you for the context and warning. Those flights are going to get pretty full when all of the press and fans are traveling from game to game (which is what happened in Canada in 2015, France in 2019 only had one train which was full of World Cup people, the first train from Nice to Lyon the morning after the third-place game and of the final, since the trains were frequent).

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