Project Pacific Circle: How I’m Flying

Project Pacific Circle: How I’m Flying


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This post is part of Project Pacific Circle, a journey of more than 25,000 miles from Orlando to Los Angeles, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

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’m leaving on a huge trip early Thursday, traveling more than 25,000 miles in just two weeks. Along the way, I’ll be sharing stories of my time on the ground and in the air. Here are the nuts and bolts of my itinerary, to give you an idea of what you can expect:

Orlando to Los Angeles – American Airlines First Class

I’ve collected hundreds of thousands of miles and booked over 90,000 miles of free airfare for myself, family and friends, but I have an admission: I’ve never flown anything higher than a Premium Economy product! I’ve been unwilling to part with the miles or money necessary to do so in the past, but that changes on this trip in a big way: I’m flying in Business or First Class for nearly the entire journey, sampling as many different products as possible along the way.

That starts with a small step: a wholly unremarkable domestic First Class journey on American. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to try out American’s new A321T transcontinental product, which features outstanding Upper Class options. This direct flight from MCO to LAX is pretty much par for the course for American’s domestic First Class product, which should make it a good starting point.

Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji – Fiji Airways Business Class

This American award flight continues on a few hours after arriving in Los Angeles on partner Fiji Airways, in its trendy new Business Class cabin. Featuring (nearly) lay-flat seats and supple leather seating, I’m greatly looking forward to trying this one out, given how scarce trip reports and reviews are thus far. This flight clocks in at more than nine hours in length, so I’ll have plenty of time to become very familiar with what Fiji Airways has to offer.

Image courtesy: Fiji Airways

Nadi, Fiji to Auckland, New Zealand – Fiji Airways Business Class

After a night in Fiji, I’ll pick back up with Fiji Airways to complete my journey to the trip’s true starting point in New Zealand. This may present an opportunity to check out Fiji Airways’ short-haul product and how it differs from the service they offer on long-haul flights like the one from Los Angeles. Just a few hours later, I’ll be in Auckland!

Auckland to Sydney – LAN Business Class

After some time on the ground in Auckland, I’ll continue on to Sydney, but in a way you might not expect:

I’ll be flying with Chilean carrier LAN. LAN operates a flight from Santiago to Auckland that stops for fuel before continuing on to Sydney. LAN sells tickets for just this last leg, which is when I’ll be joining up with the flight for its short hop to Australia’s largest city.

This is a surprisingly popular option for international carriers interested in servicing both Australia and New Zealand, given how comparatively remote both are from other major population centers. Emirates, for example, employs a similar strategy. It’s a good chance to try out a long-haul Upper Class product on a flight clocking in at just a few hours in length.

Image courtesy: LAN

Sydney to Bangkok to Hong Kong – Thai Airways Business Class

After a few more days, I’ll head on to Hong Kong by way of Bangkok on Thai Airways. This will give me a chance to check out their long-haul Business Class product on a 747 for the 9 hours, 20 minutes flight to Bangkok and then their short-haul Business Class product on an A330 for the much shorter 2 hours 45 minutes flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

Image courtesy: Thai Airways

Hong Kong to Taipei to Osaka – Cathay Pacific Business Class

Cathay Pacific operates numerous flights between its hub in Hong Kong and Osaka on a daily basis, but one of them clocks in at several hours longer than the others. That’s because it stops in Taiwan along the way. I purposely chose this route over the shorter direct options because Cathay Pacific only flies its regional business class offering on those routes. While nice, it’s more akin to a domestic First Class product rather than the renowned long-haul service most flyers think of when considering Cathay Pacific.

Image courtesy: Cathay Pacific

The flight that stops in Taiwan is supposed to be operated on one of Cathay’s aging 747s, offering an admittedly older but still lie-flat seating product and the same level of service as on much longer flights. I say supposed to be because Cathay is apparently notorious for switching out equipment at the last minute on such routes. It’s entirely possible this gamble won’t pay off and I’ll end up on a pretty unremarkable flight. Still, I couldn’t help but roll the dice, given this was the one good opportunity I had to throw Cathay Pacific into the itinerary.

Osaka to Tokyo – JAL Economy Class

I scored this hour-long flight for far less than a train ticket between these two major Japanese cities would have cost, giving me an unexpected opportunity to see what everyday air travel inside Japan is like. This Economy-only flight will be packed, making it an adventure after being spoiled with premium service for so many hours in the sky prior.

Image courtesy: Knetaro IEMOTO

Tokyo to New York – JAL Business Class

Right now, I’m slated to fly from Tokyo to New York on one of JAL’s 787s, which features their older “Shell Flat Neo” seat, which doesn’t quite lie flat and isn’t nearly as nice as their newer Sky Suite Business Class product or their JAL Suite First Class product.

I’m going to look for opportunities to change this in advance, but don’t want to leave Tokyo much earlier than I’ll have to already. That means my best bet might be switching to a Business Class or First Class flight from Tokyo to LAX with continuing service to either JFK or right back to Orlando. This is fraught with potential issues, though, so I’m likely to keep this leg intact and make the most of my first flight on a 787.

Image courtesy: JAL

New York to Orlando – JetBlue Economy Class

This flight will go by in the blink of an eye compared to the extraordinary journey from Japan, assuming that flight remains as is. If not, I might end up never flying this leg, instead returning directly to Orlando on American somehow. It would be a shame to burn the flight, but the opportunity to further tweak the return home might be incentive enough to let this seat go empty. This will remain uncertain until just a day or two before the flight home, in all likelihood!

Image courtesy: JetBlue

Almost There…

Thursday’s almost here. I’ll be checking in during the trip but expect a minimum delay of a few days along the way for most updates. Next, I’ll be sharing some of what I plan to do and see at each stop along the way!

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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