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.
When the time came to depart Auckland, I hopped an unlikely ride to Sydney. Because of New Zealand and Australia’s great distance from most other population centers, many international carriers offer flights that stop first in either Sydney or Auckland on their way, in part to consolidate the number of flights they have to operate along the costly route and in part because they simply need more fuel.
Emirates, for example, flies their A380 to Sydney first and then continues onto Auckland. Chilean carrier LAN, flying west from South America, stops one of its A340s in Auckland first before continuing on to Sydney. Both stop in each direction and sell a limited number of tickets for the short hop, making this three hour flight a unique chance to try some long-haul products on a short flight.
I booked a Business Class ticket on LAN from Auckland to Sydney using some of my British Airways Avios.
This was possible since LAN is a member of Oneworld, the alliance in which British Airways takes part. Long-time PointsAway readers know that Avios redemptions differ from award flights using many other miles and points programs in that the number of points required for a flight is based on its distance, not where the flight is taking place.
Based on the distance from Auckland to Sydney, this flight came in at 10,000 Avios in Economy, with Business fares going for twice as many. Economy seats were unavailable, but as is often the case, British Airways offered an interesting cash and points option for a Business Class seat on the flight that offered better value than Avios alone could offer.
A variety of options were possible. The most points-heavy approach demanded 20,000 Avios and $52 in taxes and fees. The least points-heavy approach required just 11,000 Avios but $172 in total fees. That’s a difference of $120, but it means parting with 9,000 less Avios, which is enough for a roundtrip from, say, Jacksonville to Washington, DC. I looked at this as a chance to buy 9,000 Avios back for $120, or roughly 1.3¢ a piece. They’re worth more than that to me, so I happily made the tradeoff and paid a little more to conserve some points for future travel.
Qantas Lounge – Auckland
My Business Class ticket came with access to Oneworld carrier Qantas’s lounge in Auckland, which I checked out prior to my flight.
In addition to speedy Wi-Fi and an extraordinary amount of seating…
…the lounge offered a pair of TVs showing a World Cup game, a business center equipped with new iMacs…
…and, most importantly, a sizable breakfast buffet.
A couple pancakes and some eggs later, I made my way to the flight:
Exploring The Cabin
I discovered an almost obscenely roomy cabin once on board. Business Class was five rows deep, in a 2x2x2 configuration across the plane. 21 passengers occupied most of the 30 seats.
The space between each row on this flight greatly exceeded even that on Fiji Airways, which was perfectly sufficient. One woman walking by on her way to Economy joked she’d be happy to trade with me, and I couldn’t blame her. I’d gladly have given her a full foot of the space in front of me if I could have.
Nuts & Bolts
One reason for the extraordinary distance between each seat is that LAN’s seats are marketed as being able to recline to a fully-flat position, unlike on Fiji. In addition, a massage feature can slowly knead a small portion of your back:
Whether the seat truly goes to a fully-flat position is up for some debate, though it certainly reclined much farther than the Fiji seat did. Unfortunately, the seat was poorly cushioned, similar to what you might expect from a domestic Economy seat in the US. For all its abilities, that meant the seat was uncomfortable for napping, though perfectly suitable when kept in a reclining position. If the seat from Fiji’s flight, with its high-quality leather and extra padding, were just as versatile as the one from LAN, it would be just about the perfect seat.
Each seatback featured a large screen, probably either 17 or 19 inches in size, just a shade smaller than those on Fiji Airways. Unlike on Fiji, though, these sets were powered by an analog video service of some sort, and quality suffered. The video on demand system had a great selection of films available – 110 in all – ranging from recent titles like Argo and Gravity to classics like Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Citizen Kane. Spanish, English and Portuguese language options were offered for each.
However, the selection system was very laggy, easily leading to mistakes in navigation. After successfully starting to watch Avengers, the system crashed about ten minutes in. Following a reboot, I was able to resume the movie where I left off, but about five minutes in, it gave out once more, leading me to simply switch off the screens for this short flight.
Below the seat was a storage locker good for a pair of shoes while napping or perhaps a briefcase.
Food & Drinks
Before takeoff, orange juice was offered to passengers. Shortly after takeoff, breakfast service began in earnest, given the relatively short length of the flight. (Menu) Either an omelette or cured ham and a variety of cheeses was offered as the main course, along with a selection of fruit, cake and a variety of coffees, juices and teas. I went with the omelette and was quite impressed with breakfast’s presentation:
Along with the cake that came standard, toast was also offered, which was complemented nicely by raspberry preserves. The omelette was plain, as expected, but serving it with individual salt and pepper shakers was a nice touch, as was the extra of hash browns and tomatoes. The breakfast tea was quite good and the attendant offered milk and sugar to make it perfect.
Though fairly straightforward, I think this meal service would rank above Fiji’s, given everything tasted good and the better presentation of condiments and extras.
I was a fan of LAN’s service on the flight, despite the fact that a few attendants clearly spoke only very basic English. The food and attention for the flight were both excellent. However, the hard product is somewhat lacking. The seat is much less comfortable than the extraordinary seat on Fiji Airways, despite its extra versatility, and the seat-back entertainment system is in need of an upgrade. The plane felt like it was due for a refurbishment and with a few changes that have probably already made their way to other planes in LAN’s fleet, this flight would go from being a good to a great value for the trans-Tasmanian hop.
As mentioned above, I opted to pay more in cash in order to minimize the number of Avios required for my seat. I could have chosen to spend 20,000 Avios and $52 on this flight. I opted to use 11,000 Avios and $172 instead. A cash ticket for Business Class on this flight would have cost $531.90, making the savings tremendous even when purposely parting with more cash than necessary.