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The Lufthansa Trans-Pacific Hopper

40,000 Lufthansa Miles

40,000 Lufthansa Miles (roundtrip)

Warning: This post is very advanced, but the route could be freakin’ awesome.

The key here is that you get two stopovers, and that there is a great price discrepancy using Lufthansa miles on Star Alliance partners for a certain route. Actually, this price discrepency is the key to what makes this route amazing.

I’ll show you how you can visit Hawaii, Guam, Cairns, and Saipan for at most 80,000 miles.

The concept is that Lufthansa’s award chart says that it’s 40,000 miles roundtrip to Hawaii from the US and also 40,000 miles from Hawaii to Oceania/Australia. Which is funny, because it’s 80,000 miles from the US to Oceania Australia. My little ticket booking suggests these are two different roundtrips, thus getting the two stopovers and two open-jaws per roundtrip, twice.

There are two parts to what I’m calling the Trans-Pacific Hopper:

Part A: US to Hawaii for 40,000 miles roundtrip.

Technically, you can get to Hawaii using any set of miles, but we’ll go ahead and discuss this as two Lufthansa tickets because of the stopover benefits that make a “Hopper” trip necessary. But, if you want to, check out the Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii Using Miles.

Part B: Hawaii to Oceania/Australia for 40,000 miles roundtrip.

This is what I’ll focus on for most of this post. Hawaii to Oceania/Australia for 20,000 miles or 40,000 miles roundtrip, and two stopovers for that roundtrip. It’s also great because Air New Zealand is one of the few airlines that Lufthansa doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges with (because it doesn’t have any to pass on).

However, there is one major rule that you need to know before you go assuming that you can route all over earth to get to Oceania or Australia for 40,000 miles. See, the rule is that you if you stop in a third region, the award price is automatically 100,000 miles.

For example, a roundtrip to SE Asia is 80,000 miles but if you stopover in Japan you’re now touching a third region, which will now cost 100,000 miles. That’s only a 20,000 mile increase, but when you compare 40,000 miles roundtrip to 100,000 miles, it’s a big difference!

Therefore the key is to know what constitutes as Oceania/Australia:

Australia (incl. Tasmania), Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Mariana Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tahiti (incl. French Polynesia), Tonga

Here are all the Star Alliance routes within Oceania/Australia and Hawaii…

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.05.15 PM

Looking closely you’ll see that there are only three routes from Hawaii to Oceania. Honolulu to Guam on United, Aukland on Air New Zealand, and to the Marshall Island on United.

The route with the most award availability is easily going to be Honolulu to Guam as the route is daily and not too popular.

The hardest one to find award availability for is to Aukland, New Zealand. It’s practically impossible. Proof:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.22.30 PMScreen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.22.03 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.20.34 PM

I don’t foresee a situation worse than that as there is no availability after March 31st. Period.

And guess what? Most of the award availability is via Japan, which doesn’t work for what we’re trying to do.

I’ll leave open the option that United just isn’t showing the availability and Lufthansa could see it.

 

The third route is Honolulu to Marshall Island.  I haven’t written about this in a long time, but I called it the Island Hopper with Miles. I definitely did not come up with this route, United did. 

Kosrae Airport

But basically it’s a route that United has that stops at almost every major island in Micronesia. The down side is that you barely get any time on these islands, but still a great experience landing into these Pacific islands. You could make a stopover at one of the islands along the way. Although, I hear not all of them are awesome (like Chuuk is a dump?).

If you look at the map above, there are two routes. One includes Kosrae and the other skips it. On Monday and Friday, United does the route with all 5 stops that includes Kosrae, and on Wed they skip it. The difference for time on the islands is practically nothing, given that either way you can’t leave the airport. Although, these airports are island airports. You’ll likely be outside.

Although, I’m finding this route’s availability is tough for another reason. It’s an international route on a B737-800 that holds 200 people (which is actually bigger than I expected). Availability isn’t terrible, it’s just not as awesome as the Guam flight which is on a 777 and daily. You just have to play around a little.

Wow, that was a long set up.

Those are our three flights out of Hawaii and one of them is pretty void of options. And because of that you may be thinking that your options to Australia/New Zealand are pretty nil, and that’s just not true.

The Coolest Route On This Site

For whatever reason, the miles and points community seems to be anti-cool places (cool places = farflung). I guess since there are no points hotels on Yap and Palau it’s kind of the road less traveled.

I know Stephan, from Rapid Travel Chai, has said that Palau is one of the coolest places he’s been… and he’s been to a lot of cool places. So before I give the route, I’ll pause and share a couple photos of Stephan’s from his Micronesia trip:

 

Here’s the route. Stopover in Yap, destination in Palau, and stopover in Guam on the way back to Hawaii. From Hawaii the entire trip is 40,000 Lufthansa miles. Then tack on the price back to the mainland US from Hawaii.

If there are two islands I’m dying to hit, it’s Yap and Palau. This would be a dreamy trip for anyone. If there’s one time I ever recommend skipping the points hotels, it’s for this trip.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.32.35 PM

Although, if you’re still not interested in the path less traveled, I’ll talk points hotels at the end.

 

The Missing Key

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.12.26 PMThe key to the puzzle, at least if you want to get to Australia/New Zealand (without the mysterious Air New Zealand direct from HNL), is Cairns. United has a route from Guam to Cairns.

Cairns is pretty well known as a jumping off point for the great barrier reef and other off shore adventures, so it would be a great stop on it’s own. Plus, it could be really tricky to line up availability so you land in Cairns and take off for Aukland, although it is possible in theory. But again… Air New Zealand award availability is terrible.

The Guam to Cairns route is a Sunday and Thursday route landing at 11:40 pm.

Cairns to Auckland is Wed-Sun taking off at 11:50 am. What this means is that you could have a layover in Cairns Thursday night and fly to Aukland Friday morning.

What we’ve got so far is a stopover in Guam, a destination or layover in Cairns, and a stopover in Auckland.

Let me be clear. You are only allowed one stopover with Lufthansa per direction. So if Auckland is your furthest point, you can’t use two stopovers to get there, you can use only one on the way and one coming back. Thus, if you plan to come back the same way, you have to layover in either Guam or Cairns so you only have one stopover.

The other problem with trying this route is that Air New Zealand only seems to fly this route oneway, from Cairns to Auckland. In other words, it doesn’t have any flights from Auckland to Cairns, only from Cairns. (I assume the flight is part of a stop on the way back from Asia).

The Solution:

1) Open-Jaws

I have yet to work in either of the two allowed open-jaws. On one roundtrip, you’re allowed two stopovers and two open-jaws.

My guess based on my experience is that, much like United, you’re not allowed to apply the open-jaw on the stopover, but instead the destinations and return/end point.

What this means is that you could open-jaw from Auckland and start getting around using other programs like Virgin or Avios (on Qantas).

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.57.53 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 11.10.39 PM

Now we could have trip like this…

  • With Lufthansa miles: Honolulu to Guam, stopover. Guam to Cairns (stopover?) to Auckland.
  • Then Open-Jaw and fill in with Avios (or anything) and then do Cairns to Guam, to Honolulu again.
  • For that aforementioned open-jaw use BA Avios: Auckland to Sydney. Sydney to Cairns.

We’re talking 40,000 Lufthansa miles and 9,000 Avios. Nothing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 11.03.15 PM

This could even get more complicated and try to tack on yet another Air New Zealand flight on the same ticket from AKL. Like to Rarotonga or Fiji and try returning to Sydney or Auckland before open-jawing. In other words, make one of the Polynesian islands the destination and open-jaw so you continue your journey home from Sydney or Aukland.

2) Return back via AKL-HNL

If by some miracle you found award space I didn’t (or maybe you just looked longer than 3 minutes), and got an award seat on Air New Zealand back from Auckland, you’re really set.

This is threading the needle of needles, but in theory, you can do the following:

  • Start in HNL
  • Stopover in Guam or Cairns
  • Layover in AKL
  • Destination in Fiji (or another Polyensian island)
  • Stopover in Auckland
  • Return back to Hawaii

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 11.25.17 PM

That would be a miraculous ticket, and I’ll give a nickel to anyone who actually books and flys it.

 

Reality Check

The most bookable tickets are most likely going to include stops that are simpler. If you want to open-jaw across the Pacific, epic props. But for most people it would include at most 3 stops (one destination and two stopovers):

  • Guam, Yap, Palau
  • Guam, Saipan, Cairns
  • The Island Hopper in combination
  • Guam, Cairns, Auckland (if AKL-HNL is available)
  • Auckland, Fiji, Christchurch (if AKL-HNL is available)
  • Auckland, Queenstown, Sydney (if AKL-HNL is available)

I figured it could also be worth mentioning the other Air New Zealand routes to the Pacific islands that aren’t based out of Auckland. Again, it’s dependent upon AKL-HNL freeing up, but I believe it’s definitely possible that partnerships and routes change.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.11.16 PM

 

All the Points hotels on the route

I wanted to briefly mention the points hotels at a few of the destinations discussed here. It’s only a few of all Polynesia and Australia/New Zealand. But, it’s actually a complete list of Micronesia as only Guam and Saipan have points hotels (that I’m aware of).

Starwood (SPG) Hyatt Hilton IHG Club Carlson
Guam 10,000 15,000 30,000
Saipan 8,000
Cairns 10,000 30,000 – 40,000 30,000
Auckland 60,000 25,000
Fiji 10,000 – 25,000 50,000 15,000 – 30,000 44,000

 

Conclusion

I fear I made this route a little too complicated. But it’s only because the sky is the limit. You have two stopovers to fit in of all of Micronesia. And even with only two stops, Guam and Palau or Yap, or only Guam and Cairns… it’s an incredible deal for 40,000 Lufthansa miles.

If I went overboard on this route… someone please let me know and draw me back in to earth.

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30 Comments

  1. You continue to produce content that sets a new standard for quality in the miles and points world. Thank you!

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    • Thanks, glad to hear it’s bearable. 😀

      Reply
  2. Awesome insight Drew. I’m going to file this away for future trip planning. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Great. Hope it comes in handy.

      Reply
  3. A fascinating post that will take some time to dissect, but I would love to try it out. I don’t have time to play around with checking availability right now, but when I was planning my trip in that region, which I took a couple of months ago (July/August), there was no problem at all finding Air New Zealand economy award space to book with LH miles between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne or Fiji. Cairns was more difficult to book NZ from, and I gave up on that, but there are plenty of cheap paid domestic flights around Australia, which makes a good excuse to visit another city anyway. I did not try to include HNL, using AA and AS miles for the direct DFW-Sydney flights on Qantas.

    Reply
    • Good to hear you didn’t have trouble using LH miles between Fiji and mainlands. My experience with finding award space in NZ is a painful, tedious task.
      Can’t blame you for not wanting to play around post-trip. 😀

      Reply
  4. AA considers NZ and AUS the same country, one ways are 10K in coach.

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    • Right. There are many great redemptions in the area. Including Virgin, singapore on virgin, Avios, etc…

      Reply
  5. very good post, but the missing link here is ANZ, if they dont have any awards even in econ, then this whole plan comes to a stop.

    Reply
    • True for polynesia. If you plan on including NZ then you basically have to pick dates based on it.

      Reply
  6. That route might be my next travel goal.

    Have you guys ever thought about offering an award booking service? In most cases I think of award booking services as a waste of money, but for routes like this I’d be willing to pay.

    Are you certified for Scuba diving? I’m trying to figure out the cheapest way to do that and thought you might know. I’ve done the kind where the air is on the surface (forget what they call that) and loved it.

    Reply
    • I hope you do it.
      We do not do award booking.
      And I’m not scuba certified, although I can free dive. I enjoy the freedom of that. Can’t help you on the scuba front, sorry. :-/

      Reply
    • Haley, try Roatan, Honduras. Really good reefs, pretty cheap prices. Little culture. If price is the only object, next island over is one of the cheapest places to get certified–Utila. If you’re going for Divemaster it’s cheapest. BUT we didn’t like Utila, waay too much trash, loud motors most of the evening. But cheap, and great diving.

      Reply
  7. Thank for the post, I enjoy figuring out the complicated routes. I have a quick question about the IHG promo: Is it acceptable to split a 2 night stay into 2 stays by one spouse checking in/out for one night and the other spouse checking in/out the second night?

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    • As long as they are two different accounts, yes. But if it’s the same account, regardless of who is checking in/out, it’s one stay.

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    • Great, thank you! It is two different accounts and I think it’s worth it for both of us to do the promo.

      Reply
  8. One thing I want to point out is that UA sees the Island Hopper route as a single segment. I tried booking it once on a day where it displayed all the stops, Kosrae etc and it wouldn’t let it book. Then I looked on another day and it didn’t list the stops, it just said GUM-HNL, but the flight # and length of flight were the Island Hopper all right. I had to call it in, and the agent was like, don’t you want to take the shorter one?!? but other than that no problem booking.

    Final route was LAX-NRT; NRT-PEK-LJG; CTU-ICN-GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL for 65K UA miles. And then HNL-LAX for $150 on Allegiant a couple days later, which actually was totally fine, a better experience than most UA flights.

    Only issue was that I didn’t end up taking the Island Hopper, they offered me $1000 to stay and visit Guam for a day w/free hotel and food.

    PS- anyone else with me, I freaking heart UA lounge @ GUM, unlimited cup o noodles and onigiri? Plus those Chamorro cookies. I *may* have taken enough of these to last for most of my stay in HNL.

    Reply
    • Forgot a segment! Actually that return segment was CTU-ICN-NGO-GUM etc. Nagoya was a really awesome 1-day layover for me; recommended! and ICN is a nice place to relax for a while since everyone gets a good rest area. I used the massage chairs for a while and had a nap.

      Reply
    • Do you mean that you can’t book a stopover in one of the islands?

      Wow crazy. So funny that you ended up scrapping it for $1,000. Seriously can’t blame you. That’s an awesome deal. Paid for the trip I bet.

      Never been in the UA GUM lounge, lol

      Reply
  9. Another issue with this route though, for those going from Japan- Air NZ seems to have disappeared most of the availability on their direct route NRT-AKL? It was there about 2 months ago, but now that I know my date more it’s only giving me options of going though SIN or PVG. I read on ft something about they are changing the plane to a newer one and hence took it off.

    Reply
  10. I may be being nitpicky and/or not understanding this completely, but at one point you mention using Avios during the open jaw for Auckland to Sydney/Sydney to Cairns. Then you say 40k LH miles and 9k Avios. AUK-SYD & SYD-CNS are both over 1200 miles which puts them each at 10k Avios, so that would be more like 40k LH miles plus 20k Avios. Please let me know if I’m misunderstanding this because it probably means I need to go back and re-read the post.

    Other than that, f’ing awesome post man! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  11. Also, I’d be more interested in a stopover along the island hopper, then a layover in Guam on the way to CNS. Do you know if the flight times of the Island Hopper arriving into Guam and the flight times leaving Guam to CNS would allow this? My brain hurts right now from trying to figure it out.

    Reply
  12. I just spent some time in cairns area and flew the weird united routing back home through hnl. Waste of time and overpriced tourist trap while the route is served by uniteda oldest and crappiest planes. No good premium cabins and not even a free meal since they’re all considered domestic flights. I would avoid this route unless you’re just a fan of flying obscure routes

    Cairns and pt douglas themselves are boring and will be a waste of money + I was not impressed with the sealife at the reefs. I’d suggest to stick to Asia for scuba diver readers here.

    Reply
    • hi there.
      i flew to CNS a few years ago to scuba dive, but i was concerned about the short connection times in HNL & GUM.. could not risk baggage delay. not even by one day, since i was going on a dive boat. so i flew through SYD instead. longer & more expensive.

      yeah, unfortunately, the reefs close to the coast are beat up. but liveaboards (3+ days) are GREAT! expensive.
      rented a car in CNS and drove all around queensland.. awesome.

      Reply
  13. Do any of the award routing ideas in this post have fuel surcharges when using Miles and More miles? If so, then it would be worth it to use United miles instead, and give up the extra stopover and pay more miles.

    Reply
  14. Having been to Guam on the LifeMiles deal I can tell you it’s a dump. Wish there was a way to do this without seeing Guam.

    Reply
    • lol. was the lifemiles deal worth it?

      Reply
  15. Wow. Drew. This is amazing. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  16. That’s funny I’m reading this. I have a diving trip coming up to Palau, Yap, and Guam with a stopover in Kyoto and accidentally stumbled upon that United hopper flights while searching for award flights to hop around the Micronesia Islands as well. So I was able to use UA miles to go dive Yap and Palau in addition to my Skymiles ticket to Guam and enjoyed the free stopover in Kyoto on the way there. I looked up the costs of the paid tickets and it would have been > $2500, so thanks for posting these tips online as I have benefitted greatly from reading blogs like yours.

    Reply
  17. I called Lufthansa to try to book the HNL-GUM-ROR-YAP-HNL award. It turns out Palau (ROR) is in the Southeast Asia region, making this award a 3 region award (1. Hawaii 2. Australia, New Zealand, Oceania 3. South-east Asia) that will cost 100k miles, not 40k miles. What a bummer. I was ready to book it! We will look for a substitute for Palau from the Oceania choices, but that was my favorite destination.

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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