The US Airways/American Airline merger might be up in the air so it’s anyone’s guess as to how this unfolds. So I figured I’d talk about the Pacific Hopper using US Airways miles while it for sure still exists.
The Pacific Hopper is the flight we did from Guam to Rarotonga, Cook Islands via Singapore, New Zealand, Sydney, Tokyo and more. South Pacific to South Pacific is 30,000 miles in Business class for a roundtrip! We paid 40,000 miles to do it using United miles.
The roundtrip is 30,000 miles, and not only is it cheaper (you get enough miles to do it with one credit card bonus), but it can start and end in more places. See, with United it says Oceania to Oceania. But US Airways’ award regions say South Pacific – which includes Australia and New Zealand along with all the Pacific islands.
This essentially means that you don’t have to start from a small island like Fiji or Guam. Instead you could start in New Zealand and end in Micronesia (like Palau, Yap, or Guam). So you get one stopover as well. So you could possibly make it in Asia or Australia. Or if you are going to Yap, you could possibly stopover in Guam.
Why we started in Guam
On the flip side, I kind of like starting in Micronesia (islands south of Japan) and heading to Polynesia (islands in the middle of the Pacific between Australia and South America), with a stopover in Australia or New Zealand, for a few reasons.
For starters, it might be easier to set up. Getting to many of the polynesian islands can be even harder to get to using other miles. And when you are using Star Alliance miles you need to route through New Zealand anyways.
But with American Airline miles (or any OneWorld program) you can get at least get to Guam and Palau on Japan Airlines… which is a lot better than the Polynesian options with OneWorld. The point is that you should leave that South Pacific part to US Airways miles.
The other reason I like to start in Micronesia is simply because we routed through Japan on the way back. And when I say we routed through Japan, what I mean is that our flight went back to Guam without us. Flights back to the US are way cheaper from Japan. And if you hit AA’s off peak pricing for Japan, the price of an economy ticket is only 25,000 miles.
Actually, this works with South Korea too. If you fly from South Korea or Japan to North America between October 1st and April 30, you get the off peak award price, which is 25,000 miles (instead of 32,500 miles).
I see no reason not to get off the plane in one of these countries and forfeit the rest or your return ticket. After all, prices are cheaper and it sees a new place. Plus, US Airways does not allow an open-jaw and stopover like United. This means that you have to return to the island you started from. Which would be fine if you weren’t just there. Regardless, we booked a flight from Tokyo home.
First class is only 40,000 miles roundtrip! Why not do that?
I mean sure. Flying Asiana or Thai First Class would be nice. However, it could be tough to find for this route because of the flights that you’ll be putting together.
We started out on Asiana’s A330 from Saipan to Seous, which doesn’t even have first class. So right away that flight doesn’t have first class. Also, to get to any Polynesian island, you pretty much have to fly on Air New Zealand. While Air New Zealand has a stellar business class, it’s only a two class cabin – meaning, there is no first class. So half of your flights might not even have the option.
The other thing to know is that if you fly first class on one leg and the rest business class, you pay for first class that entire half of the trip. So if you flew from Guam to Australia and the Bangkok to Sydney flight was first class, you would pay more.
If you want the technical pricing; it is by halves, as I always say. So Guam to Sydney is one half and the return is the other. Technically the price is in roundtrip but half the price for each half of the trip. Guam to Sydney in first class (if even for a segment) is 20,000 miles – half of 40,000. And if the return is all in business, that would be 15,000 miles – half of 30,000. Together the price is 35,000 miles for one-way to be first.
However, if you see First Class space from South Korea to Australia or New Zealand, it could be worth it. Those are by far going to be your longest legs. It’s 10 hours minimum. Via Singapore it’s like 14 hours. Is it worth 5,000 miles extra, each way, to be in First Class instead of Business for 10 to 14 hours? I’d say so. If you find that much first class.
The best bet of first class in this mess of a trip is probably going to be on Thai Airways on their 747s, which they run from Bangkok to Sydney regularly (which is 9 hours?). The problem is that from Seoul they run their 777s. The 773 doesn’t have first class and the 77w only has 8 suites, instead of 14 first class seats on the 747.
Similar problems when routing from Japan, although you have more options. Thai will also run their A340, which is the same situation as the 777s. And ANA is running their 767s to BKK without first class. Over all, I’d say it’s tough.
However, there are examples of successful finds, and it might be worth jumping on. Especially since I can not particularly sleep well on Thai’s 747 business class. It’s like sleeping standing up.
Of course, with US Airways you have to call anything in as their online search engine is worthless. Instead I just search on United, especially since very few of these flights are United itself. However, United does consider Guam and Tokyo “hubs” and they do have flights that will come up. And sometimes United releases less seats to partners than they do to their own member. If you see a desired United flight, to make sure this would also be available to US Airways redemptions, check Aeroplan or ANA’s award search engine to see if they get those seats as well.
And just to clarify, the 5,000 mile discount advertised on the US Airways MasterCard, is only on US Airways flights. So don’t go expecting that when you redeem your flights on all these partners in first class that you’ll get an extra 5,000 mile discount.
Recap and what are the differences between the Pacific Hopper with USA and UA
There are only a few real differences when using US Airways miles to do the pacific hopper instead of United miles. Here are the main ones:
- The US Airways award chart is even more generous on this route. It’s 25k/30k/40k for economy/business/first.
- You can start or end in Australia or New Zealand (instead of making it just a stopover).
- US Airways does not allow a stopover and an open-jaw like United. This means that returning to the same starting point is essential if you use your stopover, which I recommend. Yet, you don’t really have to finish your ticket. But know if you miss one leg of your ticket, the rest is cancelled.
- US Airways’ website is useless. So searchings have to be done on other websites (like United) and booking has to be done online.
Still, there is much overlap. Many of the same principles found in the United post, The Pacific Hopper With Miles, can be used here. You need to find connections with less than 24 hours, and can take the same route – from Micronesia to Polynesia via Asia and Australia/New Zealand.
Anyways, this is such a great trip that I can’t imagine a better value of US Airways miles. It is not only an expensive ticket for little miles it’s just beautiful. You can view our photos form our trip here. Also, I would encourage using the Star Alliance route map. From there you might discover more beautiful places like Palau and Yap.
If I could get enough miles to do this trip again with the US Airways miles I would. Actually, I will.