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Ultimate Honeymoon: French Polynesia with United miles
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Ultimate Honeymoon: French Polynesia with United miles

by jeffreyJune 18, 2013
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Ultimate Honeymoon

Why French Polynesia?

Here’s our second installment in the Ultimate Honeymoon series and another easy pick:  French Polynesia.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 12.26.51 PM

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 12.28.17 PM

Way out there in the middle of the Pacific

French Polynesia might be the most desired pick for a honeymoon or romantic getaway:

  1. These names speak for themselves:  Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, Papeete.
  2. It boasts the world-renown, over-the-water bungalows that more and more resorts are now copying.
    Gallery of images from the web:

  3. You could split your time between beaches and exploring tropical rain-forests, but it might be hard to pry you away from that pristine beach.
  4. Did I mention the over-the-water bungalows?!

How to Get There:

Pay for Airfare

French Polynesia has one major airport that you’ll likely be using to access the islands: Papeete-PPT International Airport — and flights are expensive. The only direct flight from the US to Papeete flies from Los Angeles-LAX. You can find seats on the non-stop LAX – PPT for around $1500 R-T economy in Winter 2013. Throw in a few connections and travel from the East Coast, and you’re looking at around $1,900 to $2,400 in economy for the rest of us.

Use United miles

If you have at least 70k United miles, you can book a roundtrip ticket from North America to French Polynesia in Economy. Booking in Business will cost you 120k miles and isn’t really worth the difference. If you’re willing and able to pay the extra miles for Business, you’re best off paying the full 150k miles it takes to book a roundtrip ticket in the First Class cabin.  But, when taking into consideration you’re booking for two people, 150k miles might already be a stretch, so 300k for First might be simply out of reach.

Benefits of using United miles to consider when researching:

Like Delta, United allows you to have 1 stopover and 1 open jaw for free! Given that you’ll be so close to Australia/New Zealand, they make excellent and very easy choices for a stop-over. A stop-over in one of the Asian hubs would also be a good choice.

Day 1: Fly US – Sydney — this will be part of your stopover
Day 2-4: Explore Sydney
Day 5: Continuing on from your stop-over in Sydney-SYD, fly SYD – Christchurch-CHC
Day 5-7: Explore around New Zealand, buy a cheap ticket from Christchurch-CHC to Auckland-AKL
Day 7-11: Use open jaw on award to fly direct from Auckland-AKL to Papeete-PPT — hang out in French Polynesia for a few days.
Day 12: Starting your return portion, fly from Papeete-PPT back to US, routing via Auckland-AKL again

This example itinerary makes use of the stopover (in Sydney-SYD) and then the open jaw (flying into Christchurch-CHC and then out of Auckland-AKL). This is how you can really maximize your United miles when award booking.

Using United miles on Air New Zealand Aircraft

air-new-zealand_pressebild-001

I’m leading with Air New Zealand because if you want to get to Papeete, Tahiti it is the only way you’ll get there. Again, the only Star Alliance partner that flies to Papeete-PPT is Air New Zealand, with departures from Auckland-AKL. Since that’s your only choice, we’ll really need to research how to best get you to Auckland-AKL so that you may continue onward to Papeete.

US cities to Auckland-AKL on Air New Zealand:

  • Los Angeles-LAX –> Very tight award availability, econ only (?)
  • San Francisco-SFO –> Very tight award availability, econ only (?)
  • Honolulu-HNL –> Very tight award availability, some Business class
  • Vancouver-YVR –> Very tight award availability, econ only (?)

airnz-us-akl-ppt

It’s also worth noting, for the sake of planning your stop-over, that Air New Zealand flies into Auckland-AKL from these cities as well:

  • Shanghai-PVG –> 2-class cabin 767-300, Business is available

    Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.41.23 PM

    PVG-AKL

    Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.43.55 PM

    AKL-PVG

  • Hong Kong-HKG –> No Dec/Jan availability + econ only
  • Osaka-KIX –> Slim to no availability
  • Tokyo-NRT –> Slim Dec/Jan availability + econ only
    NRT-AKL

    NRT-AKL

    AKL-NRT

    AKL-NRT

  • Denpasar (Bali)-DPS –> Slim to no availability
  • Perth-PER –> Decent availability
    AKL-PER

    AKL-PER

    PER-AKL

    PER-AKL

  • Cairns-CNS –> Slim to no availability
  • Adelaide-ADL –> Decent availability

    ADL-AKL

    ADL-AKL

  • Melbourne-MEL –> Slim to no availability
    MEL-AKL

    MEL-AKL

    AKL-MEL

    AKL-MEL

  • Sunshine Coast-MCY –> Slim to no availability
  • Brisbane-BNE –> Slim to no availability
  • Gold Coast-OOL –> Slim to no availability
  • Sydney-SYD –> Good availability + 5x flights/day to choose from
    SYD-AKL

    SYD-AKL

    AKL-SYD

    AKL-SYD

    Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 10.26.26 AM

airnz-china-akl-ppt

Now, as I said above, the weakest link will be the Auckland-AKL to Papeete-PPT flight. Availability is slim and booking in Business is virtually impossible!

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.16.19 PM

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.16.31 PM

 –> How to book your flights

Unlike Delta.com, the United website is actually very good and should make searching for availability a breeze. As a result, I would start your search by simply inputting your desired dates as a one-way search and see what pops up. You’ll want to search as a one-way to start with because booking the stop-over and open jaw can get slightly tricky and it’s helpful to have already found your award space to start with.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 10.11.25 AM-A

Select the “One Way” search, make sure to enter the actual size of your party keeping in mind that if you enter “6” you likely won’t find a single award available (with large groups you’ll probably have to split up) and “Award Travel”

Taking a 4-month sampling, I’m already finding much, much better availability than Delta offers.

If you’re booking a simple round-trip, you can use the search as-is on the United site. If, however, you’re interested in taking advantage of the stopover/open jaw, you’ll want to search for your flights with the one-way tool, find your dates and insure availability and then enter the exact dates and routes in the “multiple destinations” search:

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 8.59.32 PM

Select your predetermined flights and then cross your fingers that everything prices out correctly:

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.00.28 PM-A

Success! Just as expected, my itinerary comes out to 65k miles/person in Economy.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.03.46 PM-A

Your next step is to ticket it if you have enough miles in your account — or, it gives you an option to hold the reservation until midnight the following day.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.04.10 PM

This can be a very useful feature if you’re still trying to tweak your award, so I would almost encourage not having enough United miles in your account so you have the option to reserve–it just gives you a little extra flexibility. You’ll then need to call in and have the award ticketed once you transfer the miles to your account.

Using United miles on United Aircraft

unitedairlinesplane

The only Star Alliance partner that flies to Papeete-PPT is Air New Zealand, with departures from Auckland-AKL. Since that’s your only choice we’ll really need to research how to best get you to Auckland-AKL so that you may continue onward to Papeete.

You best bet getting to the area using United miles is flying into Sydney-SYD from:

  • Los Angeles-LAX
  • San Francisco-SFO

united-us-syd-akl-ppt

 

If you can’t find award space to Sydney-SYD, you can also fly United aircraft from the following US cities to Asia:

  • Tokyo-NRT –> Chicago-ORD, Denver-DEN, Honolulu-HNL, Houston-IAH, Los Angeles-LAX, Newark-EWR, San Francisco-SFO, Seattle-SEA, Washington-Dulles-IAD
  • Shanghai-PVG –> Chicago-ORD, Los Angeles-LAX, Newark-EWR, San Francisco-SFO
  • Seoul-ICN –> Chicago-ORD, San Francisco-SFO, Tokyo-NRT
  • Beijing-PEK –> Chicago-ORD, Newark-EWR, San Francisco-SFO, Washington-IAD
  • Osaka-KIX –> San Francisco-SFO
  • Taipei-TPE –> San Francisco-SFO

united-us-asia-akl-ppt

It’s also worth noting, for the sake of planning your stop-over, that United flies into Tokyo-NRT from these other cities as well:

  • Guam-GUM
  • Hong Kong-HKG
  • Seoul-ICN
  • Singapore-SIN

united-asia-nrt-bkk

 

Using United miles on Thai Airways

thaiairwaysplane

Pros: Thai has an excellent reputation for service, especially in its First Class cabin.

Cons: Bankok-BKK is far out of the way from flying US-Papeete

Thai Airways has a very impressive route network throughout Europe, giving you dozens of great stop-over/open jaw choices if you choose to stop in Europe when going to/from Bangkok-BKK, but only one route choice from the U.S.

In fact, the only U.S. city that Thai flies to is Los Angeles-LAX — but it requires a stop in Seoul-ICN:

thai-lax-icn-bkk

Makes sense that they stop though: Seoul-ICN couldn’t be more perfectly enroute to Bangkok-BKK. With the stop, it’s 8,271 miles. Without it? 8,270 miles, just a 1 mile difference.

So, if you’re flying Thai, you’ll either be headed West and taking the flight above or taking a Star Alliance partner flight (United, US Air, Lufthansa etc..) to connect you to one of these Thai Airways cities:

European cities to Bangkok-BKK on Thai Airways:

  • Brussels-BRU (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First)
  • Copenhagen-CPH (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First and VERY LITTLE availability in Business)
  • London-LHR (2x flights daily aboard 3-class cabin on B747)
  • Paris-CDG (3-class cabin on A380!)
  • Madrid-MAD (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First)
  • Munich-MUC
  • Frankfurt-FRA (2x flights daily on 3-class cabin on A380! and on 3-class cabin B747)
  • Rome-FCO (3-class cabin on A340-600)
  • Milan-MXP
  • Moscow-DME
  • Stockholm-ARN
  • Zurich-ZRH (3-class cabin on A340-600)

thai-europe-bkk

From Bangkok-BKK, you’ll have a few options to get to the South Pacific region:

  • Perth-PER –> 2-class cabin A330, excellent availability Econ & Business

    PER-BKK

    PER-BKK

    BKK-PER

    BKK-PER

  • Melbourne-MEL  –> 2x flights/day on 2-class cabin B777-200, excellent availability Econ & Business
    MEL-BKK

    MEL-BKK

    BKK-MEL

    BKK-MEL

  • Sydney-SYD –> 2x flights/day on 3-class cabin B747, excellent availability Econ & Business
    BKK-SYD

    BKK-SYD

    SYD-BKK

    SYD-BKK

  • Brisbane-BNE –> 2-class cabin B777-300, excellent availability Econ & Business
    BKK-BNE

    BKK-BNE

    BNE-BKK

    BNE-BKK

  • Auckland-AKL –> Very slim availability in Econ only on B777-200
    AKL-BKK

    AKL-BKK

    BKK-AKL

    BKK-AKL

thai-bkk-australia-akl-ppt

From one of the cities listed above, you then need to make you way to Auckland-AKL then Papeete-PPT on Air New Zealand (see above).

Most (if not all) of these routes will have Thai’s Royal First cabin and, if you’ve already planned to splurge on the First Class award, I would highly recommend making sure you get to try it. Here’s a gallery from our flight from London-LHR to Bangkok-BKK in Royal First:

The other huge advantage you have in using United/Star Alliance miles to travel around Thailand is that Thai Airways flies to just about every city in Thailand, again leaving you with huge opportunities for stop-overs/open jaws.

A great option is the one we used on our trip:  we took the London-LHR to Bangkok-BKK route on the way in and then took the non-stop Thai Airways Phuket-HKT to Hong Kong-HKG route on the way home.

Using United miles on Asiana Airways:

asianaplane

Pros: Great First Class, even new First Class Suite is bookable, big route network gives you the option of routing via Europe as well

Cons: Routing via Europe likely only available from Eastern U.S., planning a stopover in Seoul could be risky with North Korea situation (?)

Asiana Airways, headquartered in Seoul-ICN, has a great reputation for their superb quality First Class cabin and service. If you’re interested in flying on Asiana, you’ll most likely fly from the US to Seoul-ICN over the Pacific from one of these cites:

  • Chicago-ORD on Boeing 777-200ER = New First Class Suites
  • Honolulu-HNL
  • Los Angeles-LAX on Boeing 747-400 = Older First Class Cabin
  • New York-JFK on Boeing 777-200ER = New First Class Suites (starting July 22)
  • San Francisco-SFO
  • Seattle-SEA
asiana-us-icn-syd-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=ord-icn,hnl-icn,lax-icn,jfk-icn,sfo-icn,sea-icn-syd,c:green,syd-akl-ppt

If you can’t find what you need availability-wise leaving from the US, you can also take United/US/Lufthansa/Swiss from the US to Europe and then fly Asiana from one of the cities listed below to Seoul-ICN:

  • Paris-CDG
  • Frankfurt-FRA
  • London-LHR
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=cdg-icn,fra-icn,lhr-icn-syd,c:green,syd-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=cdg-icn,fra-icn,lhr-icn-syd,c:green,syd-akl-ppt

Note: You can probably pull off flying from the East Coast to Bangkok-BKK via Europe and Seoul-ICN, but there’s a good chance it won’t be allowable when flying from the West Coast. You’ll likely violate the MPM (Maximum Permitted Mileage) rules for a United award ticket.

Once in Seoul-ICN, the only route choice on Asiana is Seoul-ICN to Sydney-SYD:

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 3.55.41 PM

asiana-icn-syd-akl-ppt

SYD-ICN on Asiana

SYD-ICN on Asiana

ICN-SYD

ICN-SYD

See above Air New Zealand post on getting from Sydney-SYD to Auckland-AKL to Papeete-PPT.

asianab747first3

Asiana First Class in Boeing 747-400

asianab747first2

Asiana First Class in Boeing 747-400

asianab747first

Asiana First Class in Boeing 747-400

asianab747first4

I mean, look how comfortable this dude looks.

I would personally try to shoot for their First Class suite that will begin flying JFK-ICN on July 22, 2013:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 7.44.33 PM

Using United miles on ANA – All Nippon Airways

anaplane

Pros: Get to fly on Boeing 787 Dreamliner (they have 17); Tokyo-NRT is an easy and usually desirable stopover 

Cons: Might have to fly on Boeing 787 Dreamliner (they have 17)

U.S. cities with routes to Tokyo-NRT (and a few to Tokyo-HND) on ANA, complete guide with current aircraft and routes:

  • Chicago-ORD (careful, switches between new/old 777-300ER)
  • Honolulu-HNL (both to Tokyo-NRT & Tokyo-HND, on old 767-300ER)
  • Los Angles-LAX (To Tokyo-NRT on new 777-300ER with First Class, to Tokyo-HND on old 777-200ER)
  • New York-JFK (careful, switches between new/old 777-3ooER)
  • San Francisco-SFO (on new 777-300ER with First Class)
  • San Jose-SJC (route suspended until Aug 2013)
  • Seattle-SEA (on old 777-300ER)
  • Washington-IAD (on old 777-300ER)
ANA-us-nrt-pvg-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=ord-nrt,hnl-nrt,lax-nrt,sfo-nrt,sjc-nrt,sea-nrt,iad-nrt-pvg,c:green,pvg-akl-ppt

If routing to Tokyo-NRT via Europe on ANA, like Asiana, you’ll have to fly a different carrier from the US to Europe:

  • London-LHR to Tokyo-NRT (on new 777-300ER with First Class)
  • Paris-CDG to Tokyo-NRT (on new 777-300ER with First Class)
  • Frankfurt-FRA to Tokyo-NRT (on new 777-300ER with First Class)
  • Munich-MUC to Tokyo-NRT (on old 777-300ER)
ANA-europe-pvg-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=lhr-nrt,cdg-nrt,fra-nrt,muc-nrt-pvg,c:green,pvg-akl-ppt

The easiest way to get from Tokyo-NRT/HND to Papeete is to fly ANA to Shanghai-PVG and then take the direct flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland-AKL.

ANA offers a First Class cabin on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, and, although not a full-on “Suite,” the “First Class Square” gives a huge amount of privacy and looks very nice:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 10.48.33 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 10.42.19 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 10.43.16 PM

ana777300erFIRST

ANA’s new Business is a Staggered Business that, again, has a good deal of privacy:

New Business class on 777-300ER

New Business Class on 777-300ER

ana777300erbiz2

New Business Class on 777-300ER

Using United miles on Air China

airchinaplane

Pros: Air China has tons of availability in all classes; you can easily book in Economy, Business and First; a stop-over in Beijing would be easy

Cons: A stop-over in China will cost $130+ for a US citizen to get a VISA no matter the length of stay; their Business Class appears to be nothing special; many of the other carriers covered would offer a better experience

Routes you can fly from the US to Beijing-PEK on Air China:

  • Houston-IAH (begins July 2013) on 777-300ER –> 3-class cabin, can only find availability in Business

    IAH-PEK

    IAH-PEK

  • Los Angeles-LAX –> 2x flights daily on new 777-300ER
  • New York-JFK –> on 777-300ER, slim availability in Business/First
  • San Francisco-SFO –> on Boeing 747-400 (old?)
airchina-us-pek-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=sfo-pek,lax-pek,iah-pek,jfk-pek,c:green,pek-akl-ppt

You should be able to find good availability on Air China from any of the US cities they serve:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 10.23.30 PM

Then, to get to Papeete-PPT, you can then choose to fly from Beijing-PEK to:

  • Melbourne-MEL –> Air China A330 2-class cabin, decent availability

    Air China PVG-MEL

    Air China PVG-MEL

    Air China MEL-PVG

    Air China MEL-PVG

  • Sydney-SYD –> Air China A330 2-class cabin, good availability

    SYD-PEK Air China

    SYD-PEK Air China

    PEK-SYD Air China

    PEK-SYD Air China

From Sydney-SYD or Melbourne-MEL, you’ll have to continue on to Auckland-AKL then Papeete-PPT. See above Air New Zealand section for full details.

Air China Business Class:

airchina777-300ERbusiness1

Air China Business Class on new 777-300ER

airchina777-300ERbusiness2

Air China Business Class on new 777-300ER

airchina777-300ERbusiness3

Air China Business Class on new 777-300ER

Air China First Class:

airchina777-300ERfirst4

Air China First Class on new 777-300ER, almost like a suite

airchina777-300ERfirst3

Air China First Class on new 777-300ER, almost like a suite

airchina777-300ERfirst2

Air China First Class on new 777-300ER, almost like a suite

Using United miles on Air Canada:

aircanadaplane

Pros: Direct flights from N. America to 5 different Asian cities (giving you awesome flexibility); “Business Class” as shown on United is actually Air Canada’s “Executive First Suites”

Cons: Finding award space from your US city to Canada might be the weak link

Your best bet from Canada is to secure a seat on their routes to Sydney-SYD departing from:

  • Toronto-YYZ –> Sydney-SYD –> slim to no award availability
  • Vancouver-YVR –> Sydney-SYD –> very little availability on 2-class B777-200LR, Economy only
    Air Canada YVR-SYD

    Air Canada YVR-SYD

    Air Canada SYD-YVR

    Air Canada SYD-YVR

Air Canada is a lot like United or Delta in the sense that they have multiple hubs giving you better choices for direct flights to the same cities. Your options from Canada to Asia over the Pacific include flying via:

  • Beijing-PEK from Toronto-YYZ (new Boeing 777-300ER with First Suites) and Vancouver-YVR (older Boeing 767-300)
  • Tokyo-NRT from Calgary-YYC, Vancouver-YVR and Toronto-YYZ
  • Hong Kong-HKG from Toronto-YYZ and Vancouver-YVR (new Boeing 777-300ER with First Suites)
  • Shanghai-PVG from Toronto-YYZ and Vancouver-YVR
  • Seoul-ICN from from Toronto-YYZ (new Boeing 777-300ER with First Suites) and Vancouver-YVR (older Boeing 767-300)

aircanada-canada-asia

aircanda777300er2

Executive First Suites (aka Business Class) on *updated* Boeing 777-300ER

aircanda777300er3

Air Canada installed some signature cabin lighting on new 777-300ER, pretty…sexy?

This gives you the flexibility of stopping over in a number of Asian cities and then continuing on to Papeete-PPT using:

  • Beijing-PEK  –> Melbourne-MEL –> Air China A330 2-class cabin, decent availability
  • Beijing-PEK –> Sydney-SYD –> Air China A330 2-class cabin, good availability
  • Tokyo-NRT –> Shanghai-PVG on ANA and then PVG –> Auckland-AKL on Air New Zealand
  • Hong Kong-HKG –> Auckland-AKL on Air New Zealand, 2-class cabin on B777-200 limited availability in Econ only
  • Shanghai-PVG  –> Auckland-AKL on Air New Zealand
  • Seoul-ICN –> Sydney-SYD direct on Asiana Airlines
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=pek-mel-akl-ppt,pek-syd-akl-ppt,nrt-pvg-akl-ppt,pvg-akl-ppt,icn-syd-akl-ppt,hkg-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=pek-mel-akl-ppt,pek-syd-akl-ppt,nrt-pvg-akl-ppt,pvg-akl-ppt,icn-syd-akl-ppt,hkg-akl-ppt

Air Canada’s main hub at Toronto hits by far the most European cities, but be sure to check some Montreal-YUL, Vancouver-YVR and Calgary-YYC for additional award space:

  • Copenhagen-CPH
  • Frankfurt-FRA <– Montreal-YUL & Calgary-YYC too
  • Geneva-GVA <– Montreal-YUL too
  • Istanbul-IST
  • London-LHR <– Montreal-YUL & Vancouver-YVR too
  • Paris-CDG <– Montreal-YUL too
  • Tel Aviv-TLV
  • Zurich-ZRH
  • Barcelona-BCN
  • Dublin-DUB
  • Madrid-MAD
  • Rome-FCO <– Montreal-YUL too
  • Brussels-BRU <– Montreal-YUL only

aircanada-canada-europe

 

Your stopover & open-jaw opportunities are limitless as you can fly from the following cities onward to Bangkok-BKK on Thai (choices with First Class in bold):

  • Brussels-BRU –> Direct on Thai Airways (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First)
  • Dublin-DUB –> No direct flight
  • London-LHR –> Direct on Thai Airways (2x flights daily aboard 3-class cabin on B747)
  • Madrid-MAD –> Direct on Thai Airways (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First)
  • Barcelona-BCN –> No direct flight
  • Geneva-GVA –> No direct flight
  • Zurich-ZRH –> Direct on Thai Airways (3-class cabin on A340-600) and SWISS (only bookable up to Business on A340-300)
  • Frankfurt-FRA –> Direct on Thai Airways (2x flights daily on 3-class cabin on A380! and on 3-class cabin B747) and Lufthansa (only bookable up to Business on B747-400)
  • Paris-CDG –> Direct on Thai Airways (3-class cabin on A380!)
  • Copenhagen-CPG –> Direct on Thai Airways (2-class cabin B 777-300, no First and VERY LITTLE availability in Business) and SAS Scandinavian Airlines Systems (2-class cabin A340-300, VERY LITTLE availability at all)
  • Istanbul-IST –> Direct on Turkish Airlines (2x flights daily aboard 2-class cabin A340-300/A330)
  • Tel Aviv-TLV –>  No direct flight
  • Rome-FCO –> Direct on Thai Airways (3-class cabin on A340-600)
Cities with 3-class cabins in purple

Cities with 3-class cabins in purple

Also, check above for Asiana flights to Seoul-ICN and ANA flights flights to Tokyo-NRT.

Using United miles on SWISS Airlines:

swissairplane

Pros: Solid Business Class; stop-over opportunity in Zurich

Cons: Can’t redeem United miles for First Class on Swiss

SWISS Airlines flies from their hub in Zurich-ZRH to the following US cities:

  • Boston-BOS
  • Chicago-ORD
  • Los Angeles-LAX
  • Miami-MIA
  • Newark-EWR
  • New York-JFK
  • San Francisco-SFO

From Zurich, you can continue on towards Papeete-PPT by flying from Zurich-ZRH to:

  • Beijing-PEK –> Good availability on 3-class A330-300, only Econ & Business bookable

    SWISS PEK-ZRH

    SWISS PEK-ZRH

    SWISS ZRH-PRK

    SWISS ZRH-PRK

  • Shanghai-PVG –> Great availability on 3-class A340-300 in Econ & Business, First not bookable
    SWISS ZRH-PVG

    SWISS ZRH-PVG

    SWISS PVG-ZRH

    SWISS PVG-ZRH

  • Tokyo-NRT –> Great availability on 3-class A340-300 in Econ & Business, First not bookable
  • Singapore-SIN –> Decent availability in Econ & Business, First not bookable. 2x flights/day on 3-class A340-300 & A380-800!
  • Bangkok-BKK –> Slim to no availability on SWISS, better off flying Thai on this route
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=bos-zrh,ord-zrh,lax-zrh,mia-zrh,ewr-zrh,jfk-zrh,sfo-zrh,pek-zrh,pvg-zrh,nrt-zrh,sin-zrh,bkk-zrh

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=bos-zrh,ord-zrh,lax-zrh,mia-zrh,ewr-zrh,jfk-zrh,sfo-zrh,pek-zrh,pvg-zrh,nrt-zrh,sin-zrh,bkk-zrh

From what I can tell, it’s virtually impossible to redeem your United miles for a seat in SWISS’ First Class cabin, so you’ll have to be content with their Business Class product which fortunately looks above par:

swissbusiness2

swissbusiness1

swissbusiness3

 

Using United miles on Lufthansa:

lufthansaplane

Pros: Huge number of flights from U.S. cities to Frankfurt/Munich; can fly the new Airbus A380 on certain routes; can do a stop-over in Frankfurt/Munich

Cons: You can’t book First Class with United miles, however Business Class is bookable and a pretty solid-looking product

Lufthansa serves the following U.S. cities from their hubs in Frankfurt-FRA & Munich-MUC (make sure to check all desirable choices for your flights to Germany while keeping in mind that most flights to Asia leave from Frankfurt-FRA):

  • Atlanta-ATL only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Boston-BOS to Munich-MUC & Frankfurt-FRA
  • Charlotte-CLT only to Munich-MUC
  • Chicago-ORD to Munich-MUC & Frankfurt-FRA
  • Dallas-DFW only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Denver-DEN only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Detroit-DTW only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Houston-IAH only to Frankfurt-FRA –> Airbus A380 route
  • Los Angeles-LAX to Munich-MUC  & Frankfurt-FRA –> Boeing 747-800 route
  • Miami-MIA only to Frankfurt-FRA –> Boeing 747-800 route
  • Newark-EWR to Munich-MUC  & Frankfurt-FRA
  • New York-JFK to Munich-MUC  & Frankfurt-FRA –> Airbus A380 route
  • Orland-MCO only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Philadelphia-PHL only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • San Francisco-SFO to Munich-MUC  & Frankfurt-FRA  –> Airbus A380 route
  • Seattle-SEA only to Frankfurt-FRA
  • Washington-IAD to Munich-MUC  & Frankfurt-FRA –> Boeing 747-800 route
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=atl-fra,bos-fra,ord-fra,dfw-fra,den-fra,dtw-fra,iah-fra,lax-fra,mia-fra,ewr-fra,jfk-fra,mco-fra,phl-fra,sfo-fra,sea-fra,iad-fra,c:green,bos-muc,clt-muc,ord-muc,lax-muc,ewr-muc,jfk-muc,sfo-muc,iad-muc,ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=atl-fra,bos-fra,ord-fra,dfw-fra,den-fra,dtw-fra,iah-fra,lax-fra,mia-fra,ewr-fra,jfk-fra,mco-fra,phl-fra,sfo-fra,sea-fra,iad-fra,c:green,bos-muc,clt-muc,ord-muc,lax-muc,ewr-muc,jfk-muc,sfo-muc,iad-muc,ppt

Then, to continue on to Asia, you’ll fly from Frankfurt-FRA or Munich-MUC to:

  • Beijing-PEK from FRA/MUC –> 3x/day between Lufthansa & Air China, excellent availability in Econ & Business, 0 in First
  • Nanjing-NKG from FRA only –> Slim availability on 2-class A340-300, Business only
  • Qingdao-TAO  from FRA only 
  • Shanghai-PVG from FRA/MUC –>2x/day between Lufthansa & Air China, excellent availability in Econ & Business, 0 in First. On Lufthansa A380-800!
  • Shenyang-SHE from FRA only –> Slim availability on 2-class A340-300, Business only
  • Hong Kong-HKG from FRA/MUC –> on 2-class B747-8, good Econ availability, none in Business
  • Tokyo-NRT from FRA/MUC –> Good Econ availability, none in Business
  • Osaka-KIX from FRA only –> On 3-class cabin B747-400, good availability in Business & Econ, 0 in First
  • Nagoya-NGO from FRA only
  • Singapore-SIN from FRA/MUC
  • Seoul-ICN from FRA/MUC
  • Busan-PUS from MUC only
  • Bangkok-BKK from FRA only
lufthansa-fra:muc-asia

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=pek-fra,nkg-fra,tao-fra,pvg-fra,she-fra,hkg-fra,nrt-fra,kix-fra,ngo-fra,sin-fra,icn-fra,bkk-fra,c:green,pek-muc,pvg-muc,hkg-muc,nrt-muc,sin-muc,icn-muc,pus-muc,akl,ppt

It goes without saying that a Frankfurt/Munich stop-over and/or open jaw would be a perfect choice when flying Lufthansa.

Finding limited Business Class space from LAX-FRA and, like SWISS above, not a single First Class seat. Lufthansa Business Class:

lufthansa1

Lufthansa Business cabin on Boeing 747-800

lufthansa2

Lufthansa Business cabin on Boeing 747-800

 

Using United miles on Egypt Air:

egyptairplane

Pros: Looking for an exotic, adventurous stopover? How about Cairo, Egypt?!

Cons: Cairo might not be the most stable place on this large planet of ours.

Egypt Air flies one route from the US to Egypt: New York-JFK to Cairo-CAI:

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=jfk-cai,pek-cai,can-cai,nrt-cai,kix-cai,bkk-cai,dxb-cai,auh-cai,c:green,akl,ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=jfk-cai,pek-cai,can-cai,nrt-cai,kix-cai,bkk-cai,dxb-cai,auh-cai,c:green,akl,ppt

 

You’ll have to find partner space to take you from Beijing-PEK, Bangkok-BKK etc. to Auckland-AKL then onward to Papeete-PPT.

EgyptAir operates Boeing 777-300 between these cities, which only offers up to a Business Class (full trip report here), not First, although it looks quite nice (much better than Delta!):

egyptair1

Business Class on EgyptAir Boeing 777-300

egyptair2

Business Class on EgyptAir Boeing 777-300

egyptair3

Business Class on EgyptAir Boeing 777-300

 

Using United miles on Ethiopian Airlines:

ethiopianairlines

Pros: If you thought Cairo, Egypt was an exotic stopover, then you’ll just love Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!; they fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on a rotating basis (schedule here)

Cons: Seems to be hard/impossible to book Business Class with United miles and, even if you could, their Business Class looks pretty crappy on most of their aircrafts.

Ethiopian Air flies a direct flight from Washington-IAD to Addis Ababa-ADD on their Boeing 767-300:

ethiopian-iad-add-bkk

But, unfortunately, it looks like you won’t be able to book any of their Business Class space on the IAD-ADD leg:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 8.58.12 AM

To continue on towards Auckland-AKL, you’ll have to fly Ethiopian to:

  • Beijing-PEK
  • Bangkok-BKK
  • Dubai-DXB
  • Mumbai-BOM

The Addis Ababa-ADD to Bangkok-BKK leg does show availability in Business, however:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.01.21 AM

 

 

 

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=add-pek,add-bkk,dxb-add,bom-add,akl,ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=add-pek,add-bkk,dxb-add,bom-add,akl,ppt

Don’t get too excited, though, since their Business Class product looks pretty terrible (which probably explains why they don’t have any pictures on their website):

ethiopianbusiness1

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class on Boeing 767-300

ethiopianbusiness2

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class on Boeing 767-300

Unless you’re lucky enough to fly one of the few updated Boeing 777-200LR planes in Business:

ethiopianbusiness3

Updated Business Class on Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 777-200LR

ethiopianbusiness4

Updated Business Class on Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 777-200LR

 

Using United miles on Singapore Airlines:

singaporeairlinesplane

Pros: Singapore Airlines has some of the nicest premium cabins in the world (see “Cons”)

Cons: Singapore Airlines has tightened their availability for United awards to the point that it’s virtually impossible to book Business, First or First Suites now (there are a few exceptions as noted below).

Singapore Airlines flies from the following US cities to Singapore-SIN, but nearly every flight requires a refueling stop given the distance:

  • Newark-EWR non-stop
  • New York-JFK w/ a stop in Frankfurt-FRA
  • Houston-IAH w/ a stop in Moscow-DME
  • Los Angeles-LAX w/ a stop in Tokyo-NRT
  • San Francisco-SFO w/ a stop in Seoul-ICN/Hong Kong-HKG

singapore-us-sin-bkk

Other options if you’re just wanting to try out Singapore Airline’s world renowned service:

  • Manchester-MAN
  • London-LHR
  • Amsterdam-AMS
  • Paris-CDG
  • Copenhagen-CPH
  • Frankfurt-FRA
  • Zurich-ZRH
  • Munich-MUC
  • Milan-MXP
  • Moscow-DME
  • Barcelona-BCN
  • Rome-FCO — some availability in Business Class
  • Istanbul-IST
  • Cairo-CAI — a lot of availability in Business Class

singapore-europe-sin-bkk

Getting from Singapore-SIN to Papeete-PPT can be accomplished  by flying one of the following routes:

  • SIN to Christchurch-CHC, then CHC-AKL on Air New Zealand –> Availability in Business class B777-200
  • SIN to Sydney-SYD, then SYD-AKL on Air New Zealand –> On A380
  • SIN to Bangkok-BKK, then BKK-AKL on Thai Airways
  • SIN to Tokyo-NRT, then NRT-AKL on Air New Zealand
  • SIN to Shanghai-PVG, then PVG-AKL on Air New Zealand
sq-sin-asia-akl-ppt

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=sin-chc,sin-syd,sin-bkk,sin-nrt,sin-pvg,c:green,chc-akl,syd-akl,bkk-akl,nrt-akl,pvg-akl-ppt

The non-stop Newark-EWR to Singapore-SIN route is an all Business Class aircraft, meaning the airplane has 100 Business Class seats and no Economy seat and it’s currently the world’s longest flight!–pretty cool, right?:

sq21

Cabin of SQ 21 from EWR-SIN

The bad news? They’re canceling the flight in Nov 2013 and it’s currently impossible to book a seat on it using United miles (AMEX points –> KrisFlyer miles is a different story and will be covered in a future post).

Here’s an example of Singapore’s availability from Paris-CDG to Singapore-SIN:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.48.37 PM

There’s availability almost everyday in Sep/Oct 2013 but in Economy only; on the plus side, it’s on Singapore’s Airbus A380.

They do, however, release more Business/First award space on their regional flights:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.49.12 PM

 

 

Using United miles on Brussels Airlines flights:

brusselsairlinesplane

Pros: Pretty good looking Business Class seat

Cons: Very few options to get from the U.S. to Brussels

Brussels Airlines isn’t a very strong option for getting from the US to Asia/Oceania. In fact, they only offer the following choices from their Brussels-BRU hub:

  • New York-JFK
  • Washington-IAD

You’ll then have to use another carrier like Thai Airways to get you the majority of the way to Bangkok-BKK or another hub that can send you down to Auckland-AKL.

brusselsairlines-us-bru-bkk

 

Another not-so-great thing is that Brussels Airlines operates a two-cabin Airbus A330-300 with Business and Economy on their JFK and IAD routes:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 5.36.21 PM

 

But they have been recently updated:

airbrusselsa3301

Looks very similar to Lufthansa’s Business Class

 

airbrusselsa3302

Whereas you could fly United’s Boeing 777-200 in Global First:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 5.41.57 PM

 

Using United miles on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System):

sasplane

Pros: Can easily arrange a stop-over or open-jaw in Scandinavia

Cons: SAS only has 2-class cabin from US to Scandinavia

SAS flies to following routes to/from the U.S.:

  • Newark-EWR–> Copenhagen-CPH (2-class A340-300), Oslo-OSL (2-class A330), Stockholm-ARN (2-class A330-300)
  • San Francisco-SFO–> Copenhagen-CPH (slim to no availability)
  • Chicago-ORD–> Stockholm-ARN (2-class A330-300), Copenhagen-CPH (2-class A340-300)
  • Washington-IAD–> Copenhagen-CPH (2-class A340-300)

sas-us-scan-bkk

 

Options from Scandinavia to Oceania include:

  • Copenhagen-CPG –> Direct on SAS (2-class cabin A340-300) and Thai Airways (2-class cabin B777-300, little Business availability but plenty in Economy)
  • Stockholm-ARN –> Direct on Thai Airways (2-class cabin B777-300)
  • Oslo-OSL –> Direct on Thai Airways (2-class cabin B777-200, little Business availability but plenty in Economy)
  • –> Beijing-PEK direct on SAS
  • –> Shanghai-PVG direct on SAS

You’ll have to fly either Thai Airways or Air New Zealand to continue onward to Auckland-AKL

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jeffrey
jeffrey

One Pingback/Trackback

  • Neel

    Wow…thanks for such a detailed write-up with screenshots. One question though, your example of United’s 1stopover and 1openjaw doesn’t seem to honor that rule. If the route is LAX-SYD// CHC-AKL//AKL-PPT//PPT-LAX, you are having 2 stopovers. Right ? Did you mean LAX-SYD//AKL-PPT//PPT-LAX ?

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