- Introduction: Two Trips To The Southern Hemisphere
- Review: Copa Airlines Business Class 737 (MIA-PTY)
- Review: Crowne Plaza Panama Airport
- New Panama Airport Terminal 2: Impressive(ish)
- Review: Copa Club Panama Airport Terminal 2
- Review: Copa Business Class 737-800 (PTY-LIM)
- Review: Sumaq Lounge Lima Airport (LIM)
- Review: Priority Pass Restaurants Lima Airport
- Review: LATAM Business Class 767 (LIM-MIA)
- Review: Hyatt House & Hyatt Place LAX
- Review: Qantas First Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)
- Review: Oneworld Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)
- Review: Alaska Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)
- Gorgeous: LAX Midfield Satellite Concourse
- Review: Fiji Airways Business Class A350 (LAX-NAN)
- Review: Fiji Airways Lounge Nadi Airport (NAN)
- Review: Fiji Airways Business Class A330 (NAN-AKL)
- Review: Park Hyatt Auckland, New Zealand
- Review: Air New Zealand Lounge Auckland (AKL)
- Review: Strata Lounge Auckland (AKL)
- Review: Air New Zealand Business Class 787-9 (AKL-LAX)
Welcome to my next trip report series, which will include business class reviews on Copa Airlines, LATAM, Fiji Airways, and Air New Zealand, as well as several airport lounge and hotel reviews.
Why I took this trip
This was a “pure” review trip, which is to say that I took this trip exclusively to review as many airlines, airport lounges, and hotels, as efficiently as possible. I know many OMAAT readers enjoy the reviews on the blog, so as a new parent I’m trying to keep that going while being away from home as little as possible.
I didn’t have any specific “agenda” when I started planning this trip, but rather I knew when a good time to travel would be, so I planned my trip based around where I could find good award availability for interesting products.
Funny enough the initial trip I largely planned involved the Etihad Airways A350-1000, Gulf Air Boeing 787-9, Singapore Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, etc., but it just didn’t quite pan out in the end. Worry not, I’ll have a trip along those lines soon. Fortunately I found another option that I think was pretty interesting.
The airlines I flew on this trip
For all practical purposes, I sort of took two separate trips — one roundtrip from Miami to Latin America, and one roundtrip from Los Angeles to the South Pacific. Then I booked an American Airlines roundtrip ticket between Miami and Los Angeles to connect the two trips.
Why plan two back-to-back trips like that? Frankly nowadays getting out the door is the biggest challenge (I wrote about the emotional aspect of that in a separate post), so once I’ve left, I might as well do as much as I can.
Below is a map of my total flying (I covered 23,260 miles), and then after that I’ll cover the details of the flights I took and how I paid for them.
To kick off this trip, I booked Copa business class to Lima via Panama. Initially the first flight was supposed to be operated by a Boeing 737 MAX 9 while the second flight was supposed to be operated by a Boeing 737-800, though unfortunately there was a last minute aircraft swap, so this part of the trip was a let-down.
I ended up booking the following in business class for 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points plus $49.40 in taxes & fees (and I took advantage of a transfer bonus from Amex, so I needed even fewer Amex points than that):
9/15 CM227 Miami to Panama City departing 5:59PM arriving 8:10PM
9/16 CM493 Panama City to Lima departing 3:43PM arriving 7:17PM
From there I wanted to return to Miami in LATAM’s new business class, so I booked the following for 45,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles plus $74.58 in taxes & fees:
9/17 LA2462 Lima to Miami departing 12:15AM arriving 7:05AM
Then after repositioning to Los Angeles, it was time to head to Auckland via Nadi. Fiji Airways has historically been really stingy with award space, but a bunch of business class award space was recently made available. I managed to book the following for 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles plus $60.60 in taxes & fees:
9/18 FJ811 Los Angeles to Nadi departing 11:55PM arriving 5:45AM (+2 days)
9/20 FJ411 Nadi to Auckland departing 8:30AM arriving 11:40AM
Lastly, Air New Zealand (shockingly!) had a business class award seat for a return flight to Los Angeles. So I booked the following for 62,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points plus $38.84 in taxes & fees (and I took advantage of a transfer bonus from Amex, so I needed even fewer Amex points than that):
9/21 NZ4 Auckland to Los Angeles departing 11:15PM arriving 4:20PM
The above is the chronological order in which I traveled, but for those wondering the order in which I actually booked this trip:
- I first noticed how Fiji Airways had award space from Los Angeles to Auckland, allowing me to review the Airbus A350 and Airbus A330, so that was my starting point for this trip
- Miraculously, I saw that Air New Zealand had business class award availability the following day from Auckland to Los Angeles, so that seemed too good to be true, even if Air New Zealand business class is subpar; I locked that in right away
- At that point I figured I might as well try to add in another element to this trip, and I noticed LATAM had award availability from Lima to Miami in its new Boeing 767 business class a day before I was supposed to fly to New Zealand
- To get to Lima, I thought flying Copa would be a good opportunity, since I was curious to try Copa’s Boeing 737 MAX 9, and Panama’s new Terminal 2 recently opened, including a new Copa Club
In addition to flight reviews, you can expect reviews of the following lounges:
- The Copa Club Panama City Airport (PTY)
- The Sumaq Lounge Lima Airport (LIM)
- The Priority Pass Restaurants Lima Airport (LIM)
- The Qantas First Lounge Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
- The oneworld Lounge Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
- The Alaska Lounge Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
- The Centurion Lounge Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
- The Fiji Airways Lounge Nadi Airport (NAN)
- The Air New Zealand Lounge Auckland Airport (AKL)
- The Strata Lounge Auckland Airport (AKL)
The hotels I stayed at this trip
Over the course of my trip, I spent three nights in hotels, including in Panama City, Los Angeles, and Auckland.
While there are some downtown hotels in Panama City that I wanted to experience, I made the decision to just stay near the airport, since I was planning on being at the airport very early. I booked the Crowne Plaza Panama Airport for 18,000 IHG One Rewards points (the cash rate was ~$120, so it was an okay redemption, but not amazing).
Then for my overnight in Los Angeles, I decided to check out the combined Hyatt House & Hyatt Place LAX. I was curious about the dual-branded hotel concept, and I’ve also been meaning to stay at a Hyatt House, so that I can check that brand off my Brand Explorer list.
Then there was the hotel stay I was most looking forward to, which was the Park Hyatt Auckland. This hotel opened during the pandemic, and I was curious to see what it was like. I paid cash for this one night stay. The rate was $250, and since I booked through Hyatt Privé, I received a $100 credit and more (in addition to my typical Globalist perks).
It was super fun to take my first full-on review trip since the start of the pandemic. While I had a great time, I forgot how exhausting these trips can be, and I think I’m just now caught up on my post-trip sleep. Stay tuned for lots of airline, airport lounge, and hotel reviews, and thanks for reading!
We are planning this same Fiji - NZ trip in Oct of next year. Your insight is very valuable. We are using Alaska points for business class on Fiji Airways from LAX. What is a strategy to get travel insurance through the use of credit card?
Wow. What a trip plan. But still, it is very short stay. I do not understand why would someone go to New Zeland just for a day. Can you imagine what a carbon footprint this is.
Ben have you ever calculated what is your carbon footprint?
While I'm sure there is personal enjoyment in such trips, he's doing it for journalism to share with his readers. What we learn from his journeys far outweighs his carbon footprint.
Speaking of Southern Hemisphere… any trips planned back to South Africa? Just loved that trip report!
I’ve missed the old formula of flights, lounges and hotels. Looking forward to the reviews!
I'm exhausted just reading at that schedule, but very much looking forward to reading those reviews!
Glad to see a return to what you are strong at - blogging about airline trips and reviews on lounges.
Journalism isn't really this blog's strong suit. Leave that to the professionals.
even tho I think its insane you travel to these amazing places and dont spend at least 24 hours exploring the destination, I admire your determination to do these whirlwind review trips, cuz YES we LOVE your reviews.
cant wait to read them!!!
This is what we want! Can't wait.
copa sucks... they have gone downhill so much its not even funny. They use to be a very good airline (they are very profitable, which is probably what matters to them lol)...
Can't wait to read some reviews
Why wouldn't you want to spend a little bit of time at some of these destinations? I mean Lima and Peru is beautiful, why not spend a few days exploring same with Auckland? Even if you have been there before I'm sure there is something worth experiencing that's worth a few days at least.
Ben’s a newly minted father. Enough said.
This blog has never catered to the traveler and Ben isn't really a traveler. There are much better venues on the internet for travelogues and experiential reports. Ben has tried it in the past, but the execution was luke warm, at best. Best to let him stick to his strength; airline and lounge reviews.
That Hyatt Brand Explorer promo you briefly mentioned is awesome. Not sure many people know about it, so it might be worth its own post. For anyone reading this, if you stay at 5 different Hyatt brands (Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt House, Park Hyatt, etc.), you get a free Cat 4 free night award. Best part is THAT AWARD STAYS COUNT towards this promo and there is no timeline. Also if you do 10 brands,...
That Hyatt Brand Explorer promo you briefly mentioned is awesome. Not sure many people know about it, so it might be worth its own post. For anyone reading this, if you stay at 5 different Hyatt brands (Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt House, Park Hyatt, etc.), you get a free Cat 4 free night award. Best part is THAT AWARD STAYS COUNT towards this promo and there is no timeline. Also if you do 10 brands, you get 2 free nights, which is basically a Hyatt credit card bonus.
Yes, but I found out the fun way that some hotels don't participate in the brand explorer promo. I stayed at the Hyatt Residence Club Sedona and was told they are not a participator in the HRC for the purposes of brand explorer even though you can redeem and earn points there.
"Etihad Airways A350-1000, Gulf Air Boeing 787-9, Singapore Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, etc., but it just didn’t quite pan out in the end. Worry not, I’ll have a trip along those lines soon."
Y e s
Oh very much looking forward to this one.
Looking forward to the reviews.
By the way, has "Ian" affected anything, friends, family, flights?
@ Eskimo -- Thanks! We got really lucky. My parents are in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area, but ended up having no damage. They came to South Florida to visit us and evacuate during the hurricane, so I was happy to be able to spend time with them. Unfortunately people a bit further south than them weren't so lucky.
Great to hear that good news and that a bunch of reviews are inbound. I know reviews dont get as many clicks as the more politically charged posts but i know every single everyday reader loves these reviews more than anything else on the internet!
This is why I red OMAT for these reviews
Not for cards & political post but I get it