Middle Age Miles

I Want to Use My AA Miles to Fly Non-Stop US to Fiji – What Are My Chances? (Case Study)

Introduction

Recently, American Airlines introduced a new feature to AA.com, allowing us to search and view mileage redemptions on its partner Fiji Airways.  Even before this, it was possible to use AAdvantage miles to book flights on Fiji Air; however, the award space was not searchable and you were required to call to book.

A lot of Middle Age Miles readers have a stash of AAdvantage miles, and I suspect a lot of Middle Age Miles readers (ourselves included!) would sure like to go to Fiji!  This, combined with the new AA.com online access to Fiji availability, made us want to take a look at award availability.

Plus, with the new season of Survivor starting this week, we had Fiji on our minds!  Although, the weather on last night’s premiere wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for a vacation in Fiji.  That tropical storm was fierce!

Jeff Probst and the contestants on Survivor: David vs Goliath battling Tropical Cyclone Josie in Fiji [image courtesy CBS]

So, what are our chances of using our AAdvantage miles to book a non-stop flight from the US mainland to Fiji?

The answer, as you’ll see in more detail below, is a mixed bag.  Here’s the good news – If (a) you’re traveling in economy; (b) you don’t have to travel around the Christmas holiday; and (c) you have a little flexibility and/or can plan a few months ahead – then you should be able to book one of the non-stop US mainland-to-Fiji flights with little trouble.  If you want to fly in business class, however, you’re basically completely out of luck.

Details and Analysis

Fiji Airways operates two non-stop routes from the US mainland to Fiji (Nadi Airport/NAN) – daily to and from Los Angeles (LAX), and 1-3 days a week to and from San Francisco (SFO) depending on the season.  The flights are blocked at approximately 11 hours in each direction.  It’s about 5,500 miles from either LAX or SFO to NAN.

Fiji Airways is an earning and redemption partner of American’s AAdvantage program.  Award redemptions in economy are 40,000 AA miles each way / 80,000 round-trip.  In business, it’s double, 80,000 AA miles each way / 160,000 round trip.  Economy awards book into X class; business awards book into U class.

Economy from LAX

On the outbound flight from LAX to NAN (FJ 811), economy class award availability through AA.com looks pretty good.  Availability breaks down into time periods roughly as follows:

  • From now through October 20, there are a few days of availability
  • Starting on October 20 and continuing through December 9, availability is excellent
  • From December 9 through January 18, 2019, during the Christmas holidays and a couple of weeks either side, there is no availability; it’s completely blocked out
  • Starting on January 19 and continuing through June 9, availability is excellent

Let’s take a quick look at the availability calendar on AA.com.  Here is the calendar for November, for 2 passengers in economy:

And here is the calendar for March, for 2 passengers in economy.  This is representative of the outstanding availability from mid-January through early June 2019:

Here is the detail on a Fiji Air LAX-NAN flight, booking with AAdvantage miles through AA.com:

If you can book the outbound flight, you should also be able to book your return in economy.  On the return flight, NAN to LAX (FJ 810), availability is generally as follows:

  • It’s largely open from now through November 15, with the majority of dates being available
  • Starting on November 16 and continuing into early December, there is very limited availability.  The only dates available are Tues/Wed/Thurs, Nov 27/28/29, and again the next week, Dec 4/5/6.
  • From December 7 through January 22, 2019, availability is completely blocked out (with one exception, Christmas Day)
  • Then, starting on January 23 and continuing through July 5, availability is very good

Economy from SFO

Availability in economy class on the SFO-NAN flights generally follows the same pattern as with the LAX flights.  It’s mostly available, at least on Saturdays, from now through early December.  It’s blocked out from December 9 through mid-January.  Then, starting in January, availability is excellent through the end of the schedule in early June.  Availability on the return NAN-SFO flights is similar.  In short, as long as you have a little flexibility and you can avoid the blackout dates on either side of the Christmas holiday, you should be able to find dates that work for you in each direction.

To take a more specific look, here’s the availability calendar on AA.com for the direct SFO-NAN flight for November, for 2 passengers in economy:

And if you can plan into next Spring, pretty much every day that this flight operates is available.  Here is the April availability calendar for 2 passengers in economy:

Here is the detail on a Fiji Air LAX-NAN flight, booking with AAdvantage miles through AA.com:

Return availability from NAN-SFO in economy is similar to that for the outbound flights shown above.

Business Class from LAX

The news isn’t so good if you’re looking to book business class flights – and I’m sure most of us would greatly prefer a nice business class experience on these 11-hour flights!

As of today (September 28), there are exactly two dates showing on AA.com with availability for 2 passengers in business on the outbound LAX-NAN flight – December 7, 2018, and May 21, 2019.

On the return NAN-LAX flight, not one single day of business class availability is showing on AA.com.

We did notice an anomaly with business class space on a few dates on the outbound LAX-NAN flight.  We found eight days where Expert Flyer shows Fiji as having 2 or 3 seats available for business class award redemptions (U class).  But none of these dates shows up on AA.com.  We aren’t sure whether Fiji isn’t making these seats available to AA at all for award bookings, or whether they are available but just not showing up on AA.com.

Expert Flyer shows 3 business class award seats from LAX-NAN on November 7, but AA.com does not show these seats as being available

If you’re interested in trying to use AAdvantage miles to book LAX-NAN business class on these dates where Fiji Air is showing at least 2 seats available, you might try to call in to AA.  The main number for the US-based call center is 1-800-433-7300.  If the US call center can’t help, you might try one of the foreign centers, as they have been known to see availability that US-based reps couldn’t book.  The Australia call center has a reputation for being helpful.  It’s open 24/7, and the number is +61 02-9101-1948.

Here is a list of the dates where we’re seeing either 2 or 3 business class seats available on Fiji Air on LAX-NAN but that aren’t showing up on AA.com:

  • 2018:  November 7; November 28
  • 2019:  February 1; February 19; March 27; March 29; April 16; May 28

Unfortunately, this won’t help us on the return flight in any event.  We searched NAN-LAX every day through the end of the schedule on Expert Flyer, and we did not see any dates where Fiji Air showed availability for 2 or more business class award seats.  There were only two dates where we saw 1 seat availability in business for NAN-LAX – February 21 and June 4.

Business Class from SFO

This one is even simpler – we found no business class award availability at all between SFO and NAN, in either direction, from now through the end of the schedule in June 2019.

Connecting Availability

We were also curious about whether we could find availability on AA.com from other US cities, connecting to one of the non-stop LAX-NAN or SFO-NAN flights.  We didn’t do a comprehensive search, but we took a look at departures from Phoenix (PHX) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).

From PHX, we were happy to see that there was great availability to Fiji.  We show the November availability calendar below.  You’ll have to sort through these, as there are definitely some routings that are better than others – but at least you can get from PHX to Fiji on AA miles!

From DFW, we were also happy to see good availability to Fiji.  As with PHX, we show the November availability calendar below, and you’ll want to sort through them to look at the routings and schedules.  Some are definitely more deisrable than others

Also, we noticed some business class availability from DFW-NAN during November, for 2 passengers.  Here is the availability calendar:

And here is the routing for a business class award for DFW-NAN on November 20.  Note that this routing doesn’t use a Fiji Air flight from LAX or SFO to NAN; rather, it utilizes the AA flight from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL), and then you backtrack about 1,300 miles (in economy) on Fiji Air.  The DFW-LAX and LAX-AKL routes are both on American’s new Dreamliner, the 787-900, which would make for a very pleasant business class ride.

We also checked for a business class award for a return flight from NAN to DFW.  Unfortunately, the only availability we found in November-December for 2 passengers on NAN-DFW was on December 6.

At least the routing and schedule are good for this December 6 itinerary.  Plus, the long AKL-LAX leg is on the AA 787-900 Dreamliner.  If you’re interested, snap it up quickly!

Other Notes

Fiji flies Airbus 330-200 and 330-300 planes on its US mainland-to-Fiji routes.  Business seats are in a 2-2-2 configuration, and economy is mostly 2-4-2.  You may want to take a look at the Seat Guru reviews (here is the Seat Guru page for the Fiji Air A330-200; and here is the SG page for the Fiji Air A330-300) before you book the flight.  There are a few negative comments, mostly that the economy seats are very tight, especially when the person in front reclines.

As with the DFW-NAN business class connecting itinerary we highlighted above, many of the other connecting itineraries that we saw from PHX and DFW don’t use the Fiji Air flights from LAX or SFO to connect into Fiji.  Instead they use other connections through New Zealand and Australia.  These still may work for you, but they add travel time and distance.  Just be aware of what you’re getting if you’re looking to book these.

You might want to be aware of the rainy/tropical storm season in Fiji.  According to US News Travel, peak, dry season is from July through September; whereas rainy season with potential for storms is generally from November through April.

And finally, I know we didn’t find much business class availability, but we did find ways to get you to Fiji using your AAdvantage miles!


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