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Help Desperately Needed: flights—Nashville/Kauai/Brisbane and more …

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I sure hope someone can share some insight or suggestions because I’m completely overwhelmed by the possibilities.

I need to fly from Nashville (BNA) to Kauai (LIH) somewhere between April 16 – 23, and from LIH to Brisbane (BNE) on May 5th (give or take a day).

Somewhere around June 12th I’ll return from Christchurch, NZ (CHC) to Nashville (BNA).

In between there will be many internal flights: BNE to Sydney (SYD); SYD to Melbourne; Melbourne to Auckland (AKL), and Auckland back to Nashville. AGGHHH!

I’m guessing it will be best to book all the internal Australia and New Zealand flights separately. But what’s making my head explode is trying to compare whether I should book BNA to LIH and LIH to BNE on one multi-city ticket versus treating them as one-way flights.

I will also be booking the same itinerary with a different departure date for my partner who will meet me in Kauai and continue on for the duration.

My preference (for FF miles) would be American Airlines—but not enough to spend a great deal more, or take significantly longer flights. But I am looking for good prices and schedules that don't require ridiculous layovers--and can't seem to find it all.

I wonder if the airline lost my brain last night en route from Paris to Nashville???

Thanks so much for any suggestions about how to best approach this and sort it out.

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    I've played a little with the options and I think the cheapest/most efficient alternative would be a one-way fare from BNA to LIH, then a double-open-jaw route, LIH-xHNL-BNE//AKL-xHNL-xLAX-BNA. I'm seeing around $540 for the one way trip from BNA to Kauai, then $1521 for the rest, using Hawaiian Airlines from LIH to Brisbane, and again from Auckland to LAX on the return, connecting to AA for the BNA flight. Flights within Oz and trans-Tasman would be on a buy-as-you go basis; there are plenty of low cost options within Oz and NZ. (By the way, the little "x" means it's a connection, not a stopover.)

    Just for future reference, you could have bought a round-the-world ticket in Europe which could have covered this trip, with the aggregate cost probably cheaper (maybe significantly so) than the sum of the individual trips.

    For example, a route like this - http://tinyurl.com/ceso2bc - originating and ending in France, would cost around $3400 plus taxes, and would earn 25,000+ frequent flyer miles (in economy), enough for the return trip to the US from France at the end. Now of course returning to the US from NZ by way of Europe is a lot more flying than just back across the Pacific, but if you were, say, planning on returning to Europe at sometime in the next year, it might be justifiable.

    RTW tickets aren't always super-cheap, but they can be very useful for people who travel a lot, and who don't mind putting together something of a "strategic plan" for travel over a year- or two-year period. In fact, if you're a frequent international traveler, and know how to play the frequent flyer game, you can leverage business-class RTWs so that a lot of travel after the RTW ends can be done in more comfort.

    For example, I've been buying a four-continent RTW in business class, originating in South Africa, on the average of every other year for the past 8 or 9 years. The tickets are good for a year and provide 16 flight segments in business or first class. You have to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the same direction, and end in the country where you started (or in the case of Africa, anywhere on the continent.) So for example, start in South Africa and travel to Europe, then to North America, then to Australia/NZ, and back to Africa. Four-continent tickets (Oneworld Explorer is the name of the product) cost around $5500 plus taxes and fees if bought in South Africa (around $10,000 if bought in the US) and even with fuel surcharges and fees the price (ex-SA) comes to around $7K. That's around $440 per business/first class segment, which isn't that bad a deal.

    However, you earn a lot of miles doing this, and if you have elite status with American Airlines (which you can obtain very rapidly using business/first class RTWs) you can usually earn 100,000 or more miles in one RTW. That's enough for a lot of additional travel in the "off year" - business class to Europe or South America, or for 130,000 miles, another RTW in business class using AA's "Explorer" award. So the $7K investment turns into lots of comfortable flying, with an average segment cost in the $250 - $400 range depending on how you leverage the mileage award. Not shabby, but it requires advance planning.

    (End of sermon.)

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    Gardyloo—

    Thank you SO much for your thoughts. I'm intrigued by the RTW idea but until the jet lag and the effects of yesterday's 19 hour travel day pass, I can't seem to figure out how it might work for me.

    In a typical year I fly from Nashville to Hawaii four times. I also do one trip to Europe, and one trip to Australia/New Zealand. I also do quite a few domestic trips. But I typically have to return to Nashville in between each trip.

    My budget only allows low-priced coach tickets, so American Airlines only gives me 50% of the mileage credit toward Elite Status--making it impossible for me to reach. Grrr ...

    But I have a credit card that conveys many of the rewards of Elite status: a free checked bag and priority boarding, as well as "bonus" miles when it used to book a flight on American.

    Your suggestion of which tix to handle as one-way -- and which as open jaw -- is what I was thinking would probably be best. Unfortunately, the lowest priced one-way from BNA to LIH adds more than 7 hours of travel time to that one leg. That kind of situation is what's making this so difficult. It seems impossible to get a low fare—and a decent schedule. But I’m still checking.

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    Yeah, I don't want to confuse the issue of your immediate trip with the RTW business. I think you could indeed benefit, but maybe that's for a different time.

    I don't know what you're seeing, but I can see a one-way itinerary on 4/18 (for example) BNA (AA) LAX (AA) HNL (Mesa) LIH for $559 with a 1-hr layover at LAX and 1h40m at HNL. That seems pretty efficient to me.

    As for elite status, AA counts a mile as a mile. If you're counting elite qualifying points then lower fares indeed earn 1/2 point per mile flown, but you achieve status using either elite-qualifying miles or elite-qualifying points, whichever comes first. In business or first class, you earn 1.5 EQP per flown mile, so it takes fewer butt-in-seat miles to get to 50K points (Platinum) or 100K points (Executive Platinum.) But if you fly 50K or 100K butt-in-seat miles, then you'll make Plat/EXP on that alone.

    With the travel you describe above (4x to Hawaii, 1x to each Europe and Oz/NZ) there's no reason on the face of the earth that you couldn't/shouldn't have at least Platinum FF status with AA, provided you fly with AA or partners, just based on your elite qualifying miles (1 for 1 regardless of fare class.)

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    Gardyloo--

    Thanks so much for explaining that I'll get a full mile credited toward Elite status for each actual mile flown. I was looking at the points and thinking that was what counted. I've currently got more than 13,000 miles (from one RT to Kauai and one to Europe) toward Elite Gold status, and the upcoming trips should get me very close--if not over the top.

    I've finally booked everything except the fights within Australia and NZ. It was INSANE. It took me three solid days to sort through all the different options and prices. Having flexible dates -- and looking into whether I might use AA FF miles for some of the legs made it made it much more complicated. (You can't search "flexible dates" with multi-city options at Kayak. Each change in departure and arrival took another search--and comparisons at other sites.) I also muddied the waters by researching taking a commuter flight to Honolulu and leaving from there. It wasn't worth it.

    Eventually, I booked RT Nashville to Kauai (LIH) on American for $1133. From Kauai, I'll fly open jaw: Kauai to Brisbane; and Christchurch, NZ back to Kauai for $1419 using a combination of Hawaiian Air and Qantas.

    DP will use 37,500 American Aadvantage miles to fly from Nashville to meet me in Brisbane. (That flight would have cost $1300--so it was a good use of the miles.)

    From Christchurch, DP will fly to Kauai on Qantas and Hawaiian Air for $1,093. (We saved $25 by booking this identical trip at OneTravel.com instead of Kayak, Qantas, Orbitz, ....) Then Kauai to Nashville for $597 combining Hawaiian Air and AA.

    It was maddening that the only way we could fly back together from CHC to Kauai would have cost me more than $400 more. So, we'll fly CHC to Sydney together -- but from there, he flies Qantas and I fly Hawaiian Air to Honolulu--and Hawaiian Air from HNL to LIH. He'll arrive three hours before me. It's a pain, but not worth more than $400.

    Thanks for your help!

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