With the trip report about my trip to Canada in May 2018 finished, it’s time to move on to the next one to clear the backlog before I head to Europe next month.
Back in June, I visited New Zealand for several days to fly on SOFIA – NASA’s Boeing 747SP equipped with a telescope. While I started posting a four-article series about that experience already, I haven’t written yet about the rest of the trip – about the more “usual things” such as how I got to Christchurch, what lounges I visited along the way, and where I stayed.
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If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Booking the Flights
While I started looking for possible flights to Christchurch as soon as it seems likely that I would be able to join the SOFIA mission, by the time the final confirmation came and the exact flight details were decided, there were not many reasonably priced options left.
As such, I booked a ticket from Tokyo to Christchurch with Qantas for about 850 USD. Several combinations of flights were available, but in the end I settled with a transfer in Sydney on the way there, and in Brisbane on the way back.
The itinerary gave me a chance to fly Qantas for the first time – and what a better way to fly to Australia & New Zealand for the first time than onboard the Flying Kangaroo. And, it also gave me the opportunity to fly on the airline’s Boeing 747-400 from Tokyo Haneda to Sydney before they are retired in the next couple of years.
As for the remaining three flights (four if we count the fact that the flight from Christchurch to Brisbane got diverted to Gold Coast), the trans-Tasman flights to and from Christchurch were operated by 737-800s while the flight from Brisbane to Tokyo Narita was operated by an A330-300.
Besides reviewing the Qantas flights, I will also be writing about the three lounges I had a chance to visit along the way:
- JAL Sakura Lounge at Tokyo Haneda airport
- Qantas International Business Lounge at Sydney airport
- Manaia Lounge at Christchurch airport
Separately from that, I also had a pizza and some other items at Peroni Bar where Priority Pass members get 36 AUD credit.
Booking the Accommodation
With the above itinerary, I had about ten hours in Sydney which gave me a chance to see the city before continuing on to Christchurch, and five nights in Christchurch itself.
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Had to see the Sydney Opera House during my layover here. • • • • • #sydney #operahouse #sydneyoperahouse #archilovers #australia #architecturelovers #cityofsydney #igerssydney #sydneyharbour #arquitectura #buildings #geometry #travelling #travelingram #igtravel #traveltheworld #instatraveling #instapassport #mytravelgram #world #lonelyplanet #traveladdict
Given that the main (and more or less sole) purpose of visiting Christchurch was to fly SOFIA, it made sense to book an airport hotel for the stay. While there were several hotels in the area that I could choose from, two of them were within a short walk of the airport:
- Jucy Snooze Christchurch
- Sudima Christchurch Airport
While the first one of those looked like a decent place for a night or two, I decided to go with the slightly pricier but more comfortably looking Sudima for my fairly long stay. The room cost me a bit more than 80 USD per night.
On a side note, in April 2019, a third option should be available within walkable distance of the airport as well since a Novotel is being built right in front of the terminal.
I still cannot believe that I had a chance to fly on NASA’s SOFIA – it was the single most fascinating aviation experience in my life to date. The fact that the trip also allowed me to fly Qantas for the first time and brought me to a couple of new lounges was a nice cherry on top of the cake.
While you can read some of my articles about SOFIA already, the best – the full SOFIA flight report – as well as the other reviews are yet to come, so stay tuned!