Trip Preview: From Japan to New Zealand with Flying Kangaroo

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.

Trip Preview: From Japan to New Zealand with Flying Kangaroo

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.

Qantas Boeing 747-400 at Tokyo Haneda

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

The first two of those I visited thanks to my British Airways Silver status while the one in Christchurch is part of the Priority Pass network.

Separately from that, I also had a pizza and some other items at Peroni Bar where Priority Pass members get 36 AUD credit.

Qantas International Business Lounge Sydney

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.

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.

Sudima Hotel Christchurch

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.

Stay Tuned!

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!


Three tips before you get on the road...

For your convenience: Price comparison sites

When searching for flights and accommodation, use comparison sites that will summarize prices from a variety of sources including the airline sites and online travel agencies for you. I recommend HotelsCombined for comparing hotel prices and Momondo for comparing flight prices.

For your comfort: Unlimited airport lounge access

If you generally fly in economy class and don’t have an airline status, I recommend considering a Priority Pass Prestige membership which will give you unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges at more than 500 airports all over the world.

For your peace of mind: Travel insurance

Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage - whether through your credit card or through insurance policy purchased separately. This will help save your trip when you get sick or things stolen on the road, in other words, when things go wrong. In case you didn't get your travel insurance yet, I recommend getting a free quote from World Nomads.

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