US to New Caledonia
March 19, 2012 1:10 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone tell me the most time-efficient and cost-efficient route from the US West coast to Noumea, New Caledonia?

I am of course finding a lot of flights from Brisbane, AU and Sydney, AU to Noumea, New Caledonia on the national airline of New Caledonia, AirCalin.

However, I am wondering:

a) Are there any airlines running direct flights (and at what schedule and cost) from Hawaii to Noumea?

b) Are there any alternative routings that I'm not considering which would be lower travel time or lower cost? The Air Calin Route Map shows direct flights to Tokyo and Auckland.

c) If I were to get a very good price on a ticket, for example from Seattle-Tokyo and then a separate AirCalin booking from Tokyo to Noumea, would that have any chance of being lower cost than Seattle->LA->Sydney->Noumea?
posted by thewalrus to Travel & Transportation around New Caledonia (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Of course, in general a search on Kayak or ITA will reveal the best prices 9 times out of 9.2, but here's some more manual points:
1). Wikipedia says that La Tontouta International Airport (NOU for short) has no flights to the US, including Hawaii. The flights seem to go to either Australia/NZ, Asia (Tokyo/Seoul/Osaka) or other South Pacific Islands (Nadi, Papeete, Port Vila). This can be confirmed on the airport's official website (horaires de vols = flight schedule).
2). The Great Circle Mapper shows that going through Nadi, Fiji adds 15% to the best possible distance, while going via Sydney or Seoul adds 50%. (Via Seoul breaks the journey into two pretty even 5K mile flights, versus one 7500 mile and a couple of short ones; this may weigh into your consideration.)
3). The South Pacific is hellishly expensive to fly into because of low demand and little competition. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Nadi flights are way more expensive. You are also much less likely to see discounts on these routes versus more competitive routes, like transcontinental.
4). Travel cost is hardly related to anything in the real world, like distance or time. The last time I went to Europe from Western Canada, it was cheaper to go via Texas than to go directly. It is entirely possible for separate bookings via Asia or Australia to be cheaper than a direct one. Word of warning: if you book the journey as two separate bookings, then you have the responsibility of making the connection. If it's rainy in Seattle and your flight is an hour late to Seoul and you miss your connection, AirCalin (or anybody) will cancel your ticket to New Caledonia; tough luck, you didn't show up for your flight. To avoid this, you should pad that sort of connection; spending a day in Seoul to make sure you don't miss a connection may be a hassle you can't deal with, or it may be a great bonus.
5). If your schedule is flexible, that increases your odds of finding good deals. Keep checking the forums (esp. Mileage Runs) at FlyerTalk for deals either part way or all of the way.
6). Star Alliance (and other alliances) sell a round-the-world (RTW) ticket. They're usually pretty cheap in Korea, for some reason. For around $3-4K, you may be able to get a special RTW fare good for 5 stopovers and 26K miles. If you can get a cheap flight to Seoul, you could then start a round-the-world journey by going to Noumea, then to Seattle; after a stopover, you could use the rest of the ticket for a second trip.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:13 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Los Angeles to Papeete (Tahiti) then from Tahiti to Noumea?
posted by bru at 5:26 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just FYI, ITA's tool will permit you to search for this very directly. It will accept multiple airports as originating points (for example, I'm using "SEA, PDX, SFO, SJC, OAK, LAX, HNL"). With a little bit of magic (click "Advanced Routing Codes" under the airport search box, and read the help), you can even force it to route you the way you want, though the default search algorithm is usually optimal.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:05 AM on March 19, 2012

Thanks for everyone that responded. As best I can find from Internet booking sites, the most economical way is to fly from any large west coast location (YVR, SEA, LAX) to SYD, and then take Air Calin from there. Seems logical considering the volume of travel between the US and cities on the east coast of Australia. West coast North America to PPT is double the cost. I didn't know about the Great Circle Mapper website, that's a very useful tool to bookmark.
posted by thewalrus at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2012

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