US Airways Award Chart Sweet Spot: Australia via Asia

US Airways has some incredible deals on its award chart. I’ve talked about off peak awards, South America deals, and intra-South Asia before. The drawbacks to US Airways awards are numerous–they have to be roundtrip, they have a $50 “award processing” fee, and changes cost $150–but if you can deal with the drawbacks, the chart itself is a gem.

I would define an award-chart sweet spot as one of three things:

  1. An award that is much cheaper with one airline’s miles than another airline’s miles. For instance, EZE-BOG, CLO-BOG-EZE in Avianca business class coss 30k US Airways miles or 80k United miles.
  2. An award that is much cheaper than a slightly different award on the same airline. And ideally the sweet spot award can be turned into the highly similar award cheaply. For instance, New York to Istanbul oneway in economy is 20k miles using AA miles between October 15 and May 15. New York to Amman those same dates is 45k miles oneway in economy. New York to Istanbul is a sweet-spot award and can be turned into New York to Amman by adding Istanbul to Amman on Royal Jordanian for 7,500 Avios.
  3. An award that is very expensive with dollars and very cheap with miles. A lot of domestic Avios awards are like this. Charlottesville, VA to Chicago oneway on American Airlines is $392 in October. Or you could buy the flight with 4,500 Avios and $2.50. Sweet spot.

 

A great example of the second type of sweet spot is the difference between a business class award with US Airways miles to South & Central Asia and a business class award to the South Pacific.

Roundtrip Award Price from the United States and Canada

Look closely: it’s cheaper to fly roundtrip from the United States to Australia–in the South Pacific–than it is from the United States to Thailand–in South and Central Asia. In and of itself, that’s not too amazing since Bangkok is farther away than Sydney.

What’s amazing is that you can route through Asia to Australia on a US Airways award. That means adding a nine-hour flight from Bangkok to Sydney will lower your award’s price!

Theoretically US Airways award routings must be less than the MPM (maximum permitted mileage) for your origin/destination city pair. In practice, that isn’t the rule, US Airways agents don’t know that’s the rule, or US Airways agents don’t enforce the rule.

I’m 90% sure that the way US Airways awards are priced is by the agent figuring out in which region the origin city and destination city lie and reading the price of awards between those regions of the chart. (I think this because many US Airways agents think out loud, so I hear things like, “Bangkok…Thailand…South & Central Asia. This award is 120,000 miles.”)

Now if you have a crazy routing, the agent might be awoken from his sleep-booking and check to make sure you’re following the rules. And by crazy routing, I don’t actually mean backtracking or flying too far–agents don’t know geography. I mean flying too many segments. They get suspicious if you have an award with many segments that maybe you’re flying too far; they don’t get suspicious if you are actually backtracking wildly but you only fly three segments.

All of this is to say that you can easily route through Asia on the way to or from Australia (or New Zealand) on a Dividend Miles award from the USA. And doing so can mean an incredible trip at a very low miles price–lower than if you didn’t include Australia.

Let’s look at an award I talked about yesterday:

As you’ll notice on this award, oneway is direct: SYD-SFO. But the routing from San Francisco to Sydney is San Francisco-Tokyo-Bangkok-Sydney.

This circuitous routing checks in at a whopping 12,675 miles.

12,675 miles is much farther than the MPM for the route: 8,911 miles. But US Airways agents don’t check MPM routinely. There’s almost no chance a US Airways agent would think twice about ticketing this four-segment itinerary for 110k miles. And if he does, hang up, and call back.

There are two cool things about this award. First, you can take a stopover in Tokyo or Bangkok for as long as you’d like, combining Asia and Australia on one trip. Second, the trip costs only 110k miles.

San Francisco to Bangkok roundtrip would cost 120k US Airways miles! Or this trip would cost 135k United miles, so 110k is a hefty discount–a sweet spot.

The taxes and fees are a little higher with US Airways than United. United charged $173.10 for this award–all government taxes. US Airways would charge $223.10–the same government taxes plus a $50 award processing fee.

Also, this award could be booked on united.com with United miles. To book it with US Airways miles, you would have to call 800-622-1015. You wouldn’t incur a phone-booking fee. US Airways agents would proactively waive it, since the award is not bookable online. (See How to Avoid the Phone Fee on Award Bookings for tricks on how to avoid phone fees for all four legacy carriers.)

Recap

US Airways has a sweet spot on its chart from the US to Australia for 110k miles in business class. This can be made even sweeter by routing through and stopping over in Asia.

While US Airways may technically have a rule limiting the distance you can route on an award, their agents don’t enforce that rule, especially if your award doesn’t have very many segments.

There are some annoyances when dealing with US Airways awards like the $50 processing fee, having to call to book, $150 change fees, only getting one stopover OR one open jaw, and on and on. But I think those nuisances are more than compensated for by the super generous chart. USA-Asia-Australia-USA for 110k total in business class cannot be beaten.

Bonus

I’ve booked several awards to Australia and New Zealand via Asia with Dividend Miles, so I’ll be sure to do an Anatomy of an Award post on this routing in the coming days.

56 Responses to US Airways Award Chart Sweet Spot: Australia via Asia

  1. Don’t forget North Asia with a free stopover in Europe to bring the price down 5K-10K miles than just a trip to Europe. That’s an amazing award.

    Also, I’ve noticed I tend to be the first person commenting on these posts, I’m not a stalker, it just so happens I tend to be up when your posts hit my RSS :P

  2. Does this work in reverse, or is it critical to do the Asia stop first and Australia second on these routings?

    • USA-Australia is 110k r/t in business whether you route directly or through Asia one or both directions. That means you can definitely go USA-Australia-Asia-USA.

  3. Are the US Air points for this same trip in coach 80,000?

    • US and United both charge 80k r/t for economy, but United allows a stopover and two open jaws, while US allows only a stopover or open jaw. Plus you can do oneways on United for half price. You can’t do that on US.

  4. I know you like to drum up that you are the first one to dream up every loophole but this isn’t really news to anyone and has been discussed and known elsewhere.
    At least your post comes out this way. You know, I would refrain from sort of highlighting the Airline incompetency and functional limits. If I were a social media person responsible for airline looking at blogs, I would be upset about the way you wrote this. You are basically shoving this anomaly in their face, daring them to fix it. And while these guys are preoccupied with AA, don’t be surprised if this goes away. Writing is an art, and its NOT a fine line between informative blog & “guide for dummies: I Dare you!”
    Also, I noticed that tou have a donation page. Can you elaborate whats it for. Nonprofit? Any charity?

    • I’m new to the miles game, so this is “news to me” and I’m glad you provide tips like this on your blog, Scott! And judging by some of the other comments, I don’t think I’m the only one who is glad to have read about this here ;)

      Yes, there’s always a possibility that an airline will change its rules and take away opportunities for us to maximize the value of our frequent flier miles. But I don’t think Scott is shoving it in anyone’s face – he’s just helping us “rationally exploit” the rules, as he puts it, as they currently exist. I don’t have the time to read every miles blog and scour all of the miles forums to find out about all of the great ways I can see the world without it costing me an arm and a leg. I’m glad there are blogs like milevalue.com that bring to my attention the best opportunities out there, in an accurate, easy-to-understand format. Thanks, Scott!

    • The Donate button is so people without a payment-processing account can pay me for my award booking service with their credit card. In the seven-months its been there, it’s gotten single digit donations and two negative comments. Thanks for reading, and I hope I can write something that does teach you something in the future.

    • I appreciate this post. I am very inexperienced and we are traveling to Asia in June. I don’t know if I’ll have enough points to do this (me, husband and 4 kids)…but I would have never come up with this routing without Milevalue. Thanks for the time you put into this blog. :)

  5. Is it possible to keep Tokyo as the destination and route your return flight through Thailand with your stopover?

    • I think it would be. US agents are just looking at what region your destination is in. Knowing that, I would frame the call like this: “Hi, I want to book an award from Los Angeles to Tokyo. I have the exact flights in mind.”

      “LAX-NRT, returning NRT-BKK-ICN-LAX, stopping in BKK,” or whatever. I would make sure to not pass through Tokyo again. There’s a good chance they would take the cue from your word choice and look up Japan on the award chart instead of Thailand. This is really just a variation on the trick AK mentioned–USA-Northern Asia via Europe for less than USA-Europe.

  6. Coming from South America, it’s only 120k business!

    SCL-JFK-NRT-BKK-SYD-BKK-NRT-JFK-SCL

    • Awesome, but it would take multiple segments to get out of South America. Only SCL-NYC flight is LAN in OneWorld and United doesn’t serve SCL (met a guy flying SCL-LIM on my LAN flight then LIM-IAH on United, took me a while to realize why he was doing that). One that could be of use is SCL-YYZ on Air Canada, then go to Asia from Toronto. Or COPA via Panama, but then you add segments and US rarely likes to go over 8 (I once got 9, but that took some teeth-pulling).

  7. Hi Scott

    I am trying to book 2 biz class flights for 90k each with the following routing

    LAX-MUC-NRT NRT-LAX
    1st agent told me its a rtw ticket and would be 200k miles
    2nd agent – computer froze after inputting in all the information
    3rd agent – computer froze after inputting in all the information

    Would you be able to tell me if its a valid routing or is their systems basically saying no?

    thank you

    • Keep trying. An agent will definitely ticket this. The computers freezing is a new one for me. Frame the call for them. “I just got disconnected on my last call when I was trying to book an award to Tokyo. The agent had told me the award was 90k miles, but not the taxes. I wrote down the flight information. The first flight is…”

  8. Scott, it was great meeting you here @ Chicago. You were not to be seen this afternoon, though?

    Thanks for all the good work!

    -AsanteSana :)

    • I left at 2 PM because of a 3:50 flight home. I goofed on that flight time! I’ll make sure to be there longer next time. See you in Kenya or Chicago soon!

  9. Scott,

    I am alittle confused. I was able to book LAX-MUC-NRT and NRT-LAX and I was charged $75 a person for a booking that is in march and I was just wondering if that sounds right?

    • The total taxes and fees were only $75 per person? That’s lower than it should be. The award processing fee is $50 per person, and I would expect taxes of around $100 per person for $150 total. Those should be the only charges. No other fees should be charged.

      • Total fees were around $135 for the tax + $75 for the award processing per person. I did ask her about it but she insisted it was $75 and I was already on the phone for 1.5 hrs so I just want it to be ticketed. In your experience, would they ever give a refund for charging the wrong fee?

        I think next time I’ll just engage your award service, would save me some time!

        • Should have been $50. Find the refund form on usairways.com and fill it out. Maybe ask for “a show of goodwill” ie free miles for your trouble too.

  10. hi milevalue,

    great blog!

    is it possible to do the variation San Franciscos –> Hong Kong (Open Jaw) –> Syndey on US Airways?

  11. Calling US Airways agents is usually a trip. Once I booked an itinerary to Hong Kong and the agent goes ” Hong Kong that’s in the Middle East right” Not making this up

  12. is it possible to book a LAX (or SFO)-SYD, then return of SYD-BKK (or SIN…whichever will be easier to get a flight to Bali…this would be a 7-10 day layover)-LAX (or SFO)?

    I will have plenty of UNITED miles.

    looking for business class.

  13. Hi Scott,

    Quick question for you on your Avios sweet-spot example. I just ran through BA website for Amman-Istanbul, and its coming up to be 7500 Avios + $ 275.39.
    Am I doing this correctly?

    Thanks, very nice blog!

    Cindy

    • American Airlines is charging some nasty fuel surcharges on that Royal Jordanian flight. Unfortunately, there is no way around that.

  14. Hi. I want to book a flight from USA to ARN(stop for a few days), continue to SYD for a few days and then return to the US. All this in business. Is this allowed using US Airways miles for 110,000 miles? Thank you.

  15. Not to forget you can get bkk stopover, new zealand destination for 110k not 90k but still awesome!

  16. Is it possible to do roundtrip san to syd with a stopover in tokyo? san-lax-icn-sin-syd-nrt-lax-san

  17. Pingback: Anatomy of an Award: US to Asia via Europe in Business Class for 90k Miles | milevalue.com

  18. How many segments do you think I could fit in before it tips them off? My dream redeem for later this year would be LAX- PEK or SIN or ICN (long layover anywhere)-BKK (stopover)-SYD or AKL or MEL (destination) – HNL or RAR (long layover)- LAX

    Sort of a pipe dream but I’m pretty close to finding segments (not all of them are saver right now but I guess stuff is getting loaded). Is this going to be a giant red flag or what? Or will it be a problem since my stopover (3+ weeks) is longer than my destination time (few days)? Anyone tried something crazy like this?

  19. I’m Chairman and could call the Chairman’s desk for this, but if I’m trying to book something outside of MPM, I’m thinking it might be best to *not* call the Chairman’s desk, as those folks are likely to be more experienced and understand geography.

    In particular I’d like to try LAX-ICN-SYD, SYD-BKK, BKK-NRT-LAX – all in first (sampling Asiana F, Asiana J, Thai F, Thai F, ANA F). That’s routing through asia both ways, with a stopover in Bangkok. Think that will set off any red flags?

    • Heck, if you think that’s possible, I might just pay you the $100 booking service fee just to play agent roulette and see this ticketed. I’ve already got F availability and dates mapped out.

      Ideally would like to do:
      PSP-LAX-ICN-SYD, SYD-BKK, BKK-NRT-ORD-PSP, partly because I’ll likely be in PSP at that time and want the 777-300ER ANA flies to ORD, but I think the PSP legs and incoming into ORD will set off too many red flags. I’m fine getting myself to LAX to reduce segment count and increase probability of booking.

      • I think the first one is almost certainly bookable, and the second one would be possible.

        • Awesome. I might split the difference and try for ORD-LAX-ICN-SYD, SYD-BKK, BKK-NRT-ORD. That would also have the side-effect of putting me less over MPM as compared to LAX-SYD. Six segments total, and would ensure what I care most about: ANA 777-300ER F + Asiana 747 F.

    • As a follow-up to this, I got ORD-LAX-ICN-SYD, SYD-BKK, BKK-NRT-ORD ticketed in F, but the agent wasn’t able to confirm Asiana F for LAX-ICN for some reason (she even suggested they might be blocking space like Luthansa/Singapore F – what!)

      What’s interesting is that she had to send it to the rate desk (gulp), and she said the itinerary was over MPM but they were going to let it slide (maybe being Chairman’s helped?). I’m actually a bit afraid to call in and try to change that now; think it’s possible future agents looking at this could *cancel* it for being over MPM? I would hope the worse is that they would just disallow a change.

      Going to try calling in tomorrow and get direct ORD-ICN on Asiana F, and switch to the Thai A380 BKK-NRT which has lie-flat business (and I strongly suspect F will open up on that closer to departure).

      • I don’t see any way they can cancel it. You agreed on a price with them and paid it. They can’t unilaterally cancel. It’s possible that they could block you from changing the award. But I think you’ll be fine. NICE AWARD!

        • Called today and had it changed to Asiana F + Asiana lie-flat Biz (two cabin flight) in under 7 minutes. I suspect switching it to be the simpler routing evaded the rate desk and the computer priced it. Very happy with this award. Now if I could only change to Thai A380 F if it opens up ;-)

  20. Is it possible to go to Asia via Australia for the 90k business?

    LAX-SYD-NRT-LAX for example

  21. I know my itinerary (simplified now, thanks!) and am having a heck of a time finding business class availability (ie, there is none). However, it’s for a long ways out (Dec/Jan). Should more space pop up closer to the date? How long out should I book?

  22. I am trying to understand this post in the North America to Australia via Asia section. Please help.

    MileValue | October 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
    US and United both charge 80k r/t for economy, but United allows a stopover and two open jaws, while US allows only a stopover or open jaw. Plus you can do oneways on United for half price. You can’t do that on US.

    Does this mean on United or USAIR I can route: SFO-NRT(stopover)BKK-SYD(open Jaw to Destination). Then SYD-SFO return.

    I am trying to do short visits in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok in route to Sydney or on the return. I would like to use BA Avios miles to go from NRT to HKG then BKK so I am trying to understand the open jaw.

    Thank you,
    Kristin

  23. Looking to book the following for 110k in business:

    lax-tpe-hkg-bkk-hkt(stop)-bkk-syd(stop)-sin-hkg-tpe-lax

    Would 10 segments be pushing it? Have you successfully booked more than 10?

    Thanks

  24. Pingback: How to Exploit the American Airlines/US Airways Merger | milevalue.com

  25. Just booked JAX-ORD-ICN, ICN-IST, IST-IAD-JAX. Had one rep tell me stopovers were not allowed on award tickets. Next told me the stopover could not be in the same region as the origin or destination. ??? Next said it was a round-the-world fair. Fourth one booked it no problem. Super happy on a great priced ticket to ICN and a four day stopover in IST.

  26. Pingback: Which of My Personal Awards Could You Have Booked? Part 1 | milevalue.com

  27. Pingback: How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia | milevalue.com

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