Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Australia/New Zealand

Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

Air Canada Aeroplan miles were once a solid value for business class travel between the continental US/Canada and Oceania. They charged 135k/190k for roundtrip business/first class award seats prior to their infamous summer 2013 devaluation.

After United’s recent devaluation and Delta’s double devaluation, Air Canada Aeroplan miles are roughly equivalent to competitors for Oceanic travel.

US Airways is the absolute best bargain for travel to Oceania (110k miles roundtrip in business, 140k in first), and you can still use Dividend Miles for awards on Star Alliance carriers until March 30th.

American’s chart is also a solid value, as it only takes 62.5k/72.5k AAdvantage miles to reach the South Pacific one way in business/first class. I was luckily able to snag a rare first class seat on Qantas last month. Scott had issues with his seat in Qantas business class, though.

Delta’s 160k business class seats on partner Virgin Australia are expensive, but the amount of available seats to Australia is sometimes jaw-dropping.

See a Comparison Table of United, US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines Award Charts.

Air Canada now charges 160,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (80k oneway) for travel to the South Pacific region comprised of the countries below.

Oceanic Region

 

Aeroplan Oceania Award Chart

United miles are a better value for travel to Australia on United metal. A oneway award only costs 70k miles. First class on United should also be booked with United miles (80k oneway). Scott flew United’s GlobalFirst product from Los Angeles to Sydney and enjoyed the experience.

First class on Star Alliance partners is a better value with Aeroplan miles (110k vs. 130k), but there aren’t many bookable first class awards that fit the criteria.

As mentioned in previous posts, not all Star Alliance carriers are the same when redeeming Aeroplan miles. Air Canada collects fuel surcharges on its own flights and certain partners like Thai. Luckily, the few Star Alliance airlines that service Oceania don’t incur these fuel surcharges.

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Australia and New Zealand? Is routing via Asia possible (or even worth it)?

Star Alliance Carriers with Fuel Surcharges

Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on all flights in all regions. A roundtrip between Vancouver and Sydney would cost almost $1,000 out of pocket!

Click on any screen shot to enlarge.

Air Canada YVR-SYD

Air Canada YQ Breakdown

Star Alliance Carriers with NO Fuel Surcharges

Air New Zealand business class space between Los Angeles and Auckland is nonexistent, but they have ample economy award seats. A oneway is only 40k miles plus taxes/fees, which is close to American’s award chart flying Qantas.

Air New Zealand LAX-AKL

United is also fuel surcharge-free. They fly from Los Angeles and San Fransisco to Sydney and just announced a nonstop from Los Angeles to Melbourne on the new 787-9 Dreamliner.

United SFO-SYD

Options for Routing to Australia via Asia

I’ve written in the past about leveraging the ample Star Alliance route network in Asia to get to Australia. Sometimes the only way to fly to Oceania in a premium cabin is to connect in Asia. This adds hours of transit and flying time to any itinerary, but many of our Award Booking Service clients specifically request such routing.

Though Aeroplan has some fairly stringent routing rules, they permit most connections in Asia between the US and Oceania. The Air New Zealand itinerary below (San Francisco -> Shanghai -> Auckland) was constructed on United but I received an error message when booking on the Aeroplan site.

SFO-PVG-AKL (United Routing)

Itinerary Built on United.com

Error Message When Trying to Construct with Aeroplan.

Error Message When Trying to Construct with Aeroplan.

Air New Zealand PVG-AKL

Luckily an Aeroplan agent correctly priced it out over the phone collecting only taxes and fees on top of the mileage cost.

Flying Air China with Aeroplan miles allows a connection in Beijing from the US and no fuel surcharges. The flight from Beijing to Sydney doesn’t feature flat beds in business, though.

Air China PEK-SYD

Singapore Airlines rarely releases premium cabin seats to partners. There is economy space from Singapore to Sydney, and only government taxes are collected. I don’t see this option being appealing for most.

Singapore SIN-SYD

Though Air China and Singapore routings are inconvenient, I really can’t recommend Thai Airways (connecting in Bangkok) nor Asiana Airlines (connecting in Seoul). Both carriers feature fuel surcharges, though Asiana’s are a bit less than Thai’s. Like Air China, both carriers don’t have flat bed seats on their Sydney routes. Along with the extra travel time and the additional mileage premium, it probably doesn’t make sense to connect in Asia simply to fly business class.

Thai BKK-SYD

Asiana ICN-SYD

Getting Aeroplan Miles

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of Starpoints and Membership Rewards.

Starpoints

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Both cards offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months. Meet both spending requirements and you’d have 60k Starpoints (50k bonus + 10k for spending), which transfer to 75k Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan often runs promotions in which you get a big bonus for transferring in hotel points. During the last promotion, 60k Starpoints would have become 85k Aeroplan miles.

Membership Rewards

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of Starpoints and Membership Rewards.

Starpoints

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Both cards offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months. Meet both spending requirements and you’d have 60k Starpoints (50k bonus + 10k for spending), which transfer to 75k Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan often runs promotions in which you get a big bonus for transferring in hotel points. During the last promotion, 60k Starpoints would have become 85k Aeroplan miles.

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards can most quickly be earned from the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN.

Both cards offer huge category bonuses. I especially love the category bonuses on the Business Gold card.

  • Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Built with business-sized purchasing power and fast rewards
  • 3X points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • 2X points on US purchases for advertising in select media, shipping, at gas stations, and made directly from select computer hardware, software, and cloud computing providers
  • Up to $100,000 in each category per year, then 1 point
  • Use points to entertain clients, reward employees, reduce travel costs, or just offset the everyday expenses of moving your business forward
  • Terms and limitations apply

Application Link: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Membership Rewards transfers are instant, and you can transfer to anyone’s account. Starpoints transfers take days to post, and names must match between Starwood and Aeroplan accounts.

 

Recap

The Air Canada Aeroplan award chart is roughly in line with most other frequent flyer programs for travel to Australia and New Zealand.

Their award chart to Oceania is much more expensive than both US Airways and American Airlines.

After United’s devaluation, it still makes sense to book United-operated flights to Australia with United miles, as you can save 10k miles on business class awards and 30k miles on first class awards each way.

Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on their own flights, so avoid them when flying to the Australia on the Vancouver to Sydney route. Connecting in Asia on Thai or Asiana also means incurring unnecessary fuel surcharges. Given the increased trip duration, likelihood of fuel surcharges, and lack of flat-bed options, it usually doesn’t make sense to traverse Asia en route to Australia.

Thankfully, Air New Zealand and United don’t feature fuel surcharges on their nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Australia and New Zealand.

Go back to Aeroplan Fuel Surcharges to Africa/Middle East
Continue to Aeroplan Fuel Surcharges to Central/South America

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6 Responses to Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Australia/New Zealand

  1. Pingback: Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Africa/Middle East | milevalue.com

  2. This is very helpful, thanks! Are the fuel surcharges similar if you’re redeeming ANA miles to fly through Asia? I’m based on New York, would like to go to Australia/NZ in business class, have a lot of AMEX Membership Rewards points, and am deciding on a transfer of points to either Aeroplan or ANA.

    Assuming availability continues to exist on the LAX-MEL flights, it seems like transferring points to ANA to fly JFK-LAX-MEL-LAX-JFK is the cheaper option at 125k ANA miles, as opposed to 160k Aeroplan miles.

    However, if I fly through Asia, it would be more like 145k ANA miles.

    Am I correct in assuming that transferring my AMEX points to ANA is a better option that transferring to Aeroplan? Do you think there are any better AMEX transfer partners to get to Oceania?

    • ANA assesses fuel surcharges on all non-United/US Airways flights. 125k vs. 160k might seem cheaper, but you will need to factor in the cash outlay with ANA to see if it makes sense.
      Transferring 160k AMEX points to Delta to book on Virgin Australia is another option, as they have flat-bed biz seats and good award space. The only issue would likely be the JFK-LAX-JFK segments on Delta, which can be hard to find at the saver level.

  3. I can’t find any VA space showing on Delta for the last several weeks. Seems to have totally disappeared. Is this typical to see space disappear entirely?

    Now all they show is the Delta flight for 240K r/t, but not the VA flight at 160K…

  4. I just noticed that round-trips between Hawaii and Aus/NZ are only 60k/90k Econ/Biz. Seems like a nice deal if you can route through Asia and do a stopover or two in some of those cities.

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