One of the most frequent requests we get for our Award Booking Service is finding premium cabin tickets between the US and Australia/New Zealand. People have been saving up their hard earned miles and want to splurge on a dream trip Down Under.
Both US Airways and United miles can be used to book ticket on Star Alliance partners, and there are a host of nonstop options between North America and Oceania.
US Airways charges 80k/110k/140k for travel between North America and the South Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.
United is more expensive for business and first class tickets. They charge 80k/135k/160k for travel to Australia and New Zealand.
Unfortunately, nonstop premium award space is extremely difficult to find. I always begin searches for Star Alliance award space at United.com. Scott wrote two great posts about these searches. For more information, check out Star Alliance Award Searches on United.com and Tricking United.com’s Award Calendar.
To show you the lack of premium award space, I ran searches for two travelers in September and October. The proof is below. Los Angeles doesn’t display a single day with business or first class space.
San Francisco to Sydney is actually an improvement! I found a single day with direct business class space in my search (September 1st). It will probably be snapped up by the time this article is published, though.
Air Canada’s direct flight between Vancouver and Sydney had even worse award space than the two previous searches. Even economy tickets are hard to find.
For those with huge Dividend Miles and Mileage Plus balances, this post isn’t meant to discourage you! I want to show you the routes I use to book travelers to Australia.
Hands down, the best Star Alliance award space to Australia is via Asia.
Is that legal routing?
As Scott wrote in his post US Airways Award Chart Sweet Spot: Australia via Asia, US Airways allows this routing. You are even permitted a stopover on US Airways award tickets, so you can build in a long stop in Bangkok or Seoul before continuing on to Australia. That’s an incredible value: two trips and two continents for the price of one!
I actually just booked two business class tickets for a couple traveling from Australia to the US. The US Airways agent mistakenly priced the award at 120,000 miles each, 10k more expensive than the award should be. I had to politely ask her to verify with the rate desk. After a 15 minute hold, she returned with the correctly priced itinerary.
What about award tickets using United miles?
I don’t know anyone who knows exactly what United allows. Scott doesn’t know. He wrote: I Don’t Know United’s Award Rules.
But we do know from experience that United will let you route to Australia via Asia on certain routings. The common elements of successfully ticketed itineraries are fewer segments and simpler routings.
Which routes have the best availability from Asia to Australia?
In my experience, Thai Airways’ twice-daily flights from Bangkok to Sydney are an absolute treasure trove of premium award space.
It’s hard to find a day without business and first class space. That makes this segment an award booker’s dream! Here is the same September/October search for two travelers from BKK-SYD.
If the options out of Bangkok don’t suit your needs, there are plenty of alternatives. Asiana has good availability from Seoul to Sydney on their nonstop.
Don’t forget Air China or even Singapore, which have plenty of business space from their respective hubs in Beijing and Singapore. (Note that the Singapore business class space available is NOT on the A380s that service this route. For space like that, you need to use Singapore miles.
Note that not all business class space on Singapore is bookable with US Airways miles. Certain aircraft are specifically excluded from US Airways partner award chart. I have pasted the full restrictions below to help you on your search.
What are the best routes from Asia to New Zealand?
Logistically speaking, Auckland is the easiest city to find award space from Asia. Air New Zealand is notoriously tight fisted with their premium space on the nonstop from Vancouver, but they offer two solid alternatives: Tokyo-Narita and Osaka.
Air New Zealand’s thrice-weekly nonstop from Osaka, Japan had business class space on nearly every flight! That’s a hidden gem route you should keep in your back pocket. How did I even find out about this route? Wikipedia. For more details, make sure to check out Scott’s post How to Use Wikipedia to Book Awards Like a Pro.
Don’t forget about Thai Airways from Bangkok, either. The award space isn’t nearly as good as their segment to Sydney, but I found plenty of days with space.
Any other tips or tricks when planning these awards?
Remember that US Airways charges 110k/140k for business/first class tickets between North America and the South Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand.
Interestingly enough, US Airways charges 120k/160k for business/first class tickets between North America and the South Asia region. This region includes Thailand and Singapore, so if you are planning on visiting these countries, adding a leg to Australia or New Zealand will actually save you miles!
North America to Australia is one of the most requested and most difficult award tickets to book. United and Air Canada are notoriously stingy in releasing premium cabin space on their nonstop flights. They know they can sell those seats and that people will pay for more expensive Standard award tickets.
To get around this lack of space, consider routing via Asia. Star Alliance carriers including Thai, Asiana, Air China, and even Singapore release a good number of seats from their hubs to Sydney.
If New Zealand is your goal, consider Air New Zealand (Tokyo and Osaka) and Thai Airways from Bangkok.
Your trip will certainly take longer by traveling through Asia, but the opportunity to fly great carriers like Thai and Singapore is hard to pass up. You also won’t be stuck in economy on those long haul segments!