I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

Award Space over Christmas and New Year’s to Australia/NZ

I took a look at the award space on most of the North America to Australia and New Zealand routes in December 2014 and January 2015.

With United Miles

United flies:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney
  • Los Angeles to Melbourne
  • San Francisco to Sydney.

On the flights to Sydney, I see a few days in December and January for one person to fly to and from Australia. The days don’t quite line up with a holiday trip because neither route has award space from Sydney to the United States from December 26 to January 12 in any cabin. Also, award space for two people is basically non-existent.

Los Angeles to Sydney and return

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LAX-SYD
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SYD-LAX

San Francisco to Sydney and return

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United’s third route from Los Angeles to Melbourne is operated by a brand-new 787-9, and United is releasing no award space on it over the holidays.

Vancouver to Sydney and return

You can use United miles on Air Canada’s flight from Vancouver to Sydney. Unfortunately, there is no Business Class award space on the route in December or January in either direction for even one passenger. Furthermore, the economy space doesn’t even line up for a holiday trip.

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YVR-SYD
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SYD-YVR

Air New Zealand Flights

You can theoretically use United miles on Air New Zealand’s flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Auckland, but Air New Zealand never releases Business Class award space on the flights, and there is no relevant economy award space for a holiday trip this year.

With American Airlines or US Airways Miles

American Airlines and US Airways partner with Qantas, which flies from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane and from Dallas to Sydney.

Qantas rarely releases even one Business or First Class seat on these flights, and certainly doesn’t release two around Christmas and New Year’s. (Check Qantas award space 331+ days out to snag these rare premium seats.)

Even the economy award space dries up around December 10 on these routes and only reappears in mid-January.

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The days right around Christmas and New Year’s look like this, with zero award space in any cabin for even one person. Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 9.39.19 PM

With Delta Miles

Delta doesn’t release Saver award space on its own flights to Australia at peak times because they’re, well, Delta. However Delta does partner with Virgin Australia, which historically has the best award space to Australia, even around Christmas time.

Los Angeles to Brisbane

Virgin Australia award space is searchable on delta.com, but Delta’s calendar ignores the space, so you need to search it day-by-day or pay Award Nexus to show you a calendar of the space. Here’s a look at days with one seat in Business Class from Los Angeles to Brisbane, usually the route with the most award space.

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As you can see, there are a few potential days for one person, though two-person award space is less common.

For instance, here is a look at returns from Sydney to Los Angeles for two people over the same time period. The only day with award space for two passengers in Business Class from Sydney to Los Angeles is January 15, probably too late for a holiday trip.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 10.45.37 PM

Solutions

You should abandon your holiday trip idea for two people in Business Class to Australia.

If you really want to try for this trip with your miles, there is some chance you can find Saver award space on Virgin Australia with Delta miles, particularly as Christmas approaches.

Or you can look for award space on Cathay Pacific via Asia with US Airways miles, particularly within a week or two of departure. Note that this will require US Airways miles, not American Airlines miles because while both partner with Cathay Pacific, US Airways has far better routing rules.

By the way, we know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

Realistically, you’re much better off trying to plan a trip to Australia for February or March, when the weather is just as good or better. I know that this is not what people with very set vacation days want to hear, but frankly this is the deal with miles: you get the leftover dates, not the prime dates.

Since this post was a bit of a downer, I’ll have a post tomorrow about the region that I think offers the best value awards.

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