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Many travelers have Australia on their bucket list. There really is something for everyone, from the snorkeling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef to wineries, cool cities and spectacular beaches. 

The competition for the very limited number of award seats to get there, however, is fierce. Airlines’ frequent miler programs certainly don’t make it easy and finding award space on the nonstop flights from the U.S. could be quite a challenge. Availability is even more limited in business and first class. 

However, with a bit of luck, flexibility and perseverance, it’s possible to find award space to Australia with a few different programs. If the luck’s on your side, you might be able to fly nonstop, but if not,  there are quite a few options with connections in one of the hub airports in Asia. It pays to be persistent and to book as far out as you can. 

Chase Travel Portal

If you don’t have much flexibility and don’t mind flying to Australia in economy, booking your flights with the Chase Travel Portal might be just the ticket (pun intended). So if you have a good stash of Ultimate Rewards points and can find a decent cash fare to Australia, consider using the portal to book your trip. 

When you are using the portal, you’ll see that the price in points is tied to the cash price. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the points are worth 1.5c each and if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the points are worth 1.25c each.   

Flight booking with chase travel portal

Booking through the portal allows for maximum flexibility and you’ll earn miles for the flights flown. It’s very important to compare the price in points in the portal with how many miles it’ll take to book the same itinerary with one of Chase’s transfer partners, such as United.  

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska has some of the best ways to book award flights to Australia. It has recently joined the Oneworld alliance so this might change to be more in line with other Oneworld carriers, but for now you still have some really economical options to get to the land down under with Alaska miles. 

Alaska doesn’t operate its own flights to Australia but it has two partners that do – American Airlines and Qantas. Alaska miles could also be used on Cathay Pacific and Fiji Airways, but these two airlines don’t operate nonstop flights from the U.S. to Australia. There are other partners, of course, but the award rates are high and don’t make sense when there are better options available. Unfortunately, Alaska miles aren’t as easy to earn as other programs we’ll discuss later. 

Right now Alaska has a separate award chart for each partner, but that might change once the airline is fully integrated into the oneworld alliance. The best value of the Alaska program lies in booking the premium cabin awards. Economy rates are more or less in line with other programs. 

Here’s the award chart  for one-way awards for the two airlines operating nonstop flights between the U.S. and Australia. 

Cabin ClassAlaska Miles Needed for Qantas FlightsAlaska Miles Needed for American Airlines Flights
Economy42,500 miles40,000 miles
Premium Economy47,500 milesN/A
Business55,000 miles80,000 miles
First70,000 miles110,000 miles

The Qantas rates are, of course, the best, but Qantas is extremely stingy with releasing premium cabin award space to partners (or even their own members). 

Here’s the award chart  for one-way awards for Cathay and Fiji for flights between the U.S. and Australia. 

Cabin ClassAlaska Miles Needed for Cathay Pacific Miles FlightsAlaska Miles Needed for Fiji Airways Flights
Economy40,500 miles40,000 miles
Premium Economy47,500 milesN/A
Business60,000 miles55,000 miles
First80,000 milesN/A

Cathay Pacific 60,000 miles rate is quite good, which is fewer miles than if you were to book Cathay Flights with its own miles. 

How to Book Alaska Awards

Alaska awards for Qantas or Fiji Airways can be booked online and Cathay Pacific awards can be booked over the phone. You can use Alaska’s own site to search for Qantas and Fiji Airways award space but you’ll have to use British Airways’ site to find Cathay Pafic award space then call Alaska to book. 

To search on Alaska’s site, you don’t need an account, just make sure Use miles is checked. 

booking flight with Alaska awards

Alaska also has a handy calendar feature that you’ll see on the search results screen.

Calendar

Beware of mixed cabin awards, as you don’t want to pay the business class rates for the long haul portion to be in the economy cabin. You’ll only see which leg’s in business and which leg’s in economy once you click on the flight information. 

Confirmation to continue

To search on British Airways, you’ll need an account. After you’ve created your login,  put your mouse where it says Book, then click on Book a flight with Avios and plug in the flight details. 

British Airways

Cards to Help You Earn Alaska Miles

Alaska miles aren’t that easy to earn. Alaska has just two co-branded credit cards, a personal and a business card. And the only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott points transfer to Alaska 3:1. When you transfer Bonvoy points in the 60,000-point increments, you’ll receive 5,000 miles bonus. 

The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card is a great option for the small business owner. 

The Alaska Airlines credit card usually comes with a 40,000 miles welcome bonus. That’s almost enough for a one-way economy ticket. 

ANA Mileage Club

ANA’s program does have some degree of complexity but its favorable award chart makes up for it. ANA has separate award charts for its own and partner award flights. ANA uses a zone-based chart and also divides awards on its own flights into low, regular and high season. The dates change every year, so you’ll have to check ANA’s site, but here’s what you can expect between 2021 and 2023. 

Departures and Destination

You have to book round-trip awards, but ANA also allows open jaw bookings and free stopovers. 

ANA largely eliminated surcharges on its own flights but not on partner flights. Some partners have really high surcharges, so it might be worth it to play with routings to see how you can reduce the out of pocket costs. 

This is ANA’s award chart for its own round-trip flights. 

Class of ServiceLow SeasonRegular SeasonHigh Season
Economy60,000 miles70,000 miles75,000 miles
Premium Economy88,000 miles98,000 miles103,000 miles
Business105,000 miles115,000 miles120,000 miles
First210,000 miles210,000 miles225,000 miles

This is ANA’s award chart for partner round-trip flights. 

Class of ServiceRequired Mileage
Economy 75,000 miles
Business120,000 miles
First 225,000 miles

How to Book ANA Awards

You will need to create an account with ANA in order to look for award flights. After you’ve created your account, navigate to award bookings from the homepage and plug in your flight information. 

The website is somewhat clunky but allows you to look for award space three days before and after your desired dates.

Flight booking with ANA awards

You can select your flights on the next screen where you’ll also see the total mileage and surcharges (on the bottom of the screen).

Award type selection and itinerary selection

Beware of mixed class awards if you are looking for business class, and always check that the longest transpacific flight isn’t in economy. 

Cards to Help You Earn ANA Miles

There aren’t a lot of ways to earn ANA miles, and the best way would be to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to ANA. The points transfer 1:1 but keep in mind that the transfer isn’t instant and can take about 48 hours. So always try to have a backup plan and alternative dates in case availability on your original dates disappears. 

You can earn Membership Rewards points with quite a few American Express cards. One of our favorite cards is the American Express® Gold Card. If you are a small business owner, The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is also an excellent option. 

ANA Mileage Club is also a transfer of Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott points transfer to ANA at a ratio of 3:1. When you transfer Bonvoy points in the 60,000-point increments, you’ll receive 5,000 miles bonus. So for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred, you’ll end up with 25,000 ANA miles. 

Avianca LifeMiles

LifeMiles is Avianca’s frequent flyer program. Avianca is one of South America’s largest carriers and because it’s a member of Star Alliance, we can use LifeMiles to book award tickets to Australia. 

Avianca doesn’t pass on carrier surcharges and you’ll just have to pay taxes and fees. You can also book close-in awards without paying more than if you booked 10-11 months out. 

And finally, LifeMiles are easy to earn because Avianca is a transfer partner of most major credit cards’ transferable currencies. Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott Bonvoy points and Capital One points all transfer to LifeMiles. We’ve also seen transfer bonuses from Citi and American Express in the past, making the points go that much further. 

Citi and Membership Rewards points transfer to LifeMiles 1:1 and Capital One points transfer 2:1.5 and the transfer is usually instant. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to LifeMiles 3:1, and if you transfer in 60,000-point increments, you’ll receive 5,000 miles bonus. 

Be on the lookout for Avianca’s frequent points sales. It’s possible to buy enough points for a one-way business class to Australia for a little more than $1,000. 

You can book one way awards with Lifemiles. There’s no official award chart anymore, but you should expect to pay 40,000 miles for one-way in economy and 80,00 miles for one-way in business class. 

There’s a non-refundable $25 Star Alliance fee, so try to book one round-trip instead of two one-ways to save a little money. 

How to Book an Award Trip to Australia with Avianca with LifeMiles

You’ll have to create an account before you can look for award space. After you log in and plug in the flight details, you’ll be able to see the available flights. 

booking an awards trip with Avianca

Click on the arrow to see the flight details and the surcharges.

flight detail checking

Cards to Help You Earn Avianca LifeMiles

There are a lot of great cards that can help you earn LifeMiles. Citi has a couple of ThankYou earning cards. One of the most popular Citi cards is the Citi Premier® Card that comes with a nice welcome bonus and very useful bonus spending categories, such as supermarkets and gas. 

Capital One Venture Rewards credit card also comes with a generous welcome bonus and the points can be transferred to LifeMiles program.  

You can also earn a good stash of LifeMiles with a number of Membership Rewards earning Amex cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Asia Miles is the loyalty program of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and its extensive network covers Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. It’s also a partner of oneworld alliance, so you can connect on other partners, such Qantas, American Airlines or British Airlines. 

The program is anything but straightforward but can still offer some good redemptions for those who are willing to deal with its idiosyncrasies. 

There are, actually, three different award charts:

  • Asia Miles award chart for award tickets on Cathay Pacific-operated flights 
  • Airline partners award chart for award tickets on oneworld and non-alliance partner carriers
  • Oneworld multi-carrier award chart for multi-stop award tickets operated by two or more oneworld partners

Asia Miles passes on fuel surcharges for most oneworld carriers, but Cathay Pacific stopped charging them for their own flights. 

This is the distance-based award chart for Cathay Pacific Flights. 

Asia Miles standard award

There’s also a oneworld multi-carrier award chart that should be used if you are redeeming a round-trip award ticket with an itinerary which covers:

  • Two oneworld alliance airlines and Cathay Pacific is not one of your selected carriers

OR

  • Three or more oneworld alliance airlines and Cathay Pacific is one of your selected carriers
oneworld multi-carrier award chart

Yes, the program is unnecessarily complex, and the award chart isn’t super competitive, but I decided to include it in this guide because Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express and Citi.  Also, this program opens up additional avenues for booking notoriously difficult to find award space to Australia in premium cabins.   

How to Book Asia Miles Awards to Australia

Feeling confused already? Hopefully looking at some examples will help clear the air. To help us navigate the confusion, there’s an award calculator tool on the Asia Miles website.

For example, I plugged in all Cathay Pacific operated flights from Boston to Sydney with a layover in Hong Kong using the Multi-City option. 

Booking flight with Cathay Pacific

To look for actual award space on Cathay Pacific operated flights, start by going to Asia Miles’s award booking page. You will need to create an account first, but the search engine is pretty straightforward. 

Reedem flight awards

And you’ll see the search results on the next page. 

I then changed my search criteria to a business class award and, as the calculator predicted, it priced at 85,000 miles for one-way in business class plus about $181 in taxes. I’ve searched a few dates and routes but couldn’t get rid of the long layover in Hong Kong, which could be a plus or a minus, depending on your travel style. If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, it’s a cool place for a long layover. 

Business class award

I’ve run another search from Los Angeles, LAX to Sydney and found loads of award space on different Cathay Pacific flights.  

Cathay pacific flights

But if we were to book partner awards, using the partner award chart, the round-trip from the U.S. to Australia should cost 135,000 to 155,00 miles in business class, depending on where you are flying from/to in the U.S. This also opens up more routes and award possibilities by letting you mix and match carriers and destinations. Finding actual award space might be another story because the partners can be extremely stingy with their award space to Australia. 

The process of booking partner awards is also far from straightforward because you can only book tickets online for a handful of partners. The following airlines might show award space and are bookable on the Asia Miles website:

  • Air China
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Fiji
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM (non-alliance)
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

To book with other partners, you’ll have to call or fill out an online booking request form. You can use the website of one of the other partners to find award space, such as American Airlines or British Airways sites. 

Cards to Help You Earn Asia Miles

Asia Miles are easy to earn because they are a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Capital One and Marriott. The transfer isn’t instant and can take a couple of days, so keep that in mind. Membership Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points transfer 1:1. Capital One transfer 2:1.5 and Marriott Bonvoy points transfer 3:1, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.

Thanks to its generous welcome bonus and useful bonus categories, the Citi Premier card is an excellent card for earning points that you can transfer to Asia Miles. 

Both Chase and Amex offer co-branded Marriott cards. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card can help you earn a good number of points that you can use to book your Australian adventure.  

United Airlines MileagePlus

While United might not have the absolutely best rates, it’s still a good option to consider. United miles are easy to earn with four co-branded United cards and a number of Chase Ultimate Rewards earning cards. 

United doesn’t have fuel surcharges and because it belongs to the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, there’s a good number of ways to get to Australia using United miles, including its own and partner flights. And the booking process is very easy – you can book one-way awards, there are no complicated charts to consult and everything can be done online.

There’s no award chart anymore, but you can expect to pay 40,000 United miles and up for economy one-way and at least 80,000 for one-way in business class on United operated flights and 90,000 on partners. 

How to Book an Award Trip to Australia with United Miles

United has a very simple booking engine and you don’t have to have an account to search for award space. However, United shows more award space to its own elites and United credit card holders. So if you fall into one of these categories, definitely login before searching. 

Booking an award trip with United miles

You’ll see the results on the next page along with a handy five day calendar. 

Five day calendar

There’s also a 30 day calendar, but from my experience, the calendar could be inaccurate and there still could be a saver level award available even if it doesn’t show on the calendar.

Cards to Help You Earn United Miles

Chase’s newest edition to its line up of co-branded United cards, the Chase United Quest℠ Card, comes with a very generous welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, you’ll earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Benefits include expanded award availability and free checked bags. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a generous welcome bonus and Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United 1:1. For a small business owner, there’s the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. It’s 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening will get you a one-way award ticket to Australia in business class.  

Final Thoughts

Australia is a tough destination to get to with points and miles, especially if you want to fly in a premium cabin. Advanced planning and flexibility is key, and one also needs a bit of luck to find business class award space. 

Economy flyers will have more options as award space is much easier to find. Don’t forget to check the Chase travel portal before transferring Ultimate Rewards points to a partner airline. You might need fewer points if you can find a good deal on a cash fare. 

Australia is a wonderful country and a trip there is well worth all the effort and all the time spent searching for that elusive free flight. 

Travel well,

Anna  

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