I nabbed a scarce First Class award from Australia to Los Angeles on Qantas during peak travel season and added a first class segment on American’s new Airbus A321T from Los Angeles to New York-JFK, both in fully flat beds.

I’m incredibly excited to try out another First Class product on the Airbus A380, especially after my great experience on a Thai flight from Paris to Bangkok.

Qantas A380

Relative to other Anatomy of Award posts, this one was simple to construct and even easier to book online. However, Qantas premium cabin award space isn’t widely available. You have to find the rare space and plan your hotel reservations around it, not the other way around. That’s one of the eight tenets of Highly Effective Award Bookers, after all.

How do you nab this tough to find award space? Can you add a stopover on a one way AAdvantage award? How am I getting to Australia?

Admittedly, I’m constantly scanning award space across multiple search tools. Oceania had been on mind, especially after Scott’s positive experiences in Wellington and Queenstown, New Zealand last January. It seemed like a natural fit to build an award Down Under.

With the impending merger between American and US Airways, I’m also worried about an award chart “enhancement.” That isn’t speculation, more my own projected fears given recent price increases from the New American’s major competitors, United and Delta. I decided to spend down my AAdvantage balance and book an amazing half trip in the process.

Where Qantas Flies to North America on the A380

Qantas flies from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne on their Airbus A380. They also fly from Los Angeles to Brisbane and Dallas to Sydney connecting in Brisbane on a Boeing 747-400. Their flights to Honolulu are serviced by two-cabin 767s or their low-cost subsidiary Jetstar on Airbus A330s.

Only two shots each way to nab an A380 seat!
Only two shots each way to nab an A380 seat! Image from gcmap.com

Scott actually flew Qantas from Melbourne to Los Angeles in business class, but had a poor experience. The seat, marketed as fully lie-flat, was not, and he didn’t sleep well. I was determined to see if First Class was a true step up.

Qantas A380 Biz
Business Class seat on the Qantas A380.
Qantas First Class
First Class seat on Qantas’ Airbus A380.

How Good Is Qantas Premium Cabin Award Space to Australia?

For those using AAdvantage miles, I would use the word “bleak.”

Unfortunately, Qantas opens its award calendar approximately 350 days out. American Airlines only allows you to redeem AAdvantage miles 331 days out, meaning Qantas frequent flyers and other oneworld partners often pick over the highly desirable (read: transpacific) space before AAdvantage members even have a shot!

I logged on to BA.com and ran a late December search for Qantas award seats using British Airways improved booking tool. The below Melbourne to Los Angeles flight on December 19th has two business class award seats. One or both will likely be gobbled up before they become bookable with AAdvantage miles in a few days.

MEL-LAX BA

To prove my point further, I ran an entire award calendar search for Qantas’ A380 routes on AA.com. I found exactly ZERO dates with two premium cabin seats from now until December 15th. I will occasionally see two business class seats on the same flight, and rarely encounter a date with two First Class seats. If the seats survive the Qantas/British Airways/Cathay Pacific exclusive booking window, they are quickly snatched up.

If you and a partner want to fly in style on Qantas’ A380, make sure to check out Scott’s post How You Can Get Into Qantas First Class on an A380. Hint: Dubai to London–not a trip down under–is the key!

How about a single seat?

Award availability improves slightly when searching for a single seat. Melbourne to Los Angeles had a handful of dates with a lone business class award seat though zero dates with First Class awards. The Sydney flights had one first class seat total….for the entire schedule. It’s posted below, but I’m confident it won’t last long.

8-27 QF

Booking the Award

Last week when I saw a single First Class seat open in late November from Melbourne to Los Angeles, I moved quickly to place it on hold. American generously allows five day award holds, so I knew I could ruminate on it if needed.

However, there was still the matter of finding a way to the East Coast! There were no good flights from LAX-Washington, D.C. but there was ample first class availability on American’s new transcontinental Airbus A321T to New York! Unfortunately, that space appears to have dried up significantly since the time I booked. I likely got very lucky.

LAX-JFK First

There are still a few dates with First Class seats. Business class availability is much better, and that seat is fully flat as well, so business would have been more than acceptable substitute given how nice it is and that the transpacific leg in First Class.

LAX-JFK Biz

I performed a multi-city award search on AA.com and carefully selected my two desired segments. The total cost for the trip came to 72.5k AAdvantage miles, a small marginal cost over the 62.5k business class price. Taxes and fees were about $89.

Final Itinerary

I also recently got the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®, which comes with a 10% mileage rebate on American awards, capped at 10k miles rebated per year. Tip: here’s a zombie link for a 50k mile bonus offer on the AA card.

With 10% back, my 72,500 mile award got a 7,250 mile discount, so the final price was only 65,250 miles–a steal!

Could you have added a stopover to the award?

Yes! I could have stopped in Los Angeles for as long as I wanted and then continued to New York, Washington D.C., or most other cities in the US, Canada, and Mexico. American only permits stopovers at the North American gateway city which is Los Angeles–the first city where I land in the US–on this award.

For more reading make sure to check out The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards as well as What Would the Perfect Marriage of the American Airlines & US Airways Frequent Flyer Programs Look Like?

How are you even getting to Australia?

The only thing booked for this trip is the return itinerary. My entire vacation is a blank slate. Stay tuned for a future Anatomy of Award where I discuss potential ways to reach Australia or New Zealand and work my way to Melbourne!

Recap

Qantas First Class awards on the Airbus A380 between the US and Australia are notoriously difficult to find. As of the time of this post, for instance, I see only one seat available for the next 11 months.

I managed to locate a single award seat for November 2014 travel, right before peak travel time from Melbourne to Los Angeles. Better yet, I connected it with a First Class segment from Los Angeles to New York on American’s new Airbus A321T, so I’ll get to sample two First Class beds..

Finding two A380 First Class seats is near impossible from the US to Australia, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Make sure to search other routes, especially Sydney to Dubai and Dubai to London as Scott outlined last summer.

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