How to Get to Australia and New Zealand with American Airlines Miles Part 1

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Australia and New Zealand are a tough place to get to with miles, especially if you want to go from mid-December through March, which encompasses Christmas, New Year’s, and the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.

Having booked several trips to Australia and New Zealand for myself, family, and others through my Award Booking Service, I’ll share some tips on getting there with American Airlines miles.

Basics

American Airlines allows oneway bookings at half the price of roundtrip awards. From North America to the South Pacific–which is the AA award region that includes Australia and New Zealand–awards cost 37.5k/62.5k/72.5k AA miles each way in economy/business/first class.

American has a slightly below-market price to Australia. United charges 40k/67.5k/80k each way. Delta charges 100k/150k roundtrip in economy and business, and SkyMiles can’t even be redeemed for three-cabin first class.

US Airways has the cheapest price in premium cabins at 80k/110k/140k in economy/business/first roundtrip, but oneway awards aren’t allowed at half price with US Airways miles.

American does not fly to Australia, but several of its partners do including Qantas, the national airline of Australia, which has flights to Honolulu, Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York (tag leg of flight to Los Angeles).

Key partners Qantas and Hawaiian Airlines are searchable on AA.com, making booking some of the routings to Australia a snap.

Qantas: The Gold Standard

If you want the best itinerary with AA miles from the US to Australia–in terms of duration, stops, and airline product–you want to book an award on Qantas.

Qantas has the following Australia <-> USA routes:

Sydney <-> New York-JFK (one stop at LAX)

Sydney <-> Los Angeles

Sydney <-> Dallas

Sydney <-> Honolulu

Melbourne <-> Los Angeles

Brisbane <-> Los Angeles

Some Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles flights are served by a brand new Qantas A380. See this Qantas A380 marketing page if you want to daydream about the experience. The plane features First Class suites, Business Class fully flat beds, and miles of economy class seats.

Sydney <-> Honoloulu is on a 767-300. The plane is only fitted with economy and business classes, and business class passengers get recliner seats.

Jetstar–a Qantas subsidiary–also serves this route with an A330-200. Its business class is the equivalent of domestic first class–pretty rough for a ten-hour flight. AA miles can be used on the Qantas and Jetstar flights from HNL-SYD-HNL.

The other USA <-> Australia flights are served by 747-400s, which have been refurbished to feature the same fully flat business class beds of the A380 with first class removed. My reading of Qantas’s site is that all 747s serving the USA have now been refurbished in this manner.

To search for Qantas space, I recommend using AA.com, since it now displays Qantas space.

AA displays a week-long calendar that you can make month-long by clicking Show Full Calendar. Then, to ensure you are only getting Qantas results, change the drop-down menu to Non-stop only. Choose the desired cabin from the color coded Award Legend, but don’t expect a First Class option. I don’t see any First Class available in the next 11 months between LAX and Sydney for instance.

Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles or Dallas, I recommend finding the transpacific flights on Qantas first, and noting what days have availability. That way when you add a search from your home airport, you’ll know what days are routing you on Qantas and which must be routing you through Hawaii without having to click each date.

In my experience, Qantas releases its business class seats 350 days out to be picked over by its members and BA members. Then AA gets access to the space 330 days out. If you want premium-cabin space on Qantas, that is the time to book. Space gets much worse over time. I don’t see any LAX-SYD space less than nine months out at the moment for instance.

See this Anatomy of an Award post for my saga trying to book a Qantas First Class seat on an A380 with a free oneway tacked on.

Hawaiian: Hawaii and Australia on one Trip

American Airlines awards allow a stopover at the North American International Gateway City–the last airport from which you leave North America or the first at which you arrive in North America. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards for more information.

That means if you route to Australia via Honolulu, you can get a free stopover in Hawaii for as long as you’d like. Or you can get a free stopover in Honolulu if you return via Hawaii.

The other great news is that routing through Hawaii is pretty easy because American has good availability to Hawaii on its own flights and on the flights of its partners–Hawaiian and Alaska. And Hawaiian has fantastic availability from Honolulu onto Sydney.

Plus in the last few weeks, Hawaiian has announced two new services to Oceania:

Honolulu <-> Brisbane, starting 11/27/12 (three times weekly)

Honolulu <-> Auckland, starting 3/13/13 (three times weekly)

I don’t see award space for these new flights yet, but I expect space to be excellent once it’s loaded onto the calendar.

There is one major drawback to flying on Hawaiian to Oceania. Hawaiian’s premium cabin–called First Class, costing business class’s 62.5k miles each way–features recliner seats with 40″ of pitch. That’s basically a domestic first class seat with two extra inches of leg room. For a ten hour flight, many people will find that uncomfortable, and it’s quite inferior to the flat beds that can be had on Qantas’s mainland USA <-> Australia flights.

Qantas’s flight from Honolulu to Sydney features quite a bit more leg room but also has recliners in business class.

If you’re willing to trade an inferior business-class product–or you’re booking an economy award–for a chance to stopover in Hawaii, there are options with AA miles.

See this Anatomy of an Award post for an example of a free stopover in Hawaii en route to Australia. My brother lives in Hawaii, so his was a free oneway, but if you imagine him living in Las Vegas, his stopover in Hawaii would be a perfect example for this section.

Continue to the second half


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19 COMMENTS

  1. good post, but the availability sux. who can plan so far ahead?
    i wish american would change their stupid rules and allow routing via cathay.

    • Luckily I can plan 11 months out, but it’s a bummer that Qantas doesn’t also release new space last minute like some airlines.

  2. I love the post! Just had to figure all if this out this past year. Flying Qantas to Auckland Dec 31 to Jan 19…in economy, but as long as I make it, that’s all that matters. Going back in 2 years, want to fly lax-akl nonstop on anz next time.

  3. I am in the thinking stages at this point. My mother in law is almost 86 , but in fair health right now, so it is hard to plan that far in advance, but I am pretty certain we will use you to book our DFW to New Zealand trip next spring or fall of 2013. I would like to look at stop overs and open jaw options, would it be possible to do stop overs other than Hawaii ?? ,say Tahiti, Bora Bora etc. Looking to do the open jaw into New Zealand ,flying back from another city. So I am beginning to study land tour packages there

    Have you done anything like this ??

    • See tomorrow’s second half. You can stopover in the middle of the Pacific or Asia, but it will cost you extra miles.

  4. Never been, but I’m super excited for my January trip. Everyone seems to want to go during the summer, which must be the best time if you want to enjoy the ocean.

  5. I started researching serious award travel about 2 months ago, with this exact trip in mind. On Monday, I booked my tickets!! August 7th, 2013-August 27, 2013. I did one-ways using my United and American miles. I’m going MCI-LAX-SYD on United in Business class (chose my seat on the upper deck of the 747). And I amazingly lucked out on my return leg on American/Qantas, I got a First Class Suite on the A380 for my SYD-LAX leg (departing WLG in Business on Qantas’ Jetconnect). This seat was a major goal of mine and what I desperately wanted to use my miles for, and for awhile, my chances started to look seriously bleak. I am so excited that I was looking in the right place, at the right time, and with the right date. I also have a 5 hour layover in Sydney, and will be able to go into Sydney’s Qantas First Class Lounge.

    I will also be using my remaining AA miles to fly myself and my travel partner domestically on Qantas to Cairns, and then over to Christchurch in NZ.

    !!!!!!!!!!!

    • Also….I did a regular search for my flights as a paid ticket. My United Business flight is around $8700, and my Qantas First on the A380 is about $15,000.

      I used 67,500 miles + 72,500 miles and paid $72 in taxes.

      Not too shabby!

  6. As an Aussie resident in the US, I have pretty much utilised everyone of these options to get to Australia. One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the advantage of the Hawaiian flights is they are day flights which makes it a lot easier on the body and I find I do not usually suffer jetlag from these flights. I was able to redeem Hawaiian points for HNL to BNE for next May in business class at a cost of only 65k per tix.

    The Qantas flight from HNL to Sydney would have to be on the crappiest plane in the Qantas fleet. The business class seat is lousy and personally I would never pay extra points for the seat in question.

    Best time to go, December thru February are the hottest months and you may find the weather in Jan-Feb bordering on the unbearable.

  7. As an Aussie who has QFF points, it’s amazing how much better the AA points are. The mileage difference is not that great (96K return to LAX from Sydney) it’s that they include a $500 fuel surcharge in the fees and taxes which is almost half the cost of the fare.

    Another couple of options are transferring AMEX reward points to Asia Miles or through SPG to LAN. The redemption offers are different here for AMEX than in the US so it’s hard for me to know what’s possible.

    Paul

  8. For example to fly SYD->LAX return costs 96000 QFF plus 850 in taxes. The availability is held based on the frequent flyer status here, if you are Gold or Platinum then you get more seats available.

  9. It seems if I leave out of JFK I have to stop over in LAX due to what you stated:
    Sydney New York-JFK (one stop at LAX)

    Does that mean I can’t have a stop over in JFK on my return trip?

    What I would like to do is something like SYD -> JFK (stop for 6 months) -> Honolulu

    That would allow me to get 1/2 a trip to Hawaii later in the year and not right when I come back from Australia.

  10. Hi,

    An AA award query – can you go SYD-LAX-HNL on just one 625000 J award? There is better availability at the moment on the LAX route and it has better seats as well.

    I want to have a stopover at HNL and visit Vegas and New York as well. Working out whether can be done on an AA award or use United mileageplus award.

    Just a note that Qantas has decided to be nice and presently as of yesterday there is far greater Qantas availability than previously on all routes. They have just started their partnership with Emirates and making many more seats available.

    There are also now QF codeshare flights on Emirates planes to many more destinations. Can you book an AA award on such flights? Would open up many opportunities.

    You can book these flights through the Qantas program and we can now access Emirates redemptions through our Qantas FF program as well.

    Dale.

  11. I just tried to book a one way award from nyc to honolulu and spend a week in honolulu and then fly honolulu to Sydney for 37,500 miles and was told that Hawaii is not a North American Int’l Gateway City and therefore no stopovers allowed and it would be 2 separate award tickets!! Was the AA agent incorrect?

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