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I wanted to take a look at the options to use Star Alliance miles to Australia and New Zealand during their next summer (December 2013 to March 2014.) I went overboard though and looked up the options for the next 11 months on the five direct Star Alliance routes from North America to the Antipodes:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney* (United, three-cabin 747)
  • San Francisco to Sydney* (United, three-cabin 747)
  • Vancouver to Sydney (Air Canada, two-cabin 777)
  • Los Angeles to Auckland (Air New Zealand, two-cabin 777)
  • San Francisco to Auckland (Air New Zealand, two-cabin 777)

*Continuing Service to Melbourne

What’s the award space picture?

I searched for space on the five routes at united.com using the trick from Tricking United.com’s Award Calendar.

The united.com calendar is color-coded. Yellow means there is award space in economy. Blue means there is award space in business or first class; the calendar doesn’t differentiate. Green means there is award space in both economy and at least one premium cabin.

Here’s what space looks like for the flights leaving North America for one passenger.

Los Angeles to Sydney on United

Both United routes are operated by a three-cabin 747 with Global First in the nose, BusinessFirst behind Global First and on the upper deck, and economy in the back. Here’s my review on this route in First Class. Here’s my review of United BusinessFirst and Rookie Alli’s, for a first-timer perspective.

If you want to fly on a flat bed on the Los Angeles to Sydney route, there’s currently no award space between September 11 and March 17. United does tend to open unsold seats within a few weeks or days of departure, though, so all hope is not lost. There is a lot of economy space on the route next March and beyond.

San Francisco to Sydney on United

San Francisco to Sydney is pretty similar to the Los Angeles route. There is no space between September 11 and March 5 except for December 11, which might be a seat to jump on now! Award space in economy is broadly available in February 2014 and beyond.

It isn’t clear from the calendar, but most of the premium cabin space is in first class.

Vancouver to Sydney on Air Canada

I’ve heard great things about Air Canada business class, but I haven’t flown it. Like the United flights, there is no business class space for most of the peak Australia season–nothing between October 22 and March 17.

Unlike the United routes, the Air Canada route has great economy award space in December or January.

A special note about this route is that the united.com calendar is unlikely to “think” to route you through this route to Australia. Either search segment-by-segment on united.com to find this route or search aeroplan.com, which is more likely to find itineraries with this route.

Los Angeles to Auckland on Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand never releases business class award seats to and from the US as far as I can tell. The Los Angeles route does have fantastic award space for the next 11 months except December, January, and February.

San Francisco to Auckland on Air New Zealand

I didn’t find award availability on this route. It might be there, but I couldn’t find it.

Booking These Awards

You can book any of this award space with United miles, US Airways miles, Aeroplan miles, Lufthansa miles, Taca/Avianca Lifemiles or any other type of Star Alliance miles.

United charges 40k/67.5k/80k in economy/business/first each way with no fuel surcharges on any partners. You can mix-and-match cabins.

US Airways charges 80k/110k/140k in economy/business/first round trip with no fuel surcharges on any partners. If you mix-and-match cabins, you’ll pay the roundtrip price of the more expensive cabin.

Lufthansa charges 50k/92k/145k each way in economy/business/first round trip. Lufthansa will collect fuel surcharges on the Air Canada and Air New Zealand flights, but not the United flights.

Whatever type of miles you use, you can search on united.com, then call the airline whose miles you’re using to book.

Routing through Asia

No matter what Star Alliance carrier’s miles you use, you can route through Asia for no additional miles I believe–certainly you can with United and US Airways miles. This adds a whole lot of flying to your award, but it may be the solution to get to Australia during its summer in a premium cabin.

Within Australia and New Zealand

Other than the United flight between Sydney and Melbourne, which you can only fly as part of an award to/from the US, the only Star Alliance airline that flies within Australia and New Zealand is Air New Zealand from Auckland and a few other cities in New Zealand to cities within the region.

If you want to get around Australia, you should use Avios on Qantas or buy cash tickets.

Getting the Miles

The cheapest way to get to Australia and New Zealand with the Star Alliance is with US Airways miles, which charges 80k/110k/140k roundtrip in economy/business/first. The quickest way to get US Airways miles is to get the US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase.

  • Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles on qualifying transactions
  • EXCLUSIVE: Redeem flights for 5,000 fewer miles
  • Zone 2 boarding on every flight
  • Enjoy 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
  • Annual companion certificate good for round-trip travel for up to 2 companions at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • First Class check-in
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways Premier World MasterCard

Recap

Space is pretty much gone from the US direct to Australia in business or first class between October and March on the Star Alliance. You can wait until the last second to try to book that space, book a flight next spring in business or first class, or book economy over the Australian summer.

All the premium cabins from the US to Australia and New Zealand on the Star Alliance have fully flat beds, and you can get there best with US Airways miles.

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