Finding premium award seats to Australia is not easy. They are considered the ultimate prize in frequent flyer circles because the flights are long and the award seats are scarce. And also because business and first class travel on Qantas, the Australian flagship carrier, is great. It rivals premium seats from the best airlines in the world, including Singapore, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates.
Your best bet to get a premium seat to Australia is using American Airlines AAdvantage miles on Qantas. You will need to be flexible with your travel dates though.
The Continent via Brisbane
Qantas flies into three major cities in Australia–Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Of those, Brisbane is your best bet. You can get lucky with the other two, but chances are when you find an award seat to Melbourne or Sydney it will be via Brisbane.
Qantas is trying to boost flights to Brisbane by terminating service between New York and Sydney on January 31, 2015, in favor of Brisbane. Don’t hesitate to take that Qantas flight to Brisbane though if Sydney is not available on your travel dates. The flight time between the two cities is about one and a half hours, and the route is served by low-cost carrier Jetstar Airways. Finding your way to the continent is the real challenge.
Another option that can get you to Australia in style is Hawaiian Airlines to Brisbane or Sydney via Honolulu. However, as long as you are paying for premium class, you will do better with Qantas.
Qantas flies between these cities:
- New York: Sydney (until January 31, 2015)
- New York: Brisbane (from February 1, 2015)
- Dallas: Sydney
- Los Angeles: Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
- Honolulu: Sydney
A business class award using American AAddvantage miles is 62,500 miles and first class is 72,500 miles each way. If you have the miles, and first class is available, spend a little extra. It is really that good.
If you have Delta SkyMiles, it doesn’t hurt to check, but availability will be limited. Delta sometimes has award seats on its own planes, and it is possible to find some flights on SkyTeam partners China Southern Airlines or Korean Air. But you’ll have to call, and there are fuel surcharges on China Southern.
The bigger problem is that there is rarely availability both ways, though that will be less of an issue in 2015 when Delta starts offering one-way flights for half the miles. Then you can mix and match airline programs if needed to get the right travel dates. The cost for a roundtrip flight in business class on Delta is currently 160,000 miles. You can’t redeem miles for an international first class seat on Delta.
United is a Challenge
If you have United MileagePlus miles, availability in upper class cabins is almost non-existent on its own planes. And United award flights on partners are overpriced. It doesn’t hurt to check, but finding any premium seat availability to Australia on United Airlines or its partners is a daunting task.
Want a killer deal? If you have US Airways Dividend miles, a round-trip flight will only cost you 110,000 miles in business class and 140,000 in first. There are two catches, though. First, you can only redeem for a roundtrip, and second, you will have to call. So do your research first. US Airways also allows a stopover so you can fly to Brisbane first, then catch a local Qantas flight to Sydney or Melbourne.