Best Miles for Visiting Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand are dream destinations for many. Australia with its cool cities and amazing wildlife, and New Zealand with its variety of amazing landscapes (and Hobbiton, for Lord of the Rings geeks like myself). Getting there can be a challenge, though. Flights are long, and prices can be high. That’s why I want to explore the best miles for visiting Australia and New Zealand.
If you were unable to jump on the 6k AA miles deal to Australia in October 2019, I’m here to tell you that there are still plenty of other miles for traveling to the land down under. Deals can be crazy, can make you rush into a decision, and often induce FOMO by many in this hobby. Mark reflected on this.
A more solid play is understanding the best miles for visiting Australia and New Zealand and making a concerted effort to accrue the points necessary to make your dream trip down under happen. Here are the best currencies:
Delta SkyMiles – Catch the Sales
While the standard award chart is nothing to write about, Delta offers frequent enough award sales that they are a solid option for planning a trip to Australia in many cases. You will do best if you live near a major airport, as awards from places like LAX, SFO, SEA, PDX, SEA, DEN, MIA and IAD are more common. I’ve also typically observed Delta award prices fhey arerom the West Coast to be slightly better.
The downside is hoping to predict these. Prices have dipped under 50,000 miles for round-trip economy, which beats any other award chart out there. However, Delta’s “deals” are relative. In some cases, they’ve advertised NYC to Sydney for 89,000 miles as a deal. This isn’t a deal in my book. A mere 50,000 miles for round-trip economy, yes. Nearly 90,000? Nope.
The last issue is that these Delta deals is that they must always be booked round-trip. If you’re looking for a one-way award, entertain other options.
ANA Mileage Club – Premium Cabin Steals
I’ve already walked through all the amazing premium cabin opportunities ANA miles offer. One of the best options is a business class ticket between the U.S. and Australia/New Zealand. You can book on ANA flights for just 105,000 (off-peak) to 120,000 (peak) ANA miles round-trip. Considering many currencies charge you 80,000 miles round-trip in economy, this is an amazing deal.
For Star Alliance awards on Air Canada, Air China, Asiana, EVA and United, you’ll always be charged 120,000 miles in business class. Still a deal, and definitely the best miles for visiting Australia and New Zealand in a premium seat.
ANA awards are one of the bests uses for American Express Membership Rewards. The only downside is the transfer time, as they do not transfer instantly.
You may find yourself transiting Asia, as award space can be tough to find. If United business class awards are difficult to come by, Air New Zealand award space is basically nonexistent. But I can tell you that transiting via Seoul, Tokyo or Taipei really isn’t that big of a deal. I flew from San Francisco to Seoul in first/business back in 2017, and it was an excellent experience, even if it took much longer.
Then again, I am the guy who flew to Newark for fun, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Alaska Mileage Plan – Multi-Stop Fun
Looking to hop around Australia during your visit? Alaska MileagePlan has you covered with their awesome stopover policy on one-way awards. If you book a round-trip, you’ll actually be able to enjoy three destinations on a single award. Consider the following as an example:
- Los Angeles to Sydney (stop)
- Sydney to Melbourne (destination)
- Melbourne to Brisbane (stop)
- Brisbane to Los Angeles (home)
All of the flying will be on Qantas, one of Alaska’s global partners. Prices in economy start at 42,500 miles one-way. Not the best price, but for three stops, it’s not bad. Here are some other Alaska prices between the U.S. and Australia/NZ that may interest you:
- Qantas economy – 42,500 miles one-way
- Qantas premium economy – 47,500 miles one-way
- Qantas business – 55,000 miles one-way
- Qantas first – 70,000 miles one-way (definitely a “unicorn” redemption)
- Cathay Pacific premium economy – 47,500 miles one-way
- Cathay Pacific business – 60,000 miles one-way
- Cathay Pacific first – 70,000 miles one-way
- Fiji Airways economy – 40,000 miles one-way
- Fiji Airways business – 55,000 miles one-way
You could totally book your trip as two one-way awards and return home via Fiji, planing your stopover there!
Asia Miles – West Coast Sweet Spot
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a good option for travelers than can plan an itinerary that stays below 7,500 flown miles. As the award chart is distance-based, these awards will set you back only 30,000 miles one-way in economy. Nonstop routes that are less than 7,500 miles:
This is most useful for folks not in a West Coast hub, though, where you can add on a connection that gives you a good deal on an otherwise expensive ticket. As an example, tickets to Auckland out of Reno are around $1,100 versus $800 out of LAX, so spending 60,000 Asia Miles for the round-trip is a decent value.
You can even add in a stopover, if the distance restriction allows for that. You will also only get two sectors on a one-way award, but again, the distance restriction makes more than that pretty much impossible anyway.
If you eclipse 7,500 miles, the price inflates to 42,000 miles each way. Also, stick to American Airlines operated flights. You’ll save yourself a ton in surcharges, as Qantas can levy some significant ones.
United and ANA – The Flexible Point Standard
While JAL miles might technically be the best option from a sheer number of miles perspective (70,000 miles round-trip), they are difficult to accrue for most travelers. Both United and ANA offers comparable prices, and they have the benefit of being transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, respectively.
ANA will set you back just 75,000 miles for a round-trip economy award. United isn’t far behind at 80,000 round-trip, and technically American charges the same, but they aren’t a transfer partner of any currency except Marriott Bonvoy. In the case of United and American, you can book one-way awards for 40,000 miles.
Not a crazy good deal, but one of the better standard options for flying that far. With American, you have the option of flying AA or Qantas, and with United you can fly UA or Air New Zealand. Or fly via Asia with other Star Alliance partners, but that sounds miserable in economy.
Some Tips on Award Space
There are some other decent options for getting to Australia or New Zealand on miles, but the lack of award space may make them a nonstarter. You can use just 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta Air Lines business class between the U.S. and Australia (only prices from LAX this reasonably), and just 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly nonstop Air New Zealand business class. But good luck finding the seats you want! Both of these are super hard to come by.
Even premium seats with American and United can be difficult to snag much of the time. If you’re hunting for award space to Australia and New Zealand, search early and search often. This is why (as I mentioned above) you may find yourself transiting Asia, which I would only do if flying a premium cabin.
Luckily, economy award space is usually available.
Or Just Use Flexible Points to Book Directly
I’ll argue that if you live near a major gateway, using your flexible points to book directly with the airlines is probably the best way to go. A $1,000 ticket is 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (66,667 if you have the Sapphire Reserve). This is a fairly reliable price. You can often jump on a sale where prices are ~$800.
If you live at a West Coast airport, I’ll argue that sales are reliable enough that I’d never book with miles unless Delta offers you tickets for less than 50,000 SkyMiles.
Flexible points also provide the flexibility of not needing to hunt for award space. You can book whatever flights you find that are most convenient at a good price. You also earn miles, which can be substantial in some cases. I’m so sad Alaska gutted their partner earning on Qantas.
Bonus: A Crazy Hack for a Two-Stop Vacation
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but I’ve given some thought to combining Hawaii and Australia into the same trip and come away with very cheap tickets. It’s a combination of the Turkish Airlines Hawaii sweet spot (still need to book by email, until further notice) and cheap Jetstar fares.
Turkish can get you to Hawaii for just 15,000 Miles & Smiles round-trip (or consider using Avios from the West Coast), and then Jetstar can get you to Australia for under $400 round-trip on select dates. As long as Turkish keeps offering these amazing awards, my value of Citi ThankYou points will remain high.
Honestly, if you don’t mind flying economy, simply purchasing two cash tickets (or “cash” using flexible points) might be the way to go, this first between the U.S. and Hawaii and the second between Hawaii and Australia. You can often come away with a total fare of ~$600-700, which is excellent.
Whether you’re looking for an economy award or a fantastic business class redemption, these are definitely the best miles for visiting Australia and New Zealand.
Unless American comes back with their incredible 6,000-mile offer. That’s just insane.