General Principles for Booking Award Seats to Australia with American Airlines Miles

I summed up some advice for booking Australia flights with American miles over on Milepoint and thought it might be worth reproducing the advice here as well, since Australia is one of those really frequent questions that I get (and that I’ve touched on before).

1. BA/QF/CX loads their schedules ~ 355 days out. Their members can book flights beginning that early.

2. Interestingly, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partners with these three programs. Alaska doesn’t load its own flight schedules until 331 days out but they can book award seats on QF/CX/BA 355 days out, no problem. In fact, you can book a partner award 355 days out and then call back later to add in Alaska segments once the Alaska schedule loads and they won’t charge you to make the change!

3. But American will not book partner awards until 331 days out when their own schedules load. This means that QF/CX/BA members have a head start in booking those award seats which are loaded when the schedle initially comes online.

4. Of course there’ll likely be more seats later. Airlines constantly evaluate loads and flights whcih are selling more lightly than expected will see more award seats being loaded as time goes on.

5. Australia is the toughest frequent flyer award there is IMHO. (Except that V Australia has great availability in business class, good use of Delta miles.)

6. February is high season. If you got business class seats, you done good!!

7. The new Dallas flight has had better inventory than the LAX flights. With American miles you can also fly LAX-PPT-AKL on TN and connect to SYD on QF. Or LAX-NAN-SYD on FJ.

8. American will not allow an Asia routing on an all-partner award. But they will allow you to do it of course on a distance-based oneworld award.

9. American agents notoriously don’t always see partner award inventory that’s out there, you need them to search segment-by-segment and often to hang up, call back. Very frequently an issue with CX and especially when looking at destinations beyond HKG like DPS.

The Qantas website is great for searching awards with most oneworld partners (just join their program, from most countries it’s free to do so). The British Airways website covers some partner availability that Qantas isn’t good at showing or doesn’t offer like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. The website is more cumbersome than Qantas’, but if you can find the seats on the BA site you know they’re available to partners for sure.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How does one search for VA availability? I’ve not figured that one out yet and as you say, definitely a good use of DL miles.

  2. @Erik sign up for their frequent flyer program and then search for awards at the low level… ring up Delta with those flights.

  3. Hi Gary – And thanks!

    It looks to me like my best use of my Diners points is to transfer them to CX for a oneworld award (we want to travel both to, and then domestically in, Australia.) How quickly do those points transfer? Will CX hold a reservation while I’m waiting for the transfer to happen?

    FInally, in your second Alone In First Class post, you said, “Bags were tagged all the way to Singapore, even though we were on separate tickets for the Tokyo – Singapore segment. It took the agents a little while to figure out how to do it…” We’ll be flying on two separate tickets (LHR-NBO on BA, then NBO-KGL on KQ). What do I need to the the agents at check-in, so they’ll check our bags all the way through?

  4. @Tom I’m not sure how long points transfers take from Diners to Asiamiles. I also do not know that BA will interline bags with Kenya. In my experience they only interline with their own partners, but my experience trying to interline British Airways and Delta is a couple of years old.

  5. Hi Gary,

    My wife and I are planning a trip to OZ/NZ in five years for our 25th wedding anniversary. We have the advantage of wishing to visit in June or July (predicated on my wife’s position as a school teacher and my fanaticism for Footy). We already have about 150K miles in our BA HHA and about 100K each in AA, but have some other trips planned as well.

    While I know you can’t possibly answer everyone’s individual question, would you be kind enough to answer a more general question based off my situation? Namely, if one has a 3-5-year window to acquire miles/points, mostly from CC spend and sign-up bonuses, what is(are) the best place(s) to do that for a OZ/NZ redemption?

  6. While the subject of the post is AA, i had no problem booking first class on Thai via BKK, pretty much every day. You have mentioned before Gary, so appreciate the heads-up.

  7. @Jon with that much time and for a 25th anniversary the goal ought to be to have enough miles in different alliance programs, more programs = better chances! BA is really expensive for Australia awards. American you need to bump the balances up a little bit but not a ton, you’re almost there. Get there and then go with another program. I don’t like Delta miles generally, and who knows what the situation (partnerships, availability) will be in future years but right now using Delta miles for V Australia is the easiest way to get direct North America – Australia in a premium cabin. If you’re willing to go via Asia, build up miles in a Star Alliance program. You’ll have the United/Air New Zealand/Air Canada options for North America to Australia/New Zealand and then have the option of an Asia routing for the most part.

  8. @Gary – United Star Alliance Award for the SYD-BKK R-T, no blocking whatsoever. And the redemption was at the business class mileage level for First Class ticketing.

  9. @Tom BA has interlining agreement with KQ, so they can tag the bag all the way to destination.

    @Gary while that’s a good rule of thumb (i.e. being able to interline if they are partners), it varies based on the airline’s agreement. For example, I’ve successfully check my bag NBO-(EK)-DXB-(BA)-LHR-(AA)-JFK. The kind folks at AA even attached a priority tag on my bag, which was a first for me (having a bag tagged priority en route).

  10. @ptahcha I’ve managed to interline on all sorts of airlines that weren’t partners, BA has just been persnickety about it and has been unwilling to do so more often than not. Though I haven’t tried in a couple of years and that was CHECKIN with BA, interline TO Delta.

  11. @Carl You booked USA-Australia travel via Asia using UA miles? I thought UA did not allow routing via Asia?

  12. @Dean – not originating in the U.S. But if I were, I would try Aeroplan or Dividend Miles to route through Asia.

  13. @Sean changes in routing rules mid-April, United is apparently now MPM+15% for routings. SOME Asia routings should be allowed.

  14. You’re totally right about V Australia for Delta points. Delta gets a lot of flack for their “SkyPesos”, but if you use those points for business class to Australia you’re getting great value.

  15. One slight point re. AA miles to Australia. While it is true that you cannot route through Asia on an AA North America to South Pacific award, you can combine two awards: North America to Asia Zone 2 and Asia Zone 2 to South Pacific. This is more miles, but not too many more. For First, it is 67,500 + 45,000 = 112,500 v. 72,500 miles for the more direct routing. It opens up more options and you can stopover in Hong Kong (or elsewhere in the region) for as long as you want.

  16. @Ryan that’s just one-way pricing. 80k more miles roundtrip. Of course you can also do a distance-based oneworld award by oombining 2 oneworld carriers that aren’t AA, e.g. CX/QF, JL/QF.

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