Any idea when AA will allow award booking on their planned flights to Australia? Do you think they are likely to offer more than 2 C award seats per flight? (I’m trying to figure out how to get a family of 4 to Australia with AA miles in business class, a dad you know, Quantas never releases more than 2 seats per flight)
American’s New Australia Service Coming This December
Their Boeing 777-300ER service will be in partnership with Qantas, the oneworld airline from Australia with whom American has a joint business venture. This allows Qantas to pull Boeing 747 capacity from the route and re-start service from San Francisco.
There were even hints along with the announcement that the partnership could grow, possibly leading to a Los Angeles – Auckland flight, a route that Qantas dropped in 2012.
These Are Unlikely to Yield Much Award Availability
Unfortunately I do not expect this to be great news for members seeking award seats.
- Australia has historically been a tough route for flyers to use miles (exception: Delta miles on Virgin Australia, though I worry that could change with Virgin Australia introducing new reverse herringbone 4-across seating in business to replace 7-across flat beds).
- This doesn’t represent a new flight as much as a replacement for a Qantas flight, we’re not looking at a big capacity increase in the market that would make us think we’d see plenty of empty seats that would be offered as awards.
- American hasn’t been especially generous (to say the least) with international award seats on its own aircraft.
- American will likely be initially conservative with their new route as they learn what booking patterns are like, before they’re wiling to make saver award seats available.
- They’ve been especially tight-fisted on new routes, routes with new premium products, and long routes. This represents all three. I’d expect award availability for Los Angeles – Sydney to be in some ways similar to Dallas – Hong Kong… maybe worse, since the Hong Kong route represented new oneworld transpacific capacity and was initially lightly booked.
None of this bodes well for finding saver award space.
American Flights Give You the Option to Spend Extra Miles for Awards
Having a flight on American aircraft rather than on partners does mean that you can spend extra miles for additional award availability. We don’t yet know what those awards will cost because the award chart for American and US Airways flights doesn’t yet have the ‘South Pacific’ region added to reflect this as an American destination.
If I had to guess then since economy saver awards are 37,500 miles each way between the US and Australia on partners, they will be the same on American, while ‘AAnytime’ awards will be 70,000 (level 1) and 90,000 (level 2) plus an unpublished level 3 each way. And business class AAnytime woulds might be 150,000, 190,000 and ‘unpublished’ each way for each of 3 levels. Ouch.
Australia is Especially Tough Due to ‘Third Region’ Rules on Awards
Australia is a tough award no matter how you slice it. The number of non-stop flights from the US is limited, despite this news which brings the number of airlines serving the market up to 5. And it’s a high demand destination.
Other frequent flyer programs allow you to make these awards work by routing via Asia. It’s extra flying, for sure, but at least using United miles you’ll book a free stopover in one direction and get an Asia trip tacked onto your Australia trip for no additional miles.
American on the other hand won’t let you connect in Asia (since it is a ‘third region’ in addition to the region you start and end your flying in. (See my “Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles“)
This restriction on AAdvantage awards is one of the hobby horse issues, in fact I even mentioned it to someone in casual conversation yesterday at American’s event to share their new catering.
You can book Australia via Asia, but American will charge you for two separate awards, US-Asia plus Asia-Australia.
All programs have restrictions of some kind that limit the flights you can select as part of an award (how many flights you can take, how far you can fly, or what flights you can piece together, without costing additional miles). Otherwise their redemption costs would become pretty unlimited. American has perhaps the most draconion set of rules here.
- You have to fly on ‘published routings’ following the routing rule of your primary overwater carrier.
- You cannot connect in a different region than you start or end your one-way journey unless there are specific exceptions for the trip your taking (such as being able to connect in Europe between North America and Africa).
This means even though American partner British Airways will let you connect in London enroute to Asia, you cannot book an award across the Atlantic. Even though depending on destinations it may not even mean additional flying.
Separately you’re not allowed to fly between the US and India via the Pacific. So even if though a trip from San Francisco to Mumbai via Hong Kong is shorter than via London, you aren’t allowed to take the Cathay Pacific routing through Hong Kong.
Our Best Hope is Glitches
The possibility for booking American flights to Australia at a reasonable number of miles could well come down to glitches. Occasionally we’ve seen the Dallas – Hong Kong flights, and even all transatlantic flights, open up space for a day or so. Could that happen when the Sydney flight is first loaded into the schedule? Perhaps, though I wouldn’t wager on it.
We don’t know yet when this flight will become bookable. American hasn’t announced when it will go on sale, and I suspect that’s because they’re still finalizing details. Since they won’t operate the flight for six months, and very few tickets are sold more than three months out, that’s not a huge problem for them. One imagines that given the timeframe they’ll need to have the flight loaded in schedules to be successful, that this should mean sometime over the next couple of months we’ll see it as bookable. So many folks will be on the look out!
Now that American Will Serve Australia, They Need to Fix Award Rules to Make Australia Awards Possible
I believe ‘third region’ rules on awards are duplicative, and overlying penalizing, and should be relaxed — especially now that we no longer have a distance-based option to us instead. Australia awards should be possible via Asia, which would at least make Australia awards possible at something other than extortionate mileage pricing.
American and Qantas are in a joint venture. Make it possible to fly American to Hong Kong and Qantas from Hong Kong to Australia, for instance.
Since even though both American and Qantas will be flying non-stop between the US and Australia, the odds of finding saver award space especially in a premium cabin on these non-stop flights are pretty darned low.