New Zealand is becoming a much more competitive market with the addition of new service.
After Qantas dropped flying Los Angeles – Auckland in 2012, Air New Zealand had a monopoly on non-stop flying between the US and New Zealand. They offered Los Angeles and San Francisco – Auckland flights, as well as flights from Vancouver. (They used to fly to Christchurch as well.)
However things have opened up.
- United promised Houston – Auckland flights, but then Southwest Airlines flights from Houston Hobby to Mexico made them uneconomical (yes, that was United’s claim.) Air New Zealand started Houston service in December.
- United introduced San Francisco – Auckland July 1. American launched Los Angeles – Auckland June 23.
“Bayswater Marina Auckland New Zealand” by Bayswater marina, Creative Commons
More capacity should drive down prices, mean unsold seats, and likely award space available.
Historically awards between the US and New Zealand has been one of the toughest things to book. Years ago Air New Zealand used to open up business class awards 60 days prior to flight. Then they stopped. There really hasn’t been meaningful Air New Zealand business class award space in years except for a brief span back in February and for a handful of days a month ago.
Right now though there’s fantastic award space available on United’s San Francisco – Auckland flight for late April through early June — with award space for 8 or more people most days in economy and many days in business class.
United Airlines Boeing 787
Here’s United.com’s award calendar for April and May non-stop showing award space for 8 or more passengers. Economy only is in yellow. Business and economy is in green.
Here’s the flight:
The return flight from Auckland to San Francisco isn’t as wide open. There’s still fantastic award space for 8 passengers or more in economy, but very few dates where business space exists.
These seats can be booked using Star Alliance miles (e.g. United, Aeroplan, LifeMiles) between several U.S. cities and New Zealand on Air New Zealand.
These are award costs:
- United charges 70,000 miles each way without fuel surcharges (Star Alliance partner awards would be 80,000). United is a Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer partner, and points move instantly.
- LifeMiles charges 81,000 miles each way without fuel surcharges. LifeMiles often sells miles cheap.
- Aeroplan charges 80,000 miles each way without fuel surcharges. Aeroplan is an American Express Membership Rewards points transfer partner, and points move instantly.
Note also that where there’s business class award space there’s generally upgrade space open as well. And of course you can use these seats to get to and from Australia as well.