Delta Adds Virgin Australia Flights to Online Award Booking

The toughest frequent flyer award there that there is out there is North America to Australia/New Zealand non-stop.

There’s not a lot of flying to Auckland these days, Qantas has pulled their Los Angeles – Auckland flight and Air New Zealand tends to release business class award seats about two months out during peak season (if at all).

Meanwhile, getting Qantas seats to Australia can be a real challenge. They’re conservative about releasing award seats (though business class to Brisbane is among the most available). And seats released when the schedule loads are accessible by British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas’ own members, plus Alaska Airlines members, weeks before American AAdvantage members can access thsoe seats — because Qantas opens their schedule nearly a year out while American only books flights 331 days out.

United has been pretty darned tight-fisted on their inventory, until this week anyway when a whole bunch of non-stop business and first class space opened up.

Most of the time to get from the US to Australia in a premium cabin you wind up having to book via Asia.

Except that until recently Virgin Australia has had excellent business class inventory, especially for their Los Angeles – Brisbane flight. Even in the peak of high season.

I say until recently because of late award inventory for business class has pretty much dried up, you can search whole months at a time without seeing saver award space.

So wouldn’t you know that now is when Delta has chosen to improve their web capabilities with the ability to book seats on their partner Virgin Australia!

Check out those fuel surcharges though! The total taxes and fees on a Delta award flying Virgin Australia run about $800. Which is why it rarely makes sense to redeem miles for coach tickets when fuel surcharges are at play, a coach roundtrip is $800 even after spending 100,000 miles.

Nonetheless, seeing Delta bring on additional partners to their award booking capability is encouraging. The Delta online booking tool is one of the most frustrating out there, for its tendency to produce errors while making reservations and to misprice awards. But this suggests an investment is being made.

And it’s especially helpful for Delta to bring on partners like this one where award booking codes are non-standard and agents often don’t know what fare class to search for (hint, Delta agents, “F” is not a premium cabin award with this airline).. let alone that the airline is even a Skymiles partner.

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. This is a really useful addition. Question though how come this is a case of “woah look at those fuel surcharges” but on BA it is just alluded to as a minor inconvenience? Fees on a roundtrip to Oz are around $800. I just priced out a roundtrip YUL-LHR yesterday, shortest possible transatlantic on BA, and fees came to a whopping $1100. Ridiculous. VA to Oz in biz with DL points is still a great use of points

  2. Great information and find! Are they also showing VA business class availability? I did several searches and have only found economy available.

  3. @Phil “Whoa look at those fuel surcharges” because (1) it’s for an economy award, I can swallow those on a business booking but not for coach — I explain that in the post, that it makes an economy booking not make sense, and (2) it’s a US-based frequent flyer program, BA is based in Europe where all programs except EuroBonus add the charges, but for a US-based program I think the pushback matters.

    And I agree, Virgin Australia business is a great use of points even with the fuel surcharges!

  4. @Ben: I first found VA inventory showing on delta.com about two weeks ago. At the time, it was possible to see business award space. However, I now cannot find any availability on delta.com, even if the Velocity Rewards engine shows the space as being available. Even when it was showing up, sometimes you’d select it and on the final confirmation screen it would tell you that you’d been rebooked in first/business for fewer miles, when in reality, you were downgraded to coach (with the corresponding reduction in miles). I’m honestly not convinced that this inventory showing up online is 100% intentional by Delta. It almost feels like the inventory is getting loaded into their systems as part of IT integration through the DL/VA joint venture and is automatically showing up online.

  5. Gary my bad I thought it was showing J inventory.

    That said the point about BA is still valid. The same yul-lhr trip only has about 300 in fees on dl via JFK. Ba fees really are the highest I have seen and really make long haul redemptions impractical though I like the brazil loophole

  6. @Phil You may not like BA fuel surcharges but I think I explained why I flagged the fuel surcharges on the example here — I noted that V Australia business award inventory has mostly dried up, and fuel surcharges on this example which is coach as cost prohibitive. Go go find Virgin Australia business award space and indeed it’s worth the fuel surcharges!

    Of course Delta charges less cash for a transatlantic redemption than BA does. As a European program BA adds fuel surcharges, Delta does not do that for transatlantic flights departing from North America.

    BA fuel surcharges are an absolute pain. I’m willing to suck it up and pay them (or Virgin’s which are similar) for a premium cabin redemption. You’re not. That’s cool, different value propositions work for different people! ­čÖé

    Incidentally fuel surcharges vary very much by market, e.g. fly BA to HKG and they’re quite low.

  7. Hi Gary,
    Regarding to “getting Qantas seats to Australia from Los Angeles,” are coach award tickets available? and if yes, is it easy to get them from BA or AA? Thanks.

  8. Just an observation, but my taxes for booking V Australia Business using Delta points (Australia – LAX return)last month were about $100 per person RETURN.

  9. @Rado Yes, VA changes their fuel surcharges based on ticket origin. It seems that the inventory differs a bit, too.

  10. i remember pricing out VA awards LAX-SYD-LAX a year ago in biz and the taxes/fees only coming out to $400 total??

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