The Best Ways to Use Miles and Points to Get to Australia

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

Australia is a special place to me because I was fortunate enough to stay there for an entire summer (or winter in Oz) and I pretty much fell in love with the country. Unfortunately, like New Zealand, it’s not the easiest place to get to on miles and points. However, if you’re open to routing through Asia and can plan about 7 to 10 months in advance you can stand a great chance of finding award seats to get to the Land Down Under. Here are the best ways to use use miles and points to get to Australia. 

Sydney Australia bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge.

1. ANA 

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 75,000
  • Business class: 105,000-120,000

a) ANA

Booking ANA flights to Sydney from the United States is a super way to get down under. First, the mileage requirement for a roundtrip in business class can be as low as 105,000! That’s an absolute steal, as other carriers like United and American will charge 120,000 to 160,000 respectively. Also, the fees are very reasonable at about $200. Considering that you could thrown in a stopover on this trip, I think ANA miles on ANA is one of the best ways to get to Australia with miles and points.

Availability is generally pretty decent with ANA to Sydney; however, you’ll need to plan in advance. For searches that were about 6+ months out, I didn’t have much trouble finding award seats in business class. For months sooner than that, I saw quite a few waitlist bookings. 

Business Class, ANA B787 Dreamliner
ANA business class on 787. Photo by Jason Lawton.

b) United Airlines

The issue with getting to Australia with United is the lack of availability. Economy saver awards are usually plentiful but business class seats can be very hard to find. Every now and again United will dump some award seats but it’s usually pretty tough to find them.

c) Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand offers the most routes from the United States to New Zealand that you could use to connect to Australia but the problem is that the award availability is very limited and historically has been. You might get lucky and come across some good availability here and there but for the most part I wouldn’t count on there to be open seats on Air New Zealand. I did find some open seats on ANA’s website but they were mixed-class fares with economy being the long leg. 

d) ANA (plus Asian airline partners)

Using ANA to book ANA plus Asian airline partner airlines to get to Australia can be a great option but will obviously require you to connect through Asian airports to get there and back. A lot of the routing through Asia include partners: Singapore Airlines, Asiana, Air China, and Thai Airways. It’s not hard to get the total fees under $200 with some of these partners like ANA + Thai Airways, although others like Air China might be double that amount or even more.

I recommend just playing around with the ANA search feature to see what fees you’re able find. If you’re searching about 6 plus months out, you really shouldn’t have many issued finding an all business class itinerary. 

Australian football game.

2. JAL (Japan Airlines)

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG

Miles needed depend on distance

  • Economy: 60,000+
  • Business class: 100,000+

Partners

JAL offers distance-based redemptions for partners and some of these redemptions are absolute steals. One such example would be the roundtrip in business class from places like LAX or IAH to SYD for only 100,000 miles! Fees range but can be as low as $160 when booking American Airlines. That’s absolutely fantastic.

The major drawback with JAL is that it’s not easy to accumulate miles for them since they are only a transfer partner of SPG. However, if you could get two SPG cards (personal and business) at their highest sign-up bonuses and perhaps a Marriott Card, you’d probably be able to surpass 100,000 JAL miles and make this kind of booking.

Iceberg Swimming Pool and Bondi Beach, Australia.

3. Alaska Airlines

As usual, the rates differ depending on the partner, so here are a few of the best ways to use Alaska miles to get to Australia.

a) Qantas

  • 85,000 in economy
  • 110,000 in business class

Unfortunately, much like Air New Zealand, business class award availability with Qantas is one of the hardest to come by. Every once in a while they roll out with more open dates but for the most part if you want to find open business class seats, you’ll have to do a lot of searching and will probably struggle to find suitable options for a roundtrip (though it can be done). Almost all of the search results you find for business class redemptions will be mixed-class cabins, with the long legs from the States being in economy or at best premium economy.

However, when I searched for dates about 9 months out, I found a fair amount of first class seats open. In fact availability in first class was a lot better than business class and the fees were only $140! Thus, I don’t think I’d count on using Alaska miles to get to Australia with Qantas but if I had a lot of Alaska miles, I’d certainly consider using them on a first class Qantas redemption.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-4-47-35-pm

Qantas flies the A380 on the above routes which looks like it has a decent first class product.

If you’re interested in economy you should be able to find plenty of open seats; it’s just that the deal isn’t quite so sweet at 85,000 miles roundtrip.

Hungry Koala.

b) Fiji Airways

  • 80,000 in economy
  • 110,000 in business class

Fiji Airways offers more outstanding rates to get to New Zealand but it’s got the same issues as Qantas in terms of very limited business class availability. I searched for months on Alaska’s website and only found a couple of days with open business class seating but others have had more luck finding business class availability (via Fiji). Much like Qantas, economy had wide-open dates, however.

c) Korean Air

  • 85,000 in economy
  • 125,000 in business class

Booking business and/or first class on Korean Air’s metal with partner miles is extremely difficult because they have been known to limit their inventory to partners, sometimes with only one business class seat. I searched through months on Delta and Alaska’s website and only found a seat here and there for business class (mixed-fare) and economy wasn’t much better. Therefore, while the redemption rate with Alaska miles is tempting, this isn’t a very practical option for getting to New Zealand for the time being.

d) Cathay Pacific

  • 80,000 in economy
  • 120,000 in business class

You’ll need to search for award availability with British Airways or Japan Airlines since Alaska often doesn’t show Cathay Pacific award availability. A quick search for availability about 7+ months out showed many open business class and first class seats between Hong Kong and Sydney and so you’d just need to find Cathay Pacific flights from departure points in the US (SFO or LAX).

Cathay Pacific B777-300
Cathay Pacific is a great use of Alaska Miles to Australia, Photo by Alvin Law.

The product level on Cathay Pacific and redemption rates make it one of the best ways to get to Australia and definitely one of the best ways to use Alaska miles. While award availability is not phenomenal it’s still better than many of the other options for getting to Australia, so if you have Alaska miles then consider Cathay Pacific as a primary choice.

Remember, Alaska Airlines has a very generous stopover policy allowing one stopover on one-ways and two stopovers on roundtrips. A route through Asia to Oceania is a perfect time to take advantage of these!

Red kangaroo in Sydney.

4. United Airlines 

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles:  Chase Ultimate Rewards, Chase cards, SPG (2:1)

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business class: 140,000 (160,000 with partners)

As stated, award availability for (saver) business class to Australia on United is not great and you’ll need to book far in advance or simply rely on luck if you want to even have a chance to snag redemptions with business class seats between the US and Australia. On the other hand, if you’re searching for economy flights, you should be able to find plenty of flights 6+ months out and decent availability for flights under 6 months out.

The same logic applies from the ANA bookings: you want to explore routing options with Star Alliance partners through Asia to get to Australia. United will not allow you to route through Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, to New Zealand (or Australia), so you’ll be primarily looking at bookings through Asia with Star Alliance partners, such as ANA, Singapore, etc.

Another routing rule for United to be aware of is that when routing from North America to the South Pacific, you can only have 3 connections, which means 4 total segments one-way. So keep that in mind when piecing together your routes through Asia. 

Overall 140,000 on United’s metal with minimal fees is a pretty good bargain, but due to limited availability, it’s not one that I would count on being able to take advantage of. If you are able to snag a seat, you’ll likely be flying on the 787 Dreamliner

Swimming with sharks in Manly, Australia.

5. American Airlines 

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG, Citi credit cards

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business class: 160,000

Unfortunately, American doesn’t allow you to transit 3rd regions subject to exceptions and North America to South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) is not given an exception. This means that routing through the Middle East with Qatar and Etihad or through Asia with airlines like Cathay Pacific will cost you additional miles. Therefore, I’m leaving them and others off the list.

American 

American Airlines runs a direct flight from LAX to SYD. I found some okay SAAver award availability going to Sydney from LAX about 7 to 8 months out but some very good SAAver availability going back to LAX. If you can plan your trip to Australia at least about 8 or 9 months in advance, then I think you’ll have a good shot at being able to find tickets to book. 

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-6-36-40-pm

 

Although American Airlines does not allow stopovers, the fees are very reasonable and for the roundtrip business class seats found above, you’d be paying about $73 in total fees! American Airlines flies its 777-300ER on this route which has some pretty nice business class seats with a 1-2-1 layout

While I’m not crazy about the 160,000 miles requires for a round trip business class ticket, that’s not that bad, especially considering how minimal the total fees are.

The Sydney Opera House.

6. Aeroplan  

  • Alliance: Star Alliance 
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG, Membership Rewards 

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business class: 160,000

Aeroplan is great because you can book one way awards, avoid fuel surcharges on airlines like United and Singapore Airlines, they have one of the best search engines (although it can be a bit slow),  and a lot of their redemption rates for business class are pretty reasonable. Also when you transfer points from Membership Rewards to Aeroplan the transfer is pretty much instant. You can check out my article on Aeroplan to learn more about the program.

Unfortunately, I don’t see Star Alliance partners like Asiana, Air China, and Thai Airways on the no fuel surcharge list, so if you end up booking with them, you’ll probably have to pay some fees. And hefty fees at that. For example, I found a lot of business class award seats with Asiana but the totals fees for one roundtrip ticket were $688. Thus, I’d really only consider Aeroplan if I were able to find awards seats on United or another airline that doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges.

The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan, so you can always try to piece together a route with to Sydney with some of these airlines, although it might prove to be pretty difficult to do with the Aeroplan website:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*
Street art in Melbourne, Australia.

7. Singapore Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thankyou points, SPG

Miles needed with online 15% booking discount:

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business class: 170,000

Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner to all of the major reward programs (and thus very easy to accumulate miles for) and it offers one of the best business class and economy products out of any airline. When I searched for flights from SFO to SYD about 7 months out availability in business class was very good! Singapore Airlines just brought back its direct flight from SFO to SIN on the A350. From SIN to SYD, you’d be on the A350. I recently rode business class on a new A350 and the A380 and absolutely loved the business class product on both, although the newer interior aboard the A350 was obviously much fresher.

The drawback to going with Singapore on this route is that the fees are likely going to be high. My round trip booking from SFO to SYD in business class showed $855 in total fees.

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

8. Delta Airlines

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, American Express Delta cards, SPG

Virgin Australia

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business class: 190,000
Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER in LAX (VH-VPH)
Photo by wilco737

Delta has some pretty horrible redemptions to Australia and New Zealand and the lowest I found when I searched was 220,000 miles roundtrip. However, Delta has access to non-SkyTeam partner Virgin Australia which has the largest inventory of business class awards to Australia even in peak times and no fuel surcharges. These routes will require 190,000 Delta SkyMiles round trip and the new business class product on the 777-300 looks pretty great on Virgin Australia and even comes with a on-flight bar.

My issue is that I wasn’t able to find these awards on Delta’s site but it’s good knowing that this option is at least offered on occasion and/or that you have the possibility of tracking down these awards in the future. Overall, Delta would be one of my last choices for getting to Australia.

Final word 

As you can see, availability is the biggest hurdle for places like Australia. That means that you need to plan as far in advance as possible and try to remain as flexible as possible. If you can do those two things then you should be able to eventually piece together an itinerary to Australia.  

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Sign-up below to receive all my tricks like how to find the best credit card offers.

No more than once daily emails 

As Featured: