Hacking Award Seats Down Under - All 31 Routes to Australia/NZ

Over the past two weeks, we looked at finding the routes with the least demand to Europe and the Asia:

Hacking Award Seats to Europe - All 403 Routes - Part 1 of 5

Hacking Award Seats to Asia - All 177 Routes - Part 2 of 5

In this next short installment, we look at some of the hardest award routes to get: from North America to Australia and New Zealand.

gcmap - all oz-nz routes

Don’t forget some of the non-alliance partners that fly through their island hubs in the Pacific!

Google Drive Version of all OZ-NZ Routes

Excel Version of all OZ-NZ Routes


With far fewer carriers flying these routes and routing restrictions tightening up, it’s worthwhile to look at non-alliance partners, since they take a larger percentage of the market, flying many routes through Hawaii, Fiji and Papeete to get down under. Sounds like a great way to work in a tropical beach vacation on your way to Australia or New Zealand!

Here is an article from Hilary at Travelsort on how to nab coveted Qantas first space.

Non-Alliance Partners Shine

Since there are only 19 direct flights from North America to Australia and New Zealand, it’s worth highlighting a few non-alliance carriers that partner with our favorite US and British airlines.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia Long-Haul Business Class. The seats cantilever to almost 180 flat - from The Points Guy

Usually space is pretty easy to come by and can be booked with DL (160k), SQ or VX miles. The product is quite good (just barely short of lie-flat) and finding domestic award space to LAX is going to be an easier bet than the other North America gateways of SFO and YVR. Here’s a review from Eric at TPG about his experience flying to Melbourne

Air Tahiti Nui

Colorful, though a little cramped, the flight times in and out of Papeete might allow for some beach time on the way down under - from Matt at UPGRD

While the business class product is angle flat, you can enjoy a more polynesian-styled flight to Down Under with a stop in Papeete. Both AA and DL partner with this carrier and space can be more easy to find during non-peak times, generally November through April. Here’s a review from Jeffsetter on his experience with Air Tahiti Nui business class.


Not your most luxurious seat - and the recline is very slight, but Hawaiian gets good marks for service and food - from Weddingspend.com

It IS recliner seats to Hawaii and onward to Australia, but if you can manage that, Hawaiian offers another option South. With lots of routes, they may prove to be a good fallback option, partnering with both AA and VX.
Brian from TPG reviewed the product here.

Fiji Airways

Almost lie flat and partners with Alaska and American, don’t forget about Fiji Airways - from UnderConsideration.com

Very few blogs talk about the fact that Fiji Air partners with AA and AS and offers an angle flat seat. Trip reports have rated it favorably and for 125k AA or 110k AS miles roundtrip, you’ll be hard pressed to find cheaper award for flights that far.

Which cities should I search availability out of?

Given how few flights there are, the least hub captive gateways are (unsurprisingly) as follows:

Best North American Gateways:

  • Los Angeles - LAX
  • Honolulu - HNL

Best Down Under Gateways:

  • Sydney - SYD

In prior segments, we looked at which cities were least hub captive, presuming there would be less competition for frequent flyer space. I’d argue that given there are so few routes to the South Pacific, that logic doesn’t necessarily apply, as seasonal trends and lack of gateways will force bottlenecks of demand. Choosing a non-aligned carrier that most frequent flyer mile holders and booking agents have never heard of will be your best bet to get there in style.

There are a few cities you wouldn’t expect direct service on, so it could be worth your time to check flights out of the following cities:

North America:

  • Dallas - DFW
  • Vancouver - YVR
  • San Francisco - SFO


  • Brisbane - BNE
  • Melbourne - MEL
  • Auckland - AKL

Also keep in mind that these are some of the longest flights in the world, so comfort does matter here. A lie flat seat might be a more important factor than US vs international service and food on a 14 hour flight.

Hope that helps you plan your next trip to the Southern Hemisphere. Stay tuned for South America and the Middle East/Africa in our final installments.

18 Responses to “Hacking Award Seats Down Under - All 31 Routes to Australia/NZ”

  1. As of 1-Jun-14, a biz ticket to Australia using SkyMiles is 160K at the low-level, not 150K. Also, for people who don’t live in LAX, it will be difficult to find low-level award seats from your city to LAX on Delta, even for Diamond Medallions and DL credit card holders (both applied to me). You will likely have to marry the VA segment with low-level DL domestic economy or use another carrier to get to LAX. Finding the Virgin segments are pretty easy, just sign up for a Velocity Frequent Flyer account on VA’s web site instead of using DL’s calendar. I just used SkyPesos last month to fly my family on Virgin to Australia. Having flown many business class products over the last decade, I would say VA’s product is in my top 5. Our flight from LAX->MEL was 15h50m and I was able to sleep a good 8+ hours. The seat was very comfortable for sitting and sleeping (they give out PJs!), food was good, and the service was very attentive. The FAs made an extra effort to stop and chat extensively with my kids to ensure they had everything they needed. One important point to mention: when flying VA business, you are given a “Fast Pass” to clear immigration/customs on the outbound and return. This is worth its weight in gold…Australia passport control lines were incredibly long, likely a wait of 45 minutes or more if you don’t have the pass (think NY-JFK during peak international arrival hours). After flying for 16 hours (and even more travel time if you flew to LAX), you don’t want to wait in a long line to leave the airport.

    • do you have to provide a fake address to sign up for Virgin Australia’s Velocity program? Looks like they won’t take you if you’re from USA…

      • Yes, you do. But you don’t need any miles in your account to look at the availability. What I did: create a spreadsheet with each route that VA flies from LAX, then put your desired date range in the columns. Go to VA’s web site, search award seats for all those dates and mark the dates that have saver level. Then work with the painful DL calendar to find award seats to LAX that will match up (see DL Points blog for the best strategies). We actually flew into MEL and out from BNE because those routes had better availability for our dates. Don’t forget that DL allows one stopover and one open jaw which you can use to snag a domestic flight within Australia. Example: Book LAX->SYD as your outbound. For the return, you could do SYD->MEL->Stopover->MEL->LAX. Or you could do an open jaw return i.e. CNS->BNE->Stopover->BNE->LAX. Use Avios to get around inside Australia, BA doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on the domestic flights.

    • Thanks for the catch on the DL price increase, fixed.

      You are right that award availability can be a pain on DL (and increasingly UA and AA) transcon, though West Coast seats are pretty easy to come by given the competition VX and AS inject into the network there. This is where Avios, Arrival Points and understanding how SQ’s program can save you money and points on UA (no close in fee) and VX (discounts on west coast flights) come in handy. VS can do similar things on DL and VX flights, though you should be able to see the same availability on DL and get that wrapped into the same ticket onward to OZ.

  2. First of, you made it seem that VA flys to SFO and YVR, on top or their LAX route. That’s ANZ, not VA that flys to those 3 destinations. VA’s only US destination is LAX. You also forgot to add that Delta miles can be used on Hawaiian.

    • Sorry if that was confusing. I was more pointing out that LAX is easier to get to on a domestic revenue or award positioning ticket than YVR or SFO, simply because they are less competitive markets

    • I think you will find it very difficult to book a Hawaiian flight that flies outside the islands with SkyMiles. Their seats do not show on DL’s web site and even if you find low award seats on Hawaiian’s site or ExpertFlyer, Delta agents won’t book it. They are very adamant that only intra-island flights are eligible for award tickets and DL’s page seems to imply this as well (you can only earn SkyMiles on intra-island flights.) Interestingly, I have even spoken to supervisors on the DM line and asked them to show me where it explicitly states only intra-island awards are possible - they can never find it but still maintain the policy is only intra-island. If someone actually booked a continental US or international ticket on HA this year with SkyMiles, I’d be interested in hearing how they did it.

  3. I’d make the case that routing via asia maybe well worth the effort unless you’re in a NA city that has direct coverage. It’s a difference of about 4 extra hours for the times I’ve done it, and in some cases prices less than the more ‘direct’ when paying in $ - and still just a one-stop route. With miles, probably paying a bit more, but there’s also more availability. All the asia hubs have direct flights to several of the cities, including access to perth via a more direct route. Also, emirates is a one stop flight for several US cities.

  4. I have a ton of miles in AA so I’ve been looking at business class via them or their partners. On their site I’m seeing Business MileSAAver awards for 62.5k. That seems like hands down the absolutely cheapest/best way to get down under. Thoughts?

  5. You can also fly from Nadi to Auckland and Christchurch.

  6. Eric - in addition to the 2 routes Seth mentioned below, there is also a weekly NZ flight AKL-RAR-LAX. There’s also a weekly NZ SYD-RAR flight that does not connect to the RAR-LAX leg. Nice to have these all in one place - thanks!

  7. ATL to Melbourne AUS in late 2015 Business Class. Planning way ahead. What is a good strategy airline and points wise? I have narrowed down to Delta, UR and American miles but willing to change…..some. Sorry, when you live 30 minutes from Hartsfield you got to do some Delta.


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