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Old Jun 12, 13, 8:57 am   #1
 
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Award travel to SYD and AKL

Greetings FT!

My wife and I are looking to book award travel next spring to see Australia and New Zealand. I am looking for some friendly advice both on a which cities to visit and how to plan the trip from a miles usage perspective. I know the best way to go to get "down under" from the states is to fly LAX - SYD via VA in J (getting to LAX sepetately from WI). What I am curious about is can I efficently add on any additional stopovers or open jaws with this trip, or does everyone figure out additional travel sepetately when you get there? For example: when looking at delta.com they don't show any partner flights to NZ but they say call to see what might be available.

Any help with this big adventure for us would be most appreciated. I should note, we would have a total of about 185k miles each to work with. Thanks!
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Old Jun 12, 13, 9:16 am   #2
 
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This should probably get merged into the VA to NZ thread, but I'll leave that to the mods. Having just returned from NZ, here are suggestions.

First, you are correct that DL.dumb doesn't show trans-Tasman inventory. Also be aware that you will only be able to book economy on these flights, as DL's systems have some sort of defect when it comes to VA's premium economy (no business) across the ditch. Sign up for Velocity Frequent Flyer (use any old address in Australia for your address) and search there. Any of the basic level reward seats should be available to DL when you call in.

What I did was OMA-MSP-LAX-BNE-WLG on DL and VA and then left from AKL on QF using AA miles with the return of my DL award from HKG. That's a bit unorthodox, obviously. I think the things you want to consider are the VA route map (a lot of trans-Tasman flights are operated by NZ, which you can't get using DL miles, so you need honest to goodness VA flights) and how much time you have. Do you have enough time to visit both the North Island and the South Island, or do you want to focus on just one of them? A reasonable approach is to work north to south, starting either from AKL or WLG and ending in ZQN or CHC. The west coast of the South Island is amazing. Wine regions at the north end of the island, then work your way down to Glacier Country and finally down to Queenstown. (You could also work south to north but I really like the progression from north to south.) Christchurch his still undergoing serious rebuilding, and by rebuilding I mean they're still doing demolition. It's worth a day, but not much more at this stage. I want to return once they've got more rebuilding done, however.

I can't comment too much on the North Island. Wellington is a nice city to visit for a day or two. The national museum Te Papa has great exhibits and is beautiful architecturally. I spent three days in Rotorua, which other than the sulfur smell, is great. Auckland is a big city with not a huge amount to recommend it. Get out to some of the islands in the area if you really want to explore things.

Within New Zealand, buy cheap flights on NZ. If you have status with DL, do a status match to TK to have *G before going, as this will get you a better baggage allowance (only on grabaseat + bag or higher fares). http://www.grabaseat.co.nz is the best place to search for cheap flights. NZ is Y only domestically, but pretty much any route can be had for NZ$100 or less including a checked bag, and the service on their regional jets and turboprops is quite good if your used to US carriers. Just avoid the Beechcraft 1900 like the plague, which shouldn't be too much of an issue unless you want to fly ROT-AKL like I did.

As for a stopover, take a couple of days in Australia on the way to/from NZ. SYD is the obvious choice, but you'll find better award space to/from LAX on the BNE flight (and MEL to a lesser extent). If I had my choice, I'd probably pick MEL, but that's because I feel like I shortchanged it when I was in Australia a couple of years ago. Can't really go wrong with any of the three.

I'm in the midst of a trip report, which you might want to consult. I've just got the flights as far as BNE written up, but the rest of the trip will be coming in the next week or two. Oh, and don't be afraid to go to the Australia/NZ forum here to ask questions about how long to stay various places, etc.. I didn't ask any for this trip, since I had a Kiwi friend advising me along the way, but FTers were really helpful with my Australia trip.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 9:26 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by mojo2121 View Post
Greetings FT!

My wife and I are looking to book award travel next spring to see Australia and New Zealand. I am looking for some friendly advice both on a which cities to visit and how to plan the trip from a miles usage perspective. I know the best way to go to get "down under" from the states is to fly LAX - SYD via VA in J (getting to LAX sepetately from WI). What I am curious about is can I efficently add on any additional stopovers or open jaws with this trip, or does everyone figure out additional travel sepetately when you get there? For example: when looking at delta.com they don't show any partner flights to NZ but they say call to see what might be available.

Any help with this big adventure for us would be most appreciated. I should note, we would have a total of about 185k miles each to work with. Thanks!
VA has flights from Australia to NZ. Not sure how a ticket LAX-SYD-(stopover)-AKL-SYD-LAX would price out but I think you might be able to do it for the same price as just going to SYD. Looks like you'll have to call to book it though as NZ destinations are not supported by Delta.com.

I would suggest:
--Find the availability you want for the long-haul VA segments using DL.com (search one-way flights day by day until you find it). Keep in mind the LAX-BNE flight is easier to get onto than the LAX-SYD flight.

--Identify possible VA routings to get to your desired destinations in NZ. One option is to look at the "destinations" table on the Wikipedia page of the relevant airports. For example if you wanted to go to Auckland, you have options to get there from various Australian cities, including SYD, BNE and MEL. I don't know what VA's availability on those routes is like, but chances are you will have the best luck finding award seats on routes that have multiple daily frequencies and on midweek days.

--Call Delta, give them your dates for the long-haul segments, and ask them to look for awards on the short-haul flights around your dates. Ideal would be if you can find a day that gives you multiple long-haul options--i.e., both LAX-BNE and LAX-SYD are available, so you can have DL look for awards on both BNE-AKL and SYD-AKL. If you can only find LAX-BNE, don't forget to have the agent look for both BNE-AKL and BNE-SYD-AKL (VA's domestic trunk route availability is usually pretty good). Replace AKL here with whatever NZ city you want to visit.

And, good luck. It may be hard to find what you're looking for here, and not sure how it will price out in terms of miles required, so worst case you could always just book the long-haul segment using miles and then buy short-haul flights with cash; there are a few interesting options on some of the trans-Tasman routes including Emirates, LAN, and China Airlines that may have cheap cash fares. Jetstar also flies some trans-Tasman routes and should be relatively inexpensive. If you have any Membership Rewards points, you may also be able to get a good value by transferring MR points to BA and redeeming for tickets on QF; BA's award chart can be an excellent value on short-haul flights.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 10:20 am   #4
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If you're looking at purchasing the transTasmanian flights, check the details on Emirates business class fares. There's been discussion about eligibility for complimentary chauffeur service to/from airports.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 10:34 am   #5
 
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Thanks for the GREAT advise so far! I am curious, if there are VA flights to NZ from Aus why don't they show up on deltas site? We will also have some MR points we could tap to transfer to another airline for the short haul flights - that is a good suggestion! Is QL the best way to go for that?

I should mention the things we really like to do is hiking, wildlife watching, snorkeling and hanging out on the beach. Having said that, should we spend time in any other city in Aus besides SYD?

With regards to visiting another island, are there a fair amount of flight options to Fiji from the area? Is two weeks enough to see all of this?

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Old Jun 12, 13, 10:52 am   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo2121 View Post
Thanks for the GREAT advise so far! I am curious, if there are VA flights to NZ from Aus why don't they show up on deltas site?
Only DL knows that. VA and KE are both bookable online and fly to (at least) AKL, but you can't book flights to NZ on DL.dumb at all. Minor cities in Australia often work, but not NZ. No clue why, other than DL.dumb sucks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo2121 View Post
We will also have some MR points we could tap to transfer to another airline for the short haul flights - that is a good suggestion! Is QL the best way to go for that?
BA for QF (QANTAS) flights is your best short-haul option, typically. Just be careful with fuel surcharges trans-Tasman. They don't exist domestically within Australia but can be nontrivial across the ditch. BA miles can also be used for the LAN flight between AKL and SYD, which does not carry fuel surcharges.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo2121 View Post
I should mention the things we really like to do is hiking, wildlife watching, snorkeling and hanging out on the beach. Having said that, should we spend time in any other city in Aus besides SYD?
I'd probably do a BNE stopover then rather than SYD. You're up by the Great Barrier Reef, and if you go up to CNS (or farther north like Port Douglas), there's nice snorkeling. NZ will give you tons of wonderful hiking and bird watching. If you want to watch non-birds, do it in Australia. NZ was a giant bird aviary before the Maori arrived, and the NZ Government is doing everything they can to eradicate all mammals/marsupials beyond humans, cattle, and sheep. (I exaggerate, but just a bit.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo2121 View Post
With regards to visiting another island, are there a fair amount of flight options to Fiji from the area? Is two weeks enough to see all of this?
I was referring to a smaller island in the area just off from Auckland. There should be enough flight options to Fiji, but if you've got just two weeks, I'd probably spend 1.5 weeks in NZ and a few days in Queensland to get some snorkeling in. 1.5 weeks would give you a nice pace on the South Island, or if you want to go a bit quicker, you could see a bit of the North Island, too.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 10:54 am   #7
 
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I should mention the things we really like to do is hiking, wildlife watching, snorkeling and hanging out on the beach. Having said that, should we spend time in any other city in Aus besides SYD?
In that case CNS might be an option for you to consider, especially if you will be transiting BNE. Something like LAX-BNE-CNS (dest)-SYD (so)-LAX. I did that exact itinerary last year and it was a full two weeks, even without a sidetrip to NZ.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 11:03 am   #8
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You could easily spend two weeks on the eastern coast of Australia and skip NZ: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. There are great aquariums, zoos, and wildlife preserves. Add the Gold Coast and/or Sunshine Coast, although they seem to be just a bit harder to get to if you want mainline jet planes without propellers IME.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 11:14 am   #9
 
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I suspect the reason VA flights to NZ aren't bookable on DL.com is because DL.com only supports destinations where Delta flies to or has codeshare flights to -- and apparently DL does not offer codeshare service to NZ. I agree it's annoying, as are many things about the Delta site, but at least you can search for long-haul and domestic VA awards on the site, which gives you a starting point for a conversation with an agent. (When you do end up calling an agent to book, I would recommend calling during normal business hours, which is when the most senior agents are scheduled to work, and not at a time when there might be any weather events affecting Delta's network, which would make the agents stressed and in high demand. You may have to call back a few times to get an agent who is able to work with you to do the booking, as they don't all know the ins and outs of partner award bookings very well.)

For booking short-haul flights separately, the best options are likely BA's award chart to book awards on QF, or ANA's award chart to book awards on NZ. You can sign up for a free BA Executive Club account and search for awards without needing to have any miles in your account, so you can see how many miles it would take and what surcharges they apply, and then decide whether you want to go ahead and transfer MR points. For ANA, you could do a similar process, though you have to trick the ANA website into letting you see partner availability -- see:
http://thepointsguy.com/2011/06/how-...-availability/

Keep in mind, first prize is if Delta will let you add on VA flights AUS->NZ to your long-haul booking for no additional miles, which should be doable. You'd only want to bother with separate QF/NZ bookings via BA/ANA if you can't get that to work, or if you end up wanting to add additional flights/trips above and beyond what Delta will let you book.

Finally, I came across this thread while searching for something else, and it has thoughts on a number of your questions, so probably worth reading in some detail:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/delta...after-syd.html
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Old Jun 12, 13, 11:31 am   #10
 
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You could easily spend two weeks on the eastern coast of Australia and skip NZ: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. There are great aquariums, zoos, and wildlife preserves. Add the Gold Coast and/or Sunshine Coast, although they seem to be just a bit harder to get to if you want mainline jet planes without propellers IME.
Note that Gold Coast is essentially a suburb of Brisbane and is easily reachable from there by car or suburban train (including a train service direct from Brisbane Airport) if you have trouble finding flights to get there directly. Sunshine Coast is also driveable from Brisbane but a bit farther away.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 11:57 am   #11
 
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I suspect the reason VA flights to NZ aren't bookable on DL.com is because DL.com only supports destinations where Delta flies to or has codeshare flights to -- and apparently DL does not offer codeshare service to NZ.
A good theory, but wrong. VA66 BNE-WLG is also marketed as DL7235. I found DL flight numbers on SYD-AKL as well. It seems it's just that DL.dumb lives up to its name.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 12:06 pm   #12
 
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So thankful for all the help thus far.

So if we want to do some snorkeling, is Brisbane the better bet or should we just go straight up to Cairns (anything else to see in Brisbane?).

I like the idea of flying there - then to NZ and doing a stopover in SYD on the way home for a day or two. I am curious, can you still do a stopover AND and open jaw (if for example I wanted to fly into the south side of NZ but out from the north side)?

Fingers crossed if I could do this all with the 150,000 miles via VA ("first prize") . I take it anytime you add the US domestic flights the mileage goes up to the point it's not worth it?

Last edited by mojo2121; Jun 12, 13 at 12:11 pm.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 12:15 pm   #13
 
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You can have a stopover and an open jaw. So you could fly to BNE (or CNS) on your award, then pay your own way (or use non-DL miles) to wherever you want to be in NZ and not resume your award until you begin your return, so you could do AKL-SYD(stopover)-LAX. Do actually look at how far apart Australia and NZ are. It's 3+ hours across the Tasman (at least in terms of block times for flights). If you've only got two weeks, I think picking Oz or NZ might be preferable to trying for a lot in both. A reasonable alternative would be ~3 days on the east coast of Australia on the way to or from NZ. I find NZ is amazing, but it does take time to get around. The roads are windy and not flat. There are about 12 million one lane bridges on major highways on the South Island alone. The NZ AA gives a good idea of driving times between cities, but they're generally without stopping to take pictures or walk up to see a spectacular view.

In terms of domestic flights, they can be found, but make sure you only book low. I got OMA-MSP-LAX in F to connect to LAX-BNE in J, and there were actually multiple seats on all those flights. Be willing to take the flights to LAX in Y if they're available.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 2:26 pm   #14
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I think of Cairns as the main airport for Great Barrier Reef, although depending on the particular islands, smaller airports might be better. IIRC QF serves Dunk Island and a second smaller and fancier resort island is a short boat ride away. Cairns itself has a backpacker feel (but there are some very upscale resorts in its suburbs) and has a lot of hydrofoil service from downtown to nearby areas of GBR. For other GBR destinations, it can be awkward to get to the boat by public transportation, including the use of trains and smaller airports. Coastal and GBR resorts are different styles and sizes, so be sure to pick one that suits you.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 2:43 pm   #15
 
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A good theory, but wrong. VA66 BNE-WLG is also marketed as DL7235. I found DL flight numbers on SYD-AKL as well. It seems it's just that DL.dumb lives up to its name.
I stand corrected. I am tempted to suggest that perhaps the problem is due to something on VA's side, since their NZ flights are operated by a separate subsidiary (formerly known as Pacific Blue), but perhaps I am just being too optimistic in imagining what Delta's capabilities might be. (And, the flights to LAX also used to be operated under a separate code, and those book on Delta.com fine, so this theory is probably also wrong.)
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