Advice for Best Economy & Business Flights to New Zealand & Australia

Old Aug 9, 18, 2:13 am
  #1  
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Advice for Best Economy & Business Flights to New Zealand & Australia

We were hoping to redeem some miles for premium seats on our honeymoon to New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately, it seems NZ and QF don't release many award seats.

I was only able to find the following Y awards:
Outbound: UA (SFO-AKL)
Return: UA (SYD-SFO), QF (SYD-LAX)

We're looking at revenue tickets too, but we're budgeting ourselves to $1600 RT so we'd still be looking at Y seats. But with revenue tickets, we open the possibility of flying with NZ. Best options I've found are:
* SFO-AKL (NZ), BNE-SYD-SFO (QF, UA) = ~$1400
* SFO-AKL (NZ), BNE-AKL-SFO (NZ) = ~$1800

I've read UA's Y seats are pretty bad so it sounds like we should avoid it if possible. Overall, I don't feel like we have any "good" options so I'm hoping folks here can help advise us.

My best hope for premium seats is probably waitlisting for the UA flights in J.

1) Do we have any chance waitlisting onto J with UA for SFO-AKL (Friday, Nov 2) and SYD-SFO (Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 25)?

2) Is it worth redeeming miles for these economy flights? They seem like poor redemption values to me, but the revenue tickets don't look a whole lot better either.

3) If going with revenue, is it worth the extra $400 to fly NZ economy over UA economy on the way home?

4) Am I missing any other obvious award options (besides UA, QF, NZ)? Here's my mileage bank to draw from: AA=270k, ChaseUR=375k+200k, AmexMR=160k, SQ=28k, AS=13k, UA=5k, DL=44k

5) What flights are generally considered the "best" for both Economy and Business to New Zealand and Australia?
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Old Aug 9, 18, 2:26 am
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Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
My best hope for premium seats is probably wait listing for the UA flights in J.
1) Do we have any chance wait listing onto J with UA for SFO-AKL (Friday, Nov 2) and SYD-SFO (Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 25)?
As you have found premium cabin awards USA to Aust/NZ are hard to get. And 2 on the same flight 4 times as hard (2 to the power of 2)
For awards November is close. Thanksgiving weekend is a peak time for travel .
With very low UA ff miles and no status you have nil chance of a UA upgrade is my uneducated guess. 2 people makes it lot harder.

Just looking for SFO - AKL restricts your options. Need to look at all gateway airports.

You have a lot of small balances that will be of no benefit. SQ & UA are both star alliance so could have all gone to UA or SQ. AS & DL were ff partners. AA & AS are limited ff partners and were full ff partners. As a guess could have all gone to AA or AS.

Airlines that fly USA/Canada to/from Australia (not from all airports to all airports)
  • American Airlines AA(LAX - SYD) [OneWorld Alliance] (AS partner)
  • Air Canada AC (YVR – SYD BNE MEL) [Star Alliance]
  • Air New Zealand NZ (LAX SFO IAH YVR via AKL) (AKL-ORD from Nov 2018)[Star Alliance]
  • Air Tahiti Nui TN (LAX via Tahiti. Last segments on codeshares) (AA & DL partner)
  • Delta DL (LAX – SYD) (VA & AS partner) [Skyteam Alliance]
  • Fiji Airways FJ (LAX SFO HNL – BNE SYD MEL ADL via Fiji) (QF, AA & AS partner)
  • Hawaiian HA (HNL – BNE SYD) (AA & VA partner)
  • Jetstar JQ (HNL – BNE SYD MEL)
  • Qantas QF (LAX SFO JFK(via LAX) DFW HNL YVR*– SYD; LAX-BNE; LAX SFO**-MEL) [OneWorld Alliance] (AS partner) (**MEL SFO from 1st Sept 2018) {* seasonal}
  • United UA (LAX-MEL, LAX SFO IAH– SYD) [Star Alliance]
  • Virgin Australia VA (LAX – BNE SYD MEL) (codeshares with AC*) (Delta & AC* partner) [*= some routes in 2017-18 link
And others via Asia & Middle East

Airlines that fly USA/Canada to/from New Zealand are (not from all airports to all airports)And others via Australia, Asia & Middle East

And many airlines from NZ to Australia

Other threads that may be of interest

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Aug 9, 18 at 2:43 am
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Old Aug 9, 18, 2:32 am
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Focusing only on Y comfort, you want to avoid cramped 9 abreast 787s and 10 abreast 777s. Rules out all United, Air NZ and American flights

That leaves you with 9 abreast 777 (Delta and Virgin Australia), 747s (Qantas) and A380 (Qantas), A330/A340 (Hawaian, Fiji, Air Tahiti Nui)
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Old Aug 9, 18, 3:04 am
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Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
Overall, I don't feel like we have any "good" options so I'm hoping folks here can help advise us.
There are actually a couple good options. The 9-wide 777s that DL and VA have on this route are above average for a Y class experience. And VA tends to have a very good soft product. VA also offers cash upgrades (bidding process)to Premium Economy and Business (space available of course). PE will be around $500 pp each way and J will be around $1500 pp each way. Not a bad way to get a J seat if you can't get an award.

VA also typically releases J seats close to the date of travel. If you found an open J seat, you could pay the award change fee and book that (assuming you have the points).

Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
My best hope for premium seats is probably waitlisting for the UA flights in J.

1) Do we have any chance waitlisting onto J with UA for SFO-AKL (Friday, Nov 2) and SYD-SFO (Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 25)?
This is generally a slow travel time to Australia. There is no Thanksgiving in Oz of course, so it's just a regular weekend but so close to Christmas/summer that few Australians would be traveling. Couple that with few US business travelers traveling to Oz around this time, and your odds are definitely better than average. Unfortunately, these flights are typically full in J so no guarantees even with the favorable dates.

Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
2) Is it worth redeeming miles for these economy flights? They seem like poor redemption values to me, but the revenue tickets don't look a whole lot better either.
I don't really understand this statement. Generally deciding whether it is worth using miles depends on the revenue ticket price (cents per mile). If revenue tickets are highly priced, this makes award tickets a better value not worse. That said, there have been some stellar deals on this route lately for revenue tickets. Again, just use cents per mile as your guide (search here for what people consider a 'good deal' it's a whole different topic

Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
3) If going with revenue, is it worth the extra $400 to fly NZ economy over UA economy on the way home?
NZ in economy is not a good hard product. The service can be much better than UA. Both are poor choices IMO so I'd only spend the $$ on NZ if the routing was much better.

Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
4) Am I missing any other obvious award options (besides UA, QF, NZ)? Here's my mileage bank to draw from: AA=270k, ChaseUR=375k+200k, AmexMR=160k, SQ=28k, AS=13k, UA=5k, DL=44k
SQ points can be used for VA. I'm not sure on the redemption rates, or how easily you can transfer points to SQ from your other balances. DL points can also be used for VA so you may be able to patch a VA itinerary together.

Last edited by CPMaverick; Aug 9, 18 at 3:09 am
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Old Aug 10, 18, 9:45 am
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3) If going with revenue, is it worth the extra $400 to fly NZ economy over UA economy on the way home?

One thing to consider is UA has one flight a day to the US, where as Air NZ has multiple flights to multiple cities. I greatly prefer Air NZ over UA as the service is sooooooo much better. If something happens, UA will have no problems having you wait another day or so to get back home where Air NZ has lots of options.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 4:04 pm
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Air NZ also has a Skycouch on 777 and 787 flights which could be a good honeymoon option https://www.airnewzealand.com.au/economy-skycouch
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Old Aug 10, 18, 4:41 pm
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Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
There are actually a couple good options. The 9-wide 777s that DL and VA have on this route are above average for a Y class experience. And VA tends to have a very good soft product. VA also offers cash upgrades (bidding process)to Premium Economy and Business (space available of course). PE will be around $500 pp each way and J will be around $1500 pp each way. Not a bad way to get a J seat if you can't get an award.
I couldn't find a clear answer to this, but if booking award flights on VA (using either DL or SQ), would we still be eligible to bid for upgrades?

Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
This is generally a slow travel time to Australia. There is no Thanksgiving in Oz of course, so it's just a regular weekend but so close to Christmas/summer that few Australians would be traveling. Couple that with few US business travelers traveling to Oz around this time, and your odds are definitely better than average. Unfortunately, these flights are typically full in J so no guarantees even with the favorable dates.
I was hoping to hear that the flights wouldn't be too busy since it's only an American holiday. Do Y seats normally fill up during this time too? Besides expertflyer, are there any other ways of checking how many seats or fares have been sold on a flight? I know seat maps aren't accurate since not everyone is immediately assigned a seat after buying a ticket.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 4:46 pm
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Originally Posted by number_6 View Post
Air NZ also has a Skycouch on 777 and 787 flights which could be a good honeymoon option https://www.airnewzealand.com.au/economy-skycouch
For us, this is probably the biggest reason to consider NZ for our flight. It looks "fun" to try out, but it's also quite pricey. It's somewhere around $500-600/person to add on top of NZ's already higher revenue ticket. It puts us at about +$1000/person one-way over UA's Y seat. I'm not sure it's worth that much to us, but we're certainly keeping an eye out in case revenue prices drop.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 4:52 pm
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Originally Posted by Travel K View Post
3) If going with revenue, is it worth the extra $400 to fly NZ economy over UA economy on the way home?

One thing to consider is UA has one flight a day to the US, where as Air NZ has multiple flights to multiple cities. I greatly prefer Air NZ over UA as the service is sooooooo much better. If something happens, UA will have no problems having you wait another day or so to get back home where Air NZ has lots of options.
For me, I'm usually not that worried about the flight home if it means I "have to" spend another day on vacation.

But it would make me more concerned about our flight out to NZ. Do flights to the South Pacific experience higher chances of delays compared to flights going to Europe or Asia?
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Old Aug 10, 18, 5:02 pm
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If we do try to waitlist on UA for J, would it best if we have separate bookings? If we're on the same booking and only one J seat opens up, will they give that J seat to the next solo waitlist pax, or will they hold that for us until another J seat opens to confirm both pax? I'm guessing the former, but hoping for the latter.

It might be weird if we end up with just one J seat.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 5:16 pm
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Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
I couldn't find a clear answer to this, but if booking award flights on VA (using either DL or SQ), would we still be eligible to bid for upgrades?.
I would say "no". Expect DL SQ awards would be treated the same as VA rewards.
Anyway upgrades are a long way from guaranteed or even likely.
https://www.virginaustralia.com/nz/e...emium-bid/faq/
<snip>
If I purchase my flight using Velocity Points, will I be eligible to make an offer to upgrade?

Reward Seat bookings purchased using Velocity Points are not eligible to be upgraded via UpgradeMe Premium Bid.
Any Seat bookings purchased using Velocity Points are eligible to be upgraded via UpgradeMe Premium Bid.
<snip>
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Old Aug 11, 18, 5:23 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
I would say "no". Expect DL SQ awards would be treated the same as VA rewards.
Anyway upgrades are a long way from guaranteed or even likely.
https://www.virginaustralia.com/nz/e...emium-bid/faq/
Thanks Mwenenzi. I didn't realize VA awards weren't eligible for UpgradeMe. I thought I bid up to PE on an award once, but looking back it was an op-up.
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Old Aug 12, 18, 8:33 pm
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Originally Posted by cbrmanf4 View Post
I was only able to find the following Y awards:
Outbound: UA (SFO-AKL)
Return: UA (SYD-SFO), QF (SYD-LAX)
If I might make a small suggestion, and I know it is potentially a pain in terms planning, but you will often find more award inventory if you are not searching hub to hub. LAX-SYD, for example, is a major route for many carriers and what most people search, so inventory is often low and moves fast. Having a non-hub start or end point will often yield good results, especially to New Zealand.

I can search LAX-AKL for new years right now and come up with a giant nothing. But I can search LAX - Tauranga or Kansas City - AKL and come up with /some/ options. Not ideal, but the same points and it gets me there, which is better than not getting there at all. I've found over the years that AA in particular is quite good for this sort of thing.
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Old Aug 13, 18, 1:45 pm
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You could try looking for a J award to SIN , KUL or even BKK, MNL, CGK or DPS, then see what budget/LCC flights you can get to Aus/NZ from there. (Air Asia, Tiger etc)

Then use stray points on OW or Star to get some flights around Aus/NZ.

We have done that successfully a few times. There's a lot better J award availability to the big Asian hubs
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Old Aug 13, 18, 1:46 pm
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Originally Posted by JamesBigglesworth View Post
If I might make a small suggestion, and I know it is potentially a pain in terms planning, but you will often find more award inventory if you are not searching hub to hub. LAX-SYD, for example, is a major route for many carriers and what most people search, so inventory is often low and moves fast. Having a non-hub start or end point will often yield good results, especially to New Zealand.

I can search LAX-AKL for new years right now and come up with a giant nothing. But I can search LAX - Tauranga or Kansas City - AKL and come up with /some/ options. Not ideal, but the same points and it gets me there, which is better than not getting there at all. I've found over the years that AA in particular is quite good for this sort of thing.
How does that work Biggles?
LAX-Tauranga or Kansa-AKL still has to go LAX-AKL, surely?
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