My US Airways First Class Award To Australia

Over 60 hours in Qantas A380 and British Airways first class for 140,000 US Airways miles?

US-Airways-Award

Yes please!

US Airways left the Star Alliance and joined oneworld about a month ago, which was both sad and exciting.

It was sad in the sense that you could no longer book some amazing itineraries for travel on Star Alliance, but exciting in the sense that it opened up all kinds of new award routings with oneworld that weren’t previously possible.

I’ve done what I can to cover every aspect of booking oneworld awards through US Airways, including:

Millions of miles to burn before further devaluations!

I always try to advise people to not have more miles in a single airline program than they can reasonably redeem in six or so months. The idea behind this is that most programs should give advance notice, which gives you the opportunity to redeem miles when award chart changes are announced.

I’m generally pretty good about following my own advice, but between my American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles accounts I have over a million miles, and when you add in the accounts of my family members, that’s another million miles or so. Those miles were earned through a combination of actually flying, Citi Executive AAdvantage Card sign-up bonuses, and taking advantage of US Airways’ 100% bonus on shared miles.

So I have lots of miles to burn for travel on oneworld, and I’d like to do it as soon as possible, before American or US Airways make any more devaluations without notice.

The two first class “sweet spots” on the US Airways award chart

The biggest “sweet spot” on US Airways’ award chart used to be the ability to fly from the US to North Asia via Europe for just 90,000 miles in business class. A few weeks ago they raised the cost of that award by 20,000 miles overnight.

Meanwhile they left the cost of first class to North Asia at 120,000 miles. At that point you’re paying just a 5,000 mile one-way premium for first class over business class.

With that in mind, I think the two current “sweet spots” on the US Airways award chart are as follows:

  • First class from the US to North Asia for 120,000 miles
  • First class from the US to Australia for 140,000 miles

Why I chose to book an award to Australia

So why did I choose to book an award to Australia rather than North Asia?

First of all, now that I live in hotels full time, I’d actually like to spend a few weeks “down under,” including returning to one of my favorite places in the world, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Second of all, the best carriers to North Asia are Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class dozens of times, and there was no Japan Airlines award space for my dates.

And in theory you would think American AAdvantage miles would be incredibly valuable for travel to Australia, given that they partner with Qantas.

The issue is that Qantas releases virtually no premium cabin award space between the US and Australia. That’s not to say it’s totally impossible — I’m flying from Sydney to Los Angeles in Qantas first class with my dad later this year.

Award space is much easier on their other longhaul routes, though, between Melbourne/Sydney and London (via Dubai).

For example, take a look at how many dates next February have first class award space from Melbourne/Sydney to Dubai:

Qantas-First-Class-Award-Space

Meanwhile you won’t find a single first class award seat on their Melbourne/Sydney to Los Angeles flight.

This has made it really difficult to redeem American miles to Australia, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take advantage of US Airways’ routing rules to book something that wouldn’t be possible under American’s rules.

To Australia via Europe and the Middle East!

So what did I book for 140,000 US Airways miles?

New York > London in British Airways first class, London > Dubai > Melbourne in Qantas first class, and back in the same way. And since US Airways isn’t presently imposing fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways, the total taxes and fees came out to about $250 roundtrip.

British Airways first class isn’t the greatest first class product in the world, though it’s tough to beat between New York and London.

British-Airways-747-First-Class

Then I’m especially excited for my two ~22 hours in each direction in Qantas A380 first class.

It has been years since I’ve flown Qantas first class. The last time I flew Qantas they still did their “Kangaroo Run” via Singapore instead of Dubai, so I’m curious to see how the new routing compares.

Qantas-A380-First-Class

I’ll even get to use the Emirates A380 First Class Lounge Dubai in both directions, which Qantas first class passengers have access to due to their agreement.

Bottom line

There are amazing savings to be had by “price shopping” between the American and US Airways award charts. And it’s not purely about the number of miles they charge, but also about their routing rules.

In comparison, American would have charged 285,000 miles plus over $1,500 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges for the same routing.

Stay tuned, in a follow up post I’ll share how I was able to book this routing, and my recommendations for other good value redemptions.

Comments

  1. To be honest I would prefer you take business over first (same airlines), since you haven’t tried Business on either airline and you’ve tried First on both. And…and…no New Zealand?

  2. @ Hong Kong Airline News — I’ll be in Australia for a few weeks, so will book separate tickets to New Zealand.

  3. I really hope AA fixes their routing rules as time goes along. I was all excited planning my trip to Asia this year until I realized I couldn’t fly on the MH A380 via LHR

  4. @ Lantean — The only other way to go back is on Cathay Pacific, a product I’ve tried even more often. Besides, Qantas only has their “tasting menu” departing Australia, which is a highlight of flying with them. 🙂

  5. Just got the us credit card(thanks for the link!) and that made my balance just above 140000, is it ok to have a stop over in China?

  6. @ WJ — You should have no trouble routing from the US to Australia via China, though chances are you couldn’t do the route I did with a stopover in China.

  7. @ lucky – Thanks. Thoughts on visiting North Island as well, maybe Rotorua? (Maybe it’d be a bit too much to ask you if you could stay in the Treetops like I did, but there are virtually no chain hotels there…)

  8. @ Hong Kong Airline News — I’d love to visit Rotorua eventually as well, though there are so many places in Australia that I haven’t yet explored that I figured I’m better off focusing on there since I’m already in the area.

  9. I must’ve been reading this blog long enough for me to think about a similar booking (IAH-LHR-SYD) immediately when you posted no-fees-on-BA article 🙂

    But since I’d probably be able to take off just two weeks (give or take a few days), travel time is a concern, so may have to live with LAX-SYD (F or J) or DFW-SYD (J).

    P.S. If anyone has enough Avios to plunk down on LAX-SYD, BA site shows 6 days in April 2015 with F availability (as of 2 minutes ago).

  10. @HK Airline News: i’ve done an extensive amount of travel in NZ. Rotorua is worth one night’s visit if you can swing it but honestly, it’s nothing amazing. North Island must-sees, in order of importance:

    1) Wellington
    2) Auckland
    3) Napier/Hawke’s Bay/Wine Country
    4) Northland/Whangarei

  11. If we were to book a US Airways flight to Australia today for next year (say February ’15), then US Airways were to change its routing rules in the next few months to conform to American’s and/or devalue its award chart, and then, after that change/devaluation, we were to try to change the date of our award booking to later in 2015 (say September), do you think US Airways would honor the pre-devaluation routing/award chart? Do you have any sense of how airlines behave in this regard based on previous program devaluations? I’m just wondering whether favorable award rates can be “locked in” in this way. Thanks!

  12. @ Miramar1 — The rates could probably be locked in, but the routing rules themselves couldn’t be. Especially true regarding the fuel surcharges. If they start imposing them and you later change the itinerary, it’s almost certain they’d add those on.

  13. @ MilesFromBlighty — Yep, SEA and YVR are good for space, but crappy lounge here in Seattle. Prefer trying the Concorde Room at JFK and just leaving from there, I think, given that I’ve done the Seattle flight before.

    Do wish they had space out of LAX on the A380.

  14. Cool! I tried to book DFW-SYD-MEL-LAX on Qantas with AA miles, but no dice. Tried nearly when it opened, but I’m sure it was due to the Qantas stinginess. Glad you’ve found a workaround!

  15. @ Susannah — I do, but they’re not in oneworld so it’s rather tough to redeem for their first class nowadays.

  16. The flight back to London from OZ is wonderful except for the timing. The flight is roughly 15 hours to Dubai – perfect for the tasting menu and some sleep. 1 hour in the lounge – then 7 hours to London. If you slept on the first leg, you probably will not sleep again prior to arrival in London, which is what I miss most about the old kangaroo route . The food, service and seats are exceptional though, as is the Sydney FC Lounge. If you are flying on the QF 1 service on 8 Nov, I’ll see you onboard, I’m in seat 3A

  17. @ Lantean — Ultimately I’ve flown Malaysia first class and I think I prefer Qantas. They also don’t offer a first class product to Australia. But they also don’t have much first class availability nowadays.

  18. Is your stopover in London? or Dubai? I am trying to figure out a routing on One World that will allow a stopover in Dubai. Looks like this is not technically within the rules, since it’s not a hub for any One World airline. I guess I could still give it a try with USAirways.

  19. Also, do you really think QF is stingy on their US routes? Or do you think not enough people redeem miles for the LHR-DXB-SYD route using the QF A380 (instead the Aussies would use their miles on the EK A380 since that one has showers?) In other words, does QF have the 2 award seat per flight rule on the kangaroo route as well?

  20. @ Joey — They very rarely release space on the US route, even when the schedule opens. So I do think they release a lot less space to the US than to the UK.

  21. I think you’re going to be surprised, and not in a good way, at the First meals as compared to the last time you were on a QF380. Especially the “Tasting Menu.”

  22. Thank you Lucky! Great to know! I think this post is what Lantean wished you did a month ago in regards to the whole BA fuel surcharge thing (just add in the conclusion how you noticed US Airways folks did not charge you the BA surcharges.) It gives your readers a reward or tip for reading the entire post!

  23. This is where I would actually love to have some Dividend miles. Rich in AMEX Rewards. I need to do a trip like this at some point over the next few months.

  24. How does the Melbourne FC lounge compare to the Sydney FC lounge? I’m taking the same route in January.

  25. @ Ben — I am sad to see you post this (not saying that you shouldn’t). Last week, we booked for 140,000 + $500 pp BA/QF F SEA-LHR-DXB-MEL-SYD-MEL-DXB-LHR-SEA, with a stopover on London on the way back (only thing that had availability). Looks like that stopover cost us $250 pp. Oh well, a weekend in London is still worth $250 pp.

  26. A dumb question… how are people with US Airways miles booking these trips? Are you using US Airways website? I get nothing when I search there.

  27. prior to the US Air switch I booked a flight from PDX to melborne in United Business. Do you think I could cancel this and get my miles back to use on a trip like you’re proposing here?

  28. @ dan ray — You could certainly redeposit your current ticket and get your miles back and start over, yes. Of course you’d want to be sure there’s award space for your dates.

  29. I think I’ll wait and see how you did it. I actually have enough US Air miles to book a separate flight without first cancelling the one I have now.

  30. Lucky:
    Advice please – What is the best routing from WAS/JFK to Accra, Ghana using US Air Miles or AA miles? Thanks!

  31. @ NKK — Sadly Qatar Airways doesn’t fly there, so your best bet is really British Airways through London. If you book through US Airways there won’t be fuel surcharges, so I would say that’s your best bet.

  32. @ Nkk — Yeah, that may be the most practical option, sadly. May I ask why you want to avoid them so badly? Not that I love them, but without fuel surcharges I don’t think they’re a half bad option.

  33. @Nkk, US Airways is still partnered with South African Airways, which flies to Accra, via JNB. So I guess you can do JFK-JNB-ACC roundtrip but only on South African Airways metal since SAA is not a member of oneworld. From the US partner award chart, it would be 110k roundtrip from north america to africa. Is that correct, lucky?

  34. Fuel charges were the number one reason – They no longer charge fuel taxes? So it’s 110k us air miles and “reg” taxes?

  35. Where the hell have I been? Thanks Lucky. Ok – feel much better now. I dont want to hijack the thread but I have one last question so i could do IAD-LHR-ACC-LHR-IAD, can I add a free one-way in there?

  36. @ Nkk — No, you’re allowed one stopover or one open jaw, so if you added another flight you’d have both a stopover at Washington Dulles and an open jaw, which isn’t allowed.

  37. Thanks so much Lucky, this is almost exactly the routing I’m planning to take this time next year except in the opposite direction – Syd > NYC via Europe. Hoping for a stopover in London though.
    There are 2 of us though – were you generally only seeing 1 seat per flight or do you think 2 is doable if we are booking the full 330 days out?
    Cheers and hope you have a fantastic time in our beautiful country!

  38. Fantastic opportunity! Let me know when you’re around Sydney! Happy to buy you a beer (or Diet Coke) and talk about miles!

  39. @ pavel – Had a fun three days in Rotorua, though I agree that the places that you recommend visiting are beautiful/fun as well. While I’ve only been in Auckland (disregarding AKL airport) for two to three hours at most, that’s actually THE area in New Zealand that I really want to visit. 😉

  40. Lucky, what are some alternatives for returning to SEA from Australia on One World. I found availability there on BA and QX (SEA-LHR-MEL)and was wondering what I could look for on the way back. Found availability on the same way back, so an alternative to Australia from SEA would work too. Just wondering how many products I can try. Hope my question makes sense. Thanks!

  41. @ jpgisbd — You could do something like SYD-HKG-ORD-SEA, or the like. Basically flying Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines on the return, if you wanted to.

  42. Just booked DFW-IAD-LHR-NBO (dest) – DOH-LHR-IAD-DFW on AA F/BA F/BA F/QR J/QR F/BA F/AA F for 150k miles. Though to beat to Africa from NA!
    Also, just flown SFO-HKG-TPE on CX F and back TPE-NRT-LAX on JL J/F. Again, hard to beat.
    If I hadn’t been to Australia twice in the past two years I would totally have considered an award to Australia/New Zealand with you same routing!

    I like your itinerary, but you could have been more creative and, for instance, have done SYD-DXB-DOH-LHR-JFK and tried QR F as well.

  43. I was looking at the US Airways award chart and it shows North Asia to Europe in business class for 80,000 points. If I started an award from Japan could I fly to Europe via the US? And then from Europe could I fly back to Hong Kong to complete the RT award flight all on one award ticket?

  44. @ Aaron — With US Airways you never really know, but I’ve never successfully booked Asia > Europe via the US, so I highly doubt it.

  45. Lucky,

    I also booked QF first class from MEL to LHR via DXB. I have a question about the first class lounge in DXB. I know it is open 24 hrs a day, but our arrival time in DXB is midnight… I heard so many great things (e.g. SPA, buffet and dining) about first class lounge in DXB. Would the midnight arrival ruin the opportunity of experiencing first-class service in the lounge there?

    Thanks

  46. @ Yang — The middle of the night is probably the busiest time in the lounge, given how many departures there are. All services should be available then.

  47. I just tried calling USAirways to book an award flight on Quantas and they wouldn’t let me.
    I looked for award seat availability on ba.com and saw a flight available for my routing. It was a direct flight available on Quantas. It said it has one seat left in Premium Economy.
    At first the USAirways agent saw a a seat in Business Class but by the time I got to holding it, she said the system errored out and wouldn’t let her as USAirways wasn’t given any availability on that flight.
    I thought USAirways and Quantas was connected?
    What did I do wrong?

  48. @ Jennifer Jones — Unfortunately you can’t redeem American or US Airways miles for travel in premium economy. Stupid rule, but the agent was correct. Sorry.

  49. @ Lucky – Wow, you know everything! So if I see an Economy or Business Class seat available on Quantas on BA.com, then technically the USAirways agent should be able to book my ticket? Thanks again!

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