Changes To Star Alliance First Class To Sydney

Australia can be a rather difficult destination to get to using Star Alliance miles, in particular in first class. Finding nonstop award availability between the US and Australia/New Zealand is difficult, given that United releases very little saver premium cabin award space. Air New Zealand is even worse, and releases virtually no premium cabin award space between the US mainland and New Zealand. It has literally been years since I’ve seen a business class award seat on them out of Los Angeles or San Francisco.

That’s why historically the best way to redeem Star Alliance miles for travel to Australia is by routing through Asia, as there are quite a few airlines with service between the continents, and they do seem to release more award space.

There are two changes happening to Star Alliance operations to Australia this coming winter (well, Northern Hemisphere winter, Southern Hemisphere summer), which I think are worth noting:

Thai Airways is discontinuing first class to Australia

The single best way to get to Australia in first class using Star Alliance miles has long been on Thai Airways, which has released tons of space. However, unfortunately that will soon be changing, as Thai Airways has closed reservations for first class for the winter schedule between Bangkok and Sydney, starting October 26, 2014.

Thai-Airways-747

It looks like they’ll be taking the 747 off the route, and instead putting one of their crappy 777-300s on the route, which doesn’t even feature fully flat beds.

Thai Airways is notorious for equipment swaps, so I can’t really say I’m surprised, as much as I’d like to be.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Thai Airways will resume first class operations to Australia or not. My guess is that Australia isn’t in the royal family’s future travel plans, which seems to be how they decide on equipment for various routes anyway. 😉

Air China adding first class to Australia

When one door closes, another door opens, I guess. Air China is increasing capacity on their Beijing to Sydney route. Between December 10, 2014, and March 4, 2015, Air China will be operating a daily 777-300ER between Beijing and Sydney.

While their A330s don’t feature a first class cabin, their 777-300ERs do, so that means they’re adding eight first class seats per day per direction.

Air-China-First-Class
Air China first class

Award space is spectacular, as is generally the case on Air China. I see first class award seat every single day, even over peak Christmas/New Years travel dates (as you’ll see below, the ANA tool still shows the flight as being operated by an A330, but that’s simply because it hasn’t yet been updated).

Air-China-Award-Space-1

Even looking at award space for four passengers, more than half of the dates have availability. Wanna take your family of four to Australia in first class over New Years? No problem!

Air-China-Award-Space-2

Of course Air China’s soft product is lacking. The food and service won’t be amazing. But they do have a really solid hard product.

Bottom line

This is good news and bad news. If you’ve already planned travel to Australia and it includes flights on Thai Airways in first class, I’m sorry. If you’re a late planner and want to go to Australia over New Years but haven’t yet booked, this is your gift from Air China.

(Tip of the hat to @airlineroute)

Comments

  1. Ouch. I have a reservation in 1st class on Thai from SYD to BKK in January. Guess I’m screwed on that one. It’s part of a RTW award made using USair points way back when they were in Star Alliance. One of the other legs (CDG-IAD) looks like it has also been downgraded from 1st to business/first. I wonder if enough of these downgrades happen USAir will let me redeposit the miles without a charge, and try to find something in the new alliance.

  2. It’s also worth noting, as a positive aside, that Air China has a terrific fully-flat business hard product, even on its A330s, with a ton of award space to Australia. On any premium award from North America to Australia, it’s the final leg that’s tricky to find. Be sure to search ex-PVG/PEK if you’re having trouble finding biz space to Aust.

  3. Ben, the info in your post is not quite right. TG has a thrice weekly TG472/471 daytime service, which is being donwsized to a 773. However, their daily TG476/475 service will still be served by a 747, so First class is still available on TG to SYD.

  4. I think your article is not properly researched – you don’t even mention Singapore Airlines (SQ). Agreed there is poor direct award availability on premium between west coast US to Australia, but SQ offers better options – LAX/SFO to SIN and then connections to all ports in Australia. These are daily connections ex-west coast and there are multiple daily connections from SIN to Australia.

  5. @ elteetrav — Even with just one downgrade you can absolutely redeposit your award for free and start over if you’d like.

  6. @ KG — This contradicts my information. They haven’t totally updated the schedule yet, but they have stopped selling first class on the 747 frequency, which suggests an aircraft swap.

  7. @ GBC — Right, but that’s only bookable with KrisFlyer miles. A vast majority of people have miles in other currencies, which can’t be redeemed for first class on Singapore Airlines.

  8. Since you’re talking Australia, given a choice would you fly Qantas 747 or A380 in business. Syd>Lax

  9. @ Charlie – the 747s have all been retrofitted now to have the same business seats as the A380. Some people like the novelty of the A380 but frankly the upper deck and the nose of the 747 are hard to beat for privacy, exclusivity, quiet & comfort.

  10. Crazy Suites Class availability on aeroplan from SIN-DEL. Up to 8 Passengers! Don’t know if you knew this, but just putting that out there.

  11. I hold an itinerary for November booked with UA miles. What happens now? Will I get downgrade compensation and refund of miles?

  12. Having just flown multiple flights between Asia and Oceania…just a reminder that if you’re flying F from SYD on Star you’ve gotta use the SQ F lounge…miles above all the other Star Alliance lounge options there…and newly refurbished.

  13. @ Charlie — I’d say A380 business class. In theory I’d prefer the 747 since business class is the top cabin on that plane, but at the same time the A380 is a substantially more comfortable ride.

  14. @ Alex — You can redeposit the award for free, or if you want to keep it you should get the difference in miles between first and business class.

  15. Planning a trip NYC>Australia (all over the place) Aug-Sep 2015. Was thinking JFK>PER inbound, and SYD>JFK eventual return. Any suggestions on preferred flights or routing? Have enough AA for first/biz one way and will soon have enough MP for roundtrip biz/first.

    Thanks!

  16. @ Matthew — Assuming you can find availability, I think it’s tough to beat Qantas direct to Australia. You’ll want to plan right as the schedule opens, though.

  17. @lucky – Yeah, my goal was the JFK>SYD thru LAX QF 107 (?) on the 747, but I’m hoping their updated routing to/from JFK will still allow that to happen. Best to keep checking availability on the AA website, or is there a sneakier way?

  18. @GBC/@Lucky:

    From an editorial standpoint, the title of the post is *changes* to *A F products. Since there aren’t any changes to SQ, I don’t see Lucky as remiss for not mentioning them.

  19. This is pretty frustrating that they have done this but thank you for pointing it out. I have a pre-devaluation United award booked on TG476 for next April in F. Since the Air China flight isn’t operating later than March, are there any first class options for me to get to Asia using United miles?

  20. Apparently TG has discovered that a business model predicated on every Australian frequent flyer with two working brain cells and a membership on a frequent flyer discussion board buying bmi, er, I mean US Airw- actually, I mean Avianca miles to fly F class for Y prices isn’t a viable model for F class service. SHOCKING!

    😉

  21. @lucky:

    I had a reservation on TG SYD-BKK in F (but already switched to CA SYD-PEK in F), and was wondering would you have switched from TG in J on their 777-300ER or fly Air China in F on their 777-300ER? I know TG has better service and food, but the F product is much better on CA. Just wondering if I made the right choice.

  22. Lucky, i see Thai first seats avail on their 747 for March…. just to be clear, if I made a res on that flight it would definitely be downgraded correct?

    Thanks!

  23. What you are saying about Thai Airways not flying First Class to Sydney is simply untrue. I have just booked two First Class flights Bangkok -Sydney-Bangkok departing 15th October 2015 returning 28 October 2015.

  24. How is Thai on releasing First class space last minute? There are 5 of 9 seats available for sale on SYD to BKK, but no more for points redemption. If I book business, is there a likely chance of switching the award to first closer to the date? Surrounding dates do have first availability, but don’t work as well schedule wise.

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