New Zealand is an extremely difficult destination to get to on miles. Up until recently Air New Zealand more or less had a monopoly between the US mainland and New Zealand, though over the past few months both American and United have started flights to Auckland, from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. You have to love the new routes that the 787 has made possible for airlines, at least in terms of being able to launch new routes in a profitable way.
So while additional competition is a good thing, award availability to New Zealand has still been extremely limited for the most part.
Well, United has a lot of business class award availability for travel between San Francisco and Auckland next July and August. There seems to be availability three days per week, and most flights have at least four business class award seats, which is a ton.
Now, admittedly this is winter in New Zealand, though in practice that’s not necessarily a bad thing:
- For people who have to plan vacations around school, this is the most practical time to go; if you go over New Years, award availability is almost impossible to come by, and everything will be outrageously expensive and crowded
- New Zealand can be beautiful in winter as well, as it’s not a destination you go to in order to sit on a beach
This route is operated by United’s 787, featuring fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. It’s certainly not my favorite business class product out there, but it’s not horrible either.
In terms of the best options for booking these flights, one-way business class award costs are as follows (without any fuel surcharges):
- United MileagePlus charges 70,000 miles, and points can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Air Canada Aeroplan charges 80,000 miles, and points can be transferred from Amex Membership Rewards
- Avianca LifeMiles charges 81,000 miles, and you can outright purchase them for ~1.375 cents each
In other words, if outright buying Avianca LifeMiles, that’s like paying under $2,300 for a roundtrip business class ticket between the US and New Zealand, which is just a fraction of the retail cost.
This won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s certainly worth mentioning instances where we see a lot of premium cabin award space to New Zealand. While the southern winter isn’t the ideal time to go to New Zealand, I know for many families it’s the only time they can make it work. And with this amount of business class award availability…
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)