Category Archives: Qantas

Planning an Award Trip to Australia

Australia has always been on my list of places to go, but it just hasn’t been at the top. But a couple of months ago, Qantas very briefly released some first class space on their A380s during Australia’s winter, so I decided to book a flight and figure out the rest since I can cancel awards for free thanks to my AA Executive Platinum status.

I’ve already taken a number of longer trips this year, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend much time in Australia, but I figured that I’d rather go for a couple of days than not go at all. The space I booked on Qantas was on QF 94 from LAX to MEL, but from talking to a couple of people, they said that I should go to Sydney first if I’m only going to choose one, so my ticket on the way to Australia is SFO-LAX-MEL-SYD for 72,500 AA miles.

I’ll have four nights in Sydney, so I booked four nights at the Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney for 100k Club Carlson points (booked as two award stays of two nights each from two Club Carlson accounts, which means I paid for 2 nights and got 2 nights for free). Crazy good deal.

To get back to the US, there unfortunately wasn’t any Qantas space I could find in first class, so I thought about potential routings through Asia. Using AA miles, you can’t route through Asia on a single Australia-USA award, so I figured that I might as well stop somewhere if I’m going to pay for two awards for the flights back anyway. I considered a number of places in Asia like Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong, but I ended up deciding on Kuala Lumpur since I’ve never been. I booked a one-way award on Malaysia Airlines from SYD to KUL in business class for 35,000 AA miles, and I booked two nights at the Doubletree in KL for 20k Hilton points. It’s hard to find affordable Hilton properties on points, but the Doubletree Kuala Lumpur is one of them.

Finally, to get back from Kuala Lumpur, I booked myself on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong. Luckily, there was first class award space when I was originally looking on a flight from Hong Kong to SFO, so I booked that for 62,500 AA miles. This last part might change as Cathay opens up more space closer to departure and I contemplate whether or not I want to spend more time in KL.

My routing (map courtesy of gcmap)

My routing (map courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper)

I’m super excited for this trip, as I’ll get to explore two new cities/countries (although the weather is supposed to be terrible in Sydney this year), I’ll fly two new airlines (never flown Qantas or Malaysia before), and I’ll get to fly another A380 in first class (is it bad that I’ve never flown an A380 not in first class?). Total points cost: 170k AA miles, 100k Club Carlson points, and 20k Hilton points. I know I could have saved a lot of airline miles by using US Airways miles instead (would have been only 140k US miles for a roundtrip first class ticket to Australia which would have included a free stopover), but the Qantas space was disappearing so quickly that I decided to just go ahead and book with AA miles online instead.

I’m also super behind on trip reports, and this next trip won’t help the matter, but hopefully I can bust out some writing when I’m inevitably up at 4am due to jetlag. Or maybe I’ll try to do the live TR thing that seems to have become more popular recently. Or do Lucky’s thing of doing a fake TR and then doing a real TR to get twice the posts out of one trip. Thoughts? And of course, I’m always open to recommendations or suggestions on things to see/eat/do in either Sydney or Kuala Lumpur.

Why I Applied for Another Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card

Alaska Airlines has an interesting award program, largely because they’re not a part of any alliance and instead have one-off partnerships with a number of carriers. Two of those partners include Delta and American, so Alaska is often cited as a good program to credit to if you’re not particularly loyal to one carrier as you can credit Delta, American, and Alaska flights to Alaska. As I’ve argued before, the marginal value of a mile can vary wildly depending on how many miles you currently have in your accounts, so it often makes sense to concentrate your mileage earning if you don’t fly a lot.

I currently have about 85,000 Alaska miles. I originally started collecting Alaska miles to redeem for Qantas first class, since Alaska used to be able to book Qantas awards at the same time as Qantas’s own members, which means it was slightly less of a crapshoot to find first class award seats, but that functionality has since been discontinued. This is still a possibility, but you can’t really plan around finding Qantas first class award seats, and now there’s not much of a reason to use Alaska miles for this over American miles (although Alaska charges 70k miles for a one-way first class seat while American charges 72.5k and the stopover rules are slightly different).

Then there’s the oft-talked-about-but-rarely-booked (at least as far as I can tell) Alaska award of Cathay Pacific first class from North America to Africa for 70k miles one way. This is two lengthy flights in Cathay Pacific first class–from North America to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Johannesburg (Cathay’s only destination in Africa)–for the price of one. South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, so this is definitely a possibility, and 70k miles is much cheaper and a more viable alternative than 100k miles on American for first class to Africa where you’re probably paying through the nose for first class flights on British Airways or 75k miles on United for first class where the best option is waiting 15 days in advance for Lufthansa to open up award availability.

But the real reason why I applied for another Alaska Airlines credit card was to get enough miles to cross the 100k mile mark on Alaska, which gives you the opportunity to book Emirates first class to anywhere in the world. Alaska is the only US-based frequent flyer program to allow you to redeem for Emirates, and even though 100k miles is pricey for a one-way trip, this is probably the best way to experience Emirates first class (your alternative being JAL’s mileage program, which has a distance-based award chart and could thus be cheaper, but the most practical way of accumulating JAL miles is to transfer from SPG, which isn’t that practical for those of us who don’t spend much money).

Which of these redemptions do you think is most worth it? I’ve had the fortune of already flying Emirates first class on the A380 (and experiencing the Emirates first class lounge/terminal in Dubai), and I’ve got a trip planned on Cathay Pacific first class for February, so Qantas is the only one of these I haven’t done. Should I hold out to see if I can snag Qantas space at some point?

Alaska Airlines Awards on Partners Now Restricted to 331 Days in Advance

As is being reported in this thread on Flyertalk, it appears that you can no longer book partner awards using Alaska Airlines miles beyond 331 days out.

There’s been a lot of excitement over the fact that you can now redeem one-way awards using Alaska miles on most partners, as well as the fact that they’ve added a lot of partners to their online award search tool. But one of the best parts of using Alaska miles was that they had availability when partners loaded their schedules, which can be at 354 days for partners like Qantas.

Getting first class awards on Qantas to/from Australia is extremely difficult, partly because of very limited award availability, but also because they release space at 354 days while you can’t book using American miles until 331 days out. This means that Qantas’s own frequent flyer members, people using British Airways miles, and previously people using Alaska miles had 3 weeks to book the awards before anyone using American miles had a chance. Since it’s such a desirable award, that usually means that by the time American has access to the space, it’s already gone.

Now that Alaska is also restricting to 331 days, it’ll be just as hard using Alaska miles as it is to use American miles for this award, which means it’s not something to try to plan a trip around.

After flying the Emirates A380 in First Class and experiencing the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai, I was looking at other aspirational products and really wanted to try First Class on the Qantas A380 and the First Class Lounge in Sydney or Melbourne. I thought that I’d get that chance now that Alaska has one-way awards for partners and the ability to book at 354 days out, but with that last part eliminated, I guess it’ll stay just as aspirational as before…