Round trip to Australia starting at 50,000 points

Two days ago, we published a Quick Deal (found here) regarding discounted flights to Sydney Australia from select US cities: Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis.  Select economy flights on AA and Qantas were pricing at $961 round trip.  Yesterday I found similar prices to Melbourne.  Clearly AA was taking on Delta since the best fares originated in Delta hubs.

When I widened my search to include American Airlines hubs (Charlotte, Dallas, Philadelphia, etc.), I found the similar prices to Sydney.  For example, here’s the Google Flights calendar (as of yesterday morning) for round-trip flights from Philadelphia to Sydney:

Google Flights PHL SYD Australia starting at 50,000 points

Prices shown in green range from $960 to $968 round-trip.  In this case, the discounted flights are flown by Delta and Virgin Australia. I love a good fare war.

What would it cost for an award flight?

Travel Codex’s How Many Miles? tool shows the following prices for one-way awards from the US (Detroit) to Australia (Sydney) using AA miles, assuming saver level awards can be found:

Travel Codex How Many Miles DTW SYD

And, here are the prices using Delta miles from Philadelphia to Sydney (again, assuming saver level fares can be found):

Travel Codex How Many Miles PHL SYD

Note: For flights commencing October 1, or later, the award prices change.  Economy award prices drop to 45,000 miles each way, and business class award prices increase to 95,000 miles each way (ouch).  See this MileCard post for more details.

Round Trip Award Prices, Summary:

Looking just at AA and Delta awards, we can sum up the award prices as follows for round trip travel:

AA Delta
Economy 75,000 to 80,000 miles 90,000 to 100,000 miles
Business 125,000 to 160,000 miles 160,000 to 190,000 miles
Price depends upon whether or not you book the award before March 22 2016 Price depends on whether or not you fly before or after October 1, 2016

Fly for less when you pay with points

In the post, “The best ways to pay for flights,” I described a number of ways to pay with points for flights.  If you have the points, and the paid price for a flight is discounted, you can often do better by using points to pay for a flight rather than using miles to book an award.  Plus, when you use points to pay for a flight, a few good things happen:

  • Miles flown count towards elite status
  • You will earn redeemable miles for the flight
  • Your flight may be eligible for an upgrade (most award flights booked with miles are not eligible for upgrades)

Best option: FlexPerks

US Bank’s FlexPerks card lets you pay for flights with points at a favorable rate if the cost of the flight is toward the upper end of the ticket price range.  For reference, here is their award chart:

Ticket Price Range FlexPoints Required
$0 to $400 20,000
>$400 to $600 30,000
>$600 to $800 40,000
>$800 to $1000 50,000
>$1000 to $1400 70,000
>$1400 to $2000 100,000
>$2000 to $3000 150,000
>$3000 to $4500 225,000
>$4500 to $7000 350,000
>$7000 to $10,000 500,000

Since we’re seeing flights available from the US to Australia for around $960, this is the perfect opportunity to maximize value from FlexPerks.  Round trip flights cost as little as 50,000 FlexPerks points.  For example, I found this 50K flight when searching Detroit to Sydney, May 2 to May 10:

Australia starting at 50,000 points USBank FlexPerks DTW SYD 50K Points

And, I found the same 50K price when searching Philadelphia to Sydney, May 2 to May 10:

Australia starting at 50,000 points USBank FlexPerks PHL SYD 50K Points

Next best choice: Citi Prestige ThankYou points and AA

With the Citi Prestige card, ThankYou points are worth 1.33 cents each towards airfare or 1.6 cents each towards American Airlines marketed airfare.  So, if you’re planning to fly OneWorld, you can book the round-trip flight to Australia for just over 60,000 points (60,272 points in this example):

Prestige ThankYou DTW SYD 60K points

Other options

Assuming the trip prices at $965, here are the number of points that would be required with various points programs:

  • Amex Membership Rewards (Business Platinum cardholders who selected the particular airline to be flown): 67,550 points
  • ThankYou Rewards (Citi Prestige cardholders, if the flight is not marketed by AA): 72,375 points
  • ThankYou Rewards (Citi Premier cardholders): 77,200 points
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cardholders): 77,200 points

Most other bank programs would charge 100 points per dollar for a total of 96,500 points.

Keep in mind that economy award prices with miles range from 75,000 to 100,000 points.  As you can see here, it’s possible to use roughly the same number of bank points to book flights to Australia.  In this way you’ll earn redeemable miles, elite qualifying miles, and (maybe) have an opportunity to upgrade to business class.

American Airlines: Earning miles and upgrading

Earning Miles:  Please note that American Airlines is currently offering bonus miles for flights to Australia.  You must register here.  Travel must be completed by May 31, 2016.  Also note that AA has announced that “in the second half of 2016” miles will be awarded based on the price of the flight.  Those flying to Australia on this sub $1K fare will earn far more miles if they fly in the first half of this year rather than the second half.

Upgrades: If you’re interested in upgrading with a systemwide upgrade certificate (available to Executive Platinum elite members) or with miles + cash (25K miles + $350 each way), then make sure that the overseas portion of your trip is flown by American Airlines rather than Qantas.

Delta Upgrades

If you’re hoping to upgrade using miles, forget about it.  If you’re traveling before June 1, then only specific fare classes are eligible for upgrades.  Highly discounted fares such as this sub-$1K fare to Australia are not eligible.  Starting June 1, though, according to this FlyerTalk thread, upgrades will be available from discount fares, but they’ll be crazy expensive.  The FlyerTalk thread suggests that Delta will charge 115,000 miles each way to upgrade a discount fare from the US to Australia.  You are much better off searching for business class award space from the get-go.

If you have Diamond Elite global upgrade certificates: make sure to book Delta flights rather than Virgin Australia.  Most likely the upgrades will not be confirmable at the time of booking.  Instead, apply the certificates to the upgrade wait-list as early as possible in order to get priority over others doing the same.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. The logic of this post is a little confusing. You’re mixing cashback points (ie penny points ie flight credit) with airline miles at saver level (ie distressed inventory ie empty seats ie leverage). I think this all goes to show that if you pay attention to airfare sales and don’t mind economy, it’s pretty hard to get BETTER use out of airline miles versus penny points.

    • My goal was mainly to point out:
      1) An exceptionally good use of FlexPoints (and a few other currencies), based on a short term sale
      2) What you said: paying with points (penny points) is often a better deal than booking awards with miles

      Sorry if it wasn’t clear.

  2. UPDATE 2: Sub-$1K fares are still available from some cities. Here are some where I found flights to Sydney still available for less than $1K:
    LAX (Los Angeles)
    ORD (Chicago)
    SEA (Seattle)
    SFO (San Francisco)
    YVR (Vancouver)

  3. Anyone who would pay $1000 or tons of points to fly 23 hours in coach has to be mentally challenged….bargain hunters or masochists aside, the smart play is waiting for a sale on seats up front or spending the extra 45-90k points to travel in comfort…I mean how many times will you take a 23 hour flight?!?

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