Best ways to get to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific using miles from the US

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Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific are bucket list destinations for many travelers at least in part due to distance and expense. It makes sense that many people would look to use airline miles to offset the cost and to perhaps fly more comfortably for the long journey. Unfortunately, the popularity of the region means demand is very high and therefore award space can be hard to come by (particularly in premium cabins). However, with the wide range of award chart sweet spots that exist, it is far from impossible to snag a deal up front with some time and diligence in searching.

If you want to use airline miles, it’s great to have transferable points.  Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs.  This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others.  If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:

Cheaper Paid Flights

While finding a “cheap” fare to Australia or the South Pacific may sound impossible, we do sometimes see good fare sales to this part of the world. Of course, Frequent Miler is likely to report the best of these fare sales (you’ll want to subscribe to our instant alerts if you want to be notified of those deals quickly).

However, beyond a lucky fare sale, your best bet in terms of getting a deal on a paid fare is to learn how to leverage Google Flights to search for deals to several cities at once. See: How to find great business class fares with Google Flights – the same techniques can be used to find economy fares if that is your preference). Keep in mind that you may sometimes find slightly cheaper pricing via small online travel agencies listed at Momondo or Skyscanner, though you might be sacrificing customer service if things go wrong with your flights.

Best Mile Deals

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Ironically, the best deal to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania comes from the airline with the most difficult miles to compile of the lot included here. Alaska is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, otherwise you’ll need to use Alaska’s credit cards or shopping portal to pad your mileage balance.

  • The short story: Alaska has excellent rates to Oceania on several nice partners and you can include a stopover for free on a one-way award.
  • Miles required: Each partner has a separate chart, but the best values are business class for 55K each way on Qantas or Fiji Airways, business class for 60K each way on Cathay Pacific, first class for 70K each way on Qantas, first class for 80K each way on Cathay Pacific
  • How to find awards: Qantas and Fiji Airways award space shows up at AlaskaAir.com. Search BritishAirways.com for Cathay Pacific space, but be aware that Alaska may have access to one fewer seat than shown by British Airways.
  • How to book awards: Book online for Qantas or Fiji Airways (use multi-city for a stopover) or book over the phone for Cathay Pacific
  • Key warnings: Finding premium cabin space on any of these partners can be a challenge and may require a constant eye on availability.

ANA Mileage Club

You’ll have to fly round trip and you might get a better value out of an around-the-world ticket (more on that below), but ANA can be a good choice for Star Alliance awards.

  • The short story: ANA offers the best deal out of Membership Rewards partners for business class between North America and Oceania and also offers a wide range of partner options. You can route via Canada or most of east / Southeast Asia or fly Air New Zealand.
  • Miles required: From 105K round trip in business class on ANA metal during low season up to 120K round trip in business class on Star Alliance partners or during high season. ANA has eliminated fuel surcharges on many/most of its flights, making routing on ANA an even better deal.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features.
  • No fuel surcharges on: ANA (many/most routes, though a few still have surcharges) United (no surcharges to Europe; unfortunately, they do have charges to Asia), Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa, Ethiopian, TAP Air Portugal, or Singapore
  • Low fuel surcharges on: LOT Polish
  • Moderate surcharges on: Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex, Marriott

Air Canada Aeroplan

Don’t forget that Aeroplan is both an Amex transfer partner and a Capital One transfer partner.

  • The short story: While priced a bit higher than ANA, Aeroplan offers three advantages: They allow one-way redemptions; they offer stopovers on round trip awards (which has “temporarily” changed as of 9/1/19, but a single stopover or open jaw is still allowed); Lap infants are charged incredibly reasonable fees in either cash or miles and the price is the same whether booking one way or round trip.
  • Miles required: 80K each way in business class / 110K each way in first class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, so choose carriers with low / no fuel surcharges.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges would ordinarily be the warning with Aeroplan, but I think that any carrier you might fly to this region has no / low fuel surcharges. The other key warning is to be sure to search for availability at Aeroplan.com and/or call before transferring miles. Aeroplan has an unpublished maximum permitted mileage (MPM) between any city pair, so be sure your routing is valid for Aeroplan (United shows some itineraries that are not possible with Aeroplan).
  • No fuel surcharges on: Aegean, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, COPA, Croatia Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian, Etihad, EVA Airlines, GOL, Juneao Airlines, SAS, SWISS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
  • Low fuel surcharges on: Cathay Pacific / Cathay Dragon, LOT Polish, Thai Airways

Avianca LifeMiles

The nice thing about Avianca is that even if you don’t have the necessary points/miles, you can often buy them for less than 1.4c each.

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles might have somewhat hackable awards if you could find premium cabin space on the long-haul.
  • Miles required: 80K miles in business class from the US to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania, but see Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for info on how this might be hackable if premium space exists. Note also that Air New Zealand economy class flights price lower than the chart shows for flights to/from Los Angeles. Business class may also price lower if you can find availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you'll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.

British Airways Avios

In this case, British Airways Avios are better than Iberia or Aer Lingus Avios.

  • The short story: British Airways offers an award chart for travel on a single partner and a lesser-known chart for travel on two partners. That second chart could save you some Avios if you were to mix AA and Qantas for example.
  • Miles required: 120K or 140K one-way in business class from most US cities (can vary based on distance). See the mixed partner chart along with an excellent explanation for how to leverage it here.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space on each segment separately at britishairways.com.
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. According to Head for Points, there isn’t a clear methodology for pricing mixed-cabin awards. I suspect some agents may be less well versed in this mixed chart.
  • Key warnings: This secondary chart would save miles over the single-carrier chart, which would price a one-way to Australia at 154K one-way assuming a single carrier and single segment (add more for additional segments). However, as this is a lesser-known chart, some agents may not be well versed in using it. Be prepared to hang up and call again. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Airways Executive Club for American flights.

Etihad Guest

An Amex transfer partner, Citi transfer partner, a Capital One transfer partner, it’s relatively easy to put together the miles for an award.

  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers flights on American Airlines based on the old American Airlines chart (which itself devalued several years ago).
  • Miles required: 62.5K each way in business class, 72.5K each way in first class
  • How to find awards: Search for American saver award space on AA.com (you may want to double-check availability at Qantas.com)
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). Note that finding saver premium cabin availability on American Airlines is only slightly more likely than getting struck by lightning.

Hawaiian

Hawaiian is a decent program to consider if you’re on the west coast and can easily position to Hawaii, otherwise it might be adding more time than the mileage savings are worth.

  • The short story: Hawaiian may be a good option for those who can position to Hawaii cheaply, particularly for Pago Pago or Papeete.
  • Miles required: 65K miles one-way in business class to Australia or New Zealand; 47.5K miles one-way in business class to Pago Pago or Papeete.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Hawaiian Airlines’s Hawaiian Miles site(you’ll need to create a free Hawaiian Miles account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Hawaiian Airlines’s Hawaiian Miles site.
  • Key warnings: Availability can be hard to come by, but if you find it it may be worth it.

Qantas for Jetstar

This won’t be a luxurious way to get to Australia or New Zealand, but it may be the cheapest.

  • The short story: Qantas's low-cost-carrier Jetstar flies between Hawaii and several Australian cities and can be booked with Qantas points.
  • Miles required: 57,600 miles one-way in business class from Honolulu to Sydney on Jetstar before September 18, 2019, 61,500 miles thereafter.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Jetstar flights can be quite cheap. While their business class is much more expensive than their economy class fares, it's worth comparing to cash fares to be sure you're getting a decent value.

Qantas for Emirates

If you’re looking to fly fancy, this is your ticket.

  • The short story: While the award cost here is substantially higher than others included in this sweet-spot posts, it may be worth it to those who really want an indulgently long experience in Emirates business class. It is possible to spend upwards of ~30 hours in A380 business class by routing via Dubai (note that some US cities have 777 service, which is likely angled in business class).
  • Miles required: 128,000 miles one-way in business class between North American cities and those cities served by Emirates in Australia and New Zealand.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are around $300 each way — not cheap, but not prohibitively expensive, either. Choose A380 routes to get a fully-flat aisle access business class seat with a bar at the rear of the plane.

United

The keys here are lenient routing rules and more options via Star Alliance.

  • The short story: United gives you access to Star Alliance and has more lenient routing rules than others, meaning you could fly via Canada, China, or South Korea for instance, giving you access to more availability (albeit still somewhat limited).
  • Miles required: From 80K miles each way in business class on United; 90K each way in business class on partners
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at United.com
  • Key warnings: United has eliminated its award chart, so we may eventually see many highly variable prices for award tickets, though we are told that the variable award pricing will not apply to partner awards (only awards on United metal). The $75 close-in booking fee for flights departing within the next 21 days reduces the value of United miles for bookings near departure, though beginning November 15, 2019 some elite members will no longer be charged that fee.

Virgin Atlantic for Delta

Finding this award space in premium cabins is roughly as likely as being struck by lightning, but if you find it this can be a great sweet spot.

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers Delta flights for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries.
  • Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.

Virgin Atlantic for Air New Zealand

Finding this award space in premium cabins is roughly as likely as being struck by lighting eight times in one day. And surviving. But the price is right if you find it.

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic also offers good deals for Air New Zealand premium cabin flights if you can actually find availability.
  • Miles required: 45K each way for business class to/from Hawaii, 45K each way in business class from the "South Pacific" to :ps Angeles, 62.5K each way in business class from New Zealand to North or South America
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (I believe that Air New Zealand space does not show up at VirginAtlantic.com)
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately (i.e. an itinerary with a single connection will cost 25K miles), so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries. Furthermore, Air New Zealand business class award space is extremely rare.

Also consider: ANA Around the World ticket

If you have some more time on your hands, it might not cost you many more miles to visit several regions.

  • The short story: ANA (a Star Alliance airline) offers an incredible around-the-world award chart that offers some amazing value to those who have the time for a big multi-stop trip.
  • Miles required: Varies based on cabin and distance. Business class is probably the sweet spot, with some amazing redemptions possible for 115K, 125K, or 145K miles (see the chart below for all distance bands and prices).
  • Transfer points fromAmerican Express Membership Rewards (1:1) or Marriott Bonvoy (3:1, but get a 5K bonus when you convert 60K Marriott points — so 60K Marriott = 25K ANA).
  • Award availability: Star Alliance award space is often plentiful for flights outside of the US, making it relatively easy to put together an itinerary if you’ve locked down your flights to and from the US.
  • How to find awards: Search united.com segment by segment to find availability.
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone with ANA Mileage Club.
  • No fuel surcharges on: ANA (many/most routes, though a few still have surcharges) United (no surcharges to Europe; unfortunately, they do have charges to Asia), Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa, Ethiopian, TAP Air Portugal, or Singapore
  • Low fuel surcharges on: LOT Polish
  • Moderate surcharges on: Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)

How to get the miles

The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer Ratio
Air Canada Aeroplan1 to 160K to 25K1000 to 750
Alaska MileagePlan60K to 25K
ANA Mileage Club1 to 160K to 25K
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Avios1 to 11 to 160K to 25K6000 to 3000*
Etihad Guest1 to 11 to 1
(~1 week)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Hawaiian Miles1 to 1 plus excise tax60K to 25K
Qantas Frequent Flyer1 to 11 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
United MileagePlus1 to 1
(instant)
60K to 27.5K
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K
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