Australia is one of the toughest frequent flyer awards, at least in premium cabins. In order to fly business or first class between the US and Australia you often have to connect in Asia.
American AAdvantage partners with Qantas, doesn’t add fuel surcharges to awards, and even shows Qantas award space on its website. Sometimes. Don’t trust what you see there. Just because American says they show Qantas award space, and that space doesn’t show up on their website, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
To find Qantas awards to Australia, search either the Qantas frequent flyer site or the British Airways website. If you see the space there, but not at AA.com, call American — because their agents usually have no problem seeing and booking the space.
A month ago I wrote about really good Qantas business class availability. It’s not good on any single route, but they serve several different routes between the US and Australia so most days had some availability. You might have to fly to Melbourne or Brisbane instead of Sydney (and connect if Sydney is your destination) but the long haul space was bookable in business.
First class is much harder. Qantas is the only airline left offering a first class cabin non-stop between the U.S. and Australia, and they only offer it on their Airbus A380 flights.
While Qantas first class remains tough it’s not actually a unicorn, and there’s a little bit of space for travel next year right now (HT: @xJonNYC).
Here’s a search of available first class award space for two passengers in May:
I currently have first class awards booked Austin – Dallas – Sydney – Dallas – Austin for a cousin’s wedding this winter. When the space comes up, it’s always a big deal for me since I have family in the Sydney suburbs.
Qantas awards are bookable with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. They’re also bookable with their own miles of course (Qantas is a Citi transfer partner) and from other oneworld frequent flyer programs like British Airways (Chase and American Express transfer partner) and Cathay Pacific (American Express transfer partner). However Cathay, British Airways, and Qantas all add fuel surcharges onto these redemptions.