The Most Important Post on Flyertalk I Read This Week: Using Delta Miles for Business Class to Australia

I can’t seem to recall whether I’ve posted about this before on the blog or on Flyertalk, but award availability between the US and Australia in business class on V Australia is really quite good.

In my experience the toughest two awards in all of frequent flyer-dom are North America-Australia and North America-Tahiti.

In the latter case, the constraint is simply not a lot of flights and seats. Air Tahiti Nui, a Delta and American partner, offers decent availability but often only just a single business and first class seat per flight. They used to offer two first class seats on each flight, which is how I flew them as part of my honeymoon. But beyond Air Tahiti Nui you’re looking at non-daily Air France service from Los Angeles, and in the summer months it is tough tough tough to get a couple of business class seats. Hawaiian serves Tahiti once-weekly if memory serves, and one can access it from other islands. But there really aren’t a lot of options. And the award is a pricey one at that.

With Australia, things used to be much easier. Qantas was never an easy premium cabin award to get and it still is not. Air Canada business class from Vancouver-Sydney is never an easy award though does sometimes exist. And Air New Zealand is hard far in advance, in my experience they tend to open seats 60 days in advance though they do become quite available in the June-August months.

But United used to be quite available in both business and first class cabins. That’s no longer the case. It seems now that a few seats may be available at the 331 day window in which schedules open, and then on random days throughout the year, but it’s a rare pheonomenon.

With most requests I wind up having to route to Australia via Asia. Air Canada Aeroplan will generally permit a transpacific Asia routing from North America to Australai. US Airways and Continental will permit transpacific or transatlantic routings to Australia (via Europe and Asia). And with Star Alliance, the Bangkok – Sydney flights are quite easy to get.

United unfortunately will not allow routing from North America to Australia via a non-direct route.

American won’t either, except using their distance-based oneworld awards, which require using two different partners other than American (so Cathay and Qantas, for instance) and the mileage cost on this route is higher.

In recent years the Australia route has seen additional service from Delta and V Australia. Delta premium cabin awards are, of course, a joke in terms of availability. But V Australia… much easier.

And V Australia is a Delta partner.

Whereas Delta will often want 140,000 miles for a coach award from Los ANgeles to Sydney, they’ll charge 150,000 miles for a business class award on V Australia.

Flyertalk member Wiirachay relayed an experience booking V Australia with Delta miles. And it reminds me that I really do need to update my post on What to Do with Skypesos, because Delta miles may indeed be one of the best bets for a premium cabin award from North America to Australia.

1. Have at least 150k miles available.
2. Call DL.
3. Specifically ask to book on V Australia, flying business class, booking into “Z” class. Give initial set of dates. Don’t forget that VA also has LAX-BNE and LAX-MEL flights, in addition to LAX-SYD. Note that LAX-BNE and LAX-MEL don’t run every day of the week. (VA is quite generous with their award availability for business class! )
4. Allow the agent to put you on hold as she/he looks up the instructions on how to make VA bookings. (Every single agent I spoke to did this. It looks like they’re not well-versed in VA bookings.)
5. After agent comes back, you can ask for availability on others dates, and he/she will answer you very quickly, as they are now familiar with the commands.
6. If the agent quotes you 100k miles, tell them to “price as booked,” it’s supposed to cost 150k miles. What happens is that the system thinks there’s a lower bucket available for the same cabin and will change the booked bucket to that one. But that new bucket is coach.
7. Bring out credit card to pay for taxes and fees, around $280.

Often the biggest challenge will be getting to and from Los Angeles as part of the Delta award. But especially if you’re on the West Coast your best bet for that will be Alaska Airlines. Because tight availability of award seats on Delta itself will often bump up the award price dramatically. You may be best off from much of the East Coast (if you can’t find an Alaska flight) just buying separate tickets to and from Los Angeles, though of course you want to leave plenty of room for error in that case because when traveling on a separate ticket if you misconnect the long-haul carrier won’t be responsible for that.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks, Gary! Any idea how difficult it is to book US-SYD-JNB on VA with DL miles? Does DL allow this routing for 150,000 miles in business?

  2. Ugh – you’ve totally ruined my weekend (and perhaps my year). I was hoping to attempt to snag two J or F award seats next year on CX YYZ-HKG-SYD using my AA points. I realize they are extremely hard to come by (especially 2 on the same flight), but I thought I at least had a shot. From what you are saying, short of making it part of a (super expensive) One World reward routing, that’s not a valid AA award itin to Australia? So essentially my only hope is Qantas out of LAX or SFO? Is that correct?

  3. @BradInToronto you can fly Qantas (ex-LAX or SFO), Air Tahiti Nui via PPT or Air Pacific via NAN.

    But the oneworld awards aren’t really SUPER expensive. And ofr some awards they’re less expensive! But they are a premium for Australia. You could do North America – Hong Kong on CX (and YYZ-HKG F availability is actually pretty good) and Hong Kong – Australia on QF to make it a valid award. Or HKG-DPS, say, on Cathay.. stop in Bali 🙂 .. and DPS-SYD, which is what I would do!

  4. Thanks for the tips Gary! I converted all of my SPG points over to AA with the recent 30% bonus in anticipation of this trip, so I really hope I’ll be able to find availability when the 331 day window opens!

  5. Hi!

    Any trip reports on Virgin Australia’s business class? Could find any on FT.

    This is a great tip, too bad I just booked next year already.

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Is it easier in anyone’s experience to pay for a coach ticket and then upgrade with miles (think MP here) than outright scoring an award ticket?

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