Kenny has written extensively about how Virgin Australia is a bit of a gold mine for travel to Australia/Oceania using Delta or Virgin America miles. Virgin Australia remains the single best way to get to Australia in a premium cabin, provided you have a way to position to the West Coast (since domestic space can be tough to find on DL).
Virgin Australia is definitely the way to go, but if you can’t find space and you’re willing to tolerate some extra time in business class there are other options to get to Australia/NZ. In fact, you can find space using two alliances! The key to the space? Funnily enough, it’s Korea.
Korean Air (Delta or Ultimate Rewards partner) and Asiana (United partner) both are pretty generous about business class award space, specifically on their A380 JFK-ICN routes. I’ve pointed out Asiana’s JFK-ICN award space before but noticed while working for a client that Korean Air is equally generous. The key here is that both Delta and United will allow you to route through Asia to get to Oceania.
In today’s post, I’ll focus on getting to Australia using Star Alliance on Asiana, and later in the week I’ll discuss using Korean Air and Skyteam.
Getting to Australia Using United Miles
Getting to Australia using United miles on Asiana is pretty straightforward. Sometimes, you can just find it through a straight search. For example, if you search JFK-SYD you can find a flight like the following:
You can go to Auckland as well, usually connecting through Sydney.
However, sometimes the itinerary through Korea won’t come up automatically. In that case, search for the award space one segment at a time – ensuring that you are spending less than 24 hours in Seoul (anything greater would be considered a stopover – doable if you are booking a round trip but not on a one way. So yes, if you’re booking a round trip you could spend some time in Korea in one direction!).
After you have found the space, run a multi-city search cherry picking for the flights that you know are there (be sure to be careful about the dates you put in). The multi-city itinerary should price at the same cost as a one way, 80,000 miles plus taxes and fees.
In a worst case scenario, you can call in to book the ticket. If you are trying to avoid the phone fee, you can book one leg online and then use the 24 hour cancellation/change policy to call in and add the segment that you want.
I searched routes from the United States to ICN and found the following:
– There seems to be decent to good business class space availability (except in December) on the flight from ORD-ICN, but it seems you have to use the multi-city itinerary search to piece it together as below. The tougher leg to find business class space in is ICN-SYD, but there are also options to connect through Bangkok on Thai
– Space is great between SFO-ICN, though some of those flights are on UA metal (save 10,000 miles get a lesser product)
– Space is equally great between SEA-ICN
– As far as I can tell, JFK, ORD, and SFO all feature lie flat business class seats, while the SEA flight is angled flat
– From ICN, Asiana flies to SYD (flat beds as far as I can tell) and this is what availability looked like in Aug-Nov.
11 months out space looks really good, and there is pretty great coach availability as well. From SYD you can catch an Air New Zealand flight to NZ – usually in coach but good enough for the shorter flight.
Getting to Australia is tough, but routing through Asia can help you get there in a premium cabin. If you book a round trip, you can even stopover in Seoul if you’d like. United miles are your best Star Alliance bet here due to the lower fuel surcharges, but on Aeroplan it’s also 80,000 miles and $300 in taxes and fees each way. Though space isn’t rampant, it’s a lot better than most direct premium class flights. Also note all my searches were for two seats – you might have better luck if you’re only looking for one. Next time I’ll take a look at the Korean Air space doing the same thing – it’s even a shade better.