Ever since September of 2012 when Delta stopped collecting fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia award flights, using Delta miles for VA flights has been one of the best and easiest ways to get premium cabin award travel to Australia and New Zealand, particularly for families. We just got done booking our own trip (can’t wait!) but I noticed a really odd thing that I thought I’d share. Especially useful for large families or groups, there might very well be even MORE award availability than you think!
Since Delta improved (some) functionality of their award booking engine, it has become a lot easier to see what is available. VA is consistently opening 5 business class seats EVERY DAY from Los Angeles to both Brisbane and Sydney. Crazy good, right? Sure, unless you need 6 seats. Or 8 or 10.
So that’s it? 5 seats are available?
No! The really cool thing here is that we have four business class seats in both directions, and there are 5 more available seats on both of our flights! And I’m pretty sure we aren’t the only ones who have booked family trips for November and early December.
As far as I can tell, VA is releasing at least 9 business class seats on every one of these flights, maybe even more! With both of our one-way flights, tickets were issued within minutes of booking but 5 more seats were released instantly. So Virgin’s computers seem to be programmed not only to release 5 seats, but to keep 5 seats open at least until a certain number of seats sell!
So, to book your 6 or 8 or 10 tickets, if you’ve been collecting Delta miles:
- If possible, be ready to jump as soon as the calendar opens. Someone else may also be looking for your preferred date and book enough seats to keep you from getting as many as you need.
- Book 5 tickets. Make sure you get at least one adult on each reservation!
- Immediately book the rest, or cancel the initial 5 if the rest don’t open up within 24 hours.
If you are only able to collect enough miles to get business class for one way, I’d definitely use it for the trip down there that leaves at 9:00 or 11:00 PM, rather than the return which leaves Australia early in the morning. We’ve done SAT-DFW-LAX-SYD and CHC-AKL-LAX-SAT in coach and I’d definitely do both again if that’s what it took to get the kids down there!
Actually getting to LAX to connect to your VA flight on the same award? Good luck! Delta award availability on some long-haul flights has improved, but domestic seats are still hard to come by. We’ll be positioning with Southwest, the same as we’d have to if we were using Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific. The Cathay route, however, involves an extra 8-10 hours of flying. Also many of those HKG-Australia flights don’t have business class award seats – I think I’d go for a 16 hour Qantas coach flight rather than that. The one advantage with AS miles on CX would be the free stopover in Hong Kong, which could turn into a stopover anywhere in S.E. Asia for a few thousand Avios.
Of course you’re getting a map!
Also within the same region for Delta awards and served by Virgin Australia
- Christmas Island (does not come up on Delta.com search)
- Cocos Islands (does not come up on Delta.com search)
- Rarotonga, Cook Islands (served only from Aukland, does not come up on Delta.com search)
- Port Vila, Vanuatu (does not come up on Delta.com search)
- Honiara, Solomon Islands
- Tonga (does not come up on Delta.com search)
Are you aiming for Australia or New Zealand and trying to get a seat you can stretch out in for the 14+ hour flight? It might take planning ahead and a whole boatload of miles, but it can definitely be done, even for a large family or group. Hopefully this post can be helpful to some other family also looking to travel to summer next winter!