A Tough One
I have been dreaming of going to (moving to) Australia since I was 15 years old. When Matthew and I were dating, he said he would take me there someday. 25 years later, we still haven’t gone.
Australia is far away. It’s expensive. It’s huge. And did I mention it’s far away?
When I first started collecting Delta SkyMiles way back in 2002, my goal was to use them for Australia. But Australia kept getting put on the back burner and I redeemed miles for Morocco, and Europe and California and many other places. But I still kept collecting them. Right now I am sitting at 374,363 SkyMiles. At 80,000 each way in Business class, I am 105,637 miles short for 3 roundtrip tickets. There is no easy way to earn more SkyMiles with the restrictions from American Express of “one sign up bonus per lifetime”. I have already had all the cards.
Over the past couple years, I have really started building up my stash of American AAdvantage miles. Citi cards are easy to churn and I also took advantage of getting a (few) Citi AAdvantage Executive cards when the sign up bonus was 100,000 miles. So I have 533,998 AAdvantage miles. And that’s AFTER just redeeming some for 3 tickets to Paris next spring and 3 tickets to Turks and Caicos last fall. Oh and 2 tickets to California this summer.
That is way more than enough to get 3 roundtrip business class tickets at 62,500 each way. (375,000 total miles needed)
Will Somebody Please Let Me Spend My Miles?
This is where it gets ugly.
Cathay Pacific (A oneworld partner) has terrific business class availability between Los Angeles and Australia via Hong Kong. Trouble is, American Airlines will not let you route through Asia using their miles. The 62,500 would take me to Hong Kong and then I would have to redeem another 35,000 mile award to get to Australia. That’s worse than Delta’s 80,000 mile awards!
Qantas is also a oneworld partner, but they are VERY stingy with their business class availability.
Delta has lots of business class availability with their partner Virgin Australia, but like I said before, I do not have enough Delta miles for 3 roundtrip tickets with Delta.
Possible Good News On The Horizon
A few days ago, American announced it would begin its own nonstop service between Los Angeles and Sydney beginning in December 2015. This was exciting news at first. Surely American Airlines would allow a handful of business class award seats to be redeemed by its own members on an aircraft that has 52 business class seats. Right? Not bloody likely.
Check out these pictures.
This first one shows award availability for business class on American’s nonstop service between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Hong Kong. There are no business class Saver Awards available at the far reaches of the current schedule. None!
The next picture shows you the available seats you could choose from if you redeemed the 175,000 point award.
All of them! Sure, it’s possible that a couple tickets have been sold and not been assigned seats. Unlikely though. American is hoarding seats the way I hoard my miles!
What’s the point? They would rather let that cabin go out empty, than let people redeem miles for it.
The scenario doesn’t change much when you look at the next couple of weeks. Still no saver award seats, but 38 available business seats.
So What Are My Options?
I have to prepare for the worst case scenario. Assuming AA does not release 3 business class seats on their new flights, I have accepted that my family will have to travel separately. Right now, I can send 2 people on Delta/Virgin Australia roundtrip in Business. The third person can (hopefully) travel on either American or Qantas roundtrip in Business.
I could also transfer 20,000 SPG points to Delta. With the 5,000 point bonus, I would have 25,000 more SkyMiles and enough for all 3 of us to return on the same flight. But I’m not sure I want to spend my SPG points for that. Again, it is almost impossible to earn more of them now. I only have 43,502 points and I wanted to use them for a ski trip. Although, they are probably more valuable being used toward Australia.
I was somewhat encouraged when I saw this. Business class availability on Qantas for 1 person. For a while, I was having trouble finding availability for even one person!
I want to start my trip in Cairns, so I don’t see any way around a connecting flight. But that’s ok!
Here is Delta/Virgin Australia availability for 2 people for the same dates and almost the same time.
This isn’t ideal, but sometimes you have to do things like this to travel for free. I’m still going to keep my fingers crossed that I can get 3 business class seats on American when they release the schedule. It is possible that they might release a bunch of award seats in the beginning.
What About Coach?
Some people might think I am being a travel snob by refusing to fly to coach. Not at all. I know I could easily get 3 economy class seats on Qantas at 37,500 miles each for one way.
But I have done that. See here.
Los Angeles to Australia is a flight of approximately 15 hours. By comparison, the longest flight of our Thailand trip, from Seoul to Chicago, was 12.5 hours.
It was not fun.
I do not want to do it again.
Call me a snob if you will, but I have no desire to repeat that. I have done the work to earn these miles, I want to redeem them and be comfortable on a flight halfway around the world.
And Now, I Wait
I want our trip to begin on May 31, 2016. Or as close as I can get to that date. I am really very flexible with dates, which should help me out with securing award seats.
I do have 4 nights booked at the Radisson Blu in Sydney, June 13-17, but I’m quite sure I can fit that in to whatever flight dates I am able to book.
The schedule for May 31,2016 should load on July 6. Hopefully American and Qantas can get the approval for the new routes by then. I really don’t want to book anything until I see how many seats American is going to release on the new flights.
If anybody has had any experience doing this or has any advice to offer, I am all ears!