Posted by in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Using Delta SkyMiles for Award Travel to Australia
Most people regard Delta SkyMiles as “SkyPesos”, and that’s partially true- it is a fact that Delta miles are harder to use than Star Alliance or Oneworld miles. Most of the complaints that arise from using Delta miles are in regards to low availability on domestic travel, and that is very true. Often the situation is that you have the international long haul flights all figured out, but then trying to get from Charleston to Atlanta becomes the final hurdle. But once you have the domestic segments tacked on, they can be one of the best miles to travel to Australia, and the South Pacific in general. Let’s find out why.
Using Delta Miles to Fly on Delta to Australia
Delta does fly its own aircraft to Australia, a once daily Boeing 777-200LR service from Los Angeles to Sydney. From LA they have built up kind of a focus city, in conjuction with their partner Alaska, so you can fly one-stop from most cities in the US to Australia. Their hard product is decent, being their flagship BusinessElite product featuring herringbone seats that recline flat.
The thing is, Delta is pretty famous for being extremely stingy when it comes to BusinessElite award space (with a couple of exceptions, such as Atlanta-Munich and Memphis-Amsterdam), and the Sydney route is no exception. Let’s take a look at the award calendar to see what I mean.
Do you see any green? No? Me neither. And the other months aren’t much better. So unless you’re prepared to fork out 240K miles instead of 150K (and the answer is, you shouldn’t), this is probably not a good idea.
But if you want to go with this idea (and miraculously do find low award space), the best way of booking it is simply using Delta.com. It is clumsy, but once you find the award space, should be pretty functional. They also allow two-day holds, so if you’re indecisive it’s best to hold the award first, then un-hold it if necessary, seeing how rare low price awards are.
Using Delta Miles to Fly on Virgin Australia to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific
Here we go… the golden goose of Australian award tickets. Virgin Australia partners with Delta, and you can redeem your miles for Virgin Australia flights. Trans-Pacifically, Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles into Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne- and award space is markedly superior to that of Delta. Best of all, if you fly on a Virgin Australia award from the US to Australia, from Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney one can tack on additional regional segments on Virgin Australia to Australia, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands. So one can fly from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Delta, Los Angeles to Brisbane to Hamilton on Virgin Australia all for 150,000 miles round trip. Virgin Australia is in this transitional phase where some of its aircraft will have business class, and some of it won’t, so the actual flights you will get on the domestic and regional sectors is mostly luck of the draw. But on their trans-pacific routes, they do operate the Boeing 777-300ER with international standard flat bed business class seats.
A couple of notes on booking- first of all, to search availability, one has to sign up for a Virgin Australia Velocity membership, which is Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program. Once you have signed up, you simply go to book a reward flight, as per usual. Any award space that shows up under the “Reward” column should be bookable using Delta miles.
The results screen is tabbed by dates fur further convenience- although it lacks a calendar view, you can clearly see award space for the whole week. And while it does try to price out connection for you, as with most award search engines the results are the most effective if you search segment by segment, especially as Delta allows two stopovers per award ticket. Another quirk is that you must purchase a trans-pacific segment on Virgin Australia in order to redeem for domestic and regional segments on Virgin Australia- you can’t book them as stand alone flights. This is one thing I expect to be fixed as Virgin Australia completes its re-branding, and I would expect that all Virgin Australia flights would be redeemable with no limitation in the future.
Using Delta Miles to Fly on Air Tahiti Nui to New Zealand and the Pacific
Okay, technically this doesn’t belong here as the article is about award travel to Australia, and well… Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t fly there. But I have to give this a mention- as a “boutique” airline with an exotic product flying exotic routes via an exotic hub, it doesn’t get much better than this. Its product is not conventional (as in lie flat or herringbone), but has that distinct Pacific touch that one would definitely not get flying Delta, and that’s what makes Air Tahiti Nui worthwhile. It’s also worth noting that Air France also fly the Los Angeles to Papeete route, and therefore offers additional award space- which can be searchable on Delta.com
Air Tahiti Nui flies from Los Angeles to Papeete, and then Papeete to Auckland. The best way to look for Air Tahiti Nui availability is through the KVS Tool or ExpertFlyer, if one is signed up for such, or through calling Delta.com. Personally I find calling Delta.com to be a real pain, but it’s really the only free option here. Air Tahiti Nui would only release one award seat in first class and one award seat in business class per flight. As first class awards are off limits to SkyMiles members, this essentially means that only one premium cabin award seat is available per flight- making travel with a companion (short of paid upgrade at check-in) virtually impossible.
Using Delta Miles to Fly on Hawaiian to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific
There’s a reason I left this to last, and it’s because it’s the least desirable option. Despite starting up many routes recently, and upgauging others (such as the Sydney flight, which is due to be operated by an Airbus 330), it’s not the Emirates of the Pacific for a simple reason- it’s connections are not timed for a hub-like effect. Still, with free stopovers on offer, a stopover in Honolulu might not be a bad idea, and in that case Hawaiian should also be considered.
From Honolulu, Hawaiian fly to Sydney, Papeete and Pago Pago (the only airline to do so) in the Pacific region, providing a good one-stop option to the US (especially with combined with Alaska’s Hawaii network). Searching availability is doable on the Hawaiian Airlines website, and membership is required to do so, alternatively the ExperFlyer or the KVS Tool can be used.
So there we have it, all the airline options for using SkyMiles to Australia and the South Pacific. The reason this post is titled using “SkyMiles” instead of “SkyTeam miles” is because really all the good options are on non-alliance partners- and thankfully due to Delta allowing passengers to mix and match non-alliance partners (unlike United or Alaska), SkyMiles have some great value when travelling down under.
The last alliance, Oneworld, will be covered in the next post.