Part I – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your MRs

As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, American Express Membership Rewards points (much like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Amex MRs are also fairly easy to earn, which makes them just that much better to use for your dream trip to Australia/New Zealand!

Please note, I do not earn a commission off of any of the credit card links contained herein. I do, however, earn a referral bonus of points from some of the links contained herein. These referral links are currently the highest publicly available offers and I will always link to the highest publicly available offer for your benefit.  As always, your support by signing up via my referral links is greatly appreciated!

Introduction – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your MRs, URs or TYPs
Part I – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your MRs
Part II – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your URs
Part III – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your TYPs
Part IV – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your SPG Starpoints

American Express offers many cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including their EveryDay card (which earns 20% more MRs every month you make 20 or more purchases with the card). American Express offers several other card options that earn MRs, so I highly encourage you to head over to the American Express site and check out the options.

Now that you know how to earn the MRs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned MRs to get you to Australia/New Zealand! Your MRs will transfer to 17 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:

AirlineAllianceTransfer RatioTransfer Time
DeltaSkyTeam1:1Same day
AlitaliaSkyTeam1:1Same day
Air France/KLMSkyTeam1:1Same day
AeromexicoSkyTeam1:1Up to 7 days
British AirwaysOneWorld1:0.8Same day
IberiaOneWorld1:0.8Up to 7 days
Cathay PacificOneWorld1:1Up to 7 days
Air CanadaStar Alliance1:1Same day
ANAStar Alliance1:12-4 days
Singapore AirlinesStar Alliance1:1Up to 3 days
Virgin AmericaN/A1:0.5Same day
Virgin AtlanticN/A1:1Same day
Jet BlueN/A1:0.8Same day
Hawaiian AirlinesN/A1:1Same day
El AlN/A50:1Same day
EmiratesN/A1:1Same day
EtihadN/A1:1Same day

As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).

Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to Australia/New Zealand on your MRs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast is going to be lower than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Sydney (SYD) in Australia or Auckland (AKL) in New Zealand.

Delta

Unfortunately, approximately a year and a half ago, Delta decided to take down its award chart. Without a published award chart, that means that it is difficult to give a number of miles that it will take to get to Australia/New Zealand. The Continental United States to Australia also tends to be one of the Delta routes that only offers availability at the highest rates, so I would go in with low expectations on this option.

As a general ballpark, from a Delta hub airport, you can expect to see roundtrip award tickets cost approximately 90k in Coach, 210k in Delta Comfort+ and, oddly, 220k in DeltaOne (business class). These rates all assume you can find low level award space on the route, which can be difficult. One-way flights are available for half the quoted cost and the taxes and fees are reasonable (under $100 in each direction).

It is worth noting that Delta seems to charge nearly the same amount for Delta Comfort+ seats as they do for First/Business/DeltaOne class seats, so if you are searching for Comfort+ award seats, make sure you are checking out the cost of a First/Business/DeltaOne award ticket as well as the product will be much better and only marginally more expensive.

Also keep in mind that Delta partners with Virgin Australia who are in the process of retrofitting their long haul cabin with what looks like a stunningly superb reverse herringbone setup in business class. Any award availability on Virgin Australia that is bookable with Delta SkyMiles will be at the lowest rate for the route, so keep it in mind.

Alitalia

Alitalia is a SkyTeam alliance member that is based out of Rome (FCO). That means that their route network is not especially well suited for redemptions to Australia/New Zealand (especially if you are flying from the U.S.). In addition, you can redeem your MilleMiglia miles for travel on Delta flights. Alitalia will levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets, though they are not going to be as bad as the likes of British Airways. The trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account so they consider it active. From there you can call and place your award ticket on hold for about two (2) weeks. You can then transfer the needed miles and then call back to get the ticket booked.

Alitalia has a separate award chart for SkyTeam partner redemptions and groups Australia and New Zealand into the same region.

Between North America and Australia/New Zealand, award tickets will cost you 100k miles roundtrip in economy and 150k miles roundtrip in business. Due to the SkyTeam alliance not having a strong presence in the area, I would expect to encounter the same difficulties with Alitalia as you will with Delta in finding low level saver space that partners can book. While the rate is actually fairly reasonable, availability is going to be sparse.

Alitalia does not allow one-way award tickets on partner airlines, so you have to book roundtrip tickets when utilizing partners. Lastly, while you must book the most direct itinerary, you are allowed one voluntary stopover.

The US phone number for Alitalia is 800.223.5730.

Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)

Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Delta flights. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer some decent value for flights to Australia/New Zealand. FlyingBlue groups Australia and New Zealand into the same award zone.

Roundtrip award tickets in economy will cost you 100k miles and in business class will cost you 250k miles. Due to the SkyTeam alliance not having a strong presence in the area, I would expect to encounter the same difficulties with FlyingBlue as you will with Alitalia and Delta in finding low level saver space that partners can book. While the economy class rate is fairly reasonable, availability is going to be sparse. Availability for business class was non-existent even 10 months out.

One-way award tickets are allowed at 50k in economy and 125k miles in business, but no stopovers are allowed. I personally find FlyingBlue slightly easier to use for award tickets than Alitalia, but considering the cost difference and the free stopover Alitalia offers, I would strongly recommend going with Alitalia over Flying Blue. With that said, searching for space via FlyingBlue will give you a good idea of what inventory should be bookable by Alitalia.

Aeromexico

Aeromexico does not list Australia or New Zealand in their award charts, so despite being a member of the SkyTeam alliance and (presumably) having access to partner award space on Delta flights, it does not appear that you can use Aeromexico miles to get to the South Pacific. I actually do not consider this a huge loss and Aeromexico’s redemption rates across the board tend to be some of the worst on offer and I would not have expected anything less for flights to Australia or New Zealand.

British Airways/Iberia

British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to Australia or New Zealand will cost you. Unfortunately, last year American Express and British Airways/Iberia devalued their transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines or American Airlines flights to Australia or New Zealand.

The upshot of using Avios is that you can build in an itinerary that flies from the U.S. to Hong Kong (HKG) or Tokyo (NRT/HND), and then on to Australia or New Zealand if you wanted. That actually opens up a lot more possibilities as award space between Asia and Australia or New Zealand tends to be much better than to/from the U.S. The downside of this is that due to the distance based award chart, routing through Asia will cost you substantially more Avios.

Assuming you booked a direct flight between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand on Qantas or American from New York (JFK), you can expect a one-way award cost of 62.5k Avios for economy, 100k Avios for premium economy, 137.5k Avios for business class and 200k Avios for first class.

It is worth  noting that you could cut these rates down a bit if you found space on the Qantas flight from JFK due to this interesting trick.

If you are connecting between Australia and New Zealand, you can expect an added cost of 10k Avios for economy, 15k Avios for premium economy, 20k Avios for business class and 40k Avios for first class.

Assuming you booked a direct flight between the U.S. and Australia on Qantas or American from either Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles (LAX), you can expect a one-way award cost of 50k Avios for economy, 75k Avios for premium economy, 100k Avios for business class and 150k Avios for first class.

If you were traveling between Los Angeles (LAX) and Auckland (AKL), you can expect a one-way award cost of 35k Avios for economy, 52.5k Avios for premium economy, 70k Avios for business class and 105k Avios for first class.

Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights to either Sydney (SYD) or Auckland (AKL), so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination. Also keep in mind that British Airways does not levy their usual hefty fuel surcharges on partner redemptions.

Award space tends to be best on these routes either very close in, or very far out. Premium cabin award space on these routes is nearly non-existent at the time of writing, though Qantas and American do occasionally open the flood gates on space. It is also worth noting that for some reason the British Airways search tool tends to have issues with allowing you to book Qantas flights online. It will show availability, but you will get an error message when you try to select that flight. Your best bet is to call in and have the British Airways agent book the flight for you. Ask that they waive the phone booking fee since you were unable to book online.

Lastly, it is important to remember that the transfer ratio is 1:0.8, so your flight that costs 35k Avios will actually cost you 43,750 MRs. In light of the cost, unless you are based out of a hub airport where you can find a direct partner flight to your Australian/New Zealand destination or have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to Australia/New Zealand – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program uses a distance based award chart, so this is another airline that will depend on your home airport for redemption costs. Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, so you can use your Asia Miles to book Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and American Airlines flights to Australia/New Zealand. Interestingly, Cathay Pacific also partners with Air New Zealand and it appears that you can redeem your Asia Miles for Air New Zealand flights as well.

From the West Coast of the U.S. (LAX or SFO) to Australia or New Zealand, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 60k miles for economy, 72k miles for premium economy, 120k miles for business class and 180k for first class. It is worth noting that flights between LAX/SFO and Australia are right on the cusp of flowing over to the next award zone, so if you are going to Melbourne (MEL) or connecting to somewhere in the interior of Australia, you are going to be in the next award category, which is more expensive.

One-way award tickets are allowed at the rates of: 40k miles in economy, 48k miles in premium economy, 70k miles in business class and 105k in first class.

From the East Coast of the U.S. (JFK) to Australia or New Zealand, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 90k miles in economy, 108k miles for premium economy, 145k miles for business class and 220k miles for first class. Again, it is worth noting that flights between JFK and Australia are right on the cusp of flowing over to the next award zone, so if you are going to Melbourne (MEL) or connecting to somewhere in the interior of Australia, you are going to be in the next award category, which is more expensive.

One-way award tickets are allowed at the rates of: 55k miles for economy, 66k miles for premium economy, 85k for business class and 130k for first class.

What is wild though is the Asia Miles program allows you to make up to 5 stopovers, 2 transfers and 2 open-jaws at either the origin, en-route or at the turnaround point (destination)! That means you could put together an itinerary where you hop all over the South Pacific, in business class, for only 145k miles total from the U.S.! Depending on how you routed yourself, that could offer some truly exceptional value.

If you can get the stopovers and open-jaws to work for your itinerary, Asia Miles should be a top contender for you to transfer your MRs to for your Australia/New Zealand vacation. If you will not be utilizing the stopovers, then I would say there are better options out there for your MRs.

Air Canada (Aeroplan)

Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so you can use your Aeroplan miles for redemptions on Air New Zealand, Air Canada, United, Air ANA and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to Australia/New Zealand. In other words, you are going to have a ton of options!

Aeroplan groups Australia and New Zealand into the same award zone, so your redemption rate will be the same regardless of which you travel to.

A roundtrip award ticket will cost you 90k miles in economy, 135k miles in premium economy, 160k miles in business class and 220k miles in first class.

Aeroplan does allow one-way award tickets at half the cost of the roundtrip award ticket cost. While I do love Aeroplan miles, the redemptions to Australia/New Zealand are about average. Unless you are having difficulty finding availability elsewhere, I would look at other transfer partners for your MRs.

ANA

ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Mileage Club miles for Air New Zealand, Air Canada, United, ANA and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to Australia/New Zealand. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!

ANA places Australia and New Zealand in the same award zone, so your award costs will remain the same regardless of which destination you choose. However, ANA uses a different award chart for ANA operated flights than they do for partner operated flights.

For ANA operated flights, ANA uses a Low, Regular and High season award chart, so you are better off going to ANA’s website to determine your award ticket cost as there are a lot of variables at play.

For roundtrip partner flights (or even if only one of your flights is on a partner airline) between the U.S. and Australia/New Zealand, it will cost you 75k miles for economy, 120k miles for business class and 225k miles for first class.

ANA does not allow for one-way award tickets (there is a way around this which I have previously outlined here, though I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile unless you have Mileage Club points to burn). ANA can present a very good option for coach or business class redemptions to Australia or New Zealand. I would give ANA some serious consideration for your next Australia/New Zealand trip!

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your KrisFlyer miles for Air New Zealand, Air Canada, United, ANA and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to Australia/New Zealand. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!

Singapore Airlines is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. Both the Singapore Airlines specific award chart and partner award chart put Australia and New Zealand together in the same award zone, so your award cost will remain the same regardless of which you opt to travel to.

For Singapore Airlines operated flights from the East Coast of the U.S., you can expect roundtrip prices of 105k miles for economy, 180k miles for premium economy, 205k miles for business class and 265k miles for first class.

For Singapore Airlines operated flights from the West Coast of the U.S., you can expect roundtrip prices of 95k miles for economy, 170k miles for premium economy, 190k miles for business class and 270k miles for first class.

For Singapore operated flights, one-way award tickets are allowed at half the price. Also keep in mind that the quoted rates do not factor in the 15% discount you would receive from booking your award ticket online. With that said, even factoring in the 15% discount, these rates are not especially competitive.

For roundtrip partner redemptions between the U.S. and Australia/New Zealand, it will cost you 110k miles for economy, 195k miles for business class and 255k miles for first class.

Overall, Singapore is not really very competitive when it comes to award ticket prices to Australia and/or New Zealand. There are much better redemptions to be had elsewhere with your MRs, so I would not transfer them here.

Virgin America

Virgin America offers one of the best deals around to get to Australia – though not using MRs. I did a more thorough write-up on this option here, so I will not rehash that all in this post. Keep in mind that your MRs only transfer at a 1:0.5 ratio, so that actually makes Virgin America one of the worst available transfer partners for your MRs when looking to get to Australia/New Zealand. If you want to go this route, I would strongly suggest you start earning as many SPG Starpoints as you can.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic operates out of a very small market in the U.S., but they do partner with Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Delta for award tickets to Australia/New Zealand. The major downside to this program is that the taxes and carrier imposed fees/surcharges are outrageously high – especially on premium cabin redemptions.

For partner redemptions on Delta between the U.S. and Australia/New Zealand, you are looking at a roundtrip cost of 100k miles in economy and 150k miles in business class. Virgin Atlantic however requires that you call them to determine the taxes, fees and surcharges on these tickets.

For partner redemptions on Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand, you need to call Virgin Atlantic at least 14 days prior to departure at 1.800.365.9500. From what I have been able to find, you can expect pretty outrageous taxes, fees and surcharges on these redemptions (think $1,000+ for business class redemptions).

Although the mileage redemption rates (ignoring the outrageous taxes and fees) for Delta are actually not horrible, the fact that your MRs transfer to Virgin Atlantic at only 1:0.5 makes Virgin Atlantic the single worst MR transfer partner for award tickets to Australia/New Zealand in my opinion. When you factor in the outrageous taxes and fees, I would strongly recommend you avoid this option at all costs unless you literally have no other option.

JetBlue

JetBlue does not fly to Australia or New Zealand, so transfers to the TrueBlue program will do you no good. Cross this airline off your list right from the start for an award redemption to Australia/New Zealand.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines flies to limited destinations in Australia and New Zealand -Sydney (SYD), Brisbane (BNE) and Auckland (AKL) – and also partners with Virgin Australia. In addition to being limited to your destinations, you will also be subject to the outrageous fuel surcharges, taxes and fees that Virgin Atlantic imposes on their award tickets.

For Hawaiian Airlines operated flights between North America and Australia/New Zealand, you can expect roundtrip award ticket prices of 120k miles for economy and 210k miles for business class. One-way award tickets are available at half of these rates.

For Virgin Australia operated flights, all flights in the itinerary must be operated by Virgin Australia only. You can expect roundtrip award ticket prices of 100k miles for economy, 150k miles for premium economy and 200k miles for business class. It does not appear that one-way tickets are allowed. As these rates are about average for award flights to Australia/New Zealand, this option does not offer exceptionally good value. That does not even factor in the added fuel surcharges, taxes and fees that are taxed on these awards.

Not only does Hawaiian Airlines offer one of the higher award ticket mileage costs for Australia/New Zealand redemptions, but they also offer extremely limited destinations. This makes Hawaiian Airlines one of the worst MR transfer partners for award tickets to Australia/New Zealand and I would recommend you look elsewhere for a MR transfer partner that can get you to Australia/New Zealand.

El Al

From what I can tell, El Al does not publish an award chart for redemptions to Australia or New Zealand. Accordingly, I would cross this airline off your list right from the start for an award redemption to Australia/New Zealand.

Emirates

Emirates uses a zone based award chart, so your redemption cost will largely depend on your departure airport and your arrival airport. If you are looking to redeem for flights operate by Emirates, I would recommend you use their Miles Calculator to determine the cost.

Emirates also partners with Qantas, Korean Air and Japan Airlines, so you can redeem your miles for flights on these airlines as well.

For flights operated by Japan Airlines between North America and Australia/New Zealand, you can expect roundtrip rates of 70k miles for economy, 145k miles for business class and 215k miles for first class. You will need to get yourself to one of Japan Airlines’ gateway cities in the U.S. on your own however.

For flights operated by Korean Air between North America and Australia/New Zealand, you can expect roundtrip rates of 110k miles for economy and 165k miles for business class. As with Japan Airlines, you will need to get yourself to one of Korean Air’s gateway cities in the U.S. on your own.

For flights operated by Qantas, there are several different redemption rates depending on the route. Those roundtrip rates are as follows:

  • Between Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD), Brisbane (BNE) or Melbourne (MEL) – 90k miles for economy, 192k miles for business class and 288k miles for first class.
  • Between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Sydney (SYD) – 110k miles for economy, 224k miles for business class and 336k miles for first class.
  • Between New York (JFK) and Sydney (SYD), Brisbane (BNE) or Melbourne (MEL) – 120k miles for economy, 256k miles for business class and 384k miles for first class.

If you wanted to connect on to New Zealand, you would need to pay for a separate award ticket on that route.

It does not appear that one-way award tickets are possible on Qantas, Japan Airlines or Korean Air flights. Some of these rates are not bad, while others are not exactly competitive. I would not rule Emirates completely out as a viable redemption option to get you to Australia and/or New Zealand in style!

Etihad

Although Etihad is not a part of any major airline alliance, they do have several strategic partnerships with airlines such as Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. The award chart for Air New Zealand redemptions is distance based, while the award chart for Virgin Australia redemptions is origin/destination based, so I would recommend that you go to Etihad’s respective partner pages and to determine your mileage redemption rates.

For reference though, most of your flights are going to run well over 110k miles for a roundtrip economy award ticket, so I would strongly recommend you look elsewhere to transfer your MRs for an Australia/New Zealand trip.

You can also book American Airlines saver level award flights with your Guest Miles. Roundtrip award tickets between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand will cost you 75k miles in economy, 125k miles in business class and 145k miles in first class. One-way award tickets are allowed at half the quoted rates. These award rates mirror the pre-devaluation AA award chart, so this could present a nice and reasonably priced option if you do not mind flying on AA metal.

To redeem for any partner awards you have to contact the Etihad service center at 888-8ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to the intended date of travel.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the MR transfer partners offer a lot of options for finding award availability to Australia/New Zealand. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your MRs for a trip to Australia and/or New Zealand! And remember, once you make it down to Australia, flights to New Zealand (or vice versa) are inexpensive and plentiful.

Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs, URs and SPG Starpoints!

What is your favorite way to redeem MRs to get to Australia/New Zealand?

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2 thoughts on “Part I – Getting To Australia/New Zealand Using Your MRs

  1. It would be helpful if you added a breakdown of which airline in each alliance offered the best rate and also talked about access to award availability

    1. I did consider breaking down which airline in each alliance offered the best rate, but given that there a lot of airlines that offer award tickets on non-alliance airlines, I think that is a bit of a misleading thing to add. As to award availability, there are just far too many factors to take into account to access who offers good availability. It would be especially difficult for articles like the guide to Asia where you literally have hundreds of possible destinations. I wish there was an easier way to assess availability, but I have not found any way to do it.

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