Continuing with my series of posts of piecing together an epic trip around South Pacific…
Last week I’ve mentioned that my flights from LAX to Tahiti and Tahiti to Auckland are finally booked. Wohoo! On to the next piece of the puzzle. After some agonizing back and forth, I’ve decided to spend two nights in Auckland and skip South Island altogether.
I know, I know. The best sights are near Queenstown (see guest post from reader Seth). But it would make the trip much more complicated and expensive. Not to mention, I would have to give up Auckland and Rotorua. And I really don’t want to because my goal is to learn more about Maori culture.
South Island, I’m sorry I had to dump you. It’s not you, it’s me…
So, it was decided that we would spend two nights in Auckland, hit the highlights via 14-hour bus tour and then meet the rest of the family in Melbourne, Australia. But how to get there? One non-negotiable for me was having a direct route. I had two options: redeem Avianca miles on Air New Zealand or Avios points on Qantas flight. Avianca charges 21k miles plus taxes, while Avios requires just 10k points. No-brainer, right?
Are Jetconnect and Qantas the same thing?
I’ve noticed that even though Qantas does indeed fly this route, for some reason it’s not displayed on BA.com. Usually, Avios program is pretty good about this sort of thing. Qantas website did show “classic” availability, which in theory, should be bookable via BA.com. What the heck is going on?
Aha! It says Qantas-Jetconnect, so it must be a codeshare. But I wanted to investigate it further. According to Headforpoints blog, Jetconnect (and QantasLink) are not displayed on BA.com, but are bookable with Avios when you call their center. Yay! That’s exactly what I did.
Chatting with BA rep
I always get a kick out of talking to these guys. They use the words “lovely” and “brilliant” in every other sentence. This one was no exception. The guy looked up availability and told me that it is indeed bookable with Avios. The cost was 10k points+$40, a great deal for a $235 flight. I was happy to finally put my ill-gotten Avios stash to good use. I asked the rep to waive the $25 phone booking fee and he said he wasn’t going to charge me anyway.
Funnily, the guy didn’t just hang up but began asking me about the trip. He said it sounds exciting. Then I mentioned that I’m originally from Europe, and we started talking about USA, travel and so on. Finally, I politely ended the conversation because I had stuff to do. But I can see why the hold times for BA center are the way they are. Nevertheless, when I got the survey, I filled it out and gave him positive marks on everything. It’s rare for customer service reps to care these days.
I needed to book a few flights within Australia for me and my husband, as well as in-laws. Here the process was pretty straightforward. According to my research, booking Melbourne-Cairns flight for a large family with Avios can be a challenge. There is only one per day, and they get booked up quickly via points.
In fact, when I checked, the one we wanted was already gone. Connecting flights were available, but they would cost 14,500 Avios since BA program charges per segment. So, direct is almost always the way to go. It was decided that we would wait to book that flight with AA miles. AAdvantage opens its award calendar much later than Qantas and Avios, so it can be slim pickings when it comes to most desirable Australia flights.
But I certainly didn’t want to pay 14,500 Avios if I didn’t have to. Besides, we also needed to book a flight from Cairns to Sydney. Bingo! Direct route was available at 10,000 Avios per person. However, we did need an additional 30,000 Avios. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had 20,000 MR points which she transferred with 40% bonus (expires September 17th). She also had dormant 2,500 Avios she forgot about. Combined with her MR stash, she had enough points for three tickets. I booked the other two.
So, now we wait for AAdvantage to load its schedule so we can book Melbourne-Cairns flight. AA program charges flat 10,000 miles in economy for intra-Australia flights. So, having connections doesn’t increase the award pricing. If the flights are gone, we’ll just book them with cash. I should add that Australia has some low-cost carriers, but my SIL is partial to Qantas. She really liked it when she visited Australia 15 years ago. Some fights/flights are just not worth fighting.
I also went ahead and burned Avios on two seats from Melbourne to Sydney. The cost was 4,500 points+$13 in taxes per person. It’s a pretty good deal since the route runs at around $85 or more. However, first, I had to create a household account. The reason? I only had 6,700 Avios and my husband had 2,300. I’ve topped up his account awhile back in anticipation of this award. In miles and points world, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.
There were quite a few flights on the day I needed. I actually didn’t yet have a return ticket from Sydney booked, but I figured even if I had to cancel it, I would lose only $13 per person. I can live with that. Plus, I was 99% sure on the date of the departure anyway. As it turned out, I was able to book Sydney-USA flight on my preferred date, but that’s a story for another post.
Is Avios program still a good deal for flights within the US?
It is on some routes, and for those who have flexibility and who live near an American Airlines or Alaska Air hub. The biggest issue is the lack of domestic sAAver availability on American, as it’s the only kind bookable with Avios. Still, if you understand the drawbacks, investing in Avios can make a lot of sense. The most obvious choice is Chase British Airways Visa Signature. Here are key details on the offer:
- 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios.
- Earn a further 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
- Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
- In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
- Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.
- The annual fee of $95 is not waived.
This card is currently in our affiliate network. Reportedly, it’s NOT subject to Chase 5/24 rule. Be aware, you are eligible for sign-up bonus as long as you haven’t received it in the last 24 months.
I wouldn’t start with this offer if you are new to the miles and points hobby, but it is a good deal nonetheless. Awhile back I’ve put together a post on some of the reasons why Avios is a great “niche” program for many families in America. To summarize:
1) No close-in booking fees. Those can add up to a small fortune when you have to burn AA miles for a family of four.
2) When you cancel your flight, you only lose what you’ve paid in taxes, usually just $5 on domestic US routes.
3) Ability to pull Avios between family members. That’s hugely helpful when you are just a few Avios short.
4) Flights to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios one-way from many West coast cities via Alaska Air and American; flights to Central America and some Caribbean islands for 7,500 Avios. Once again, there has to be sAAver or low-level availability.
When trying to book Qantas flights, you should probably start at Qantas.com Get a free account and search availability on your desired route. BA engine is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. I’ve read that AA.com is notorious for not displaying all Qantas availability, so I have a feeling we may need to call. But it’s worth it if we can save cash in the end. That’s what miles and points are for. Stay tuned.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.