Continuing with my series of posts of piecing together an epic trip around South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia…
Few weeks ago I wrote a post on redeeming Avios on Qantas flights within Australia. We had one more set of tickets to book, specifically Melbourne-Cairns route. As I’ve mentioned in my post, the plan was to use AAdvantage stash, on account of running out of Avios and flat pricing on connecting flights (10k AA miles one-way).
I’ve heard from Scott at TravelCodex blog that AAdvantage, as well as Alaska programs don’t currently display Qantas availability accurately. And that’s definitely true. Strangely, AA.com does display some award flights, just not all of them. Alaska engine, in my experience, is even worse. Of course, you really want to burn AA miles anyway because Alaska charges 12.5k miles one-way on intra-Australia flights.
I realize that most of my readers are probably not all that interested in that specific route. So, what I hope you take away from my post is this: don’t rely 100% on online availability for partner flights in ANY program. It’s true, some are better than others. Avios website is usually pretty accurate when it comes to Qantas award availability. But as you saw in my previous post, it doesn’t display Jetconnect flights, so you have to call and book those over the phone.
Slim Qantas pickings on AA.com
When I looked at AA.com, there were no available Qantas award flights on our date, not even connecting ones.
This is not accurate!
So I checked Qantas.com frequent flyer section. To my shock and delight, there were six available award seats on non-stop flight from Melbourne to Cairns. And it was set to depart at noon. My kids would no longer have to get up at 5 AM, great! Of course, just because Qantas.com was showing it, didn’t mean AAdvantage members would be able to book it. I’ve read that Qantas sometimes releases extra award seats to its own members.
So, I looked at BA.com and the flights were bookable there as well. I was starting to feel confident that we may be able to get them after all. I just had to call AAdvantage center, which I did. After a long wait, the rep looked up the flight and said that sure enough, award seats are available. She offered to book them for me and mentioned she would charge an extra $25 phone booking fee per person. I politely asked her to waive it since the flights were clearly not showing up online, but she refused. I probably would let it go if it was just one ticket, but not for five since we are talking $125 extra.
I was just about ready to pull a HUCA (hang up call again), but then she offered to transfer me to another department that may be able to assist me. Sure, why not. After a long hold, I was connected to another rep who had no problem waiving the fees. In fact, she was puzzled as to why her colleague refused to do it.
My father-in-law had 11k AA miles, so I used those for one ticket. I burned my husband’s 40k miles for the other four. BTW, AAdvantage reps don’t seem to have an issue with using miles from accounts that aren’t in your name. As long as you verify personal details, you are good to go. This is hugely helpful if you happen to have a reluctant spouse like mine. That said, the rep wanted the credit card (for paying taxes) to have the name of the person who owns the account. My father-in-law is an authorized user on one of my credit cards, so we didn’t have an issue with this requirement.
In the end we used 50k AA miles and paid $85 total in taxes. The same tickets are currently going for $235 per person, so we saved a good bit of money with the help of miles. Australia has some low-cost carriers, but Melbourne-Cairns route rarely dips below $200. Besides, since I value miles at 1 cent apiece, it’s an equivalent of buying the ticket for $117. I’ll take it.
I’ve noticed that Qantas award flights from Sydney to US are often not displayed on AA.com (or AlaskaAir.com) either. If you are looking to redeem AA miles on this route, you should check BA.com which seems to be pretty accurate. Just keep in mind, the pricing via Avios is 50k miles one-way, compared to 40k AA miles. Qantas flies non-stop to Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco and reportedly, service and seats are better than what you will find on American carriers. I can’t really give an opinion, but my sister-in-law absolutely loves Qantas.
Redeeming miles, at times, requires dealing with nuisance and extra phone calls. It would be nice if partner online engines worked properly, but they often do not. That’s why it’s critical to educate yourself on various quirks and nuances of your desired redemption. You can subscribe to sites like ExpertFlyer, but it’s not 100% necessary (with few exceptions like Air Tahiti Nui). By doing homework ahead of time, I was able to save my in-laws around $1k and get them the exact flights they wanted. Not too shabby, right?
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.