Sydneysiders and Melburnians can take advantage of these ultra-low fares with Jetstar to Honolulu.
I can see a good variety of dates for those departing from Sydney, but those in Melbourne will have slimmer pickings.
Note that these fares include only a 7kg carry-on bag for free—checked bags and food cost more.
It can be really hard to find Business Class award availability between Australia and Hawaii. That means that finding a cheap Economy Class fare might be your ticket to getting good value from your trip.
Depart: Sydney or Melbourne
Dates: September 2019 to June 2020 (excluding school holidays)
This aircraft features flat-bed seats and direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration for the flight lasting 3½ to 5½ hours, depending on the airport and direction of travel.
The airline also employs this aircraft on a seasonal basis for Saturday flights between Sydney/Melbourne and Nadi. They cost 71,000 points return from Sydney (Zone 3) and 99,000 from Melbourne (which just creeps into Zone 4, unfortunately).
2. Virgin Australia ‘The Business’ from Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Los Angeles for 95,500 points one-way
Virgin Australia uses its Boeing 777 long-haul fleet on flights to the US, complete with an onboard bar. This is one of the best Business Class products currently flying nonstop between Australia and the US.
Virgin Australia 777 Business Class
Note that nonstop Australia – US flights are some of the hardest to find premium cabin award availability on due to high demand. If you do find an open seat, these flights to Los Angeles are a high-value redemption.
It is only found select routes serviced by the Airbus A380 from Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub.
The cheapest one is the seven-hour flight London or Paris for 78,000 points, followed by Seoul and New York for 95,000 and 134,000 points, respectively. Sydney flights are the most expensive at 152,500 points.
5. Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Sydney/Melbourne to Singapore for 95,000 points one-way
Singapore Airlines Suites Class is another of the best First Class products in the world. It’s available on routes serviced by the Airbus A380. There are two versions, with the newest one on some services to Sydney.
7. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class between London to New York/Boston for 99,000 return
From its hubs at London Gatwick and Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic flies to a surprising number of destinations in the US. They include New York, Boston, Washington, Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Caribbean countries like Cuba, Barbados and Mexico.
New York and Boston creep into Zone 4, offering the cheapest redemptions of these destinations. If you can get on an upcoming Airbus A350 flight to/from New York, then you’ll enjoy the latest-generation Business Class seat and one of the best onboard bars in the sky.
‘The Loft’ social space, accessible to Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers on its Airbus A350 aircraft
Plus, if you depart from New York JFK, you’ll have access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, known as one of the best airline lounges in the entire country.
Having a hot shower whilst flying 35,000 feet in the air surely has to be one of the most luxurious travel experiences possible. And arriving at your destination feeling more refreshed and ‘human’ is a huge plus.
In this guide, I take a look at which airlines and aircraft feature this perk and how to book an award flight using frequent flyer points.
Which planes have onboard showers?
The only commercial aircraft that features a shower onboard is the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Shower suites are located on the upper deck in front of the First Class cabin. The shower suites also include a toilet, sink and ample space to change clothes.
Emirates’ A380 planes feature two onboard showers
Which airlines have onboard showers?
The two airlines that feature onboard showers are Emirates and Etihad, both carriers from the United Arab Emirates. Showers are found solely on their Airbus A380 aircraft. They are reserved for passengers travelling in First Class (on both Emirates and Etihad) and The Residence (on Etihad only).
Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier has two showers on its Airbus A380 aircraft. One of them is exclusively reserved for passengers travelling in The Residence and, unfortunately, is not made available even if that cabin is empty.
That leaves the other (larger) shower suite to be shared by the nine passengers travelling in First Apartments. The shower is minimalist and darker than its Emirates counterpart.
Etihad A380 First Apartment shower suite sans water
Whilst you can adjust the angle of the faucet, it is built into the ceiling, meaning it cannot be detached.
Etihad A380 First Apartment faucet
Having said that, the water comes out hot and strong.
Hot-water bliss whilst flying in an Etihad A380 First Apartment
Dubai’s flag carrier also has two showers onboard its aircraft to be shared between up to 14 First Class passengers. This means that Emirates has a more generous ratio of 7 passengers to 1 shower than Etihad’s 9 to 1.
The shower facilities are decorated with lighter tones than Etihad’s. You can even control the temperature of the heated floors.
The Emirates A380 First Class shower suite with the Dubai skyline
The door to the Emirates A380 First Class shower
The showerhead is detachable, meaning you can move it around as you wish.
The flexible showerhead in the Emirates A380 First Class shower is a plus
Upon returning to your seat, you’ll have a plate of fresh fruit drizzled with honey waiting for you.
What can I expect from the onboard showering experience?
The most popular time to shower is in the two hours prior to landing, so make sure to book your preferred shower appointment time with the cabin crew as soon as you board
If you don’t know when you want to shower, don’t stress—just go when it makes the most sense for your journey
The water will not run until you step inside and close the shower door—just be prepared for a potential initial burst of cold water
You’ll get five minutes of hot water in total, which is actually more than sufficient—however, if you would like to extend it, you can turn the tap on and off between latherings, i.e. the five minutes of water can be broken up into smaller segments
The Emirates A380 First Class shower timer
Passengers usually spend 20-30 minutes in the shower suite, between de-robing, showering and getting ready again—however, if the cabin is not full, you may be able to spend more time in there
You’ll get access to a hairdryer, fluffy towels and upscale bath products
Amenities in the Emirates A380 First Class shower suite
You can shower once per flight
Shower facilities are generally not available on flights under three hours in length
How can I use frequent flyer points to access the onboard shower?
The cheapest way to use your points to fly on an Emirates A380 is between Dubai and Muscat. However, on this one-hour flight, you won’t have enough time to shower.
Flying Emirates First Class from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide to Dubai will set you back between 108,000 and 162,800 Qantas Points depending on your departure airport.
If you already find yourself in the Middle East, then you can use as few as 36,000/41,500 Qantas Points to book a three-hour flight from Dubai to Mumbai or Jeddah. Both of these flights are serviced by the A380 and are long enough to have a shower.
Emirates First Class redemptions within this circle are available for 41,500 Qantas Points or less
This is a great deal and you’ll earn at least $150 worth of Qantas Points for your flight.
You’ll have to fly through Sydney to Johannesburg. Domestic connections from Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide on Qantas are included in the price. Flying from the Gold Coast adds ~$30, whilst flying from Canberra, Hobart, Darwin and Cairns adds hundreds.
Domestic South African connections on British Airways subsidiares Comair and kulula.com are not included.
For informational purposes, the only two nonstop services to South Africa are with Qantas from Sydney and South African Airways from Perth. You can probably expect Qantas to launch direct services to Cape Town on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the next couple of years.
Strike that pose!
The last time we saw Qantas flights to South Africa on sale was back in March for $50 cheaper than this time—and connections to Cape Town and Durban were included. Still, this is a great price and Johannesburg is a good place to start and end your journey.
I can also see flights to Cape Town via Doha with Qatar Airways pricing from $1,130 return, but that would add around 10 hours to your journey each way.
If you would like some inspiration for going to South Africa (and info on how to get there on points), check out our destination guide.
Depart: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide
For example, a return Economy Class ticket from Sydney to Johannesburg will net you 7,500 Qantas Points + 80 Status Credits. These points are worth $150, according to our valuations. You’ll earn more for any domestic connections.
Booking link: you can book directly through the Qantas website. Make sure you add your frequent flyer number to your booking. You can avoid the credit card booking fee by instead paying by BPAY or POLi. Sale ends 4 August or when fares sell out.
Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. Fares may disappear quickly, so we suggest booking as soon as you are confident in your travel dates.
From October, Star Alliance member EVA Air from Taiwan will put its new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner on its only Australian route to Brisbane.
Unfortunately, I can’t see any Business Class award availability from when the new aircraft is introduced on 8 October 2019 right through to the end of the calendar.
However, read on to learn how to use your KrisFlyer, THAI Royal Orchid Plus, LifeMiles or MileagePlus miles if you do indeed find availability on this or another route to North Asia, Europe or North America.
Where does EVA Air fly?
Star Alliance member EVA Air flies from Brisbane to its hub in Taipei, Taiwan. This is its only Australian destination.
Australia-based travellers will most likely use the airline to fly onwards to North Asia (Japan, Mainland China and South Korea) or further afield to Europe or North America.
Popular EVA Air routes for Australia-based travellers
Strangely, EVA Air operates a focus city out of Bangkok, from which it flies to Taipei (not surprisingly) as well as Amsterdam, London and Vienna. This is in addition to nonstop flights from Taipei to Milan (from 18 February 2020), Paris and Vienna.
Rimowa amenities kits (on all flights departing Taipei)
For its flights to/from Brisbane, the current older Airbus A330 with angled-flat Business Class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration:
EVA Air A330 Business Class
will be replaced by the airline’s newest aircraft, a Boeing 787-10, from 8 October 2019. This plane features lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, with the same design as Qantas’ Business Studios on its 787 and A330 aircraft.
EVA Air 787-10 Business Class
EVA Air 787-10 Business Class
EVA Air 787-10 Business Class
EVA Air’s 787 product is similar to Qantas’ 787 Business Class
Long-haul flights to Europe and North America are serviced mainly by Boeing 777-300ERs, with lie-flat Business Class seats, this time in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 layout.
EVA Air 777-300ER Business Class
The only exception is Vienna flights, which are serviced by a Boeing 787-9, with the same seats as on the 787-10.
Premium Economy Class
On the 777-300ERs, you can also fly in Premium Economy Class. You’ll again get great service and good food, but the hard product is not as good as on its competitor China Airlines.
EVA Air’s Premium Economy cabin is set up in a 2-4-2 configuration…
…whereas China Airlines’ layout has one less seat in the middle and includes hardback shells
EVA Air has better-rated lounges at Taipei Taoyuan than China Airlines.
Alternatives to get to Asia, North America and Europe
If you want to use Star Alliance points to get to North or East Asia, flying Singapore Airlines to Singapore, THAI to Bangkok, ANA to Tokyo or Asiana Airlines to Seoul are good options.
For those wanting to jet to North America, United via Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston, or Air Canada via Vancouver are alternatives.
And travellers to Europe might consider Singapore Airlines via Singapore or THAI via Bangkok.
Singapore Airlines offers a lot of frequencies to Australian airports
EVA Air offers an excellent Business Class product on its long-haul flights. However, given their limited footprint in Australia, award availability can be hard to come by.
Therefore, your Star Alliance points might be best used on EVA Air when you already find yourself in Taiwan and want to travel to North Asia, Europe or North America. Another option is when you can find a good-value cash fare.
Have you flown on EVA Air yet? What was your experience?
The downside? Not every ticket can be upgraded. Even if you have the points you won’t be able to upgrade unless you’ve also purchased the right fare class, and there’s upgrade availability on your chosen flight.
You need to be particularly aware of this if you book your base flight through a travel agent since they will often place you in a discount class of fare that is not upgradeable.
In this guide we explain which fare classes you can and cannot upgrade for Qantas and Virgin Australia. This is one to reference if you’re making a booking which you’re planning to try and upgrade using your points.
You can use Qantas points to book award tickets with a number of different partner airlines, including Jetstar and Emirates – but upgrades are only possible on Qantas-operated and marketed flights. You will need to have booked and paid for a ticket on a Qantas plane, with a QF flight number on your ticket, to be able to upgrade.
Virgin long haul international flights have the biggest restriction on upgrading with points. Unless you are a Gold or Platinum Velocity member, you will not be able to upgrade any flights with points.
Gold and Platinum members only
Using points to upgrade is a great way to make use of points, but if that is your plan you need to make sure your base ticket is in the right fare class.
Although most fares are upgradeable, many discount fares are not. If you book through a travel agent, it is likely that you might get placed in one of these fares unless you ask not to be.
Qantas and Virgin Australia are both generous with all domestic flights being upgradeable.
Virgin is also generous having made all international short-haul and Trans-Tasman bookings eligible to be upgraded with points.
Virgin long-haul flights have the most restrictive upgrade policy, only allowing Gold and Platinum members to upgrade some limited fares.
Have you scored yourself a points upgrade with Qantas or Virgin Australia? Let us know in the comments below.
Then something unavoidable happens that’s not covered by your travel insurance. You have to change or even cancel your trip. What happens then? Well, you’ll be up to pay some fees.
Why knowing the cancellation policy for your points redemption flight is useful
My interest in this topic as I needed to change an award booking. The process was reasonably painless and inexpensive, which led me to wonder if all airlines are the same. As it turns out, no, they’re not.
Depending on the complexity and timing of your booking, you might be able to cancel or change it with a few clicks for nothing. In some cases though, you could be looking at fees upwards of US$150.
If the change or cancellation is in the final 24 hours before departure, or you’re a no-show, you’ll likely forfeit all your points and money paid.
One very important thing to note is that you are bound by the terms and conditions of the airline you’ve booked with, not the airline you’re flying with.
In my case, I’d booked a return trip on Cathay Pacific using Qantas Points. I wanted to change one leg of the booking and so was bound by Qantas’ rules, not those of Cathay Pacific. I also had to do the change through Qantas’ call centre, not Cathay’s.
Comparing change fees of the primary frequent flyer programs for travellers in Australia
Also considering that buying miles from Alaska MileagePlan, American Airlines AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are popular among readers, I have elected to include them also.
Many airlines have a slew of conditions depending on the fare type, route booked and what your cat’s name is. I have linked to the relevant sources so you can double check your own particular case. It does seem that these conditions can change frequently, so please double-check
Some airlines have different fees and charges depending on your point of departure. I have assumed the point of departure to be Australia
The information in the table regards flight bookings only. All the airlines have different change/cancellation policies regarding other services (e.g. hotel and car hire) booked on points
Per person, per booking
In all of the examples, the relevant fees are charged per person, per booking—not per booking or per sector. What does that mean?
I’ll use my own example: I have a total of four flights booked on the same booking number, for two adults. When I changed flights, it wouldn’t have mattered if I changed one or all four—the penalty would be the same, per person.
So in my case, that penalty was 10,000 Qantas Points, being 5,000 per adult. I changed two flights to a different airline, via different cities. Note that fees and taxes changed due to the airline and airport change, so as always, be aware of that too.
Don’t be a no-show
Some airlines have a clear no-show policy, while for others there’s no mention of it at all. For the most part, it’s definitely to be avoided, as it can (and probably will) void any further flights on the same booking with no possible avenue for a refund.
In many cases, penalties for no-shows and late cancellations aren’t to be found anywhere, except to say they are ‘not permitted.’ In my mind, that suggests the forfeiture of all points and money paid.
As a side note, not all airlines use 24 hours as their benchmark for late cancellations or no-shows. For example, Delta (not covered in the table) only allows changes if they’re made 72 hours before departure.
You won’t get expired points back
In most cases, expired points are not refunded (here’s the exception for Qantas). So booking a flight a year into the future with points that are about to expire, with the intention of cancelling said flight won’t get you anywhere.
Changes after your journey has begun
Another thing to note is that, for the most part, fees and charges can increase if your journey has already begun. That would be the case if you have started your trip and now want to change your return flight. In some cases, if your journey has begun, you can’t change any further flights without forfeiting your points entirely, e.g. from Qantas:
Changes that require a ticket to be re-issued are not permitted within 24 hours of departure or once travel has commenced. Changes are not permitted on any Classic Flight Reward flight paper ticket booking once travel has commenced.
Some strategies to minimise change and cancellation fees
Being that award flights often need to be booked a fair way in advance, it’s not uncommon for them to need to be changed.
These are some strategies for avoiding fees in case that happens:
1. Give your loyalty to an airline with low fees
This is certainly easier said than done, but still worth thinking about.
In the case of buying miles though, your decision could certainly be swayed by how costly it may be to change any award redemption. Any money saved from buying those miles could easily get swallowed up by a simple change.
Remember the fare conditions are based on who the miles are with, not who you fly with. If you’re buying American Airlines AAdvantage miles and flying Qantas, you’re still bound by AA’s rules and fees.
2. Change, don’t cancel
For some airlines, the changing of flights is free, while cancellation is not.
In the case of KrisFlyer, date changes are free as long as you’re travelling on a more expensive Advantage award with Singapore Airlines or SilkAir and aren’t wanting to change the destination. There is nothing in the terms and conditions that I can see that could stop you from continually postponing your travel until you decided to book the actual trip you wanted to go on.
If you book an Advantage award with your KrisFlyer miles, you can change the date of your Singapore Airlines flight for free
3. Wait until the last minute to cancel
If the airline has a considerable schedule change, you may be due a full refund if you elect not to accept the change. This is obviously different between airlines and not something to rely on. However, it could work so long as you’re happy for your points to be tied up until the last minute.
In some very rare cases, flights may be disrupted for the foreseeable future by serious weather, such as the Eyjafjallajökull or Mount Rinjani ash clouds. Again, definitely not something to rely on.
And this only works if you don’t need the miles from the cancelled booking to make another, of course.
4. Book return flights as separate reservations
Depending on your itinerary, it may be worth booking your outbound and return segments separately. If you book in this fashion, you avoid the risk of inadvertently cancelling your return flight if you’re a no-show. This also means you can change your return booking after your journey commences.
The downside to doing this is that if you need to change both your outbound and return journeys, you’ll be slugged with fees twice.
5. Status matching
Status matching isn’t that common in Australia, mainly due to the small amount of competition amongst our airlines. It also wouldn’t help in the case of changing or cancelling travel on Virgin Australia or Qantas, being that fees aren’t waived for status members.
In the case of the US though, status matching is more common and could do you well.
Let’s say you have Gold status with Qantas, but you’re looking to cancel an Alaska Airlines flight. There’s no harm in calling or emailing Qantas Mileage Plan and asking them to match your AA status. Status matches often come with challenges, but even if you have no interest in keeping your Alaska Airlines status, you can still cancel your flight and save yourself the cancellation fee.
If this is a strategy you want to look further into, check out Status Matcher to see evidence of which airlines you might have some luck with.
6. Pay with the right credit card
Again, this is not so relevant in Australia. However, some US airlines will waive change and cancellation fees if an affiliated credit card was used to pay the taxes on the booking.
7. Ask and you may receive
You never know your luck, and there’s never any harm in asking for a fee waiver. I would imagine you’d have more success of a waiver in the case of a change (especially if you had a good reason), as opposed to a cancellation.
Award change fees vary greatly between airlines, and there’s certainly an argument for taking this into account when choosing which airline to give your loyalty to.
In some cases, it may not even be worth the trouble of cancelling the trip if you deem your points to be worth less than any cancellation fee. Don’t forget that a no-show can nullify the rest of your travel, though. So you should only consider skipping that flight if it’s the last or only one on your itinerary.
In my research, the only airline I could find that has no change or cancellation fees at all (apart from no-shows) is Southwest in the US.
IHG Rewards points can be leveraged into some cheaper hotel nights than you would pay versus paid rates at InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo and Kimpton Hotels. This guide takes a look at the latest buy IHG Rewards promotions.
At the upper end of the market, InterContinental, Kimpton and Crowne Plaza hotel rooms can often go for fairly hefty nightly rates, so buying points to redeem immediately offers a nifty way to potentially reduce costs.
An 80% bonus is less than the 100% bonus we’ve seen on a regular basis now, so make sure you’re only purchasing points with a very specific use in mind. See Offer history below.
Sometimes with IHG hotels, certain room rates are far cheaper just to book outright with cash than to book with points, especially if you are buying IHG Points during a promotion specifically for that purpose.
Towards the bottom of this guide, we have an example of a booking where it’s not advisable to use points—read on for some tips.
The current promotion
With the current deal of 80% bonus on points purchases, the cost per point is 0.55 US cents, with a total cost of US$1,000 for the maximum purchase of 180,000 IHG Rewards points including the bonus.
The bonus offer is tiered, with the maximum 80% bonus starting from 30,000 IHG Rewards points.
Note that the bonus and tiers can sometimes be unique for different members.
IHG allows you to purchase 100,000 points (excluding bonus) per calendar year.
Buying IHG Rewards points in a bonus period gives you a much better chance of coming out ahead for cheap redemptions.
Points outside of sales are sold at 1c per point but there is a hack to purchase them at 0.7c per point indefinitely—just book a points+pay room and then cancel, and you’ll be given the cash back as points in your account—but there’s some risk to your account in this approach.
InterContinental Sydney Harbour Bridge View room (not booked using points) – review here
In addition, some of the best value to be had from IHG Rewards is the PointsBreaks promotions, where rooms are available for 5,000-15,000 points per night.
These are released on a limited basis from a limited set of hotels once every three months. You can read more in our guide to PointBreaks.
Notable terms around buying and redeeming IHG Rewards Points
The terms of purchase for IHG Rewards points state that you can buy a maximum of 100,000 IHG Rewards points per calendar year and receive as a gift a maximum of 100,000 points per calendar year.
You’ll also need to allow 24-48 hours for points to post and appear in your account.
There’s no requirement I know of around the age of an account that’s eligible to buy points, so you should be able to sign up and purchase immediately if it makes sense to do so.
Rooms available with IHG Rewards points, and benefits on offer with IHG Rewards redemptions
You’ll find that the rooms on offer using IHG Rewards points in each hotel are usually the base room type. If you’re after a premium or larger room, bear this in mind.
I have had some success in contacting the hotel in advance to try and pay my way up to a better room—it’s worth a shot.
You also may not be eligible for any IHG Rewards status benefits, or IHG Ambassador benefits, on points stays—that’s up to the individual hotel. Not that IHG Rewards status gets you much but the IHG Ambassador confirmed room upgrade can’t be used, which is a bummer.
Important: Check the room’s cash rate and compare it to using points
Buying IHG Points can be useful if you’re just topping up your existing balance, or using it for a PointsBreak property where the nightly rates are heavily discounted.
However, there is a quirk of the IHG program where sometimes using points for a base-level room can be terrible value compared to just paying for it outright with cash.
For example, take the newly opened Even Hotel in Miami Airport.
For their basic Wellness King Room, the ‘Global Sale’ rate is $123.72 AUD a night. The IHG ‘Reward Nights’ rate starts from 20,000 points + $136 AUD.
Yes, you read that right. The co-payment for using 20,000 IHG Points is more expensive than the cash room rate itself! Of course, there are other considerations such as the better flexibility of ‘Reward Nights’ booking compared to a sale booking, but that still doesn’t justify the difference in prices.
It would also cost you at least $135 USD (currently $195 AUD) to buy the 20,000 points outright during a 100% bonus points sale—once again ridiculously higher than the cash room rate itself, and that’s not even taking into account the extra $136 AUD co-payment.
To buy the whole 35,000 points needed for a full reward redemption without co-payment, you’d be looking at $207 USD (currently $300 AUD) during a 100% bonus points sale.
In comparison, the best available ‘Flexible’ rate for the same dates comes in under $150 AUD, or half the cost of buying the equivalent amount of points.
So the important lesson here is research your desired hotel’s room rates before committing to buying IHG points. For lower-end hotels with a sale rate, chances are you won’t be able to beat that value unless you already have IHG Points earned from other means.
As with any points purchase promotion, you need to run the maths for your own intended redemption and personal circumstances to see if this will yield some good value for you.
I’d argue that the best places to look for value are the resorts that are priced in the mid-range of the points category prices, such as the InterContinental Bali and Fiji resorts.
It will be harder to get great value out of the top-category points redemptions if buying points outright to redeem, but it’s worth keeping it in your back pocket in case you need to stay at a city hotel at a super expensive time of year.
Points redemption rooms are often available when you wouldn’t expect it and you may be able to save then too.
While a portion of these fees will be genuine airport taxes, often a significant chunk of it is airline-imposed fuel surcharges and ‘carrier charges’ which are arbitrary amounts that specific airlines charge for their flights.
Let’s take a look at ten popular routes, flown by multiple airlines, that you can book using Qantas Points, along with a comparison of their associated fees and surcharges.
Our pick: Cathay Pacific is our all-rounder pick due to its relatively low taxes and excellent lounge network if you have elite status. Otherwise, for the lowest co-payment on a one-way trip to London, consider Qantas partner China Eastern Airlines.
Our pick:Qantas actually takes the lead here with lower taxes and Qantas Points needed overall. Cathay Pacific used to be known for its low taxes on all flights, but it appears to have increased in recent times for specific routes like this one.
Sydney to Singapore
Our pick: British Airways’ taxes are $200 lower than Qantas’ and reward seats are more readily available in general, but at the cost of 10,000 more points. Some people may prefer the hard product and onboard service of Qantas though.
Melbourne to Singapore
Our pick: If the timing of Emirates’ daily flights to Singapore matches up, go for that option. It is the same price as Qantas, but you might get to experience the inflight bar on an Airbus A380.
In addition to the true taxes, Qantas adds ‘carrier charges’ to all reward bookings, with bigger fees for flying Business or First. This is a huge surcharge compared to American Airlines, which only passes on the taxes.
Our pick: All three airlines on the Sydney-Christchurch route have taxes of about $215 return. That rules Jetstar out of the running since you could book an economy sale fare at that price, so use your points for Qantas or Emirates premium cabin.
The latter even has first class which can be booked for 54,000 Qantas Points one-way.
Our pick: Jetstar’s fees are particularly high for an economy return trip, so consider using Qantas or Fiji Airways. Both those airlines need the same number of points for business class, but Fiji Airways is slightly lower in taxes.
Our pick: China Eastern Airlines continues to shine by charging an incredible $350 less in taxes for a return business class trip, per person. That is a significant saving for a slightly higher increase in points needed compared to Qantas.
In general, Qantas’ Asian partner airlines, particularly Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, but also American Airlines, offer the best bang for the buck in terms of minimising extra co-payments with reward seat bookings.
You will usually need to part with slightly more Qantas Points, but that might be worth it if you can save cold hard cash for your next business trip or holiday.
You’ll earn 12,400 Qantas Points for that return flight, but with Mileage Plan you’d get 20,700 Alaska miles.
With 12,000 Qantas Points, you could book a one-way Qantas Economy Class flight from Melbourne to anywhere in the circle below.
However, with 20,000 of the Alaska miles you’ve earned, you can fly Qantas anywhere within Australia—in Business Class. For example, you could fly from Melbourne to Broome via Perth, which tends to be an expensive fare using cash.
(Note that Jetstar flights cannot be credited to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.)
For our second example, let’s look at flying Emirates from Brisbane to Singapore, one of its fifth freedom flights.
If you buy a full-fare return Economy Class ticket in fare class Y, you’ll earn 8,000 Qantas Points—or 7,632 Alaska miles. You’d think that the Qantas Points would be more valuable, but remember that not all points are created equal.
Did you know you could credit your Emirates flights to Alaska?
Now let’s look at redeeming those points for travel on Alaska Airlines itself within the US. You can do that with both Qantas Points and Alaska miles. However, you wouldn’t even have enough Qantas Points to book an award ticket (10,000 points minimum).
Conversely, 7,500 Alaska miles get you a one-way Economy Class ticket on Alaska Airlines from San Francisco to places like Las Vegas, Seattle and Denver.
Alaska Airlines is one of my favourite US carriers
Comparing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
A lot of travellers in Australia fly on Singapore Airlines. That’s because they fly to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra (and Cairns and Darwin if you count flights on their regional airline SilkAir).
Let’s say you purchase an Economy Class ticket in fare class M from Perth to Paris return. You’ll earn exactly the same number of KrisFlyer miles as Alaska miles—13,304. So, what can you do with them?
Well, you’d be almost 2,000 KrisFlyer miles short of being able to redeem a one-way Virgin Australia Economy Class ticket from Perth to anywhere in Western Australia.
Crediting this flight to KrisFlyer wouldn’t give you enough miles to fly Virgin Australia to any airport
Conversely, you would have enough miles (12,500) to fly Qantas Economy Class anywhere in Australia.
Crediting this Singapore Airlines flight to Alaska would give you enough points to fly Qantas anywhere in Australia
Comparing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
For our final example, let’s assume that your employer has bought you a flight to Toronto for a conference. You have a return Business Class ticket in fare class D flying Cathay Pacific departing from Adelaide.
Your first thought may be to credit that flight to Cathay’s own program, Asia Miles. You would earn 33,260 Asia Miles for this trip. (You could also choose to credit to Qantas Frequent Flyer, earning you 29,600 Qantas Points.)
With Alaska, you’d earn a whopping 54,297 Mileage Plan miles. So what can that get you?
Well, with 30,000 Asia Miles, you could redeem a one-way Cathay Pacific Premium Economy flight from Adelaide to Hong Kong.
Or, if you earned just 703 Alaska miles extra through another flight or buying them, you’d have 55,000 miles in total. That would get you a one-way Qantas Business Class flight from Adelaide to the US.
Plus, you could stop over in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane along the way for no extra cost. That’s because Alaska allows a free stopover on international award tickets.
Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class flying to the US
You choose: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy to Hong Kong (Asia Miles), Qantas Business Class anywhere in the circle (Qantas Points), or Qantas Business Class all the way to the US (Alaska miles)
How to decide whether to credit your flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or another program
Consider where your existing points balances lie, e.g. if you’re just short of an award using Qantas Points, then you should probably credit to Qantas Frequent Flyer
Make sure you know which fare class you are booked in (it’s more complicated than just ‘Economy Class’)
Go to wheretocredit.com to compare earn rates between Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and other frequent flyer programs for your specific flight