Australia is one of those dream destinations for many people. It’s so far away. And so unique. But the cost turns many away. Unless you score a deal, tickets are an easy $1,000 round-trip, and usually more. However, there have been some recent sales as low as $600 from the U.S., which is incredible.
My one visit to the land down under was incredibly short: a mere five days after subtracting out travel time. But it was totally worth the miles I used to get myself there, as it was my first time flying in an international premium cabin.
[SEE: United Polaris First SFO to ICN: A review]
[SEE: Asiana business class review Seoul to Sydney]
I’d like to explore some creative ways to stretch your money and miles when hopping to Australia by planning in an extra stop, if you have the time. In some instances it can actually be cheaper planning travel this way. In other cases, it’s just a way to stretch your miles.
Alaska miles via Hong Kong, Fiji or Dubai
Alaska miles are one of my favorite currencies. Besides having generally good award prices, they also allow something fairly rare: a stopover on a one-way award! This is an amazing feature, and even though Alaska Airlines limits it to “hubs”, there are still a number of destinations this could prove useful.
The easiest and best is likely Hong Kong, flying Cathay Pacific. Alaska only charges 60,000 miles in business class between the U.S. and Australia/NZ, and this itinerary will not only give you a stopover, but two long-haul legs in the carrier’s stellar product. Taxes and fees are even very reasonable.
Another option is Fiji Airlines. I’m not too familiar with them, but award prices are fairly reasonable. Business class is 55,000 miles one-way, and you can stop in Nadi. Not a bad price to see beautiful South Pacific islands and Australia, all on the same ticket.
Feel like braving coach with either Cathay or Fiji? You’ll have to shell out just 40,000 Alaska miles.
Finally, you could take the long way to the land down under (although I did as well with my unscheduled stop in Alaska) and book a ticket on Emirates with a stopover in Dubai. Tour the Burj Khalifa, enjoy the blazing hot Arabian sun, and maybe zip over for a day tour of Abu Dhabi. You’ll have to shell out a lot of Alaska miles for the privilege, however. A whopping 120,000, to be exact.
I guess in theory you could also stop in Australia on your U.S. to Australia ticket, since Qantas is an Alaska partner. Sydney should qualify as a hub, from which you could fly onward to another destination. Business class is available for 55,000 miles one-way, although Qantas is super stingy with space. If you’re ridiculously lucky, you might even score Qantas first class, a unicorn of award redemptions.
Create-your-own in Hawaii! Or even Japan!
Whenever I look at fares to the land down under, it nearly always rings in just under a grand. And that is even looking from major west coast gateways of San Francisco and Los Angeles. I know tickets are even more from other places in the U.S. So what can you do to make things cheaper?
Enter the Hawaii 2-for-1 deal. Why not break up your journey to the land down under in the Aloha state? You could possibly even pay less to do so. Sound too good to be true?
Trust me, there is such an option. Thank the budget Australian carrier Jetstar. They operate daily flights between Honolulu and both Sydney and Melbourne. You can sometimes pick tickets up for as cheap as $400 (at time of writing, there are tickets for $400 exactly in February 2019). At less than half the cost of many tickets from the continental U.S., Jetstar is a very interesting option.
If you can align said $400 fare with a $300 fare sale deal from the U.S. to Hawaii, you’ll have both a cheap ticket and a stopover in Hawaii. Twice. You could also potentially piece together a miles/cash combo where the Hawaii flight is on points and you just pay for the Australia portion. The following would cost you 29,500 Avios and ~$420:
The red segments use Avios and the green are cash fares on Jetstar. Assuming you live on the West Coast, you can get to/from Honolulu for 12,500 Avios each way. Then buy cash tickets on Jetstar to Sydney and a return from Melbourne. Slap in a Zone 1 hop between Australia’s two biggest cities for a mere 4,500 Avios, and you get you have a 3-destination itinerary for a great price.
Expanding on this option, you can actually add a stop in Japan for just a bit more cash and Avios. Swapping Melbourne for Cairns will cost 3,000 more Avios for the intra-Australia hop. Jetstar offers a nonstop from Cairns to Osaka that is comparable to the MEL-HNL flight. All you need to do to get back to Hawaii is add on an AirAsia ticket to Honolulu for a mere $120.
Just be aware that Jetstar and AirAsia are both budget carriers. They offer incredible fares, but be aware of the “gotcha fees” and understand that you may be stuck for a couple days if you’re unfortunate enough to experience irregular operations.
Use Asia miles to add a few Asia stopovers
I’ve written previously about the amazing potential of the Asia Miles currency (SEE: 6 Best Uses of Asia Miles – *warning* – post is out of date). The frequent flyer program of Cathay Pacific is a great option for people looking to put together the perfect multi-stop trip, all while flying business class. Even post-devaluation, this is the sweetest spot.
Asia miles has two charts, and both offer stopovers. The first chart for Cathay Pacific or Cathay plus 1 partner is more restrictive, but it has the ability to be a slightly better deal, depending on the situation. You can potentially add two stopovers, one in each direction.
The oneworld chart is where things get really interesting. You can add up to five stopovers, so consider this itinerary through Asia and with multiple destinations in Australia:
The cost? A mere 165,000 miles in business class. Assuming you can find space, equivalent American Airlines miles will just barely get you to Australia. Never mind all that time in Asia.
Maybe that is too many stops? Here is a simpler itinerary ex-Los Angeles that let’s you see Honolulu, Sydney and Tokyo:
This falls just barely within the 18,000-mile band of the oneworld award chart, which costs 155,000 miles in business. The real trick here is finding Qantas space from Honolulu to Sydney.
Cheap Asia tickets + cheap Australia tickets
Let’s take the Hawaii cash ticket option and expand on it. I’m trying to stretch your mind a little bit on this one. If you’re looking to simply plan a trip between Point A and Point B, scroll on. But if you want to see how piecing together multiple tickets could both save you money and let you see more of the world, this is for you.
Consider a trip between San Francisco and Sydney in late February. Fares are currently $849 at their cheapest, and this is a one-stop itinerary through Aukland.
If you catch a fare sale, you may be able to get this down to $700. But I’m going to use the current fares for comparison. The question is…can we piece together an itinerary with stops in Asia for the same price, yet still a destination of Sydney?
Absolutely. You can purchase three tickets for the same cost as the Air New Zealand fare and see two cities in Southeast Asia. You’ll even be flying one full-service carrier. The first ticket I found is between San Francisco and Hong Kong is a nonstop on United for $474, a current fare sale.
Then I tack on a $123 round-trip hop between Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia.
Finally, add the leg to Sydney from Malaysia for $257 round-trip.
The total? Three destinations for $854. A whopping $5 more than the simple round-trip fare. Just keep the low cost carrier restrictions of Air Asia in mind.
Stop in Asia and save with ANA miles
One thing you’ll find in many other mileage programs is the ability to build stopovers into your ticket. Delta and American did away with them long ago. United heavily restricted them by rolling out its “Excursionist Perk”. Alaska is the only U.S. airline that still has an awesome stopover policy.
But other programs present various options. ANA does offer the ability to build in a stopover, but only permits one. Still, given all the Star Alliance airlines with hubs in Asia, your stopover options are numerous.
The other beauty of ANA is the value the program offers for a ticket to Australia. In other programs you’d be paying at least 160,000 miles round-trip. You’ll pay 105,000 miles to fly strictly on ANA’s own metal (with a potential stopover in Japan) from North America. With Star Alliance partners, you’ll pay 120,000 miles, which is still a deal. Here is one possibility:
You could stop in either Taipei or Tokyo, and fly EVA Air and ANA business class. Note that ANA has brought back significant fuel surcharges, even on United flights. You could be looking at $100s in surcharges for this itinerary. But the mileage savings may be worth it for a premium cabin.
I guess what I would like to emphasize is that the U.S. “Big 3” are terrible when it comes to offering stopovers on international itineraries. United used to have some amazing routing rules ever. It was a sad day when those died. The Excursionist Perk isn’t bad, but it isn’t quite as flexible as what other programs offer. American and Delta haven’t offered stopovers for a while now.
So look instead to Alaska to carry the torch here, as well as foreign carriers’ loyalty programs. Or build your own cheap cash itinerary on budget carriers with cash.
Route maps under copyright of and courtesy of Karl L. Swartz and Great Circle Mapper.
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Doesn’t Hawaiian Airlines also offer stopovers in Honolulu (for a small fee)?