The toughest frequent flyer award there that there is out there is North America to Australia/New Zealand non-stop.
There’s not a lot of flying to Auckland these days, Qantas has pulled their Los Angeles – Auckland flight and Air New Zealand tends to release business class award seats about two months out during peak season (if at all).
Meanwhile, getting Qantas seats to Australia can be a real challenge. They’re conservative about releasing award seats (though business class to Brisbane is among the most available). And seats released when the schedule loads are accessible by British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas’ own members, plus Alaska Airlines members, weeks before American AAdvantage members can access thsoe seats — because Qantas opens their schedule nearly a year out while American only books flights 331 days out.
United has been pretty darned tight-fisted on their inventory, until this week anyway when a whole bunch of non-stop business and first class space opened up.
Most of the time to get from the US to Australia in a premium cabin you wind up having to book via Asia.
Except that until recently Virgin Australia has had excellent business class inventory, especially for their Los Angeles – Brisbane flight. Even in the peak of high season.
I say until recently because of late award inventory for business class has pretty much dried up, you can search whole months at a time without seeing saver award space.
So wouldn’t you know that now is when Delta has chosen to improve their web capabilities with the ability to book seats on their partner Virgin Australia!
Check out those fuel surcharges though! The total taxes and fees on a Delta award flying Virgin Australia run about $800. Which is why it rarely makes sense to redeem miles for coach tickets when fuel surcharges are at play, a coach roundtrip is $800 even after spending 100,000 miles.
Nonetheless, seeing Delta bring on additional partners to their award booking capability is encouraging. The Delta online booking tool is one of the most frustrating out there, for its tendency to produce errors while making reservations and to misprice awards. But this suggests an investment is being made.
And it’s especially helpful for Delta to bring on partners like this one where award booking codes are non-standard and agents often don’t know what fare class to search for (hint, Delta agents, “F” is not a premium cabin award with this airline).. let alone that the airline is even a Skymiles partner.