Finding business or first class visa opportunities in Australia is very difficult. When I started planning a trip to Australia with points and miles, I spent months waiting for business awards to become available. Qantas and Fiji Airways to reimburse 55,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan useless miles.
But then, I checked Etihad Guest, raise the Capital One mile and book a one-way flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Airport (SYD) on Christmas for just 62,500 miles and $50 – in. Measure first.
Etihad Guest is a popular and award-winning mileage award on partner airlines, including ANA, Brussels Airlines and American Airlines. In the case of its partnership with American Airlines, its reward rates are usually much cheaper than American’s loyalty program, Good condition. In fact, Etihad’s American award chart shows the AAdvantage chart of 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about this sweet spot.
The price is the same for business or first class
Etihad Guest has a print out charts (PDF link) for award flights on American Airlines. Interestingly, the award rates for business and first class are the same for American Airlines international flights.
Next year, international first class on American Airlines will disappear. But, my journey to Sydney was on the four-cabin Boeing 777-300ER, which has economy, financial economy, Business Flag and Flag First seats. And for now, you can redeem 62,500 miles and about $50 in taxes and fees to fly Business Class or Flag First.
So, since first class is the same price as business class, why not give it a go?
You are looking for Z or U classes
1 zero 2
A Z pass will get you the First Flag … KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
American uses Z passenger class for first class MileSAAver awards and U passenger class for business class MileSAAver awards. This means that Eithad can only process books for this award if Z or U classes are available.
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I use it ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to search for vacancies and set alerts.
If the Z or U slots are not available, consider setting up an ExpertFlyer alert. That way, you will receive an email when there are vacancies. Also, American Airlines does not regularly fly its Boeing 777-300ER to Sydney. In the window below, you will see only class U passengers since the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that uses this route to Sydney in March has no first class.
This is an email from ExpertFlyer, announcing that Z-fare is now available.
You must call in
As soon as I received the email that the vacancies were available, I knew that time was of the essence. Because, American Airlines only has eight seats in Flagship First, and only two Z-fare seats.
Since Etihad Guest does not allow you to book American Airlines premium flights over the phone, I immediately contacted Etihad Guest at 877-690 -0767. Contrary to some reports, my experience with Etihad customer service has not been great. There was no time to stop, and the official and professional office knew very well the partnership of Etihad Guest and American Airlines and confirmed that there is the possibility of the Z-fare award.
After the service representative confirmed that we could book the ticket, I logged in to my Capital One account. Then I transferred 125,000 Capital One miles (enough for two tickets) while on the phone with Etihad Guest. Since rewards opportunities can disappear and transferring credit card points is one-way, this is a tough time of course.
The phone representative remained calm, honest and patient. Within less than 60 seconds of initiating the transfer from Capital One to Etihad Guest, I received the following email:
I now have 125,000 Etihad Guest miles that the agent used to book two Flagship First seats. I issued a credit card for each ticket for $50 in taxes and fees.
Book at least 24 hours out
I made my flight reservation about 27 hours before departure, and the Etihad Guest operator told me that I would be lucky to call when I go
Etihad Guest cannot issue American Airlines tickets within 24 hours of departure. Some phone agents may not be aware of this feature. Finally, you can transfer miles to Etihad Guest after the agent on the phone confirms the opportunity to inform you that you cannot book the flight because it is within 24 hours after leaving.
Just make sure to book your flight before the 24-hour cut off.
Was it worth the hassle of installing ExpertFlyer ads, calling Etihad Guest and transferring credit card points to book this flight? Absolutely.
According to Google Flight, first class seats between LAX and SYD typically sell for between $10,500 and $13,500 per person one way. Assuming the fare for my flight fell within the meaning of this range, I redeemed my Capital one mile at about 17.3 cents each – close to 10 time TPG estimates.
My mom and I enjoyed the Flagship First check-in at LAX, a private escort through security and access to the Qantas’ first cabin. While the in-flight catering left room for improvement, the efficient service and comfortable seats gave us a good night’s sleep on the plane.
When my travel plans call for a First Class route again, I know the book.