Strategy for Business Class to Sydney

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by patricke, Jul 31, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    My family is taking a trip from NC to Sydney in May-June 2014. Coach airfare for my wife and me will be reimbursed (budgeted at $2,250 each RT), but we are paying out of pocket for two children, aged 8 and 10. Given the long trip and our young children, I want to upgrade us to biz class for at least for the long legs to/from SYD.

    We don't fly frequently, but my wife and I have 350,000 US Airways points and 150,000 Delta points. Family members have also offered 60,000 US Airways points. My wife and I have separate US Airways Premier World credit cards that are adding about 10,000 points per month.

    Tentative departures are May 26 from NC and June 14 from SYD, but we have a little flexibility on those dates. We live close to GSO but can easily fly from CLT or RDU.

    What is our best strategy to upgrade to biz class?
     
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  2. CMX

    CMX Silver Member

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    Is it a requirement that you all fly together? Do you want the kids up front too?
     
  3. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    Our preference is to fly together, but we would consider splitting up parent/child and parent/child. I think given the kids' young ages, we need to keep with the adults up front.
     
  4. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Upgrading is a challenge. It tends to require higher fares and/or out of pocket co-pays. If you're buying and getting reimbursed for lowest fare it may be a difficult proposition.

    Do you and your wife each have that mile could, or are you combining the balances? What will end up being important is the number of miles per account.

    As far as getting award seats is concerned, using DL miles on virgin australia is easy. US miles on UA should be viable also. Upgrading is another matter and to be honest you may be out of luck in that regard.
     
  5. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    I have 300,000 US points, and wifey has 50,000 US points. Don't know if my father's 60,000 US points can be used for our trip or not.

    I cannot find US to S Pacific on the US web site award chart, but I believe it is 110,000 points per biz class RT (or 105,000 with my credit card). Are we better off to try to get to 420,000 points and book (4) Biz Class seats RT to Sydney, rather than an upgrade? I suppose I could purchase points in the program announced today and reach 420,000 in just a few minutes.
     
  6. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Us doesn't fly to the south pacific, so you need to look at their star alliance partner award chart. Also, since you would be on a partner, you would not get the 5k off. You will neef to call to book, but can search united's site to find saver award space.

    You are better off booking awards to travel up front, but will not be in a good position to get reimbursed.
     
  7. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    Unless, of course, they'll reimburse at a listed fare with valid proof of travel documents. Some will... what Matt's trying to say is that since US doesn't fly to SYD, you're not going to be able to purchase a fare on a *A partner then use US miles to upgrade - your only chance is to redeem for the business class fares.

    Perhaps buy the kids coach tickets, get reimbursed for those, and use miles for you and the wife?
     
  8. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    I really appreciate your help, and I am checking out the United saver award space. If they show space for United Mileage Plus members to book award travel, does that automatically mean I can book with US miles, too?
     
  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Not to be a pessimist, but I'd wager a fair sum of money that you won't pull this off anywhere near the way you're hoping. USA-OZ is by no means an easy route for award travel, period, and perhaps one of the toughest to upgrade on. For a party of four, with your miles balances, the chances of success are close to nil.

    Upgrades to Australia using miles from domestic programs are fairly limited. DL requires a very high fare class and UA requires a mid-level fare class. None of your miles would be good for upgrades on QF or VA metal. No other carriers fly USA-OZ non-stop.

    I found success with Delta points for 4 business seats (award tickets, not upgrades) at low miles on Virgin Australia. (SkyPesos my a-double-s!) Unfortunately, you have nowhere near enough points in the bank for this, even if you were able to find the seats.

    You'd probably have better luck looking for business awards than upgrades. Based on your miles portfolio, you're pretty far off from having sufficient points to do this.

    Though not the shortest distance, you might consider routing via Asia - ICN, PEK, BKK, etc - where you may find better award availability than USA-OZ. DL allows you to route to Australia via Asia, not sure about US.

    Delta sometimes offers fairly attractive deeply discounted business class fares for far-in-advance bookings. You might look for those. A quick look shows fares of about $8,000 each from GSO, which isn't too bad for this route. Be mindful that with the distance and number of connections involved, you're looking at well over 24 hours from departure to arrival, and probably close to 30 hours "home to hotel."
     
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  10. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    As luck would have it, your exact travel dates are available on VA's non-stop service from LAX to SYD (and return) for 4 business class seats at low miles using Delta miles. :)

    Unfortunately, even at low miles, you don't have anywhere near enough points on DL to book this.

    It looks like UA has some availability in their premium cabins (either from LAX or SFO) on/about the dates you're looking to travel. Perhaps use your US points for that...two paid and two award seats.

    That's probably the best you're going to do in light of your miles balances.

    VAFlights.JPG
     
  11. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    I appreciate your advice and research, NYB. Yesterday, a good friend booked the VA route for almost the same dates, so apparently they have plenty of seats available for award travel. Thanks again...
     
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  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    yes, VA availability is excellent. You would need a lot of skymiles though. You could also consider paid premium economy.
     
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  13. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    It will probably require high miles (level 3) awards to get from GSO to lax!

    Let us know what you end up with. Would be happy to be proven wrong.
     
  14. KathInJax

    KathInJax Silver Member

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    You should be able to find seats. while you might have to split up, here is what I found using the United website.

    I see 4 business class (saver) seats on UA839 LAX-SYD on May 26th.
    If you are willing to come back on June 16th, I see 4 business class (saver) seats on
    AC34 SYD-YVR

    I will let someone else chime in about the seats, food, etc as I have no experience with this.

    There are also a couple of things that I would like to point out:

    The 5,000 point discount applies to US Airways metal flights only. Therefore, it should not apply to these bookings. You should need 440,000 points for all 4 tickets.

    Once you find the TPAC space that you are happy with, start searching point-to-point. If you arrive back into YVR, you might want to look at Washington, NYC, Houston, LAX, Montreal and Toronto.

    You can have one stop over and one open jaw. It looks like the 26th might be a difficult day to get award flights to LAX, you might want to go into LAX on the 25th and spend the night.

    You will have to ticket 3 tickets out of your account (need 330,000 pts) and 1 ticket out of your wife's account (need 110,000 points). I would not transfer points from someone else, I would just buy the additional points that you need.

    I hope this is helpful - I have been looking at going to SYD in the fall 2014 and this is how I would figure out what to book.
     
  15. guberif

    guberif Silver Member

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    Good luck and welcome to MP
     
  16. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    Thanks for your input, Kath.

    I know this question will brand me as a full-fledged novice, but can you tell me how to determine where and how many biz class saver seats are available on a given flight? When I look at the LAX-SYD flights on United on May 26, I don't see any saver biz class available, only standard biz class at 150,000 points each way (see attached).
     

    Attached Files:

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  17. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Try searching out of LAX. Getting to LA is probably bumping the award to standard.
     
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  18. KathInJax

    KathInJax Silver Member

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    Make sure that you are searching for a one way award LAX-SYD. I usually start with 1 traveler to search and then gradually increase. This way, I can see how many are available. You would need to write down the information for each flight to give it to the US Airways CS rep.

    May 26, 2014 is Memorial Day. Right now, it looks like most flights are blocked for awards on Star Alliance. There are flights that leave on May 25th into LAX. This should be a valid stopover.

    I attached a photo for you to see my search.

    I also confirmed it with Expert Flyer.

    I hope this helps!
     

    Attached Files:

  19. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    We were able to purchase US miles to get us to 330,000 (me) and 110,000 (wifey). Through *A, we booked first class CLT - SFO (US) and biz class SFO - SYD (UA) going out and SYD - LAX (UA) and LAX - CLT (US) with the same classes coming back. We had to adjust return date to June 17, so we bumped our outgoing flights to May 28. All good, and we are pleased.

    Our only concern is the CLT - SFO leg allows a two hour layover before the international leg and has an on-time of 33%. Is that enough time to get bags, get through customs, and loaded on the flight to SYD, or should we look for another route to SFO to allow more time? We have a 72-hour hold on this itinerary, so we can still make a switch on our route to SFO if needed.
     
  20. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    There's no customs exiting the US. Your bags will be checked through at CLT.
     
  21. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    Are you coming in from another country? Did I miss that?

    Otherwise you won't need to claim bags in SFO. You'll check them all the way through to SYD in CLT.

    You'll claim bags in LAX on the way back - what's the layover there look like?
     
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  22. patricke

    patricke Active Member

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    We are org in the US, so that eliminates the bag issue in SFO (told you I was a newbie!). Given the poor on-time performance of the flight into SFO, is two hours of scheduled layover sufficient?

    For LAX, we have a three hour layover scheduled before the flight leaves for CLT. Is that sufficient for claiming bags, getting through C & I, and checking in for the domestic leg home?
     
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  23. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    Two hours should be enough gap, give or take, but it's cutting it close. If there's an earlier flight into SFO it might be worthwhile, even if it means sitting in a lounge somewhere. Much better than something happening and missing the international leg. Some here would even tell you to do CLT-SFO the night before, just to have a cushion. YMMV.

    For LAX that should be just fine. #1 thing to do if this is going to be a more-than-one-time thing (international travel) - get Global Entry for you, your wife and your kids. It'll be the absolute best money you've ever spent on travel... and may be reimbursed by your airline or credit card if that's an advertised perk.
     
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  24. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Global entry is a wonderful tool to have. I don't know much about current customs and immigration wait times without it, except that the lines we skip are frequently pretty long!

    Published. Minimum connect times at sfo outbound is 1 hour and lax inbound is 1:10, so you have some margin each direction. Everyone's risk tolerance is different. Mine is very high for domestic and moderate for international. If possible, I usually book second to last connecting flight to international, but will sometimes push things closer to save a day of vacation for example. The chronically late flight is an issue - how long is that history for? Is it just a temporary period of poor performance, or a new flight number without much history? US usuall. Puts a high priority on ontime operations. Unlike something like a regional jet flight scheduled late in the day in the SE US (which in my experience are a complete crapshoot, year after year) I would not expect this flight to maintain a dismal on-time rating year after year.

    Also, how late is it typically? As long as it is not cancelled or more than a bit over an hour late you will be fine.
     
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  25. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    Agree with all wholeheartedly on Global Entry.

    2 hours could be tight as far as connecting. I'm not sure where US flies in but your UA SYD flight will depart the international terminal (w/ kids, I'd guess a ten min walk). Plus a later in the day departure is likely to incur stacking of delays, if any, whereas I think the SYD bird sits for part of the day.

    A longer layover is worth the peace of mind IMHO.

    Congrats on getting the flights!
     

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