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Australia Trip Report: Introduction

This trip was booked extremely last minute. I had planned on visiting Australia in December, until I discovered I’d only accrued about 3 days of vacation. Hardly enough to cover the flight there and back. Nonetheless, my parents were going to visit family and attend my cousin’s wedding so I had to book their flights.

United Global First 777 SFO - HNL

Approaching Honolulu Airport

Award flights to Australia are notoriously hard to find. I’d been searching the United tool since August and the calendar was just blank. As the departure date approached, space started to open up. The best way to get around the lack of availability was to book through Asia. United had great availability in Global First between San Francisco and Tokyo. So I booked my parents on a 747 to Tokyo, where they would have a two hour layover before continuing on to Bangkok on the Thai Airways A380. After an 8 hour layover, it would be on to Sydney on a Thai Airways 747. I knew they’d enjoy the last two segments of the trip, as Thai Airways’ first class product is supposed to be nice and their Bangkok lounge is one of the best. Plus, with the United devaluation and US Airways merger coming up, it was time to unload those Dividend Miles on an award that wouldn’t be possible come February 1/March 30.

My parents enjoyed it so much, I decided I needed to try it out- especially the A380. Initially, I found a  Business Class seat on the ANA Dreamliner out of San Jose to Tokyo, the Thai Airways A380 to Bangkok (First), and the Thai Airways 747 to Sydney (First). However, getting to San Jose would have been a hassle for whoever was taking me to the airport, and eventually the seat was taken before I got a chance to put it on hold. In a time crunch, I got the ok from my boss to go on this trip as long as I got my work done. This would mean waking up at 5 AM every morning, but it was better than not going at all. And so, with 135,000 miles roundtip (after a 5,000 mile discount from the US Airways card), I was all set to fly the following route:

  • SFO – HNL (staying overnight) United Global First 777
  • HNL – NRT United Global First 747
  • NRT – BKK Thai Airways First A380
  • BKK – SYD Thai Airways 747
  • SYD – SFO United Global First 747

The only downside was that there was no availability for a good two weeks after the New Year and since US Airways doesn’t allow one-way awards (or changes to an itinerary after a trip has started), I had to settle for a December 31 return. I’d miss New Year’s Eve in Sydney, but sometimes when you’re booking on miles, you have to make sacrifices. I had an amazing trip and though I probably won’t be able to repeat it within the Star Alliance network, I’m grateful for the experience. In upcoming posts, I’ll go over each segment, my stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, my observations of the city, and my desire to move there for good…

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Ariana Arghandewal

11 Comments

  1. Why would you want to move there for good? You would lose many manufactured spending and credit card sign-up opportunities that people in America enjoy.

  2. Super interesting post. Glad to hear that you had a great trip.

    Good to know that “the best way to get around the lack of availability was to book through Asia”. Will keep that in mind next time I’m booking.

  3. Nice itinerary! You were able to receive a 5,000 discount flying on a partner airline? Does US waive booking fees for Star Alliance awards since they can’t be booked online?

    • Normally you only get the 5k discount if you’re flying US Air, but the agent was under the impression that it was for all awards and just gave it to me. She proactively offered it to me after inquiring about whether I was a cardholder. When I booked my parents’ flights on a different call, the agent wouldn’t give the discount because it wasn’t on US Air metal.

      You still get charged an award processing fee, but the $30 phone booking fee is waived on partner awards.

      • Lucky 🙂 They’re pushing the card pretty hard on flights but no mention of it at all during the many times I phoned in to add and reserve segments on award bookings for Asia and Europe.

        I’m fixed on maxing out my US Air miles on SQ metal in J. As you can imagine, limited availability of SQ partner awards and dwindling # of US Air’s Star Alliance partners makes complex awards difficult/impossible.

        Btw, great blog!

        • Thanks Oso! The booking process would be the perfect time to push that card – not right after you’ve had an unpleasant domestic flight and “you can do it all over again by getting this card.” Singapore’s new Business Class looks better than US-based airlines’ First Class, so I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Also, check award space on Aeroplan’s site – much more time efficient than calling USAir customer service. Better hurry on that booking – their partnership ends in July!

          • I’ve only been checking for SQ partner availability on ANA. Thanks for the tip!

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