How to buy miles and points to redeem for cheap domestic Business Class travel on Qantas and Virgin Australia

When it comes to flying in Australia, does it make sense to buy miles and redeem tickets on Virgin or Qantas Business Class?

In this guide, we compare three programs, Virgin America’s Elevate, Alaska Mileage Plan and American Airlines’ AAdvantage.

Elevate allows you to redeem fights on Virgin Australia, whilst Alaska Mileage Plan and the AAdvantage programs allow you to redeem flights on Qantas.

There are in depth guides to buying miles in each program here:

Further reading about buying points

I’ve written heaps about buying points for cheap Business and First Class flights. These guides are where to start:

Buying miles to redeem for domestic Business Class in Australia

When you look at buying points to redeem for flights there are a number of factors to consider, including:

  1. Class of travel, Economy or Business
  2. Distance, duration of your flight
  3. Availability of seats

Remember that it is also important to factor in currency exchange rates as well given that these programs sell their miles in $USD.

First, the best “good value for money” use for the points/miles is for Business Class travel, and not economy – just like most points redemptions.

Having said that, during peak periods, some Economy Class tickets could fetch more than $1,000 so it’s still worth keeping the option in mind.

Secondly, the distance of your flight. Unlike Qantas, Virgin Australia and Virgin America, the Alaska Mileage Plan and AAdvantage award charts are region based.

On the AAdvantage partner award chart, redeeming points for a business class ticket would cost you the same amount of points for a Sydney to Melbourne flight as it would for East Coast to West Coast Australia. It’s 10,000-20,000 points more to fly to New Zealand or Fiji return with AAdvantage in Business Class.

With Alaska Mileage Plan, they class New Zealand and Fiji in a different zone to Australia, so it would cost extra to redeem for these options.

With Virgin America Elevate, the more distance you fly, the more points you require.

Finally, availability – some routes are just more popular than others. You also have to be realistic with your expectations and flexible with travel dates and time, and research whether there’s availability for your intended travel dates before you jump in and make a miles purchase.

Virgin America Elevate for redemptions on Virgin Australia

You can buy a maximum of 20,000 Elevate points per calendar year (not including bonuses). The best time to buy Elevate points is during bonus sales and the highest bonus ever offered is 80% – although bonus offers are generally between 30-60%, which is not as compelling.

If you bought 20,000 Elevate points + 80% bonus = 32,000 points for 1040 USD, putting the cost at 3.25 cents per point.

So what can you do with 32,000 points on Virgin Australia?

Route (Business Class Round Trip)Miles requiredCost in taxes ($USD)Total cost $USD (points + taxes)Approx cost of paid ticket ($AUD)
Sydney to Brisbane, Melbourne1000032$357 USD1398
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane to Perth2700052$930 USD3798
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane to Auckland27000180$1058 USD1700

There’s a full guide to buying Virgin America Elevate miles guide here →

Alaska Mileage Plan

Mileage Plan has sales a number of times a year, selling points in 40,000 blocks with a maximum bonus of up to 40%.

The program does not have an annual cap on purchases and instead you can use one credit card to make four purchases.

With a 40% bonus, you would receive a total of 56,000 miles at a cost of $1182.50 USD or 2.11 US cents per mile.

Mileage Plan has a region based redemption chart, so regardless of the distance you fly domestically, it is a flat rate “Intra-Australia” award, which is 12,500 points one-way or 25,000 for a round trip.

Route (Business Class Round Trip)Miles requiredCost in taxes ($USD)Total cost $USD (points + taxes)Approx cost of paid ticket ($AUD)    
Qantas Sydney to Brisbane, Melbourne4000044$888 USD1530
Qantas Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane to Perth4000046$890 USD3927

When booking an Alaska Mileage Plan redemption which is not a direct flight and involves one stop, you have to make sure that the redemption does not have a “chair icon” next to the cost of taxes, because that means it is a mixed cabin booking where one leg has an economy class seat.

There’s a full guide to buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles here →

American Airlines Advantage

This article was last updated after the AAdvantage award chart changes in March 2016, so all AAdvantage pricing referenced should be up to date.

American Airlines lump Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Western Samoa as one zone – South Pacific.

This means it is a flat rate redemption for flights Qantas, LAN Airlines or Fiji Airways between all those cities.

You can buy a maximum of 100,000 AA miles per calendar year (not including bonuses) and it has regular sales throughout the year.

Despite the higher cost and due to the annual cap, it is best to buy miles during a bonus sale rather than a discount sale promotion. Let’s look at recent promos to compare the difference –

Example promotionCost per mile ($USD)Total cost $USDTotal points
35% discount2.09 cents2091.31100000
56% bonus (90-100k miles purchased)2.06 cents2884.13140,000 (90,000 + 50,000 bonus)

Now let’s look at awards:

Route (Business Class Round Trip)Miles requiredCost in taxes ($USD)Total cost $USD (points + taxes)Approx cost of paid ticket ($AUD)    
Qantas Sydney to Brisbane, Melbourne40,0009.5~$1170 USD1530
Qantas Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane to Perth40,00010.5~$1171 USD3927
Qantas/LAN Airlines Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth to New Zealand50,00071.7~$1521 USD1588

There’s some good savings to be had.

There’s a full guide to buying American Airlines AAdvantage miles here →

British Airways Avios

British Airways Executive Club program is a useful addition to AAdvantage as the primary value to be had with them is for more expensive short flights – either in Economy or Business Class. Sydney to Melbourne for example prices at 9,000 Avios one way in Business Class, which if bought during bonus miles promotions could have you sitting in domestic Business Class for around $300 depending on the exchange rate.

There’s a full guide to buying British Airways Avios here →

Qantas and Velocity points and status

It’s worth remembering you won’t earn any points or status credits for Qantas or Virgin flights booked using partner miles.

You will however be able to use any existing status benefits such as lounge access (or Qantas Club) on your ticket – just call Qantas or Virgin to have them update your ticket with your frequent flyer number to your ticket once you have made the booking.

Summing up

There’s some excellent value to be had by purchasing miles for Domestic Business Class in Australia, with the sweet spots appearing mostly for longer north/south or east/west flights.

You’ll probably need to value the comfort of travelling in Business Class for these flights over Economy, as the cost is usually going to be higher than paying for a discounted sale Economy fare.

Having said that, if you are prepared to pay a little more and search for availability, you could save a fair amount against the cost of a paid fare.