Straight up, we’ll admit that Air New Zealand’s Airpoints program may not be ‘priority one’ for many international travellers. After all, the ways in which members earn and spend Airpoints Dollars are akin to the entire program being based around ‘any seat’ awards. But there’s one redemption option to be aware of.

That’s using Airpoints Dollars to book flights not with Air New Zealand itself but with its partner airlines. While bookings on Air New Zealand mirror the cash price of the same ticket, with partners, the rates are fixed. Instead, the Airpoints Dollars required only vary based on cabin class and distance flown. Commercial ticket price doesn’t come into it at all.

Certainly, that brings a little bit of complexity. Partner airline flights are subject to reward seat availability, which many other frequent flyers may already be used to. Although Airpoints members are traditionally trained to know that their Dollars can be redeemed on any flight, once you’ve got your head around it, there’s some very good value to be had. Here’s what we mean.

Attractive ways to spend Airpoints Dollars on partners

Because the Airpoints program uses a simplistic and transparent currency, it’s easy to compare value when it comes to booking flights. In that respect, you know exactly how much you’re ‘paying’ every time you book a flight.

For example, a one-way Business Class flight on Air Canada or United Airlines from Australia to North America clocks in at 1,520 Airpoints Dollars. Even though taxes and fees are still payable, it’s clear from the numbers that this type of booking is quite a good deal. In effect, you’re forgoing $1,520 in credit towards an Air New Zealand fare of the same price, in exchange for a Business Class seat worth much more.

In fact, using Airpoints Dollars to book long flights at the front of the plane is really the best way to go. Here’s another example. Through Star Alliance, Air New Zealand is also partnered with Thai Airways. And Thai could fly you from Australia to London via Bangkok. Departing Sydney, you’d need 2,470 Airpoints Dollars for a one-way ticket to London. For a return journey, you’d double that figure.

Sure, 4,940 in Airpoints Dollars is no small ask. But Thai Airways doesn’t levy any carrier charges on partner reward bookings. It only levies the genuine taxes. And if you were to buy a Business Class ticket outright with dollars, Thai’s fares start at around $9,400 return on the same route. Once you take out the taxes you’d pay on the reward booking, you’re still ahead in value by around $4,000. Overall, that’s around $9,000 in value, from less than 5,000 in Airpoints Dollars.

Of course, if you’d used 4,940 in Airpoints Dollars towards an Air New Zealand flight, you’d literally have saved the same amount – $4,940. As you can see, there’s an opportunity to be had when flying with partners.

Reward flights with Air New Zealand’s network of partners can sometimes be made online, depending upon routing and connections. Or, where the partner or route isn’t supported for online bookings, reservations can be made by phone.

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The pain points of partner airline bookings through Airpoints

It pays to be aware of a few pitfalls when redeeming Airpoints Dollars on Air New Zealand’s partner airlines. Some of these distinctions even confused me at first when diving further into the program.

For starters, the Airpoints redemption table for partner airline flights is based in kilometres, not miles. This makes it quite easy to miscalculate how many Airpoints Dollars you’d need, just based on habit. Sydney to Los Angeles is 7,488 miles in distance – so you might look at Airpoints’ table and think, ‘yay, only 950 Airpoints Dollars to book’. But in metric measurements, the distance is 12,051km – the most costly band on the table. Speaking of tables, keep this one handy:

Add to that, Airpoints’ reward rates are charged per sector, not per journey. This means ‘Sydney to London via Bangkok’ isn’t just one charge at the highest rate. You pay for the distance from Sydney to Bangkok, and separately, the distance from Bangkok to London – even if both flights are on a single ticket.

It’s also worth noting that Airpoints uses different tables depending on where the member lives. The table above – and the figures quoted in this story – are for members based in Australia. Those living in New Zealand will follow a separate table, which requires slightly fewer Airpoints Dollars. This mainly just reflects the difference in value between the cash currencies of these two countries. But it’s still something to be aware of.

When it comes to bookings on Virgin Atlantic, flying Premium Economy strangely costs you the ‘Business Class’ rate in the table. And when you book Upper Class (the airline’s Business Class cabin), you’ll be charged at Airpoints’ higher First Class rate. In other words, try to avoid booking Virgin Atlantic through Airpoints unless you have no other option.

Don’t forget too, buying a cash ticket will sometimes be more economical. Especially so for a short hop. Given the shortest partner flights require 120 Airpoints Dollars, plus taxes and fees, you may find it cheaper to just buy a ticket.

How to earn Airpoints Dollars in Australia

If the Airpoints program could suit your travel needs, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to earn Airpoints Dollars. The simplest path for many will be to convert credit card points into Airpoints Dollars. This is possible from a number of Australian card rewards programs:

Also keep your eyes peeled for any sharp sign-up offers. Like other points earned through plastic, these bonus points could become Airpoints Dollars too.

Still, it pays to weigh up all your options and consider the alternatives. From the same programs, you might find that it’s better value to book flights through other Star Alliance programs instead. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is a popular alternative to Airpoints, although the conversion rates from some partners have become less generous over the past year.

Also read: The pros and cons of Amex’s 14 points transfer partners

Feature image courtesy of Thai Airways.

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Air New Zealand’s sweet spot: using Airpoints Dollars with partner airlines was last modified: March 20th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin