Flying Qantas First Class is a bucket list redemption for many. Right now, there is ample award availability on flights to and from the US.
The travel periods are during the northern summer and autumn. Some of it even overlaps with the NSW and Victorian school holidays!
Current Qantas First Class availability to/from the US
- At least two First Class award seats available on each flight (some Business availability too)
- Only bookable with Qantas Points (not partner currencies like Asia Miles)
- Two blocks of availability:
- mid-July to end of August
- late September to mid-October
- Three routes with availability in both directions:
- Sydney – Dallas/Fort Worth (most availability)
- Sydney – Los Angeles
- Melbourne – Los Angeles (least availability)
- The most availability is flying to the US; coming home is more difficult
- Flights to/from Los Angeles are priced at 162,800 Qantas Points one-way; Dallas/Fort Worth is more expensive at 189,800 points
- Taxes are AU$325-360 departing Australia and AU$240-280 coming home
My experience of Qantas First Class flight & lounges
I flew Qantas First Class for the first time last month from Los Angeles to Melbourne. I rank it as number 4 of the top First Class products flying from Australia.
Whilst it doesn’t match Emirates or Etihad, having a spacious seat and comfortable bed on the 13- to 17-hour flights across The Pacific is a godsend. I found the food delicious, customer service friendly and professional, and the overall experience very enjoyable.
If you have 163,000+ Qantas Points at your disposal—perhaps a family member can help you with a top-up—and are thinking of a trip to the US during the northern summer/Australian winter, then this is your chance.
Finally, can read our full review of the Qantas A380 First Class experience.
How to redeem your Qantas Points for flights to the US from Australia
Business or First Class availability for Qantas flights to the US are known as one of the hardest points redemptions to find out there. In this article, I will look at ways to get a seat on these flights, as well as other options for using your Qantas Points to the US.
In this guide, I’ll cover:
- An overview of the award options and points required for redemptions
- The best uses for your points to get the most value
For the purpose of this series, I have picked three example cities favoured by Aussies to use as comparison points – Los Angeles, Honolulu and New York.
Using Qantas Points with Qantas, Jetstar and American Airlines
|Route (one way)||Airline / Cabin||Qantas Points needed|
|East Coast||Los Angeles||Qantas Business Class||108,400|
|East Coast||Los Angeles||Qantas First Class||162,800|
|East Coast||New York||Qantas Business Class||144,600|
|East Coast||Honolulu||Qantas Business Class||82,000|
|Brisbane||Honolulu||Jetstar Business Class||51,300|
|Melbourne / Sydney||Honolulu||Jetstar Business Class||61,500|
|East Coast via Nadi||Honolulu||Fiji Airways Business Class||82,000|
|East Coast via Nadi||Los Angeles||Fiji Airways Business Class||108,400|
|East Coast via Dubai||New York||Emirates Business Class||144,600|
|East Coast via Dubai||New York||Emirates First Class||216,900|
|East Coast via Qatar||New York||Qatar Airways Business Class||159,000|
|All Australian ports via Hong Kong||New York||Cathay Pacific Business Class||159,000|
|Sydney via Tokyo||New York||Japan Airlines Business Class||159,000|
|Sydney via Singapore & London||New York||British Airways Business Class||159,000|
|Sydney via Singapore & London||New York||British Airways First Class||227,500|
Using Qantas Points for travel on Qantas, Jetstar and American Airlines to the US
Qantas’ main flights to Los Angeles are available from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. San Francisco is also served from Sydney and Melbourne. One of the Los Angeles flights continues to New York and back, but it can’t be booked as a stand-alone domestic sector.
Furthermore, Sydney also has a daily flight to Dallas Fort Worth, 5-weekly Honolulu service and during peak seasons, 3-weekly to Vancouver (they do say that Sydney is Qantas’ capital city!).
Starting from May 2020, Qantas are also planning to launch Brisbane-Chicago flights with Boeing 787s (I’ve already included that in the route map below).
Low-cost airline Jetstar flies from Melbourne and Sydney to Honolulu as well, which is an option with Qantas Points. These flights even have a small Business Class cabin (akin to International Premium Economy).
Finally, we have American Airlines flying daily from Sydney to Los Angeles. Points redemption costs using Qantas Points are the same as if flying Qantas, but carrier surcharges are significantly less.
Finding availability on Qantas operated flights to the US
Seeking out Business or First Class seats on Qantas flights to the US, especially for multiple passengers, is like finding a needle in a haystack.
The general consensus is that it’s worth knowing the following:
- Look when the award redemption calendar first opens up at 353 days from your day of travel – this is the most likely time to find available seats. Approximate time for the release of seats is around midnight GMT, or mid-morning AEST each day
- If you don’t have Qantas elite status, try to find a family member who does have status, a decent Qantas Points balance, and would be happy to book on your behalf. More seats seem to be available to elite members, and you can Family Transfer them your own Qantas Points to use.
- If someone cancels their Qantas Points booking the availability usually goes back for rebooking by others within around 24 hours – so it’s worth monitoring award availability (I prefer awardnexus.com or ExpertFlyer.com for this)
- The likelihood of cancellations increases the closer you get to the flight, so keep checking back to see if availability has opened up.
- If you have Qantas Gold or above status, then you may stand a chance in the points upgrade lottery, otherwise it’s probably not even worth considering.
- The newer routes (e.g. Brisbane-Chicago) may have a little more availability, although this is not guaranteed.
- Qantas Business Class availability to Honolulu is very, very limited, with more seats generally on offer on Jetstar instead.
- Remember to check availability out of alternate cities to home (i.e. check Brisbane if you’re Sydney-based)
Using Qantas Points for travel on Qantas’ airline partners to the US
There are a number of Qantas partner airlines that will also get you to the US indirectly when using your Qantas Points. These include:
- Fiji Airways, to Los Angeles and Honolulu via Nadi – read this guide for more about why this is a good value option.
- Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and Japan Airlines via Tokyo
- Emirates – arguably the best ‘value’ for your Qantas points when it comes to the time in the air! It costs the same as Qantas/American Airlines flights, but the Emirates A380 has an onboard bar in Business Class and shower in First Class.
- Qatar Airways and other oneworld partners (flying the ‘wrong way’ from East Coast Australia, maybe not so bad from Perth)
Most redemptions with Qantas and its partners attract a fuel surcharge, which starts from $335 per person one-way. American Airlines is the exception as they don’t appear to have surcharges.
At first glance, adding an extra stop in Nadi doesn’t sound like a great option – but Fiji Airways’ Business Class cabin (if you can snag an A330 operated flight) is fairly comfortable, with an angled-flat bed.
In 2020, Fiji Airways should be picking up some new Airbus A350s with a new lie-flat Business Class, which you can book from Sydney to Nadi and on to Los Angeles.
Lacking other availability, this is not the worst option out there, and it’s geographically not too indirect.
Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific is a good option for flights to East Coast US (and Chicago), where the connection in Hong Kong adds a few hours to the overall flight time.
You’ll get to travel in one of the world’s best and most consistent Business Class products on Cathay’s Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 fleet (the latter also has First Class).
To Los Angeles and the West Coast US, Cathay Pacific is less practical since there’s a significant amount of extra travel time.
Cathay Pacific flies from all major Australian capitals via Hong Kong to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Newark, JFK (New York), Boston and Chicago.
Japan Airlines via Tokyo
Japan Airlines fly to Tokyo Narita from Sydney and Melbourne but connect onto a large number of US cities. Again this is most practical for connections to the East Coast – Boston and New York, in terms of total travel time. You’re better off flying direct to the West Coast.
Options for Western Australians, or people who like travelling the long way, for points redemptions to the US
So far, we’ve mostly looked at travel options from the East Coast cities in Australia.
However, if you’re travelling to East Coast US from Western Australia, it’s equally worth considering travelling via the Middle East to get to the US in terms of total travel time – it’s not that much more.
Or, if you enjoy spending hours in Business or First Class and want to travel from East Coast Australia to East Coast US, you can still transit the Middle East to really stretch out the value of your Qantas Points.
Qantas has a maximum upper limit of 15,000 flown miles for a partner award – and Sydney–Dubai–New York, for example, comes in at just under that limit.
Emirates via Dubai
Emirates fly via Dubai to the US from Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
You could pick up an Emirates A380 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth and connect to another in Dubai. This would be very tolerable in either Business or First Class!
Qatar Airways via Qatar
With Qatar now flying from Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra, you can use Doha as a connecting port to East Coast US in the same way as Emirates. Some flights will even have their brand-new Qsuites in Business Class!
British Airways via Singapore and London
You can technically also fly on British Airways via Singapore and London, connecting onto one of BA’s many routes to East Coast US and the Caribbean from London.
You’d have to have high levels of endurance to do this in Business Class (BA’s Business is not great). It’s probably a routing that’s better to aim for as a First Class redemption.
Summing up: using Qantas Points to the US
It is clear there are plenty of options beyond Qantas direct flights if there’s no availability, which is likely a majority of the time whenever you try to look (Murphy’s Law!).
The best uses of points are, of course, on the most convenient flights for you to get to your destination, and there’s no doubt that Qantas have that nailed with their direct options – which is why they are so hard to get in the first place.
Adding to the difficulty, Qantas mainly release international premium reward seats to Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers first, so lower or non-status passengers will have virtually no chance of getting that Business Class reward seat early on. It’s only a few months later that remaining seats are released for all.
If you live outside of Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, or just can’t find availability on Qantas for your dates, then knowing about the other options and partner airlines gives you a head start in finding alternative uses for your points.
The options begin to open up if you are travelling further afield, with flights to the US East Coast quite easily done via Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East, if you can allow quite a bit more additional travel time.
But the good news is that the number of points needed remains capped up to 15,000 flown miles which covers most conceivable routings, meaning you shouldn’t need more than 159,000 Qantas Points for a Business Class reward.
If you’re willing to be more flexible about your routes and travel time then there should be some availability with some partner airlines on indirect routes.