SYDNEY - OCTOBER 12, 2015: The Sydney Opera House. It was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon.

Timing is everything with airline rewards programs. They can offer incredible experiences such as first class international flights, but can also be frustrating to the everyday traveler. Discounts, deals, and major changes are often unannounced, leaving travelers unable to redeem their awards for their desired flights.

We always advise readers to act quickly in booking a great deal when they see it – and the example we look at today is no different.

AAdvantage Award Changes

We’re longtime fans of American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program. As we’ve covered in prior articles, it remains our top choice for airline loyalty programs in the US market, offering the most value and flexibility in booking flights on American and its Oneworld partner airlines.

Today, we take a look at a popular award route for AAdvantage members that will soon be changing on March 22nd: US-Australia nonstop flights.

As travelers accrue airline award miles through frequent traveling or from huge credit card bonuses, many often save up to redeem first or business class long distance flights.

Given the distance involved in flying to Australia, it’s no surprise this particular route is one of the most popular.

Currently, passengers can redeem AAdvantage miles for a one-way flight to/from the US to Australia for 37,500 in economy, 62,500 in business class, and 72,500 in first class – exceptional value considering the distance involved. Flying to Europe from the US, by comparison, costs 30,000 miles.

On March 22nd however, the AAdvantage program is undergoing a devaluation on many international routes, including this one. All reservations made after that date will require 40,000 miles in economy, 70,000 in business, and 90,000 in first class.

As you can see, the increases in economy and business aren’t too noteworthy – only 2,500 and 7,500 miles, respectively. But if you want to fly first class, you’re looking at a 17,500 mile increase, a real difference if you want to travel in style.

Thankfully, as was the case with British Airways’ recent Avios devaluation, all reservations made prior to the March 22nd deadline will be honored at the current award rate. This means regardless of your date of travel (up to one year from date of booking), as long as you book by March 22nd you’ll be able to lock in your reservation at the lower rate.

oneworld lax

Oneworld Business Class Lounge at LAX

Getting There

In redeeming AAdvantage miles, there are precious few nonstop flights on Oneworld airlines from the US to Australia, departing out of only three cities: Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW).

Most nonstop flights are serviced by Qantas, with the lone exception of one daily, evening flight from LAX on American Airlines. (AAdvantage miles are flexible, redeemable at equal rates on either airline)

Most of these flights average 14 hours each way, so at merely 72,500 AAdvantage miles one way, a first class seat offers extraordinary value. If there were ever a flight where you’re looking to splurge on an upgrade to business or first class, this is most certainly it.

If you do, we recommend going all out for First Class. It’s only a small increase in miles from what it would take to fly business class, and really opens up a world of options for your trip.

BA bar

Lounge Access

With a First Class booking on Qantas or American Airlines, passengers have full lounge access with either airline, and any other Oneworld airline lounge on the date of travel.

More importantly, passengers have access to Qantas First Class Lounges, offering passengers everything from a 5-star seasonal dining menu, private showers, a modern bar and acres of space for seating. There’s no chance of running into the typical overcrowding of lounges during rush hour or holidays – not here. These are true airport sanctuaries.

And on flights departing from Australia to the US, the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney even offers a spa. You can begin or end a 14 hour journey by arriving early for a full massage, a 5 star meal, a few preflight cocktails, and end up in a first class seat complete with a lie-flat bed. Not bad for one flight!

American will soon be offering a similar product for First Class passengers with its construction of Flagship Lounges at Los Angeles and Dallas. These are not scheduled to open until 2017, but we’re eager to see what American has in store.

If you don’t have the miles on hand and opt for Business Class instead of First Class, we should note – you can still have an extremely enjoyable journey. Business Class passengers still have access to Oneworld lounges in all airports, including American Admirals Clubs and Qantas’ Business Lounges at LAX and Sydney.

If you have a large stash of AAdvantage miles in the bank and you’re looking for travel in style, now is the time to use them and splash out on an upgrade. Remember, after March 22nd, business and first class seats are going to be harder to redeem for miles on any Oneworld airline, not just on US-Australia flights but on all international travel in general.

Pick a date and get booking. See you in the lounge!



Note: Middle photo courtesy of Yelp


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