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How to Get To Australia With Delta SkyMiles

by on August 22, 2011 · 39 comments

in Delta

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Award travel to Australia from the US is generally among the hardest to book. Only Delta, United, Qantas, Hawaiian and V Australia fly from the US to Sydney (and Air Canada from Vancouver), so getting your preferred flights will usually take some time and research, but it can be done.

Delta partners with Hawaiian and V Australia, so you have two options for non-stop trips to Australia. You can also route through Hawaii and fly partner Hawaiian airlines, which could be a nice stopover, but otherwise it’s out of the way and Hawaiian airlines does not have lie-flat seats if you are trying to go business class. Low level awards are 100,000 round-trip for coach and 150,000 round-trip for business class. Delta does not do one-way awards (at least not at half the price of a round-trip) and all partner awards are at the low level.

Delta flies Los Angeles to Sydney, but finding low-level award space is nearly impossible. In my experience Delta only releases low-level award space in the week or so leading up to departure. For example, I checked while writing this post and there were 4 days this week with low level space to Sydney and one day for a return of 1 week later. Going into September, everything was medium/high and the next return date with a low level award was a random date in April. Unfortunately since the majority of people plan their trips to Australia in advance, this method is useless for most. However, if you do book a Delta award at a higher tier, say 240/370k for mid/high tier business class, you can always pay to re-ticket it at the lower award tier if space does become available, as long as you change your flight more than 72 hours before departure (read more on that new annoying rule here). Delta flies their new 777LRs on this route, which feature individual entertainment systems in coach and fully lie-flat beds in BusinessElite, so it’s a pretty nice way to fly. I flew on that plane to Tokyo in June and really enjoyed the BusinessElite experience.

Flying via Hawaii on Hawaiian is pretty simple- just look up Hawaiian award availability on Expertflyer and then call Delta to get it booked.

The best way to get a low level award to Sydney/Melbourne is via V Australia. Delta announced this partnership over a year and a half ago, but some Delta ticketing agents still don’t know it exists. Or some will say that you can only book a V Australia flight in conjunction with a Delta flight. False. If your rep sounds confused, you may want to hang up and try again to get a knowledgeable rep. Once you get one who knows what they are doing, you’ll be surprised at what’s available. That being said, I called Delta twice during the making of this post and both were well-trained and knew how to look up V Australia space quickly.

Before you spend time researching, I recommend calling to see if there’s a chance your flights are available – you may be surprised. I recommend giving the Delta agent as much clarity as possible – ask them NOT to check Delta flights (because we know they won’t be at the high level) and ask them to just search the transpacific segments on partner airline V Australia. If you task them with also finding your domestic segments as well, the chances that they will give you bad information increases. As with delta.com – it’s always best to give it well defined one-leg segments to search.

V Australia flies daily from LAX to Sydney and from LAX to Melbourne on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays and LAX-Brisbane on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

If you don’t have any luck with the phone rep, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do your own research. The first thing is you need to join Velocity Rewards, the frequent flyer program of V Australia (New member registration link). The program is technically only open to Australian/New Zealand residents, but I used the address of the Sydney Opera House and had no issues getting approved for an account and access to their award system. Get creative ;-)

Once logged in, go to Redeem awards -> V Australia -> Award search (direct link)

Okay, so here’s the trick with Velocity – they discriminate award results if you start the search in the US! I was trying to find LAX-SYD/MEL/BNE availability and I was having no luck whatsoever. For months at a time, zero award seat availability – only thing showing was the Anytime awards which are not bookable with Delta miles. Their award chart is as follows – you need to search week by week to find the “low” economy awards, which price at 47,000 miles each way or business class at 79,000 – 94,400 each way.

V Australia Award Chart

I knew that V Australia has decent award space, so I tried it the other way around – starting in Sydney and lo and behold a bunch of options showed up. Since I was searching in reverse, it took me a little bit to figure out my potential trip, but within a couple minutes I saw that LAX-SYD was available on October 20 and SYD-LAX on Oct 24. I’m not actually taking this trip, but I wanted to do a dummy booking for the purpose of this post to show that booking these awards is indeed possible.

My original LAX SYD search showed no availability

However LAX SYD showed as available when I started the search beginning from Sydney!

SYD LAX also showed available when I started from Sydney

I called Delta and within 5 minutes had the ticket booked for 150,000 Skymiles and a whopping $620 in fees. On my e-receipt it showed a YQ (fuel surcharge) of $500. This fee is not added to Delta flights, so expect to pay that premium for V Australia. I also priced out a coach award while writing this post and the fees were exactly the same – $620. I say if it saves you over 50,000 miles to book V Australia over Delta (which it does in most cases), it makes sense to pay this surcharge. Some people prefer V Australia over Delta, so take that into account as well. I’ve never flown V Australia, but it’s on my to-do list.

Showing on Delta.com once booked

Mileage Details

Original Miles:     150000
Total Tax: 622.40 USD 
XA         5.00  XY         7.00  YC         5.50  AU        49.40  WY        53.00
YQ 500.00  AY         2.50

So there you have it. You need to “sniff” out the low level awards on Velocity, but they can indeed be booked using Skymiles and a hefty co-pay.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Scott

    Brian
    I was exploring something very similar last night. London-> Auckland using delta points. Ended up getting 5 biz class tkts via Seoul (2day stopover one way and overnight 20hour layover on the way back). KLM and Korean Air. Was amazed – 5 biz class flights available all at once AND gets me to the Rugby World Cup final in less than 2mths in October. Then I paid for all this by transferring delta points amongst accounts (~1.1c each). I really didn’t expect that to be possible…

  • Federico

    From LAX to SYD BA.com show me the same amount for YQ ($500) on a R/T, $250 for OW award, I found good availability for LAX-SYD on Nov but only 4 days on Oct, SYD-LAX is most like always available.

    I prefer BA miles (on QF) because I can book one way award with a stopover on AKL, then use some AA miles from South Pacific to Asia2, then ow award from East Asia to US with BA miles ;-)

    Lax-South Pacific 40/80k BA miles on QF
    South Pacific-Asia2 for 25/35k AA miles on QF/CX
    Asia2/East Asia-US(LAX/JFK/SFO/ORD) for 25/50k BA miles on CX/JAL

  • Kevin

    Thank you for posting this! Very useful!

  • David

    FYI, for some odd reason, the Fuel Surcharges only get charged if you depart from the US. Itineraries beginning in Australia only get charged about $130.00

  • Avi4

    TPG how many Delta Skymiles would be needed for SEA-ICN-SYD? How available are Business awards on this route?

  • Alex

    I tell you, that YQ price is terrible. I tried looking up prices on AA to Europe on fares that will net me 1 EQP, and going is pretty decent, but coming back it’s terrible. The fair is still around $1700, while the ones that yield 0.5 EQP are around $1100. Was hoping for that AA Plat challenge :(

  • Gpapadop

    $500 fuel surcharge, wow! Was that always there or is it new?

    Trying to combine this award with DL lowest miles award to LAX and back (to DTW in this case) is doable or hopeless?

    I was aiming for this award but paying $620 for a free ticket sure may lead me to reconsider….but it does sound this may still be the best way. Should I wait for your trip review, when are you doing this?

  • archiTREKt

    Just last week I booked an award flight for LAX-SYD via US Air miles on United direct service. Award availability seemed as tight as Delta / V Australia with random “saver” award dates here and there in April and May. 140,000 dividend miles (a good chunk of those were recently purchased via the double miles purchased promotion), $125 in taxes and $50 processing fee later I had a first class seat booked round trip. Well worth the costs in my opinion.

  • PointsNewbie

    What about flying Air NZ with Star Alliance points?

  • Amitdelia

    somewhat similar to what I did since I just booked for April 2012 from Houston to Sydney.
    1. I used AA to book a one way biz class from Houston to lax (first class) then to Sydney — 62500 miles per person -/ I had to book 3. Really good for me since I don’t live at a quantAs hub. Total cost $200 — amazing
    2. then Booked melbourne to dallas with BA miles — biz class from melbourne to Sydney and coach from sydney to Dallas — 40k miles each and about 900 dollars — could use AA miles would be cheaper but didn’t have that many

  • Heather ✈

    Cool! Great post! I’ve been to Sydney for work and flew Quantas but my husband and I were pondering the idea of going there, but in business or first class sometime in the future. Thanks! :-)

  • Phil

    Great post Brian very useful. The YQ is an interesting two edged sword. On the one hand it tells me that award space will stay quite open as people will opt out, and the fact that they make more money on award reservations will encourage them to open up space (a la BA). Of course the downside is a family trip for 4 of us will now be $2.5k in fees.

    Also I know the focus of your post is direct flying to Oz from the USA but that’s only available from the West coast. For those of us on the East side we have to do one stop and there are some interesting options for single stop connections to Oz now… e.g. using ANA miles to go with Etihad via AUH at 170k miles with no YQ (or 260k for their world class F product).

    I am one of DL SkyMiles biggest defenders but the VA OZ option is tough for me as very hard to get availability for 4 people from east coast to LA.

  • Mitch

    Should be 150K SkyMiles, assuming that DL uses the KE routing rule. Otherwise, it exceeds the DL MPM for SEA-SYD by a huge amount, meaning it would price as two awards. I had no issue getting KE on ICN-MEL, but I was coming in from the EU. TPAC on KE can be hard, and you have to watch the dates DL blacks them out.

  • Mitch

    Wow, five J seats on a KE flight? Impressive. I’m not sure you would’ve been able to pull that off TPAC. I had no problem getting LHR-ICN-MEL (but just trying for one), which I subsequently changed to FRA-ICN-MEL in order to get a ride on the A380 :)

  • Mitch

    YQ has always been collected on VA, from what I know. I think the only ways to get TPAC with SkyMiles without paying huge YQ are using DL and KE.

  • David

    Any plans to post about reward flights to New Zealand?
    That would be great!
    Also, it seems that you are almost always posting about obscure partnership airlines, that honestly – most people’s home airports can’t fly out of. For example, my home airport is Omaha. A lot of these smaller, foreign airlines don’t fly to Omaha, and pending certain alliance rules, using multiple award partners, screws up the low redemptions.
    Thoughts?

  • abcx

    I didn’t know that YQ gets charged on V Australia itineraries. I feel like that might be new even though some of the comments suggest otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/skyvan Andrew Fielding

    You left out the other often overlooked option, Air Tahiti Nui via PPT , though they don’t open up much award availability.

  • Mitch

    Delta doesn’t have different award charts for the involvement of one or more partners, so nothing to worry about there in terms of VA. The only potential difficulty is actually finding DL domestic flights at the low mileage level. Really, if I got a great premium cabin trip on a partner and couldn’t find the domestic flights as awards (or it messed up the miles required), I’d probably book a revenue ticket (likely going to be under $400) to wherever I could get the foreign carrier.

  • brent

    Could you tell me what the stopover/open-jaw rules when using Skymiles to fly on V Australia?

    Can you fly into Melbourne and stay for a week, then fly on Sydney, then back to the states?
    Or can you only do an open-jaw.. fly into Melbourne and fly out of Sydney?

  • Asdfasd

    that much YQ is Bullshit

  • Sasdfasd

    How can you find MPM?

  • David

    I definitely get your drift. Worth it if it’s a premium award. However, I’m a young single guy addicted to travel, so I take the quantity of flights, over the quality. I’m also not super tall like Brian is, and have toured in a band 300 days a year for the last 3 years, so sleeping on a plane is a piece of cake for me. That said – I redeem in economy/coach, so a $400 flight to NYC isn’t worth it for a 25-50k redemption overseas.

  • David

    I definitely get your drift. Worth it if it’s a premium award. However, I’m a young single guy addicted to travel, so I take the quantity of flights, over the quality. I’m also not super tall like Brian is, and have toured in a band 300 days a year for the last 3 years, so sleeping on a plane is a piece of cake for me. That said – I redeem in economy/coach, so a $400 flight to NYC isn’t worth it for a 25-50k redemption overseas.

  • Mitch

    ExpertFlyer or KVS

  • Mitch

    Then I’d stick with redeeming on carriers who don’t have weird rules about mixing partners. (E.g., stay away from BA.) DL will let you mix and match partners to your heart’s content without increasing the miles required as long as you can find your domestic segments in low. (This can be the tricky part, but keeping mind that anything under 24 hours is a connection if going to/from international, you can usually make things work.)

  • Simon

    It must have changed recently. On Feb 22nd this year, I booked LAX-SYD-BNE//MEL-SYD-LAX – 150k miles + $305.10 tax. This is certainly a deterrent for me now to accumulate DL miles (I’m Australian and return home twice a year), and I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger on the 100% bonus DL is running on transfers – I was so close, as I wanted to treat my folks next year.

  • Mitch

    Fuel prices have gone up, so one would expect YQ to go up as well. (Of course, when fuel prices go down, we would be expecting honest behavior from the airlines if we expected it to go down, and we know that’s a waste of time.)

  • Joseph Shott

    KOREAN AIR IS THE WAY TO GO! I fly every year to Sydney from IAD-ICN-SYD on Korean Air for 150K Skymiles in Business Class with between $100-200 in taxes only. Delta agents know how to do this!

  • http://upgrd.com Brad

    Yes, you can use Virgin Australia to get to New Zealand via Delta miles. I did this, and the most difficult part was low availability for the domestic US flights feeding LAX. I blogged about it if you’d like more details, or email me

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  • Erik

    Just to confirm, I know that Delta doesn’t do one-way awards on their own metal, but will they do one-way awards (at half the cost) on V Australia? We only need a one-way (already found a direct flight in United Business going down). V Australia shows availability at 90K miles which I’d book if I could use my Delta miles.

  • thepointsguy

    Nope- all one ways price at the roundtrip level whether it’s delta or partners

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