Video Sunday Reader Question: Getting to Australia Using AA Miles or SPG Points

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TPG reader Margo has both American Airlines miles and Starwood Preferred Guest points but is unsure how she should use them to get to Australia:

“I signed up for Award Nexus to search for flights for a trip we are taking to Australia in mid September. Although we have plenty of American AAdvantage miles, we cannot find two business class seats on American or Qantas.

We also have over 200,000 Starwood points available to transfer to the airline of our choice. Award Nexus is showing several flights that would work for us through Air Canada and United. SPG is telling us that it would take up to 30 days to transfer SPG miles to our Aeroplan account and 2 weeks to United Mileage Plus. By the time the miles post, the flights may be gone and I may need the SPG points to transfer to another mileage program. SPG says they can expedite to US airlines (not Air Canada) in ‘an emergency’. Not sure what their idea of expediting is either.

I have lots of points but I can’t seem to use them for 2 business class seats to Australia. Is there any way around this dilemma?”

Qantas is known to be pretty stingy with releasing availability so it can be tough to find award seats for the dates you want. One thing you can do is get an ExpertFlyer subscription and use that to set flight alerts for award seats. Once Qantas does release award seats you will receive an email and can hopefully snatch those seats up before someone else does. This will save you a lot of time since you won’t have to constantly search AA.com looking for availability.

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You can transfer SPG points to 8 different members of the Star Alliance.

Your other option, like you mentioned, would be to transfer your SPG points to a Star Alliance partner, though the two partners you noted (United and Aeroplan) are not the best in this situation. United is a poor 2:1 transfer partner of Starwood so you’ll need to transfer double the amount of points to get enough miles for that ticket. Aeroplan also requires a lot more miles for award tickets to this region and frequently has very high fuel surcharges, so if you can you should avoid using those two partners.

You would need 110,000 Dividend miles to fly business class from USA/Canada to Australia.
You would need 110,000 Dividend miles to fly business class from USA/Canada to Australia.

I would recommend leveraging your Starwood points to transfer to US Airways miles since US Airways only charges 110,000 miles in business class roundtrip to go to Australia. Since US Airways is a member of Star Alliance you will be able to book those same awards that you were seeing on Award Nexus using your US Airways miles, and it’ll take a whole lot less SPG points than United and you can even route through Asia and plan a stopover.

Starwood transfers can take several days to process so take that into consideration when planning award travel.
Starwood transfers can take several days to process so take that into consideration when planning award travel.

Starwood transfers can take a significant amount oftime to post, but the length of time may vary by airline since it seems they process transfers in sweeps by day of the week. We wrote a post last summer comparing the transfer times of different Starwood airline partners and it took 8 days for the US Airways transfer to show up in my account. If you do find flights that work for you on an airline that is part of the Star Alliance, you can put that flight on hold for up to three days with US Airways. You may even be able to extend that hold and hopefully can get the miles transferred into your account in time.

With this method you will only need to transfer 180,000 SPG points, which will turn into 225,000 US Airways miles, leaving you with 5,000 miles leftover after booking your award. US Airways tends to have pretty low fees so I think this is your best bet. Good luck and I hope you enjoy your time down under – let us know how it goes!

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