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Two great redemptions just appeared on my radar. Using Etihad Guest, I booked two business-class seats on Royal Air Maroc from New York (JFK) to Casablanca (CMN) for 44,000 miles each and $149 in taxes in fees. Next, I stumbled upon rarely seen Air New Zealand business-class space to and from Auckland. I booked Auckland (AKL) to Los Angeles (LAX) for a return flight I needed from down under for 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles and $41 in taxes and fees.
Let’s look at the process for each of these bookings and the Air New Zealand space still available at time of publishing.
Royal Air Maroc Business
We’ve looked at using Etihad Guest to book unbelievably priced partner flights a couple times in the past. If you aren’t familiar with the sweet spots in the Etihad partner award charts (each partner has its own chart), I recommend you spend some time on the Etihad Guest website.
The following award chart, which in true Etihad Guest form makes little sense, lists how many miles you’ll need to book a Royal Air Maroc-operated flight:
JFK-CMN is 3,609 miles in distance, so you’d need 44,000 miles for the flight in business. Expert tip: Because the award chart doesn’t go any higher, you can actually fly another leg from CMN onwards and still pay the same 44,000 miles for business class.
There’s no way to check award availability online for the two daily (every day of the week except Monday) flights from JFK. You’ll have to call the Etihad Guest phone center (1-877-690-0767), which is rarely a pleasant experience — and it’s particularly time-consuming when the agents need to check space. They’ll have to put you on hold while they find the flight and then manually query Royal Air Maroc for award space. They then build a reservation in order to quote the miles you need and taxes and fees.
I’ve found availability on these Royal Air Maroc 787 Dreamliner flights to be quite excellent; most days I requested had multiple seats available. This is even more surprising given the business cabin on this aircraft only has three rows in a 2 x 2 x 2 layout.
The first date I requested had two seats for my wife and I on the 7:30am flight, which lands at 7:30pm the same day in Casablanca. I transferred 88,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad, which showed almost instantly and booked the two tickets with $149 in taxes and fees required per passenger. You can also transfer Citi ThankYou points or SPG Starpoints to Etihad or redeem a Marriott Hotel + Air package for Etihad miles. I’m very happy with the value of these two transatlantic business-class tickets with Dreamliner service.
Air New Zealand Business
I booked a one-way ticket to Australia for this spring and never settled on a route home. Immediately after confirming the above booking, I began looking at United.com and was shocked to see rarely available Air New Zealand business class saver space showing for multiple routes.
As of publish time, there are still seats available to and from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver at the end of April and first week of May. Availability is not widespread, but there are multiple dates available, compared to the usual zero.
Los Angeles to Auckland:
San Francisco to Auckland:
Vancouver to AucklandL
While 90,000 United miles isn’t a bad price for the nonstop business flight, I wanted to do better. We recently covered the outsized value Virgin Atlantic miles can provide you with partner flights. I didn’t focus on partner Air New Zealand because in the past, award space didn’t exist and taxes and fees charged were awful. When I found the space, I headed back to the award chart for Air New Zealand-operated flights booked with Virgin Atlantic miles and loved what I saw. The following chart is for round-trip travel, with one-way flights costing half the price:
Auckland to Los Angeles would only cost me 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for business class. I quickly contacted the Virgin Atlantic call center and impatiently waited for an agent to pick up and confirm they had access to the same space showing on United.com. She did and quoted me 62,500 miles and a very satisfying $41 in taxes and fees.
The great thing about Virgin Atlantic miles is how easy they are to earn. You can transfer Amex, Chase, Citi and SPG points to Virgin, with Chase transfers showing up instantly. Even better, if you don’t have Chase Ultimate Rewards points and need a few days for Citi and a Marriott Night + Hotel package to transfer over, Virgin Atlantic lets you put award tickets on hold for 48 hours with no miles in your account. I transferred points from Chase while I had the agent on the phone, and my confirmation email arrived just a few minutes later.
I’m not sure you can beat 62,500 miles for one-way business, on a fantastic product, to or from the South Pacific. Equally as unbeatable is 44,000 miles for North America to North Africa, and it’s a flight you can book pretty much anytime without the availability hassles of Air New Zealand. Yesterday’s discoveries were just another reminder of how important it is to know all the partnerships at your disposal with transferable points.
Feature photo by Shutterstock.com
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