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For points and miles hounds, few redemptions are sweeter than scoring a saver lever business class seat from the United States to Australia. Though, we can think of one thing sweeter: scoring saver level business class availability for your entire family. And, lucky for you, United seems to be in a generous mood when looking at its San Francisco (SFO) to Sydney (SYD) route.
With heavy paid loads on routes from the US West Coast to all-points Aussie, airlines have become increasingly stingy with award availability. In other words, you’re better off booking now and thinking later if even a single seat opens up at low-level pricing. You’ll need to be flexible with dates, but given that we’re talking about the middle of 2019 there’s time to shuffle things to make it work for your schedule.
From May through September, enveloping the summer travel period which is in high demand for families with school-aged children, there appears to be at least a handful of dates per month offering nonstop trips on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for 80,000 miles and under $100 in taxes. Considering that this one-way flight routinely pushes $6,000 for a paid Polaris seat, you’re getting roughly 7.5 cents per dollar in value from those 80,000 MileagePlus miles — way, way more than the 1.4 cents per dollar we value these points at for most redemptions.
The kicker? We’re seeing up to six seats available on some of these dates.
Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, our summer is their winter, but even in the off season, it’s still a terrific country to visit. When searching for this space on united.com, you’ll want to look for dates with business class available at 80,000 miles one-way. You can also choose to show only nonstop space in the award calendar to whittle it down.
When searching for your return trip, you’ll find that space on the reverse SYD-SFO is also pretty plentiful (and again, this is showing availability when searching for four seats).
We’re even seeing four seats of saver level availability when connecting from an East Coast city like Raleigh-Durham (RDU), though it’s a mixed bag when it comes to business or coach for your positioning flight.
Now, let’s be clear — this is not an industry-leading business class experience. United operates a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on this route, which does feature lie-flat seats in business in a 2x2x2 configuration and the Polaris soft product such as improved bedding and enhanced catering, but not the airline’s updated Polaris seats. Those are currently only on the carrier’s 777-300ERs and select retrofitted 777-200s and 767-300ERs.
What’s the Dreamliner business class experience like? Earlier this summer TPG Contributor Ravi Ghelani reviewed business class on the United 787-9 on United’s neighboring LAX-SYD route and wrote that the seat was “pretty comfortable in lie-flat position, though the foot cubby is tight.” The soft product was less impressive, with Ghelani noting that “the food wasn’t great, and the service was average by international standards.”
Still, when you’re flying 14 hours nonstop, you’d certainly rather have a lie-flat seat than be in the back in economy. Whether that’s worth 80,000 miles each way is up to you, but remember that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Ultimate Rewards can be acquired with a number of Chase cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
Finally, since United is a member of the Star Alliance, you can also book this space with its partners. Air Canada’s Aeroplan charges the same 80,000 miles each way, with similar minimal taxes and fees (about $110 per person round-trip), and booking via ANA will cost even less at 120,000 miles round-trip (though note you cannot book one-way flights on partners with ANA). Both programs are transfer partners of American Express Membership Rewards, though transfers to ANA can take up to 48 hours while transfers to Aeroplan are usually instant.
H/T: View From the Wing
Featured image by the author
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