Award Space Alert: United Business Class to Australia in Summer 2019
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
One of the toughest destinations to reach using points and miles is Australia, especially in a premium cabin, because airlines don't usually make much award space available. So when space does pop open, it's important to jump on it while you can if Australia is on your travel bucket list.
In recent months, United has released a solid amount of business class award space to the land down under, and today the airline is showing room for two people in both directions between Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney, Australia (SYD) in May, June and July of 2019. 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.
Here's how business class looks for two people on LAX-SYD in May 2019:
Here's the calendar in June on the same route:
Space slows to a trickle in July, but there are still a handful of dates available:
When searching for your return trip, you'll find that space on the reverse SYD-LAX is also pretty plentiful throughout all three months. Here's May in business class, again for two people...
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 this exact 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: Gary Leff