Which Frequent Flyer Miles for Which Destination?

Which Frequent Flyer Miles for Which Destination?


Which airline frequent flyer miles and points should you earn for a given destination? TravelSort reader Jill writes “My family and I want to save up miles to visit Australia/New Zealand, Italy and Japan. Which miles and points are best for each destination? We want to earn enough miles to fly business or first class.”

Ultimately, a number of different miles and points can get you to a given destination, but there are several aspects to consider, for example:

  • Which airlines tend to have better award availability for your destination, and in your preferred class of service?
  • Are you willing to connect via another city or cities?
  • Are you willing to pay fuel surcharges if it means better availability or availability in your preferred class of service?

Australia / New Zealand: US Airways Dividend Miles 

Let's be clear: Qantas First Class for two people nonstop from the U.S. is not an option, unless you are *incredibly* lucky. Even 1 award seat on a non-stop from the U.S. is quite a score. If a nonstop in Qantas Business or First Class on a very specific date is a must, you'll likely need to bite the bullet and pay for revenue tickets.

Instead, for award tickets, your best bet will be connecting in Asia then onward to Australia, since it can be easier to find business class award availability on routes between Asia and Australia than on nonstop routes between the U.S. and Australia. With Dividend Miles, you'll pay 110,000 miles roundtrip in business class or 140,000 roundtrip in first class from the U.S. Or, if departing from Europe, you're looking at 120K miles roundtrip in business class or 150K roundtrip in first class–and if you can find award space on Qantas First Class via Dubai, grab it.

Why not AAdvantage miles? The problem lies with the AAdvantage award routing rules that prevent transiting a third region (in this case Asia) with only a few exceptions. That means you'd have to pay for two awards when connecting in Asia, and you can no longer take advantage of the now defunct AAdvantage Oneworld Explorer Award Chart (see No More AA Free One Ways or Explorer Awards).

Why not Delta SkyMiles? While these can be a good bet if you already have a significant stash of them, since you can then book Virgin Australia Business Class, I wouldn't focus on earning Delta miles if you don't already have many of them, due to the frequent medium and high level award pricing, often from 160,000 to 265,000 miles per person roundtrip–and that's just for business class, since Virgin Australia only offers business class and you can't book any first class awards with Delta miles anyway.


Italy / Europe: Delta Skymiles, American AAdvantage

As much as I malign Delta Skymiles, I have to admit that they can be useful in getting you nonstop to Rome from the U.S. in flat bed business class, with no fuel surcharges. It will typically be 125,000 Skymiles, which is higher than, for example, using 100,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip for airberlin business class via Berlin, also with no fuel surcharges. But with the Alitalia flight you don't connect, and if you can get past the mediocre service, the flat bed hard product is quite good as flights to Europe go.


Japan: AAdvantage Miles or Singapore KrisFlyer Miles

It's hard to beat 50,000 AAdvantage miles each way (100,000 roundtrip) for JAL Sky Suite business class, which is the only business class product I know of with such a comfortable memory foam mattress, if you can find award space. And if you're lucky enough to snag JAL first class award space, it's a steal at 62,500 miles each way

The other product I love that goes to Japan is Singapore Suites / Singapore Business Class from Los Angeles LAX to Tokyo NRT. If you don't already have Singapore KrisFlyer miles, you can transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards or SPG AMEX. Singapore Suites on the A380 will run you 148,750 miles + taxes/fuel surcharges roundtrip, but in my view is well worth the splurge.


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