Do Australians get a better deal with their miles than Americans?

Frequent Flyer Points vs. Retail Price Analysis for SYD - LON / NYC
Australians and Americans are kindred spirits in many ways, and one of them is a love / hate relationship with airline miles.

Australians have to travel far, and do it often, so they are keen on getting the most out of their miles. Which is why where they use their miles is so interesting.

Here are the top reward destinations for Qantas flyers and the miles needed for an Economy Class roundtrip with miles:

  • Nadi, Fiji – 36,000 miles
  • Auckland, New Zealand – 36,000 miles
  • Los Angeles, USA – 96,000 miles
  • Johannesburg, South Africa – 84,000 miles
  • Hawaii, USA – 72,000 miles

Compare that to where most Americans want to use their miles according to our 2014 Mile Satisfaction Survey and typical entry level roundtrip Economy Class mile prices…

  • US (59%) – 25,000 miles
  • Europe (18%) – 60,000 miles
  • Hawaii (11%) – 45,000 miles
  • Mexico / Caribbean (7%) – 35,000 miles
  • Asia (4%) – 80,000 miles

We’re a lot more likely to stick closer to home than travel very far compared to Australians where 3 of the top 5 award destinations are thousands of miles away from home.

But do Australians get good value out of their miles?

Well, for flights from Australia to the U.S. Australia’s own frequent flyer programs (Qantas and Virgin Australia Velocity) are a let down, charging over 250,000 miles roundtrip for a Business Class ticket.

According to an analysis by Australian site CreditCardCompare it’s not a terrible value versus the cost of buying a ticket in cash at almost 3 cents a mile, but compare that to United where you can get a flight for just 160,000 miles roundtrip, though it’s pretty hard to find an award at that price.

The chart also says Delta flights price out at 305,000 miles, a terrible price.

But that doesn’t have to happen.

With Delta miles you can book awards on Virgin Australia to Los Angeles with lots of availability for 160,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class. The catch is, often the Delta connecting flights from Los Angeles to New York or other cities don’t have the award space at the low 160,000 mile price, which takes the whole ticket up to the higher 305,000 mile price.

So if you’re an Australian with Delta SkyMiles a good tip is to just book the Australia to Los Angeles leg with miles, then buy a ticket for your onward journey in the U.S. You could save a lot of miles in the process.

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