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How I landed the best flights to Australia with points. Over $40k in value.

a stuffed animal on a plane

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This is how I used Alaska Miles to snag Qantas First to Australia, Cathay Biz to Hong Kong, and Cathay First back to the States for 2 people.

I recently visited Australia and absolutely loved it.  The weather, culture, people, food, beaches, it’s all pretty incred. I’d long thought of how I would fly if I could construct the ideal itinerary. What I REALLY wanted to do was fly there in Qantas First, and fly back through Hong Kong with a stopover, spend a few days in Hong Kong, and finish the trip off with a grand finale: Cathay First Class into the States.  I’m a BIG believer in visualization ( I have another post coming on that), but I’d seen myself taking these flights for quite some time, as in where I wanted to sit, toasting Krug. etc, etc.

Then the trip needed to happen. I started scouring Alaska for inventory and sure enough, 2 First Class seats opened up on Qantas. We snagged them with Alaska Miles. Suddenly, the first part of the trip I’d envisioned was set into motion.  In all honesty, there was a part of me that knew the rest would fall perfectly into place. I could just feel it, and it was a similar feeling to when I did the $125k trip around the world for my mom’s bday.a stuffed animal sitting on a ledge in front of Sydney Opera House

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Knowing how airlines release seats is one of the cornerstones of landing your dream flights.

  • I’ve studied how Cathay releases inventory to partners for a long time. 14, 10, 3, 1. That’s the pattern.

I needed to plan to swoop into the ideal seats while we were on the trip, but I always advise a back up plan. I like to put bumpers on my trips, meaning I book a worse case scenario with low change cost. If the avail just doesn’t happen, you still have a good way home, just not the absolute best. Since I’m Alaska MVPG75 I knew that we could change our tickets fee free. I also knew we’d be adjusting our routing as inventory was made available.

We ideally wanted to fly direct from Brisbane to Hong Kong in business, stopover 3 nights, and then fly direct from Hong Kong to LA in First. Securing this for two people was going to be very tricky. We were flexible in our stopover, so I used this to our advantage.

people swimming in a pool

8 weeks out I started checking every day.

About 6 weeks prior to departure, Cathay inventory opened up from Sydney to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to San Francisco – all in business class with a 2 night stopover in Hong Kong. Not our ideal itinerary, but as a worst case scenario, it was pretty awesome.  There are also a ton of flights between SFO and LAX on Alaska metal so we wouldn’t have a problem getting home.

Our bumper routing would look like this: BNE-SYD-HKG-SFO-LAX

We would have to buy one way flights to Sydney, get a hotel for the night, but worst case…we had biz all the way back. I tracked the hotel cost and one way flight prices as I continued to track the options we really wanted, but held off buying anything.

Lately I’ve also noticed a new trend. If there is a lot of open seating in your desired cabin, and there isn’t any space available to one of their partners, check using Asia Miles. What I found with our first leg from Australia to Hong Kong was that 1 seat from BNE to HKG appeared avail to Asia Miles, then 2 seats, and about a week/week and half later ( roughly 3 weeks prior to departure) both seats were available to Alaska.

I was able to re-book our Sydney to Hong Kong flight to Brisbane to Hong Kong aboard their new A350. This saved us having to route to Sydney, get a hotel, and be up super early. It also put us on a new plane, the new biz seat, and direct routing.

Now our routing looked like this: BNE-HKG-SFO-LAX

Securing that first leg was amazing, and it meant I could focus on streamlining our flights home. The top priority for me was landing First Class between HKG and LAX as my girlfriend had never experienced it, but we wanted to be on the same flight and fly direct. I thought, worst case maybe we can switch from the San Fran routing to a direct flight into LAX, and if just one seat opens up in first I could put her in it.

Sure enough, about 2.5 weeks prior to the flight, right after we’d arrived in Australia, 2 seats in business class opened up on a direct flight from HKG to LAX. I called and rebooked us.

Still we had just 2 nights in Hong Kong, but this positioned us well if a single seat opened up in First. Typically, Cathay releases seats one at a time, and even if 2 are available on BA, they may not be avail to Alaska.

Now our routing looked like BNE-HKG-LAX all in business

Magically, 10 days out, 2 seats opened up on 2 different flights from Hong Kong to LA in FIRST CLASS. What’s even more astonishing is that they were for flights permitting us a 3 night stopover. Exactly what we had originally wanted. I called in to Alaska to change the flight once again, hoping, focusing, willing both seats to be avail to Alaska. Not a bad place to find the space…

a teddy bear sitting on a lounge chair next to a pool

Sure enough…they were all avail to Alaska. How bout them apples!

a screenshot of a computer screen

Our final itinerary

Outbound: LAX-MEL in Qantas First, MEL to SYD in Qantas Business.

Inbound: BNE-HKG-LAX. BNE-HKG in Business. 3 night stopover. HKG to LAX in First

a stuffed animal on a table in an airplane

Over $40k in value. How many miles did this all cost?

  • The Qantas flights from LAX to MEL to SYD were 70k a person +$42.
  • The Cathay flights from BNE-HKG-LAX were 80k +$135

150k total per person, and roughly $180 in surcharges. Helluva deal if you ask me.


Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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10 Comments

  • […] How I landed Qantas + Cathay Biz/First to/from Australia – $40k in value […]

  • […] give you an abridged version, but if you want more details read this article where I get into allllll that good, good nerd stuff. Originally I found award space that would […]

  • Hog Wart May 3, 2018

    CX soft product stinks!

    Good lounges though

  • Antonio May 3, 2018

    So awesome! I followed your posts on Instagram during your trip. I’m glad it all worked out for you. Did you enjoy Qantas First or Cathay First more?

  • Owen May 3, 2018

    Do you ever see 3 flights in business or first to Australia? I have a daughter and wife who would like to come on a trip down under. I am curious whether it is possible on the same flight.

    • Miles May 3, 2018

      Owen – direct…if you’re flexible on dates and routing, 3 in biz is possible, but they come in waves. All in First would be almost impossible, but you may find a mix and match first/biz

  • B May 3, 2018

    I’ve always wanted to do such a close-in booking with my partner, but mixing in your SO on what is supposed to be a nice stress-free vacation for them seems very risky. Even if its fairly reliable that award space will open up, there is always the risk that Alaska will raise the mileage cost a few weeks/months before your desired booking, or that for some weird reason Alaska will have an award-blocking happen. Just way too risky, so 365 days our bookings it is.

  • Cohagan May 3, 2018

    Hmm…. you can buy Alaska miles for as low as 2.1 cents each… so you are really getting about $3k value not $40k…

    • Miles May 3, 2018

      I get what you’re saying, but if you bought a million dollar Picasso at a yard sale for $5 would you say the value is your purchase price or market?

      • Cohagan May 3, 2018

        You can resell the Picasso for around market value. You can’t do anything similar with your first class ticket. Maybe you can resell the miles but I’m sure you’d get less than 2.1 cents each (ie. $3k)

        First class travel is a luxury good – the retail price has little to do with it’s “value”… and no one who actually values money pays cash for a first class seat. If I offered you $39k for the miles you used, would you decline because they are “worth” a $40 flight?

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