Adventures Down Under, Part 1 of 8: The Flight Plan: 80K United and 35K American Miles

ADVENTURES DOWN UNDER: Bangkok, Sydney, and the Great Barrier Reef

Part 1 of 8: The Flight Plan: 80K United and 35K American Miles

Part 2 of 8: San Francisco (SFO) to Bangkok (BKK) on Air China

Part 3 of 8: Bangkok!

Part 4 of 8: BKK to Sydney (SYD) on Thai Airlines

Part 5 of 8: Sydney!

Part 6 of 8: SYD to Cairns (CNS) and back on Qantas in Business Class

Part 7 of 8: The Great Barrier Reef!!

Part 8 of 8: SYD to Los Angeles (LAX) on United Airlines




To and From Australia: 80K United Miles for SFO-BKK-(3-day stopover)-SYD-(2-week stay)-LAX

The first and hardest part was figuring out how to get TO and FROM Australia. We had a lot of United and American miles lying around from credit card signup bonuses, but American’s availability was not ideal, and we liked the flexibility of United’s award routing to Australia.

United’s Mileage Plus program allows one stopover AND one open jaw, and they allow North America – South Pacific flights to be routed through Asia. So the question was: where do we want to go? The most practical options, given United’s Star Alliance partner airlines’ routes bookable with United miles, were Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, and Seoul. Bangkok was our first pick, and it worked out really well. We found availability on for the following routes, all operated by different Star Alliance airlines, which showed individual flight prices like this:

San Francisco (SFO) – Bangkok (BKK) on Air China (one-way = 32.5K miles)

Bangkok (BKK) – Sydney (SYD) on Thai Airways (one-way = 30K miles)

Sydney (SYD) – Los Angeles (LAX) on United Airlines (one-way = 40K miles)

The individual flights, if booked separately, would add up to 102,500 miles. However, when we booked all of these flights together, we were able to book them bundled up as a simple round-trip flight from the US to Australia, with a stopover in Bangkok and an “open jaw” a.k.a. leaving from and returning to different airports, SFO and LAX, which cost us only 80,000 miles each and about $120 in taxes.

AU 418

Flights within Australia: 35K American Miles for SYD-CNS-SYD in Business Class

Once we booked our flights to and from Australia, we had about 2 weeks in Sydney, and we wanted to do a side trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the dive/snorkel boats leave from the Northeast Aussie city of Cairns (CNS), so I searched for award space on Qantas Airlines between SYD and CNS because we had both American Airlines AAdvantage miles and British Airways Avios points available.

Qantas did not avail any economy seats to their OneWorld partners on the days we wanted to fly, so we ended up splurging for business class. These same seats could be booked with American or British Airways miles, but they ended up being cheaper with American miles (17.5K each way versus 20K). Qantas awards are bookable directly through (some OneWorld alliance partners are not shown on, in which case you need to search for OneWorld availability through Qantas or British Airways).

AU 001

How we got (way more than) 80K United and 35K American miles

United: Louisa and I had both been stocking up on United miles for a while, which allowed us to do this trip. The key cards that gave us each 90K United miles were the Chase Explorer card (50K mile bonus) and the Chase Sapphire card (40K point bonus), which transfers points to United miles at a 1-to-1 ratio.

American: We had each gotten the Citi AAdvantage card (50K mile bonus) multiple times.

As a sidenote, all three of these cards all have the first year’s annual fee waived and they are among my favorite highly recommended cards.


Annnnnd that’s it for now! Coming up next week:

Part 2 of 8: San Francisco (SFO) to Bangkok (BKK) on Air China


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