Finding Business Award Space for December to USA, is it worth waiting until the last minute?

I’m trying to find award space for 2 to fly to the USA this December. Award space is already quite choppy and can’t get the most ideal flights. Is it worth waiting until the last minute? or just suck it up and redeem now?

Hi htg123,

AU award seats to USA and EU are tough enough to come by on normal days. This would be especially challenging in Dec and 3-4 months away. Additional difficulties if premium class travel is in mind.

If you can find some indirect routes or whatever is available atm (as I can gather from what you have mentioned), I advise you to take it if you have to travel in Dec.

One other avenue to look at for redemptions is buying Lifemiles to redeem on their partner airlines. However, I am also unsure that there would be availability in Dec.

Have a read of the article below if you haven’t already.

Once you are familiar with Lifemiles, I believe you can search for award availability without registering as a Lifemiles member (not 100% sure).

Only if there are availabilities to USA in Dec that is palatable then you can consider whether you are willing to buy miles for these seats.

Award seats are best to be redeemed when they are just released -> about 11-12 mths in advance. Not very helpful for last minute plans.

However, some airlines do release more seats around 7-14 days before flight day. This will only work if you have flexible travel plans or have a backup plan.

If you could tell us more info like where your FF points lie, which city you would like to head to, etc., we may be able to advise more. The more info the better chance for us to help.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

Hey w-hiew,

Thanks for your response.

Between the 2 of us, we have 160,00AA points, 230,000 (+~6k pending) amex usa points, 50,000 amex au points, 400,000 velocity, 160,000 united points, 90,000 Qantas.

United may have something on air China, but would like variety, like trying to get on asiana or Eva air business… Or go on Singapore biz somehow…I notice that seats do open up last minute, but just worried that in Dec, since it’s peak, I might get screwed, but then again, since I’m quite diversified, maybe I’ll be ok.


Was looking to go from mel-pit around dec11/12/13 and return Jan 8/9/10.

Don’t mind getting separate tix from a hub lime JFK/ord or somewhere not too far.


Thanks a lot



Hi htg123,

You have quite a large variety of points with usable balance. Your variety of point balance could be a double edge sword. It may provide you with a larger chance of securing award seats in December but there are many more options to investigate. As long as you are willing to do the legwork, there should be a way to get some seats.

The following are options I found for MEL-JFK. Point/mile costs are laid out in the following format (econ, business) for per person return.

Qantas (150k, 278k). Partners that fly to JFK include Emirates, Cathay, China Eastern, Qatar. I can only find econ reward availability for MEL-JFK through Qantas website.

United (80k, 160k). Partners that fly to JFK include Air India. Nothing available on United website. I found SYD-PEK-JFK on Air China for 1 of the days on multi class cabin.

AA (80k, 160k). Partners that fly to JFK include Cathay, Etihad, Qatar. Route not searchable on AA website. I would suggest searching SYD-JFK/LAX/SFO.

For all 3 FF programs above, there may be available seats on other partner airlines that have to be redeemed over the phone.

Amex US transfer partners are far and varied so based on your point balance only partners that allow 1 way redemption are listed below. These are costs for 1 person 1 way.

Aeroplan (45k, 80k) with Air India.

Krisflyer (55k, 97.5k) with Air India. (not incl. online 15% discount).

Asiamiles (70k, 110k) with Cathay, China Eastern, Qatar.

Flying Blue (50k, 125k) with China Southern, China Eastern.

Etihad (77.5k, 155.5k) with Philippine.

British Airways (75k, 225k) with Cathay and Qatar.

Emirates (105k, price not available) with Emirates.

I did not check for Velocity. Availabilities are rather shocking recently.

If you could position yourself in SYD, you would open up some more options. It could mean multiple stops though. MEL-SYD-US West/East Coast-PIT.

Hope it is not too overwhelming.

I would probably start by calling Qantas, AA and United to check on availability for MEL/SYD-JFK/LAX/SFO for your intended dates. If that doesn’t yield any results, go down the AMEX transfer options or Lifemiles options.

Sorry for rambling along. I may be teaching a duckling how to swim.

If it’s all too overwhelming and you are deperate, you may consider using award booking services available out there. Personally, I have not experienced using them though so I can’t recommend one.

Last minute redemptions generally only open up during off peak seasons, so probably not the best idea to wait and hope. Depending on your airline memberships and your status, you may have a better chance than others as airlines do generally open up more award space for their premium frequent fliers than the grunts.

As a rule, airlines open up reward seats as a way of supplementing the amount of full-fare paying passengers, and to make sure the planes depart full when otherwise they might struggle to sell enough seats. During the peak periods, airlines decide when the flight originally goes on sale (about 11 months out) based on sales around the same period from previous years, modelling and research on demand, how many seats and in what classes they aren’t likely to sell for each flight, and then make that amount of seats available for redemptions.

If you’re lucky and organized, you can snag some of these seats when they originally go on sale. Airlines are generally pretty spot on though with that modelling, so unless sales take a dive for some reason last minute redemptions are uncommon.

Depending on your airline program of choice and your status it may work out to be reasonable value for you to purchase an economy/premium economy (or in the case of Qantas, redeeming an economy award seat) fare and to then request upgrades using points ? It’s by no means fool-proof and unless you’re quite a high-flier in the program tier-wise, during the peak season there may be plenty on board who out-rank you, but it’s not a bad way to go.

Otherwise flexibility is your friend; the most convenient and quickest route is usually the first to sell, so if you’re willing to compromise and do some weird routing then you might go alright. Try Cathay Pacific’s routing to NYC that goes HKG-YVR-NYC, as it’s a bit of a random stop - alright if you’re up the pointy end of the plane though!