I would like to fly to Vancouver/Calgary/Anchorage in with my daughter from Australia for 3 weeks over June/July Semester break. I have qantas FF points, virgin points and I am a member of star alliance. Can you advise the best way to get there or upgrade using these points, or other avenues to pursue?
I assume this is for 2018?
I usually recommend booking premium seats outright with points. However, I understand it’s not an option if you don’t have enough points.
I’m not an expert on point upgrades because of the point above but as far as I know, Qantas FF point upgrade generally is only eligible for Qantas flights. As Qantas doesn’t fly to Canada direct, you can only use Qantas points to upgrade you to USA.
However, if you have no Gold or Plat status with Qantas, I would say your chances of getting an upgrade on Qantas AU-USA direct is very slim. Usually these seats are snapped up right away on outright Classic Rewards redemptions. If you are booking exactly the moment seats are released (12 mths) in advance, you may be in with a chance. Depending on the exact dates you are looking for next year, you may have to act fast to secure the seats (at the time of writing, you can book up to 17 June 2018.
If your point balance allows (for a slight premium), you have other methods to get to Vancouver (for example) via Hong Kong/Tokyo because Qantas is a oneworld alliance member -> you can use Qantas points to redeem other oneworld member airline award seats.
With Virgin Australia, I can only suggest flying to LAX for example and finding your way to Vancouver separately. Similarly to Qantas, you have to book as soon as the dates are available for booking. This route is very popular for obvious reasons.
The other issue with upgrades are:
- You usually have to pay for an expensive Economy Fare (not the cheapest) to be eligible for an upgrade
- In Qantas' case, you will only find out whether you get upgraded 7 days to when you are at the gate whether you get upgraded. We casually call this "upgrade lottery". Not a great outcome if you are depending on the upgrade for such a long flight and the upgrade doesn't come through.
- With Virgin Australia, you can confirm an upgrade if Business Reward seats are still available.
You generally would have better luck going non-direct via Asia and also with flights not originating or departing to Australia. E.g.: Singapore to USA/Canada or Hong Kong to USA/Canada.
Qantas has operated seasonal flights between Sydney and Vancouver for a couple of years now, I expect that they would continue next year, though I haven’t checked. I have flown this route a couple of times, and while I wasn’t able to find award seats (in any class) looking a few months ahead, I was able to upgrade from Economy to Business (QFF bronze) both times.
I found using QFF points for economy flights around North America on Alaskan Airlines to be very easy and good value compared to paid fares, and it worked out cheaper than using Velocity points on Delta.
Like others have said I presume you are looking for 2018, which gives you enough time to plan and make sure you have enough points. Without knowing what city you are leaving from our what class you want to travel it’s a bit hard to give specific information.
For the most direct routing via the pacific the airline’s you would be looking at would be Qantas, American, virgin, air new Zealand delta or united. You can access united seats by transferring your velocity points to Singapore airlines Krisflyer program.
If you are prepared to take a slightly longer route you could look at going via Tokyo or going Kong on Qantas, Cathay or Jaoan airlines. Point cost will be a bit higher but availability is generally better. I myself am going Melbourne Tokyo Vancouver on Japan airlines for christmas, and availability is great.