What are the best ways to redeem flights using Qantas or Virgin FF points for MEL-LAX or MEL-YVR trip?

So I am heading over to Vancouver in June, 2016 for a wedding. I have a heap of Qantas FF w/ no status and a heap of Virgin FF w/ gold. I am sorta flexible on dates but ideally I want to use points for an upgrade to business…I know it’s a gamble on Qantas w/ no status if I buy a regular economy. What about Virgin? I only see saver or flexi fares on their website when searching to buy…would I have to buy a flexi then upgrade with points? Any idea how many? It looks like I have to go via LAX or maybe SFO. Direct YVR or including YVR as the end option blows out price or points. Anyone got suggestions?

If you have enough points, I might encourage you to go a slightly longer way around - get an outright award ticket in business class with Cathay.  You can use your Qantas points for this if there is Cathay availability, though you may need to use the “multi-city” search function on Qantas’s website to force it to find it.  So long as your stop in HKG is less than 24 hours, it should still price correctly.

Will still only be one stop, on a better airline, and don’t need to buy an expensive economy ticket just to play the upgrade lottery.  Your chances I would say of an upgrade with no status at that time of year are not very good.

I took a look at dates in June going via HKG and no luck. No options available for premium economy or business.

So I took a look at the upgrade options with Virgin…I can pay $2K for a flexi return flight MEL-LAX. If I bid for an upgrade, there are no guarantees I would get it right? I don’t find out till a day or so before the flight?