If there’s one mileage currency I want to burn it’s Delta SkyMiles. Their miles are probably at the highest risk of devaluing soon, so I’m always looking for good ways to redeem them. Previously Air France business class was the best way to redeem SkyMiles given how much award space they released, though since at least the beginning of the year they’ve only been releasing a tiny subset of award space to partner airlines, and in many cases are blocking out availability for months at a time.
Meanwhile the options for redeeming SkyMiles when traveling to Asia and Australia have gotten progressively better.
To Asia, China Southern started A380 service between Los Angeles and Guangzhou last year, and not only do they have an excellent business class product, but they release a ton of award space. Meanwhile as of last October, Korean Air awards can be booked on delta.com. Previously it was a real pain, given that you were at the mercy of SkyMiles agents to both search and book Korean Air award space.
Awards to Australia have gotten much more lucrative as well, because as of last September Delta stopped imposing fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia, the airline that releases the most business class award space between the US and Australia. That’s a savings of about $800 per award ticket.
Anyway, the fun thing about awards with Delta to Australia is that you’re allowed to route via Asia assuming it’s a published routing. So for travel between the US and Australia/New Zealand you can fly Virgin Australia direct to Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney, Air Tahiti Nui through Tahiti, China Southern through Guangzhou, Korean Air through Seoul Incheon, etc.
All legal routings between the US and Australia using SkyMiles
Now, to the point of this post — as of October 27, 2013, China Southern will be launching their second longhaul A380 route, with daily service between Guangzhou and Sydney.
The A380 service will operate with the following schedule:
CZ325 Guangzhou to Sydney 9:05PM-9:30AM (+1 day)
CZ326 Sydney to Guangzhou 10:50AM-5:00PM
The first thing that jumped out at me is that they plan on turning the A380 in 80 minutes. Good luck with that, China Southern.
As a point of reference, their A380 service between Guangzhou and Los Angeles operates on the following schedule:
CZ327 Guangzhou to Los Angeles 9:30PM-7:00PM
CZ328 Los Angeles to Guangzhou 11:00PM-5:20AM (+2 days)
So as you can see the connections are timed much better if traveling from Sydney to Los Angeles via Guangzhou than the other way around. So if you’re looking at doing a routing like this, it might be worth doing Virgin Australia on the outbound, for example, and then China Southern on the return. That’s assuming you don’t want a stopover in China, which would require a visa if for over 24 hours.
I consider this to be a pretty exciting new service, and award availability on the whole seems to be excellent, even in peak season. There seem to be up to six or so business class award seats per flight on average, which is excellent, and can be booked for 150,000 Delta SkyMiles roundtrip.
Meanwhile if you wanted to book first class, you could redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles, at the rate of 240,000 miles for a roundtrip in first class. While you could book a one-way for travel on Korean Air, for travel on partner airlines roundtrip travel is required.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that China Southern does impose mild fuel surcharges, regardless of whether you book through Delta or Korean Air. On a one-way that totals roughly ~$170 per business class ticket, which isn’t half bad in my book.
(Tip of the hat to Hack My Trip)