Rare: Saver Business Class Award Availability To New Zealand

New Zealand is an extremely difficult destination to get to on miles. Up until recently Air New Zealand more or less had a monopoly between the US mainland and New Zealand, though over the past few months both American and United have started flights to Auckland, from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. You have to love the new routes that the 787 has made possible for airlines, at least in terms of being able to launch new routes in a profitable way.

The 787, which both American and United fly to Auckland

So while additional competition is a good thing, award availability to New Zealand has still been extremely limited for the most part.

Well, United has a lot of business class award availability for travel between San Francisco and Auckland next July and August. There seems to be availability three days per week, and most flights have at least four business class award seats, which is a ton.

United-Award-Availability United-Record

Now, admittedly this is winter in New Zealand, though in practice that’s not necessarily a bad thing:

  • For people who have to plan vacations around school, this is the most practical time to go; if you go over New Years, award availability is almost impossible to come by, and everything will be outrageously expensive and crowded
  • New Zealand can be beautiful in winter as well, as it’s not a destination you go to in order to sit on a beach

Auckland, New Zealand

This route is operated by United’s 787, featuring fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. It’s certainly not my favorite business class product out there, but it’s not horrible either.

United-787-Business-Class - 2
United’s 787 business class

In terms of the best options for booking these flights, one-way business class award costs are as follows (without any fuel surcharges):

  • United MileagePlus charges 70,000 miles, and points can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Air Canada Aeroplan charges 80,000 miles, and points can be transferred from Amex Membership Rewards
  • Avianca LifeMiles charges 81,000 miles, and you can outright purchase them for ~1.375 cents each

In other words, if outright buying Avianca LifeMiles, that’s like paying under $2,300 for a roundtrip business class ticket between the US and New Zealand, which is just a fraction of the retail cost.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Bottom line

This won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s certainly worth mentioning instances where we see a lot of premium cabin award space to New Zealand. While the southern winter isn’t the ideal time to go to New Zealand, I know for many families it’s the only time they can make it work. And with this amount of business class award availability…

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)


  1. This has been around for a few months and it was actually 4 days of availability until a few weeks ago.

    For most days you can also use this to SYD, tagging on a NZ 787/777 flight in C from SFO-AKL-SYD/MEL/BNE, a cheap way to get to Australia and only a few extra hours to save 105k miles on the nonstop SFO-SYD.

    You can also tag on a stop over if you book roundtrip

  2. I checked in May ’17 a couple months ago, and I saw tons of availability, but all the flights were on the 777 with the 8-across configuration. If they switched from the 787 to the 777 on that route, that might explain why there are all of a sudden so many open business class seats.

  3. I booked AKL-SFO a few months ago when there was some R availability. Since then, they done an equipment swap to a 772 (from a 789). I called to complain and was essentially told that a lot can happen between now and then. It seems they are flying a 788 on that route now. Perhaps they are concerned about delivery of the 789 and are using a 772 as a backup for the extra capacity? Anyway, it is pretty disappointing to expect to fly on a new(er) 789 for 12 hours and end up with a tired 772. I’m hopeful the 789 deliveries come in as expect and they reapply the 789 to this route.

    Also, United still has a few marketing pages up introducing the 789 on the SFO-AKL route. Guess marketing hasn’t gotten word yet…

  4. As a NZ’er looking at getting out of NZ for each winter, this is good to know. The availability of credit card bonus sign up – and spend – offers are (more or less) non-existent compared to what North Americans / Europeans are able to accumulate. The main way to accumulate points in NZ is by purchasing them. When compared to a regular ‘special’ business class airfare of (maybe) $6.5K NZD ($4.7K USD) for a direct flight to the West Coast of the US, purchasing points is equal to 1/2 the price of purchasing an airfare directly.

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