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yestravel Nov 8th, 2018 09:42 AM

UA Excursionist Fare
I'm hoping to book a trip to NZ with UA miles in Star Alliance. I'm looking at their Excursionist Perk . I will be leaving form IAD. As I understand it the only place I could add a stop is in either NZ or Australia. I was hoping to add a stop someplace in Asia, but that appears not to be allowed. Is that correct?
I know it's very difficult to book award flights to NZ. Does anyone have any suggestions for succeeding with a FF mile booking to & from NZ? Thanks!

yestravel Nov 11th, 2018 10:01 AM


Melnq8 Nov 11th, 2018 10:19 AM

The only luck we've had using UA awards is when we booked from Singapore to NZ and from Australia/NZ to the US. Seems almost impossible to get FF seats coming from the US. I don't even try anymore.

I much prefer Air NZ to UA anyway. If you've got lots of time before your trip I suggest you sign up for Air NZ email promotions. We got a fabulous deal from Denver to Queenstown and back from Christchurch last May - in Air NZ Premium Economy - which was very nice. Even a NZ agent seemed surprised at how good a deal it was.

yestravel Nov 11th, 2018 02:13 PM

Thanks! I'm not real optimistic about getting FF seats, but I'll try. I understand using ANA website offers more possibilities. Thanks for suggesting I sign up for AirNZ, I'll do that.

Gardyloo Nov 13th, 2018 06:21 AM

Availability of FF seats to and from Oz/NZ has everything to do with timing. Remember that the northern winter is the southern summer, so trying to get to or from those places during school breaks (Christmas and summer in general) can be very difficult because of demands of people originating in Oz/NZ to travel the other way across the Pacific.

If you're planning to travel during a high-demand period, then getting any FF seats, never mind trying to fit in some "excursionist perk" stopover, can be challenging.

If you're using United miles, asking ANA to help you find seats is fairly pointless; you'll still need to book through UA when it comes down to it, and if United doesn't show availability, that's that.

When are you traveling?

yestravel Nov 13th, 2018 06:33 AM

Yes, thanks, I know that getting FF seats is very difficult to NZ during NA winter. We would be traveling in late January 2020 and returning in March. Completely flexible on dates and routes, At this point I am just trying to understand the lay of the land so to speak. What I have read is that ANa shows the availability of all Star Alliance possibilities better than UA website does. I also noticed on the UA website they don’t show the availability a month at a time like it used tO. Am I missing something. With that

when we went to Australia a UA agent routed us thru Asia with a stopover in Hong Kong. There was a fair amount of availability and I would be open to an option like that. I also thought of flying to and from Australia and flying to NZ from Australia if that would yield us seats on the long haul. Like I wrote, at this stage just trying to figure out what options might be available.

Gardyloo Nov 13th, 2018 07:05 AM

Well obviously you won't be able to see availability for January 2020 for several months yet. But permit me to do a little math.

Assuming you're flying in economy, a round trip from IAD to AKL this coming January has a cash price hovering around $1400, give or take, depending on when you're traveling.

Using miles, United charges 40,000 miles one way, so 80K round trip. Ignoring taxes and fees that you'd have to pay on top of the miles (but which are included in the cash price) that equates to a cash value of under 2c per mile. That value will be less once you add in the fees and taxes you'd pay on top of the miles.

Now this is a purely judgement call and people have different standards, but as one who plays the mileage game a lot, in my view 2c per mile or less is poor value. I generally don't use miles unless the cash-equivalent value is greater than 2.5c per mile. And in travel to places like Australia or NZ, the availability issue, where you might find yourself having to take flights on days you'd rather not, or with long layovers, or multiple flights, or weird routes where January weather might pose risks of weather delays, etc.... well, it's up to you. What ELSE could you use those miles for?

Or maybe you fly for cash to someplace in Asia, which can be quite inexpensive in January, then use United miles on a separate itinerary down to Oz/NZ. This coming January you can fly to Hong Kong for less than $1000, in some cases way less, then United charges 25K miles one way to Auckland.

I guess what I'm saying is that since you have plenty of time, run the numbers using all kinds of options. I'd also look at a couple of boards on Flyertalk, the "mileage run" and United boards, and - where obsessive FTers find cheap fares and offer advice on how best to use FF programs respectively. Worth the effort, trust me.

yestravel Nov 13th, 2018 11:23 AM

Thanks! Thought provoking ideas! We want to fly business not economy. Biz fares to NZ run 7k upwards which puts the mileage value up. But the thought of doing a roundtrip to SEAsia might be interesting to explore. Every time I go on Flyertalk my head spins! But you are correct, they are helpful. I thought I would start more gently with Fodors. And as you said, I have lots of time to figure this out.

Gardyloo Nov 14th, 2018 08:12 AM

Originally Posted by yestravel (Post 16824718)
We want to fly business not economy.

Ah, well that changes things.

I don't want to be a pessimist, but you probably already know that business class award trips to Australia/New Zealand are among the hardest seats to obtain in the whole business. I won't say "impossible," because nothing is, and you'll find plenty of people who will say they've gotten award space in the peak season, but these are real rarities; I imagine the vast - vast - majority have simply given up the quest without a peep. Part of the problem is that the two main airlines serving the US < > Australia/NZ route, Qantas and Air New Zealand, (I'm sure about Qantas and pretty sure about Air NZ) make award seats available to their frequent flyer members a month earlier than other Star Alliance (Air NZ) or Oneworld (Qantas) members do for the same dates, and this extends to non-alliance partners (like, for example, Alaska Airlines for Qantas.) And while both Qantas and Air NZ behave similarly to other airlines in using very sophisticated "revenue management" algorithms that release seats into award inventory on a rolling basis, the simple fact remains that there are plenty of people on both sides of the Pacific, as well as Europe and Asia, that are willing to shell out big bucks for business class chairs to Oz/NZ, so there's no incentive for the airlines to make too many available for mileage redemption, and getting two seats on any given flight verges on the impossible.

So what are some work-arounds? Well, I've already mentioned the option of paying to get someplace where award seats might be easier to obtain, but again, wanting business class hampers this plan. It might be easier, if you're traveling in January, to use miles to get somewhere that's easier to access in the winter, then pay cash, but less of it, to go the rest of the way. Candidates for this option would include places in Asia, like Japan or Hong Kong, or even in Europe, which I know is a bit counter-intuitive, but which can reveal some interesting options. For example, using fares for this coming January (since January 2020 is too far out) you can fly a round trip from Oslo or Stockholm to Auckland for around US$3000, compared to $5-6K or more from the US. (Also always check departing from Canada as the markets are different and business class fares are frequently $1000 - $2000 less than from the US on the same dates, a big savings even if you have to pay for separate tickets to/from say, Toronto.) Or use miles to get to Tokyo, from which round trips on Cathay Pacific to Auckland via Hong Kong in January (2019) are available for $2266.

The final thought is one on which I'm a broken record, but I'm obliged to throw it out anyway. If you travel frequently and prefer business class (and who doesn't?) then I'll just mention various round-the-world or "circle" ticket products that might merit investigation. I can go on to ridiculous lengths about these things, but I'll just try to throw out some ideas as "teasers" for the time being.

Round-the-world (RTW) tickets are sold by the members of the three big alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld and Skyteam) and allow you to include up to 16 flights on one ticket. You have to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the same direction, and end in the same country where you began, with a couple of exceptions (e.g. US and Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, etc.) You can zigzag and "double back" within continents and countries, but not over oceans. Subject to specific rules, you can stop over anywhere along the route, and you have 12 months from the first flight to complete the trip. Changes to dates are free, changes to the itinerary cost a flat fee of $125. The Star Alliance and Skyteam RTW products, and one of the two Oneworld ones, limit the total flown mileage to certain "tiers" (for example up to 29,000 miles in one tier, up to 34,000 in the next tier etc.) Baggage is included and you'll earn full frequent flyer miles, which in business class can be quite a harvest. You might qualify for elite status in your FF program of choice.

But one BIG feature of these tickets is that they carry vastly different prices depending on where you begin and end the circle. For example, a Oneworld RTW in business class covering four continents (say, Asia, Australia/NZ, Europe and North America) starting in Japan or Norway costs around US$6900; the same ticket started in the US, with the same stops but in a slightly different order, is $11,000, or if started in Canada, $8200.

These are big numbers of course, but here's how it might work if you travel someplace far away every year or so. Let me give you an example, using the Oneworld Explorer RTW ticket, which IMO is the most useful, tends to be the cheapest, and which offers the greatest flexibility. Let's imagine you want to visit someplace in Europe or the Middle East (which is counted as Europe by the airlines) next spring before you visit New Zealand the following January. I'll just guess that you'd like to visit Israel around Pesach or Easter. So here's what you do.

Fly on miles to Paris, spend a couple of days in the City of Lights, then hop a cheapo flight to Oslo. Start a 4-continent (unlimited miles) RTW ticket there, one you've already purchased before leaving home. If you want to explore Norway for a few days before taking off, fine, but when the time comes, fly from Oslo to Helsinki, change planes, and then fly down to Tel Aviv for your exploration of Israel. Spend as much time as you want, then fly to London and change planes, then home to DC.

Over the next ten months or so, use the ticket to travel around North America, which includes Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Using the Oneworld Explorer, you're allowed six flight segments within this region, only one of which can be a transcontinental nonstop flight, e.g. Washington to LAX or SFO. Maybe an Alaska cruise? Easy. Yosemite waterfalls in the late spring, or fall colors in the Rockies? Okay. Hang out on some Caribbean or Central American beach? No sweat. When you're done with these trips, come home and recuperate before heading off the next time. Remember, you've got a whole year.

Anyway, come January, it's off to New Zealand. You could fly straight from the west coast, or go via Australia, leaving from New York, Dallas or Los Angeles. Enjoy your days in the Antipodes, then when it's time to continue west, you'd have a couple of choices. One, you could return to winter and travel via Asia. You could gobble the best food in the world in Singapore or Bangkok, go skiing in Hokkaido, hit the beach on Bali, or walk along the Great Wall. Your pick.

OR, you could bypass Asia and fly from Sydney across the bottom of the world to Johannesburg. Go on safari around Kruger National Park or visit Addo Elephant National Park and drive down the Garden Route to Cape Town... what's your pleasure?

Then, either from Joburg, Cape Town, or any number of Asian cities, fly back to London and ultimately back to Oslo, where the ticket ends. Use miles again (including some of the many thousand you've earned on the trip) to get home. Or just buy another RTW ticket and plan the next year's travel - maybe South America this time, or India or Central Asia... ?

Here's an imaginary route, one of a bazillion possible.

What this does is leverage one (big) investment in airfare into two, three or even four separate vacations, traveling all the time in the pointy end of the plane, on flat beds on many routes. When you count the miles earned, you can turn 16 flights up front into even more. When my wife and I were doing these things, we'd pay for RTW tickets in year 1, use them to travel around the world, then in year 2 scale back our travels to one or two trips using the miles (Europe, South America, whatever) then repeat the process starting in year 3. When you add everything up, it's tremendous value.

So that's the spiel, and maybe it's not something that interests you, but the devil made me do it regardless. Might be worth considering.

Melnq8 Nov 14th, 2018 10:49 AM

Another thought, which probably won't work in January (Southern Hemisphere high season) is Air NZ's One Up program - purchasing Economy or Premium Economy and then making a bid for the next class of service. Caveat - you don't know until a week or so before your flight if your bid was accepted, so quite likely that you will end up with whatever class of service you purchased. And FWIW IME Air NZ's economy is awfully squishy. Their Premium Economy is wonderful though and a good compromise between cattle class and Business.

I've had good luck with my One Up bids, but this was when I was flying between Australia and NZ and once when flying from Australia-Auckland-US, but not in reverse.

I believe you also have to sign up for Air NZ's FF program to make a bid, but can't swear to that.

And further to Gardyloo's Asia suggestion, we had good luck flying from Singapore to New Zealand via Melbourne and Singapore to Christchurch via Auckland one year using UA points. Much easier than flying from the US directly to Australia and NZ.

yestravel Nov 14th, 2018 12:48 PM

Wow! Thanks for all th great info. Wonderful ideas for NZ.

I have thought about the RTW, but have never dug deeply into it. One problem for us is that we like to be away for ~4-6 weeks generally and then return home. I don't know that we would enjoy being away for such a long period of time that the RTW would require. I realize we could stay shorter times in locations & be gone a short period of time, but we don't tend to do that much anymore. But it's all thought provking and I certainly will keep it in mind for future use. In the meantime your ideas for getting to NZ are very helpful. Aggain, thanks os much for taking the time to write all this out.

yestravel Nov 14th, 2018 12:52 PM

Fodor's threw me out before I could respond to you, Melnq8. There is o way we could fly that far in economy and I know the risk of trying to get an upgrade. I don't even have status anymore on UA because I dropped them as my preferred airline. I used to get upgraded all the time when I had status on UA. What did you think of Singapore? That would be a possibility.

Melnq8 Nov 14th, 2018 01:36 PM

Singapore Airlines or Singapore?

Love Singapore Airlines. Hate Singapore's climate:). Spent a lot of time in Singapore when we lived in Indonesia.

Gardyloo Nov 14th, 2018 02:08 PM

Originally Posted by yestravel (Post 16825285)
Wow! Thanks for all th great info. Wonderful ideas for NZ.

I have thought about the RTW, but have never dug deeply into it. One problem for us is that we like to be away for ~4-6 weeks generally and then return home. I don't know that we would enjoy being away for such a long period of time that the RTW would require.

When I get all wordy on these threads (commonplace) sometimes an important part gets buried. Let me address this question by putting together a very simple imaginary calendar for the trip I described above. Remember, this is one of an infinity of route options, timing, etc.

RTW starting and ending in Norway, 2019 - 2020.

- Sometime between January and April 2019 - Purchase the RTW ticket.

- April 2019 - Fly to Europe using miles or a cheap one-way ticket (these actually exist, using the likes of Turkish, Icelandair, TAP Portugal, or some others.) Or use miles for a one-way award flight. Visit someplace before flying to Oslo.

- April 2019 - Start the RTW ticket in Oslo and fly to Israel. (Could be Spain, Jordan, the Canary islands, Greek islands, you name it.) Spend, say, 10 days touring around Israel or whatever other place you want to go.

- April 2019 - Fly home using the RTW ticket and go back to work or whatever. For months.

- Sometime between April 2019 and January 2020 (8 months) - use the ticket to travel around North America, the Caribbean, Central America, whatever. A weekend in San Francisco? A week's cruise to Alaska? A week or ten days in Costa Rica or leaf peeping in Quebec? Whatever. Then back home again.

- January 2020 - Off to Australia and/or New Zealand. Three weeks?

- February 2020 - Fly up to Asia or over to Africa. Singapore? Sri Lanka? Vietnam? China? Up to you. Or over to Joburg and down to Cape Town? Or Victoria Falls, or Kruger National Park? Up to you. Two weeks? Three? Up to you.

- February 2020 - Fly to Europe (from Asia or Africa) and back to Norway. If you want to stop someplace en route - maybe Barcelona? - fine, but just be back at Oslo by the 365th day after your first flight. Then use miles or pay for a ticket home, and work on your trip reports.

So in this scenario you're gone from home for 4-6 weeks at the most at one time, but you could fit a couple of "big" trips and one or two "little" trips during the 12 months that the ticket is valid. You make your home a long "stopover" between the European and New Zealand/Asia/Africa phases of the RTW trip, as well as between the "small" trips in North America.

Like I say, imaginary, but totally doable.

yestravel Nov 14th, 2018 06:49 PM

Singapore the city. Although would love to fly on the airlines as I've heard it quite nice.
Gardyloo - I am going to have to mull all this info you are providing. We have 12 months to use the ticket following the rules,, right?. It sounds really great. Like I said I need to think this thru on how we could do it say starting in the summer or fall 2019. And then I have to explain it to my husband and see if he agrees, but it sound too good to be true! Are you on PM? I will be back on this.

Gardyloo Nov 15th, 2018 05:18 AM

Originally Posted by yestravel (Post 16825450)
We have 12 months to use the ticket following the rules,, right?. It sounds really great. Like I said I need to think this thru on how we could do it say starting in the summer or fall 2019. And then I have to explain it to my husband and see if he agrees, but it sound too good to be true!

Well, "too good to be true" is always flirting with quicksand, and the rules can get complicated for sure. But yeah, it's a useful means of seeing some interesting places, some of which are very difficult or expensive to reach.

What I recommended, back when I was a part-time travel consultant shortly after retiring (and still recommend) is that people work up a 3 - 5 year travel "master plan" that lists the places in the world you'd like to visit (or re-visit) along with the time of year you'd most like to visit them. My example of this is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Visiting in the summer (December - April) puts you into high heat and humidity on land, and the presence of dangerous (even deadly) jellyfish in the water makes for a very unrewarding visit. In the southern winter, however, it's spectacular. But in those same months, combining Queensland with, say, the South Island of New Zealand, means you'll be moving from warm nights to snowstorms in the Southern Alps. So timing is everything, right?

Anyway, a travel master plan takes those kind of things into account, sort of like a bucket list on steroids. Not only do you list the places, you work through the order you'd like to see them, whether they can be combined in the same trip with someplace else you want to see, and from that start working on the logistics. By using a 3 or 4 year timeline, you can put together a logical plan that addresses both priorities and practicalities. Of course these plans need to be flexible and make allowance for spur-of-the-moment trips, or trips taken out of necessity - a sick relative, somebody gifts you Superbowl tickets (as if) or things like that.

RTW tickets can be one, but by no means the only, way to flesh out the logistics of such a plan. You start by deciding where you'd like to go, and tools like RTW tickets (or frequent flyer miles) can be surprisingly liberating. Think about places where you wouldn't otherwise be able to get to - the Galapagos Islands or Easter Island in the Pacific? Sri Lanka or Mauritius? Lapland? Patagonia or Namibia? Nepal? With the only limitation being where the planes fly, you've got the whole world at your beck and call. Think big.

FromDC Nov 15th, 2018 01:21 PM

Thanks you, Gardyloo, this is just the push I need to get organized for such a multi year plan!

yestravel Nov 15th, 2018 02:03 PM

Alright, using your example -- I don't understand how I can go to Israel and then fly home. Travel wherever in NA from my home. Then fly to NZ This seems that I am violating the rule of going in one direction. What am I missing?

Gardyloo Nov 16th, 2018 06:14 AM

The "one direction" thing can be confusing. Here's how it works.

Long ago the airlines divided the world into three "zones," cleverly named TC (Travel Conference) 1, TC2 and TC3. TC1 comprises the Americas, TC2 Europe (as far as the Urals) the Middle East (as far as the Persian Gulf) and all of Africa, and TC3 contains Asia and the "Southwest Pacific," meaning Australia, New Zealand, and the western Pacific (but not Hawaii.)

For RTW tickets, the "one direction" thing only counts between those zones, so for example you can go TC2 (Europe) - TC1 (N. America) - TC3 (Asia) - TC2 (Europe) or vice versa, but not where you cross, say, the Atlantic westbound but the Pacific eastbound. Within those zones you can zigzag or double back to your heart's content, provided you stay within the mileage limits or within specific route restrictions (such as the prohibition by Oneworld of two nonstop transcontinental flights in North America.) But, in my example, starting in western Europe, then flying east to the Middle East, then west to North America, then north and south and east and west within North America, or back and forth between Australia and New Zealand... those are all fine.

janisj Nov 16th, 2018 08:20 AM

>>Within those zones you can zigzag or double back to your heart's content, <<

That was the big thing that always confused me about RTW tickets. Once I figured that out (probably from one of Gardlyloo's tutorials) it became clear . . . not crystal clear but at least much clearer :)

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