One of the biggest annoyances for most people when using Qantas Points are the taxes and fees they slug you with when redeeming points. For Economy flights, these can often be a deal breaker for using points when fares are cheap.
If you’re willing to look away from Qantas for your flights to the US (which you really should), you can save points and cash by redeeming with American Airlines – plus also avoid the backtrack across the Tasman.
American Airlines offer a seasonal Auckland to Los Angeles flight, which started in 2016, but this tip is still just as valid – so we’ve updated this guide for those planning travel to the US in early or late 2019.
Why American Airlines redemptions with Qantas are cheaper than booking with Qantas directly
Qantas pass on taxes and fees with most of their frequent flyer partners, with few exceptions. American Airlines is one for which only airport and other booking fees are imposed by Qantas – with no fuel surcharges, making the co-payment when using points much lower.
This is the case for all American Airlines-operated flights, not just those across the Pacific – Keith has picked up a US – Europe Business Class flight for under $15 in taxes before, plus points.
The other win is that Qantas and American Airlines joint business partnership means that American flights can be redeemed at the same cost in points as Qantas flights, unlike other oneworld partners like Cathay Pacific.
Examples of the price differences between booking with Qantas and American Airlines
|Route||Qantas (via AU)||American Airlines|
|Auckland - Los Angeles Economy return||$240 + 110,000 points||$110 + 80,000 points|
|Auckland - Los Angeles Business Class one way||$240 + 112,000 points||$58 + 84,000 points|
|New York - Auckland Business Class one way||$302 USD + 128,000 points||$55 USD + 128,000 points|
First Class taxes are very similar to Business Class, but I couldn’t find availability for the handful of example dates I searched to pull up a comparison – noting also that First Class is not offered on American Airlines flights to New Zealand.
General comments on award availability
Award availability with both American and Qantas in Economy across the Pacific is pretty good outside of the usual peak periods, and can be found in peak travel times for Economy and Premium Economy flights by planning ahead.
In Business and First Class, both airlines make slim pickings available for points redemptions.
Qantas tend to consistently release Business and First Class seats at the edge of their calendar, so 353 days prior to flying a couple of seats usually come up in both classes. If these are booked and not cancelled, extra seats often don’t come up.
American on the other hand tend to manage their inventory in blocks – there’s no redemption availability for a while, and then a block of seats will open up for redemptions. I often find that there are more Business Class award seats available ex-LAX than ex-AKL, which seems odd given you would think most of the seats would be snapped up the other way around.
A possible downside to using Qantas Points in this way? You’ll be flying American, but that might not be so bad.
The American Airlines inflight product is quite different to Qantas, with different styled seats.
From my experiences with American, the most marked difference is in the quality of service. US airlines generally are known for service that is focused on safety, with food and other courtesies a second priority.
The best service manages to juggle both safety and service, and I’m yet to experience a flight with a US airline that has managed this.
All that said, I consider American’s Business Class seat on the Boeing 787-9 is far better than what Qantas’ offers on the route, with full aisle access for everyone and much more privacy.
Photo courtesy of American Airlines
Meanwhile, Qantas offer a variety of different products, ranging from their award winning Business Class Suite on their 787, or the less-desirable 2-2-2 or 2-3-2 configurations. It can still be a gamble on what product you get offered, whereas American are consistent on the route – and they fly direct.
For the cash and points saved, and the avoidance of a flight back to Aussie, I am certain most travellers would prefer to redeem with American instead.
Research & Booking American flights using Qantas Points
Thankfully using Qantas Points for American Airlines flights is really easy – Qantas.com shows availability and pricing in points and taxes when searching. Just start searching from the qantas.com homepage, log in to your frequent flyer account when prompted and take it from there.
You’ll then want to look for the AA operated flights that look like this: