How to get to Mexico using your frequent flyer points

So, you’ve decided you want to visit the homeland of tacos and tequila!

Here we run through the different ways of how to use your frequent flyer points to get yourself across the Pacific to Central America, with pricing and airline options – concentrating on those routes that get you there directly, and don’t require a backtrack to Australia.


Point Hacks Mexico Series

Part I: The Why: The Mexico beyond Cancun and Cabo

Part II: The How: Using your points to get to Mexico


There are so many combinations to get over to Mexico, especially if you are combining with other travel in The Americas, so we have narrowed it down to three options:

  1. Booking an award itinerary to Mexico via the US, but without a stay any longer than for a connecting flight;
  2. Booking an award to the US, then a separate one to Mexico, thus facilitating a visit to the US; and
  3. Booking an award to Santiago, Chile, or Buenos Aires, Argentina, then a separate one to Mexico, again allowing you to visit Chile or Argentina.

The big challenge – finding award seat availability

The biggest headache with trying to find trans-pacific award seats is availability for the flight across the Pacific, with Air New Zealand, American Airlines, LAN and United.

It can be so tricky to find premium cabin award space you’d almost think the airlines were colluding to dry up the options so totally for using points in premium cabins.

As it stands you’ll have to look early and / or often to stand a chance of finding a Business Class award seat – but it is not impossible.

If you can face less space whilst saving a few points, you’ll find Premium Economy redemptions are more readily available, and Economy even more so – although with fares quite competitive at the minute, with the accompanying surcharges on a points redemption it’s unlikely an Economy redemption will stack up financially.

For the purposes of simplicity and space, all awards are priced as a one-way business ticket from Auckland, with Premium Economy costs highlighted for some options also.

Option 1: New Zealand to Mexico with no stay in US

If you want to get to Mexico for the fewest amount of points possible, in general, book as one itinerary. AAdvanatge, Asia Miles, and United (via SFO only) are cheaper than using Qantas Points and KrisFlyer.

AKL-LAX-MEX

Frequent Flyer ProgramPoints for Auckland - Mexico City via San Francisco or Houston (Business Class)AirlinesPoints for Auckland - Mexico City via LA (Business Class)Airlines
AAdvantageN/AN/A82,500American Airlines
Asia MilesN/AN/A85,000American Airlines
United Mileage Plus85,000 with United (SF only)
95,000 with Air New Zealand/United Mixed Itinerary
Air New Zealand, United95,000 with Air New Zealand/United Mixed ItineraryAir New Zealand, United
Qantas PointsN/AN/A96,000American Airlines
KrisFlyer97,500Air New Zealand, United97,500Air New Zealand, United

We’ve only listed those programs above that provide for travel without ‘automatic’ stopovers (e.g. no difference in redemption cost between having a stopover, or not having one). You’ll see in the next section that the breadth of programs opens up a little when you start planning a visit to the US along with your trip to Mexico.

Option 2: New Zealand to Mexico with a visit to US

If you want to combine your Mexico trip with a visit to the US on either the way there or back, you will be adding 20,000-36,000 points to the cost, which is fairly reasonable.

Frequent Flyer ProgramPoints for Auckland - SF/LAX/IAH (Business Class)AirlinesPoints for SF/LAX/IAH - Mexico City (Business Class)Airlines
Air New Zealand2,040*United775*United
Air New ZealandVariable (1 Airpoints Dollar = $1NZD flight cost)Air New Zealand775United
Asia Miles70,000American Airlines30,000 (American)
40,000 (Alaska)**
American Airlines, Alaska
AAdvantage80,000American Airlines25,000 for 2-cabin or 32,500 for 3-cabin (American)
27,500 (Alaska)
American Airlines, Alaska
Alaska Mileage Plan80,000American Airlines30,000 (American)
40,000 (Alaska)
American Airlines, Alaska
Qantas Frequent Flyer84,000American Airlines36,000 (American)
38,000 (Alaska)
American Airlines, Alaska
United Mileage Plus85,000 with United
95,000 with Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand, United30,000United
Velocity Frequent FlyerN/AN/A35,500Delta
Krisflyer97,500Air New Zealand, United30,000Air New Zealand, United

* Airpoints Dollars, which as we all know, take a lot of work to earn, but can be purchased for $1 each using the Air New Zealand Airpoints Mastercards.

** Alaska Air ‘Business Class’ redeems as ‘First Class’ with Asia Miles

American Airlines, Aeromexico, and United all fly from direct from LAX to Mexico City for under $200, so that might be a better deal than using points. Just remember that most carriers in North America (which includes Mexico) charge 25 USD for one checked bag – however if you have either Oneworld or Star Alliance Elite Status, you can usually avoid these fees.

Flights out of SFO and IAH can be considerably more, so using points here might be a better option for you.

Note that KrisFlyer allows a stopover each way on return award tickets, meaning for 195,000 in total, you could potentially get a stopover in LA, San Francisco or Houston on the way there and back.

Points redemption cost comparison – direct or with a stopover

Here are the Business Class costs for the four major programs lined up – direct (i.e. no stopover in the US) from Auckland, or alternatively, with a stopover. The figures are based on the cheapest redemption option/airline mix with each program.

The clear winners are Asia Miles or AAdvantage for a Business Class redemption. Some programs like Alaska Mileage Plan and Air New Zealand Airpoints have a seperate redemption amount for each leg of the journey (e.g. NZ-US, US-Mexico), so if you’re redeeming through these, you’ll always get a stopover at no additional cost, so may as well take it!

Business Class Award PricingTo Mexico City without a stopover from AucklandTo Mexico City with a stopover from Auckland
Air New ZealandN/A stopover will always be included3,250*
AAdvantage82,500100,000
Asia Miles85,000100,000
United Mileage Plus85,000115,000
Alaska Mileage PlanN/A stopover will always be included110,000
Qantas Frequent Flyer96,000120,000
Krisflyer97,500127,500

Option 3: New Zealand to Mexico with a visit to Chile

Anyone wanting to explore countries south of Mexico might be interested in taking a LAN flight to Santiago, then working their way up to Mexico. LAN has a direct daily flight from Santiago to Mexico City and every Saturday to Cancun, both on the 787 Dreamliner.

SYD-SCL-MEX

Frequent Flyer ProgramPoints for Auckland - Santiago (Business Class)AirlinePoints for Santiago - Mexico City / Santiago - Cancun (Business Class)Airline
Asia Miles60,000*LAN40,000*LAN
Alaska Mileage PlanN/AN/A45,000LAN
AAdvantage82,500LAN62,500LAN
Qantas Frequent Flyer92,000LAN65,000LAN

* LAN, now branded as LATAM, is one of the few airlines where Asia Miles requires that you make a return redemption. These figures are calculated based on what it will cost you one-way, when you book as a return award. This may change when the merger is fully completely in 2018.

Redemption availability is once again an issue on the Santiago flights with LAN, so you’ll need to be prepared to get looking well in advance of when you want to travel; set up award searches to snag any cancelled award seats coming back into inventory, or hold out for any last minute availability coming up.

Summing up

Point Hacks has comprehensive guides on how to make the most of your points for flights from New Zealand to the US for Qantas, Velocity and Asia Miles.

If you just want to focus on Mexico, book an award straight through the US without stopping.

If you want to combine with a visit to the US (or even Canada), book separately. If you have access to KrisFlyer or AAdvantage miles, having two stopovers is a very cost-effective way of visiting both Mexico and the US.

Or if you want to visit Chile and the rest of Latin America, the world is your oyster!

How to get to Mexico using your frequent flyer points was last modified: July 30th, 2017 by Matt Moffitt