Award Maximizing: 90k Business/First Class to Oceania

My favourite redemption (which is rather complicated) is 80-90k miles to Australia, well below the cost of using most types of miles. I did this type of trip back in August, and many people have asked me to show how to book it rather than vaguely hinting about it. So I’ll try to elaborate here to the best of my ability how to book one of these trips. I’m particularly fond of this trip because I’m combining two sweet spots in two separate award programs to make an amazing elaborate trip.

This is the second post in my Award Maximizing Series. The first post about using Delta Skymiles miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper and Virgin Australia Business class can be found here.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that these are nested trips. What that means, is that they are two separate tickets. I am flying from A-B-A, on one ticket, and I’m flying B-C-B on another. My trip ends up becoming A-B-C-B-A. My A-B-A is with lifemiles, and my B-C-B segments are with USDM. I do this routing because this is actually cheaper than doing A-B-C-B-A using just one type of miles (lifemiles OR USDM) as this would require 110k miles or more just for a business class ticket. For this trip, A can be any city in North America (space permitting). In this case for my trip A is Vancouver, since that’s where I’m based. B is Guam. C can be any destination in Oceania, including Rarotonga, Sydney, Christchurch, and even Papeete (again space permitting).  This would be the most simplest variation of the trip, which I talked about here.



This was the trip I flew back in August.



The full routing of my trip which I have booked for next year is actually Vancouver-Los Angeles-Taipei-Guam-Osaka-Bangkok-Sydney-Melbourne-Auckland-Singapore-Nagoya-Guam-Tokyo Narita-Denver-Vancouver. So here are all the flights listed on



This is a little more complicated, but so again I’ve tried to make it a bit more clear. The bolded parts are a lifemiles redemption (booked as two separate one-way tickets). This is a bit more hassle but it makes it easier to change or cancel one of the one-ways in the event I want to return from Asia/Oceania differently. Anyways, the two lifemiles redemptions are LAX-TPE-GUM for the outbound. This lets me try EVA Air’s Royal Laurel Product and EVA Air’s Hello Kitty plane, both of which I liked when I flew it in August.

Instagrammed EVA Hello Kitty + Royal Laurel Business Class

Instagrammed EVA Hello Kitty + Royal Laurel Business Class

The return is GUM-NRT-DEN-YVR, which will let me try United’s 787 in Business class. I still have yet to fly the Dreamliner, so that will be exciting. The total for these two segments would be 50,000 miles for two one-ways in Business Class, which is one of the sweet spots for Lifemiles. This can be booked online at Just a quick reminder that if you cannot see space online then you are out of luck, as the lifemiles engine is often very glitchy. This image shows the flights that were booked with Lifemiles:

Lifemiles Bookings

Lifemiles Bookings

The italicized part is the US Airways nested ticket. This would be 30,000 USDM miles in business class, and 40,000 USDM miles in first class. It’s another sweet spot of the US Airways chart, as Guam (and Saipan I think as well) is put into the same zone as Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of Oceania. My routing for this award is GUM-KIX-BKK-SYD/AKL-SIN-NGO-GUM. I managed to put in an open jaw in this itinerary which as far as I know is not allowed, but if you call enough times to the USDM desk, you might get lucky (and even get a stopover in). This means I will be flying GUM-KIX-BKK-SYD all at once, on Thai First Class, hopefully on their retrofitted 747’s. I’ll get a nice massage at the Thai First Class lounge in Bangkok. I’ve flown quite a lot of Thai already actually, flying BKK-SYD-BKK-HKG this August as part of my trip this year, except I’ve never flown their 747’s with new first class, so I am hoping that next year they’ll have retrofitted the 747’s that go to Sydney. Last time I put a 23 hour stopover in Bangkok, so this year I will only be connecting.

Thai First Class Lounge/Spa/Seat

Instagrammed Thai First Class Lounge/Spa/Seat

My return is AKL-SIN-NGO-GUM. I will be getting a 16 hours (the whole day) in Singapore, so it’ll be essentially another 23 hour stopover. I think I put a 6 hour connection in Nagoya as well, so I’ll have to decide whether I’ll be going out to the city. I will be flying Singapore’s retrofitted business class on their 772’s which are quite nice in a 1-2-1 configuration. I’ve flown SQ A380’s in business class, and it was one of the best if not the best business class product out there, so I really look forward to trying that. Unfortunately Singapore First Class on their 77W’s is not bookable with USDM, so I had to settle for business class. I thought about booking Thai First Class back from Sydney, but then the trans-Tasman flight would be in economy as Air New Zealand extremely rarely releases business class space on those AKL-SYD flights. I also think by next year I’ll have had enough flights in Thai First Class so mixing it up would be nice too. But if you do a 40k redemption you can also do 4 segments on Thai First Class, which makes each segment only 10k miles and an AMAZING value. Or for only 30k miles you could do 4 segments in business class which also opens up a lot more options.

This is my routing on for my USDM redemption:

US Airways Booking

US Airways Booking

To tie up the SYD-AKL open jaw, I used 4500 Avios to book SYD-MEL in economy class. Then for MEL-AKL I booked Emirates First Class with 54,000 Qantas points which my super awesome bestintheworld blog reader/friend gave me. That’s a lot of points, but generally Qantas points are quite worthless and on FT CC I’ve seen 2QF:1-1.5 ratios for most conventional miles that we have. Alternatively you could also pay 1000AUD+ for the segment but that is still a bit pricy for me. Also it’s worth a mention that EK doesn’t offer chauffeur service on Trans-Tasman routes any longer, so that is unfortunate. I will still be looking forward to my shower in the air though :). This part of the redemption totally jacks up the total miles used for the trip, although you could reduce it with a 10k avios booking in economy or have a stopover instead of an open jaw on your award. Finally, I booked YVR-LAX with 7.5k avios in economy.

Finding the award space for these flights are no different that booking any other award. I personally use the KVS Tool to find seats, but you can also use the ANA tool which is free. As I mentioned earlier, you can only book what is available online with Lifemiles. Once you’ve found the segments you want to book with USDM, just call in and feed them each flight individually. If you are lucky it will price as 30k J/40k F.

(I think) It’s an amazingly fun process to book and to talk about, especially this redemption can be outright “purchased” with miles. During the USDM Share promos, USDM can be purchased for 1.15 cents which meaning, a 40k USDM redemption would be around $460 (excluding tax). A 50k Lifemiles redemption would be $750, given that Lifemiles will sell you miles at 1.5 cents during it’s 100% purchase promo, one which is running right now. So in total, you can pay all in $1400 for a business class trip without any miles, which is pretty amazing.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions.

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      • Well, in a week’s time I will be landing in GUM at 0150 and departing at 0735, so time spent at the “destination” is only 5h 45min 😉

          • But I guess it’s different. I don’t have to fly to the US because I don’t live there. It’s more of a circle Pacific trip for me. SYD-BKK-HND/NRT-GUM-FUK-TPE-SIN-MEL it’s running, on 60k UA miles, SYD-GUM in F and GUM-MEL in J, with a 3 week stop home in SIN.

  1. Not sure if this is breaking or not, but looks like United has opened up a ton of award space to HNL and GUM for all of the lifemiles bookers. No more routing through Asia?

    Also don’t seem to be getting options for other *A carriers from non-United cities, such as SEA-NRT-GUM.


    • United is cancelling SEA-NRT next year, so that’s why space is not showing up. As I said, you can only book what is available with lifemiles! If space doesn’t show up, then it doesn’t. Just a few days ago I saw several days that had routings via Tokyo, though.

      • But Sea-NRT would be available on ANA, I check

        My point is broader, I think united opened up hnl space on purpose to route folks through their instead of more expensive business routes to nrt.

        For example, IAD-HNL in flat bed showed business available for 7 travelers on one flight. That kind of award inventory that broadly is unheard of on that route right? During the busy summer vacation season?

        • I highly doubt that UA would open space just so lifemiles redeemers wouldn’t be able to fly TPAC, especially if lifemiles themselves haven’t even significantly fixed anything. For some reason lifemiles will not allow NH metal to be booked TPAC to Guam, which is why you won’t see that routing show up.

          • Well, I appreciate the replies. Didn’t intend to carry a contrary tone. The business class to hnl may be news for those looking to burn amex points via sq for business class to hawaii, especially east coasters in flat-bed. Peace.

    • This trick has been talked about a lot lately. We’ll see if the combined publicity, including a few views here, adds up to them changing it. Jeff has kept this under raps for a long time, but got mad at FT lately, so I guess he decided to talk about it. We’ll see what happens. Combining with USDM does make sense.

      • Fair enough. But I’ve written about the USDM redemption many times and hinted at LM several times. Not to mention that Guam is already very well known.

        • Yeah, I believe you have. And I know you hinted at it before. I follow the FT thread and Aussie thread closely. I think in this case, this has been out awhile and it’s not gonna add much to the risk, which was one point to the OP. The other point was that this seemed like a bit of revenge @ FT lol.

  2. Of course you most likely lucked out with your booking through LifeMiles before it discovered and corrected the GUAM GLITCH that some blogger snitched about a couple of months, and before there was an increase in the price of buying miles in that program…a double wamy. I know several people who took advantage of buying LifeMiles during double miles promos and booking business tickets from the US to Guam when the system recognized this as a domestic US destination and charged accordingly, about half what would normally cost to get to a Pacific island from the US.

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