Air New Zealand opens up business class awards for December peak season!

This past July, I was able to book roundtrip award travel to Auckland in Air New Zealand business class, which is very difficult to secure.  Generally, there are 3 tiers when it comes to releasing premium cabin award space for carriers:
  1. Wide open award space across the board (e.g. British Airways)
  2. Limited award space, but bookable if you can be flexible (e.g. Cathay Pacific, Eva, and the majority)
  3. Unicorns, where finding award space is like a needle in a haystack
I would definitely categorize Air New Zealand in the 3rd tier as a unicorn since they are one of the stingiest carriers when it comes to releasing premium cabin award space.  But for the month of December, which is peak travel season to New Zealand as the summer in the Southern Hemisphere begins, Air New Zealand has released a good number of business class awards between their hub in Auckland to several of their U.S. destinations, most notably San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston as shown on United's search engine:

All the 90k figures represent days where business class awards are available.  Okay, so I wouldn't say that this pushes them up to tier 1 in terms of being generous on award space, but it certainly takes them out of the unicorn category.  And considering that December is peak travel season to New Zealand, this is definitely a great opportunity to see some Kiwis.

How to book Air New Zealand awards

Aside from having great service, one of the nice things about Air New Zealand is that they do not impose fuel surcharges or hefty fees on any of their award bookings.  The best way to search for Air New Zealand premium award space is with United's calendar award search as shown above.  United charges 90k miles each way for business class travel to New Zealand, but the following mileage programs are even cheaper:
  1. Virgin Atlantic: 62.5k
  2. Avianca Lifemiles: 80k
  3. Air Canada Aeroplan: 80k
  4. ANA Mileage Club: 120k (roundtrip only)
ANA does represent the best value and is bookable via their website.  However, ANA does require a roundtrip booking, and their miles are harder to obtain as they're a transfer partner with only Amex.  Virgin Atlantic miles are definitely the easiest to secure as they are a 1:1 transfer partner to the Big 3 (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points).  Amex and Citi also occasionally run 30% transfer promos to Virgin Atlantic, which can bring down the redemption rate for a roundtrip flight to <97k, though these promos aren't currently active.  To book with Virgin Atlantic, you would need to call their service desk, though they do allow you to put awards on hold for 24 hours while you transfer your miles over, which is typically an instantaneous process.  

Visit Hobbiton, which is a 2-hour drive from Auckland

Bottom line

If you've been fancying a trip to New Zealand, which is an aesthetically wonderful destination, this would be a perfect opportunity for you to go in business class during your company's holiday shutdown.  Air New Zealand business class awards are very hard to come by, especially during the peak season.  And with the wealth of transfer partners for Virgin Atlantic, this is a great way to go for 125k miles roundtrip for 12+ hour flights.


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