Best airline for frequent MEL<->LAX business?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Simon01 1 Mar 2014
at 06:59

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  • Anonymous


    Hi Travellers!

    I make 10-12 AUS – US trips a year and currently use United exclusively. I use points to upgrade to Business and it generally costs under $2500 return. I’m looking for some advice and I will send a $200 e-gift card (of your choice!) to anyone who can provide any airline advice that I end up taking and which makes my life easier!

    I don’t often book enough in advance to get an immediate business upgrade so I go on the wait-list. There used to be a good chance of the upgrade going through but now days I find myself stuck in economy too often, and I would rather be in a dentist’s chair with drills boring into my teeth than take United economy. I hate how snobby that sounds, but really, they are the pits. Their business class is OK though.

    Does anyone have any advice for me? United is always way cheaper than the other airlines on website prices, but do the others have better upgrade and points programmes which would make it more comparable to united in price?

    I have a small company and can’t justify a huge travel budget.



    Hello Sleepyflyer , suggest you try Air New Zealand via Auckland
    Good timings and a great Business class, friendly crew


    Hi Sleepyflyer, I would also suggest Air NZ as their Economy is sort of acceptable in terms of comfort and services. BUT, upgrading from Economy would mean flying Premium Economy and not BusinessFirst and I’ve absolutely no idea how easy it is to upgrade.

    One thing for sure is that you should register at Airpoint rather than United MileagePlus (although they are both part of Star Alliance, upgrades are always much more difficult to get on a “partner” airline than the are on the airline owning the FFP).

    As for Simon01’s comment… I do agree about BusinessFirst. Good product and one of the few I tried and would consider paying for (I fly Europe-NZ quite regularly and tend to stick to Singapore Airlines but Air NZ is an alternative).


    Fiji Airways (formerly known as Air Pacific) may be a possibility. You fly MEL-NAN and then transfer to NAN-LAX on their brand new A330s. Quite cheap J fares.


    United are launching a non-stop flight from LAX to MEL, however, this is on a 787 with the VERY tight seating in economy. Even if you get a seat in economy plus, you may get a few more inches legroom, but you are still in a very narrow seat. Probably a good product in J though.

    They may also charge for alcohol on United in Y, which is another turn-off, and something that might (for me anyway) enable the 15 hour flight to be a bit more bearable.

    Is Virgin Australia with a connection to Virgin America an option?


    I believe UA now charges Y passengers for alcoholic drinks on transpacific routes. The change happened fairly recently.


    Hi Simon,

    Thanks – I have overlooked Air NZ and it does look great. Few questions if you know them:

    If you book premium economy, is it possible to upgrade to business?
    I wouldn’t want to pay $5500 over the $2200 for premium economy, but I travel a lot so would like to use the points to upgrade.

    Is “Skycouch” worth the $1800 upgrade? I like that their ingenuity.

    Regrettably I just booked a united flight for next week but i’ll look into this next trip.

    Thanks !


    Hi TMConsulting,

    Thanks for the tip RE airpoints. Do you know if MileagePlus points have any currency with Air NZ and how they could be used?

    It hadn’t occurred to me that they could be used on other airlines.



    Hi Sleepyflyer,

    Airpoints works a little differently than most FFPs. Rather than earning miles you get “Airpoints Dollar” which is the equivalent of 1 NZ Dollar. For a MEL-LAX flight in Premium Economy you would get 150 Airpoints. You can then use the Airpoint dollars to pay for a free ticket or to submit a “OneUp” (upgrade) offer on your next flight (you book premium, tell Air NZ you would like to upgrade and how much points your are ready to give for that upgrade. Then they decide based on availability, fare paid etc… if they confirm the upgrade – or not). Once you get to Silver, Gold or Elite status you will receive complimentary upgrades to be used on AirNZ (only). This is a big + if you stick to AirNZ of course :o)

    Being based in Europe, I’m not used to work with Airpoints and therefore don’t have much background experience to tell if the “OneUp” upgrades are easy to get or if it tends to be very limited too. Therefore I would suggest to chat with someone at AirNZ Travel Center in MEL (ph 03 9251 5036) or a corporate travel agent (ex: Carlson Wagonlit).

    Meanwhile you may want to look at

    Now, if you use United’s MileagePlus, you need to request a “Star Alliance” upgrade. 2 things to watch out for:

    – you cannot book ANY fare as only the higher ones of a specific cabin entitles you to claim Star Alliance Upgrades
    – upgrades are usually very limited (and usually much more difficult to get than if you are using the operating airlines FFP)

    Link for details:

    All in All, and by experience, all FFPs are more or less the same in the end (sure, they have different names, different values, and work a little different but the ratio between paid trips/miles/status/rewards options are all similar). The only good advise is to get the FFP of the airline that you fly with the most.

    Hope it helps a little :o)


    Sorry for late reply Sleepyflyer.
    Whilst I have not travelled in the sky couch I hear its ok for smaller
    passengers but still believe their Premium economy is the way
    to go without a large company travel budget.
    Have heard that they do an airport upgrade rate to premium cabins
    from Akl .
    When I have travelled with them Business and P Economy have been full.
    An excellent airline with friendly and genuine crew.

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