Amazing: Fly Business Class to New Zealand for just 15,000 Miles one way

If you’re earning American Express Membership Rewards Ascent or Ascent Premium points, chances are you’re sending them to popular airline schemes such as Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles or even Virgin Australia Velocity.

However, there’s another, less well-known transfer partner that can provide incredible value for Australians – Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Read on to discover how you can leverage this program to score a one-way international business class flight on Air New Zealand for just 15,000 miles!

virgin Atlantic Air New zealand
Air NZ Business Premier offers fine champagne, exceptional service and a very comfortable lie-flat seat

(Trust us, Air New Zealand’s international-grade business class on the 777 and 787 Dreamliner is well worth testing out.)

Onboard, travellers relax in herringbone style seating that converts to a fully-flat bed, with all seats providing direct aisle access. Plus, there’s generous refills of high-end vintage champagne (usually Laurent Perrier or Billecart Salmon), a selection of fine New Zealand wines and delectable meals crafted by New Zealand’s answer to Neil Perry, Peter Gordon.

Plus, subject to availability, it’s yours from just 15,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

Virgin Atlantic isn’t an airline scheme we hear much about in Australia, but it’s one that should be on your radar if you hold an Amex Membership Rewards Ascent or Ascent Premium earning credit card.

Virgin Atlantic counts Air New Zealand as a partner, allowing members to book trans-Tasman redemptions flying Air New Zealand’s highly regarded business class for less than half the points outlay you’d require on the same routes via Qantas or Virgin Australia.

In fact, a one way Air NZ award flight between Australia and New Zealand (including the Pacific Islands) costs just 15,000 miles one way in business class (or 30,000 miles return), plus taxes – that’s incredible value in anyone’s book.

If business class isn’t your thing, you can also nab a one way Air NZ economy class trans-Tasman flight for just 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (plus taxes) – a significant discount from what you’d pay on Qantas (18,000 points or more).

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to book Air New Zealand premium economy seats at this point in time.

And while Air New Zealand isn’t typically known for being generous with opening award space to partners, it is possible to find seats, particularly if you are willing to be flexible with your date(s) of travel (more on that below).

Transferring points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

In Australia, the easiest way to obtain Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles is through an American Express Membership Rewards credit card that earns into the Ascent or Ascent Premium tier.

Eligible cards include the American Express Platinum Edge Card (which comes with a yearly $200 Amex Travel credit) and the American Express Platinum Card.

Featured Credit Cards which allow points transfers into Virgin Atlantic:

Bonus Points
-
Annual Fee
$195
Earn Rate
3 Membership Rewards points per $1 at major supermarkets & petrol stations, 2 points per $1 on overseas spend, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else
*Eligibility criteria, minimum spend, other T&Cs apply

Get a $200 American Express Travel credit each year you hold the card. Earn points into the flexible American Express Membership Rewards program and transfer out to a range of airline partners. Plus, get peace of mind with a range of complimentary insurances.

Of course, you’ll also need to be a member of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to use the program. You can join for free quickly and easily here.

Once you have at least 2,000 points in your American Express Membership Rewards account, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The process is undertaken from within the Amex Membership Rewards portal.

You’ll need to allow time for the transfer, so plan ahead. Amex states that the miles may take up to five business days to show up in your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account.

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 2:1 rate to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. This means that you’ll need 30,000 Amex MR points to score your one-way trans-Tasman business class flight.

How to book Air New Zealand awards with Virgin Atlantic

Once you have your miles, it’s time to book.

Note that partner awards using Virgin Atlantic miles need to be booked over the phone, and you can’t search for Air New Zealand award space using the Virgin Atlantic website.

While it might start to sound like it’s all too hard, don’t despair. Air NZ award space can easily and accurately be searched via other partners. Also, I can confidently say that Virgin Atlantic phone agents are some of the best in the business – they are generally very knowledgeable, able to locate seats quickly and very good to deal with.

Searching for Air NZ partner awards

Air New Zealand award space can be located using a publicly available searching tool for a partner airline. I’d recommend using United, which, in my experience, shows the same Air NZ award space available to Virgin Atlantic.

To search for Air NZ partner award space via United, navigate to the flight search screen here. Select ‘Yes’ when asked if you want to book in a Mileage Plus ticket and enter your desired dates.

It’s worth noting that Air NZ award space can be patchy, and some routes may show only very limited availability. It can help to tick the ‘flexible dates’ option as this will enable you to view availability across a 30 day period:

Virgin atlantic flying club screenshot

Also note that while you’ll be prompted to enter United MileagePlus login details as part of the search, there is no need to do so.

Once you’ve hit the ‘search’ button’, the United site will bring up the available award space (if any), at ‘Saver’ rates. Taxes will also be displayed – and these are roughly around $120 AUD per sector between Australia and New Zealand.

Booking Air NZ award space via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Once you’ve searched for availability and located date(s) on your route of choice, it’s time to call up and book via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

The US call centre can be reached on 1-800-365-9500. It’s generally staffed by friendly, competent agents who will proactively step you through the booking process. Simply feed them your dates and they will do the rest.

Once the booking has been completed, you should receive your e-ticket shortly thereafter via email. Simple!

Note that there is a $50 USD cancellation or change fee per person (up to 24 hours before departure), with all miles and taxes refunded. If you’re cancelling within 24 hours of the flight, you’ll only receive your taxes back (miles are forfeited).

How easy is it to find Air NZ award space?

Air New Zealand can be notoriously stingy when it comes to releasing premium award space to partners, so it does pay to be flexible and book well in advance.

Generally speaking, Air NZ releases two business seats at a time on their trans-Tasman sectors, and school holiday periods are almost always blacked out. Further to this, there’s often no rhyme or reason to release patterns, and space is released on a rolling basis – so the state of play can change quickly.

As at late July 2019, when searching selected Australian cities to Auckland via the United website, I’m seeing:

Sydney: Wide open availability of two business class seats from now until mid-September, followed by extensive economy space only until June 2020 (excl most school holiday periods).

Melbourne: Last-minute availability of two business class seats across 5 days in late July, followed by extensive economy space only until June 2020 (excl most school holiday periods).

Brisbane: Economy only availability. Patchy from late July – November, then wide open until June 2020 (excl. Christmas school holidays period).

Adelaide: Two business class seats for just a handful of days each month from July to December, followed by economy only space until early 2020. There’s then excellent availability of four seats on Sun, Wed, Fri from April through June (including Easter dates!).

Perth: No business class availability. Patchy economy only space available until October, and then solid availability until June 2020 (including January school holidays).

Note that award availability is subject to change at any time. Taxes/fees apply in addition to the mileage cost.

I personally love Air New Zealand business class – here’s why

I fly across the Tasman frequently, and I’d have to say that Air New Zealand business class, or ‘Business Premier’ as it is officially known, is one of my favourite products. It’s also arguably the best business class service across the Tasman.

Singapore Airlines increases the cost of Star Alliance redemptions
Air NZ business class

Air NZ operates international grade Boeing 777 and 787-9 aircraft for travel between New Zealand and a number of Australian cities – including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Passengers in Business Premier enjoy additional baggage allowance and lounge entry before the flight.

It certainly beats the Qantas and Virgin Australia services operated by the Boeing 737!

If you’d like to find out more about the Air New Zealand trans-Tasman business class experience, you can read my reviews here (777-200) and here (787-9 Dreamliner).

Verdict: Booking the Air NZ sweet spot via Virgin Atlantic

While award space can be hard to find, booking trans-Tasman Air New Zealand business class using Virgin Atlantic miles is a real ‘sweet spot’.

Not only can you enjoy a true, international-grade business class product, you’ll also pay less than half the mileage cost you’d need to fork out via Qantas or Virgin Australia on one of the same routes.

It’s a particularly valuable redemption on routes such as Adelaide to Auckland, where Air New Zealand holds a monopoly, and where revenue tickets can be particularly expensive.

And with many dates offering up to four seats, this could allow families who can’t usually push their points haul further enough an opportunity to travel in business class together.

The fact is, for those looking to earn and burn American Express Membership Rewards points, Air New Zealand business class flights booked via Virgin Atlantic are up there as one of the best redemptions we see.

Featured American Express Membership Rewards Credit Cards:

Bonus Points
80,000 Membership Rewards points*
Annual Fee
$1450
Earn Rate
2.25 Membership Rewards points per $1 on eligible purchases, except for spend with Govt bodies, which earn 1 point per $1 spent
*Eligibility criteria, minimum spend, other T&Cs apply

Collect 80,000 bonus American Express Membership Rewards points when you apply online, are approved, and spend $3,000 on your new card in the first 3 months from approval. Plus, enjoy a $450 Travel Credit, Virgin Australia Lounge access, Accor Plus membership (worth $395) and more.

Bonus Points
-
Annual Fee
$195
Earn Rate
3 Membership Rewards points per $1 at major supermarkets & petrol stations, 2 points per $1 on overseas spend, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else
*Eligibility criteria, minimum spend, other T&Cs apply

Get a $200 American Express Travel credit each year you hold the card. Earn points into the flexible American Express Membership Rewards program and transfer out to a range of airline partners. Plus, get peace of mind with a range of complimentary insurances.

Will you be putting Air New Zealand business class on your redemption wishlist?

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