Ask Finder: What’s the best frequent flyer scheme for a US traveller?
Should you go Qantas, Virgin or United?
States I'm In
There are several considerations here. Firstly, if you're flying for work, find out if your employer has an airline which everyone is required to use. If that's the case, then your choice is made: go with the points scheme for that airline.
Assuming you have free choice, there are three main options:
- The oneworld option, using Qantas and American Airlines. If you're already high status with Qantas (or another oneworld member), this will be an obvious choice. You can fly either Qantas or American Airlines to the US, then use AA or other codeshare partners when you land.
- The Virgin/Delta option. Virgin isn't a member of any global alliance, but has lounge and points sharing arrangements with Delta. Both Virgin and Delta run Australia to the US flights.
- The Star Alliance option, using United (and Air New Zealand, if you don't mind flying via Auckland). If you already have high status with Star Alliance, this may appeal.
There are more esoteric choices available. For instance, you can fly Singapore Airlines to the US, but you need to go through Singapore every time. You'll earn more points that way, but you'll also pay more, and you'll waste far more time in airports. So that's not a serious contender. Ditto for flying Air Tahiti Nui via Papetee, or routinely stopping off in Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines.
So how to choose between them? Qantas offers the most diverse selection of direct destinations in the US, with flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas Fort Worth (plus its own New York service via Los Angeles). It also has US flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and its premium cabins are well-regarded. However, it's also usually the most expensive option, regardless of which class you choose to fly in. Flying American Airlines can be a cheaper alternative that still lets you earn points.
Virgin is generally a little cheaper than Qantas, but still has a solid business-class product. You'll have to route via Los Angeles, but there are services from every east coast capital. You can also choose Delta for even cheaper flights, but it's (frankly) not as appealing a service.
It's also worth considering your other flying habits and how you'll earn points. For instance, flying United means you won't earn any points for domestic flights, and your options for earning points via an associated credit card in Australia are also limited. Conversely, there are plenty of points-earning cards for Qantas and Virgin, and both offer flights throughout Australia.
I'd recommend choosing Qantas Frequent Flyer rather than AAdvantage if you're thinking oneworld, since the points earning is more generous and the expiry conditions are less onerous. Similarly, I'd go with Velocity rather than Delta SkyMiles if you're choosing that option.
There's no single right option for everyone regularly flying from Australia to the US. However, whichever you choose, you should be able to earn a healthy raft of points in the process.
Ask Finder is a regular column where Finder's expert writers answer your questions. All rates and fees are correct at time of publication and we only give general advice. Got a question for Points Finder? Hit us up on Facebook.
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