Getting To Darwin, Northern Territory With Airline Miles

Darwin is the gateway to the vast Northern Territory of Australia and you’d be surprised how big it really is!  If you are already in Australia (see miles guide here), it’s pretty easy to pick up domestic flights to Darwin (DRW) from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS

STAR ALLIANCE

There are no Star Alliance carriers operating to Darwin, however if you have Singapore Krisflyer miles you can use Silk Air from Singapore.

ONEWORLD

Obviously in Australia Qantas is the main player and you can redeem your miles from any OneWorld partner.  Although Qantas has no direct international flights from Darwin, you can easily add on a Sydney-Darwin (for example) segment to any international award to Australia.

Malaysian Airlines flies direct from Kuala Lumpur and is a great choice for people arriving from Europe.

SKY TEAM

There are no Sky Team carriers operating to Darwin although people with Delta miles can redeem them on Virgin Australia.

NON-ALLIANCE AIRLINES & LOW COST CARRIERS

Virgin Australia is the big one and as mentioned above people with Delta miles can redeem with them.  Virgin is also partnered with Singapore Airlines, Etihad and others.

Jetstar is a partner of Qantas but not a member of OneWorld but they have frequent sales so you are better off keeping an eye on their sale page and just paying for the flights.  This is what I did, I got BNE-DRW-BNE for $210 each!

Air Asia flies direct from Denpasar.

Air North has some interesting destinations like Dili, Timor-Leste and some remote Aussie towns.

 

 

15% Bonus When You Transfer Partner Points to Velocity

Traditionally Virgin Velocity has been running a 15% bonus promo every November and May and thankfully this year has been no exception!  I always plan my transfers to take place during a promo like this to maximize the value I get from my credit card and supermarket points.  The promo ends 30 November but I wouldn’t cut it too close, I like to have all my transfers done at least 3 days ahead of time.

Full details and T&C’s

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Please note that while NAB has Velocity branded credit cards they are not included in the promo.  This may give you an idea of which banks offer products to help you grow your Velocity point balance.

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Velocity’s latest partner – Flybuys is also part of the promo so you can really get great value for those Flybuys points that come with your weekly grocery shopping!va-nov4

Velocity Adds Whopping Surcharges To Etihad Redemptions

On top of the most recent devaluation in which Virgin Velocity moved Etihad to the more expensive chart and jacked the prices up as of 1 June…………..now we have this shock-horror “enhancement”.

All Reward Seat bookings on Etihad Airways operated flights made from 18 June 2016 will incur an Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge.

A charge of US$50 in Economy, US$205 in Business and US$300 in First Class will be applicable per flight sector for both adults and children. A reduced charge of US$5 in Economy, US$20.50 in Business and US$30 in First Class will be applicable per flight sector for infants not occupying a seat.

This charge will be payable when completing your Reward Seat booking.

I already spent my last Velocity points on an award from Australia to Abu Dhabi for next year.  We will be stopping over a couple days before the big “Godmother of all African Adventures” and I got business class since I knew the devaluations were coming anyway.  Looks like I dodged another bullet with these surcharges!  Yikes!

Lesson learned – don’t hoard miles, spend them as soon as you can because they will never be worth more than they are today.

Virgin Velocity Devaluation – 1 June 2016

I got an email with the following:

Last year we celebrated 10 years of Velocity. During this time we have built a world-leading loyalty program*.
As we move forward, I wanted to update you on some adjustments we are making to the program, which will come into effect on 1 June 2016.
Points Expiry
We are making some changes to the expiry of Velocity Points.
Firstly, from 1 June 2016 your Velocity Points will not expire provided you earn or redeem Points at least once every 24 months. Previously, the expiry period was 36 months. Any Points earned from eligible activity prior to 1 June 2016 are not affected by this change and will not expire for 36 months.
Secondly, transferring Points between family members or receiving Points from a Family Pooling relationship will no longer be considered eligible activity to prevent your Points expiring. This change will be applied retrospectively. This means, if on 1 June 2016 your only activity within the previous 36 months is Family Pooling or Points transfer between family members, you will be notified that you need to earn or redeem Points before 30 June 2016 in order to prevent your Points expiring.
Despite these changes:
● It is now easier than ever to remain active by earning Points across a broad range of partners including airlines, credit cards, fuel and online shopping. In the past year alone we have welcomed some major partners including BP, HSBC and Le Club AccorHotels.
● We continue to provide you with more time than any other Australian frequent flyer program to keep your Points active.

Please take comfort knowing you will be notified via email at least 30 days prior to your Points expiring, giving you ample time to earn or use your Points and keep your account active.

Reward Seat Pricing
New Reward Seat bookings flying Virgin Australia or our partner airlines, made on or after 1 June 2016, will be subject to revised Points pricing. As part of these revisions some destinations are increasing in price and others are decreasing. Please see some examples below^:

Velocity deval

This is the first time in over five years that we have made adjustments to Reward Seat pricing. During this time Virgin Australia has undergone significant changes to become a full service airline, providing all guests with complimentary checked baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment, food and beverages.
We remain committed to continue offering you all of the benefits that make us a world-class program, including our award-winning Reward Seat availability*. In addition, the taxes and fees payable when you book a Reward Seat will not be affected by these changes.
For more information on all these changes please refer to our Program Updates.
I look forward to keeping you up to date in the coming months as we introduce exciting new features and benefits, including innovative new ways to earn and use your Points.
Yours sincerely,
Karl Schuster
CEO, Velocity Frequent Flyer

*********************************************************************************

On first glance, the points expiry doesn’t worry me at all.  A simple purchase at BP for fuel or shopping, a purchase from the Velocity shopping portal or E-Rewards will reset the expiry.

The increases on most awards is minimal and some are actually going down.

The biggest devaluation is Etihad who have been moved from Table 1 (cheaper awards) to Table 2 (expensive awards) AND devalued on top of that!

I do have a travel plan for 2017 which includes using Velocity for Etihad on one sector so I am going to have to crunch some numbers and see if I can bring it forward.  I’ve already been messed up by the American devaluation!

15% Bonus When You Transfer To Velocity

Velocity (one of my top 8 airline programs) is running their (usually) bi-annual bonus promotion where you get 15% extra when you transfer credit card points to Velocity such as Amex Membership Rewards.

Velocity bonus

Velocity Frequent Flyer offers you the ability to turn your existing credit card and charge card points into Velocity Points.

Transfer your credit or charge card points to your Velocity account between 1 and 30 November 2015 and receive 15% bonus Velocity Points*.

Top 8 Airline Miles Programs – 2016 Edition

I last made my recommendations of which airline miles programs to join back in 2012 so with all the changes I think it’s time for an update!  Which programs are still good?  Which ones no longer exist?  Which ones are less valuable than before?  How can Australians and Americans get free miles from credit cards?  Read on!

WHAT MAKES A PROGRAM “GOOD”?

  • I attribute greater value to programs which require minimal outlay of cash (no fuel surcharges) and better opportunities to get miles from everyday credit card spend and sign up bonuses.
  • “Buy miles 100% bonus” deals may have value to people who have cash to outlay but since this is a guide for cash poor people who want to travel I am not including them here.
  • These recommendations are for eco-tourists so I haven’t considered luxury travel to Europe and Asia redemptions.
  • Free miles from E-Rewards is a plus.
  • I have not taken elite programs into account in any of the below programs.
  • I am not a credit blogger so please use other resources to find the best deals on sign up bonuses.

1.  American Airlines AAdvantageOne World member

Has more options between USA and Australia on Qantas, Air Pacific or Air Tahiti Nui, also great for LAN or AA to South America and Africa via Qatar or direct QF flights.  Can book several of their partners online with AA planning to add more as they go along.  One way awards at half round trip rates.  Save AA miles for long hauls if possible, use BA for short haul.  No fuel surcharges except BA and IB awards.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles from Citibank co-branded cards and the grandfathered Barclays Aviator cards (not available to new applicants).  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

2.  United Airlines Mileage PlusStar Alliance member

Good for awards to South-east Asia on UA, SQ & TG; Central & South America on Copa & Avianca and Africa on South African, Ethiopian and Egypt Air.  Also very good for intra-Latin America and intra-Africa.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles easily via Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded United Explorer card.

Australians have a much harder time getting miles as the SPG route is a poor value at 20k SPG gets 10k United plus bonus of 2500.  Most Aussies will find Singapore a better Star Alliance partner.

3.  Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerStar Alliance member

Don’t keep miles in here if you can’t use them within 3 years because they expire whether you have activity or not.  Be careful of fuel surcharges on Asian routes.  Good for redemptions on NZ between Australia and Pacific islands & redemptions on Avianca & Copa for Central/South America trips as no fuel surcharges.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards, Citibank Thank You cards, American Express Membership Rewards & SPG.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and transferable rewards programs from Westpac and ANZ.

4.  British Airways Avios and Iberia AviosOne World members

Same Avios currency but you need to join both BA and IB’s versions to maximize it.  Pretty easy to earn Avios via E-Rewards and can also credit stays at Accor hotels to Iberia’s program and transfer easily between BA and IB.    Not a great program for long haul or itineraries needing connections but excellent for short haul within South America on partner LAN, the BA-Comair flights within Southern Africa or within Australia on partner Qantas.  Some nice 5th freedom flights in the Caribbean – Trinidad to St Lucia gets you between 2 islands with good birding.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded British Airways card. You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.  Aussies need to use a European or American address as they don’t accept memberships with Australian addresses.

5. Flying BlueSky Team member

Be careful as most redemptions here attract fuel surcharges.  Flying Blue can get you some places that are otherwise very difficult to get to such as Kenya Airways flights to Madagascar and Garuda domestic Indonesia flights (no surcharges).  Also use on short haul flights on Gol, Aerolinas Argentinas (no surcharges) and some other interesting partners.  Participates in E-Rewards.  Miles expire after 20 months of when they were earned unless you credit a Sky Team flight to Flying Blue.  Non-flying activities such as credit card spend and E-Rewards don’t renew your expiration date.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards & Amex Membership Rewards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

6.  Virgin Velocity – Not in an alliance. 

Good for short-haul to New Zealand and Pacific islands, domestic Australia flights and sometimes long haul to USA and Asia.  Participates in E-Rewards.

Americans get miles from transfering SPG points best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.  You need an Aussie address to join.

Australians have numerous credit cards (basically every bank in Australia) that earn Velocity points directly or transfer there.  Keep an eye out for huge sign on bonuses which have greatly improved in the last year or so.  There is a new partnership with BP to get 2 points per litre with occasional targeted bonuses.

7. Etihad Guest – Not in an alliance

I never looked twice at this program until they partnered up with Flybuys.  I did a recent review with Aussies in mind (sorry Americans) and found some interesting options with partners and decent value to Africa.  Probably not a good program for Americans to join, better to use AA redemptions on Etihad awards.  Beware of miles expiring after 2 years, don’t transfer them until you are within booking range.  Activity does not renew the expiration.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and the new Flybuys partnership FB 10,000: EY 4000.

8.  Qantas Frequent FlyerOne World member

Use for domestic Australia or short-haul to NZ, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.  Has fuel surcharges on most routes with the possible exception of LAN intra-South America.

Americans get points from Citibank Thank You cards.

Australians get points from co-branded Qantas cards, just about every bank in Australia has them.  Unfortunately the Woolies and Optus partnerships are gone so much harder to get points now outside of credit cards.

Dream TravelObviously not everyone needs to use ALL these programs.  It depends on where you want to go.  Situations change so you need to be constantly evaluating.  A month ago I wouldn’t have considered Etihad Guest but now I can see getting at least 16,000 free miles each year just by grocery shopping at Coles and using bonuses.  From the previous list US Airways Dividend Miles is gone and the Avianca Lifemiles program is no longer as valuable as it once was due to devaluations.  It is no longer so easy to get Qantas miles as they eliminated their best “every day spending” partners.  American may lose it’s #1 position if they devalue their awards.  I say as long as it’s free to join a program, then do so as you never know what deals may come in the future!

 

Etihad Guest For The Aussie Eco-tourist

Etihad Guest is a program that wasn’t really on my radar as I have been concentrating on other programs.  (I really need to update my old Top 8 Programs list.)  Now that it will become easy for Aussies to get Etihad miles via Flybuys by simply doing their grocery shopping at Coles, it’s time for a closer look at Etihad Guest.

HOW TO GET ETIHAD GUEST MILES

This is geared for non-frequent fliers as there are other blogs who cater for frequent fliers as well as business travelers and airlines status seekers.  I am concentrating on the non-frequent flier who is into birding and eco-tourism and wants to get free miles for a free airline ticket to somewhere they can watch birds.

  1.  Newest partner Flybuys as detailed in my other post.
  2.  Amex Membership Rewards (Australian) transfer at 1000:1000 with occasional bonuses where you get 10-25% extra if you are ready at the right time.
  3. Etihad partners with E-Rewards so you can get miles doing surveys.  Be sure to join using the Etihad invitation or one from a hotel chain.  If you join with another airline’s invitation, you won’t get options for other airlines.

Be careful as Etihad Guest miles expire 2 years from date of activity so don’t transfer your points until you are close to booking an award.  There is no way to reset expiration by performing any activity.

BEST USES OF ETIHAD GUEST MILES FOR ECO-TOURISTS

This is where it really helps to have a bucket list, dream travel list or whatever you want to call it.  Then you can start analyzing a program and where it can help you go.  With Etihad you can obviously redeem on Etihad and on their partners as well.

FLYING ON ETIHAD

Awards on Etihad are based on distance so amounts vary depending on the exact distance.  You need to do an individual quote so I will show you an example.  Since I like birding in Africa, I would possibly redeem between BNE and EBB since Uganda is on my bucket list.  Business class is roughly double economy and more tax & fees but on such a long flight it would be nice if I could get that many points!

EY BNE1 EY BNE2FLYING ON PARTNERS

You can also use Etihad Guest miles to fly on partner airlines.

EY PartnersBearing in mind my travel bucket list, I can see that partners that could be useful in the next few years are Air New Zealand, Garuda, Gol, South African and Virgin Australia.  Lets have a closer look at their award charts to see what is the best value.

Air New Zealand

I don’t like the looks of this chart for anything over 1750 and NZ is notoriously stingy about giving space to partners so this is probably not going to be my choice.  Possible short haul between AKL and Pacific Islands but then again these flights can often be bought cheaply on “happy hour” type sales.

EY4Garuda Indonesia

Again I can see good value in the shorter hops under 1000 miles.  If I hadn’t already ear-marked Flying Blue miles for my 2017 trip to Indonesia, I’d be seriously considering this option.  Using Great Circle Mapper one of my potential routes is Palu-Ujung Padang-Denpasar whic is 679 miles so 10k Etihad is great value here.  Business class is also really good value.

EY1GOL

Brazil is one of my favourite countries to go birding in so I would be very interested in this option.  Since we would usually be landing in Sao Paulo I checked a few random cities around Brazil, most are well under 1500 miles so 9000 Etihad miles would be excellent value here!

EY2South African Airways

As I mentioned before, I am planning a future trip to see birds in certain parts of Africa we didn’t get to before.  Namiba, Zambia & Uganda are all part of this plan.  WDH-JNB-LVI is coming in at 1317 miles so would cost 15,556 Etihad.  It’s another option if I don’t go with BA Avios on this route.  It will all depend on which miles are easier to obtain at the time.

EY3Virgin Australia

For Virgin Australia, Etihad doesn’t have a nice, neat little chart.  It’s all on one big pdf categorized by distance/mileage required so please look here.  Find your home town and take note of where you can go and for how many miles.  Just looking at my home town of  Brisbane I can see a few interesting options.

6900 miles each way gets me to Tasmania, Vanuatu, basically anywhere Virgin flies in eastern Australia.

10,900 miles gets me to Papua New Guinea, Solomon  Islands, New Zealand & Fiji.

16,900 miles gets me to Darwin, Perth, Samoa & Bali.

60,000 miles gets me to LAX.

Considering all the options, I am happy to see that my everyday grocery shopping at Coles will get me some valuable miles which can be used in some pretty amazing places!

 

 

 

Earn 10,000 Bonus Velocity Points On Your July Service

Update posted on 30 July in Brisbane:

Velocity website now shows end date of 31 July.  There must have been a data entry error.  I’m really glad I had my car serviced on Monday as my points have already posted – they have a posting date of the day after the service!  I really hope Velocity and Midas do more of these promos!

 

Very lucrative bonus for having your car serviced!  Please note that there is a discrepancy on the end date.  Velocity website says 31 August, Midas website says 31 July.  Either some data entry clerk goofed up or they extended it but I decided with so many points at risk not to take a chance and scheduled my car for a service in July.  We’re doing a road trip in a couple months for birding Outback Queensland so we need the service anyways!

Earn 10,000 bonus Velocity Points on your July service

Kick start the New Financial Year with 10,000 bonus Velocity Points when you have your car serviced with Midas by 31 August 2015*. Plus, earn 3 Velocity Points per $1 spent on the service cost.

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Virgin Australia Velocity Offers 15% Transfer Bonus & 15% Discount On Awards

Australians need not feel left out of the October promo frenzy that seems to be going on this month!  Virgin Velocity is one of the programs I recommend Aussies join as it is very easy to get points from everyday living and also the American Express Membership Rewards program.  If you are new to my blog, please take a few minutes to read the posts I linked above.

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Transfer your credit or charge card points from 1 October to 31 October 2013 and you will receive 15% bonus Velocity Points*.

Participating Banks

For individual bank partner terms and conditions please click here.

Plus, get even better value by saving 15% off Reward Seat and Any Seat bookings on Virgin Australia domestic and international flights^. Velocity Frequent Flyer offers the best Reward Seat availability out of all Asia Pacific region programs, now that’s rewarding.

 

Recommended Virgin Australia destinations for eco-travelers

Virgin Austalia serves all the major domestic airports too.

Terms and Conditions

* Available to Velocity members only and points transfers with participating banks only. For full details on points transfers, including minimum Points transfer requirements and Card Partner Terms and Conditions click here. The earning and redemption of Card Partner points is subject to the Terms and Conditions of the Card Partner reward program. Once Card Partner points have been redeemed for Velocity Points, they are governed by the Velocity Membership Terms and Conditions and cannot be reversed. Conditions apply, see www.velocityrewards.com.au. Transferred Points will be available in your Velocity Account subject to the Partner Points transfer timeframes. The 15% bonus Points offer is only available with, ANZ Rewards credit card accounts, Commonwealth Bank Awards credit card accounts, ANZ Business One Visa Rewards accounts, Westpac Altitude Rewards, St.George Amplify Rewards, BankSA Amplify Rewards, Bank of Melbourne Amplify Rewards, Citibank Rewards accounts, Diner Club Reward accounts, Suncorp Rewards accounts, Card Services Rewards accounts (Citibank Rewards, Diners Club Reward, Suncorp Rewards and Card Services Rewards customers enrolled in direct-earn airline rewards programs are not eligible to participate) and Australian American Express Card holders, including David Jones American Express Card holders enrolled in the Membership Rewards program (this offer excludes American Express New Zealand Card holders). Velocity members must transfer their credit card or charge card points between 1-31 October 2013 to receive the 15% bonus Velocity Points calculated on the total number of Velocity Points when transferred to the Velocity Account.

^This offer applies to Reward Seat and Any Seat bookings made on Virgin Australia marketed and operated flights between 1 October 2013 and 30 November 2013. Flights operated by partner airlines are not eligible for this offer. Any Seat refers to seats in any fare class available to the general public on Virgin Australia operated flights. Reward Seats and Any Seats are subject to availability and to the Velocity Membership Terms and Conditions and must be booked at www.velocityfrequentflyer.com. 15% discount is only applicable to minimum Points pricing and does not apply to taxes, fees and surcharges which are payable in addition to Velocity Points redeemed. Any taxes, Booking and Service fees and surcharge components are not eligible for Points earn. Refunds and itinerary changes are permitted prior to travel, subject to a service fee, fare differences (if applicable) and fare restrictions as outlined on the Virgin Australia website. For a redemption booking, the payment amount will comprise of taxes or, where the total cash component of a booking exceeds $50 and this amount is paid for by credit card or debit card, the payment amount will comprise of taxes and a Booking and Service fee of $7.70 per person per booking for Virgin Australia domestic flights, $10 per person per booking for Virgin Australia international short haul flights and $30 per person per booking for Virgin Australia international long haul flights. A phone booking fee applies: $35 per person per booking for Virgin Australia domestic and international short haul flights and $60 per person per booking for Virgin Australia international long haul flights. Checked baggage allowance is not included for Any Seat redemptions booked as a Saver Lite fares. If a checked baggage allowance is required members can make an Any Seat redemption booking for a baggage inclusive fare or purchase excess baggage at the airport for $40 for the first piece. Baggage Allowances for Any Seat redemption bookings vary by fare class and Velocity membership level and can be viewed by clicking here. Baggage Allowances for Economy Reward Seat fares include a checked baggage allowance and vary by membership level and destination. Red members receive 1 piece up to 23kg on domestic and international short haul flights, 2 pieces up to 23 kg each on flights to Los Angeles, or 30kg on international long haul flights to Abu Dhabi. Additional complimentary baggage allowances apply for Silver, Gold and Platinum Velocity members and can be viewed by clicking here. Additional fees will be charged for baggage in excess of the published allowances. Fees are chargeable at the time of purchase and are more expensive if not purchased prior to arriving at the airport.

Velocity Frequent Flyer awarded Best Redemption Ability for Middle East & Asia/Oceania category in 2013 Freddie Awards, and ranked highest of all Asia Pacific region programs in Ideaworks Company’s 2013 SwitchFly Reward Seat Availability survey.

To earn and redeem Velocity Points you must be a member. Velocity membership and Points earn and redemption are subject to the Member Terms and Conditions, as amended from time to time.