The basics (and tips and tricks) of redeeming Air New Zealand Airpoints

Posted on February 15, 2018 by in Travel Deals

Air New Zealand runs a loyalty program like no other. The company stands out with its quirky marketing and currency that isn’t miles but dollars.

The basics of earning Air New Zealand Airpoints

Airpoints can be earned in a number of ways. For non-NZ flyers, the most interesting ways are flying the airline (and partner airlines) as well as transferring Starpoints.

Airpoints can be used on a 1:1 NZD basis to offset any revenue ticket with Air New Zealand. It is therefore 100x deflated from typical airline miles. Since Airpoints work in New Zealand dollars, you end up with the 65:1 ratio when transferring Starpoints.

Besides the usual suspects in Star Alliance, you can also earn Airpoints with some more exotic airlines:

Earning ratios are usually just OK – I have yet to find a 400% earning (even in business class).

The basics of redeeming Air New Zealand Airpoints

Air New Zealand Airpoints are not only quirky when earning but also when redeeming. Here are the basics:

  • Per segment pricing – like British Airways Executive Club Avios (except for flights which keep the flight number but make a stop)
  • You pay all fuel surcharges and taxes
  • For any partner bookings, you pay a NZ$100 partner booking fee which can be paid for with Airpoints
  • You cannot combine Air New Zealand and partner airlines in one award (would be another segment anyways)
  • Virgin Australia redemptions are only for NZ/AU flights

Here is the partner award chart (all one-way).

What you will quickly realize is that the prices resemble discounted cash tickets for a one-way. That isn’t a bad idea generally.

However, any fuel surcharges and taxes need to be added, which can be substantial (e.g. with Lufthansa).

Also, keep in mind it only applies to a direct flight – any connections will break the award. As we all know, connections are your friend if you book any award, as the direct flights are often sold out.

What is a good redemption with New Zealand Airpoints?

Air New Zealand rarely has business class sales, so using Airpoints as the dollar equivalent isn’t usually a good idea.

But how about partner redemptions? With all these negatives, let’s focus on the positives.

Obviously, we are looking for flights that are:

  • Direct
  • Long and/or expensive as a revenue ticket
  • With a carrier that has no (or minimal) fuel surcharges

For any partner flights, you will have to call in and speak to an agent – you cannot redeem online.

1) The Middle East to Australia with Etihad – 1,555 Airpoints in business class

Etihad runs their A380 to Sydney and Melbourne, so this could be good value but the call center has never been able to find a seat even if the Etihad Guest website says there are ‘Guest Seats’ available.

2) Singapore Airlines from Singapore to the US – 1,555 Airpoints in business class

I’m not a fan of the new A350 Singapore Airlines Business Class configuration to say the least but let’s give it the benefit of doubt for now. Unfortunately, Air New Zealand sees the same inventory that any other Singapore Airlines partner can see and business class is not available to partners (exceptions being intra-Asia and to Australia from Singapore).

3) United Airlines from/to Singapore or Hong Kong to the US – 1,555 Airpoints in business class

United has direct flights to Singapore from Los Angeles and San Francisco now. Partner (or Saver) availability is an issue but they do exist and there are minimal fuel surcharges. The same is true for United-operated flights to Hong Kong.

4) EVA Air flights from/to Taipei to the US – 1,555 Airpoints in business class

EVA has surprisingly small fuel surcharges under US$50 and direct flights to many US cities.

5) United Airlines from/to Papeete to the US – 1,095 Airpoints in business class

Not super-cheap but 60,000 Starpoints will get you a one-way to Papeete if you can find United Business Saver availability on their new flight (there isn’t any at the time of writing).

6) South African or Ethiopian flights inside Africa for 775 Airpoints

The award chart maxes out at 775 Airpoints for direct flights within a zone and Africa is pretty big. South African Business Class is solid and Ethiopian is decent too. Expect fuel surcharges of about US$150.

Conclusion

Air New Zealand Airpoints are a toughie and aren’t easy to use for good value but there is some value, especially if you find long direct flights which we see more and more now, with the introduction of the B787 and A350.