Super Rare Award Alert: Air New Zealand to Niue (Using United MileagePlus)

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I just got a United MileagePlus award to Niue booked!

I’ve tried for 4+ years. Air New Zealand rarely releases partner award availability on Auckland (AKL) to Niue (IUE). Until today I’ve only seen one verified available award seat over all that time.

This is a monopoly route operated twice a week. There is no other commercial air service to Niue. Cash tickets range US$300-800 round-trip for Auckland-Niue only. (update: per Ian in the comments, you can find specials for Auckland-Niue as low as US$300-400. I’ve never had these come up when some fare deal to Auckland comes up that I would want to book. Maybe the stars will align some day. I do see a bunch of dates with fares these low for the coming months.)

Where it can get more expensive on cash tickets is there are few published fares for international destinations to Niue, so to get the best deal you usually need to book separate tickets to Auckland and then to Niue. If you search a US city to Niue you’ll often get fares $2,000+, where booking US to Auckland and Auckland to Niue separately can be much cheaper.

From Phantom to Real

The past several months, rather than showing no award availability, the United website has been showing lots of ‘phantom availability’ – flights that show available but error out when trying to purchase.

Periodically I have tried to purchase these flights to see if the availability might be real. Today, not even picking a date I can travel, I was shocked, shocked, that my attempt actually ticketed. 016 ticket stock confirmed and issued.

I quickly booked dates that will work for me and those tickets issued, too. I’ve never been so happy to see that 016!

Booking an Award to Niue

Here’s where it gets weird: flying only Auckland to Niue you will NOT get any award availability.

You’ll need to start in some other airport. My trip is from Seattle combining Air Canada with Air New Zealand. 35,000 miles each way in economy.

Here’s Seattle-Niue mid-Oct to mid-Nov:

Seattle to Niue Oct 2018

Here’s Auckland-Niue for the same dates:

Auckland to Niue Oct 2018For example, I am seeing Air New Zealand itineraries from Australia working and Singapore Airlines itineraries from Asia working.

Tokyo is not showing much/any, however Osaka (KIX) is showing sporadic awards for 15,000 miles each way.

Whatever you book, make sure the ticketing status shows going from processing to ‘ticketed and confirmed’. It will show in your United reservations. My first one ticketed immediately, while the second ticketed within 5 minutes. Print your receipt!

Seattle to Niue ticketed and confirmed

Note: Auckland-Niue is economy only. The plane does not have business class. You may still want a business class award for other flight segments.

Extra Note: Niue is not listed on the United award region definitions. It is behaving like Oceania, so start your island hopping Excursionist Perk dreaming going. My tests of island to island Excursionist are hit or miss. It is not supposed to work when transiting a different region, which is required here with Australia & New Zealand region, however I did get one report of it working with, oddly, Hawaii, which shouldn’t be possible at all.

Booking With Other Star Alliance Programs

I tried to replicate with Air Canada Aeroplan and ANA Mileage Club on their websites and could not. Calling may get a different result. This might just be a United special as their website is perhaps the most powerful out there for award booking. A number of the Star Alliance programs don’t even have IUE airport code in their systems.

Here to Stay or Fly Away?

If you’ve wanted to use miles to Niue, this is either a brief fluke or the start of a new day.

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TimmyD
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TimmyD

Does anyone know what it means when you get the 80k saver business to show up in the lowest fair calendar but you can’t actually click on it? I see a handful of dates that across the next year. Is that what you mean by phantom space?

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TCCQuest
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TCCQuest

Excursionist: By Pacific, I believe you mean Oceania. I am of the understanding that excursionist can not transit another region. Are there any routes in the South Pacific that do not connect in AUS/NZ? From my research I have only been able to connect North Pacific: Palau, Guam, Northern Marianas, Fed States of Micronesia, Rep of Marshall Islands. Am I missing something?

Ryan Kingsbury
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Ryan Kingsbury

Wow, I’m shocked. I routinely checked for award inventory from when NZ started service up until 2017. Finally saw a 300 USD fare sale from AKL and booked it. Absolutely loved the week we spent there.

Jim
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Jim

I have heard on the rumour mill that many of the Pacific Island flights (especially Tonga and Niue) have passengers with buckets of KFC in their carry-on. I’m keen to hear if that is still the case!

gavinmac
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gavinmac

I forget, do you need special permission from the government to visit Niue? Or am I thinking of Tokelau?

Ian
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Ian

$600-800USD for AKL-IUE-AKL seems a pretty high estimate. It’s on special with AirNZ very regularly, usually about $199NZD one way (dropping to $149 on a good special). It’s even on special *right now* – https://grabaseat.co.nz/ has it at $479 NZD return, with availability for the first half of 2019 wide open. Works out about $320 USD return. I’d book open-jaw – US-AKL, IUE-US – and stop in NZ for a few days before hitting IUE. Still a good deal as the AKL-IUE is essentially free (or -5k miles depending on how you count), but I wouldn’t go spend 70k miles… Read more »