Using Miles for Papau New Guinea: Guide to Flying Air Niugini

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Using Miles to Book Air Niugini
Photo by Andrew Thomas via Flickr, used without modification under CC BY 2.0 license.

Guide: Using Miles to Fly Air Niugini to Papua New Guinea

Air Nuigini? I can already hear it. You didn’t even know they exist. I have to admit, I didn’t either, at least until I started looking into flight options for friends who needed to get to Madang, Papua New Guinea. It’s not exactly along the beaten path. Being a veteran of award travel, I figured I look into using miles to fly Air Niugini.

As the name might imply, Air Niugini is the National Airline of Papua New Guinea. Their hub is in the capital of Port Moresby. They have 26 aircraft in their fleet, ranging from a tiny Bombardier Dash 8-200 to a couple 767s. They have a handful of Boeing 737MAX aircraft on order. Their fleet serves numerous domestic destinations, as well as a scattering of medium-haul international cities, such as Hong Kong, Manila and Sydney. Odd piece of trivia: Air Niugini used to fly to Honolulu decades ago!

Air Niugini Route Map
Route Map – Image courtesy of Air Niugini’s website

Air Niugini flights aren’t cheap. The prices I can find from eastern Australia are pretty expensive. Even Cairns to Port Moresby runs $340 over most dates, for just a 90-minute hop! To get to other cities within Papua New Guinea, you can pay upwards of $1,000.

When looking into flights for friends, a primary strategy was to try to find the best place to break a trip from the U.S. into two tickets. Hong Kong seemed like a good option, given how inexpensive it is from the west coast. But Air Niugini wanted over $1,000 for an economy round-trip from HKG to Madang! Scratch that idea.

Given the cash prices, I knuckled down to find the best way to book an award to Papua New Guinea. The options are few, but using miles to fly Air Nuigini is possible.

Using Miles to Fly Air Niugini

Air Niugini hardly partners with anyone. They aren’t in any alliance, and they don’t connect to many places beyond the general region of Papua New Guinea. But they do have a primary partner that you can use to book their flights: Qantas (which has a Capital One transfer bonus right now).

Air Niugini has their own Destinations Loyalty program, but it appears to be unlike basically any frequent flyer program I’ve ever seen. You can flat out buy “status” for a fee. Silver costs ~$475 USD, which is the lower of the tiers. The benefits are pretty clear, including things like lounge access to Air Niugini lounges, extra baggage, and priority boarding. If you fly the airline often, it could easily make sense. You can also earn Destination Loyalty points by flying Air Niugini and with other partners.

But I’m going to assume that those flying Air Niugini often are even more rare than those looking to use miles to fly the airline. You’re essentially stuck with the two partners I mentioned. I wish there were more, but Qantas appears to be the extent of the options for using miles to book Air Niugini.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas is a primary partner of Air Niugini, and probably the easiest one to use to book an award flight. They are a codeshare partner of Air Niugini and you can both earn and redeem Qantas miles for Air Niugini flights. You won’t earn any tier status credits, however, on paid flights.

Flight awards on Air Niugini are according to the applicable Qantas’ distance-based award chart. You’ll pay few miles flying a short domestic hop on Air Niugini. Qantas Economy flights start at just 10,000 miles for a hop of less than 600 flown miles. This covers pretty much all domestic flights within the country. Here are prices for some longer hops:

  • Cairns to Port Moresby – 10,000/20,000 miles for economy/business
  • Brisbane to Port Moresby – 20,000/43,800 miles for economy/business
  • Sydney to Port Moresby – 20,000/43,800 miles for economy/business
  • Manila to Port Moresby – 24,500/61,200 miles for economy/business
  • Hong Kong to Port Moresby – 24,500/61,200 miles for economy/business
  • (Seasonal) Tokyo Narita to Port Moresby – 24,500/61,200 miles for economy/business

Depending on the flight cost, the awards range from okay to reasonably good. Don’t expect to get fantastic value with your Qantas points. Domestic flights will likely not be all that great of a deal.

To search award flights, you can head to either the Air Niugini website or the Qantas website. The Air Niugini website is actually easy. You don’t have to log in and can simply key in one of the routes they fly and click search.

using miles to fly air niugini

The results will initially show cash prices for flights, but you can easily toggle to show points. Any flights where you see points prices should be available for booking using Qantas Frequent Flyer miles. However, the economy inventory for this flight showed at Qantas, but the business class space did not.

Or you could simply start with the Qantas site and work from there. Air Niugini awards are bookable online.

Other Air Niugini Partners?

On the Air Niugini website, both Air New Zealand and Emirates logos show in the partner panel. However, Air Niugini does not provide any information on the partnership, nor do these airlines provide any information on their websites. It’s possible that the partnership does not extend to award flights, or the relationship has ended completely.

In any case, it is unlikely that the Air New Zealand Airpoints program would have been much use, as it is very hard to earn Airpoints. No bank programs transfer to their frequent flyer program. Airpoints are also tied to the cash value of a flight, so there isn’t any way to gain any real value by using them for otherwise expensive flights.

Emirates is also a distance-based program like Qantas, so if they *do* partner with Air Niugini, they may offer potential value. But…as I mentioned, I can’t find any evidence of a program partnership other than their logo on the Air Niugini website.

Using Miles to Book Air Niugini

Conclusion

So there you have it. If you’re even interested in getting to remote New Guinea, there are miles to do so. Qantas is your only hope.

Need Qantas miles? Qantas Frequent Flyer is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, CapitalOne (transfer bonus) and Citi ThankYou. Here is a transfer partner master list for future reference.  Lots of options. If you have CapitalOne miles, I’d consider burning those first, keeping my Citi points for amazing redemption options using Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles.

I doubt I’ll ever actually book an award on Air Niugini using miles, but I hope someone else does. I’d love to hear about it if you have redeemed miles to fly Air Niugini!

Featured image courtesy of Andrew Thomas via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

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