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Cheapest Miles To Get To Europe

DSC_2814Earlier I did a Best/Cheapest Frequent Flyer Miles to Use to Hawaii and people seemed to enjoy it. And if there’s something that Americans seem to like better than Hawaii, it’s Europe. So here’s the cheapest frequent flyer miles to get to Europe.

Not only do I feel like the display of the prices and transfers is better, but there is definately more value in this post as I show a few tricks with specific routes on miles, or discounts. There are more discount awards available than you think. Lufthansa’s 50% off awards, or Air Berlin’s companion ticket at 50% off… there’s a lot to go over but I’ll try to display it as best I can.

On to the charts…

Economy Business Alliance Transfers From
Virgin Elevate 15 – 25 35 – 59 Amex MR (2:1)
US Airways 35 – 60 100 OneWorld SPG
AA 40 – 60 100 OneWorld SPG
Hawaiian 40 – 60 90 – 120 Amex MR, SPG
Alaska 40 – 65 100 – 125 SPG
Korean Air 50 80 SkyTeam Chase UR
Alitalia 50 80 SkyTeam Amex MR, SPG
Air France 50 125 SkyTeam Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG
Singapore 55 130 Star Alliance Amex MR, Chase UR, Citi TY, SPG
Avianca 60 126 Star Alliance
Lufthansa 50 105 Star Alliance SPG
Air Berlin 60 120 OneWorld SPG
United 60 115 Star Alliance Chase UR
Air Canada 60 – 75 90 – 105 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
Delta 60 – 130 125 – 195 SkyTeam Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG
Virgin Atlantic 35 – 42.5  80 – 100 Amex MR, Chase UR, SPG

 

Distance Based Frequent Flyer Programs

Example: NYC – LHR

ANA 38 63 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
JAL 40 65 OneWorld SPG
BA Avios 40 80 OneWorld Amex MR, Chase UR, SPG
LAN 54 108 OneWorld SPG (1:1.5)
Asia Miles 60 80 OneWorld Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG

Example: LAX – IST

ANA 60 90 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
JAL 70 110 OneWorld SPG
BA Avios 70 140 OneWorld Amex MR, Chase UR, SPG
LAN 70 200 OneWorld SPG (1:1.5)
Asia Miles 85 115 OneWorld Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG

 

Discount Award Flights

25,000 miles – Air France Promo Awards

Flying Blue (the rewards program for Air France and KLM) regularly has a list of discounted awards and many are 50% off. Flights between North America and Europe were already pretty low at 50,000 miles, but 50% off makes many awards 25,000 miles roundtrip.  Even when their awards are 25% off, 37,500 miles is still good.

Check out their Promo Awards here, then click “North America” to see awards to/from Europe.

 

30,000 miles – Lufthansa Mileage Bargains

Similarly, Lufthansa has a list of awards all 50% off! Check out the awards here. While there are a ton of really cheap awards, the flights across the Atlantic are super expensive in fuel surcharges. They are milder if you find a flight on LOT, but off hand, I don’t see anything on LOT.

 

50% off companion – Air Berlin

Air Berlin simply charges the second person at 50% off. So the first person would be 60,000 miles and the second 30,000 miles. It’s like 45,000 miles per person.

 

Clarifications on some of the varying region based prices

  • 40k with AA miles is their long off-peak, which is Oct 15 – May 15
  • 35k with US Air miles is their off-peak, which is Jan 15 – Feb 28
  • 40k/90k with Hawaiian miles is on Virgin America
  • 40k/115k with Singapore Miles is for flights actually booked on Singapore (New York to Frankfurt and Houston to Moscow)
  • Virgin is distance based but I still include them in the region based section, for no reason
  • Alaska has different award charts based on which partner you use
  • 60k/90k with Air Canada is because they consider East Europe a different region, and thus West Europe a different region.

 

The Best Uses of Frequent Flyer Miles to Europe

 

12,500 British Airways Avios Boston to Dublin

British Airways has a partnership with the Irish airline Aer Lingus. Since it’s a distance based program, there are sweet spots in the range. The sweet spot when using British Airways Avios is flights barely under 3,000 flown miles, and this flight barely qualifies. So use Avios Boston to Dublin for 12,500 Avios or 25,000 Avios for business class oneway.

 

Virgin America Elevate Points 20,000 miles RT

The lowest awards are using Virgin Elevate Points, with flights as low as 15,000 points roundtrip NYC to London. However, the fuel surcharges on Virgin are insane. But what I discovered and posted about earlier in One Amazing Award with Virgin Elevate is that they don’t charge fuel surcharges on Singapore Airlines.

This doesn’t leave a ton of options but you can connect in New York for the best award: Singapore Airlines New York to Frankfurt for 20,000 Elevate points. Or 12,000 points oneway.

The downer is that the Amex MR points transfer is 2:1. But the good news is that they sometimes do bonuses for transfers as high as 50%.

 

US Airways 30,000 Miles Off-Peak + Credit Card discount

The US Airways award chart gives a discount for their off-peak window in winter. Combine this with the fact that the credit card gives a 5,000 mile discount when you book on US Airways. Combine the two and you’ve got 30,000 mile roundtrip flights to many places in Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 2.35.52 PM

 

Stopovers

If you want to be able to check out which stopovers to use, check out The Chart of Airlines Stopover Rules.

However, I’ll go ahead and mention that JAL, while being slightly more expensive than ANA, has 6 stopovers and OneWorld has tons of options for flying to Europe without fuel surcharges. Otherwise, both airlines pass on fuel surcharges. But when using JAL, you’ll only pay airport taxes when flying on Air Berlin or Nikki.

Otherwise, United allows a stopover and an open-jaw on the destination and never passes on fuel surcharges. United is usually the best use of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and while a stopover is great, not having fuel surcharges is even better.

 

Avoiding Fuel Surcharges

Most international frequent flyer programs will pass on fuel surcharges. So you need to check the Master Chart of Avoiding Fuel Surcharges to see who doesn’t have fuel surcharges to pass on. Otherwise using Lufthansa (and its 2 stopovers & 2 open-jaws), ANA (4 stopovers), or JAL can be obscenely expensive. But redeeming miles on an airline without fuel surcharges is the key.

 

Conclusion

Just because I didn’t go over everything in the chart doesn’t mean there aren’t great deals not gone over. Think about what miles you have and what you see on the chart. For example…

  1. Decide what you have and want. Let’s say you have a ton of Amex points, and you want to fly Business Class.
  2. Then use the chart to see the cheapest Amex Transfer under the Business Class Column. In this case I notice that Air Canada (Aeroplan) is an option for 90,000 miles.
  3. Then I check out the Master Chart of Stopovers. Air Canada has 2 stopovers.
  4. Then I check out the Master Chart of Avoiding Fuel surcharges, and Air Canada (AeroPlan) miles can be used on many airlines without fuel surcharges. Like Turkish, Brussels, Swiss, etc…

Or you can start clean and look at the chart and figure out the cheapest way to get to Europe and then get miles based on that.

Either way, I hope this post becomes a resource for you next time you’re looking to use frequent flyer miles to Europe. And if you have any other tips, please let me know so I can add them.

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29 Comments

  1. Great list, Drew! One thing – are your referring to Singapore’s partner chart in your mention of them? Because if you use their JFK-FRA, it is only 34K (but a hefty fuel surcharge).

    Reply
    • Thanks Charlie,
      That’s indeed true, however on Virgin Elevate they aren’t charging YQ for the same flight.

      Reply
  2. Great summary! Citi TY Points don’t transfer to BA Avios.

    Reply
    • Grrr. I did that twice copying and pasting from my original chart.
      Thanks Kenny.

      Reply
  3. Yet another great resource! Thanks for all you do :)

    Reply
    • Thank you Bryan, for reading!
      Drew

      Reply
  4. Thanks for this great resource. I am helping my brother and his fiancée plan a honeymoon to Iceland next fall (October) and they would like to use miles since the wedding will eat up a bunch of their money. I am having a hard time finding the most direct route from the east coast (less than 2 layovers). Which alliance would you suggest they use?

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, 1) I’m no expert on Iceland. Actually quite clueless about that route. and 2) from what I do know, I’m not sure there are any alliances that do US direct to Iceland. IcelandAir seems to have that market pretty tight.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for the great post, Drew – I really hope we get to chat in Chicago – I’ve got a project I’m working on that I think you’d enjoy that’s in the vein of this post.

    Looking forward to meeting you,
    Max

    Reply
    • Great meeting you Max.
      Drew

      Reply
  6. One thing to be wary of with the BA Avios to Dublin via Aer Lingus. I’m in the middle of getting BA to resolve an error on their part when I made the booking, everything seemed fine but for the heck of it decided to check the booking online and they were showing the flight as cancelled. I have confirmed with Aer Lingus that it is not cancelled, and called BA to resolve. They said it would be all set in 24 hrs. It has been 40 hours and no resolution yet
    …definitely something to stay on top of even after booking…

    Reply
  7. With the U.S. Airways Mastercard, you save an additional 5,000 miles on award tickets I think, so an off-peak r/t to Europe could be only 30,000.

    Reply
    • Yep.

      Reply
  8. I called Virgin Atlantic for using Virgin mile to fly Singapore Air, they said 50K RT from JFK – FRA on July 3-July 17. Is it no saver?

    Reply
    • Not sure. But Virgin Atlantic doesn’t list that route on their pricing calculator, so it will be a little more than what I listed which is to London. But I did list the SQ flight on Virgin America.

      Reply
  9. Drew,

    Hawaiian charges 125K miles for travel to UK in Upper Class from the east coast. So is the chart above a little dated?

    – Naroowal

    Reply
    • Sorry, I should have specified. I just said Virgin, but Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic have two different prices. America would be 90k, Atlantic would be 120k.

      Reply
    • Thanks for pointing that out. I have no idea why that was filled in the way it was, and why the business class was blank. I just skipped over it or something. Anyways, thanks for pointing that out.

      Reply
  10. Totally unrelated:
    I am an ardent reader and have learner a lot from your blog.
    I want to apply for credit cards from your affiliate links but I don’t find any.

    Reply
  11. It’s a huge letdown that the US to Europe Life Miles trick is now dead.

    I have a question about US to Europe redemptions using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards. It seems like they have off-peak awards for travel on American, and they allow a stopover on one-way awards. Let’s say I book a one-way award, LAX to JFK (stopover) to CDG. If the LAX to JFK segment is during the off-peak time, and the JFK to CDG segment is during the peak time of year, then which award price would be charged?

    Reply
    • That is a bummer, although I never used it.

      I assume it’s how AA used to be, which is that it’s when you start travel. But haven’t done it myself, but did it many times with AA.

      Reply
  12. Just going over this again as friends want to do a Europe trip soon. I think the US Airways awards might need a note that the flights have to be on US metal to get the discount. And that being said, the map you have is not where they fly. It’s pretty limited anyway, and during winter it’s less Athens (and Lisbon?) But your map shows Shannon, Edinburgh, Dusseldorf, Berlin etc that are not an option as far as I can tell. Good post though, thanks.

    Reply
    • And cuz of that, I’d almost say the AA off-peak is more generous, and also has a card refund.

      Reply
  13. Great resource. You can’t transfer Citi TYP to Delta.

    Reply
  14. Thanks for all the great info! I am trying to book RT to Italy for a family of five. Do you have an idea which airline may have the best availability for that many people? I’m open to all airlines and seat classes. Thanks!!

    Reply
  15. LOVE this website! Do you recommend paying for a flight from Nashville to Barcelona and upgrading to business or first class using frequent flier miles or using all miles, for instance from AA? I am trying to decide if I should get another card!

    Reply
  16. Love this website!
    I’m a new to the whole point travel thing. After going through several articles on the site, I’ve managed to earn 200K+ Chase UR points. I would now like to use them for a trip to Europe. I would appreciate on ideas / suggestions which airlines(other than United) would be the best use of Chase UR points. TIY.

    Reply

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