Almost all of my posts have a disclaimer about all prices being from North America or the US. For example, my Cheapest Miles To… series is a chart of mileage prices to a region from the US. Very few exceptions.
However, there are many cool opportunities out there to go from one region to another with miles and at very great prices. Obviously you can use your miles to travel on partners not within the US, but I want to talk about great redemptions that have nothing to do with North America, for a change.
How to use one of these routes?
The tickets I’m going to talk about are good deals for using your miles on non-US routes. It could be good for people who already live or regularly visit these places, but for those of us who still live in the US, it can still be very valuable.
These tickets can fill a gap in a different ticket. For example, you could use Alaska Miles to book a flight to the Middle East and AA miles to book a flight home from Japan. Now we need a ticket from the Middle East to Japan, right? The first example I give is just that.
So you could be using oneway awards to get to the start and end points, or it could be filling an open-jaw. United allows not only a stopover on a roundtrip ticket, but also open-jaws on the destination. Meaning you could use United miles to book a roundtrip ticket to the Middle East and the ticket would return home from Japan. That gap is called an open-jaw. (See the Stopovers and Open-jaws InfoGraphic).
And not to get confusing, but with United miles you could still have a stopover somewhere. So the ticket could stopover in Europe (say Rome) on the way to the Middle East (say Dubai), and return home from Japan (Tokyo). It would look like this:
That is just an example of a gap in a ticket that one of the following routes could fill in. This first example happens to fill in this Middle East to Japan gap.
1) Egypt to Japan in Business Class = 30,000 AA Miles
AA Miles are easy to earn via the AAdvantage credit cards. There’s a personal, business, and an “Executive” card with a $450 fee I would try to avoid paying. Plus, you can transfer 1:1 (or 20,000:25,000) from SPG points to AA miles.
I wrote about this earlier in the year (in premium class routes even I’d pay for), but it’s a route with a ton of flying and relatively low cost. To fly from Cairo, Egypt to Tokyo, Japan would cost 22,500 AA miles and would be nearly 13 or 14 hours of flying on either Etihad or Qatar.
But for only 7,500 more miles you could be in Business Class. Lounge access for your layover in Doha or Abu Dhabi, and a bed for the 10+ hour segment to Japan.
Consider this. A flight from the US to Europe in Business Class is 50,000 miles. From the west coast US it’s generally a similar amount of flying and from the east coast it’s less flying. Just saying, 7,500 miles is worth the upgrade even for cheapos like me.
2) North Asia to Oceania = 15k/25k United Miles
This is a similar concept as the Pacific Hopper, but regardless of how many stopovers and open-jaws you have… it’s just a good deal.
After all, North Asia to Australia/New Zealand is 20,000 miles for a oneway (or 35,000 in business).
But a oneway (through Australia or New Zealand) to the Polynesian islands, that would only be 15,000 miles (or 25,000 in business class). This route is way more distance flown and it’s 5,000 to 10,000 miles cheaper than the first part of the trip.
Also, Air New Zealand Business Class is sweet.
3) Dubai to Sydney in Etihad First Class Apartments = 60,000 Miles
First Class is no doubt nice enough for anyone. You have all kinds of suites bookable; Thai Air Suites, Cathay, Singapore, etc… But the next level is Etihad’s Apartments.
There’s nothing like it, and if they would let me I’d book my entire family in one of these. But unfortunately for me (and fortunately for those of you who don’t want your experience ruined by me) each person has to book their own apartment.
As mentioned AA miles are easy to earn, and 60,000 miles isn’t a lot for such an experience. And 60,000 miles isn’t even a lot for a 14 hour flight.
If you’re interested in more info, Lucky geeks out about this enough to put three exclamations in the post title. Check out his post, “Etihad Releasing A380 First Class Award Space To Australia!!!”
4) Berlin to Abu Dhabi = 12,500 Avios
One reason why this route is so valuable to me is that going between regions is expensive. Even though Europe and the Middle East are so close, a simple flight from Greece to Israel, for example would be a tiny flight but still cost 25,000 United miles.
And for only 12,500 Avios (the price of most domestic / intra-region flights) I can take a 6 hour flight between regions.
Or think about it this way. Say I had 42,500 Chase points. I could transfer to United and book a oneway flight to Dubai. Or I could transfer 30,000 to United and book a oneway to Europe, and then 12,500 (well you have to transfer by 1,000s, but stay with me) to British Airways, and book Berlin to Abu Dhabi.
5) Hawaii to “Oceania” = 20,000 Lufthansa Miles (or 25,000 United Miles)
Yes, Hawaii is part of the USA. But the award prices I usually quote, and the Cheapest Miles Series, are all based on the Continent of North America, or even just the 48 states and Canada. So in award chart land, Hawaii isn’t part of the US.
With Lufthansa Miles this route really means a flight directly to Guam. This is the same concept the birthed the overly complicated Trans-Pacific Lufthansa Hopper.
The problem with Lufthansa Miles is that you can’t touch a third region without raising the price. However, United has flights to Guam and then to some of the other interesting Micronesia islands like Yap and Palau.
The other interesting option is that United has a flight that stops on a ton of Micronesian island for an hour or less and just hops across the Pacific, one island at a time. While I’ve never done this, a lot of travel geeks have.
Oh yeah, and going from Hawaii all the way to Guam, Yap, or Palau for 20,000 miles, is a steal.
And with 25,000 United Miles you could probably route through some of Asia to get to Polynesia… but the computer is fickle.
6) Caribbean / Central America to South America = 10,000 United Miles
Take anywhere in Northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Any flight within that giant part of the world will be 10,000 United Miles.
This is the concept behind the Latin Hopper, and the concept behind our flights during the Free Trip to Latin America series. With an open-jaw and stopover, we saw Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.
Even Mexico to Peru is only 10,000 Miles. This means that you could take a southwest flight down to Mexico and get a oneway for 10,000 United Miles. And if it’s a roundtrip you can get a stopover and two open-jaws, and thus return back to Puerto Rico or something.
But even without stopovers and all that… it’s just a good deal. Going from Mexico to Puerto Rico isn’t a normal flight, but you could potentially do it for 10,000 miles. And 10,000 miles for Caribbean/Latin America all the way to Peru, Ecuador, or Colombia… it’s fantastic.
Business class is 20,000 per oneway.
7) Latin America to Spain = 25,000 Avios
Central America and Caribbean to Europe work just like a North America to Europe ticket a lot of the time. But there’s something nice about Avios- actually a few things.
Avios are super easy to earn (transfer from Amex, Chase, and have a card that gives 50,000 bonus points), and the price is the same year round (which only matters when comparing to off-peak prices).
But in this case, a route to Europe for 25,000 Avios is extra special when you find some that go from South America all the way to Spain for the same price.
Like Bogata, Colombia to Madrid. Or Caracas, Venezuela to Madrid. Both can also be had for 25,000 Avios. Great deal and great use of Avios.
8) Europe to South Africa for Business Class = 37,500 AA miles
This is a decent deal for the long flight from Europe to South Africa. It’s probably the first one on this list where I’m not using the phrase “great deal”, but it’s the best deal on the route.
But Europe to South Africa is longer than you think and 37,500 AA Miles to be in business class, isn’t that much. It’s barely more than an economy seat from North America to Europe, which is often a similar length flight.
There are many examples but this covers the best way for a lot of different routes. Middle East to Asia, Europe to Africa, South America to Europe. A lot of routes are here and I found these particularly great and would be willing to leave a gap in my ticket to add a destination with one of these routes.
Any other great non-US routes that I’m missing? There’s a million with Avios probably. But if you think of something really cheaper than all the other options, please let me know.