Twenty of My Favorite Airline Awards

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I book millions of miles a month in awards for clients and I’m always trying to think about what award option works the best, since most people have multiple mileage balances and flexible credit card points. Whether its wrangling a Delta award to the “low” level or helping someone maximize an American Express transfer bonus they didn’t know about, I like to add value as much as possible.

This past weekend I booked clients on a business class trip from Florida to Australia for only 100,000 Amex points a piece (see how below, #1), this made me think about some of the best award redemptions out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the best “bang for your mile” redemptions.

1) 100,000 Aeroplan miles for North America to Australia in business class on Star Alliance partners. Note: If you actually fly Air Canada, they require 115,000 miles and the taxes/surcharges will be higher. Note #2: Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members

2) 80,000 Aeroplan miles for business class North America to Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain (incl. Balearic Islands; excl. Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom). Note: Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members. Transfers are usually instantaneous.

3) 100,000 Aeroplan miles for business class North America to Asia 1 (which includes Thailand and Vietnam). Most airlines charge a premium for South East asia, but not Aeroplan. A great value, especially because Aeroplan miles can be redeemed for 27 Star Alliance airlines; including Singapore, Thai, and Asiana.

4) 63,000 ANA miles for New York to London on Virgin America Upper Class. Note: ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members. Transfers usually take 2 days.

5) 68,000 ANA miles for East Coast to Europe with stopovers. I once booked (for myself) JFK-FRA-MUC (stop), MUC-TXL (stop), TXL-FRA-JFK. JFK-FRA was on Singapore airlines on their 747 upper deck and all other legs on Lufthansa. Taxes were a bit high at $400, but it was worth it. Note: ANA awards lack flexibility, like being able to change a trip after it starts.

6) 120,000 Delta Skymiles for business class to Africa, including Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion. You can also include a stopover and an open jaw, so why not visit Paris to break up the trip (Seychelles is only 10.5 hours from Paris)? Note: Delta is an 1:1 Amex transfer partner and they usually run promotions, like the current 50% and 25,000 MQMs, which is pretty stellar. 80,000 Amex points for a trip to Seychelles and Paris? Get on that! Taxes for my award were about $250. Amex transfers are usually instantenous and the 50% bonus should post immediately.

7) 40,000 mile American off-peak coach to Europe between October 15-May 15. Offpeak awards can also be used on Oneworld partners; like British Airways, Iberia, and Finn Air.

8 ) 60,000 mile US Airways off-peak business class awards to Europe. Only on US Airways flights, January 15- February 28.

9) 20,000 mile Continental/United coach award from North Asia to South Asia.

10) 30,000 mile Continental/United business class award from North Asia to South Asia.

11) 80,000 mile British Airways North America to South America Oneworld partner business class awards. Note: these are good for one carrier, so if you choose LAN, you need to get yourself to the gateway or else the price increases drastically. However, you can build in a bunch of stopovers, so your trip could be JFK-LIM (stop)- SCL (stop)- IPC (stop)-JFK. A great way to tour South America and British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards. Note #2: there’s currently a 40% bonus.

12) 1,300 IberiaPlus points for Intra-European flights, like MAD-AMS. These flights can be extremely expensive, especially those not served by low-cost carriers. Iberia is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, 100 IB Plus points = 1,400 Amex points. MAD-AMS = 18,200 Amex points (and the time I booked that award flights were $750+) and flights like MAD-Tel Aviv, which routinely sell for over $1,500 USD for economy roundtrips, can be snagged for 2,250 IB points (31,500 Amex points.) Iberia has very generous award availability.

13) 110,000 US Airways miles for Business Class North America to South Pacific (Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Saipan, etc).  US Airways miles can be purchased for as low as 1.5 cents each through their 100% bonus offer.

14) 120,000 mile Aeroplan mini-Round The World award. It’s basically a first class award to Asia, but you can route through Europe and stop in two cities along the way to your final Asian destination and cross both oceans. An incredible value I wrote about here.

15) 50,000 mile Flying Blue North America to Europe 50% off awards (cities vary by promotion period). Currently you can fly from Vancouver to Europe in KLM business class for 50,000 miles roundtrip, which is an amazing value. Note: Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Fees are high, but worth it considering you have to use 50% the miles needed for an award.

16) 25000 mile + £170 copay bmi coach awards North America to Europe.

17) 37, 500 mile + £255 copay bmi business class awards North America to Europe.

18) 100 credit Southwest yearly companion pass. Earned when accruing 100 credits in a year, which used to be doable by credit card activity alone. March 1 begins the new Rapid Rewards, but the Companion Pass stay – though you can’t mix credit card AND flight activity. You either need to fly enough to earn 100 credits or spend enough for 110 credits ($110,000).

19) 100 credit Airtran yearly companion pass. While they don’t give it to you like Southwest, you can redeem Airtran credits. Airtran is an Amex Membership Rewards Transfer partner and they are currently running a 20% bonus, so you’d need to transfer 112,500 Amex points to get enough credits for the yearly companion pass. However, that’s 365 days of free flights for any companion traveling with you – if you use it enough, it can be an unbelievable value.

20) 280,000 Delta miles for a business class Round the World trip, with up to 6 stopovers. Since Skyteam partner availability is decent, planning these isn’t as hard as you’d think. And with the 50% Amex bonus, those with Amex points can get this award for a mere 187,000 points.

This was just a random collection of some of my favorite awards, but is by no means a definitive list of all valuable awards. Please feel free to comment below on your thoughts or your favorite award.

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