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It’s been almost a year since I’ve updated the list of my 20 Favorite Airline Awards. Since then, so much has changed in the world of points and frequent flyer miles—from Aeroplan fuel surcharges to British Airways’ new Avios program—that I thought it was high time for a refreshing of the list.

I’m going to go on my own experiences booking trips using points and miles, as well as those of many readers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the best “bang for your mile” redemptions. Have a good redemption you don’t see below? Tell me about it in the comments!

(FYI as a reference I created a consolidated list of award charts)

In no particular order
1) 90,000 US Airways Dividend miles to fly roundtrip business class from North America to North Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, S. Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.)

2) 4,500 British Airways Avios points for one-way short-haul (650 miles or less) economy flights. British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

3) 63,000 ANA miles for roundtrip New York to London on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class). Note: ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

4) 150,000 Delta SkyMiles for roundtrip US to Australia, including on partner V Australia. Delta will also let you route via Hawaii (on partner Hawaiian airlines) or via Tahiti using Air France/Air Tahiti Nui. Note: V Australia flights do have ~$500 surcharges. Coach for these same itineraries is 100,000 miles. Delta is an Amex and Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner.

5) 68,000 ANA miles for roundtrip East Coast to Europe with stopovers. I once booked a great trip to Germany for Oktoberfest: JFK-Frankfurt-Munich (stop), Munich-Berlin (stop), Berlin-Frankfurt-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. ANA is an American Express and Starwood transfer partner.

6) 120,000 Delta Skymiles for roundtrip business class to Africa (excluding South Africa), including Mauritius and Reunion. You can also include a stopover and an open jaw, which comes in handy when routing via Europe. Delta is partners with Kenyan Airways, KLM and Air France, which provide a good number of opportunities for African travel.

7) 40,000 mile American roundtrip off-peak coach to Europe between October 15-May 15. Tip: for Europe awards American classifies Hawaii in the same region as the continental US, so you can actually fly Hawaii to Chicago, Dallas, Miami or New York and build in a stopover before continuing onto Europe. Offpeak awards can also be used on Oneworld partners; like British Airways, Iberia, and Finn Air. American is a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner.

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

9) 120,000 Continental/United miles roundtrip business class o South Africa- and you can even route via Brazil (South African has great availability on Sao Paulo to JNB) and United allows a stopover on awards. United is a 1:1 Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and 2:1 Starwood transfer partner.

DC to Johannesburg via Brazil

10) Southwest yearly companion pass. While not necessarily an award, you earn it after 100 one-way flights or 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying points (currently their 50,000 point credit card sign-ups do count). Once you get the companion pass, it can be good for nearly 2 years of unlimited companion flying. Check this post for more details. Southwest is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but transferred points do not qualify for the companion pass.

11) Flying Blue 50,000 mile roundtrip North America to Europe in business class promo award. The cities change every two months, but I recently flew Air Europa from Madrid to Miami in business class for 25,000 miles one-way (transferred from Amex Membership Rewards) and ~$100 in fees. Tip: Flying Blue classifies Tel Aviv as a part of Europe, so these promo awards apply to Tel Aviv travel as well.

12) 24,000 Lan kilometers for roundtrip coach travel within Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Even short intra-South American flights can be very expensive, so these redemptions can be lifesavers. Plus, Starwood points transfer at a generous 1:2 ratio, so with their 25% bonus it means 20,000 Starwood points = 50,000 Lan Kilometers. There is currently a 25,000 point sign-up bonus on the Starwood Amex which equates to 60,000 Lan kilometers!

Lan award chart.. some gems in there

13) 140,000 Alaska miles for roundtrip US to South Africa via Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class (which is one of the best First Class cabins in the sky). You can even build in a stopover in Hong Kong. Alaska is a transfer partner of Starwood.

14) British Airways Travel Together awards. If you spend $30,000 on the BA Visa within a calendar year you get a free companion on an award redemption. So you get two tickets for the price of one (plus taxes/fees on the second). So New York to London in business class is 80,000 miles roundtrip plus $700 in fees. With the pass you could get two tickets for 80,000 miles and $1,400. A hefty cash outlay, but not bad since BA has a great business and first class product and great award availability. More info here.

15) 125,000 Aeroplan miles for roundtrip US to Asia in business class. The real value here lies in the routing- Aeroplan will let you cross the Atlantic or Pacific to go to Asia so you can effectively build a “round the world” itinerary with 2 stops. So for example, Chicago-Zurich (stop)- Singapore (destination)- Tokyo (Stop)- Chicago.

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

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

18) Intra-Asia awards on Continental/United. With so many Asian Star Alliance carriers (Like Singapore, ANA, Air China, Asiana, and Thai) there are a ton of options. For example, one way intra-Japan flights, which can get expensive on certain routes, are only 6,000 miles. Japan to North Asia (China, South Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia) is only 10,000 miles one way coach. China is a huge country, so think of the possibilities.

19) 100 credit Airtran yearly companion pass. While they don’t give it to you like Southwest, you can redeem Airtran credits to get this pass, which gives unlimited companion flights for a year. The last day to transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Airtran is February 29, 2012 and they transfer at 1,500 Amex = 1 credit or 150,000 Amex for the pass.

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 frequent Amex transfer bonuses of up to 67%, those with Amex points can get this award for a mere 168,000 points.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • PJ

    thanks brian. LAN shuts off my IGR AEP availablity to BA and AA miles. nice to see i can try to convert starwood into Lanpass points and talk to them; of course i will check with LAN first before converting

  • PJ

    I was told by CO rep: STARALLIANCE does not help me out on fly one way within South America. I got spoiled on PMC – SCL redemption for 4.5K avios + $13 . Have been seaching for award tickets to leave from IGR to QEP in case anybody can hime in any help? my back up plan is to pay $ 283 for it

  • Dave Op

    “13) 140,000 Alaska miles for US to South Africa via Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class (which is one of the best First Class cabins in the sky). You can even build in a stopover in Hong Kong. Alaska is a transfer partner of Starwood.”

    The Alaska Airlines chart showed that Cathay Pacific flights redeems only for Hong Kong and Vancouver. How can one use it from US to South Africa or other regions?

    http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/using-miles/award-chart-domestic-canada.aspx

  • Xajn

    On #3 I think you meant Virgin Atlantic, right?

  • Sil

    Number 6- how long ago was this? Did you have to call into Delta or booked through website? What month was this?

  • sil

    Number one- what month? How long ago? Could I book RT on Biz for my mom using my U.S Airways account?

  • Pete

    #9, will United/Co allow connection/stopover in EZE to JNB for the 60k miles?

  • Crismanila

    For #9, US-south Africa. Is 60k one way or round trip? It seems pretty low to fly 60k biz class round trip.

  • Pete

    One way

  • Ibsenafshar

    Dave OP
    SEA-Bali on Cathay with AS miles you route through LA in AS metal then HK (stopover) then DPS or similar through VAN.
    But ya gotta call the nice lady at AS. AS reps are OK.

  • Hotelclubc

    Yeah, I scratched my head there for a second, too! I’d suggest a title change as all the other awards are listed as roundtrips. BTW, unless you WANT the Brazil stopover, the best way to book this ticket is probably on South African, which flies nonstop to JNB from JFK. But biz class award tickets seem tough to come by.

  • Iolaire

    Good info as usualy, thanks

  • Michelle

    Hi there TPG.

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

    Too bad it’s only in January …. but as I sit here and think if I should apply for US Airways card, I can’t find any good reasons to do so. Unlike SoutWest, they don’t allow to use their miles to redeem on other airlines. And whatever I found on their site … seems like they want more miles for flights than most other airlines.

    What is a good reason to get US Airways miles>?

    thanks

  • Allan Fan

    Hi, TPG, for #13, according to AS website: http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/using-miles/award-chart-domestic-canada.aspx

    seems you can only redeem AS miles on CX for flight between JFK & YVR?

  • Anonymous

    US Air is a Star Alliance member so of course they let you redeem on partners (the whole Star Alliance and a choice few others, too). It’s just the off-peak awards (Which include February by the way) that require US metal. Their award chart is actually pretty generous in comparison to most other airlines, especially the Asia awards (90k business on SQ,NH,OZ = yes please). And they don’t charge YQ. Since the annual fee of that card is just $89 and they hand you 10k miles a year for paying it can you think of a reason not to?

    Just make sure you get the CC through the offer with the bonus miles annually. Also all partner redemptions must be done by phone but the phone ticketing fees are waived.

  • Michelle

    oh, wow, I didn’t know. BUT ,…. I see they don’t allow one way ticketing. So if I get the 40K 2 cards, I can’t use first 40K for one way and other 40K to come back. Right???

  • http://www.facebook.com/ethan.r.jones Ethan Jones

    Great post TPG! Very inspirational.

  • Mwwalk

    @Points Guy, It would be nice if the post was a little more clear about when a flight is oneway/round trip and coach/business class. I found myself confused several times reading it.

  • Anonymous

    I just cleaned it up a bit- agree it was confusing. Each now has a roundtrip/oneway designation

  • Anonymous

    Thats the US award chart.
    http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/using-miles/award-chart-Africa.aspx
    140,000 for US to Africa on Cathay in First class

  • Anonymous

    Correct- roundtrip awards only. But you can transfer Starwood points to US Airways or buy the amount you need to top up for an award
    http://thepointsguy.com/2012/01/us-airways-50-bonus-on-purchased-miles-good-deal/

  • Anonymous

    I titled each award to be clearer. The main main benefit of routing via Brazil is that there is much more award availability. JFK/IAD to Johannesburg is tough to find and its usually only 1 seat available.

  • Anonymous

    They allow stopovers on roundtrip awards, so it would be 120k

  • Anonymous

    90k any month on any of their Star Alliance partners (ANA, United, Singapore) pending availability. You could book a RT for your mom using your miles- just put her name when you ticket

  • Anonymous

    Correct… major brain fart! Fixed

  • Anonymous

    Any month of the year. Delta.com is notoriously erratic, so booking over the phone makes the most sense. You can identify award availability on Expertflyer first http://thepointsguy.com/2011/10/using-expertflyer-com-for-award-availability/

  • Anonymous

    You are looking at the wrong chart. Look at the Africa award chart- US to Africa on Cathay is 140,000 miles in first class
    http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/using-miles/award-chart-Africa.aspx

  • Anonymous

    Star Alliance is weak in South America unless you can utilize TAM via Brazil

  • Anonymous

    They should allow yOut

  • Kroozer

    For #7 AAdvantage off-peak award to Europe, are there any fuel surcharges if we fly partner British Airways? For eg. LAX to LHR on AA flight, then to any other city in Europe on BA flight and return entirely on BA via LHR to LAX.

  • Dave Op

    Thanks Brian. Alaska Airlines miles seems more valuable now. I’ll be waiting for big credit card sign up offers. (I passed on the 40k one.)

  • PunkRockCTO

    I can confirm #20. Booked a round the world trip for me and wifey starting in march.

  • JohnnieD

    #19-Is the pass valid for 12 mos or calendar year?? Also, will this merge into a SWA pass after the merger???

  • Bil

    The BMI awards seem very generous, indeed. But can I use MilesPlus miles to book BMI? Are the prices only for BMI flights (not BMI flights operated by others)?

  • http://twitter.com/bluusun2 Torsten Jacobi

    Also to be considered HNL-Northern Asia for 40k in Economy RT. Lot’s of low award inventory to NRT/ HKG on Delta’s rather new planes.

    Use AA’s extra stop-overs when you book a 40k Europe RT to create a free Hawaii trip.

  • Aaron

    #9 Can you do a similar routing using US Air miles? Only 110K roundtrip if you can.

  • thrashsoundly

    How are the fees on ANA for options 3 and 5?

  • NYCtoAsia

    TPG – What partner airlines apply for US Airways in #1 spot – US to North Asia?

  • Alohastephen

    Great List. Is 90K US Air biz class to Asia the same for HNL departures? I would hope that it would be discounted a bit since you are already half way there from the US mainland.

  • bubb

    FWIW, it should be noted that Cathay has a seasonal rotation of equipment to South Africa which means no first class during the South African winter (high season for safari unfortunately) typically. Be sure to check the schedule vs. your dates before you start accumulating loads of AS miles.

  • SC

    Great info as always. Is there a central resource that can help evaluate various mileage redemptions for a particular route. I, as many folks here, have a lot of SPG points in the hopes of transferring to an airline that gives me the best redemption opportunity.

  • SC

    Great info as always. Is there a central resource that can help evaluate various mileage redemptions for a particular route. I, as many folks here, have a lot of SPG points in the hopes of transferring to an airline that gives me the best redemption opportunity.

  • Hannah

    Regarding the RTW sky team trips, how much should one expect to pay in taxes if they use sky miles? I’ve researched it for awhile and no one talks about the taxes on the forum boards. Is it just too relative to speculate?

  • RakSiam

    I’ve never really thought much about Alaska, but they have some very good partner award charts.

  • jim

    My wife and I did JFK to Buenos Aires for 40,000 points on American the first week of March – a week after the points decreased from peak to off-peak. We had perfect weather – 75 and sunny the whole time.

    We also did Turkish Air (before they left American) for 40,000 points during the “Europe” off-peak period of Oct-May. Turkey is a apart of Europe which is one of the great mileage steals, in my opinion.

  • Benthelefty

    I’m wanting to fly TAM from GIG EZE rt. Do I have to call and see the cost in miles? Is it the same award amount regardless? The flights are direct and I’m hoping they are at the cheapest level but I can’t figure it out..

    Thanks in advance and great post!

  • Dave

    Alas, American’s off peak awards do not live up to the hype. For flights to Europe, they end around Dec 9 or so (even earlier than when airlines charge you higher fares, which is usually Dec 14 or Dec 15). In fact, for days after Dec 9 there aren’t even any regular Milesaver peak awards–only AA anytime (60,000 each way!).

  • Anonymous

    All of them. It’s a standard rate not a promo :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see why not. Popular opinion says that even if not, you can usually talk a DM representative into almost any routing :P

  • Anonymous

    bmi is (for now) a member of Star Alliance in the Lufthansa family. As such you can book bmi flights by using any Star Alliance program, however when you book, you are required to pay in the miles of and according to the terms of the BOOKING airline, not the one which gets you to your destination.

    As such, yes, you can use Milage Plus miles to book flights on bmi. However, you will pay the Mileage Plus rates, whatever they happen to be (US-Europe for 60k in Economy, 100k in Business).

    The rates posted here are for using your bmi miles to book flights on either bmi or any other Star Alliance member (SWISS, Lufthansa, Unicted, etc.)

  • Ucipass

    That’s a good question! Plus how easy is to get flight out of North America and the back to North America on standard awards?

  • Anonymous

    Great post

  • RakSiam

    Not sure US allows North America – North Asia via TATL. Aeroplan does.

  • Brian

    This worked well for me – no problem with availability on this route when using LANPass points. Waiting on the transfer from Starwood is frustrating though.

  • Anonymous

    All they say is you cannot exceed MPM for te city pairs, and since LH flies from the US to Asia via Europe id take that as the MPM. Most people @ flyertalk haven’t had a problem, whether or not it’s technically allowed is another matter :) US is the wild west of reward travel.

  • Dinghygofaster

    I booked the exact route talked about here Cathay Pacific to South Africa using AS miles in First.
    Can’t wait, almost $.19/mile.
    PDX-YVR-HKG-JNB / JNB-HKG (2 days) / HKG-YVR-PDX

    My flight is next month, can’t wait. GREAT use of Alaska miles

  • Jon

    Just booked SFO-SYD round trip in November in first class on United for 160K miles. Cost of the ticket was $21,000. Great deal!

  • Vishal

    No Oneworld travel with AA miles?

  • Chrisgar

    For #1, how can I search for SQ and OZ availability?

  • http://www.nedcon.ro/ Nicole_gamble

    I would like to say this is the best blog that I have ever come across. Very informative. Please write more so we can get more details.

  • Bil

    Huge help. Thank for your reply.

  • David Shih

    For the US Airways to North Asia award, can you do open jaw and a stopover all on one ticket via Atlantic?

  • Anonymous

    I wish you’d made this post a while ago, it’s definitely changing some of my plans/goals for the future.

    Thanks just the same.

  • Anonymous

    When I called United I was told that in order to stopover in Brazil(GRU) en route to South Africa(JNB) which are in two different regions,the award would have to be priced as two one way awards costing 30000 miles US to Brazil and 60000 miles from Brazil to South Africa both legs in coach. The agent checked with their rate desk to verify this. Was the rate desk incorrect in calculating these mileage requirements? Thanks for your help.

  • er

    Dave, you are trying to book during the holidays and I would imagine it is tough to book the off-peak awards. I had no problem booking a flight to BCN in April for 40k miles roundtrip.

  • Dave

    the thing is, I tried to book the first day these awards would have been available, but they never were. They need to state that off peak does not count during the holidays if they are not going to offer them then.

  • Joe

    Last year’s version of this is my very favorite TPG article… thank you so much for updating!

  • Csfsfu36

    Could I transfer my BA miles to my Chase Ultimate reward points, and then transfer those to United?

  • Anonymous

    No. you cant transfer airline miles into Ultimate Rewards- only out of

  • Cbojsa

    How can I use/book my British Airways miles on the Avios partner airlines, for example American to fly from JFK or EWR to Europe? i amtold the fuel surcharges/taxes are lower ifyour use partner airlines?

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  • Papakim

    Thanks for this post. Can 68k ANA east coast to Europe with stopovers be used from Boston to Athens? What are parameters on stops? Have you posted re: Greece on TPG?

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  • rj123456

    Good post, needs an update!

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