Tuesday Travel Top 10: Coach Airline Award Redemptions

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We’re going to launch a new series of posts called the Tuesday Travel Top 10, where we talk about our top 10 favorites in various categories including airlines, classes of service, award redemptions, airports, airline lounges, hotels, credit cards, perks and benefits, rental cars, travel gear and technology, and more. Have ideas of what we should cover? Tell us what you’d like to read about in the comments below.

In the meantime, for today’s topic, we thought we’d cover ten of the best coach award redemptions out there including both domestic and international options. I thought this would be relevant since I often talk about my personal redemptions in business and first class and people always tell me to focus more on economy. So here you have it! As always, feel free to share your thoughts and whether I missed any good ones.

1) 4,500 British Airways Avios + $75 for roundtrip short-haul (650 miles or less) economy flights. Most people focus on 4,500 mile one-way short haul awards, but the Cash & Miles feature stretches the value of these awards out even more because they “sell” points at 1.67 points a piece – so in this example you pay $75 and save 4,500 points. British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Membership Rewards, though now until May 31, 2012, there’s actually a 50% transfer bonus from Amex to BA, so those 4,500 miles would only cost you 3,000 Amex points and $75 – for a roundtrip flight. This can be an incredible value considering short-haul flights can be some of the most expensive. Another great aspect is that British Airways doesn’t charge last minute ticketing fees like American, who tacks on a $75 fee  if you make an award reservation within 21 days of departure. Even if you didn’t want to do the cash co-pay, spending 9,000 miles and ~$50 for these roundtrip flights is usually a great deal.
2) 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 Chase points do not qualify for the companion pass. Transferred hotel points do, however.

3) American Airlines Distance-Based Oneworld Awards. For 160,000 miles, you can fly up to 50,000 miles – more than enough for an around-the-world trip of a lifetime. You can have a maximum of 16 segments and you must travel on two Oneworld airlines, not counting American. Check out the multiple options here.

Distance based awards can be used to your AAdvantage

4) ANA Mileage Club economy awards from the East Coast to London for 38,000 miles, and since they are a Star Alliance carrier you can fly on United, though ANA does now charge fuel surcharges on United awards (as they do on another partner airline, Virgin Atlantic) and you will have to price out individual awards on their search tool or call ANA to see how much the taxes and fees on them will by. ANA is also a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express

ANA Award Newark to London for 38,000 miles roundtrip

5) 24,000 LAN kilometers for roundtrip coach travel within Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Even short intra-South American flights—such as between Montevideo and Santiago, or Santiago and Easter Island—can be very expensive, so these redemptions can be lifesavers. Plus, Starwood points transfer at a generous 1:2 ratio, so 12,000 Starwood points = 24,000 LAN kilometers. There is currently a 25,000 point sign-up bonus on the Starwood Amex which equates to 60,000 LAN kilometers with the 5,000-point bonus for transferring 20,000 SPG points!

6) 25,000 British Airways Avios points for roundtrip award tickets from the West Coast of the US to Hawaii on partner airline American that would start at 35,000 MileSAAver off-peak miles plus last-minute ticketing fees if you just used American miles.

7) 40,000 American AAdvantage miles for 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 any number of international hubs like 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 also Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, so you would actually only need to transfer 35,000 SPG points to get to 40,000 AA miles.

Off-peak awards have reasonable taxes/fees too as long as you avoid British Airways flights

8 ) 25000 mile + £170 copay bmi coach roundtrip awards North America to Europe. That copay can cost over $300 depending on currency fluctuations, but when ticket prices to Europe really soar, as they are right now, even paying that much can save you a bundle on airfare.

9) 180,000 Delta miles for a coach 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 108,000 points. United also charges 180,000 miles for economy Round the World awards.

10) 35,000 US Airways miles for Off-peak awards from the US to Europe between January 15 and February 28 every year. If you have  the US Airways Mastercard, they are only 30,000 and US Airways has relatively low fees on their own awards. These are not available on partner airlines or codeshares. Saver/low level awards will automatically price at the Off-peak level and you can book them online.

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