My Positive Experience Using Avios for Intra-European Flights

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I recently wrote about using miles for intra-European awards and I came to the conclusion that it can make sense – even in business class – since intra-European fares can be expensive even on the low cost carriers. This weekend I’m off to Europe on an AA award to London using 62,500 miles and $353 one way in British Airways First Class. Not bad, for a ticket that sells for $10,234 (and believe it or not, there are people who actually pay those prices). However, after spending a couple days in London, I’m off to meet friends in Copenhagen and AA does not allow stopovers on one-way awards, so I was on the hook for the 2-hour flight to Denmark.

No big deal – I have a boatload of Avios and Chase Ultimate Rewards (which can be instantly transferred into United miles) and both programs allow one-way awards and have low fees on intra-European awards. Or I figured I’d just buy a ticket, even on a low-cost carrier, since it’s only a short flight.

However, the low-cost carriers weren’t really cheap and the departures at less than ideal times – out of London Stansted and really early in the morning. Easyjet was coming in at $241. No thanks, since there are tons of other fees and a cattle-call-like experience (I did fly them on a Madrid-Marrakech flight a few years ago and had a perfectly fine experience).
I then pulled up and lo and behold several SAS options opened up at great times: 12,500 miles for economy or 20,000 miles for business class and $78.50 in fees per person (my itinerary consisted of two people, hence the 40,000 miles).
I then decided to price out awards using Avios and to my delight, I found several options that provided huge value. Economy tickets weren’t available on my date, but business class was readily available at only 9,000 Avios and $26 per ticket. To extract even more value, I opted to go for the Cash & Avios option of 4,500 Avios and $91 per ticket, essentially buying Avios at 1.4 cents a piece. This same exact flight was retailing on for $1,031 in business or $444 in economy. Even if you peg the value to the economy ticket, I got 7.8 cents per Avios in value from this redemption, and an astounding 21 cents per Avios if you peg it to the business class fare. Either way, a great deal and much better than blowing 20,000 United miles or huffing it to Stansted in the wee hours of the morning to fly Easyjet.
Another thing to consider is that British Airways does not charge late redemption fees on Avios awards, while United charges $75 for tickets booked within 21 days of travel. Though it is still expensive to redeem Avios on transatlantic flights between the US and Europe, Avios can provide extreme value elsewhere and Chase is ow offering a 50,000 Avios bonus on the British Airways Visa. British Airways is also an instant 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so there are lots of options out there, and you shouldn’t discount this program if you need to get around Europe on the cheap!

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Apply Now
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Balance Transfer Credit Rating
N/A 15.49%-19.49% Variable $95 See Terms Excellent Credit