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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Reserve
United MileagePlus members generally have some pretty decent award options to Europe, even in peak season (thanks to generous availability on Lufthansa and now Turkish), but summer availability on other carriers can be difficult to come by.
Several months back, there was an incredible amount of business-class availability on all of Austrian Airlines’ flights from the US to Vienna (VIE). While we’re not currently seeing widespread availability for 8+ travelers during peak season, there are still plenty of biz seats available at just 70,000 United miles each way — in many cases, there are four or more award seats on the same flights from now through the summer.
When traveling on United awards, you can book a round-trip flight from the US to Europe that includes a stopover for the same price. So you can fly from Miami to Vienna, spend a week in Austria, then fly from Vienna to Paris and spend a week there before returning home to the US. This is available as part of United’s “Excursionist Perk,” which launched on October 6, 2016.
Here are some examples of what you can book:
New York (JFK) to Vienna for 4 passengers in business class:
Chicago (ORD) to Vienna for 4 passengers in business class:
Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Vienna for 4 passengers in business class:
Miami (MIA) to Vienna for 2 passengers in business class:
Availability like this almost certainly won’t last, so if you think you might be able to travel, book now and take advantage of United’s 24-hour cancelation policy. Note that in addition to booking these flights for 70,000 United miles each way, you could also use 55,000 Aeroplan miles, but Aeroplan adds significant fuel surcharges to these awards (while United does not). Austrian’s business class offers aisle access for all seats on the 767, and most seats on the 777. There are economy awards available on these dates as well, priced at 30,000 miles each way.
If you need more United miles, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points instantly earned with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Or, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan instantly, earned with cards like The Platinum Card from American Express and Premier Rewards Gold.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards