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Bring the whole family to Europe this fall with wide-open business-class award space

June 30, 2021
10 min read
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Star Alliance carriers just opened the flood gates and released a ton of award space on popular routes between the U.S. and Europe. While writing this piece, I found four or more open award seats on many flights this summer and fall.

I even found plenty of award space on popular routes like Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Brussels (BRU) and New York-JFK to Zurich (ZRH). Some of these routes have as many as nine open seats available per flight.

You can book these awards with any Star Alliance currency. Using ANA Mileage Club will cost you the fewest rewards. But, you can save on fuel surcharges if you book Lufthansa or Swiss-operated flights using Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles or United MileagePlus.

Best of all, many European countries have reopened to American tourists. So, you may want to use this award space to fly to places like the Czech Republic, France, Germany and The Netherlands. Now, let's take a closer look at this award space and how to book it.

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The deal

Airline: Lufthansa, Swiss, TAP Portugal and United

Routes: Dozens of continental U.S. cities to multiple European cities

Cost: From 60,000 Amex points one-way (with Air Canada Aeroplan)

Dates: August through November

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How to book: Find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool and transfer points to book your ticket.

If transferring American Express Membership Rewards points, you’ll find the best points pricing with ANA Mileage Club. However, you'll pay high fuel surcharges on Lufthansa and Swiss awards. For these tickets, consider booking Lufthansa tickets with Aeroplan or LifeMiles at a higher mileage rate to avoid paying these surcharges. You’ll pay 60,000 Aeroplan points or 63,000 LifeMiles for a one-way ticket from New York-JFK to Frankfurt.

You can also book with United miles, which you can transfer in from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Unfortunately, United charges the highest mileage price for transatlantic awards on partner airlines.

Pay taxes and fees with: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline; on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel) for travel protections on your award flight.

Related: The top 5 business-class cabins in the sky today

Is it worth it?

Lufthansa's business class product is a comfortable way to fly from the U.S. to Europe. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Star Alliance business class flights from the U.S. to Germany aren't cheap. Round-trip flights from New York-JFK to Frankfurt start just over $3,281 this September and increase on high-demand dates like Labor Day. This means you're looking at a minimum of $13,000 in airfare for a family of four this fall.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

On the flip side, you can book the same itinerary for 120,000 Aeroplan points and $177.02 in taxes round-trip per person. This gives you at least 2.5 cents per point in value, which is a solid redemption for Amex points transferred to Aeroplan.

(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Plus, Lufthansa's business class is great. You'll be treated to great onboard dining, a comfortable lie-flat seat and access to Lufthansa's business class lounges. You'll also have a solid experience in United Polaris, Swiss business class and others.

Related: How to book a round-trip business-class award to Europe for just 88,000 miles

Sample itineraries

I found the most Star Alliance business class award space between August and November. And some of these dates have a whopping nine business class award seats available.

Below, I've listed award space for flights with at least four open seats. Note that this isn't an exhaustive list — you may find space from other cities. Many dates have space for more passengers too.

Remember, you can use this award space to connect to other destinations too. Run your own searches to see if you can find connecting award space to your destination of choice.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Related: Book This, Not That: Star Alliance award tickets

Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to/from Brussels (BRU)

Outbound:

  • August: 1-2, 4, 6, 8-9, 11-13, 15-16, 18-20, 22-23 and 29
  • September: 28
  • October: 10, 12, 17, 19 and 25-26
  • November: 1-2, 7, 9-10, 12, 14-16, 21-27 and 30

Inbound:

  • August: 13, 20-21, 23-24, 26-28 and 30-31
  • September: 3, 9 and 20
  • October: 8, 11 and 28-30
  • November: 1, 4-11, 13-26 and 29-30

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to/from Zurich (ZRH)

Outbound:

  • August: 1, 4-8, 10-13, 15, 18-22 and 24-29
  • September: None
  • October: 3, 5, 10, 17, 19-20, 24-25, 27 and 30-31
  • November: 1-4 and 6-30

Inbound:

  • August: 1, 3-8, 10-13, 15, 18-22, 24-29 and 31
  • September: 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29
  • October: 8, 13-15, 20-21 and 26
  • November: 1-6, 9-14, 16-21 and 23-30

Houston (IAH) to/from Amsterdam (AMS)

Outbound:

  • August: 6, 12-13, 19-20 and 25-27
  • September: 1, 8, 13 and 21-22
  • October: 8, 19-20 and 26-27
  • November: 12, 15 and 25

Inbound:

  • August: None
  • September: None
  • October: 7 and 27
  • November: 2, 8-9, 11, 15-18, 22-25 and 30

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Brussels (BRU)

Outbound:

  • August: 1-6, 8-13, 15-16, 18, 22-23, 25 and 29-30
  • September: None
  • October: None
  • November: 15, 22 and 22-26

Inbound:

  • August: 1, 6, 8-9, 11, 13, 18, 20, 22, 25-27 and 29
  • September: 2-3 and 13
  • October: 8 and 15
  • November: 25

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Frankfurt (FRA)

Outbound:

  • August: 8, 16, 23 and 29-31
  • September: 8, 14-15, 22 and 27-29
  • October: 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27
  • November: 25

Inbound:

  • August: 20
  • September: 8, 14-15 and 20-22
  • October: 5-6, 20 and 25-27
  • November: 22 and 26

Related: Beginner’s guide to finding award space with ExpertFlyer

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Lisbon (LIS)

Outbound:

  • August: 7, 9, 19 and 24
  • September: None
  • October: 18, 20-21, 23-24 and 30-31
  • November: 1-11, 13-16, 18 and 20-30

Inbound:

  • August: 4-5 and 26
  • September: None
  • October: 15, 19 and 29
  • November: 2-26 and 29-30

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Munich (MUC)

Outbound:

  • August: 2, 6, 9-11, 16-18, 21, 23-24, and 30
  • September: 8, 22, 27 and 29
  • October: 4, 6, 11, 13, 18-20 and 25-27
  • November: None

Inbound:

  • August: 5, 12 and 19
  • September: 8, 15 and 22
  • October: 4, 6, 13, 20 and 27
  • November: 26

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Zurich (ZRH)

Outbound:

  • August: 1-5, 8-12, 14-25 and 28-31
  • September: 4-15 and 16-30
  • October: 1-8, 10-28 and 30-31
  • November: 1-4, 6-7, 12-18 and 20-30

Inbound:

  • August: 4-6, 9-13, 18-20, 24-27 and 31
  • September: 1-3, 7-11, 13-17 and 20-29
  • October: 1, 4-8, 10-15 and 17-31
  • November: 1-4 and 6-30

San Francisco (SFO) to/from Zurich (ZRH)

Outbound:

  • August: 1
  • September: None
  • October: 17, 20, 24, 27 and 30
  • November: 1, 3, 7-8, 10, 14-15, 17, 21-22, 24, 26 and 28-29

Inbound:

  • August: 25
  • September: None
  • October: None
  • November: 5, 10, 12, 14-15, 17, 19, 21-22, 24-26 and 29

Washington-Dulles (IAD) to/from Rome (FCO)

Outbound:

  • August: 2, 5, 8-9, 11, 15-16, 18, 21, 23 and 30
  • September: 6, 13, 20, 23, 26-27 and 29
  • October: 4-7, 11-12, 18-20 and 24-29
  • November: 6, 8, 12, 15, 22, 25 and 29-30

Inbound:

  • August: 6, 12-13, 19-20 and 25-27
  • September: 1, 8, 13 and 21-22
  • October: 6, 19-20 and 25-27
  • November: 12, 15 and 25

Related: What to know about traveling to Europe this summer as an American

Boosting your Membership Rewards balance

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Avianca LifeMiles, ANA Mileage Club or Air Canada Aeroplan to book these award tickets. Here’s a look at some of my favorite Amex cards and their current welcome offers. Each of these cards has its own set of benefits and fees, so do your own research and see which is best for you.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel (including Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts) and 1x on all other purchases. ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points), 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel and 1x points on all other purchases. ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
  • American Express® Green Card: 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services) and 1x points on all other purchases. ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Move over Sapphire: Why I almost always go for Membership Rewards instead of Ultimate Rewards

Bottom line

It's rare to see this much award space from the U.S. to Europe in business class. If you're considering a European vacation this year, consider booking your tickets now before these awards are booked up by others.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees