The 7 best ways to redeem points and miles for flights to Europe
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The European Union recently announced plans to admit vaccinated American travelers this summer. An exact reopening date is yet to be announced — and actually reopening will be up to individual EU countries — but it’s encouraging news nevertheless. The EU has been largely closed to Americans since the coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the world in March 2020.
Are you looking to book a European vacation this summer? We’ll show you the best ways to redeem your points and miles for trips to Europe. This focuses on the best sweet spots from the U.S. to Europe so that you can stretch your points on the best redemption possible. You can book each of these flights with popular transferable points programs.
Let’s dive in!
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ANA Mileage Club on United, LOT Polish and others
ANA Mileage Club has the best redemption rates on Star Alliance flights to Europe. You can book round-trip tickets for 55,000 miles round-trip in economy and 88,000 in business class. That said, there are a couple of restrictions to keep in mind: you can’t book one-way tickets, and you’ll pay high fuel surcharges on some carriers. This includes favorites like Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss.
With that in mind, try flying with Air Canada, United Airlines, TAP Portugal, LOT Polish Airlines, SAS and Turkish Airlines. These airlines either don’t add fuel surcharges or charge very low ones. Even better, you can add a free stopover to any ANA award booking, letting you see two cities for the price of one.
For example, you can fly Newark (EWR) to Lisbon (LIS) and stop over for a few days. Then, you can fly from Lisbon to Warsaw (WAW) and spend as much time as you’d like before returning to Newark. TAP Portugal and LOT Polish Airlines operate this itinerary, so you’ll pay 88,000 miles and $155.47 for a round-trip business class ticket.
Book shorter Star Alliance flights with Aeroplan
Another good option for Star Alliance flights to Europe is Air Canada Aeroplan. This program no longer adds fuel surcharges and recently moved to a new distance-based award chart. Further, you can add stopovers to one-way tickets for 5,000 points — check out our full guide to Aeroplan stopover rules for more information. You’ll want to use Aeroplan when booking shorter transatlantic flights on high-surcharge carriers.
Aeroplan publishes its award chart on its website (PDF link). Refer to the North America to Atlantic award chart for U.S. to Europe awards, which start at 35,000, 60,000 and 90,000 points one-way for an economy, business class or first class award, respectively. This pricing is for flights up to 4,000 physical miles.
For example, here’s a flight from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) on Lufthansa. You’ll pay 60,000 miles and $56.27 for a one-way flight in business class, which is a solid deal.
You can transfer points to Aeroplan from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Read our guide to earning Aeroplan points for more info.
Avianca LifeMiles for longer Star Alliance flights
While Aeroplan points are good for shorter flights and cheap stopovers, Avianca LifeMiles are ideal for long-haul Star Alliance flights to Europe or flights where you need to connect from a non-Star Alliance hub to a larger airport. Not only can you save miles on both economy and premium cabin flights, but Avianca doesn’t tack on fuel surcharges on those coveted Lufthansa first class awards, saving you hundreds of dollars per ticket.
One-way flights from the U.S. to Europe can be booked for as little as 20,000 LifeMiles in economy class, depending on your origin and destination. One-way business class flights cost 63,000 LifeMiles and first class costs 87,000 LifeMiles.
Here’s a sample booking from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Prague (PRG) in business class:
You can save further on your premium cabin awards by working in an intra-Europe economy class segment. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points to Avianca LifeMiles.
Fly SkyTeam airlines with Flying Blue
Flying Blue is one of the industry’s most underrated rewards programs, offering sweet spot awards to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Flying Blue offers some of the lowest redemption rates for both economy and business class awards if you’re headed to Europe. You can redeem miles for flights on Air France, Delta or KLM. All three airlines have strong route networks throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Redemption rates will vary depending on your route. For example, a one-way business class award ticket between New York-JFK and Frankfurt (FRA) will set you back just 53,000 miles on some dates. Saver economy class is even more of a bargain at 21,5000 miles.
Meanwhile, flights to Paris price out at 22,000 in economy and between 57,500 and 75,000 in business class.
These rates are already lower than what most frequent flyer programs require for award tickets to Europe. But you might be able to save even more through Promo Rewards. This monthly list features awards you can book for up to 50% less. At the moment, Promo Rewards are limited to intra-Europe flights, but this might change in the coming months as Europe begins to open up to vaccinated travelers.
You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy to Flying Blue.
Head to Madrid for cheap with Iberia
Iberia offers the best deals on flights to Spain.
Specifically, you can fly to Madrid (MAD) from the East Coast or Midwest for as low as 17,000 Iberia Avios each way in coach, 25,000 Avios in premium economy or just 34,000 Avios in business class. The carrier uses a distance-based award chart, and you can get the lowest price booking on off-peak dates.
Here’s an overview of how many Avios you’d need for one-way, nonstop flights to Iberia’s hub in Madrid:
|Origin||Blue Class / Economy||Premium Economy||Business|
|Off Peak||Peak||Off Peak||Peak||Off Peak||Peak|
|New York (JFK)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Chicago – O’Hare (ORD)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Boston (BOS)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,000||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Miami (MIA)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|San Francisco (SFO)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,000||62,500|
Unlike British Airways, you’ll pay minimal taxes on these awards. Plus, the program sometimes offers promotional award redemption rates where you can book your flights for even fewer miles. For instance, Iberia recently offered business class flights from the U.S. to Madrid for just 17,000 Avios.
You can quickly earn Iberia Avios by transferring points from programs like American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios so long as both accounts have been open for 90+ days.
Fly American with Etihad Guest
While the Abu Dhabi-based carrier doesn’t fly between the U.S. and Europe, you can use the Etihad Guest program to book cheap transatlantic American Airlines flights. Flights to Europe cost 20,000 to 30,000 miles in economy (depending on the time of year), 50,000 miles in business class and just 62,500 miles in Flagship first class.
These rates are generally better than what you’ll pay through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. By comparison, American usually charges 22,500-30,000 AAdvantage for economy, 57,500 miles for business class and a whopping 85,000 miles for first class.
You can transfer points to Etihad Guest from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy.
Save on British Airways fuel surcharges with Asia Miles
British Airways is notorious for adding high fuel surcharges to award tickets — even when booked with partners. These can top $700 one-way when flying in BA first class on some routes. Thankfully, you can lower the cost of BA fuel surcharges when you book your ticket with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. You’ll pay under $250 on most one-way tickets, which is less than half of what you’d pay when booking with Avios.
The number of points you’ll pay depends on the route you book. In the case of New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR), you’ll pay 27,000 miles one way in economy, 43,000 in premium economy, 61,000 in business class and 87,000 in first class. A one-way business class ticket has just $204 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points to Asia Miles.
The European Union will reopen its borders to American tourists this year if all goes according to plan. It’s in your best interest to lock in your award travel now before the mad rush to book. Use this article as a guide when doing this — it can save you miles and money that you can use toward booking your next big trip.
Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal and Benji Stawski.
Feature photo of Prague’s Old Town Square by Andrew Mayovskyy / Shutterstock.com
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