Planning on crossing the pond this summer or fall? Here's what award availability to London looks like
The rebirth of travel to Europe is nearly here.
For those of us on the U.S. side of the pond, recent announcements by both the European Union and the United Kingdom signal that travel restrictions will likely ease this summer.
JetBlue's foray into the hotly contested New York (JFK) to London corridor -- with an inaugural JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) flight this August -- is further evidence that airlines are confident borders will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers. JetBlue will begin flying from JFK to London’s Heathrow on Aug. 11 and London’s Gatwick airport on Sept. 29.
If you're looking to make flight bookings to London, right now may be the time to do so before cash prices skyrocket and award availability plummets.
On the bright side, with JetBlue's imminent launch, the competition to London is getting fierce -- but does that bode well for award availability?
Here's a closer look at how you can get to London later this summer and early fall. We compared award pricing and space between JetBlue's new London flights alongside other legacy carriers from New York.
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JetBlue uses dynamic award pricing for its own flights, so redeeming TrueBlue points are pretty straightforward. In essence, that means the more a flight costs in cash, the more it will cost in points.
According to TPG valuations, you can expect to get around 1.3 cents of value per TrueBlue point. Unfortunately, because taxes and fees on flights from London are much higher than on U.S. domestic flights, booking a roun-dtrip to the U.K. means you'll receive closer to 1.0-1.1 cents per TrueBlue point.
Here's what award pricing looks like for later this summer and early fall.
From 37,200 TrueBlue points round-trip in Blue Basic economy (and ~$207 in fees)
Departing from JFK, the lowest round-trip fares we're seeing are around $594 in economy on dates throughout August, September and October. In terms of TrueBlue points, that comes out to 37,200 points and $207 in taxes and fees.
This is certainly a very attractive award redemption rate for travel to Europe in the summer. The taxes are steep, but that's to be expected on flights to London.
Related: JetBlue’s planning to serve some pretty incredible food on economy flights to London
From 158,000 TrueBlue points round-trip in Mint business class (and ~$207 in fees)
If you're looking to fly in JetBlue's highly-anticipated new Mint Suites and Mint Studios across the pond and back, cash prices start around $1,920 round-trip. That's significantly less than most other airlines charge for business class.
If you're using TrueBlue points, expect to burn at least 158,000 points and $207 in taxes and fees.
Related: Take a tour of JetBlue’s brand-new A321neo Mint business class
Boosting your TrueBlue balance
If you want to top up your TrueBlue account quickly, you can transfer points from all major transferable points programs at varying rates:
- American Express Membership Rewards – 1.25:1
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – 1:1
- Citi ThankYou Rewards – 1:1
- Capital One – 2:1.5
In our search, American AAdvantage has some of the most generous award availability at the lowest "Saver" level, which can also be booked using partner airline programs.
For most of August, September and October, there are open award seats on American-operated flights in both economy and business on at least one nonstop to and from JFK.
Here's what we found.
Related: Flight review: American Airlines Boeing 777-200 business class on the day flight from New York to London
From 60,000 American miles round-trip in economy (and ~$207 in fees)
From 110,000 American miles round-trip in business (and about $345 in fees)
Note that American charges 57,500 miles each way (and 115,000 miles round-trip) for a "Saver" business award, which is available on most dates.
If you're not booking through a partner program (such as Etihad Guest), it makes sense to book using AAdvantage miles at the slightly lower "Web Special" award pricing that you see below.
Another way to book American flights to London
American doesn't partner with any of the major transferable points currencies, so you don't have enough American miles -- and still want to fly the airline to/from London -- there's a way.
There are several options using partner programs. One of those is to book with Etihad Guest. You'll need just 50,000 miles in business class each way, slightly less than the 57,500 miles required directly through American.
But best of all, you can transfer points to Etihad Guest from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy.
Back in 2019, United began pricing its award flights dynamically, which meant no more award charts. And last year, the Star Alliance award chart also became extinct, ushering in an era where all United awards are dynamic.
Amongst that doom and gloom, you still can get a general sense of how awards are priced. Generally, United economy flights to London -- booked outside of a two-week window -- are priced at 30,000 United miles each way. Double that for business class.
Flying on one of United's partners typically requires slightly more miles.
Here's what we found for flights between New York and London this summer and fall.
From 60,000 United miles round-trip in economy (and ~$207 in fees)
You can fly nonstop on United between New York (EWR) and London for 30,000 miles each way. Availability is wide open through summer and fall.
From 120,000 United miles round-trip in business (and ~$345 in fees)
United consistently has nonstop business class "Saver" award availability through mid-August between New York and London. For a round-trip, this prices out to 120,000 United miles and $345 in taxes and fees.
Related: The ultimate guide to United Polaris
However, after mid-August, United has removed almost all nonstop business Saver availability between New York and London. You can see the drastic difference in one-way pricing in this calendar below.
If you don't mind a connection and flying with a Star Alliance partner carrier, you can still find business Saver availability throughout the summer and fall -- it just won't be nonstop.
Here's the calendar of availability when you include connections and partner airlines for the entire month of September (miles are one-way).
For instance, I priced out a round-trip business Saver award for 133,000 United miles and $345 in fees -- with a one-stop connection on Swiss on the outbound flight and a nonstop on United for the return.
Boosting your United mileage balance
As a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, travelers with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve can easily boost their MileagePlus balances.
Other ways to book Star Alliance awards
Besides United MileagePlus, you can book Star Alliance flights with partner airlines. Here are a couple of notable examples.
ANA Mileage Club
By far, the best way to book Star Alliance flights to Europe is with ANA Mileage Club. You can book round-trip tickets for 55,000 miles in economy and 88,000 in business class. Some carriers have high fuel surcharges, though.
With that in mind, try flying with Air Canada, United Airlines, TAP Portugal, LOT Polish Airlines or SAS. These airlines either don’t add fuel surcharges or charge very low ones.
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points to ANA Mileage Club.
Related: The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability
Then, there is Aeroplan. The overhauled program shines when it comes to award rates for long-haul travel since the program eliminated fuel surcharges. Aeroplan is a distance-based program and New York falls within a band where you'll pay 35,000 points for economy and 60,000 points for business, each way.
You can transfer points to Aeroplan from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Marriott Bonvoy.
If you're looking to fly Delta across to London, this is what award availability looks like for this summer and fall using Delta SkyMiles.
Here's the quick and dirty version: Using SkyMiles to get to London and back will cost you more than almost any other program out there.
From 58,000 miles round-trip in economy (and ~$207 in fees)
The availability you see below is pricing for one-way flights between New York and London. Round-trip is a bit less than double. Unfortunately, Delta charges more for a one-way than most programs charge for a round-trip.
From 210,000 miles round-trip in business (and ~$346 in fees)
The availability you see below is pricing for one-way flights between New York and London, round-trip is a bit less than double.
Unfortunately, Delta charges more for a one-way than most programs charge for a round-trip business class award.
Boosting your Delta mileage balance
As a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, travelers with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card can easily boost their Delta SkyMiles balances.
Virgin and British Airways
Both of the U.K.'s national carriers charge hundreds of dollars in carrier-imposed surcharges, just for booking a round-trip economy ticket from the U.S. to London using points or miles.
That number increases to over $1,500 when booking a round-trip business class ticket with an award.
Related: Save money on Virgin Atlantic award tickets by booking one-way flights
However, if you're looking to fly on one of these London-based carriers, it may make sense to book a one-way award in economy.
A majority of the carrier-imposed fees are charged when you fly from the U.K., thus saving more when you only book a one-way from the U.S. From there, you have even more flexibility to book a return flight on another carrier of your choosing.
For instance, here's a British Airways economy flight as a one-way from New York to London. There is plenty of availability on this route for just 13,000 Avios and $46 in taxes and fees.
Related: Why I (almost) always book one-way flights
Similarly, Virgin charges as little as 10,000 points and $150 for a one-way from New York to London.
Boost your Virgin Atlantic and British Airways balances
For Virgin, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards directly to a Flying Club account at a 1:1 ratio. With British Airways, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.