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Book now: Redeem miles for business class to Europe’s famed Christmas markets

Nov. 11, 2019
10 min read
Christmas Market, Frankfurt am Main
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Whether you like it or not, the holiday season is rapidly approaching (or is already here, depending on your point of view). And what better way to get in the yuletide spirit than taking a trip to Europe and visiting some famous Christmas markets? If your schedule is somewhat open for the rest of 2019, you'll want to listen up, as we're seeing some solid availability in business class from numerous U.S. cities over the next several weeks.

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Let's dive into what we've found by airline.

Lufthansa

The German carrier can get you right into Munich (MUC) or Frankfurt (FRA) from several U.S. gateways. You can visit markets in either one of those cities — including one right at the Munich Airport — or catch a quick, connecting flight to another destination. Frankfurt's market open its doors on November 25, while the airport market at MUC kicks off Nov. 15.

Here's a summary of dates with at least two Lufthansa business-class award seats available at the time of writing:

New York City

  • From New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA): November 16, 18-20 and 24-30; December 4 and 10-11
  • From New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR) to Munich (MUC): November 16-19, 24-26 and 28-30; December 3 and 9-10
  • From Frankfurt (FRA) to New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR): November 23-27; December 4, 7, 10-12, 14 and 16-17
  • From Munich (MUC) to New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR): November 23-26 and 28-29; December 4, 10-13 and 16-17

Washington-Dulles (IAD)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 18, 20, 24 and 26
  • To Munich (MUC): November 17, 19 and 24-25; December 15
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 25-29; December 3-6, 10-12 and 16-18
  • From Munich (MUC): November 24; December 3, 10-12 and 17-19

Boston (BOS)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 18-19 and 25-26; December 3-4 and 9-10
  • To Munich (MUC): November 18, 24-25 and 29; December 3-4 and 9-10
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 19-20 and 25-26; December 3-5, 10-12 and 16-19
  • From Munich (MUC): December 4-7 and 10-19

Philadelphia (PHL)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 17, 20 and 23-27; December 2-5, 7-11 and 16-18
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 23-27; December 3-7, 9-11 and 16-18

Detroit (DTW)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 17-20, 24-26 and 29; December 1-4 and 8-11
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 25-27 and 29; December 3-6, 10-13 and 17

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 18-20, 23-26 and 30; December 2-4 and 9-11
  • To Munich (MUC): November 17-19, 24-25 and 28; December 1-3 and 8-11
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 23-26; December 3-7, 9-11 and 16-17
  • From Munich (MUC): November 23-26 and 28; December 3-7, 9-11 and 16

Charlotte (CLT)

  • To Munich (MUC): November 16-19, 23-25 and 29; December 2 and 8-10
  • From Munich (MUC): November 25, 27 and 29; December 4-7, 10-14 and 17-18

Miami (MIA)

  • To Munich (MUC): November 18-19
  • From Munich (MUC): November 25-28; December 10-11

Orlando (MCO)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 16, 18 and 27; December 17
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 25-28

Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 18-19 and 24-25
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): December 11-13

Austin (AUS)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 15, 17, 20 and 24-25; December 1-2 and 7-9
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 24-25; December 4, 6-7, 11, 13 and 15

Denver (DEN)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 17-19 and 24-27; December 1-4 and 8-10
  • To Munich (MUC): November 17-19 and 24-25
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 24-26; December 4-6 and 10-13
  • From Munich (MUC): November 24-25; December 4-5, 12 and 16

Los Angeles (LAX)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 19, 24, 26 and 28
  • To Munich (MUC): November 19, 24-25 and 27; December 1, 2-4 and 9
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 25 and 28; December 5-6
  • From Munich (MUC): November 23-25 and 27; December 4-6 and 10

San Francisco (SFO)

  • To Munich (MUC): November 18-19, 24-27 and 29-30; December 1-4 and 8-11
  • From Munich (MUC): November 23-27 and 29; December 3-6, 10-11 and 16-17

Seattle (SEA)

  • To Frankfurt (FRA): November 18-20 and 24-26; December 1, 2-4 and 8-11
  • From Frankfurt (FRA): November 25-27; December 4-6 and 10-13

Other notes

Many of these dates have more than two seats available, so if you're looking to travel with a family or some friends, you may be able to score business-class awards on the same flight. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing availability from other Lufthansa gateways in the U.S. — including Atlanta (ATL), Tampa (TPA) and San Diego (SAN).

Swiss

Swiss has opened up some decent award availability — including several dates from the West Coast. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)

This Zurich-based carrier is generally fantastic at opening up business-class award availability on long-haul routes, and if you can reach the Swiss capital, you can visit a number of markets right there (don't miss the Swarovski crystal tree in the main train station). However, Zurich is also a great jumping off point to other cities in the area; I personally recommend the Christmas markets in and around Colmar, France.

Here are the dates that currently have business-class awards for two (or more) travelers:

Boston (BOS)

  • To Zurich (ZRH): November 18-19 and 24; December 3
  • From Zurich (ZRH): November 24, 26 and 29; December 7 and 9-17

New York City

  • From New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR) to Zurich (ZRH): November 18-20, 24-25 and 28-29
  • From Zurich (ZRH) to New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR): November 23-26, 28 and 30; December 4, 7 and 10-20

Miami (MIA)

  • To Zurich (ZRH): November 17-18 and 27
  • From Zurich (ZRH): November 24-27; December 3, 7 and 9-12

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)

  • To Zurich (ZRH): November 18, 25-26 and 28-29
  • From Zurich (ZRH): November 25-28; December 5-6 and 11-17

Los Angeles (LAX)

  • To Zurich (ZRH): November 18
  • From Zurich (ZRH): November 24 and 26; December 2-4 and 12

Austrian

Austrian Business Class (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Austrian business class is a great way to cross the Atlantic. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Though Austrian Airlines has a much smaller route network to the U.S. — and only offers seasonal service to a couple of gateways — there are many dates with business-class award availability over the next several weeks. This will put you at Vienna's terrific Christmas market, though you can catch a train or a short connecting flight to many others.

Here are the dates with two such seats at the time of writing

New York City

  • From New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR) to Vienna (VIE): November 17, 19 and 25-29; December 2-4, 6, 8 and 10-11
  • From Vienna (VIE) to New York-JFK and/or Newark (EWR): November 24 and 26-29; December 3-5, 8, 10-13 and 15-16

Washington-Dulles (IAD)

  • To Vienna (VIE): November 19 and 24-26
  • From Vienna (VIE): November 24-29; December 3-6, 9-12 and 16-18

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)

  • To Vienna (VIE): November 17-20 and 24-25; December 2, 7-8 and 12
  • From Vienna (VIE): November 24-25; December 3-8 and 10-16

How to book

All three of these carriers belong to Star Alliance, so you can use any currency from a member airline. Unfortunately, only two will allow you avoid fuel surcharges on all of these carriers: United MileagePlus and Avianca LifeMiles. Here are the award rates for a one-way, business-class ticket from the U.S. to Europe (or vice versa) with each of these programs:

ProgramAward RateTransfer partners
United MileagePlus70,000 milesChase, Marriott
Avianca LifeMiles63,000 milesAmex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Note that booking through Air Canada's Aeroplan program could be a good option for Swiss-operated flights, as you'll pay no fuel surcharges and need just 55,000 miles each way (or 57,500 miles if connecting to a city in Eastern Europe). However, using Aeroplan to book Lufthansa- or Austrian-operated flights will add hundreds of dollars in extra fees to your award tickets, so you'd be better off going with one of the two above programs.

Just note that United will still tack on a $75 fee for booking award flights within 21 days of departure — though this is discounted or waived for all Premier elite travelers and will disappear for everyone starting Friday Nov. 15, 2019.

Best strategy for these awards

It's situations like this that really display the incredible value of transferable point currencies — like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Instead of focusing on a specific airline's currency, earning transferable points will allow you to transfer them to many different airlines. When a relatively last-minute award deal like this pops up, you'll be ready to jump on it — no matter which alliances or airlines are involved.

Here's some of our favorite cards that earn these flexible points, along with the current welcome offers for new cardholders:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership — though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're eligible for a targeted 75,000-point offer after meeting minimum spend requirements (offers subject to change at any time).
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. — though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're eligible for a targeted, 125,000-point offer (subject to change at any time).
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

For more information and additional offers, check out our complete guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.

Bottom line

As the weather cools and the holidays approach, booking a spur-of-the-moment trip to some of Europe's best Christmas markets might be tempting. Fortunately, you can currently do so on style thanks to solid award availability on Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss in business class over the next several weeks. But hurry! These awards won't last long.

Featured image by Getty Images
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.