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Summer 2021 travel: Jet off to these three European destinations with open business class award space

Oct. 14, 2020
13 min read
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While much of the world is closed to international travel now, a few countries have continued to admit American passport holders. Likewise — if the coronavirus pandemic makes progress by next summer — there's a good chance more countries will reopen. Better yet, many of the destinations currently or likely open to American tourists have wide-open business class award space for next summer. Some of these dates have as many as four seats available so that you can take your family along for the journey.

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This article will give you a look at open award space to three different European destinations for next summer. I'll focus on destinations that are either currently admitting American tourists or — based on my research — are likely to admit them by next summer without quarantine. That said, there's no guarantee that this will be the case, so keep your airline's change and cancellation policies in mind before you book.

Sound good? Let's get started!

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Jet to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Turkey is one of the few destinations that have remained open to American tourists throughout the pandemic. The country's largest city of Istanbul is actually situated half in Europe and half in Asia, letting you walk (or take a taxi) between two continents. Plus, the city is filled with great food, cultural sights and everything else one of the largest cities in Europe has to offer. So if you're looking for something truly different, look no further than a trip to Istanbul next summer.

Better yet, Turkish Airlines flies from many U.S. cities to Istanbul (IST). The airline offers an incredible business class product that — as TPG's Zach Honig confirmed in a recent review — has incredible dining, a nice lie-flat seat and was an overall great experience. Its 787 aircraft outfitted with these new seats is currently flying to major U.S. cities like Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD) and New York-JFK.

Here's a look at open Turkish Airlines award space to Istanbul from various U.S. cities between June and August of next year. All of these dates have at least one open business class award, but some have many more.

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Atlanta (ATL) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-3, 4-9, 11-13, 15-16, 18-20, 22-23, 25-27 and 29-30; Jul 2-4, 6-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28 and 30-31; Aug. 1-4, 6-11, 13-18, 20-26 and 27-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-2, 4-6, 8-9, 11-13, 15-16, 18-20, 22-23, 25-27 and 29-30; Jul 2-4, 6-7, 9-11, 13-14, 16-18, 20-21, 23-25, 27-28 and 30-31; Aug. 1, 3-4, 6-8, 10-11, 13-15, 17-18, 20-22, 24-25, 27-29 and 31.

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-30, Jul. 1-31, Aug 1-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-30, Jul. 1-3, 5-29 and 31, Aug 1-31.

Houston (IAH) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-3, 5-10 and 12-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug 1-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-6, 8-19 and 22-30; Jul. 1-6, 8-16, 18 and 20-31; Aug 1-31.

Los Angeles (LAX) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-4, 8-9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28 and 30; Jul. 2, 5-9, 13-18, 20-21, 23-26, 28-29 and 31; Aug. 1-13, 15-18, 20, 23-25, 27 and 29-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25 and 28-30; Jul. 5-9, 12-14, 16, 19-21, 23 and 25-31. Aug. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-23 and 29-30.

Miami (MIA) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-12 and 13-30; Jul. 1-9, 11-24 and 25-31; Aug. 1-31.
  • Inbound: Ju. 1-19, 21-23, 25-26 and 28-30; Jul. 1-16 ,18-28 and 30-31; Aug. 1-31.

New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Istanbul (IST)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug. 1-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug 1-31.

How to book Turkish Airlines business class with points

Business class onboard Turkish Airlines' new Boeing 787-9. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy).

You can book Turkish Airlines tickets with your Star Alliance miles of choice. If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, consider transferring to United MileagePlus. The program prices partner awards dynamically, but you can expect to pay 154,000 for a round-trip business class flight from the U.S. to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Plus, you can use the Excursionist Perk to add a free stopover elsewhere in Europe.

Those with American Express Membership Rewards points have a few options. If you don't mind paying higher taxes and fees, you can transfer 88,000 points to ANA Mileage Club for a round-trip business class ticket. Like United, you're also eligible for a free stopover. Unfortunately, you can't book one-way award tickets with ANA Mileage Club.

Alternatively, you can transfer 63,000 points to Avianca LifeMiles and book a one-way Turkish Airlines ticket. The upside here is that you'll pay very minimal taxes and fees on these tickets, but you'll pay more points on a round-trip ticket.

Related: Turkey is open to tourists – here’s how to get there on points and miles

Head to London in style with United

(Photo by ZGPhotography/Shutterstock)

London needs no introduction. As one of the largest cities in the world, it has everything you'd expect from a big city. Museums, parks, restaurants, bars and amazing hotels — London truly has something for everyone. Whether it's your first time in the city or your tenth, you'll undoubtedly find something new to explore.

The U.K. has been open to Americans throughout the pandemic, although you'll need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. That said, rumor has it that the U.S. and U.K. are in talks to open a travel corridor between New York City and London that will allow a shorter quarantine when tested before departure and after arriving. We may see this open to other markets and — once there's a vaccine — open to all U.S. travelers. This makes London an excellent destination for you to consider for a trip next summer.

It's remarkably easy to travel between the U.S. and London too. Multiple airlines fly routes from various U.S. cities to London, including United Airlines. This is my airline of choice for flights to Europe as most flights are equipped with true Polaris business class. Better yet, the airline doesn't add huge fuel surcharges akin to British Airways on flights to London.

Here's a look at open business class award space:

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to/from London (LHR)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-12 and 14-30; Jul. 1-3 and 4-31; Aug. 2-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-25, 27 and 31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-3, 5-29 and 31; Aug 1-31.

Los Angeles (LAX) to/from London (LHR)

  • Outbound: Jun. 4, 7, 14 and 27; Jul. 4, 7, 9, 18-19, 21, 25-27 and 30.
  • Inbound: Jun. 3-4, 8, 16, 22-25 and 28; Jul. 6-9, 14, 16, 20, 23, 28 and 30; Aug. 25 and 27.

Newark (EWR) to/from London (LHR)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug. 1-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug 1-5, 7-12 and 14-31.

How to book United business class tickets with points

Experience United Polaris business class on flights to London. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Like Turkish Airlines, United is a Star Alliance member. Follow the booking instructions in the Istanbul section to book United business class tickets to London. The only difference is that United MileagePlus award tickets will likely be 120,000 miles round-trip and ANA Mileage Club tickets will have minimal taxes and fees. In my mind, this makes ANA Mileage Club the best way to book United award tickets to London and elsewhere in Europe.

Related: Using points and miles to get to London

See Dublin with Aer Lingus

(Image by maydays/Getty Images)

Dublin is one of my favorite cities in Europe. The city is significantly smaller than London but much more manageable as well. It offers a slew of interesting cultural sights, great pubs and lovely restaurants that will keep you entertained and well-fed. Likewise, there's a ton of interesting day trips you can take from the city, so you're not bound to the country's capital.

Like the U.K., Ireland isn't closed to American tourists. You can fly to the European country, quarantine for 14 days and then continue your vacation. That said, I think we'll see these restrictions be relaxed around the same time the U.K. relaxes theirs. The two countries share many borders and are outside the Schengen Zone, meaning they're not subject to some EU border rules. The Irish economy also relies heavily on tourism, so I can't imagine borders will stay closed for longer than needed.

Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland and flies to a handful of cities from its Dublin (DUB) hub. Here's a look at open award space from three U.S. cities:

Boston (BOS) to/from Dublin (DUB)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug. 1-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1-31; Aug. 1-31.

Hartford (BDL) to/from Dublin (DUB)

  • Outbound: Jun. 2, 4, 6-7, 9, 11, 13-14, 16, 18, 20-21, 23, 25, 27-28 and 30; Jul. 2, 4-5, 7, 9, 11-12, 14, 16, 18-19, 21, 23, 25-26, 28 and 30; Aug 1-2, 4, 6, 8-9, 11, 15-16, 18, 20, 22-23, 25 and 27.
  • Inbound:Jun. 2, 4, 6-7, 9, 11, 13-14, 16, 18, 20-21, 23, 25, 27-28 and 30; Jul. 2, 4-5, 7, 9, 11-12, 14, 16, 18-19, 21, 23, 25-26, 28 and 30; Aug 1-2, 4, 6, 8-9, 11, 15-16, 18, 20, 22-23, 25, 27 and 29-30.

Miami (MIA) to/from Dublin (DUB)

  • Outbound: Jun. 1-30; Jul. 1, 4, 6-8, 11, 13-15, 18, 20-22, 25 and 27-29; Aug. 1-5, 7-12, 14-15, 17-25 and 28-31.
  • Inbound: Jun. 3, 8, 10, 15, 17 and 19; Jul. 8, 11, 15, 20, 22, 24 and 29; Aug. 3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 21-22, 24, 26, 28-29 and 31.

How to book Aer Lingus business class with points

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

You have two great ways to book Aer Lingus award tickets. The first is with British Airways Avios. You can use the carrier's distance-based award chart to get ultra-cheap business class tickets. For example, a business class flight from New York-JFK to Dublin (DUB) costs just 50,000 Avios off-peak and 60,000 Avios on-peak. You can transfer points to British Airways from Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.

On the other hand, you can book tickets with United MileagePlus. This costs more points — all dates we found cost 77,000 miles one-way — but is a good option if you have miles in your United account. Further, you can take advantage of the Excursionist Perk for a free stopover.

Related: What it’s like to fly Aer Lingus’ new narrowbody in lie-flat business class

Earn points with these cards

Open a new rewards card to earn miles and points quickly. (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Need to beef up your points balance for one of these awards? Consider applying for a new card.

All of the awards listed here can be booked with either Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards points. While Amex points usually offer a better deal on these awards, it's worth focusing on Chase cards if you're new to the miles and points world. This is because Chase's infamous 5/24 rule automatically denies cards to applicants who've opened five or more new cards in the last 24 months.

On the Chase side, you'll want to consider one of these two credit cards. Each has an intriguing welcome bonus and bonus earning categories. Here's a look:

  • 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 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening

Going with American Express instead? These are the best American Express cards for earning Membership Rewards points:

  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership. Terms apply.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership.

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: TPG beginner’s guide: Everything you need to know about points, miles, airlines and credit cards

Bottom line

If you're anything like me, you can't wait for the pandemic to settle down and travel to restart. Use the cities and award space listed here as inspiration for your summer 2021 trip to Europe. There are great destinations listed here and each makes for an excellent post-pandemic European adventure. Plus, you may be able to add a free stopover to your trip and see multiple cities in one trip if you'd like.

Regardless of the trip you choose, you'll have a great trip to look forward to next year. Safe travels!

Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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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