TPG Readers’ Favorite Airline Rewards Programs for International Travel

Jul 14, 2019

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We recently asked our TPG Lounge audience to share what they consider to be the best airline rewards program for international travel. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity). 

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan FTW

Many TPG Lounge members answered with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, a loyalty program that’s allowed them to travel the world in top-notch business- and first-class products on Qantas, JAL, Cathay Pacific, Condor, British Airways and Icelandair.

“Alaska Airlines. 70,000 miles to fly from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Sydney (SYD) in Qantas first class! — Gillian D.

“Mileage Plan because of the partner list and redemption value.” — Kevin M.

“Going with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Last month, I changed our flights back from Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) at the last minute and ended up with three seats on Japan Airlines in first class! The Salon and Cristal Champagne goes for nearly $600 a bottle and the service was impeccable.” — Linda V.

“70,000 Alaska miles got me a first-class flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Melbourne (MEL) on Alaska and Qantas via the A380. 50,000 miles got me in business class from IAD to Hong Kong (HKG) on Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000. Talk about steals. You could also fly in business class to Australia with a layover in Fiji on Fiji Airways for 55,000 Alaska miles. Cathay flies to Australia as well, with a layover in HKG.” — Takashi N.

Have you flown in the Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin yet? (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Have you flown in the Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin yet? (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is incredible! I used miles for an around-the-world trip last year: Cathay Pacific business class from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) to the Maldives (MLE), Condor business class from MLE to Frankfurt (FRA) to Venice (VCE), BA Club Europe from VCE to London (LHR) to Reykjavik (KEF), then IcelandAir Saga from KEF to SFO.” — Wade W.

“Alaska got me a one-way ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) to Bali (DPS) in first class and business class for 70,000 miles with a free stopover in Hong Kong! I priced the ticket on a few sites and it was about $16,000! Alaska has great partner airlines and if you call in the redemption, you’re allowed a free stopover in a layover city. I booked my flight with Cathay Pacific and the layover was for four hours in Hong Kong. Instead of four hours, I made it four days for free.” — Mike F.

“Alaska Mileage Plan for sure. They’ve gotten me my best redemptions ever: 42,500 miles for Cathay Pacific business class from Dublin (DUB) to Hong Kong (HKG), plus $42 in taxes instead of $5,000; 55,000 miles for Qantas business class from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL) open jaw, and Brisbane (BNE) to Perth (PER) + $49 in taxes instead of $13,000.” — Matthew T.

Saving Big With Star Alliance

While some TPG Lounge readers admitted they weren’t fans of United Airlines, they did say they enjoyed the perks of flying with its international partners, namely Singapore Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Avianca, EgyptAir, EVA Air and ANA.

United’s Excursionist Perk! I can see two countries for the award redemption of one!” — Sara R.

EgyptAir plus lifetime Star Alliance Gold status. Enough said.” — Peter K.V.N.

“If you don’t mind going to Manchester, England (MAN), Singapore Airlines flies nonstop from Houston (IAH). Even though I live in Los Angeles, I love Singapore so much I’m flying to Houston and taking the A350 in business class to Manchester. I found snagging a Saver Award not to be difficult, and this is in August.” — Richard G.

Singapore Airlines' A350 business-class product was a big winner with our TPG Lounge members. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
Singapore Airlines’ A350 business-class product was a big winner with our TPG Lounge members. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

EuroBonus (Scandinavian Airlines) has amazing Singapore Airlines redemptions as they partnered up last year on some special collaboration. LifeMiles (Avianca) has a wonky website and their customer service by phone is frustratingly bad, but they have a generous award chart, don’t pass on fuel surcharges and it’s easy to buy miles, oftentimes as low as 1.5 cents per mile, or transfer, including essentially 1.5 LifeMiles per dollar spent on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. They also let you buy the miles you need for a redemption in cash if you’re short.” — Christopher B.

Round-the-world business-class tickets on Star Alliance. 10 countries, one year, no change fees for dates and a reasonable $13,500.” — Nancy D.G.

“An ANA round-the-world ticket from San Francisco (SFO) to Amsterdam (AMS) to Taipei (TPE) to Japan, then back to San Jose (SJC) in business class with United, EVA Air and ANA with $450 in taxes and 115,000 ANA miles.” — Rosa W.

Delta, American AAdvantage and JetBlue

Although not too popular following 2016’s devastating devaluation, some TPG Lounge members did say they’d been able to plan epic trips with the AAdvantage program, while others praised Delta SkyMiles and looked forward to more international flights with JetBlue.

“Delta allows me to use miles to reduce prices on short-haul flights. As I might never have enough for a big flight, at least the miles are maximized to a certain extent. Also, I was able to use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a round-trip Economy Plus seat from New York (JFK) to London-Heathrow (LHR) on Delta, and I paid under $100 for the whole trip. As I don’t like Newark (EWR) and am not a fan of United, I will stay with Delta whenever possible.” — Joan L.

“I chose Delta. The biggest advantage is that it is not AAdvantage. My last domestic redemption on Delta was 14,000 miles nonstop round-trip, and its been years since I found any usable redemption on AA. A flight halfway across the country should not require three red-eyes with connections to use miles when it’s normally a two- to three-hour nonstop flight. But then I’ve only been flying AA for 28 years.” — Tom R. W.

“My American AAdvantage miles got me to Paris (CDG) in first class on British Airways in May and will be getting me to Sydney in September in first class on Qantas. They’ll also be getting me to Victoria Falls next May with 15 hours in a Qatar Airways Qsuite.” — Thomas P.

“American Airlines, Los Angeles (LAX) to Doha (DOH) to the Maldives (MLE) in a Qatar Airways Qsuite for 140,000 miles round-trip. I’ve always have had luck with AA and international business class. Also, the lounge in Doha is phenomenal.” — Anna-Lisa L.

“JetBlue is great. Before they forsook Washington, DC for New York and Boston, I flew with them a lot and had some great redemptions. Should be fun when they start the new Europe routes!” — Erik M.

Featured photo of a QSuite by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.