The Best Ways to Fly to Europe With Points & Miles

British Airways First Class 787-9

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Paris in the Spring. Spain’s Costa del Sol in the Summer. Christmas Markets in Germany. No matter what time of year it is, there is always a great reason to travel to Europe!

If you book award tickets to Europe with miles and points, you can use all that vacation money you saved to enjoy the destination.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to book award flights to Europe.

Table of contents

When you search for paid flights to Europe from the United States, you will find a huge variety of options. From low-cost carriers to some of the world’s best first class products, there really is something for everyone.

(Just make sure you’re up to date regarding ETIAS and visiting Schengen countries in Europe before you book your ticket.)

Table of Contents

Best Mileage Programs for Flying to Europe

If you live on the East Coast, maybe you can handle the flight in economy class and save some of your points for another day. But if you live on the West Coast, perhaps a lie-flat bed is a little more important so you can hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.

We realize that there are many factors that go into determining the best flight for a specific route, or even for a specific passenger: do you prefer lie-flat seats, great food, a friendly crew, or all of the above?

Choosing the best airline for you comes down to evaluating your own personal preferences.

Below, we will show you some of the best options for using your points for economy class, business class, and first class flights. No matter how you like to fly, we have you covered!

Hot Tip: We’re going to discuss round-trip award prices, but keep in mind that many airline loyalty programs will let you book one-way award tickets for half the number of miles.

United Airlines MileagePlus

aer lingus business class layout
Use United miles to fly to Europe in business class on Aer Lingus.

United Airlines’ MileagePlus program is one of the most popular ways to book award flights to Europe thanks to their extensive reach via the Star Alliance network.

Why We Like United Airlines

United is a fairly straightforward program that is easy to understand and use. Many of their partners are available to search for award space and book on the United site.

If you select “My Dates Are Flexible” when doing your search, you can see a month-long calendar of award availability all at once. This makes finding award space much easier.

Although their mileage rates for award tickets to Europe are not the absolute best you can find, United has several things going for them. Specifically, the following are true:

  1. United miles are super easy to redeem
  2. No (or very small) fuel surcharges
  3. Great starter program for miles and points

Hot Tip: If you’re interested in learning more about United, don’t miss our in-depth review

How to Fly to Europe With United Miles

Class of ServiceUnited FlightsPartner Flights
Economy Class60,000 United miles60,000 United miles
Business Class120,000 United miles140,000 United miles
First ClassN/A220,000 United miles

In the chart above, you will notice that there are separate award prices for redemptions on United flights and flights with their partner airlines. If you want to fly in business class or first class with a partner airline, you will need more miles.

If you want to fly first class on a partner airline, United charges 60,000 miles more than if you were to fly on United-operated flights! That difference is enough for an entirely separate round-trip ticket in economy class.

But if you have your mind set on flying first class, your main choice would be with Lufthansa. Be prepared, though — as first class awards with Lufthansa are almost always not bookable until ~15 days before the departure date.

SWISS Air doesn’t make their first class available on partners. In fact, you’ll need top-tier elite status with SWISS Air to make these award bookings at all.

Also, nearly all European-focused Star Alliance partners such as Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish, and Turkish Airlines do not have first class.

Singapore Airlines operates first class suites on their New York City (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) route, but is not bookable with United miles — only with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

The tradeoff when booking first class with a partner is that while it will cost a big chunk of miles, United will not hit you with carrier-imposed surcharges. This can save you over $500 in fees when you book Lufthansa first class, as other airline loyalty programs will pass those charges onto you.

If you want to fly in coach, however, choosing to fly with United or their partners doesn’t matter; it will cost the same amount of miles either way.

The following Star Alliance members and United partners operate flights between the United States and Europe — and are therefore bookable with your United miles:

  • Adria Airways
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss Air
  • TAP Portugal
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Aer Lingus

To confirm that a country falls within United’s definition of Europe, you can check their region definitions page.

5 Example Routes Bookable With United Miles

IAD to MUC on Lufthansa
This is an example of a one-way award ticket on Star Alliance partner Lufthansa.

Below are several examples of ways to use United miles to visit different cities in Europe:

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
San Francisco (SFO)Zurich (ZRH)SWISS International Airlines
Washington Dulles (IAD)Munich (MUC)Lufthansa
Boston (BOS)Dublin (DUB)Aer Lingus
Los Angeles (LAX)Vienna (VIE)Austrian Airlines
New York City (JFK)Frankfurt (JFK)Singapore Airlines/Lufthansa

*United miles can only be used to book economy class on Singapore Airlines on this route

How to Earn More United Miles

In addition to earning miles when flying with United Airlines and their partners, you can transfer miles into the program from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott.

Chase transfers instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

Marriott transfers in less than 24 hours, and they also have an improved transfer ratio over the standard 3:1 ratio.

If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive 22,000 United miles plus a 25% bonus, increasing your total to 27,500 miles for 60,000 Marriott points!

Hot Tip: Check out the best ways to earn United miles, and you’ll be flying to Europe before you know it!

ANA Mileage Club

Air New Zealand Business Class
Using ANA miles to book Air New Zealand’s business class on the fifth freedom flight from Los Angeles to London is just one of the great ways to fly to Europe with ANA miles. Image courtesy of airnewzealand.com

ANA offers some seriously unbeatable round-trip redemption rates for business class flights!

Why We Like ANA

ANA pulls through over all frequent flyer programs with its round-trip business class award prices.

For the most part, they blow the competition out of the water in terms of value for your points.

They don’t charge fuel surcharges on some airlines, so you can choose to fly on them to minimize your out-of-pocket cost.

How to Fly to Europe With ANA Miles

Here’s how flights to/from North America and Europe price out at (round-trip):

Class of ServiceMileage Cost (Partners)
Economy Class55,000 ANA miles
Business Class88,000 ANA miles
First Class165,000 ANA miles

In particular, the business class rate is so attractive that I just want to book a random trip to maximize this redemption!

ANA is a pretty easy program to redeem miles with. You can make bookings completely online using their award search engine.

5 Example Routes Bookable With ANA Miles

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
Los Angeles (LAX)Zurich (ZRH)SWISS International Airlines
Newark (EWR)Tel AvivUnited Polaris
Montreal (YUL)Frankfurt (FRA)Air Canada
Newark (EWR)Vienna (VIE)Austrian Airlines
Washington D.C. (IAD)Brussels (BRU)Brussels Airlines

How to Earn More ANA Miles

There are 2 transfer partners for ANA miles: American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott.

Amex transfers at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with 5,000 ANA bonus miles after each 60,000 Marriott point transfer!

Hot Tip: For more ways to earn ANA miles, check out our in-depth guide on how to earn a lot of ANA miles.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Swiss Air business class flight
Fly Swiss Air business class with your Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

Several years ago, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program was a staple for many travelers. However, even after a devaluation, there are some great ways to use Aeroplan miles to fly to Europe.

Why We Like Air Canada

Air Canada Aeroplan is an easy program to use. They have several partners that fly to Europe, and the number of airline miles required for a flight is quite reasonable.

Unlike many airline loyalty programs, Air Canada divides Europe into 2 regions. Europe 1 includes many western European countries, while Europe 2 includes many eastern European countries (plus a couple outliers like Iceland).

To confirm which region in which your destination falls, you can check the region definitions provided by Aeroplan.

We should note that Aeroplan is a separate loyalty program that Air Canada partners with for rewards; they are not run by the airline. Although this will change soon, as Aeroplan will be acquired by Air Canada.

How to Fly to Europe With Aeroplan Miles

Class of ServiceEurope 1Europe 2
Economy60,000 Aeroplan miles75,000 Aeroplan miles
Premium Economy75,000 Aeroplan miles90,000 Aeroplan miles
Business110,000 Aeroplan miles115,000 Aeroplan miles
First140,000 Aeroplan miles160,000 Aeroplan miles

Air Canada is also a member of the Star Alliance, but unlike United, they do not charge additional miles to fly on their partners.

They do, however, have carrier-imposed surcharges when booking awards on their own flights and those of certain partners. These charges can be quite high, especially when flying in premium cabins. This is just another variable for you to consider before booking.

If higher taxes and fees aren’t in your budget, you’ll want to make sure you book with a partner that doesn’t include high taxes and fees.

Of their Star Alliance partners that fly to Europe from the U.S., Air Canada does not add fuel surcharges to awards booked on the following airlines:

  • Brussels Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss Air
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

In addition, carrier-imposed surcharges on LOT Polish are fairly low. And you still have the option to book flights on Air Canada, or any of their partners that impose surcharges.

Bottom Line: There are several airlines that fly routes between the U.S. and Europe. Just make sure you are taking the higher taxes and fees into account when determining the value of your awards and deciding if you want to book.

5 Example Routes Bookable With Air Canada Miles

SFO to IST on Turkish
A one-way award on Turkish Airlines to Istanbul (Europe 2) will cost 57,500 Aeroplan miles.

 

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
Washington Dulles (IAD)Paris (CDG)United Airlines
New York City (JFK)Brussels (BRU)Brussels Airlines
Miami (MIA)Copenhagen (CPH)Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
San Francisco (SFO)Istanbul (IST)Turkish Airlines
Chicago (ORD)Zurich (ZRH)Swiss Air

How to Earn More Air Canada Miles

In addition to earning Aeroplan miles by flying Air Canada and their partners, you can transfer miles into the program from American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott.

Dig into our post on how you can earn lots of Aeroplan miles for many more ways.

Avianca LifeMiles

United Polaris Middle Seats
Flying United Polaris with Avianca LifeMiles is great way to fly to Europe! Image courtesy of united.com

Why We Like Avianca Vuela

LifeMiles is the loyalty program of Avianca Vuela. There are tons of great ways to redeem LifeMiles, and one of the best ways is either in business or first class to Europe.

LifeMiles has a Star Alliance award chart, and they price awards based on regions. They do not allow stopovers, but they never levy fuel surcharges. This is an easy way to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on fuel surcharges!

Additionally, they periodically offer Promo Awards, which can discount your flights up to 48%!

Economy class tickets are 30,000 miles, business costs 63,000 miles, and first class is 87,000 miles. Keep in mind these prices are one-way only.

Taxes and fees will be around ~$30-$50 each way — what a steal!

How to Fly to Europe With Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca is a Star Alliance partner, which gives you the ability to book Star Alliance flights to Europe.

You pretty much have to book with their online search engine. It can be clunky at times, especially with connecting flights or flights with 2 or more stops. If you’re booking nonstop flights, you should have no problem booking at all.

Their phone staff is pretty incompetent, so you’re pretty much out of luck if you can’t find the flight you want using their online award search.

5 Example Routes Bookable With Avianca LifeMiles

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
Washington, D.C. (IAD)Copenhagen (CPH)SAS
Los Angeles (LAX)London-Heathrow (LHR)Air New Zealand
Toronto (YYZ)Munich (MUC)Air Canada
Chicago (ORD)Vienna (VIE)Austrian Airlines
New York City (JFK)Brussels (BRU)Brussels Airlines

How to Earn More Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles is a transfer partner with Citi ThankYou Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Marriott.

Citi and Amex both transfer at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a bonus of 5,000 LifeMiles for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

You can earn more miles also by using the co-branded Banco Popular credit card to earn LifeMiles directly and snag a solid welcome bonus!

Lastly, you can buy miles. There are frequent sales of pretty ridiculous bonus amounts — up to 150% bonus miles on top of your purchase.

These sales make purchasing miles very tempting, seeing as how you can actually fly first class for around ~$1,000!

Asiana Mileage Club

28-Lufthansa Airbus A380 First Class
Booking Lufthansa first class is a great way to use Asiana miles to fly to Europe! Image courtesy of Greg Stone.

Why We Like Asiana

Asiana Airlines is what we’d consider an intermediate-to-advanced method for using points. Some of their redemption rates will blow your mind, but booking your award involves several additional steps.

Specifically, flying first class one-way from North America to Europe only costs 50,000 Asiana miles, and business is 40,000 miles!

We believe the best deal is first class for only 10,000 miles more. Yes, you will be paying fuel surcharges, but it may be worth it considering the points you would be saving. 

How to Fly to Europe With Asiana Miles

Asiana Airlines is also a Star Alliance partner, so you can book all of the Star Alliance partners listed in the above sections.

Since there are very few Star Alliance partners that operates a first class cabin to Europe, we think the best use of Asiana miles is Lufthansa first class. 

Hot Tip: Need help using Asiana miles to book Lufthansa first class? Check out our guide for the step-by-step process!

You’ll need to pay for surcharges on all partners, so prepare for that. For this reason, if you choose not to go on Lufthansa, focus on low-surcharge airlines like United and LOT Polish.

5 Example Routes Bookable With Asiana Miles

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
Los Angeles (LAX)Frankfurt (FRA)Lufthansa
San Francisco (SFO)Tel Aviv (TLV)United Polaris
Chicago (ORD)Warsaw (WAW)LOT Polish
Miami (MIA)Lisbon (LIS)TAP Portugal
Boston (BOS)Istanbul (IST)Turkish Airlines

How to Earn More Asiana Miles

Unfortunately, this is where the main drawback of Asiana Airlines comes in. Asiana Airlines is only transfer partners with one points currency: Marriott Bonvoy.

If you need some inspiration on how to earn more Asiana miles, we’ve got you covered.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

air france J
Utilize Promo Awards to get a great deal on Air France business class. Image courtesy of airfrance.com.

Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program can be a great way to book award flights to Europe, especially when they run Promo Awards.

Why We Like Air France/KLM

Flying Blue is the loyalty program for Air France/KLM. With connecting flights routing through either Amsterdam or Paris and being bookable on either airline, they have some of the best award availability on their own flights between the United States and Europe.

Air France recently removed their award chart and moved to variable award pricing. Now, the best thing you can do is use their award calculator and search for the lowest-level award availability.

Second, you cannot book first class awards with Air France/KLM — you must earn elite status with Flying Blue. Since not many of us earn the required status, that means most of us can’t book first class awards…so we are leaving it out of the discussion here.

Perhaps the best part of the Flying Blue program is that they have something called Promo Awards. These awards are available for a special selection of destinations and are offered for a reduced number of miles: between 25% and 50% off what would normally be required for an award flight!

Promo Awards change every month and are limited in terms of availability, when you can book, and what airlines you can fly. If your schedule is flexible or you can book a trip closer to when it takes place, these Promo Awards can be great options.

Here’s another strange quirk of Flying Blue. Since the awards are revenue-based, having connecting flights and changing your destination city can make a huge difference in cost. Let’s illustrate this with an example:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Paris (CDG) will cost a minimum of 67,500 miles each way in business class
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Rome (FCO) via Paris (CDG) will cost a minimum of 53,000 miles each way in business class

This rather odd pricing structure has some room for optimization. Although it’s against many airlines’ rules, there’s nothing stopping you from “missing” your Paris – Rome flight. You’ll save a bundle of miles!

How to Fly to Europe With Flying Blue Miles

Air France/KLM is a member of the SkyTeam alliance and also partners with additional airlines. You can use Flying Blue miles to book flights on any of the following airlines between the United States and Europe:

Flying Blue does add carrier-imposed surcharges on their award redemptions, but depending on the routing they often aren’t that bad. Of course, as with any program, these surcharges are significantly higher for premium cabins. When booking an award, you will need to look at the charges and decide if it is still a good enough value.

You can book flights with most Air France/KLM partners online; their search engine will show availability by month. For those partners that aren’t bookable on the Flying Blue site, you can check where to search them and then book awards by phone with either Air France or KLM.

5 Example Routes Bookable With Air France/KLM Miles

ORD to CDG on Air France
A one-way award from Chicago to Paris costs 62,500 miles plus the requisite taxes and fees.
Departure CityArrival CityAirlines
Chicago (ORD)Paris (CDG)Air France
Los Angeles (LAX)Rome (FCO)Alitalia
New York City (JFK)Moscow (SVO)Aeroflot
Atlanta (ATL)Frankfurt (FRA)Delta
Houston (IAH)Amsterdam (AMS)KLM

How to Earn More Air France/KLM Miles

In addition to earning miles when flying with Air France/KLM and their partners, you can transfer miles into the program from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott.

Having all of these transfer partners really makes it easy to earn enough miles for your trip!

For more ways, read our post on how to earn lots of Air France/KLM miles.

Delta Air Lines

Delta A350 Suite
Try Delta One’s Suites on flights to Amsterdam! Image courtesy of news.delta.com.

Although Delta uses variable award pricing and has removed its award chart, there is still significant value to be had utilizing Delta miles to book flights to Europe.

Why We Like Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is the flagship American SkyTeam partner, so it makes sense that it’s a must-use for U.S.-based travelers.

Their online booking system is very robust, partner award rates are reasonable, and there are tons of ways to earn SkyMiles.

Delta’s award pricing system is very complicated for flights on their own metal. For partner flights, though, it’s a set price to Europe:

Class of ServiceOne-way Delta SkyMiles Cost (Partner Flights)
Economy32,500 SkyMiles
Business75,000 SkyMiles

You won’t pay for fuel surcharges for the most part — find out more about fuel surcharges using Delta SkyMiles here.

How to Fly to Europe With Delta SkyMiles

Delta is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, just like Air France/KLM.

The best part about Delta’s online award search is that you can search using a flexible date and 5-week search! This will allow you to save tons of time when looking for award availability, so you can book awards quickly and completely online.

5 Example Routes Bookable With Delta SkyMiles

Here are some example routes you can book with Delta SkyMiles:

Departure CityArrival CityAirlines
Detroit (DTW)Amsterdam (AMS)Delta One Suites
Los Angeles (LAX)Moscow (SVO)Aeroflot
New York City (JFK)Milan (MXP)Alitalia
Atlanta (ATL)Amsterdam (AMS)KLM
Miami (MIA)Madrid (MAD)Air Europa

How to Earn More Delta SkyMiles

There are loads of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, but Delta is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

There are also a bunch of different co-branded Delta credit cards from American Express that can give you a huge boost in SkyMiles, especially from the welcome bonuses!

Need some help finding award space? Use this guide to searching for SkyTeam award availability.

Korean Air

KLM 787-9 Business Class
Fly on KLM’s 787 business class using Korean Air miles for cheap! Image Credit: YouTube.com / Leadership

Though Korean Air is sort of strange with their requirements for booking awards for other passengers, it’s still hugely worth it to save tons of miles.

Why We Like Korean Air

We love Korean Air because of one main reason: redemption rates.

There are a few rules you must follow to book awards, such as booking round-trip awards for SkyTeam partners.

Other than that, the only hiccup is for booking other passengers. I personally get around this by creating a Korean Air SKYPASS (their frequent flyer program) account for each passenger.

How to Fly to Europe With Korean Air Miles

Here’s what Korean Air SKYPASS charges for round-trip flights to Europe:

Class of ServiceKorean Air Miles Cost (partners)
Economy50,000
Business80,000
First100,000

You’ll be responsible for fuel surcharges regardless of which airline you fly.

Here are the partners you can book directly online (the others you’ll need to call to book):

  1. Aeroflot
  2. Air Europa
  3. Air France
  4. China Airlines
  5. China Eastern
  6. China Southern
  7. Czech Airlines
  8. Delta
  9. Garuda Indonesia
  10. KLM

5 Example Routes Bookable With Korean Air Miles

Here are some great example routes you can book with Korean Air miles:

Departure CityArrival CityAirlines
Washington D.C. (IAD)Moscow (SVO)Aeroflot
Boston (BOS)Paris (CDG)Air France
San Francisco (SFO)Amsterdam (AMS)KLM
Miami (MIA)Rome (FCO)Alitalia
Detroit (DTW)London (LHR)Delta

How to Earn More Korean Air Miles

Unfortunately, Korean Air is only a transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy.

As a result, you’ll need to earn miles through the co-branded Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card .

There are a few other ways to earn Korean Air miles, which we’ve covered in-depth.

American Airlines

British Airways First Class 787-9
Using American miles to book British Airways first class does require some hefty taxes and fees, but it’s a great experience.

American Airlines’ AAdvantage program can help you book award tickets on their own flights, as well as several of their Oneworld partners.

Why We Like American Airlines

American Airlines AAdvantage is another program that is straightforward and easy to use. They have an easy-to-read award chart, so you will always know the saver award price for the flights you are trying to book. Also, American miles are fairly easy to earn with a variety of credit cards.

One great thing about the AAdvantage program is that they offer off-peak awards for economy travel to certain regions at certain times of the year. These are discounted redemption rates and include flights on their partners as well as on their own planes.

The off-peak awards date ranges will vary, and the best way to find out is to visit AA’s flight award chart. Then, click on Details on award travel to see the off-peak travel dates.

Hot Tip: Don’t miss our in-depth review of American Airlines

How to Fly to Europe With American Miles

American Airlines Miles Required to Book Round-trip U.S. to Europe
CabinMiles Needed
Economy Off-Peak45,000 American miles
Economy60,000 American miles
Business115,000 American miles
First170,000 American miles

American Airlines is a member of the Oneworld alliance and also partners with a few other airlines. Of their partners, you can fly between Europe and the U.S. on the following airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Iberia

Taxes and fees on some American Airlines awards can be quite high. In addition, they add carrier-imposed surcharges to award flights on British Airways and Iberia.

The surcharges aren’t as bad on Iberia as they are on British Airways, but you should still keep an eye on them. If you can find availability on other airlines instead, you can save a significant amount of money when booking your awards.

Finnair generally is stingy on award availability.

You can book award flights on the American Airlines site for several of their partners, but not all of them. For those partners that aren’t bookable online, take a look and see where to search them, and then book awards by phone with American.

For more information, check out our guide to the best ways to search for Oneworld award availability.

Hot Tip: Check American Airlines’ region definitions to confirm that your destination falls within the European region.

5 Example Routes Bookable With American Airlines Miles

JFK to Madrid on Iberia
This example one-way award from New York to Madrid on Iberia is priced at the off-peak level and only costs 22,500 miles. A round-trip would be just 45,000 miles during the off-peak period.

 

JFK to MAD Taxes
As you can see, the added fuel surcharges on this Iberia award are quite reasonable for economy class.

 

Departure CityArrival CityAirline
San Diego (SAN)London (LHR)British Airways
Miami (MIA)Helsinki (HEL)Finnair
New York City (JFK)Madrid (MAD)Iberia
Dallas (DFW)Paris (CDG)American Airlines

How to Earn More American Miles

In addition to earning AAdvantage miles by flying American Airlines and their partners, you can transfer miles into the program from Marriott.

We’ve also covered many other ways to earn lots of American miles, which include signing up and using various credit cards.

Tips and Tricks

Wherever you are headed in the world, when booking award tickets, you may run into a few unexpected snags.

Every segment may not be available, fees on the ticket may be very high, or maybe there just aren’t enough available seats. Here are a few tips and tricks to help make your life easier when booking flights to Europe with points.

Taxes and Fees

In Europe, certain airports are much more expensive to fly through than others. Avoiding the more expensive airports can save you as much as a few hundred dollars on your trip!

When searching for award space, be sure to look at a couple routes to see the difference in taxes and fees. By adjusting the departure or even the connection location, you can sometimes cut costs significantly.

The United Kingdom, for example, adds a hefty Air Passenger Duty (APD) onto each ticket departing the U.K. and flying over 2,000 miles. This fee is a whopping £146 per person (approximately $192) if you are flying in a premium cabin.

But avoiding this fee is easy! Just make sure your return from Europe doesn’t depart from the U.K. If you want to visit London, simply add in a few days in another country before your return to the U.S.

You’ll get to see another place, and it could save you a lot of money (especially if you are traveling with several passengers). Here you can see what we mean:

 

In this first example, we are looking at a one-way flight from London to New York City. You can see that in economy class, the taxes and fees on an American Airlines-operated flight are $182.

In business class, the fees are $487 on a British Airways-operated flight. This larger amount is partially because British Airways adds hefty carrier-imposed surcharges to their flights, and partially because of the U.K. Air Passenger Duty. Now let’s look at flights on the same day from Paris.

You can see above that the taxes and fees are significantly less for these flights on the same operators out of Paris.

The American Airlines coach flight’s fee drops to $93, and the British Airways business class flight drops to $370.

You may notice that the business class flight does not decrease by the entire amount of the U.K. Air Passenger Duty — this is because there are 2 flights on British Airways with this award, so there are added carrier-imposed surcharges.

London and Paris were used in these examples because they are well-known cities, and it was easy to find award space on the same day on multiple carriers. You should know, however, that Paris Charles de Gaulle is actually one of the more expensive airports in continental Europe to fly out of.

By looking at other European cities (especially Oslo, Istanbul, Warsaw, and Stockholm), you can often get the taxes and fees to drop even further than what we have shown1

Lots of City Options

One of the great parts of award travel to Europe is that you don’t necessarily need to find available flights to the exact place you want to go. Europe has a combination of multiple low-cost carriers and excellent rail service. Together, these mean it’s easy and fairly inexpensive to hop between cities.

Want to go to Munich but can only find availability to Frankfurt? No problem. Grab a cheap Eurowings flight; hop on a Deutsche Bahn train or even buy a Eurail Pass, and you’ll be there later that day. Maybe even add a night or 2 in Frankfurt and see what the city has to offer.

This same idea works with cities all over Europe, so be sure to stay flexible when choosing your flight destinations.

Finding More Seats

A general issue for award travel (not just on flights to Europe) comes into play when you are traveling with multiple people in your party. Looking for a single ticket? You’re in luck; those are much easier to find. Traveling as a couple, a family of 4, or an even larger group? Finding award tickets for everyone in your party can be tough.

When traveling with a large party, you generally want to start searching for award seats right when the schedule opens for booking. However, even if you do this, there often won’t be enough seats for a larger group. This is where it helps to be a little flexible.

If possible, splitting up your group will give you a better chance of all flying on award tickets. Splitting up could mean that part of your group flies on the next flight the same day, or it could mean part of the group even flies on a different day.

If you have miles available with airlines in different alliances, your choices increase. Sometimes you can even find award seats with 2 different alliances that arrive at your destination within minutes of each other. That way you can meet up before even leaving the airport!

Obviously, splitting up the group isn’t an ideal situation, but it could mean you can all experience an amazing business class product. In other cases, it could mean that you can all get to a top destination during peak times. It’s up to you whether finding award seats is worth flying separately.

Final Thoughts

Europe is a fantastic destination for your travels from the United States. For those who are new to traveling, you can find many of the comforts of home and plenty of people who speak English.

If you are a history buff, you will love strolling through the cobbled alleyways and visiting the historic castles and churches scattered throughout the countryside. If you are a foodie, it’s hard to beat the amazing cuisine served in France and Italy.

Europe has something for everyone — with so many airlines flying between the U.S. and Europe, it should be easy for you to book your next flight using miles and points.

The question simply becomes whether you want to fly in a premium cabin or in coach, and which airline miles you will use to make your booking. Happy traveling!

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

16 comments

  1. Fantastic article, so many points that i wrote down. Thanks a lot!

  2. Darla Perry · May 9, 2019 · Reply

    Best airline to book business class LHR to US east coast with lots of Capital One transferable miles? (optimizing comfort)

    • Hi Darla, this is what our contributor James has to say…

      “Hi Darla! Great question. I recommend looking at Aeroplan award availability from London, particularly on Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, Lufthansa or United where there won’t be as many surcharges as on Air Canada. In most cases, you’ll have to connect, but Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, Lufthansa and United all have decent products, particularly Swiss and Austrian. If you’re feeling adventurous, I recommend trying Lufthansa’s First Class product – it’s wonderful. From LHR you could travel to Newark, Chicago, or Dulles on United, or you could connect in several different European cities with plenty of options to other cities on the eastern portion of the US. Try looking into Washington Dulles, since this is a Star Alliance hub, or also New York JFK, or Newark.”

  3. The Big Easy Traveler · May 26, 2019 · Reply

    Another option for Aeroplan to Europe is on the new Egypt Air 787-9 out of IAD. Doing this IAD-CAI-ATH next month for 57.5k. If you book just to CAI, it’ll cost you 82.5k (Aeroplan), 78k (Lifemiles), 85k (United). Tack on another leg and the price decreases. I don’t think AV or UA can see this space yet.

    • Stephen Au · May 27, 2019 · Reply

      Hey The Big Easy Traveler,

      Thanks for reading and we appreciate your feedback! Many of our travelers would prefer not to transit to Europe through Africa due to the lost time in connection. However, we definitely appreciate your feedback.

  4. Hi great article! But how exactly does one proceed to book on a partner? For example, using Avianca miles to book SAS from Washington to Copenhagen. Of course this will not show up as a flight option on the Avianca site. Whose booking website do you use and how would you apply miles? I have lots of Chase Ultimate points that I can move around and some Citi Lifemiles to move around, but to who?? United? Avianca? SAS? Thanks, Doug

    • Stephen Au · July 15, 2019 · Reply

      Avianca’s mileage program is separate from their website. It is called LifeMiles. You can search directly on their website: Lifemiles.com.

      Otherwise, you’ll have to play around with the dates to find availability. If you have lots of Chase points, you can transfer your points to United to book SAS, Avianca, or other Star Alliance partners.

  5. Hey guys – thanks for the amazing amount of effort you put into this post! Not gonna lie, my head is kinda spinning. So much to take in and try to understand.

    I’m trying to understand how to transfer AMEX or UR points to a partner of theirs to get the best use of my points for flights to Milan or Rome, we’d also be fine if we had to go into one of the other major cities before catching another flight into Italy, next spring. Flying from LAX or even SFO, what would be our best method/who to transfer points to which airline? I think I understand once I get the points to say one airline I can then look for flights on a partner airline and then call the airline where my points (now miles) are with to book the flight. I’m just not sure which would be the best use of my points. – can you explain?
    Thanks!

    • Stephen Au · July 22, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Tony,

      Yes, booking award travel is complex, but those who decide to learn the ropes stand to gain tens of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be left on the table. To fly from LAX-MXP, try looking for Air Italy business class booked using British Airways Avios. Award availability tends to be excellent, and the product is underrated. The hard product is angled-flat seats, but the soft product is awesome. If you want to fly from the West Coast, your best bet is NOT going to be Alitalia business class.. as it’s nearly impossible to book for multiple passengers. Thanks for reading.

      • Thank you Stephen! Yes, I’ve looked at how to move points to Avios, it seems straight forward. One thing I’m not super thrilled about with Air Italy is the angled-flat seats, I always feel like I’m going to slide down. It is still a better ride then a main cabin seat for 11 hours. I do appreciate your response!

        • Stephen Au · July 22, 2019 · Reply

          Hey Tony,

          For what it’s worth, Air Italy’s angled-flat seats are more comfortable and closer to lie-flat seats than, say, regional business class seats. Thanks for reading.

          • You’re probably right, it’s been years since I flew on AA when their business class seats were angled. I’m sure there have been improvements on the quality.

  6. Thanks for this very in-depth and well-researched article. We have a baby we’d like to take as a lap infant (please don’t kill us…) next summer to Scandinavia (ARN and then returning from OSL) from SFO. We used to be willing to bend over backward and take longer flight paths to use points and fly business/first, but with a baby in tow, I think we are valuing shorter travel time significantly more. Any tips on how to optimize searches? If we can fly business/first from SFO or even LAX directly to somewhere in Europe, we’d be fine taking economy on a (presumably) short flight to Scandinavia.

    • Hi Angela,

      What type of points and miles do you have at your disposal? If you’re wanting to fly business class round-trip between California and Scandinavia your best option would probably be to fly out of LAX and use Amex Membership Reward points to book a round-trip award through ANA on Scandinavian Airlines metal. This route would only cost 88,000 points per person, which is really exceptional value for a round-trip business class flight.

      To search for availability for this flight you’ll want to search on the ANA and United websites.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Hi, I have over 230K Amex Membership Rewards points. I would like to transfer to an airline where I can book a family of 5 or as many as I can to Ireland using my points. I would use PHL/EWR/JFK or, if necessary BOS, as departure airports depending on how many points are required per round trip ticket.

    Which airline should I transfer the amex points into? Avios or others? Thanks!

    • Andrew Kunesh · October 8, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Dano!

      Great question – I recommend using British Airways Avios to book Aer Lingus awards. New York (JFK) to Dublin (DUB) is 41,500 Avios per round-trip ticket per passenger in economy class, so you’d be able to book all 5 passengers on award tickets. You can find Aer Lingus availability by searching for flights on United.com – when doing this, look for Saver tickets operated by Aer Lingus as this is what can be booked with British Airways Avios. Once you’ve found flights, note the flight numbers and call British Airways Executive Club to book. Unfortunately, Aer Lingus awards cannot be booked online with Avios.

      Please don’t transfer your miles until you’ve found award space and have verified it with a British Airways phone representative. Transfers are instant, so you can transfer right before booking on the phone.

      Thanks and safe travels!

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