The Best Ways to Fly to Europe With Points & Miles

British Airways First Class 787-9

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.

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.

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. 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 airlines 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!

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: they make it easy to redeem miles, they don’t add fuel surcharges, and their program is a good place to get started with miles and points.

How to Fly to Europe With United Miles

Class of Service United Flights Partner Flights
Economy Class 60,000 United miles 60,000 United miles
Business Class 120,000 United miles 140,000 United miles
First Class 160,000 United miles 220,000 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.

In fact, 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.

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 does not 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
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss Air
  • TAP Portugal
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Aer Lingus

Many partner flights are bookable on the United site, but not all of them. For those partners that aren’t bookable online, take a look to see where to search for them, and then book awards by phone with United.

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 City Arrival City Airline
Chicago (ORD) Rome (FCO) United 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 Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). However, the transfer rate from SPG is a terrible 2:1 ratio and should be avoided.

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

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. In 2020, Air Canada will be discontinuing their relationship with Aeroplan and launching a new rewards program.

The details of their switch are not clear at this time, but to be safe, you probably do not want to be holding on to a lot of Aeroplan miles when that switch happens.

How to Fly to Europe With Aeroplan Miles

Class of Service Europe 1 Europe 2
Economy 60,000 Aeroplan miles 75,000 Aeroplan miles
Premium Economy 75,000 Aeroplan miles 90,000 Aeroplan miles
Business 110,000 Aeroplan miles 115,000 Aeroplan miles
First 140,000 Aeroplan miles 160,000 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, impose 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.

You still have the option to book flights on Air Canada or any of their partners that impose surcharges. 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 City Arrival City Airline
Washington Dulles (IAD) Paris (CDG) United Airlines
New York City (JFK) Brussels (BRU) Brussels Airlines
Miami (MIA) Copenhagen (CPH) Scandanavian 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 Starwood Preferred Guest.

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

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.

You’ll notice a couple things about their award chart. First and most important, the miles required to book an award are lower than many other options. That means you’ll use fewer of your hard earned miles to get to Europe.

Second, there are no redemption amounts shown for first class. This is because you must earn elite status with Flying Blue to redeem for first class awards. 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.

How to Fly to Europe With Flying Blue Miles

Class of Service Miles Needed
Economy 50,000 Flying Blue miles
Premium Economy 100,000 Flying Blue miles
Business 125,000 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:

  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • KLM
  • Aeroflot

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 City Arrival City Airlines
Chicago (ORD) Paris (CDG) Air France
Los Angeles (LAX) Rome (FCO) Alitalia
New York City (JFK) Moscow (SVO) Aeroflot
Atlanta (ATL) Frankfurt (FRA) Delta Air Lines
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 Starwood Preferred Guest.

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.

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

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 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.

Between the U.S. and Europe, off-peak awards are bookable only from October 15 through May 15, so you can’t use them to take your summer vacation. But that’s OK: shoulder seasons are a great time to visit Europe if your schedule allows. There are fewer tourists, the weather is better, and if you are willing to fly in economy, you can save 25% of the miles you would have spent for a normal saver AAdvantage award.

How to Fly to Europe With American Miles

American Airlines Miles Required to Book Round-trip U.S. to Europe
Cabin Miles Needed
Economy Off-Peak 45,000 American miles
Economy 60,000 American miles
Business 115,000 American miles
First 170,000 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.

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.

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 City Arrival City Airline
San Diego (SAN) London (LHR) British Airways
Chicago (ORD) 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 Starwood Preferred Guest.

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 different 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 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 shown.

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 or hop on a Deutsche Bahn train, 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 that 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!

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