The Best Ways to Fly to Italy With Points and Miles

Emirates Business Class Bed

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Italy is a country that I experienced for the first time earlier this year, and I’m already looking forward to a return trip. With the combination of incredible food, welcoming people, and amazing sights to see, it’s no wonder this country is up there on many travelers’ wishlists.

As with any popular destination, nonstop flights to Italy during certain times of the year can be expensive. The key is to use Google Flights to find when flight costs are low…or use your points and miles to get there on the mega cheap!

In this article, I’ll cover the best programs you can use to book award flights to Italy, how to book an award flight, and how to earn enough miles for your next redemption.

Best Programs to Use to Book Flights

It’s important to note that award space in premium cabins on certain routes to Italy can be tough to find. Typically you will want to search either close-in (meaning close to the date of travel) or far out in the award calendar (10-11 months).

Below you will find a number of programs that you can use to book an award flight. From Japan Airlines to Etihad, this post will have you covered.

Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank 

Emirates Business Class Seat
Fly Emirates business class from the U.S. to Italy! Image courtesy of Emirates.com

The Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program offers the best value on average (cents per mile) for nonstop flights from the U.S. to Italy.

This airline is a member of the Oneworld alliance, which means you can use Japan Airlines miles to fly American Airlines to Italy.

Japan Airlines also partners with Emirates, which allows you to book a flight on Emirates from the U.S. to Italy as well.

Book Awards With JAL

JAL Award Chart
Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart for its partner airlines.

Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart that will see a devaluation come mid-November. The program’s search engine is not the easiest to use when searching for its partner airlines flights, so it’s good to know what other websites to use.

When searching for American Airlines award availability, I recommend using the American Airlines or British Airways website and then confirming that same availability on the Japan Airlines website. If you’re unable to confirm availability on the Japan Airlines website, you can call the airline at 800-525-3663.

To find Emirates award availability, use the Qantas website and then confirm that same availability on the Japan Airlines website. If you are unable to confirm availability on the Japan Airlines website, you can call the airline.

Hot Tip: I prefer using the Qantas website to search for Oneworld availability because it uses a month calendar view. With American Airlines, business class is unlikely to show up on the Qantas website, so you will want to use American Airlines or British Airways to search for business class availability. 

I also recommend using Great Circle Mapper to determine the mileage of your flight before calling Japan Airlines.

The Japan Airlines partner award chart determines the mileage required based on the distance of the total award itinerary of each segment and the cabin class.

Japan Airlines will be increasing the cost of most awards on November 20, 2018, so it’s important to know the cost of your award flight before and after that date.

Here are the redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for both American Airlines and Emirates round-trip nonstop flights to Italy:

Cabin ClassAmerican AirlinesTaxes and Fees
Economy39,000-47,000$55-$72
Business63,000-85,000$55-$72

 

Cabin ClassEmiratesTaxes and Fees
Economy39,000-45,000$113
Business63,000-80,000$1,132
First100,000-120,000$1,132


Hot Tip:  Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Emirates business class.

Note that American Airlines does not fly nonstop first class to Italy from the U.S. If you are looking for a first class experience, consider using Japan Airlines to fly on Emirates.

Here are some examples of nonstop flights that you can book with Japan Airlines miles:

  • New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) – Emirates
  • Philadelphia (PHL) to Rome (FCO) – American
  • Miami (MIA) to Milan – American

Earning JAL Miles

Japan Airlines miles can be difficult to earn. While many airline programs have either co-branded credit cards with sizable sign-up bonuses or multiple transferable point program partners, JAL lacks in both areas.

Japan Airlines offers a co-branded Mastercard, but this card lacks a material sign-up bonus.

The mainstream option in the US is that you can earn Marriott points and transfer those to JAL at a transfer rate of 3:1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 JAL miles bonus.

Recommended Marriott-SPG Cards

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 

American Airlines Business Class Seat
Fly American Airlines business class to Italy! Image courtesy of theluxurytravelexpert.com

Cathay Pacific’s award program experienced changes recently, with award prices on many routes increasing. The good news is that there is still value for your next redemption to Italy using Asia Miles.

The Asia Miles program uses a distance-based award chart when flying Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon or its Oneworld partners.

Book Awards With Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
When you are flying just 1 Oneworld airline, you will use the mileage calculator.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
When you are flying 2 Oneworld airlines to Italy, you will use this award chart.

Similar to JAL, the Cathay Pacific search engine is not the easiest to use when you are searching for its partner airlines flights.

For nonstop flights to Europe, you will use the Asia Miles Calculator. If you are flying 2 Oneworld airline partners to Europe (i.e., American Airlines and British Airways), you will use the Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart (scroll to the bottom of the distance-based award chart page).

When searching for American Airlines award availability, I recommend using the American Airlines or British Airways website. You will then need to fill out the Flight Award Request Form (scroll to the bottom after your award search) once you find availability on American Airlines or British Airways.

Here are the redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for American Airlines round-trip nonstop flights to Italy:

Cabin ClassAmericanTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000$55-$72
Business100,000$55-$72

Hot Tip: Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking American Airlines business class.

Here are some examples of nonstop American Airlines flights that you can book with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles:

  • New York (JFK) to Rome (FCO)
  • New York to Milan (MXP)
  • Miami (MIA) to Milan (MXP)

Earning Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Earning enough Asia Miles is made easier by the fact that Cathay Pacific partners with American Express, and Citi, and has a co-branded credit card that offers a solid sign-up bonus.

Both programs provide the ability to transfer points directly to Cathay Pacific at a 1:1 ratio. You can then pool your points from all of the programs making it easier to book award flights for multiple people.

American Express has a number of personal and business credit cards. Here are the cards we recommend so you’ll have no problem earning enough points for your next redemption:

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

Citi has a few credit cards that earn ThankYou points, which can be transferred directly to Cathay Pacific.

If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels then you may also find transfer value with their hotel points.

Hot Tip: Cathay Pacific recently updated its award program mileage and award charts. It’s important to review the charts and run award searches to familiarize yourself with the new award pricing. 

Korean Air SKYPASS

Delta Business Class A330
Fly Delta business class to Italy! Image courtesy of SANspotter

Korean Air’s award pricing for flights to Europe on its SkyTeam airline partners provides solid value. With Delta and Alitalia providing transatlantic flights, SKYPASS is a program that opens up value with your Korean Air miles.

The airline uses a zone-based award chart for flights from North America. This means that all flights flown by SkyTeam partners from North America to Europe (regardless of the departing U.S. city) will cost the same amount of Korean Air miles.

Book Awards With Korean Air

Korean Air
Korean Air North America Award Chart

The SKYPASS search engine is not one I like using, as it only allows you to search for round-trip partner airline flights.

Instead, I would recommend using the Delta or Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) website to search for availability. Both Delta and Air France/KLM have a flexible date search that allows you to see a month of availability at a time.

Hot Tip: I have found that using a combo of the Delta and KLM website works well for me. KLM recently brought back its flexible date search tool, making it much easier to find award space. 

When you find availability on either Delta or Air France/KLM, call Korean Air at 800-438-5000 to confirm the award space that you found and ticket the award flight.

Here are the redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for Delta and Alitalia round-trip nonstop flights to Italy:

Cabin ClassDelta/AlitaliaTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000~$113
Business80,000~$113

Hot Tip: Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Delta business class.

Here are some examples of nonstop Delta and Alitalia flights that you can book with Korean Air miles:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Rome (FCO)
  • Miami (MIA) to Rome
  • New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP)

Earning Korean Air Miles

Korean Air partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards and offers a co-branded credit card with a material sign-up bonus.

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program offers products for both individuals and business owners. Here are the credit cards we recommend: 

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels then you may also find transfer value with their hotel points.

Bottom Line: The combination of a co-branded credit card with a sizeable sign-up bonus paired with 2 transferable point programs means you will have more than enough miles for your redemption to Italy! 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

I considered leaving off both Virgin Atlantic and Etihad here, but I think it’s important to at least mention both.

Virgin Atlantic partners with Delta, so this provides another program to use if you are looking to fly transatlantic on Delta.

Book Awards With Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic | Delta
Virgin Atlantic has individual partnerships with airlines, as seen here with Delta.

The Virgin Atlantic search engine takes time getting used to; I recommend reading our piece on how to book flights using Virgin Atlantic.

Here are the redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for round-trip nonstop Delta flights to Italy:

Cabin ClassDeltaTaxes and Fees
Economy60,000$223
Business100,000$395

Earning Virgin Atlantic Miles

Virgin Atlantic partners with all 4 transferable point programs and has a co-branded credit card with a decent sign-up bonus.

The Flying Club program partners with Amex, Chase, and Citi, giving you a ton of ways to earn and pool the miles necessary for your next redemption. Here’s our step-by-step guide on the best ways to earn lots of Virgin Atlantic miles.

If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels then you may also find transfer value with their hotel points.

Bottom Line: Focusing on programs like Virgin Atlantic that partner with all 3 credit transferable point programs makes earning enough points for nearly any redemption much easier. 

Etihad Guest

Like Virgin Atlantic, I considered leaving Etihad off the list because the value of its redemptions to fly American Airlines is not as high as what you can find with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Also, booking a partner airline flight with Etihad takes time, and it’s not a program I would recommend using if you’re just starting out in the points and miles world.

Book Awards With Etihad Guest

Etihad
Etihad Guest, like Virgin Atlantic, uses a separate award chart for each airline partner. Seen here is the American Airlines award chart.

When you find American Airlines award availability on either the American Airlines or British Airways website, you will need to call Etihad Guest at 877-690-0767 to book the award ticket.

The taxes and fees should be close to those shown in the chart below, but I recommend confirming with Etihad Guest over the phone.

Cabin ClassAmericanTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$55-$72
Business100,000$55-$72

Earning Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad partners with Amex and Citi.

As previously noted, each of these programs offers credit cards with sizable sign-up bonuses, ensuring you will have enough miles for a seat in any cabin class. If you’re in need of additional Etihad miles, check out our in-depth guide on boosting your balance!

If you regularly stay at Marriott hotels then you may also find transfer value with their hotel points.

Bottom Line: Etihad is an under-the-radar program providing value if you know where to look. Its partnership with Brussels Airlines is also a great one to leverage if you are looking to fly from the U.S. to Brussels. 

Final Thoughts

Italy is a country that has a rich history and offers tons of diverse experiences. From the mountainous regions in the north to the vineyards in Tuscany to the beautiful coastal cities in the south, Italy has it all!

The key to getting to experience the country is knowing how best to leverage your points and miles with the programs that offer the best redemptions. With several programs at your disposal, you have more than enough ways to fly in a cabin class that makes sense for you.

What may be noticeably absent from this article is the ability to fly on an award ticket from the U.S. to Europe, and then buy a ticket on a low-cost carrier from that city to Italy. This is certainly an option too — and one that I recommend if you don’t mind a connection, and spending a small amount of cash on a cheap flight.

FAQ

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to Italy?

Emirates, American Airlines, Delta, and Alitalia all impose some form of surcharges on flights to Italy.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to Italy?

Japan Airlines and Etihad require the fewest number of miles to fly economy, at 39,000-40,000 miles round-trip.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly business class to Italy?

Japan Airlines requires the fewest number of miles to fly business class, at 63,000-80,000 round-trip.

What is the fewest number miles required to fly first class to Italy?

JAL requires the fewest number of miles to fly first class, at 100,000-120,000 miles round-trip. The route is between New York and Milan on Emirates.

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2 comments

  1. I looked on Delta’s website & it doesn’t show availability nor options for LAX-FCO direct on Alitalia. It is also showing 280k miles just one way on Delta with stops in DTW. How would I check availability & how many miles it’d be to fly direct LAX-FCO?

    • Michael McHugh · August 15, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Aleks

      Delta or Flying Blue (KLM / Air France) will be the best sites to use to check SkyTeam availability.

      Korean Air charges 50k RT in economy and 80k RT in business class for SkyTeam (Delta, Alitalia) flights to Europe.

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