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 to earn Japan Airlines miles without flying is transfers from Marriott:

New Marriott-SPG Airline Transfers to 42+ Airlines
(The SPG 5K Mile Bonus Continues!)
  • The new Marriott program in 2018 adopts Starwood's valuable airline transfers. Starting August 18, 2018 there are 42 airlines that transfer at a 3:1 ratio, plus 3 more airlines at individual ratios.

  • Bonus Miles: The 5,000 airline mile bonus for transferring 20,000 Starwood points gets new life with Marriott.

    Since Starwood points convert to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, it will now be 60,000 Marriott points transfer to get a 5,000 airline mile bonus.

  • Amex Starwood Cardholder Alert: Effective August 1, 2018, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card earn 2 Marriott points per dollar on everyday spend, down from an effective 3 points per dollar.

  • These cards may be keepers for the new free night anniversary certificate each offers, valid at hotels costing up to 35,000 points/night. Terms Apply. The first certificates will arrive in account on the first card anniversary from August 1, 2018.

Earn Marriott points with these cards:

RECOMMENDED SPG-MARRIOTT CARDS
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 10/31/2018.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at over 6,500 participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels across 110 countries worldwide.
  • Free Boingo Wi-Fi & Free Wi-Fi at SPG participating hotels. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • Earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels.
  • Annual Fee: $95

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)

CREDIT CARDBENEFITS & INFO
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x).
  • Earn 20% extra points when you make 20 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period.
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.74%-25.74%.
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on balance transfers requested within 60 days of account opening, then a variable APR of 14.74%-25.74%. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
  • Earn 25,000 points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • $100 Airline fee credit. Terms apply.
  • 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $195
The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • Access more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries and counting, including the amazing Centurion® lounges.
  • Up to $200 Uber Savings Annually.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $550

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

CREDIT CARDBENEFITS & INFO
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Get 3x points - Choose 1 out of 5 categories.
  • Earn 2x points on the remaining 4 categories
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175. Terms Apply.
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: Earn 10,000 extra Membership Rewards Points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 9/26/2018.
  • Earn 2X points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.
  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99%. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 & an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Access more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries and counting, including the amazing Centurion® lounges.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $450

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)

CHASE PERSONAL CARDBENEFITS & INFO
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • 50,000 bonus points
  • That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Earn $150 bonus
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases & balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

CHASE BUSINESS CARDBENEFITS & INFO
Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points
  • That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 in select business categories.
  • Annual Fee: $95
Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Card

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
  • Earn $500 bonus cash-back
  • Earn 5% cash back in select business categories
  • Earn 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 (combined) spent at gas stations and restaurants each year
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99%-20.99%
  • $0 Annual Fee
Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ Card

New! Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card
  • $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99%-20.99%.
  • $0 Annual Fee

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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