The Best Ways to Fly to London With Points and Miles

Best Ways to Fly to London with Points & Miles; London City

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There are tons of great ways to fly to Europe with miles and points, and any number of redemptions can help you get from the U.S. to London. However, many of these options require you to connect in another country in continental Europe.

There’s nothing wrong with a connection, and they can even be fun when you visit an amazing first class lounge — like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (FCT) at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) when flying Lufthansa first class.

That being said, sometimes vacation time is limited, and cutting down on transit time to pack in more fun at our destination is the number 1 priority. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the best ways you can fly directly to London from the U.S.

Let’s dig into some great economy, business, and first class options so you can decide how you want to book your next trip across the Atlantic.

Best Programs to Book Award Flights to London

When looking for ways to book award flights to London, you will want to keep an eye on carrier-imposed surcharges, as well as the miles required by the frequent flyer program you are using.

If you do that, you can get some great value out of your miles and points and visit an amazing city.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines 787-9 Flagship Business Class seat 4L
Doesn’t this American Airlines 787-9 Flagship Business Class seat look like a comfortable place to spend 12 hours? Image Credit: Stephen Au

The American Airlines AAdvantage program will probably be the easiest option for booking flights operated by American Airlines or its Oneworld partner British Airways. You can search for award space on American Airlines’ website and complete the entire booking process online.

Book Awards With American AAdvantage Miles (Online)

Since American AAdvantage uses dynamic award pricing for American Airlines flights, the miles required to book an award ticket may depend on your city of origin in the U.S. If you’re booking on British Airways, you’ll pay a fixed price regardless of your city of origin.

Award space on both American Airlines and British Airways will show in an award search on American’s website. The search results will indicate which airline operates a given flight so make sure you confirm you have selected flights on your desired airline.

Additionally, if you are booking a business or first class award, make sure the long-haul segment is in your desired cabin. If you have a connecting flight, American’s search results will often show a domestic first class segment paired with an economy class long-haul segment, which would be a nasty surprise.

To search for award flight space, follow these steps:

  1. Visit American Airlines’ website
  2. On the homepage, you’ll see a search box. Check the box that says Redeem miles.
  3. Enter your flight information.
  4. Click Search.
  5. Choose the flight results that match your needs.
  6. Check out and pay for the ticket using miles and a credit card for any taxes and fees.

Hot Tip: Need help booking? Check out our step-by-step guide to booking American Airlines first class and business class.

Here are the one-way mileage rates for flights on American Airlines and its partners. The taxes and fees on a one-way award will be determined by whether you are departing from the U.S. or the U.K.

Class of ServiceAmerican FlightsAmerican Taxes/FeesBritish Airways FlightsBritish Airways Taxes/Fees
Economy (off-peak)Variable~$622,500 AAdvantage miles~$260
EconomyVariable~$630,000 AAdvantage miles~$260
BusinessVariable~$657,500 AAdvantage miles~$637
FirstVariable~$685,000 AAdvantage miles~$637

However, if you book an award ticket on British Airways with your American AAdvantage miles, you will incur significant carrier-imposed surcharges. While a round-trip economy class award on a flight operated by American Airlines will include about $180 in taxes and fees, an economy award on British Airways will require about $520 thanks to carrier-imposed surcharges.

This disparity is even worse when you book business or first class tickets. On an American Airlines flight, business class and first class award bookings will include about $6 in taxes and fees for a round-trip ticket. However, on British Airways, you will be responsible for roughly $637 when the carrier-imposed surcharges are added to the taxes and fees.

For context, consider the fact that you can find cash fares around $580 for a nonstop economy ticket from New York City (JFK) to London. This is barely more than the taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges that you would pay for an award ticket on British Airways.

When using American AAdvantage miles, you’ll want to make sure you are only booking flights operated by American Airlines. Business class and first class are where you’ll get the most value for your miles, but economy class bookings can be very useful when cash ticket prices are high.

If you don’t have the necessary American AAdvantage miles in your account, you can put your award ticket on hold for 5 days so you’ll have time to transfer points to your account. This process can also be taken care of online.

Nonstop Routes Bookable With American AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines award booking example
Sometimes, you can find award availability on American Airlines at even cheaper prices than the prior 57,500 miles price! Image Credit: American Airlines

Ever since American Airlines AAdvantage moved to a variable award pricing scheme for AA flights, you’ll find terrible premium cabin prices, for the most part. However, there are a few dates on which you can actually find cheaper prices than before this change was in effect.

American Airlines operates flights to London from several airports in the U.S. The American AAdvantage program also uses a region-based award chart so you can add a connecting flight from smaller airports to any of these gateway airports without increasing the number of miles required.

Airports With Nonstop American Flights to London
Charlotte (CLT)Los Angeles (LAX)Philadelphia (PHL)
Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)Miami (MIA)Phoenix (PHX)
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)New York City (JFK)Raleigh-Durham (RDU)

Earning American AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines has partnered with both Citi and Barclays to offer co-branded cards that earn American AAdvantage miles directly. These cards often come with a very good sign-up bonus if you meet the minimum spending requirement in the requisite time frame.

Also, American Airlines’ sole transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. You can transfer from Marriott to American Airlines at a 3:1 ratio. Also, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to American Airlines. Generally, it’ll take around 2 business days for these transfers to process.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Delta One Suites A350-900
Delta One Suites is bookable on select flights to London. Image Credit: Stephen Au

Moving over to the SkyTeam alliance, we have the Air France/KLM Flying Blue program. With tons of Delta flights from the U.S. to London, this is a fantastic program to book award tickets.

You might think of using Delta’s SkyMiles program initially, but give Flying Blue a look before you decide as it has better redemption rates to London.

Book Awards With Air France/KLM Flying Blue (Online/Phone Booking)

Air France/KLM Flying Blue has a dynamically-priced award chart. The chart below shows the one-way mileage costs plus the taxes/fees that are required when booking awards with Flying Blue miles.

The taxes and fees required will be different based on your origin. If your origin is London, the taxes and fees will be much higher, as we’ll explain later.

Class of ServiceOne-Way Cost on Delta FlightsDelta Taxes/Fees
EconomyFrom 21,500 Flying Blue miles~$220
BusinessFrom 61,500 Flying Blue miles~$320

Delta continues to develop its business class product. In fact, Delta recently started offering its awesome Delta One Suites on select 767-400 aircraft as follows:

  • Boston (BOS) – London-Heathrow (LHR) on DL 58 and 59
  • New York City (JFK) – London-Heathrow (LHR) on DL 1, 2, 3, and 4

While not up to the level of some foreign carriers, it has been a leader among the American carriers. It’s also a great way to redeem Flying Blue miles.

You will be able to search for award space on either Air France or KLM’s website and book right from there. If you need to transfer points to your Flying Blue account before booking, some friendly phone agents have been known to put award tickets on hold for a couple of days which leaves plenty of time for transfers to process.

Booking with Flying Blue is easy! Just follow these directions to get started:

  1. Visit Air France’s U.S. website
  2. In the center search box, click the button that says Use Your Miles.
  3. Click Sign In.
  4. Log in using your Flying Blue account and password.
  5. You’ll be redirected to the flight search page. Enter your flight information.
  6. Select the number of passengers and the class of booking.
  7. Click Find a flight.
  8. Select the flight that you want to book.
  9. Pay using your Flying Blue miles and also a credit card for any miscellaneous taxes/fees.

Hot Tip: Need help booking? Check out our simple booking guide that walks you through the steps of booking Delta One.

Nonstop Routes Bookable With Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles

Booking Delta One with Air France Flying Blue
For 123,000 Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, you can book a round-trip business class award ticket on Delta between the U.S. and London. Image Credit: Air France

You can use Flying Blue miles to book nonstop flights on Delta from several airports in the U.S. With its region-based award chart, you won’t need any additional miles if you are connecting from another airport.

Airports With Nonstop Delta Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)New York City (JFK)
Boston (BOS)Portland, Oregon (PDX) — Seasonal
Detroit (DTW)Salt Lake City (SLC) — Seasonal
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)

Hot Tip: Air France/KLM runs regular award sales for specific routes called Promo Awards and has some other great award booking options, so make sure you check out the best way to use Flying Blue miles.

Earning Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles

A major advantage of the Flying Blue program is just how easy it is to earn miles with the program. While there aren’t any American credit cards that earn Flying Blue miles directly, Air France/KLM has partnered with 5 transferable points programs.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One miles, and Marriott points. Amex, Chase, and Citi transfer to the Flying Blue program at a solid 1:1 ratio. Capital One transfers at a 2:1.5 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Amex, Chase, and Citi transfer almost instantly. Capital One transfers in around an hour and Marriott Bonvoy transfers take around 1 business day.

Our favorite ways to earn Flying Blue miles are through credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards since both Chase and American Express provide cards with great bonus categories.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 1.5% cash-back on all purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services.

We generally suggest people start with Chase Ultimate Rewards because of the Chase 5/24 rule, but after that Amex Membership Rewards are a top priority.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months, worth up to $600 towards travel. Terms Apply.

However — you may be eligible for a (much) higher offer by using the CardMatch Tool. (There's no pull on your credit to check for personalized offers.)

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass). We leverage ~$2,700+ in value from the card every year. For rates & fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year; then 1x. Terms Apply). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and up to $100 airfare fee credit per year, it's a strong choice. For rates & fees of the Gold Card, click here.

If you’re a business owner, see our article on Amex business credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

United Polaris Business Class
Traveling in United Polaris business class is one of the best ways to maximize your frequent flyer awards. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Next, we have our first option in the Star Alliance. All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club is a great frequent flyer program from one of the best airlines in the world. Sure, a Japanese carrier’s loyalty program probably isn’t what you’re used to for booking award tickets, but don’t overlook this one!

Book Awards With ANA Mileage Club (Online)

Your Star Alliance options for flights directly to London from the U.S. are Air New Zealand (fifth freedom route) and United Airlines. While United doesn’t have a glowing reputation for its inflight product or service, you won’t get hit with carrier-imposed surcharges even when booking through a partner airline such as ANA.

The mileage rates and taxes and fees in the chart below apply to round-trip award tickets as ANA Mileage Club does not allow one-way awards.

Class of ServiceUnited FlightsUnited Taxes/Fees
Economy55,000 ANA Mileage Club miles~$220
Business88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles~$220

The miles required by ANA Mileage Club for economy class bookings are competitive but nothing special. However, the miles required for business class awards are very good at 88,000 miles for a round-trip ticket.

ANA provides an easy-to-use online search function. Just make sure you choose flights operated by United Airlines or Air New Zealand. Otherwise, you will have connections in Europe. With some of these other Star Alliance carriers, ANA will pass on carrier-imposed surcharges, which can be steep if you are flying on Austrian Airlines or Lufthansa.

The surcharges are particularly bad on these 2 Star Alliance partners when you book premium cabin awards. So, not only will your journey take longer, you’ll have to pay significantly more to take the trip.

As ANA only allows round-trip bookings, you’ll need to find availability on the outbound and inbound segments at the same time. If you’re ready to search, follow these steps:

  1. Visit ANA’s U.S. website
  2. In the initial search box, click the button that says Award Booking.
  3. Log into your ANA Mileage Club account by entering your Mileage Club number and password.
  4. Enter your departure and destination cities, travel dates, number of passengers, and desired booking class.
  5. Click Search.
  6. Find available flights and confirm the tickets by redeeming ANA miles and paying for taxes and fees using a credit card.

Hot Tip: Don’t forget to check out some of the other amazing ways you can redeem ANA Mileage Club miles!

Nonstop Routes Bookable With ANA Mileage Club Miles

ANA London Redemption
It only takes 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles to book a round-trip business class award ticket on United Airlines. Image Credit: ANA

ANA Mileage Club can help you book nonstop flights to London on United Airlines from 6 airports across the U.S. If you don’t live in one of United’s hub airports, you can connect from your home airport to one of these hubs and continue to London for no extra ANA Mileage Club miles.

Airports With Nonstop United Flights to London
Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)**Newark (EWR)**
Denver (DEN)San Francisco (SFO)**
Houston (IAH)**Washington, D.C. (IAD)**
Los Angeles (LAX)*

* Air New Zealand also offers a nonstop, fifth freedom flight, but this service is ending in October 2020.
** United offers its newest Polaris business class from these cities

Earning ANA Mileage Club Miles

While not as easy to earn as Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, ANA Mileage Club miles are relatively easy to earn. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Amex transfers to ANA take around 3 business days, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers to ANA take around 7 business days to process.

We recommend looking into Amex Membership Rewards cards as there are many bonus categories you can take advantage of.

Hot Tip: Check out our guide to earning tons of ANA Mileage Club miles to learn even more fun ways to earn!

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 Upper Class Seat 9A from Aisle
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 New Upper Class. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program is called Flying Club. One of the best ways to fly to London is to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. Specifically, its new Upper Class seats are flown regularly between New York City (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX). You can also book Delta One with Virgin Atlantic miles, but you can access better award availability on Virgin Atlantic’s own flights.

Book Awards With Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (Online)

Virgin Atlantic uses a region-based award chart for its own flights. Also, it employs peak and standard pricing. Here’s the standard award chart for one-way flights:

Route to/from U.K.Economy (Standard)Premium (Standard)Upper Class (Standard)
USA – Northeast (Boston, Newark, New York-JFK, Washington, D.C.)10,00017,50047,500
USA – Midwest and South (Atlanta, Miami, Orlando)12,50022,50047,500
USA – West (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle)15,00027,50067,500
Africa, China, and Hong Kong12,50022,50057,500
Caribbean10,00017,50057,500
India10,00017,50037,500
Tel Aviv9,00016,00028,000

Here’s the peak award chart:

Route to/from U.K.Economy (Peak)Premium (Peak)Upper Class (Peak)
USA – Northeast (Boston, Newark, New York-JFK, Washington, D.C.)20,00027,50057,500
USA – Midwest and South (Atlanta, Miami, Orlando)22,50032,50057,500
USA – West (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle)25,00035,00077,500
Africa, China, and Hong Kong22,50032,50067,500
Caribbean20,00027,50067,500
India20,00027,50047,500
Tel Aviv11,00020,00033,000

Here are the peak dates:

  • April 3-21 2020
  • June 20, 2020 – September 6, 2020
  • December 12, 2020 – January 5, 2021

Just remember that you’ll be responsible for fuel surcharges in all cases.

Nonstop Routes Bookable With Virgin Atlantic Miles (Online)

Virgin Atlantic availability
You can find availability for Virgin Atlantic flights on many nonstop routes to London. Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic offers flights to several U.S. hubs and gateways. Some of them include:

Airports With Nonstop Virgin Atlantic Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)New York City (JFK)
Boston (BOS)Orlando (MCO)
Las Vegas (LAS)San Francisco (SFO)
Los Angeles (LAX)Seattle (SEA)
Miami (MIA)Washington, D.C. (IAD)

As a reminder, Los Angeles (LAX) and New York City (JFK) are the only cities currently offering the new Upper Class service.

Earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles

Virgin Atlantic is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase, Amex, and Citi transfer at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Chase transfers almost instantly, while Amex and Citi can take 1-2 business days. Similarly, Marriott Bonvoy will take around 1 business day to transfer points to Flying Club.

You can also earn Virgin Atlantic miles directly from the co-branded Bank of America credit cards.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta One Seat
If you’re willing to fly on Delta’s non-Suite business class, you can access better availability by booking directly on Delta’s website. Image Credit: Delta

Delta’s SkyMiles program is often derided for the unannounced devaluations that tend to happen quite regularly, but there is still some value to be found in its award chart — which it doesn’t publish.

Book Awards With Delta SkyMiles (Online)

Booking your award flights to London with Delta SkyMiles actually gives you an additional airline option as Delta has an individual partnership with Virgin Atlantic outside of the SkyTeam alliance. While Delta does have plenty of issues as a frequent flyer program, you can search for and book award flights on its website.

Once you’re ready to redeem your SkyMiles, you’ll want to follow these steps to make a booking:

  1. Visit Delta SkyMiles’ homepage.
  2. On the homepage, you’ll see a search banner at the top.
  3. Check off the box that says Shop with miles.
  4. Type in the departure and origin cities.
  5. Choose One Way, Round-Trip, or Multi-City.
  6. Enter your travel dates and number of passengers.
  7. Expand the search by clicking the button called Advanced search just underneath the passenger count dropdown box.
  8. If looking for business class, select Delta One under Best Fares For.
  9. Click the red arrow button to search.
  10. Find the flight details that work for you.
  11. Select the flight, redeem your miles, enter the travelers’ information, and pay for any taxes and fees using a credit card.

We’ve detailed the redemption rates you should look for when booking one-way awards to London (or anywhere in Europe for that matter) on either Delta or Virgin Atlantic with SkyMiles. The round-trip mileage requirements are double what is listed below. As with all other award flights to London, the taxes and fees required on the return segment will be significantly more.

Class of ServiceDelta FlightsDelta Taxes/FeesVirgin Atlantic FlightsVirgin Atlantic Taxes/Fees
Economy35,000-160,000~$18035,000 ~$180
Business70,000-320,000~$280 85,000~$280

While the taxes and fees are the same between Delta and Virgin Atlantic award tickets, a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket will require more miles than a saver-level award ticket on Delta metal. Unfortunately, it gets even worse if you want to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class within 21 days of departure. Once within this window, a round-trip award booking will cost 205,000 SkyMiles.

The way Delta has set up its SkyMiles program leaves you with a couple of decisions to make if you want to fly in business class. You can spend the extra miles to try the fun environment of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and its popular Clubhouse lounges, or save a big chunk of miles and fly Delta One.

To give you some context, the round-trip difference of 30,000 miles between booking Delta One and Upper Class is nearly enough for a one-way economy class award to London or anywhere in Europe.

Hot Tip: For some other award booking options, check out our best ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles.

Nonstop Routes Bookable With Delta SkyMiles

Delta London Redemption
You can redeem 140,000 Delta SkyMiles for a round-trip business class award ticket to London. Image Credit: Delta

While it’s tough to trust that Delta won’t devalue its unpublished award chart without warning, if you have a nice chunk of SkyMiles, you can easily book a nonstop flight to London. For those not living in one of Delta’s hub cities, you might even be able to connect for no extra miles.

Airports With Nonstop Delta Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)New York City (JFK)
Boston (BOS)Portland, Oregon (PDX) — Seasonal
Detroit (DTW)Salt Lake City (SLC) — Seasonal
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)

Virgin Atlantic also operates several nonstop routes from the U.S. that can be booked with Delta SkyMiles, which were mentioned above. The chart is reproduced below for reference.

Airports With Nonstop Virgin Atlantic Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)New York City (JFK)
Boston (BOS)Orlando (MCO)
Las Vegas (LAS)San Francisco (SFO)
Los Angeles (LAX)Seattle (SEA)
Miami (MIA)Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Earning Delta SkyMiles

Like ANA Mileage Club, Delta has also partnered with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Amex transfers at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly, and Marriott Bonvoy transfers in 1-2 business days at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

In addition to these options, you can earn SkyMiles directly with one of the co-branded Delta credit cards provided by American Express.

Recommended Delta Cards

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card- use this card to get one free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions on your itinerary, which we see as a "must-have" if you fly Delta regularly. Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Card also now earn 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets in addition to 2x miles on Delta purchases (1x on all other purchases). Plus, $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Delta Gold card, click here.

However — you may be eligible for a (much) higher offer by using the CardMatch Tool. (There's no pull on your credit to check for personalized offers.)

Because Delta tends to devalue its program without informing SkyMiles members first, you should only earn SkyMiles if you know what you want to do with them. This shouldn’t be an issue as you can earn Amex Membership Rewards faster thanks to numerous bonus categories, and they transfer to Delta SkyMiles almost instantly.

Hot Tip: Check out our favorite ways to earn tons of Delta SkyMiles for more ideas.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

American Airlines Flagship First Class
On international flights, American Airlines Flagship Business Class features spacious Zodiac seats, just like on its transcontinental Flagship First Class flights. Image Credit: Stephen Au

If you’re looking for the cheapest mileage requirements, look no further than our second Oneworld alliance option, Japan Airlines. There’s only 1 exception to this: when American Airlines has off-peak economy award prices. Other than that, Japan Airlines is the best option if you want to use as few miles as possible.

Unfortunately, Japan Airlines miles are some of the hardest miles to earn, which is why they’re more valuable.

Booking Awards With Japan Airlines Mileage Bank (Online)

As with the American Airlines AAdvantage program, you can use Japan Airlines Mileage Bank to book flights on either American Airlines or British Airways. However, you should stick to flights operated by American Airlines so you can avoid the egregious carrier-imposed surcharges passed on by British Airways.

Japan Airlines doesn’t allow you to book or search all partner awards online. Still, you’ll be able to search for most airlines, and fortunately, you will be able to both search and book awards online when booking flights on American Airlines or British Airways.

Japan Airlines’ online website is a bit clunky, so you’ll want to follow these directions very carefully to search for award availability:

  1. Visit Japan Airlines’ partner award booking page.
  2. In the top-right corner, click Log in.
  3. Enter your JAL Membership Number and PIN.
  4. Select Round-trip or One-way.
  5. Select the Partner Airline.
  6. Enter your outbound and/or inbound travel information.
  7. Choose the booking class and number of passengers.
  8. Click Search.
  9. Select the flight you like, redeem your miles, and use a credit card for any miscellaneous taxes/fees.

Unlike the other programs we have looked at so far, Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart that is broken into tiers. The number of miles you fly (you have to add each segment of your journey) will determine the number of Mileage Bank miles that will be required for an award ticket.

Below are the round-trip requirements for both Mileage Bank miles and taxes and fees on flights from New York City (JFK) to London.

Class of ServiceAmerican FlightsAmerican Taxes/FeesBritish Airways FlightsBritish Airways Taxes/Fees
Economy45,000 Mileage Bank miles~$1145,000 Mileage Bank miles~$520
Business80,000 Mileage Bank miles~$1180,000 Mileage Bank miles~$520
First120,000 Mileage Bank miles~$11120,000 Mileage Bank miles~$1,375

You can refer to this chart for the one-way requirements on this flight:

Class of ServiceAmerican FlightsAmerican Taxes/FeesBritish Airways FlightsBritish Airways Taxes/Fees
Economy23,000 Mileage Bank miles~$623,000 Mileage Bank miles~$260
Business42,000 Mileage Bank miles~$642,000 Mileage Bank miles~$260
First65,000 Mileage Bank miles~$665,000 Mileage Bank miles~$637

If you are traveling from the West Coast, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank will still have the best redemption rates, though they aren’t quite as good compared to award tickets from New York City.

Additionally, because Japan Airlines Mileage Bank uses a distance-based award chart for partners, one-way redemption rates from the West Coast won’t be as good as booking with American AAdvantage miles.

With a distance-based award chart, you also need to remember that any connecting flights will add to the total flight distance used to calculate the number of miles required for your award ticket.

Hot Tip: Check out other awesome ways to redeem Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles for some inspiration!

Nonstop Routes Bookable With Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Miles

British Airways booking with Japan Airlines miles
For nonstop, round-trip award bookings, you won’t find a way to book for fewer miles and points than the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program. Image Credit: Japan Airlines

Booking one of the numerous nonstop flights from the U.S. to London on British Airways with Mileage Bank miles is a great way to get to London. The 1 caveat to keep in mind is that Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart for partner bookings.

As a result, if you need to connect to one of American Airlines’ hub airports, your award ticket might require more mileage. Make sure you consider the impact of a connection on the total number of miles required for your award booking.

Airports With Nonstop British Airways Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)Nashville (BNA)Phoenix (PHX)
Austin (AUS)Denver (DEN)Newark (EWR)Pittsburgh (PIT)
Baltimore (BWI)Houston (IAH)New Orleans (MSY)San Diego (SAN)
Boston (BOS)Las Vegas (LAS)New York City (JFK)San Jose (SJC)
Charleston (CHS)Los Angeles (LAX)Orlando (MCO)Seattle (SEA)
Chicago (ORD)Miami (MIA)Philadelphia (PHL)Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Earning Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Miles

While the redemption rates with Japan Airlines Mileage Bank are often quite good, these miles are some of the hardest to earn.

You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to Japan Airlines at a transfer rate of 3:1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 Japan Airlines miles.

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card - Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 3X points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 6x per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels plus 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines. Annual fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.

Hot Tip: Take a look out our favorite ways to earn more Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles.

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Polaris Middle Seats
You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to United to fly to London. Image Credit: United Airlines

Our second Star Alliance option is United Airlines MileagePlus. While it doesn’t have as competitive redemption rates as ANA Mileage Club, particularly for business class award tickets, it does open up different points-earning options.

Although you’ll generally pay a premium with United MileagePlus on business class seats, you’ll get the added benefit of accessing enhanced award availability on United Polaris class.

Book Awards With United Airlines MileagePlus (Online)

As we mentioned earlier, United Airlines and Air New Zealand are the only Star Alliance options to fly directly from the U.S. to London. While not the best product on the market, the lack of carrier-imposed surcharges makes United a solid choice when booking to London so you can save some serious cash. United also makes it easy to search for and book award tickets online so you won’t have to worry about making any phone calls.

United Airlines’ online search and booking portal is one of the easiest to use. Follow these simple directions to redeem United miles:

  1. Go to United’s homepage.
  2. On the homepage, you’ll see a search box.
  3. Check off the box that says Book with miles
  4. Choose Roundtrip or One-way.
  5. Enter the origin and destination airports
  6. Select the booking date(s), number of passengers, and cabin class.
  7. Click Find flights.
  8. Log in using your United MileagePlus number and password.
  9. Choose the flight you wish to book.
  10. Enter your traveler information and book the ticket with miles. Pay for taxes/fees using a credit card.

You can see the one-way redemption rates plus the taxes and fees in the chart below.

Class of ServiceUnited FlightsUnited Taxes/Fees
EconomyFrom 30,000 MileagePlus miles~$6
BusinessFrom 60,000 MileagePlus miles~$6

The 60,000 MileagePlus miles required for a round-trip economy class award are not far from the 55,000 Mileage Club miles required by ANA, but ANA (at 88,000 points for round-trip business class) is a much better choice for business class if you have the necessary points.

Hot Tip: Check out some other great ways to book award flights with United MileagePlus miles.

Nonstop Routes Bookable With United MileagePlus Miles

United London itinerary
United MileagePlus is an easy program to use if you want to book an award flight to London. Image Credit: United

United Airlines’ MileagePlus program is a great way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book award flights to London. It doesn’t have the best redemption rates, but the program is easy to use and won’t require more miles if you need a connecting flight. As we mentioned earlier, many of United’s nonstop routes feature their newest Polaris class product.

Airports With Nonstop United Flights to London
Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)Newark (EWR)
Denver (DEN)San Francisco (SFO)
Houston (IAH)Washington, D.C. (IAD)
Los Angeles (LAX)

Earning United MileagePlus Miles

United MileagePlus has a big advantage when it comes to earning miles for awards, though. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, and transfers process almost instantly. Additionally, United miles are easier to earn, thanks to co-branded cards provided by Chase.

These 2 methods provide you with easy ways to earn United miles directly in addition to the Ultimate Rewards points you earn and transfer.

Lastly, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1.1 ratio. Also, for every 60,000 points you transfer from Marriott to United, you’ll earn a bonus of 5,500 United miles! Transfers take around 1-2 business days.

Hot Tip: We’ve written about many great ways to earn United MileagePlus miles!

Bonus Options (British Airways Executive Club/Korean Air SKYPASS)

The above carriers will generally be the go-to options when booking awards from the U.S. to London. However, there are a couple of other interesting ways to book business class awards.

If you were wondering when we would discuss using British Airways Executive Club Avios, we’re about to dive in. Additionally, we’ll show you another SkyTeam alternative with the Korean Air SKYPASS program.

British Airways Executive Club (Online)

British Airways First Class 787-9
To get the most out of your British Airways Avios when flying to London, use the British Airways Travel Together Ticket. Image Credit: Alex Miller

As we discussed above, booking round-trip British Airways awards to London from the U.S. will cost you a ton of cash. Unfortunately, that is also the case when booking with British Airways Avios even if your flight is operated by American Airlines.

However, there is a special circumstance in which these high carrier-imposed surcharges might be worth it. To really make using Avios worth it for your trip to London, you’ll want to use the British Airways Travel Together Ticket.

This awesome perk is available to cardholders of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card who spend $30,000 on the card within a calendar year. Once you have earned the Travel Together Ticket, you have up to 2 years to use it for a round-trip award booking originating in the U.S.

With the Travel Together Ticket, you can book an award ticket and bring a companion along for the price of the taxes and fees. This means if you book a round-trip first class award ticket on British Airways from Los Angeles (LAX) for 200,000 Avios and just over $1,250 in taxes and fees, your companion can sit in first class with you for no extra miles — just the taxes and fees. That’s 2 first class tickets that would normally cost at least $14,000 for only about $2,500 in taxes and fees.

Hot Tip: For some more great ways to book, check out our best ways to redeem British Airways Avios for award travel.

From Chicago or New York City (JFK), you will need 165,000 Avios to book round-trip first class awards on British Airways; from many other U.S. cities, you’ll need 206,000 Avios. If you prefer, you can book a business class award ticket for 124,000 Avios round-trip from Chicago/New York City (JFK) or 154,500 Avios round-trip from anywhere else in the U.S., but the taxes and fees for each person will be the same as those on a first class award.

You can book your Travel Together ticket online unless you want to add a stopover or open-jaw to your itinerary. In that case, you will need to call British Airways to complete the booking.

With numerous nonstop British Airways flights from the U.S. to London, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a departure airport. Just remember that British Airways Avios utilize a distance-based award chart, so connecting flights could increase the number of Avios needed to book your award ticket.

Airports With Nonstop British Airways Flights to London
Atlanta (ATL)Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)Nashville (BNA)Phoenix (PHX)
Austin (AUS)Denver (DEN)Newark (EWR)Pittsburgh (PIT)
Baltimore (BWI)Houston (IAH)New Orleans (MSY)San Diego (SAN)
Boston (BOS)Las Vegas (LAS)New York City (JFK)San Jose (SJC)
Charleston (CHS)Los Angeles (LAX)Orlando (MCO)Seattle (SEA)
Chicago (ORD)Miami (MIA)Philadelphia (PHL)Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Here’s how you can search for availability using British Airways’ search engine:

  1. Visit the British Airways website
  2. In the top-right corner, log in using your British Airways Executive Club ID and password.
  3. On the top ribbon, hover over Book and click Book a flight with Avios.
  4. Enter your trip date(s), cities, number of passengers, and class of service.
  5. If applicable, check off the box that says One way only.
  6. Click Get flights.
  7. Select the flight you’d like to book.
  8. Confirm the ticket, enter the traveler information and pay for the tickets using Avios while using a credit card for taxes and fees.

Need help booking? Take a look at our step-by-step guide to make booking British Airways first class and business class a breeze.

Don’t forget that British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards — so you’ll have plenty of ways to earn the necessary Avios to ensure you have enough for an awesome award booking.

Hot Tip: Check out some of the best ways to earn tons of British Airways Avios so you’re ready to book your Travel Together Ticket!

Earning British Airways Avios

Earning British Airways Avios is easy, especially when you consider that it is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase and Amex transfer at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to British Airways. Chase and Amex transfer almost instantly, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers in around 1 business day.

You can also earn British Airways Avios directly through the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card.

Korean Air SKYPASS (Online/Phone Booking)

Korean Air SKYPASS is an interesting SkyTeam option for booking awards to London. It has solid redemption rates, but the surcharges on tickets are particularly steep (especially with economy class bookings). For that reason, we don’t recommend using Korean Air SKYPASS if you are flying economy class.

Class of ServiceDelta FlightsDelta Taxes/Fees
Economy50,000 Korean Air miles~$520
Business80,000 Korean Air miles~$618

You’ll notice in the chart above that there isn’t a big difference in the taxes and fees on a round-trip business class award and an economy class award. While the taxes and fees for business class aren’t cheap, it’s not such a bad deal when you consider that the same seat with cash on Delta could cost over $4,000.

Delta operates nonstop flights from the hub airports discussed above. You can book nonstop award flights from any of these airports or connect from other airports for no extra miles.

Hot Tip: Take a look at some other awesome ways to redeem Korean Air SKYPASS miles for a little travel inspiration!

You can search for award space on Korean Air’s website, but make sure you select that you are searching for a SkyTeam award (otherwise the search will only look for Korean Air flights). In fact, it won’t even let you choose the airports you need since Korean Air doesn’t fly between U.S. airports and London.

Once you find the space online, it’s easy to book. To get started doing online searches, follow this process:

  1. Visit Korean Air’s website
  2. On the homepage, you’ll see a search box. Click the button that says SkyTeam Award to the right of Award booking.
  3. You’ll be prompted to log in. Enter your Korean Air SKYPASS information and click Log in.
  4. Select either Multi-City or Round Trip.
  5. Enter the appropriate airport codes, travel dates, and cabin class.
  6. Select the Passenger names and click USD in the Payment Currency section.
  7. Click Find Flights.
  8. After your search is done, click the flights you’d like to book. Pay with Korean Air miles and use a credit card for any taxes and fees.

Earning Korean Air SKYPASS Miles

Korean Air miles aren’t exactly the easiest out there to earn. Still, Korean Air is transfer partners with 1 major rewards currency: Marriott Bonvoy. You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to Korean Air.

Unfortunately, it may take a while for the points to transfer. Sometimes, it can take up to 19 days to transfer the points!

What You Need to Know About the Air Passenger Duty (APD) Fee

London Heathrow Terminal 5
Flying out of London means paying the Air Passenger Duty (APD) fee. It’s particularly expensive for long-haul business class and first class bookings. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Now that we have taken a look at some of the best ways to book award flights, we need to discuss an important aspect of booking trips to London: the Air Passenger Duty (APD) fee that applies to flights departing from the U.K.

The cost of this fee is determined by both your class of service and the distance of your flight. Currently, the APD fees are as follows:

Flight DistanceClass of ServiceAPD Fee
Short-haulBusiness£26 (~$35)
Short-haulEconomy£13 (~$18)
Long-haulPremium Economy, Business, First£172 (~$211)
Long-haulEconomy£78 (~$105)

Another increase to the APD is coming on April 1, 2020, for premium cabin long-haul flights. This time the increase will be an additional £4 (~$5). There will not be another increase to economy class long-haul flights.

Flight DistanceClass of ServiceAPD Fee
Short-haulBusiness£26 (~$35)
Short-haulEconomy£13 (~$18)
Long-haulPremium Economy, Business, First£172 (~$230)
Long-haulEconomy£78 (~$105)

Fortunately, these fees are not imposed on flights landing or connecting in the U.K. If you want to avoid these large fees, you can take a short flight to another country within Europe and book your return from there. Since the APD fee is much more manageable on short-haul routes, you can pay that instead of the long-haul APD fee.

Keep in mind that these will have to be separate bookings. If you book a flight back to the U.S. that connects in another European country, you will still get hit with the long-haul APD fee.

Final Thoughts

It’s no surprise that London is a popular destination for many Americans, with its rich history and ease of travel thanks to our common language. For those on the East Coast, it’s also one of the closest international destinations available.

London also has the benefit of being one of the easier destinations to reach with an award ticket. With tons of airlines flying nonstop routes from the U.S., you’ll be able to avoid connections in Europe so you can have more time in London and less time in airports if you so choose.

Even better, 5 major transferable points programs — Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy — can help you get there thanks to their airline partnerships.

If you are booking an economy class award from the West Coast, we suggest you consider using 45,000 American AAdvantage miles to fly American Airlines during its off-peak season as you can easily earn the necessary miles through its co-branded Citi and Barclays offerings.

From the East Coast, using American AAdvantage miles during its off-peak time frame is still a solid redemption, but JAL Mileage Bank can book the same flight on American Airlines for 45,000 miles.

For those who want to book a business class award, ANA Mileage Club offers the best rate at 88,000 miles round-trip (one-way award bookings are not permitted) on United Airlines. As a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, it won’t be too difficult to earn the necessary miles.

Now, as we discussed, taxes and fees for round-trip bookings are steep because of the Air Passenger Duty fees. This is especially frustrating for business class and first class award tickets, and even worse if you book on an airline that hits you with steep carrier-imposed surcharges (such as British Airways).

Even with these concerns, though, you can see that there are plenty of ways to book award tickets and save a ton of cash on your flights to London. Using the information above, you’ll have no trouble figuring out which option is best for you.


The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.


Frequently asked questions

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

If you book a flight on British Airways, you will be required to pay carrier-imposed surcharges, regardless of what frequent flyer program you use. Additionally, if you book a flight on American Airlines with British Airways Avios, you will be required to pay carrier-imposed surcharges.

Korean Air requires you to pay the surcharges on Delta flights to London. It’s not a bad way to book business class award tickets, but you shouldn’t book economy class with the Korean Air SKYPASS program.

ANA Mileage Club passes on carrier-imposed surcharges when booking award tickets with many partners, but not on flights with United Airlines or Air New Zealand, so you won’t have to worry about that when flying to London.

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

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank will require the fewest miles from the East Coast for an economy class award ticket, at just 45,000 Mileage Bank miles round-trip. Just make sure you book award flights on American Airlines and not British Airways so you don’t get hit with high surcharges.

Because Mileage Bank miles are a bit harder to earn, it could be easier for you to use American AAdvantage miles to book off-peak economy class award tickets for 45,000 miles round-trip on flights operated by American Airlines. These miles are easier to earn since American Airlines has co-branded cards provided by Citi that earn AAdvantage miles directly.

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

From the East Coast, Japan Airlines requires 80,000 Mileage Bank miles to book a round-trip business class ticket on either British Airways or American Airlines.

To fly United Airlines or Air New Zealand, you can use 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles for a round-trip award.

You can book an award seat in Delta One (business class) with 80,000 Korean Air SKYPASS miles.

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

If you want to fly first class to London, you will need to fly either American Airlines or British Airways — they’re the only carriers to offer a first class product between the U.S. and London.

When booking with American AAdvantage miles or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles, you will want to make sure your flights are operated by American Airlines to keep your cash cost low.

Generally, the only time it makes sense to book a British Airways first class award is by using the British Airways Travel Together Ticket so you can get 2 first class seats for the miles of 1. You will have to pay the very steep taxes and fees for each ticket, which will come out to around $2,500 total.

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.

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3 comments

  1. Appreciate the article Spencer. I like how you broke down each program, the points required for all fare classes, and how to earn points for each redemption.

    Reply

  2. You left Phoenix off the list for nonstop AA flights to London.

    Reply

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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