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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Europe. This is not the best use of American Airlines miles because award space isn’t great, and American collects fuel surcharges on two partners to Europe. But there are routes with no fuel surcharges and good award space that you should know about.

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Me at Trakai Castle in Lithuania

What You’re Reading

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement. That’s enough miles for two roundtrips to Europe.

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Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, please use my link. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Europe Awards

Here are the American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Europe:

  • American/US Airways
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • airberlin
  • Finnair

Award space on all the partners except Iberia is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Award space on Iberia is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

From North America to Europe, American Airlines charges:

  • 20,000 miles one way in economy from October 15 to May 15
  • 30,000 miles one way in economy from May 16 to October 14
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class

These miles prices are the same whether you fly directly or with connections, so even your tiny home airport to Mykonos, Greece with a few connections and flying multiple partners costs the same number of miles.

These prices are significantly less than United and Delta charge for the same awards.

In addition to the miles, you pay government taxes on all awards. In addition to taxes, you pay fuel surcharges on American Airlines awards that fly British Airways and Iberia. The fuel surcharges on British Airways flights are humungous: over $400 each way.

Washington to London in British Airways First Class is 62,500 American Airlines miles + $442.
Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.05.59 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.06.05 PM

Washington to Madrid roundtrip in British Airways First Class is 125,000 American Airlines miles + $1,026.

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Because of the fuel surcharges, I won’t be mentioning British Airways flights again in this post, which is a bummer because it is the American Airlines partner offering the most award space to Europe.

Fuel surcharges on Iberia are much smaller, at under $100 each way.

Routes & Award Space

American Airlines has a decent route network to Europe from New York and Philadelphia.
Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.51.45 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.54.28 PM

American also flies transatlantic flights from Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, and Raleigh.

Award Space on AA Flights

Award space varies by destination and season, but the general pattern on American Airlines flights to Europe is OK economy award space and poor Business and First Class award space.

For instance, Raleigh to London is typical in having good award space in economy and basically none in Business Class.

All calendars show award space for two passengers unless otherwise noted.

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There are exceptions to the basically-no-Business-Class-award-space “rule.” Let’s look at some of the American Airlines routes with more award space.

New York to London has award space in economy daily outside of peak travel times.
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And it also has Business Class award space on Mondays through Wednesdays.
Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.58.48 PM

New York to Paris has less of a pattern of Business Class award space, but it is available if you are flexible.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.59.22 PM

Oddly I often see more premium cabin award space on longer American Airlines flights. For instance, Dallas to London has more First Class award space than New York to London.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.03.08 PM

Chicago to London has pretty regular First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.04.38 PM

Your secret weapon for Business and First Class award space to Europe will be American Airlines flights to Madrid (and from there to anywhere else in Europe on connecting Iberia flights.) There is great Business Class and First Class space from Madrid to Miami.
Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.09.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.09.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.10.16 PM

Unfortunately, American Airlines does not open up last second award space in premium cabins on its European flights. Here is the award space from New York to London this week. There is some economy space, but nothing in Business or First.

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Iberia, Finnair, and airberlin Award Space

Iberia, Finnair, and airberlin fly from six American cities to Europe, including four American Airlines hubs. Let’s go through their award space one at a time.

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Finnair

A lot of Finnair award space shows up on aa.com, but it is nearly all phantom award space. Check the real space on ba.com, and don’t get your hopes up.

airberlin

Airberlin has the best award space of these three partners, and is your best way to get to Europe with American Airlines miles other than the routes mentioned in the American Airlines section above.

For instance, Dusseldorf to New York has a lot of Business Class award space in March 2016.

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Award space in Business Class is not nearly as good from New York to Dusseldorf in May or June, but there is still some.Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.29.33 PM

Instead check out New York to Berlin, which has great economy and good Business Class space in June 2016.Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.32.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.32.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.32.48 PM

Dusseldorf and Berlin are both airberlin hubs with connections all over Europe.

Iberia

Iberia has great economy award space and OK Business Class award space as long as you book in advance. For instance, here are the days with Iberia Business Class awards in the first week of May 2016 from New York, Miami, and Chicago to Madrid.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.25.49 PM Here is the economy space the same week on the same routes.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.26.00 PM

What about last minute award space? Here is the economy award space this week on the same three routes. There is no Business Class award space this week on Iberia flights on the three routes.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.26.28 PM

 

From Madrid, you can connect all over Europe on Iberia.

Booking the Award

Search segment-by-segment if necessary to find award space from your airport to an international gateway, the transatlantic flight, and any connecting flights in Europe.

If all your award space is searchable on aa.com, book online. If your award includes Iberia flights, you need to book by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. The good news is that you will pay zero phone booking fee, since that fee was waived when an award can’t be booked online.

Pay your award taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the award taxes and fees on these ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy pay the taxes with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

Bottom Line

American Airlines are not very good to Europe. There are some American Airlines, some Iberia, and some airberlin routes with decent award space if you know what to search and can be flexible. But I’d rather use my American Airlines miles to Asia and South America and book Europe with United, Delta, Flying Blue, or Virgin Atlantic miles.

If you find space though, awards to Europe with American Airlines miles are cheap.

Right now, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update at 5:49 PM ET on 12/20/13: Many commenters are saying they’ve had problems with aa.com showing “phantom award space” on airberlin flights. I have never had that experience, so I was surprised by the reports, but I’m sure they’re accurate. My advice changes in light of this info. Search for airberlin award space on ba.com, then book on aa.com or ba.com depending on the miles you want to use.

“Reports of the award space’s death have been greatly exaggerated.” ~Miles Twain

Right now, you can lock in an incredible vacation to Europe for Summer 2014 for only 50k American Airlines miles roundtrip and award space is wide open!

Award space to Europe for Summer 2014 has been bad since award space was loaded onto award calendars several months ago. (Awards are generally bookable 11 months in advance.)

But things are looking up. And just like last year–when I declared that airberlin award space was a gold mine to Europe for Summer 2013–airberlin is again a gold mine of award space to Europe for Summer 2014.

Break out your American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios, you’re going to Europe this summer!

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 5.55.19 AMWhere does airberlin fly in the US and in Europe? What miles do you need to book awards on airberlin flights? How good is the award space picture? What simple trick can get you a big discount on your award?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

I started this series of posts about booking your trip to Europe for summer 2013 with a post about booking business class. This post will focus on booking an economy class award.

If you want to fly economy class this summer, I recommend getting some American Airlines miles. There are two main reasons:

  1. All the legacy carriers–American, Delta, United, US Airways–charge 60k miles roundtrip to Europe in economy class. But I’ve outlined a trick that I’ll repeat here to get your AA award for 50k miles. Saving 10,000 miles per person is huge.
  2. American’s partner airberlin has phenomenal award space to Europe.

50k Roundtrip to Europe

In the post 20k Miles to All of Europe All Summer, I explained how the way American set up its award pricing computer program means that many of us can fly the outbound to Europe for 20,000 miles even in the summer, when it normally costs 30,000 miles each way.

20k Miles to All of Europe All Summer fully explains what to do, so I’ll just give bullet points here as a reminder.

  • The deal is only open to people who live at a North American International Gateway City to Europe and fly from their home airport directly to Europe.
  • The deal requires flying a free oneway to your home airport between October 15 and May 15.
  • Fly the main award to Europe whenever you’d like and the price will be 20k for the outbound.
  • There is no analogous trick to make the return 20k. There is no analogous trick to lower the price of business or first class awards to Europe with AA miles. There is no analogous trick with other types of miles.

airberlin

American miles’ secret weapon to Europe is airberlin economy. Here’s a list of airberlin routes to/from the US:

New York (JFK) <-> Berlin (TXL)

New York (JFK) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Chicago (ORD) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

San Francisco (SFO) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Miami (MIA) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Miami (MIA) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Fort Myers (RSW) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Las Vegas (LAS) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

So if you live in New York, Chicago, LA, Miami, San Fran, Fort Myers, or Las Vegas, you should have no trouble getting a roundtrip to Europe for 50k miles. If you live in other cities, you might have to pay 60k miles roundtrip, but you can still take advantage of the airberlin routes.

Avoid British Airways Space

British Airways offers a lot of space in economy class to Europe. Unfortunately they AA collects a surcharge of about $300 per person per direction to fly BA to Europe. I’ve paid that once for business class, but it strips all the value from an economy award.

AA doesn’t collect surcharges on any of its other partners.

Searching for Space

If you live at an international gateway city, and are using my 50k trick, you need to get to the mult-city award booking page and work there. In my YouTube video about free oneways on AA awards, I show how to get to this screen at about 0:40 in.

Search for the free oneway that knocks 10k off the price, followed by the main award’s outbound, and the main award’s return. (Optionally you can add a second free oneway afterwards. Your search page might look like this.

Chicago to Berlin, returning Dusseldorf to Chicago main award with free oneways added.

And you could book all this easily. The whole award would only be 50k miles and $128 for a peak season trip to Europe plus free oneways from the west coast and to Hawaii.

Let’s take a look at some specific routes with great availability.

Chicago (ORD) to Berlin (TXL)

There is great availability at the peak of the summer from Chicago to Berlin.

Don’t forget the key step of setting the dropdown menu on the left to “Non-stop only” to determine a route’s availability. This flight leaves at 3:25 PM and arrives at 7:00 AM the next day.

New York (JFK) to Dusseldorf

New Yorkers can get to Europe pretty much every day this summer at low-level prices on the New York to Dusseldorf route.

Many of the days have space on both of airberlin’s daily flights on the route.

Los Angeles to Dusseldorf and Berlin

Unsurprisingly, there is less space available on the direct flights from the West Coast. But if you want to fly in July, there are some economy options from LAX to Dusseldorf, Berlin, and beyond.

LAX-DUS

The Dusseldorf flight leaves Los Angeles at 5:55 PM and lands at 1:35 PM the next day.

The Berlin flight has less space.

LAX-TXL

Airberlin’s flight to Berlin leaves a few hours before the flight to Dusseldorf.

Miami to Berlin

There is space five days a week from Miami to Berlin this summer.

The flight continues the theme of an afternoon departure that might be hard to connect to.

Fort Myers (RSW) to Dusseldorf

Don’t forget about airberlin’s routes to smaller airports that are not American Airlines hubs. Space on the thrice-weekly service to Fort Myers is available almost every flight this summer.

The flight would be tough to sleep on without melatonin because of its early departure.

Just because airberlin is the star of the oneworld economy availability to Europe doesn’t mean you should overlook other carriers. But space on other AA partners including American itself, Finnair, and Iberia greatly lag airberlin’s economy space.

Steps two and three

Once you’ve found transatlantic space, the next step is the domestic space. If you live at a gateway, you will want to connect your pre-award free oneway during an off peak time in order to save 10k miles.

The last step is the intra-Europe space. Airberlin has great space out of both Dusseldorf and Berlin to the rest of Europe, so this should not be a problem.

When you’ve found all your space, you can put it all together online via a multi-city search if all the partners you’re using are displayed on aa.com. If you are using partners that are not on aa.com like Iberia, then you will have to call 800-882-8880 and pay the $25 phone fee per passenger.

Recap

Now is the time to book your trip to Europe for 2013. If you want to book that trip in economy class, use your American miles to book on airberlin.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

American Airlines has added the ability to search Finnair and airberlin award space on aa.com! If you follow thepointsguy, View From the Wing, or One Mile at a Time, they all beat me to the story, so I’ll try to add some valuable information if you want to book one of these airlines.

It’s always great news when an airline adds the functionality to its award-booking engine. American Airlines has made big strides this year, so you can now book American, Alaska, Hawaiian, British, Qantas, Finnair, and airberlin online with your AA miles. It’s not as comprehensive as united.com is for the Star Alliance, but aa.com is moving in the right direction.

Let me show you how to search aa.com for Finnair and airberlin space, and I’ll tell you about their patterns of availability. If you want to search segment-by-segment as you often have to on difficult awards, it’s important to know Finnair and airblerin’s flights to the US.

Finnair

New York (JFK) <-> Helsinki (HEL)

airberlin

New York (JFK) <-> Berlin (TXL)

New York (JFK) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Chicago (ORD) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

San Francisco (SFO) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Miami (MIA) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Miami (MIA) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Fort Myers (RSW) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Las Vegas (LAS) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Searching

To search for airberlin and Finnair space, type your desired route into the search box on the top left of aa.com. Be sure to check the box that says Redeem AAdvantage Miles.

That will bring up a week-long search calendar and some more options. To have the calendar update, so that it only shows the direct flight of interest to us, select Non-Stop Only from the dropdown box. Also select Show Full Calendar to see a month-long view.

Following those steps shows the following availability for Chicago to Berlin next summer in economy class!

The flight operates five days a week and has space on every possible flight even during the summer. It looks like an easy way to get across the pond for people who prefer stretching their miles in economy class, but what about surcharges? AA does not charge surcharges on airberlin flights!

$2.50 in taxes and fees for the trip east!

What about business class availability on airberlin? That’s much harder to find, especially during next summer.

That’s only one day out of twenty-nine with space on the Chicago to Berlin route. Other routes are broadly in line. JFK to Berlin and Fort Myers to Dusseldorf each had two days with business class space over the same time frame.

Don’t worry that airberlin isn’t releasing much business class space. You don’t want to fly their product anyway, which is a standard recliner seat. The leg room is ample, over a foot more than domestic first class, but it’s hardly a product up to international standards or worth a 20k premium over coach per direction. Seatguru summary of the product:

Finnair shows a very different pattern of availability on its JFK-HEL flight. Go through the same steps outlined above to isolate the Finnair flight in your aa.com search. Here’s the May/June calendar of economy availability from New York to Helsinki.

This is clearly not a route with a lot of economy award seats, at least not during the summer. Business class space is another story completely though. Look at all the Carolina blue, which represents a day with business class availability!

What about surcharges? Putting together a roundtrip business class itinerary from JFK to Helsinki, the price is 100k AA miles and $37. Not only are there no surcharges, but Finland charges unusually low taxes for Europe. Germany’s taxes are quite a bit higher. (The UK’s are the worst.)

The plane operating between New York and Helsinki is an A330 with a pretty nice looking–and fully flat bed–business class product in an unusual configuration.

Connections

Finnair and airberlin have conveniently aligned their flights with AA hubs and cities with major AA presences, so getting to the Finnair and airberlin flights should be no problem especially since AA has fantastic domestic availability.

Once in Europe, Finnair and airberlin have extensive route networks, and intra-Europe space is almost never a problem.

Free Oneways or Stopovers

All awards using AA miles must comply with the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards. If you live at one of the cities served by one of these flights, you are looking at the possibility of two free oneways, one to your city before the European trip and one from your city after the European trip. See my post about Free Oneways on AA Awards for how to book free oneways to Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the continental US and elsewhere.

Of course, your free oneway choices must have published fares between those cities and your destination in Europe–that’s another of the Five Cardinal Rules. I check for published fares on Expert Flyer. See Free First Class Next Month: Using ExpertFlyer.com.

Recap

Finnair and airberlin are now searchable and bookable at aa.com. That’s great news because aa.com has an easy-to-use calendar search that will let you hone in on individual segments to make your award booking much easier.

For next summer, airberlin has near perfect economy availability with almost no business class availability in a bad product. Finnair is the mirror opposite–bad economy availability, great business availability, great business product.

Search around, and enjoy your new options for booking online. Keep in mind all the generally applicable AA rules, and happy travels!

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