Asiana

1

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the phenomenon called Pokemon GO. It’s creating quite a stir as people run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to bag rare Pokemon. Even if you don’t play video games, it’s probably caught your attention in some way or another as the application has more users than Twitter, and more hours of engagement by users than Facebook. It’s the biggest mobile game the United States has ever seen and it only launched at the beginning of this month.

There are 26 new European markets that just launched Pokemon GO two days ago:

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screenshot from Pokemon GO’s official Facebook page

One of the basic premises of Pokemon GO is to catch Pokemon via augmented reality that uses your device’s camera and GPS (the creatures show up on your phone as though they are in the real world). The game is still very new so it’s hard to see any established patterns yet, but variance of location and geographies will increase your chance of seeing certain types of Pokemon. There appear to even be a few that are specific to certain regions.

Below are some suggestions of how to get to a few these countries where you can keep up your Pokemon GO game. Gotta catch ’em all?

Using Asiana or ANA Miles to Get to Europe in a Premium Cabin Cheaply

Asiana and ANA are Star Alliance members with very cheap redemption charts to Europe. You can book Business or First Class with just 40k or 50k Asiana miles one way (SPG points transfer to Asiana 1:1 and also get 5k bonus Asiana miles for transferring in 20k point increments). Or if you prefer to save those valuable SPG points, another cheap option is to transfer Membership Rewards to ANA Mileage Club. You can book a roundtrip in Business Class for 88k ANA miles. The award has to be booked as a roundtrip, however, as ANA doesn’t allow one way redemptions.

Both Asiana and ANA charge fuel surcharges on awards flights that have fuel surcharges as part of a normal cash ticket, with the exception of United flights. So make sure when looking for award space on united.com to single out a United flight (normally I would say to use the United only filter, but there is a glitch with it currently, so you’ll have to search day by day).  All award space on united.com that that is labeled Saver space is bookable with Asiana and ANA miles.

Even if you don’t live in the American cities mentioned below with good award space, you can add a United flight from your hometown airport to the gateway city (or vice versa) for zero extra Asiana miles as long as it’s in the same or a lower level cabin than the transoceanic flight, and you don’t exceed more than two connections per award. The same applies when redeeming ANA miles, except you can’t have more than two connections on the entire roundtrip since awards can’t be booked as one ways.

Award Space

Chicago to Brussels

All of the days shaded in with green or blue have space for two people in either Business or First Class on United flights between Chicago and Brussels– that’s 25 days in what remains of July and August.Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 8.59.18 PM

The return back to Chicago is just as wide open for two travelers in August and September.

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Washington D.C. to Amsterdam

All of the days shaded in with green or blue have space for at least one person in either Business or First Class on United flights between Washington D.C. and Amsterdam– that’s 22 days in what remains of July and August.

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The return home to Washington D.C. from Amsterdam doesn’t have quite as much space but you still have plenty of options.

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Newark to Geneva

All of the days shaded in with green or blue have space for at least two people in either Business or First Class on United flights between Newark and Geneva– that’s 17 days in what remains of July and August.

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The return to Newark from Geneva has almost any options.

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Buy it With Your Prestige

Use your Citi Prestige® Card to pay the taxes & fees for these awards, as you will earn 3 Thank You points for every dollar spent on air travel.

Bottom Line

If you’re really into Pokemon GO, use Pokemapper to help plan your trip. It’s a crowd-sourced map of Pokeman sightings around the world.

But whether you’re into it or not, these places are great destinations in their own right and the award space is useful for a last minute summer getaway.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Today (May 11, 2016) is the last day to take advantage of the 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards that brings the price of an award between select U.S cities and London down to only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you stack that Virgin Atlantic economy sale with the current deal American Express is offering– a 30% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016–then you can book an award to London for only 10,000 Membership Rewards +$134.60!! Book now, but not as a roundtrip.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Awards Departing Britain

It can cost upwards of $300 in departure taxes to leave Europe on an award from London. That is atrocious and can easily be avoided by returning home from a low tax country instead. You can use British Airways Avios or a low cost carrier to get to the low tax country.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Cheapest Award Space From Low Tax Countries in Europe

I searched to find the cheapest award space from Europe to the United States– in economy and in First Class–that you can pair with your Virgin Atlantic Award to London. Depending on whether you want to keep up the savings or treat yourself to something more luxurious on your way home, here are two of the cheapest options doing either:

Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia – 20,000 Alaska Miles + $54

Spend New Years in Europe and save money on the way home by flying American Airlines economy back to the U.S. from Dublin after the holidays. There are 24 days in January with award space for two people that you can book for only 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $54 in taxes per person.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 6.24.30 PMThe calendar barely changes if you modify the search for up to four people.

If you don’t have Alaska miles, you can also book the same space with Etihad miles for the same price. Both Alaska Mileage Plan and Etihad Guest program maintained the pre-American Airlines devaluation prices between the US and Europe, as well as the prior American Airlines Off Peak dates to Europe. You can fly between the US and Europe for that same price anytime between October 15 and May 15.

If you don’t live in Philadelphia and want to book this with Alaska miles, you can add another leg to get to your hometown without changing the mileage price as long as it’s on American Airlines or Alaska and is economy Saver space. You can also add a leg flying American Airlines to get to your hometown on an Etihad award without changing the mileage price, under the same conditions.

You can search for award space on aa.com or alaskair.com. If using Alaska miles you will need to book on alaskaair.com, and if using Etihad miles you will need to call Etihad Guest at (1 888 8 ETIHAD, available 24/7).

Oslo, Norway to Chicago – 50,000 Asiana Miles + $192.54

Pamper yourself after trotting around Europe with a luxurious Lufthansa First Class flight experience on the way home. You can fly it for 50,000 Asiana miles plus taxes and fuel surcharges that amount to $192.54 between Oslo and Chicago (fuel surcharges are much lower Europe to USA than vice versa on Lufthansa flights.)

Asiana is 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until about 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available. If you’re comfortable booking the return last minute, it’s a great deal for First Class.

For example, here is a Lufthansa Business Class award from Oslo to Chicago in about two weeks:

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$247.60 CAD in taxes/fees = $192.54 USD in taxes/fees

This search result is from aeroplan.com, but the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to Chicago one way award costs 247.60 Canadian Dollars ($192.54) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

If you don’t live in Chicago, you can add a leg on United to your hometown without affecting the mileage price. It can be in any cabin since your transatlantic flight is First Class, just make sure it’s Saver space.

You can search for Lufthansa award space on aeroplan.com, like I did above, or on united.com (probably easier on united.com as you don’t need an account). To book with Asiana miles you will need to call 800-227-4262 (I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards– here is my experience).

How to Get the Miles

For the American Airlines flight from Dublin you’ll need 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles or Etihad miles.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards (personal and business) both offer 25,000 miles just for signing up. The business card requires you to purchase one item to qualify for the bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points. The Citi Prestige® Card earns 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio. See links for cards that earn SPG Starpoints below.

For the Lufthansa First Class flight you’ll need 50,000 Asiana miles.

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana at a 1:1 ratio. The SPG cards from American Express currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of card membership.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic has a sale on economy awards between London and North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia that ends today. You can book awards to London from the U.S. for as little as 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you have Membership Rewards from American Express, you can stack that sale with the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic to make that mileage price drop to 10,000 Membership Rewards. This transfer bonus lasts through May 31, 2016 so if you miss the opportunity today for the Virgin Atlantic economy sale, you can still book an economy award to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards through May 31.

For the return trip, fly back to the U.S. from Dublin in American Airlines economy for only 20k Alaska or Etihad miles, or from Oslo in Lufthansa First Class for only 50k Asiana miles. Departing from either city will avoid the high departure taxes you would incur on an award returning from London.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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23

Forget paying 110,000 United miles one way for Lufthansa First Class. You can book the same flight for 40,000 points + $203 (and there is even a way to avoid the $203.)

Lufthansa First Class flying from Europe to the United States is a fantastic product.

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The onboard First Class product is solid–a step above American carriers and a step below Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

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And the ground experience in Frankfurt is my favorite in the world. First Class passengers have their own terminal.

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In the First Class terminal, you can enjoy the buffet, a la carte dining, a bubble bath with a rubber ducky, or the Cigar Room.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.18.41 PMThen when it’s time for your flight, you are driven to your plane in a Porsche.
Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.12 PM You get amazing and unique, up-close views of the planes.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.22 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.32 PM

Lufthansa First Class is bookable with all Star Alliance miles.

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Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available.

The problem is that with most miles, Lufthansa First Class is a lot of miles or a lot of fuel surcharges.

  • United charges 110,000 miles one way between the United States and Europe. It doesn’t collect fuel surcharges, just taxes plus a $75 for booking within 21 days of departure
  • Aeroplan charges only 70,000 miles (Western Europe) or 80,000 miles (Eastern Europe) one way, but it collects fuel surcharges that can be as high as $500 one way.

The solution is to book Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles from a city in Europe that has low taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana charges only 50,000 miles one way in First Class from Europe to the United States.

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Roundtrip Prices, One Ways Are Allowed for Half Price

Taxes vary by city, country, and airport. Here is a list of low tax cities in Europe. Fuel surcharges vary by market. They are much lower from Europe to the United States than vice versa. You can figure out the fuel surcharges on a route by searching ITA Matrix.

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They are listed on individual tickets as YQ and YR.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.40.51 PMIn preparing this post, though, I didn’t use ITA Matrix. I just searched for awards on aeroplan.com. The taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to JFK one way award that has almost six hours at the First Class Terminal has 266.80 Canadian Dollars ($203) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 4.42.56 PM That’s a lot better than a one way from New York to Oslo, which has $450 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.57.50 PM

Low Out of Pocket Cities

I searched 22 European cities on aeroplan.com to find the out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges on a one way award to New York City that connects in Frankfurt. These are the results. (If you know another low out-of-pocket city, put it in the comments.)

  • Oslo $203
  • Dublin $204
  • Stockholm $220
  • Helsinki $240
  • Copenhagen $251
  • Istanbul $256
  • Prague $257
  • Riga $257
  • Warsaw $263
  • Barcelona $268
  • Madrid $284
  • Amsterdam $300
  • Lisbon $302
  • Brussels $317
  • Ljubljana $321
  • Geneva $328
  • Zurich $341
  • Rome $343
  • Frankfurt (direct) $347
  • Milan $350
  • Vienna $356
  • Munich $364

Booking the Award

  1. Get 50,000 Asiana miles
  2. Find award space from the European city of your choice to the American city of your choice on aeroplan.com or united.com (Saver space only) in Lufthansa First Class. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space you found.
  3. Call Asiana at 800-227-4262 to reserve the flight with reservations. Feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number. You will be given a reservation code.
  4. Ask to be connected to Asiana Club to ticket the award. Give the agent the reservation code.

I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards. Here is my experience.

Getting Asiana Miles

The only reasonable way for Americans to get Asiana miles is to transfer SPG Starpoints. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles.

Plus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get 5,000 extra Asiana miles. That means you’d need only 40,000 Starpoints (=50,000 Asiana miles) to book Europe to USA in Lufthansa First Class.

In the past, transfers from Starpoints to Asiana have taken me two weeks. My most recent transfer took a little less than seven days.

Avoiding Out of Pocket

Instead of paying the $203+ out of pocket, you can pay the taxes and fuel surcharges with a Citi Prestige® Card. Since the charge is coming from an airline (Asiana), it will activate the $250 per calendar year Air Travel Credit. On your next Prestige statement, the entire charge (up to $250) would automatically be offset by a statement credit.

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like 50,000 bonus points, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, and 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels.

 

Bottom Line

While some luxury First Class awards are out of reach, Lufthansa First Class is actually very cheap if you have Starpoints.

Transfer them to Asiana miles and book a one way trip home from a low taxes/fuel surcharges city.

Fuel surcharges are too high to Europe for this idea to interest me. On a trip like this, I’d get to Europe on a one way award using a different type of miles.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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You can book yourself a tour around the Caribbean and South America stopping in three places for only 64,500 miles total with half the trip in a flat bed. By stopping in three places, I am referring to actual destinations, not connections that have to be under 24 hours.

This incredible deal relies on piecing together four sweet spots awards into one big trip. Even if you never take a trip like this, you should know about these sweet spot awards.

For the purposes of this example, this will be the route we examine:

Philadelphia > Aruba > Bogota, Colombia > Rio de Janeiro, Brazil > Philadelphia

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However the price is the same no matter where your home airport is, and no matter where you choose your destination in Southern South America to be.

You can tweak the route to your liking and keep the same prices as long as each destination falls in the right region for the pricing of the award.

What does that mean exactly?

  • Aruba could be replaced by anywhere that is in the region defined by American Airlines as Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America for no extra miles
  • Bogota could be replaced by any nearby city with direct LAN flights from the Caribbean or Mexico, though the miles price will probably go up if you choose a different city since this part of the award is flown with distance-based Avios
  • Rio de Janeiro could be replaced by any destination in South America for no extra miles

United States to Aruba

American Airlines post-devaluation award chart has flights to Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean during the off peak season priced at just 12,500 miles one way in economy.  

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The off peak season for these regions is defined as:

  • April 27 – May 20
  • September 7 – November 14

Taxes: $16

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Where to search for award space: aa.comHere’s how to search aa.com, award space is great to Aruba during off peak season

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How to Book: on aa.com

Aruba to Bogota

It costs 4,500 British Airways Avios to fly from from Aruba to Bogota, Colombia on LAN in economy.

Taxes: $49 (my ba.com is in euros for this reason)

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.18.01 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.18.11 PM

Where to search for award space: ba.comHere’s how to search ba.com. This route has the worst award space in the post, so if you copied this routing, you’d build the trip around award space on this leg. You can pick a place with better award space to Bogota (or wherever you decide to go), but the Avios price will probably be higher. Aruba to Bogota is only 605 miles flown, so it is the cheapest price of 4,500 Avios. Flights 651-1,150 miles flown are 7,500 Avios and something like Cancun to Bogota is 10,000 Avios.

How to Book: on ba.com.

Bogota to Rio de Janeiro

For 12,500 Singapore or American Airlines miles you can fly from Bogota, Colombia to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Avianca/TACA (if using Singapore miles) or LAN (if using American Airlines miles). You could book the same flights in Business Class for 20,000 Singapore miles, or 25,000 American Airlines miles. 

Taxes/Fees: $62 (ignore the miles price in the screenshot, we pay the price on Singapore’s chart, not United’s chart when using Singapore miles)

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.14.19 PM

Where to search for award space: If using Singapore miles, united.com. Here’s how to search united.com. If using American Airlines’ miles, ba.comHere’s how to search ba.com. Award space is very good on Avianca’s direct Bogota to Rio flight, especially in Business Class.

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How to Book: If using Singapore miles, on singaporeair.com. If using American Airlines miles, call American Airlines’ AAdvantage customer service at 1-800-882-8880.

Rio de Janeiro > United States

It costs 35,000 Asiana miles to fly Business Class on Copa Airlines, Avianca, United, or Air Canada from Southern South America to the United States. I booked Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile in Copa Business Class for 35,000 Asiana miles this year.

Taxes/Fees: $57 (ignore mileage prices below, Asiana has lower prices than United for the same flights)

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Where to search for award space: united.com. Here’s how to search united.com. There is great award space between Rio and Philadelphia.

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How to Book: call the Asiana Club at +1-800-227-4262.

What Do Those Awards Add up to?

    United States to Aruba = 12,500 American Airlines miles

    Aruba to Bogota, Colombia = 4,500 British Airways Avios

    Bogota, Colombia to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil = 12,500 Singapore or American Airlines miles

 + Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to United States = 35,000 Asiana miles in Business Class


    64,500 miles and under $184 in taxes

Or, if you wanted to fly the leg between Colombia and Brazil in Business Class, it would cost 72,000 using Singapore or 77,000 American Airlines miles.

Consider it from this angle as well. Heading southbound, you spent only 12,500 + 4,500 + 12,500 = 29,500 miles/Avios, and you visit three places. Normally a one way award to Southern South America would cost 30,000 American Airlines/Delta/United miles, and no stopovers would be allowed.

Why are There No Fuel Surcharges Mentioned in This Post?

Because fuel surcharges are not levied on any airline, on any ticket, w the Americas that I am aware of. Great news for our mega-trip!

How to Get the Miles and Points Needed for this Trip

American Airlines Miles

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

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Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®

Singapore Krisflyer Miles (transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points)

The Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

Asiana Miles (transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints)

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express, personal and business versions, both are offering 25,000 Starpoints each for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively within three months of the accounts opening.

British Airways Avios 

British Airways Visa Signature card by Chase is offering 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000 within three months of the account opening.

While I can not directly link to the current offer from British Airways Visa Signature card by Chase, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

If you have some (emphasis on some, not many are needed!) American Airlines, Singapore, and Asiana miles as well as a few British Airways Avios, you can piece together an amazing multi-award trip that spans all over the Caribbean and South America with three different destinations. It would be a great way to use up smaller amounts miles hanging around in your frequent flyer accounts, leftover after larger redemptions.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Starpoints can transfer to 30 different types of airline miles by logging into your account and going to this page.

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For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, Starwood adds 5,000 bonus points. That means for 1:1 transfer partners, 20k SPG points in your account equals 25,000 miles.

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The best transfer partner for your Starpoints depends on your trip goal. There are scenarios under which at least a dozen of the partners would be your best option. However, I think there are four that are generally the best option for a large number of awards.

  1. Asiana Miles
  2. Aeroplan Miles during a frequent transfer bonus
  3. Alaska Miles
  4. American Airlines miles today

1. Asiana Miles

In my Top 11 Most Valuable Miles post, I have Asiana miles worth 2 cents each.

High Value Awards: USA to Southern South America in Business Class for 35k Miles and no fuel surcharges, USA to Europe in Lufthansa First for 50k Miles Plus Fuel Surcharges

To some regions, Asiana’s award chart is so under-priced that some awards are a good deal even after fuel surcharges. Plus, I love flying to South America, and no Star Alliance flights to South America have fuel surcharges, meaning I get the insanely good award chart without having to pay much cash out of pocket.

There is an Asiana credit card, but it only earns a 10,000 mile sign up bonus, 3x on Asiana purchases, and 2x on gas and groceries, so the only way to get Asiana miles in bulk is through Starpoints transfers.

2. Aeroplan Miles During a Transfer Bonus

I value Aeroplan miles only at 1.4 cents each because its chart is fair, but not cheap, and it collects fuel surcharges on many partners, but not nearly all.

High Value Awards: USA to Western Europe in Business Class or Southern South America for 55k miles and no fuel surcharges, USA to Asia in Business Class for 75k or 77.5k miles and no fuel surcharges

As you can see, those are not nearly as cheap as the listed Asiana awards, but Aeroplan has frequent transfer bonuses during which it offers extra miles for transferring in SPG points. There is one running through April 18, 2016.

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During the current transfer bonus, 160,000 Starpoints = 255,000 Aeroplan miles, which is enough to offset the not-quite-cheap chart as long as you only fly partners with no fuel surcharges on Aeroplan awards:

  • United
  • Singapore
  • South African
  • Egyptair
  • Air China
  • Ethiopian
  • Avianca
  • TACA
  • Copa
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • Brussels
  • Scandinavian

Aeroplan is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.

3. Alaska Airlines Miles

I value Alaska miles at 1.75 cents each for the cheap award charts and variety of partners from oneworld, SkyTeam, and un-allied airlines.

High Value AwardsEmirates First Class on an A380 costs 100,000 miles one way for two flights from USA to Africa, Asia, or Europe; USA to Fiji to New Zealand or Australia for only 55,000 miles one way in Business Class with a free stopover in FijiUSA to Southern South America in AeroMexico Business Class for 45,000 miles (temporarily unbookable); Cathay Pacific First Class to Asia plus Business Class to South Africa for 70,000 miles total with free stopover

Beyond SPG transfers, there are churnable Alaska Airlines credit cards to pick up the miles.

 

4. American Airlines Miles Today

If you transfer to American Airlines miles today, and they post by Monday, you’ll have miles I value at 1.8 cents each. if they arrive Tuesday, you missed the devAAluation, and they’ll be worth 1.5 cents each to me. Transfers take 2-3 days to get to AA usually.

High Value Awards: Cathay Pacific First Class to SE Asia for 67,500 miles one way; Etihad First Class to Middle East/Indian Subcontinent for 90,000 miles one way; off peak to Europe or Southern South America in economy for 20,000 miles one way; many, many more

Beyond SPG transfers, there are several American Airlines credit cards that earn miles.

Do you have a different favorite transfer partner for SPG points? Share it in the comments.

Don’t forget the SPG personal and business credit cards are currently offering their biggest sign up bonuses ever–35,000 points each.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

Updated 1/29/16 to reflect new Aeroplan award prices effective for awards booked 12/15/15 or later.
Updated 10/6/15 to reflect new ANA award prices effective for awards booked 10/15/15 or later.

In the last few weeks, I have published some comparative charts of Star Alliance award charts. I’m putting all of those charts into this post for easier reference.

You can use any type of Star Alliance miles to book almost any Star Alliance flight. (Swiss, Lufthansa, and Singapore hold back some premium cabin award space for their own members. United gives extra award space to elites and United cardholders.) The 27-member alliance has more than a dozen frequent flyer programs, many of which offer good or great deals on some routes.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

I’ve taken the time to make a comprehensive spread sheet of eight programs’ award prices from North America:

  • United (on United flights and on partner flights)
  • Copa
  • Asiana
  • Singapore (on Star Alliance partner flights)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • ANA

These programs were chosen because they all have at least some awards that are really cheap. And other than Copa and LifeMiles, Americans can easily get all these miles through transferable points programs:

  • United: Ultimate Rewards
  • Copa: no easy way to get the miles yet, but the program is brand new
  • Asiana: SPG
  • Singapore: ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG
  • LifeMiles: buy miles for 1.5 cents each
  • Aeroplan: Membership Rewards, SPG
  • Lufthansa: SPG
  • ANA: Membership Rewards, SPG

There are other Star Alliance programs into which Americans can transfer miles–Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to EVA and Thai miles–but their charts don’t offer any value compared to the eight I’ve selected.

Of course, the charts below only captures one part of an award: its mileage price. The routing rules and fuel surcharges matter too. Here are a few big things that applies to all charts:

  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles never collect fuel surcharges. All the others collect fuel surcharges on most awards.
  • All programs allow one way redemptions for the prices listed on the charts except ANA. It only allows roundtrip redemptions for double the price on the chart. I used its fictitious “one way price” that you can’t actually book just to more easily compare to the programs that do allow one way bookings.

For specific information on fuel surcharges to each region and other important routing rules, click on the individual posts where I really analyzed awards to each region.

Searching and Booking the Awards

A truism of miles is that–with few exceptions–award space is equally available to all partners. One corollary is that you can search any award search engine that displays an airline’s award space, and if space is there, you can book it with any partner.

All Star Alliance partner award space is searchable on aeroplan.com. Here’s how to search for award space on aeroplan.com. All the award space you find there is bookable with all the miles discussed in this post. Ignore the price quoted on aeroplan.com. You will pay the price on the award chart of the miles you’re using.

To book, call the airline whose miles you’re using (or go to their website to book online if you can.) Feed the agent the award space you found on aeroplan.com.

The Charts

Below the award charts show the one way price in thousands of miles from the United States mainland to the region listed for the eight types of miles listed. For information on slashes, click the links above to get more information.

Within Mainland United States and Canada

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.42.55 PM

Alaska

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.14 PM

Hawaii
Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.25 PM

Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.00 AM

Northern South America

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.12 AM

Southern South America

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.30.52 AM

EuropeScreen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.31.05 AM

Middle East

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.28.47 AM

Africa

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.29.08 AM

North Asia

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 7.41.47 AM

Southeast AsiaScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.44 AM

Indian SubcontinentScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.58 AM

Australia and New Zealand

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.06 AM

Oceania

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.16 AM

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I just booked myself an award from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile in Business Class for 35,000 Asiana miles + $24. United would have charged 55,000 miles for the same flights!

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.47.54 AM

Why Asiana Miles

Asiana has really cheap awards to Europe and South America and really expensive awards elsewhere. Asiana does collect fuel surcharges on awards when similar cash tickets have them, which is why Asiana awards to South America are so awesome: none of Asiana’s partners to South America have fuel surcharges on their flights within the Americas.

I already had exactly 35,000 Asiana miles in my account from previous Starpoint transfers. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles with the standard 5,000 bonus miles from transferring 20,000 Starpoints. That means 35,000 Asiana miles equals 30,000 Starpoints.

Searching

I plan to spend February through May in South America, mostly in Buenos Aires, but I can only spend 90 days there on a single visit, so I was looking to fill a few weeks with other stops first. I considered grand adventures in Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil, but eventually settled on a first trip to Santiago, Chile.

I decided to book a two week trip there, though I may leave the capital for a few days or a week in the middle.

I have very little flexibility for the Los Angeles to Santiago trip; I need to leave on one of two days. I searched on united.com for award space between Los Angeles and Santiago because any Copa, Avianca, or TACA space on united.com and any United Saver space on united.com can be booked with Asiana miles. I found pretty good space.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.48 AM

On the search results, I clicked the Business Saver award column, so itineraries with Business Class award space would show up at the top.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.12.13 AM

On the days I need to travel, the only Business Class award space is on one stop itineraries on Copa through Santiago. (Humorously, the itineraries don’t have Saver economy space, so a Business Class award is cheaper than an economy award with United miles.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.42 AMThe flight times and route are great, but Copa Business Class stinks. It is just a regular recline seat like you’d find in domestic First Class.

Booking and Seat Selection

Still I decided to book the Copa space since I don’t have date flexibility.

Booking the award is straightforward though not as streamlined as it should be. Always call the airline whose miles you’re using, so I called Asiana at 800-227-4262.

Here’s where it gets weird:

  1. First you need to reserve the ticket with reservations.
  2. Then you need to pay for the ticket with Asiana Club.

I followed automated prompts to reservations. I gave the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment that I had found on united.com.

The agent put the award together and gave me a confirmation number, which was the last eight digits of my phone number, then transferred me to Asiana Club. I gave them the confirmation number and my credit card. They ticketed the award for 35,000 Asiana miles + $24 in taxes. (There is no phone fee, there are no fuel surcharges, and there is no charge for booking at the last minute.) I got an email receipt a few hours later.

To confirm that everything ticketed correctly, I tried to select seats from Copa. I didn’t have the Copa confirmation number to select seats on copaair.com, so I called Copa and read the ticket number from my Asiana receipt to get my Copa reservation number. Then I went back to copaair.com and could pull up my reservation.

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.43.30 PM Oddly, the flights are listed as “Economy Class (I)” even though I is the booking code for Business Class award space. I was able to select Seat 1A on each flight, further easing my worries that Copa will put me in economy.

I am not going to investigate “Economy Class” farther. I expect I will be flying Business Class, and if not, I will probably get a nice refund from Asiana.

Future Changes

As mentioned, Copa Business Class stinks. I would much rather fly from Los Angeles to Houston to Santiago with the last leg in United flat bed Business Class on the 787-9 Dreamliner.
Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.14.58 AM

United is very stingy with this award space but opens some in the last few weeks before departure. As of yesterday, there was award space on the flight on January 18, 19, 22, 26, 27, and 28. That makes me hopeful that the days I want to fly will soon have flat bed Business Class award space. If that happens, I expect to be able to change the award for free based on my previous experience changing an Asiana award.

Bottom Line

I paid 35,000 Asiana miles for Business Class award space to Chile. To put in context how cheap that is, let me compare it to United’s award prices to Chile, which I consider eminently reasonable:

  • 30,000 United miles each way in economy
  • 55,000 United miles each way in Business Class

I will spend two awesome weeks in Chile and then fly my British Airways Avios award to Buenos Aires.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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7

Award space is wide open in Turkish Airlines Business Class between the United States and Europe for four people per flight over the heart of the Summer.

This is amazing news because normally award space over the summer is the toughest to find, finding four seats on the same flight in Business Class is almost unheard of, Turkish flies to more countries than any other airline, and you can book the space for as cheap as 40,000 miles one way with no fuel surcharges.

Turkish Routes

These are Turkish’s routes to the United States.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 8.33.44 PMFrom Istanbul, there are great connections within Europe, to Africa, to the Middle East, and to the Indian Subcontinent.

Award Space

Unfortunately, United made united.com worse, so I can’t isolate the direct award space.

All these calendars show award space for four people. Green and blue days have four Business Class seats, not necessarily on the direct Turkish flight (but probably.)

Boston to Istanbul

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.34.26 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.34.43 PMLos Angeles to IstanbulScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.51.51 PM Istanbul to New YorkScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.56.07 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.56.11 PM

Check the route that most interests you for award space. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Product

Here is the “catch.” Turkish’s Business Class is 2-3-2 across each row. That’s a terrible configuration. You could get a middle seat in Business Class (although you almost certainly won’t if you select a seat soon after booking.) Seat Guru describes the seats as having 177 degrees of recline, which is basically flat.

Here is a recent video of Turkish Business Class.

Other than the seats, Turkish Business Class looks top notch, including having an onboard chef.

Searching, Connections, Booking

Search Turkish award space on united.com. Any Turkish award space you find there, you can book with any Star Alliance miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

If you don’t live in a city served by Turkish, that’s no problem. You can hook up any United Saver award space in economy or first class to get to a Turkish gateway for no extra miles. If you want to connect to somewhere else in Europe or to Africa or Asia, you can definitely do that too, though other continents will cost extra miles.

Book online on the website of the airline whose miles you want to use, or if that’s not possible, by calling the airline whose miles you want to use. I’d recommend booking with:

Bottom Line

No excuses for not taking your whole family to Europe this summer in Turkish Business Class.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

0

To anyone who will listen, I say that you should not expect to use your miles at peak times on high demand routes. Airlines use miles to get rid of distressed inventory–seats they don’t expect to sell. If you want to go where you want, when you want with “miles,” use credit card points like Arrival or Capital One Miles, which both let you book any flight with no blackouts.

But I’ve been surprised a few times that award space is pretty open for what I consider to be peak times, like when I booked an award to go to the World Cup in Brazil last year.

Rio has two big events next year: its annual Carnaval that will take place from February 5-10, 2016 and the Olympics from August 5-21, 2016.

Award space is available to both at the moment. Some of the award space is on Copa, which you would want to book with Asiana miles for 25,000 miles one way in economy or 35,000 miles in Business Class with no fuel surcharges. That’s a lot better than the 30,000 and 55,000 United miles for the same flights.

Some of the award space is on Azul, a Brazilian low-cost carrier with flights to the United States that is a non-alliance partner of United. That space, you’d have to book with United miles.

You can search Copa and Azul space on united.com. Any Azul space, you’d book right there with United miles. Any Copa or United Saver award space, you’d book with Asiana miles or whatever other Star Alliance miles you want to use by calling the airline whose miles you’re using.

The Award Space

I just searched for one passenger from New York to Rio in February and August. That’s not necessarily your home airport, but the results are representative because the United, Copa, or Azul international flights should be the ones in demand, not the United domestic flights to hook up with the international flights.

New York to Rio for Carnaval

In the week before Carnaval, Copa is releasing a lot of Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.40.14 AM

In the week after Carnaval, award space is wide open in economy and Business.Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.40.36 AM

This roundtrip with the outbound in Business and return in economy is 85,000 miles + $67. Since the return is on United planes, you could probably even get it in Business Class at the Saver price with Plan B.Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.41.56 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.42.00 AM

New York to Rio for Olympics

If you need to make the August 5th Opening Ceremony, your best option is in economy a few days before. If you just want to see some of the games, there is plenty of Business and economy award space between August 5th and August 21st.
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.42.38 AM

During and after the Olympics, there is great economy and Business Class award space.
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.43.22 AM

Here’s a roundtrip flying Azul economy there and Copa Business back for 85,000 United miles + $71.Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.44.13 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.44.19 AM

 

Bottom Line

I am surprised to see plenty of award space to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the biggest two events for tourists: Carnaval and the Olympics.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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7

A few weeks ago, I used 27,500 Asiana miles (transferred from 22,500 Starpoints) to book myself a Business Class award from Honolulu to Bogota, Colombia. Now I’ll tell you how to change an Asiana Club award.

I chose to use Asiana miles because it has a number of ridiculously cheap sweet spots including from Hawaii to South America. United would have charged me 45,000 miles for the exact same flights.

At the time I booked, there was only economy award space on one of the two segments that made up my award.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 7.21.03 PM

I booked anyway and tried to set up an automatic email alert to let me know if premium cabin award space opened up on that flight. Award space did open up on that flight, so it was time to change my award.

Changing the Asiana Award

I had the United award space up in front of me, and I called Asiana at 800-227-4262.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.37.33 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.37.47 PM

The change process is identical to the annoying two-step process used to book a ticket. First you have to talk to Reservations, then Asiana Club.

I told Reservations that I had booked my Business Class award a few weeks ago, and that award space had since opened up in Business Class on the first flight, so I wanted to change it from economy to Business Class. (Note that United calls its premium cabin on two cabin planes “First Class,” but partner phone agents call it “Business Class” because United uses the Business Class award space code “I” for that space, reserving the First Class code “O” for international three-cabin First Class award space.)

The agent said he made that change and then connected me to Asiana Club.

The Asiana Club agent said he would ticket the award and send me an email with the changes.

While I was on the phone, I was logged into my united.com account, refreshing my award to see if changes had been made. While I was on the phone, the “Fare Class” on the first flight changed to “United First (I).”

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.23.31 PM I never did get a change email, but I can see the changes in my United account, and I was able to select a First Class seat for the first segment, so I know that the change was made.Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.23.38 PM

I was not charged a change fee. As far as I can tell, Asiana has no award change fee. Award cancellations cost $30.

Bottom Line

Other than having to talk to both Reservations and Asiana Club, changing my Asiana award when United First Class opened up was easy and free. Now the award is perfect and complete, and I can’t wait to fly it next month as part of my End of 2015 Travel.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

20

Last week I used 27,500 Asiana miles + $38.30 to book myself a Business Class award from Honolulu to Bogota that I’ll fly next month.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.26.02 PM

This is a steal of a deal because United would have charged 45,000 miles for the same ticket.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 7.20.42 PM

While I am ticketed, one of my two legs is in economy, so I have set an automatic alert to let me know if Business Class space opens on the leg on which I’m currently ticketed in economy.

  • Why use Asiana miles?
  • How to get Asiana miles and transfer time
  • Route planning
  • Award Search
  • Award Booking
  • Setting alerts to improve cabin

Why Asiana Miles?

Asiana has a super cheap award chart that I’ve mentioned before for awards to Europe like 50,000 miles one way in Lufthansa First Class. Here is the roundtrip award chart for awards originating in Hawaii; one way awards are half price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.09.57 PM

In general Asiana’s awards to South America are very cheap. Asiana only charges 27,500 miles one way in Business Class to Northern South America and 35,000 miles to Southern South America. United charges 35,000 and 55,000 miles respectively.

Plus United charges extra miles if you start in Hawaii instead of the continental United States. In this case, Asiana doesn’t.

Asiana collects fuel surcharges on awards except on United, Copa, Avianca, and TACA flights, making Asiana miles ideal for awards to Latin America.

How to Get Asiana Miles

The only reasonable way for Americans to get Asiana miles is to transfer SPG Starpoints. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles.

Plus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get 5,000 extra Asiana miles. That means I’d need only 22,500 Starpoints (=27,500 Asiana miles) to book Honolulu to Bogota in Business Class.

In the past, transfers from Starpoints to Asiana have taken me two weeks. My most recent transfer, initiated last week, took a few hours less than seven days.

For this award though, I already had Asiana miles sitting around from a transfer I made in May, in anticipation of possibly booking an award from the United States to Europe with Asiana miles that I never booked.

Route Planning

I prefer to fly as few segments as possible because it means less chance to mis-connect, less time spent on layovers, and longer individual segments, which is what you want when you fly in the comfort of Business Class.

There are several ways to get from Honolulu to Bogota with one stop. On American, you can stop in Dallas. On United, you can stop in Houston. With a combination of United and Avianca, you can stop in several places including Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.26.02 PM

The Los Angeles option was the best because of the short layover time. The layovers in Texas would have been all day layovers–no thanks!

To figure out possible routes, start on the Wikipedia pages of your starting and ending airports and look for common connection cities.

Award Search

I could have just plugged Honolulu to Bogota into united.com, but I would get a lot of long, terrible itineraries. I wanted to isolate itineraries with award space from Los Angeles to Bogota, so I started by just searching that segment. There is very little award space on that route, but there is some if you’re flexible like I am.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.09.37 PM

Since this flight leaves in the morning, I next searched for Honolulu to Los Angeles flights for the night before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.11.05 PM

Award space is very good on United’s many Honolulu to Los Angeles flights, but there is a lot more economy award space than First Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.10.40 PM

When flying international Business Class, you are entitled to hook it up to domestic First Class for no extra miles, but there just wasn’t space on the day I wanted to fly.

I decided to book the mixed cabin itinerary anyway.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 7.21.03 PM

I figure that a good itinerary with one stop, a short layover, and 7 of the 13 flying hours in Business Class for only 27,500 Asiana miles is better than not booking the award or booking the award in economy 17,500 miles one way.

I noted the date, flight, and cabin of each segment and moved on to booking.

Booking the Award

Booking the award is straightforward though not as streamlined as it should be. Always call the airline whose miles you’re using, so I called Asiana at 800-227-4262.

Here’s where it gets weird:

  1. First you need to reserve the ticket with reservations.
  2. Then you need to pay for the ticket with Asiana Club.

So I followed automated prompts to reservations. I gave the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment. (Remember to call domestic First Class “Business Class” though in this case I was flying domestic economy.)

The agent put the award together and gave me a confirmation number, then transferred me to Asiana Club. I gave them the confirmation number and my credit card. They ticketed the award for 27,500 Asiana miles + $38 in taxes. (There is no phone fee, and there are no fuel surcharges on either of my flights.) I got an email receipt a few hours later.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.23.34 PM

The miles came out of my account immediately.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 7.22.21 PM

Setting an Alert to Move Up to First Class

If United opens up award space in First Class on either of its Honolulu to Los Angeles redeye flights, I want to make a change and get that space. Asiana charges $30 or 3,000 miles to make a change. I would pay the $30, which is a steal to “upgrade” almost six hours from economy to domestic First Class.

I could frequently check united.com to see if space opens up in First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles, but there is an easier way. Set up an alert on Award Nexus.

Will space open up for me?

[Award space did open up for me, and I am now booked in United First Class on the first segment.]

No one knows for sure, but I think it will. I’d give my chances of flying First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles at 80%.

As I said in “Will You Find Last Minute Space? Here’s How To Estimate Your Chances,” the best way to estimate is to look at space on the route for the next few weeks.

Space is really good in United First Class from Honolulu to Los Angeles for the next four weeks with 25/28 days having First Class space. That tells me that in a few weeks, space on the flight I want might open up!

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 3.02.19 PM

It is instructive to click a day to see which flight has First Class award space because I need one of the two redeyes. Those are not particularly popular flights, so they have good award space.
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 3.02.27 PM

Bottom Line

I booked Bogota to Honolulu for 27,500 Asiana miles, transferred from 22,500 Starpoints, plus $38. United wants 45,000 miles for the same flights.

I couldn’t find both segments in a premium cabin, so I booked economy on the first leg and Business Class on the second. I then set an alert, so if the premium cabin opens on the first leg I’ll know, and I can make the change for $30. I do expect that award space to open up for me, but there is no guarantee, and I am happy with my award as is.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

United is offering tons of Business Class award space for the next 11 months on its flights to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.39.01 AM

Both routes will soon be flown by United’s brand new 787-9 Dreamliners with flat beds in Business Class. You can book either route for as little as 35,000 miles one way.

United 787-9 Dreamliner

The United 787-9 Dreamliner has 48 beds in Business class in a 2-2-2 configuration. I would choose a middle seat, since both have direct aisle access. If you choose a seat on either side of the plane, you’ll either need to climb over your seatmate or be climbed over during the flight.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.14.20 PM

Each seat converts to a fully flat bed with 6’6″ of sleeping space.

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Miles Price

Between the United States and Argentina, United charges 30,000 miles each way in economy and 55,000 miles in Business Class.

But you don’t have to book the United award space with United miles. You can book the space with miles from any Star Alliance partner. If you want to book with another partner, search united.com without signing in. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of any Star Alliance flights with a blue button in its Saver award space column; then call the airline whose miles you’re using to book the award.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.13.14 AM

Here are the prices charged by some other Star Alliance partners (economy/Business one way) with their transfer partners in parentheses:

UR = Ultimate Rewards, MR = Membership Rewards, TY = ThankYou Points, SPG = Starpoints

  • Asiana (SPG) : 25k/35k
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (MR, SPG): 30k/47.5k
  • Singapore (UR, MR, TY, SPG): 30k/50k
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (SPG): 30k/52k
  • United (UR): 30k/55k
  • Avianca LifeMiles (none, must buy): 30k/60k

United flights to South America do not have fuel surcharges, so no matter what miles you use you’ll just pay taxes of $53 roundtrip to Chile and $60 roundtrip to Brazil.

Award Space Picture

All the calendars below are for direct flights to and from Houston for two people. It is zero extra miles to start your award anywhere else in the continental United States, Alaska, or Canada and connect to Houston as long as you find Saver award space on united.com for those connecting flights.

Yellow dates have Saver award space for two passengers in economy. Blue dates have Saver award space for two passengers in Business Class. Green dates have Saver award space for two passengers in both cabins.

Houston to Rio de Janeiro

The 787-9 Dreamliner starts flying on August 18, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.19.28 AMBusiness Class award space is available over the whole schedule except Christmas, New Year, and Carnaval (February 5-9, 2016). Award space is particularly good in March and April , 2016.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.19.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.08 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.27 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.49 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.21.05 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.21.23 AM

Rio de Janeiro to Houston

The northbound flight is a slightly longer redeye.

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Return dates show similarly excellent award space in Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.27.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.19 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.46 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.29.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.29.13 AM

Houston to Santiago

The 787-9 Dreamliner takes over this route on January 5, 2016. Just like Rio de Janeiro, both directions are redeyes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.21 AM

Award space is fairly available in January, February, and March 2016, summer down there. April through June have plenty of economy award space.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.09 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.45 AM

Return space is more widely available in Business Class.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.31.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.31.45 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.32.01 AM

More People

All the calendars above were for two people. I did one search for eight people from Houston to Rio in April and May 2016. Many of the dates have award space for eight people in flat beds!

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Other Houston Dreamliner Routes

United is also placing its 787-9 Dreamliner on several other routes from Houston over the coming year: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires. None have very good award space in Business Class with Buenos Aires space particularly abysmal.

Bottom Line

There is excellent award space for two people in economy and Business Class from Houston (or elsewhere in the United States) to Rio de Janeiro and Santiago. United puts its 787-9 Dreamliner on the Rio route in a few weeks and on the Santiago route in January.

Just because the space is on United planes doesn’t mean you should use United miles to book. You can use any Star Alliance miles.

  • Asiana charges only 35,000 miles one way in Business Class, compared to United’s 55,000 mile price. You can transfer SPG points to Asiana miles in about two weeks.
  • Promiscuous transfer partner Singapore Airlines, a transfer partner of Chase, AMEX, Citi, and SPG, offers the routes for 50,000 miles one way in Business Class.

The best cards to get Singapore miles?

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also earns 3x points on travel and gas and 2x points on dining and entertainment. The Citi Prestige® Card also offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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25

Updated June 3: The Asiana miles showed up today, meaning the transfer took 14 days. My last transfer in September 2014 took 17 days. In the interim, I’ve decided not to book Lufthansa First Class from Europe to the United States in June, but the Asiana award chart is so good that I don’t mind have 60,000 points on hand. That’s almost enough for Business Class one way USA to Argentina (35k) + First Class USA to Hawaii (27.5k).

You can book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 Asiana Club miles–40,000 Starpoints–one way. This is Asiana’s award chart from the mainland United States for roundtrip awards. One ways are half price:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.39.26 PM

There are a lot of STEALS on the chart. This post will focus on Europe for 40,000 miles one way in Business Class and 50,000 miles one way in First Class. How good of a deal is this?

  • United charges 57,500 to 70,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way for its First Class and 110,000 for Lufthansa First Class.

Even with the mild fuel surcharges on Asiana awards of Lufthansa flights, these are great deals. And if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, book United flights with Asiana miles.

Test #1: Lufthansa First Class

I wanted to call Asiana and price out awards to see whether I could get agents to follow the award chart and to see what the taxes and fuel surcharges would be.

I’m considering flying Tallinn, Estonia to Washington, DC next month, so I took a look at that routing though there’s nothing special about it.

Lufthansa First Class would be awesome to get into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal again, and to enjoy the luxury onboard.

First I found this award space on two Lufthansa flights.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.28.59 PM

In case you’re not adept at reading united.com (which is where I searched because Asiana should have access to all Star Alliance space found on united.com):

  • There is award space in Business Class from Tallinn to Frankfurt
  • There is award space in Business and First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC

I noted the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space. I called Asiana and these are the prices I got:

  • For Business Class on both flights (what United is charging 70,000 miles for), Asiana charges 40,000 miles + $311.44.
  • For Business Class on the short hop and First Class on the long one (what United is charging 110,000 miles for), Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $311.44.
  • Drop the short hop altogether. For just Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC, Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $348.34.

A few notes:

  1. I can’t quite figure out how they got that amount of dollars though each agent was consistent.
  2. One agent priced Business + First at 75,000 miles, but two priced it at the 50,000 price quoted above.
  3. Taxes and fuel surcharges vary by country and route, so fewer flights actually can actually result in higher charges.

1. The Dollar Amount

I would expect Lufthansa to collect the taxes and fuel surcharges of an equivalent paid ticket. Here’s the equivalent paid ticket to Tallinn to Frankfurt to Washington DC in Business and First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.38.03 PM

That’s 223.37 euros ($248) of taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana wanted $311. I don’t know why.

2. Differing Miles Prices

I called Asiana a few times, and I got different miles prices. Two out of three agents priced the short hop in Business plus longhaul in First Class at 50,000 miles total. One said 75,000 total. When pressed she explained that it was because I had the shorthaul Business Class segment, which was another 25,000 miles on the Asiana chart. Her computer was adding inta-Europe Business (25k) to Europe-to-USA First (50k.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.53 PM

I believe she was wrong and that Asiana agents should price your Lufthansa First Class award, even if there is an intra-Europe segment, at 50,000 total miles.

The agent who said 75,000 miles said the computer had priced it like that. That might be because I had first priced Business/Business with her and then switched to Business/First and for that reason the computer saw my trip as two awards.

Bottom line: please report if a connecting segment in Europe drives up your miles price in the comments, but I don’t believe it will happen.

3. Taxes and Fuel Surcharges Vary

The dollar price went up by dropping the Tallinn to Frankfurt segment. That’s just because airlines price fuel surcharges by origin/destination city pair and taxes and vary by country.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.46.48 PM

Play around with your country of origin if the taxes and fees are very important to you.

Test #2: United Premium Cabins

Asiana doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United award flights. I tested that out by pricing out this itinerary on the same route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.29.10 PM

I tested out:

  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United Business Class FRA-IAD (57.5k United miles above)
  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United First Class FRA-IAD (80k United miles above)

The agents all priced them at:

  • 40,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the all Business Class award
  • 50,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the mostly First Class award

The short Lufthansa flight had slight fuel surcharges plus the rest is taxes. Overall, these are steals.

Searching

Asiana is a member of Star Alliance. You can book any of these partners with Asiana miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

Almost all of these are searchable on united.com very quickly, so that’s where to search. Here’s how. When you find award space in the Saver column, note the date, cabin, and flight number.

You will pay a different number of miles and dollars than the amount shown on united.com.

Booking

Booking, or pricing out awards is a bit of a hassle. You have to call Asiana at 800-227-4262 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM Pacific Time Monday through Friday.

First you need to talk to reservations and have them piece together and price the award. Then you are transferred to Asiana Club to pay.

When the phone connects, hit 2-5-# to get to reservations. You need an Asiana Club account. If you have zero miles, just tell the agent you want to know the price in miles and taxes and fees before transferring points to Asiana Club. There is occasionally a language barrier, but you can usually get done what you need to.

Asiana can only ticket departures that are more than 72 hours in the future.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fees.

Getting Asiana Miles

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles with the customary 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. At that rate:

  • 35,000 Starpoints transfer to 40,000 Asiana miles
  • 40,000 Starpoints transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles

Unfortunately, in my experience, SPG points take 14-17 days to show up in my Asiana account.

The bonus on the SPG card is 25,000 Starpoints, and the minimum spending requirement just dropped to $3,000 in three months.

Bottom Line

It’s a bit of a hassle to book Asiana Club tickets and tough to get the miles, but you can’t argue with 40,000 miles + $131 for United flat bed Business Class to Europe or 50,000 miles + $311 for Lufthansa First Class.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Ethiopian Airlines will begin flying Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa on June 18, 2015 with a 787 Dreamliner. Ethiopian will have fifth freedom rights, meaning you will be able to fly any single segment of the flight, including Los Angeles to Dublin.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 9.37.36 AM
Source: gcmap.com

Normally direct award space from the West Coast to Europe is tough to find. (Solution: route via Canada.) This is such an exciting addition to the Star Alliance’s transatlantic routes because the route has great award space for two passengers in economy and Business Class.

The flight will be bookable with United miles and any other Star Alliance airline’s miles. Crucially, with United miles, you can connect Los Angeles to Dublin with the rest of Europe by using United’s non-alliance partner Aer Lingus.

Right now, if you search united.com, Los Angeles to Dublin is showing 2+ economy seats and 2+ Business Class seats in both directions from next month until late March 2016. Unfortunately a lot of that award space is phantom award space.

  • How do I know the space is phantom? Where can you see real award space?
  • How much does the award cost?
  • How is Ethiopian Business Class?
  • Connection possibilities?
  • How can you book award space?
  • A full example of a roundtrip award with a (nearly) Free One Way

Phantom Award Space and Real Award Space

If you search united.com for two passengers from Los Angeles to Dublin on days on which the Ethiopian Airlines flight operates, you’ll see a lot of this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.04.58 PM
Apparently there is award space for 2+ people in each cabin on this flight

Nearly every flight has award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.02.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.02.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.04.25 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.04.44 PM

Unfortunately if you try to book the space, you may see this error:

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 1.44.22 PM

And other Star Alliance search engines like Aeroplan and Avianca don’t match up with the space on united.com. Other sites are right, and united.com is wrong, showing “phantom” award space.

I called United to try to book the space shown online on June 27 from Los Angeles to Dublin; it doesn’t exist. I asked about July 25, which online shows two economy and two Business Class seats. The agent only saw two Business Class and zero economy seats.

The upshot is that united.com is unreliable about this Ethiopian Airlines award space. There is award space on the route, and I suggest searching it on aeroplan.com, which matched award space seen by United’s agent.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 1.59.02 PM

Unfortunately sites like aeorplan.com don’t let me show 10 months of award space in five images, so I can’t as easily show you the award space. Just go search the dates you want.

Award Price

You can book the Ethiopian award space you find on aeroplan.com with any Star Alliance miles. The one way prices (economy/Business):

  • United: 30k/70k
  • Aeroplan: 30k/45k
  • Asiana: 25k/40k
  • Lufthansa: 25k/52k
  • Singapore: 27.5k/65k
  • LifeMiles: 30k/63k

United and LifeMiles never charge fuel surcharges. Aeroplan doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on this route. I didn’t test Asiana, Lufthansa, or Singapore, but I would expect them to collect fuel surcharges on this award. That’s about $124 one way in Business Class from Los Angeles to Dublin.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.00.08 PM

Ethiopian Business Class

Ethiopian’s Dreamliner has economy and Business Class. Business Class is in a 2-2-2 configuration. Choose a middle seat, so you and your seatmate both have aisle access.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.17.29 PM

Business Class is angled lie flat. Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.17.52 PM

Here is a full trip report from One Mile at a Time.

Connection Possibilities

United charges 30k/70k miles each way in economy/business between the United States and Europe on partner flights. You can connect to non-Star-Alliance-partner Aer Lingus flights in Ireland to the rest of Europe for zero extra miles on a United award. Aer Lingus flies to the following cities from Dublin:

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.03.27 PM

Dublin isn’t a Star Alliance hub, so other Star Alliance airlines that do not partner with Aer Lingus will have fewer connection options. Of course, you can always hop a super-cheap Ryanair flight from Dublin, its hub, to the rest of Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.02.50 PM

If you fly all the way to Africa on the Ethiopian flight, United charges 40k/80k miles each way in economy/Business. From Addis Ababa, you can connect to the rest of Africa. The Star Alliance has the best network in Africa with Egyptair, Ethiopian, and South African.

Book Award Space

If you are booking with Aeroplan miles, book right on aeroplan.com after searching. You can also book the United and LifeMiles awards online on their respective websites.

For other types of miles like Singapore, Asiana, and Lufthansa, you book by calling the airline whose miles you’re using. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of all the award space you find on aeroplan.com, and call to book.

Pay your award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

Full Roundtrip with (Nearly) Free One Way

What I like about this award space between Los Angeles and Dublin is that:

  1. it is available for the heart of summer and bookable right now
  2. Ireland is a very low aviation tax country.

Most award space to Europe in premium cabins is currently unavailable for the summer and will only open up within a few days or weeks of departure. A lot of that award space returns from England ($300 one way in taxes) or Germany ($150.)

To take advantage of these benefits of the Ethiopian space, I put together an award that has last second award space in Business Class on United to England but returns in Business Class from Dublin (get between the two on a separate ticket). For fun, I added a Free One Way in First Class from Los Angeles to Maui for next year. Except, it is not free; it adds 5,000 miles to the total award price for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has read Master Thread: Free Oneways on United Awards.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.22.39 PM

The roundtrip in Business Class plus the First Class to Maui eight months from now costs 132,500 United miles + $52 in taxes. Since the departure is less than 21 days from now, there is a $75 fee (that is reduced or waived for elites.)Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.22.33 PM

Bottom Line

Ethiopian begins its Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa route in a few weeks with good award space in economy and Business Class that you should search on aeroplan.com because of phantom space on united.com.

I like that the route is bookable in advance for the next 11 months including over the peak summer season and that departing Dublin has very low taxes.

You can book the space cheaply with Aeroplan or Asiana miles or use United miles if you want to connect within Europe on its partner Aer Lingus. If using United miles, consider adding a Free or Cheap One Way.

Hat Tip Gary Leff for reminding me about the route which I wrote about last October

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I just booked myself a trip to Cuba with miles. One direction I am flying on a single award from the United States to Cuba. On the return, I am flying two awards: Cuba to Colombia and Colombia to the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.11.07 AM

I used American Airlines, Asiana, and Lufthansa miles, all of which are easily available to Americans.

Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

Here is the State Department’s page on visiting Cuba.

I am going to travel to Cuba on a general license as a journalist. A “general license” means that I do not have to contact any government agency in advance to receive permission. Here are the 12 categories of general licenses:

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.35.54 AM

I’ll need a valid passport and a tourist card to enter Cuba. I can buy the latter for $20 in Panama before boarding my flight to Havana.

It is still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism. Figure out for yourself whether you can fit one of the 12 general licenses, so you can legally travel to Cuba.

Awards

In a previous post, I ruled out charter flights to Cuba because they’re impossible for folks traveling to Cuba on a general license, and I ruled out paid flights via third countries as very expensive. I was determined to book my trip to Cuba with miles.

But booking a trip to Cuba with miles is not 100% straightforward.

If you go to united.com and type Havana into the search box, you get no results. The US-based airlines are not going to let you use their miles to fly to Cuba for the time being, even if you just want to use the miles to fly from Panama to Cuba.

Any awards you book to Cuba will have to be with foreign miles. There are a lot of options:

  • Avianca LifeMiles, Singapore KrisFlyer miles, Asiana Club miles, Lufthansa Miles & More miles on Avianca or Copa to Cuba
  • Air France Flying Blue miles from Mexico City to Havana, flying AeroMexico

I looked into using Singapore, Asiana, Lufthansa, and Avianca miles. Here was my experience.

Searching for Award Space

I tried to use the miles of four Star Alliance carriers, all of which have equal access to Saver award space released by Avianca and Copa on their flights to Cuba. As I mentioned, not all award search engines will display award space to Cuba, but lifemiles.com will. Search for Star Alliance award space to Cuba on lifemiles.com.

There are several routes to Havana from the Americas on Star Alliance carriers: Copa, Avianca, Air Canada, and Air China.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.59.25 AM

 

There are also routes to Cayo CocoCayo Largo del SurHolguínSanta Clara, and Varadero on Star Alliance carriers.

To search for any of these routes on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.51.59 AM

You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

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My Searches

I was interested in combining Cuba with Colombia. I need to start and end my trip in Washington DC. I searched:

  • Washington-Dulles <-> Havana on Copa
  • Havana <-> Bogota on Avianca
  • Bogota <-> Washington-Dulles on American and Avianca

I searched all three itineraries in both directions because I was willing to visit Bogota and Havana in either order. I let my search results dictate my order.

In the end, I found much better award space on my dates from Havana to Bogota than vice versa, which sealed my plan to fly USA to Cuba to Colombia to USA.

Spending an Afternoon in Panama City

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. I decided to choose a seven hour layover in Panama City. From a quick search, I learned that I can visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal with a five hour layover. That sounds fascinating, and I plan to save money by hiring taxis instead of a tour company.

American Airlines Space to the United States

I was hoping to book Avianca’s direct flight from Bogota to Washington-Dulles for my return. There is award space on the flight in economy on many dates (yellow on the calendar below), but I couldn’t make it work for my trip.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.39.05 AM

My back up plan was American Airlines miles with one stop in Miami. The benefit is that American Airlines charges only 15,000 miles one way between the United States and Northern South America for much of the year. United would have charged me 20,000 miles one way for the Avianca flight.

American Airlines award space is wide open between Bogota and Miami, and from there to anywhere else in the United States or Canada for the same 15,000 mile price.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.37.54 AM

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space to Cuba on Copa, to Colombia on Avianca, and to the United States on American Airlines. Now it was time to book.

Booking the Award

I wanted to get all three of my awards or zero. The first step was to put the American Airlines award on a free five day hold while I investigated my booking options with Star Alliance miles for the Star Alliance flights.

Avianca LifeMiles

Selecting the Copa award flights from Washington-Dulles to Havana brings up a price of 17,500 Lifemiles + $31.85. Or you can toggle the “More money” button to book the award for 7,500 Lifemiles and $181.85.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.29.42 PM

The problem is that I don’t have LifeMiles. Getting LifeMiles is a bit of a challenge. You basically need to buy them. They are often on sale for 1.65 cents each, though not currently. Once you have 7,500 LifeMiles, you can book the award for another $181.85.

I would consider buying the 7,500 miles when they are on sale for 1.65 cents each which happens every few months, but right now they cost 3.3 cents each.

The Havana to Bogota award was only 10,000 LifeMiles, but that was 10,000 more than I had.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.12.33 AM

I went looking for other foreign Star Alliance options to book the flights.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa is also a member of the Star Alliance, so it partners with Copa and Avianca. The Miles & More award chart shows a great price of 17,000 miles one way from the United States to Cuba or Colombia to Cuba.

I called the Miles & More call center for the United States and tried to book Washington to Havana. The agent said he could not book flights to Cuba.

Next I called the British service center at  +44 371 – 945 97 37 for 1 cent per minute via gmail. I fed the agent the Copa flights from Washington to Havana and she priced them at 17,000 Miles & More miles and 4.5 GBP ($7.) These were the same flights that the agent at the US call center couldn’t price.

She priced Bogota to Havana at 17,000 miles + $15.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.24.21 PM

Fantastic! I had 18,000 Lufthansa miles, so I could book one of the awards with Lufthansa miles.

I continued my research.

Singapore KrisFlyer

The Singapore award chart shows a price of 17,500 miles from the United States to the Caribbean. Havana to Bogota would be 25,000 miles.

I called KrisFlyer and tried to price my Copa award. Three different agents priced it at 35,000 miles one way. For whatever reason, the computer wanted to collect Washington to Panama and Panama to Havana as two separate awards.

I didn’t bother to price Havana to Bogota because I knew it would be cheaper with Lufthansa miles, but I am confident it would have cost 25,000 Singapore miles.

Asiana Club

The Asiana chart shows Colombia to Cuba costing 17,500 miles and the United States to the Caribbean at 17,500 miles also.

I priced out Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles + $15.

I didn’t bother to price out Washington to Havana because I had all the information I needed.

How I Booked

I had the perfect amount of Lufthansa and Asiana miles to book the two Star Alliance awards. If I hadn’t had those perfect amounts, I would have transferred Starpoints to Lufthansa miles. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore, Lufthansa, and Asiana miles. And every 20,000 points transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus.

When the Asiana agent priced Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles one way, I immediately booked. I got the following email a few minutes later with my confirmation number.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.29 AM Next I called Lufthansa back. Because of the time of day, I called the Australian Miles & More center at +61 1300 – 655 727 for 2 cents a minute through gmail. I booked Washington to Havana for 17,000 miles + $7. My confirmation came quickly via email.Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.42 AM

 

Last I signed into my American Airlines account and ticketed Bogota to Washington, which I had held earlier in the day. It cost 15,000 miles + $95 (though I’ll get about $35 back upon check in.)

Bottom Line

Lufthansa, Avianca, Singapore, and Asiana are all willing to ticket award tickets to Cuba, even if they begin in the United States. Copa has several destinations in America from which you can get to Cuba with only one connection in Panama. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect on United and Copa flights to Panama and then to Havana on your Miles & More award.

Search for the award space on lifemiles.com and call the non-US call center of the airline whose miles you want to use. You can book a roundtrip for as little as 34,000 Lufthansa miles, which is 29,000 Starpoints.

To get Starpoints, open the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Just meeting the minimum spending requirement gives you more than enough points for a roundtrip award to Cuba.

 

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