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

Japan Airlines First Class space is widely available for 1-3 people per flight between Tokyo and Sydney between October 2015 and March 2016. That’s the heart of the Australian Summer, and Japan Airlines First Class is one of the nicest products in the world.

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You can very cheaply book Japan Airlines First Class with American Airlines miles as part of a larger trip that includes both Asia and Australia.

  • How good is Japan Airlines First Class?
  • Where does Japan Airlines fly?
  • How many miles do you need between Tokyo and Sydney? How many miles from the United States to Sydney?
  • How can you search for and book the award space?
  • How can you get American Airlines miles?

How good is Japan Airlines First Class?

Japan Airlines First Class is a world class flat bed enclosed in a suite.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.48 AM

I haven’t flown the product personally, but everything looks top notch and Asian airlines have the best service in my experience.

Here’s a tour of the plane.

Where does Japan Airlines fly?

The only Japan Airlines plane with First Class is the 777-300ER. Seasonally, Japan Airlines adds its 777-300ER to its Tokyo-Narita to Sydney route.

Source: gcmap.com
Source: gcmap.com

This year, the 777-300ER and its First Class will operate from Tokyo to Sydney from October 25, 2015 to March 26, 2016.

Japan Airlines also flies its 777-300ER to America, specifically between Tokyo and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.02.39 AM
Source: gcmap.com

The San Francisco route flies to Tokyo-Haneda, so it doesn’t connect to the flight to Sydney. The others fly to Tokyo-Narita. From either airport, you can connect throughout Asia. If you don’t live at one of the North American gateways, you can connect from your home airport on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights to the Japan Airlines award space for zero extra miles.

How Many Miles Does the Award Cost?

American Airlines hasn’t devalued its award chart in years–I think a devaluation is coming at the end of this year–so its award chart is a lot better than Delta’s or United’s. American charges only:

  • 60,000 miles one way in First Class between the Japan (Asia 1) and Australia (South Pacific)

You cannot route from the United States to Australia via Japan on a single American Airlines award. You’d have to pay for one award from the United States to Japan and a second award to Australia. American charges:

  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class between the United States and Japan

I realize almost no one reading this blog lives in Australia or Japan, but I still think highlighting these foreign deals is important because, hey, why not dream big and book a round-the-world trip as a series of one way awards?

How Can You Search and Book the Award Space?

Search on ba.com. For the moment–very likely to change very soon–there is excellent award space from October to March on the Japan Airlines flights between Sydney and Tokyo in First Class.

Most days have 1-3 seats in First Class in both directions. The Tokyo to Sydney flight is a redeye.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.11.49 PM

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Sydney to Tokyo is a day time flight. Both flights are just under 10 hours.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.11.49 PM

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Note the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space you like. If necessary, pair it with other airlines’ award space you find on ba.com as part of a segment-by-segment searching strategy. Once you’ve found all your space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book the award by feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight. There is no longer a phone booking fee to book awards that cannot be booked at aa.com, so you’ll just pay the miles plus taxes.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

Alternatively, instead of booking now, you can put the award space on hold for five days for free when you call American Airlines.

How Can You Get American Airlines Miles?

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings and a free checked bag on American Airlines flights. There is no annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

Book–or put on hold–Japan Airlines First Class award space between Japan and Australia today with your American Airlines miles. Japan Airlines First Class suites are world class, American Airlines’ award chart is way underpriced, and 1-3 First Class award seats on most flights between October and March between Australia and Japan will not last.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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

 

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

There’s an idea that you have to book your award tickets exactly 11 months in advance or there will be no award space. Having booked tons of awards for myself and clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service at all times from 11 months to 11 hours in advance, I can tell you that that idea is a myth.

While it is an advantage to know where you want to go 11 months out and start looking, the award space on your route might open up at any time before departure as airlines adjust their award space based on how many seats they’re selling.

Case in point: there’s tons of award space to Europe for this Summer right now.

You want to use United miles because United and its partners have the most award space. As a refresher, between the United States and Europe, United charges:

  • 30,000 miles each way in economy
  • 57,500 miles each in United Business
  • 70,000 miles each way in partner Business
  • 80,000 miles each way in United First
  • 110,000 miles each way in partner First Class

Here are some selected routes with fantastic award space for two people in July and August 2015. There’s nothing special about them; they’re literally the first three I searched. Remember that yellow dates have economy award space, blue dates have Business or First (but overwhelmingly Business) Class award space, and green dates have both economy and premium cabin award space.

Houston to Munich

Business Class award space is available for many early week departures. Economy award space is available nearly every day.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.15.27 PM

Some dates have space on the direct United flight.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.15.55 PM

Some have a connection. Don’t be afraid of a London connection. It only adds $38 to the award price.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.16.06 PM

Los Angeles to Paris

West Coast to Europe is a lot harder than East Coast to Europe, but there is still plenty of economy award space, and premium award space sneaks in at about 21 days before departure if seats are unsold.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.16.41 PM

From the West Coast, you have a higher chance of a “Mixed Cabin” award that could mean hours in economy even when paying the Buiness Class price.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.17.10 PM

New York to Split, Croatia

Even awards to Eastern Europe into smaller airports have award space on plenty of dates.
Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.17.59 PM

Connection times are often less convenient to smaller cities because there are fewer flights per day, but you will get to hang out in the Austrian Airlines lounge for the five hours of this layover.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.19.02 PM

 

Awards may have two stops, but you’ll arrive rested from flying Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.18.48 PM

Other Airlines

United miles are far and away the best to Europe. Collect them for your trip there next summer, since you have time. See my Blueprint for a Free European Summer Vacation for the simple steps.

But that doesn’t do you much good for Summer 2015. If all you have are Delta or American Airlines miles, your options are much more limited, but there are possibilities.

For instance, American has great award space New York to Paris for two people in economy in July and August.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.26.24 PM

There’s good space from Boston to Paris.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.27.06 PM

Bottom Line

You don’t always need to book 11 months in advance to use your miles.

There is great award space from the United States to Europe for this summer, especially with United miles. The space gets even better, especially in First Class, in the last week or two before departure.

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

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

Alitalia Business Class award space is wide open in Spring 2016 from New York and Boston to Rome for 62,500 Delta miles each way. Many days have three award seats in nearly flat beds. You can connect to New York on Delta flights for zero extra miles, award space permitting, and within Italy or Europe on Alitalia for zero extra miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.13.11 PM

  • What is the Alitalia Business Class product?
  • What is the award price with Delta miles?
  • What is the award space on Alitalia’s routes?
  • What connections are possible?
  • How do you book these awards?
  • How do you get Delta miles?

Alitalia Business Class Product

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.13.19 PM

Alitalia’s Business Class features a staggered layout similar to Austrian Airways’, which I reviewed in Trip Report: Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago. Your feet go under the arm rest of the person in front of you.

Image from Austrian Business Class to show the staggered seats. Your feet go under his arm rest.

Though widely marketed as fully flat, my eyes tell me that Alitalia seats are not fully parallel to the ground.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.12.54 PM

You can still get a comfortable night sleep, but not quite as comfortable as you’d get from a fully-flat, parallel-to-the-ground bed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.12.41 PM

Award Price

Delta charges 62,500 miles each way to Europe in Business Class. Alitalia awards originating in the United States, including one ways and roundtrips to Europe, do not incur fuel surcharges.

Alitalia awards originating in Europe, like one way trips home, do incur fuel surcharges, so don’t book one ways from Rome to the United States with Delta miles.

The miles price is the same from anywhere in the continental United States or Canada to anywhere in Europe, so adding connecting Delta or Alitalia flights will not change the miles price.

Roundtrip taxes to Rome should be $60 according to my List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe, So You Return from Low Tax Countries.

Award Space

Alitalia flies year round from Boston, New York, and Miami to Rome. It serves Los Angeles and Chicago in the Summer.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.55.25 PM
Credit: gcmap.com

Award space is wide open from New York to Rome from January to May, 2016 (the end of the current 11 month booking window) for up to three passengers. Award space is good in 2016 from Boston to Rome.

New York to Rome

The following calendars show award space from New York to Rome for three passengers in Business Class on nonstop flights. Days that say 62,500 miles have three Business Class award seats on at least one Alitalia flight that day.
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.56.41 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.58.21 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.58.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.57.51 PMThe calendars show that award space is wide open in 2016 from New York to Rome in Business Class on Alitalia flights.

Boston to Rome

Boston to Rome doesn’t have quite as much award space for two passengers, but there is still plenty of space in Spring 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.59.41 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.59.55 PM

Los Angeles to Rome

The other routes–from Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles–don’t have nearly as much award space. But there is a smattering of dates this summer from Los Angeles to Rome in Business Class with space for two.
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.01.50 PM

Connections

Don’t think of this as award space to Rome. Think of it as award space to Europe. Here are Alitalia’s flights from Rome.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.18.44 PM

Any connection within Europe in Business Class adds zero miles to the 62,500 miles price. That’s pretty much every city in Italy and every major city in Europe.

You can also connect to New York in Delta or Alaska First Class for zero extra miles. While Alitalia award space intra-Europe is widely available, Delta First Class space is much less available. That means this Alitalia award space is primarily valuable for those living in New York and Boston. But if you’re flexible enough, you can find availability in Delta First Class.

Booking the Awards

Alitalia awards are searchable and bookable on delta.com. I’d book right there unless you need to book a mixed cabin award or you are getting an error online, in which case I’d call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book. Unfortunately Delta will charge you a phone booking fee of $25 per ticket. There is no way to hold award space with Delta miles.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

Getting the Miles

Right now Delta miles are easier than usual to get. Both the personal and business versions of the Delta Gold card are offering 50,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Their $95 annual fees are waived for the first year.

The Delta Platinum card offers 60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQM (status miles) after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The $195 annual fee is not waived, but it is partially offset by a $100 credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.

These deals end June 30.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

Award space is excellent in 2016 in a very good Business Class product from New York and Boston to Rome and the rest of Italy and Europe. Alitalia Business Class costs 62,500 Delta miles each way plus roundtrip taxes of about $60.

Award space is open for up to three people per flight.

Connections are widely available in Rome, and to a lesser extent within the United States.

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

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

According to Delta’s SkyMiles FAQs, mixed cabin awards are no longer allowed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.34.54 PM

Mixed cabin awards used to be explicitly allowed (and indeed this FAQ at a slightly different URL has the old language.)

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.35.00 PM

If mixed cabin awards were totally banned, that would terrible news. I can see three possible maladies:

  1. Delta has “five” cabins: economy, Business, Business Elite, First, and One. Each plane has only two cabins but the front cabin is branded several ways. Not being able to mix First (domestic) and One (international business) onto one award would make international awards nearly impossible and would be a ridiculous policy. This is, emphatically, not what the new prohibition means.
  2. Folks who live in small cities, served by economy-only regional jets would not be able to fly economy to the big city and connect to Delta One (international business). This is also definitely not what the new prohibition means.
  3. If you can’t book a one way award to Europe in economy with the return in Business Class for 92,500 miles, then you’d have to book those two awards separately for 30k + 62.5k. Delta awards originating in Europe (your one way return) incur fuel surcharges, so this will cost you a few hundred bucks extra compared to being able to book as one award! (Plus if you need to cancel later, you pay two cancellation fees!) The new prohibition will cause this situation.

We know that–for all Delta’s confusing branding–there are really only two cabins: economy and business.

A Delta spokesman told View from the Wing: “From a shopping perspective First and Business (Delta One) are one and the same ‘premium cabin’.”

So don’t worry about connecting domestic First Class to international Business Class, that’s only one cabin according to Delta.

We know that one-cabin planes will not cause problems.

A Delta spokesman told Delta Points: “When only Main Cabin is available on a flight segment due to aircraft configuration, that does not break the fare.”

You can confirm this online right now. Here is an award from Philadelphia to Rome via New York-JFK. Philadelphia to New York is operated by a one cabin plane, so the Business Class price of 62,500 miles includes that segment in economy and the transatlantic segment in Alitalia Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.05 PM

You can see that by clicking “Multiple Cabins” above the miles price to get this pop up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.12 PM

And you can confirm the Delta flight only has one cabin by looking at its seat map by clicking “View Seats” below the itinerary’s times.Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.33 PM

3. But you cannot book mixed cabin roundtrips online–one way in economy and one in Business.

This is a problem. Say you want to book New York to Rome with the outbound in economy and return in Business Class. You can’t do that online, only both ways in economy for 60,000 miles or both ways in Business for 125,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.20.04 PM

You can book each direction as a one way award.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.23.15 PM

The problem is that the return is an award originating in Europe, meaning Delta slaps you with fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.24.54 PM

While the Alitalia flight I showed above has fuel surcharges of only about $140 + taxes, many awards have fuel surcharges that are a lot higher. Delta from Paris to New York would cost over $340 one way between fuel surcharges and high taxes you can avoid if you read this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.26.20 PM

At least for now, though, you can book a roundtrip award with one way in economy and one way in Business Class for the proper price by calling Delta at 800-323-2323. I just confirmed that by pricing New York to Rome with one direction in economy and one in Business at 92,500 miles. Who knows how long this loophole will last.

Bottom Line

Delta added scary sounding languages to its frequently asked questions, barring mixed-cabin awards.

Right now, you can still book mixed-cabin roundtrips by phone.

You will always be able to book mixed-cabin awards where one flight is in Business Class, and another flight is in economy on a one-cabin plane. You will always be able to fly all premium cabins no matter how Delta has branded them (eg mixing BusinessElite and One.)

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

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

With the 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles, one way awards to London start at 14,000 ThankYou Points. Flat bed Upper Class awards start at 32,000 ThankYou Points.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.41.22 PM

Virgin Atlantic flies from 12 American cities to London.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.27.50 PM

It also flies from the United States to Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.28.34 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.29.29 PM

You can book Virgin Atlantic flights with Virgin Atlantic miles or Delta SkyMiles. The advantage of booking with Virgin Atlantic miles is that you need way fewer miles. Here is the roundtrip award chart to the United Kingdom with Virgin Atlantic miles. One way awards cost half the number of miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.35 PM

The drawback is that Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have fuel surcharges. When booked with Delta, there are no fuel surcharges, and I compare using the two types of miles below.

Questions answered in this post:

  • What are the award prices with Virgin Atlantic Miles?
  • How are the Premium Economy and Upper Class Products?
  • What are the fuel surcharges on the awards? What route has almost none?
  • How do you search Virgin Atlantic Award Space?
  • How do you transfer ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles? Is the transfer instant?
  • How do you book the Virgin Atlantic awards?
  • Should you use Delta or Virgin Atlantic miles to book Virgin Atlantic flights?

Award Prices in Miles

Virgin Atlantic charges unusually few miles from the United States to the United Kingdom–and that’s the only place in Europe that you can fly Virgin Atlantic, which is a longhaul carrier.

There are two award bands–one for nearer cities and one for farther cities.

From the following cities, you can fly a one way award to the United Kingdom for 17.5k/27.5k/40k Virgin Atlantic miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Newark
  • New York-JFK
  • Washington-Dulles
  • Chicago

That’s 14k/22k/32k Citi ThankYou Points. From most of those cities, the next cheapest economy option to Europe in miles is spending 20,000 American Airlines during its off peak award window. But this 14,000 ThankYou Point price is available for travel any time of year as long as you transfer your ThankYou Points before the transfer bonus ends on August 23, 2015.

Similarly spending only 22,000 ThankYou Points for Premium Economy is incredible compared to paying 30,000 United/Delta/American miles to Europe in regular economy. Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is like flying domestic First Class.

Finally paying 32,000 ThankYou Points for a one way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to Europe is outrageously good. That’s basically what most airlines charge for economy, and you’re getting a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

From the rest of the United States, you can fly a one way award to the United Kingdom for 21.25k/35k/50k Virgin Atlantic miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class:

  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco

That’s 17,000 ThankYou Points one way in economy, 28,000 ThankYou Points one way in Premium Economy, and 40,000 ThankYou Points one way in Upper Class.

Oddly, Detroit to London is not on the award chart at all, and the booking form explicitly says you cannot use miles to book the flight. This is particularly strange since Detroit to London was just part of an award sale on Virgin Atlantic.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.23.06 PM

Fuel Surcharges

The miles prices are the good news. The fuel surcharges are the bad news.

  • One way awards in economy to London have fuel surcharges of $129.
  • One way awards in Premium Economy to London have fuel surcharges of $229.
  • One way awards in Upper Class to London have fuel surcharges of $414 or $452, depending on flight length.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.04.11 PM

I consider fuel surcharges on awards a junk fee and a cash grab. I am never happy to pay them, but I am not foolish enough never to pay them.

Even after the fuel surcharges, Virgin Atlantic awards have significant value, especially during the 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points.

I’d rather fly Chicago to London for 22,000 ThankYou Points (transferred to Virgin Atlantic) and $234 in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy than 28,000 ThankYou Points (transferred to Singapore Airlines) and $5 in United economy. The $229 extra is a small price to pay for more space, better food, and saving 6,000 ThankYou Points (which I value at $108.)

As always, use your ThankYou Points only if you are getting enough value for them. I’d only use ThankYou Points if I were getting at least 1.6 cents of value since you can always use ThankYou Points like cash to buy American Airlines tickets at a rate of 1.6 cents per point.

How do you figure what value the award is giving you for your ThankYou Points?

Use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes and fuel surcharges on the award
  • C: ThankYou Points used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.016, and you can book the dream award now, transfer ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles and book.

Hong Kong

Awards to Hong Kong have very low fuel surcharges, which is useful if Hong Kong to London can be part of a round-the-world trip for you. The awards cost just 25k/40k/60k miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class with taxes plus fuel surcharges of $49.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.17.09 PM

That’s 20,000, 32,000, and 48,000 ThankYou Points + $49 during the 25% transfer bonus.

Why are all the prices mentioned one way to the United Kingdom?

Flying out of the United Kingdom incurs humungous taxes, about $300 one way in Premium Economy or Business Class, as I covered today in List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe, So You Return from Low Tax Countries. I would only ever book Virgin Atlantic flights to London with Virgin Atlantic miles. Then I’d return from a low tax country in Europe on a separate award with a different type of miles.

Searching Award Space

Award space is not great, but it is present on all routes I checked in all cabins. The best award space is in economy and Premium Economy.

To search award space one month at a time, fill in the search form on the Virgin Atlantic home page and select “Spend your miles.”
Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.03.27 PM

Results look like this. At the bottom of each date are colors that signify award space.
Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.03.50 PM

Red is economy, white is Premium Economy, and purple is Upper Class.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.52.00 PM

Find a date that has the award space you want and click Continue.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.53.58 PM You’ll see the miles needed and the total in taxes and fuel surcharges. If you click Flight Info, you can see the aircraft.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.55.40 PM

You can find seat maps on Seat Guru. Most of the planes, including the 787-9 Dreamliner, have Upper Class in a 1-1-1 configuration. I’d pick and A seat since G and K share an aisle. I’d pick a seat up front to avoid the noise from the bar behind 10G.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.30.45 PM
Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways_B787-900.php

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic Miles

Sign into thankyou.com and go to the page listing the 11 airline transfer partners.
Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.48.11 PM

You can transfer in increments of 1,000 points and receive 1,250 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.48.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.48.52 PM

Two (1, 2) FlyerTalkers report their Virgin Atlantic miles posting in less than 24 hours. It’s unlikely, but award space could disappear in that time. Have a back up plan to use the miles if that happens.

Booking the Awards

When your miles post, head back to Virgin-Atlantic.com, rerun your search, and book there. Use a card with no foreign transaction fees, since purchases from foreign airlines often code as a foreign transaction even when denominated in dollars.

Pay your award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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 fuel surcharges.

Use Delta Miles Instead?

Delta miles can book Virgin Atlantic award space in economy and Upper Class, but not Premium Economy. Awards cost 30,000 Delta miles one way in economy and 62,500 Delta miles in Upper Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.37.01 PM

There are two advantages to using Delta miles.

  1. No fuel surcharges on the awards
  2. You can connect to Delta/Alaska flights in the United States and SkyTeam partners in London.

Do the math–add the out of pocket costs to the number of miles or points used times your value of those miles or points–to see whether you get a better deal with Delta miles or ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles.

  • You’ll almost certainly get a better deal in economy with ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles because you save 16,000 or 13,000 miles for only a $129 fuel surcharge.
  • You’ll definitely get a better deal in Premium Economy with ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles, since Delta miles can’t book that cabin.
  • In Upper Class, it will come down to which route you want and how much you value ThankYou Points vs. Delta miles.

Getting Thank You Points to Transfer to Virgin Atlantic Miles

These two cards offer over 106,000 ThankYou points total for meeting their minimum spending requirements. You can get both as long as you apply at least eight days apart.

Bottom Line

Yes, Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges, but they also have incredibly low miles prices. During the 25% Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic mile transfer bonus, you can book these awards for even cheaper.

Use these deals to fly one way to Europe, then return home on a separate award with a different type of miles from a low tax country.

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

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

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Below is a list of the taxes for awards departing from most major European cities, flying to the United States.

My friend wrote to me:

Not sure if any of the travel websites have done this, but the taxes of the airports in Europe really can impact the cost basis.

Just looking at three European cities for my United award:
London: $200
Athens: $98
Geneva: $48
Factoring for two people, that makes a big difference.

Every time you book an award with frequent flyer miles, you are responsible for paying government taxes associated with the award ticket. Sometimes you are also responsible for paying fuel surcharges or ticketing fees.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

My friend was looking at booking a roundtrip United award to Europe for July. United doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on any awards, and there are no fees for ticketing United awards more than 21 days before departure, so all he’d be on the hook for is the miles price and the government taxes.

Taxes vary widely based on the country and airport you depart, connections you make, and, occasionally, the cabin you fly.

Below I’ve compiled basically what my friend asked for: the taxes on a one way award from major European cities to the United States.

Why a one way award from Europe to the USA?

Because all direct one way awards from the USA to Europe have taxes of $5.60.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 6.03.45 PM

The reason is that the United States puts most of its international aviation taxes, $17.50 worth, on the return to the United States while almost every other country in the world puts its aviation taxes, ranging from $15 to $280, on departure.

Bottom line: the country you fly into on a European award doesn’t affect the taxes; only the country you return to the United States from (plus connections and occasionally the cabin you fly) affects the taxes.

For a roundtrip award to the cities below, add $5.60 in taxes.

How Did I Get the Info?

I got all the tax information from united.com. On search results, hover your cursor over the taxes for a detailed breakdown.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 6.02.19 PM

There’s nothing special about united.com except that it is easy to use. The same taxes would apply on awards with any other types of miles (though fuel surcharges and other fees may apply with other types of miles too.)

Extra Taxes for Flying in a Premium Cabin

Britain and France charge higher taxes for departing in Business and First Class. (I really just mean Britain, the island with England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland does not charge extra to fly a premium cabin, perhaps to compete with low Irish departure taxes.)

Britain calls its variable tax the “UK Air Passenger Duty,” and it is calculated based on the distance between London and the capital of the country where your award ends. France–hilariously–calls its variable tax the “Air Passenger Solidarity Tax.” I guess these countries figure, “From each [passenger] according to his ability [to pay punitive departure taxes]…”

Departure taxes leaving selected cities in Britain and France:

  • Paris in economy: $78.80
  • Paris in Business or First: $124.50
  • Manchester in economy: $144.70
  • Manchester in Business or First: $253.80
  • Glasgow in economy: $146.10
  • Glasgow in Business or First: $255.20
  • Edinburgh in economy: $147.20
  • Edinburgh in Business or First: $256.40
  • London in economy: $191.10
  • London in Business or First: $300.20

Avoid flying out of Britain on your European award, especially in a premium cabin. Britain is a lovely place that you shouldn’t skip on a big European adventure, just make sure it’s your first stop instead of your last stop, so you don’t have to pay the Air Passenger Duty.

If you do fly home from Britain, airports outside London have taxes about $45 lower.

France in economy is on the high end of the European range. In a premium cabin, departing France is better only than departing Britain.

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

Shockingly to me, the cheapest country to depart is Norway, which is the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.

Irish and Northern Irish cities come out well on the list between $39 and $44, making Britain’s punitive Air Passenger Duty all the starker.

Most taxes cluster in the $30 to $60 range where I don’t think the difference is big enough to affect your departure decision.

The outlier is Germany. It is the most expensive country to depart outside of Britain and France. It also shows the most variability between departure airports. Hamburg, with a direct United flight to Newark, has only $83 per departure in taxes while departing Berlin costs $119.

Connections

The above showed the taxes on a direct flight from those cities to either Newark or New York (though the American city you fly to doesn’t matter.)

Connecting increases the taxes. Here are some sample connection taxes to give you an idea:

  • Oslo direct to Newark: $31.70
  • Oslo to Newark to Los Angeles: $37.30
  • Oslo to Copenhagen to Los Angeles: $48
  • Oslo to Munich to Newark: $51
  • Oslo to Frankfurt to Newark: $64.90
  • Oslo to London to Newark: $80.40

If you connect in the United States, you have to pay the $5.60 September 11 security fee. If you connect in other countries, you usually pay their taxes in the range of $10 to $50.

Again, London is the worst, but transiting London is a lot cheaper than starting your award there. And there are no extra taxes for transiting London in a premium cabin.

Eastern Europe

To get home from smaller cities in Eastern Europe like Prague, Helsinki, Riga, or Ljubljana, you will need to connect. The Eastern European countries themselves have low taxes, but the connection adds to the taxes. You’re probably looking at spending about $80 to $120 in taxes one way.

Maximizing This Information

Don’t make your destination picks based on saving a few bucks in taxes, but think about the order of your destinations. On your open jaw award, fly into the higher tax country and home from the lower tax country.

As an extreme example, imagine a Business Class open jaw award where you see Oslo and London. Flying into London and out of Oslo is smart. You pay only $37 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.19.31 PM

Flying into Oslo and out of London is silly. You pay $304 in taxes–$267 more than the other way.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.20.47 PM

Similarly if you want to take advantage of the current 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Premium Economy or Upper Class to Europe, I suggest booking that award one way to London and returning from a low tax country.

Flying Newark to London in Premium Economy would cost 27,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (22,000 ThankYou Points) + $234.60. In Upper Class, you’d pay 40,000 miles (32,000 ThankYou Points) + $419.60 for a flat bed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.25.45 PM Then return from Madrid for 30,000 United miles (or 27,500 Singapore miles/ThankYou Points) + $48.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.25.23 PM

Bottom Line

Taxes vary widely on awards that include a return from Europe. Taxes are based on the country and airport you depart, countries you transit, and occasionally cabin you fly.

Avoid departing Britain, France, or Germany. Most of the rest of Europe has taxes in the $40 to $70 range for a roundtrip. On open jaw awards, fly into the more expensive country and return from the cheaper country.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

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Air Serbia award flights start at 4,550 Etihad Guest miles plus government taxes with no fuel surcharges. Etihad Guest miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

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Why Air Serbia?

I plan to spend a month or so in Belgrade, Serbia this summer, so I was looking at flight options for people to visit me or to get me from Serbia to Romania. Air Serbia serves a decent roster of European and Middle Eastern cities from its hub in Belgrade.

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What is Etihad Guest?

Air Serbia is 49% owned by Etihad, and Air Serbia’s frequent flyer program is Etihad Guest, which is kind of a mini fourth alliance.

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I’ve pretty much ignored the program until now because if you want to book Etihad flights, you get a better deal redeeming American Airlines miles than Etihad miles. (I had previously assumed you got a better deal on airberlin and Niki flights with Avios and Alitalia flights with Delta miles, but I will check those assumptions.)

Air Serbia Award Chart

However, there is no way to book Air Serbia flights other than with Etihad Guest miles, so I took a look at the Air Serbia award chart. Here it is, in its entirety:

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.59 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.34.13 PM

The award chart is distance-based and doesn’t worry about round numbers with prices like 4,606 miles and 9,773 miles one way.

Business class is a modest premium over economy, about 50% more.

Most intra-European Business Class on airlines like Lufthansa or British Airways features the exact same seats as economy (same width and leg room) but the middle seat in each group of three seats is blocked out. If that’s how Air Serbia Business Class is, I wouldn’t bother paying even a 50% premium even though it comes with food, an iPad on flights over three hours, and lounge access. Air Serbia’s pictures online, though, show a 2-2 configuration like you’d find in domestic First Class in the United States, presumably with similar leg room.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.44.57 AM

Unfortunately I can’t find exact dimensions of Air Serbia’s Business Class seats online.

How to Book, Taxes & Fees

Unfortunately you cannot search or book Air Serbia award space online. You need to call 800-8-ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to travel to book your award. Air Serbia’s website says award bookings do not include “YQ tax” AKA fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.48.52 AM

I tested out one flight to see what taxes and fees were included on an award booking.

I picked this one way flight from Belgrade to Skopje, Macedonia because I’ve always had a fascination with Macedonia.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.31.35 PM

The flight only costs $110.14.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.15 PM

Of that, almost half, or $47.71, is made up of taxes and fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.23 PM

Specifically, the taxes listed as Serbia LG, Serbia RF, and Serbia RS are $23.17.
Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.42 PM

When I priced out that flight as an award ticket, the Etihad Guest phone agent quoted me a price of 4,550 miles + 20.78 euros.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.53.14 AM

That’s pretty close to $23.17. That tells me that booking Air Serbia awards with Etihad guest miles does NOT incur the YQ fuel surcharge or any phone fee, just the miles listed plus government taxes, which you can estimate very closely on ITA Matrix.

There were two flights from Belgrade to Skopje on the day I had the agent search. There was award space in economy on both flights. I don’t want to draw any conclusions from such a small sample, but I anticipate that award space is widely available on nearly every Air Serbia flight in economy and Business Class based on the fact that intra-European award space is a gimme on most airlines.

Is This a Good Redemption?

You save $87.10 by using 5,000 ThankYou Points (because you have to transfer in 1,000 point increments.) That’s getting 1.74 cents of value per point, which I think is pretty good. At that value, the sign up bonus on either the Citi Prestige or ThankYou Premier would be over $870.

Getting Etihad Guest Miles

Citi ThankYou Points and SPG points transfer to Etihad miles at a 1:1 rate. These are the best cards to earn Etihad Guest miles:

Bottom Line

Etihad Guest miles are the only way to fly Air Serbia, which has a very cheap award chart for travel to and from Belgrade. Awards start at 4,550 Etihad Guest miles and Business Class is only about 50% more. Awards incur government taxes, but no fuel surcharges or phone booking fees.

You can get Etihad Guest miles by making a 1:1 transfer from Citi ThankYou Points or SPG points. Get the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card or Citi Prestige® Card, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

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Last month, I helped my friend book a bread-and-butter United award to Europe. She flew from Newark to Rome to spend a few days, continued to Madrid for a few days, then returned home to Newark. All of it was booked as one award for 60,000 United miles + $110 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 6.55.28 PM
Source: gcmap.com

 

I had helped her book one of the three highest value United awards to Europe, the “Stopover (Complete Two City)” award. The three highest value awards with United miles to Europe, or any other international destination, are:

  1. Stopover (Complete Two City Award)
  2. Stopover + Open Jaw (Incomplete Three City Award)
  3. Open Jaw + Free One Way (Incomplete Two City Award + Later Free One Way)

Let’s look at the strengths of each one, so that you can book the best one for your travel goals on your next trip with United miles.

What All Three Have in Common

All the awards use a stopover. A stopover is a connection other than your destination where you are on the ground for more than 24 hours. United allows one stopover per roundtrip award, and zero on one way awards. This is more generous than American and Delta, which never allow stopovers, but less generous than Alaska, which allows stopovers on one way awards.

All the awards can be booked in any cabin. The best value United awards are in economy or United Business Class, since United jacked up the price of partner Business and First Class awards last year.

Two of the awards use at least one open jaw. An open jaw is just a mis-match between the start and end of your award or the turnaround point–like flying into Madrid, but flying home from Stockholm with no flight connecting those two cities on the award.

The Three Awards

1. Stopover (Complete Two City Award)

My friend booked a simple stopover award, which allowed her to see two cities on the same trip for no extra miles.

United would have charged her 60,000 miles roundtrip for a simple roundtrip to Rome, but she added a stopover there, continued to Madrid, and flew home from there for the same 60,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 6.13.48 PM

The award had no open jaw–even though two are possible on roundtrip United awards.

The cities she chose for the destination and stopover are not particularly good choices for convenience on a United award because neither is a Star Alliance hub. That meant that to get from Rome to Madrid, she had to fly via Frankfurt because there were no direct flights.

If either your stopover or your destination is a Star Alliance hub, you can fly a direct flight between them, making your vacation a little smoother. Here is a list of Star Alliance hubs.

This award is ideal if you just want to see two cities and don’t have grander plans. For grander plans, look at awards 2 and 3.

2. Stopover + Open Jaw (Incomplete Three City Award)

I explained to my friend that if she wanted to see three cities, she could book an award with a stopover and an open jaw. Something like flying to Rome, flying to Munich a few days later, then flying home from Madrid a few days after that.
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 6.16.24 PM

Notice there is an open jaw between Munich and Madrid–hence the “incomplete” three city award. You can fill in the open jaw any way you’d like. In Europe, usually the best options are low cost carriers, trains, or Avios awards. You can put the open jaw between any of the three cities, so optimize it based on cost or distance of the separate ticket you’ll need to buy.

This award is ideal if you want to see three or more cities. For instance, if you want to see five European cities, you can fly into Rome, fly a few days later to Munich, and fly home two weeks later from Madrid. With separate tickets, you can book Munich to Paris, Paris to Barcelona, and Barcelona to Madrid.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 7.09.51 PM
United Stopover + Open Jaw Award in Red. Three separate flights or trains in black. Source: gcmap.com

3. Open Jaw + Free One Way (Incomplete Two City Award + Later Free One Way)

The last option is the most complicated. It allows you to see 2+ cities in Europe and have a later free one way.

This would be an award like flying to Rome, returning from Madrid, and months later flying to Hawaii on the same ticket.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 7.14.08 PM
Source: gcmap.com

 

If the “free one way” city is in the same region on the United award chart, the extra one way adds zero miles to the award price. Newark and Honolulu are NOT in the same region, so the one way would add 5,000 to 7,500 miles to the price of the roundtrip award depending on cabin, making it a “cheap one way” and not a true “free one way.” True “free one ways” are available within the continental United States, Canada, and Alaska.

If you book an award like this, you can see as many cities as you’d like in Europe, but you are responsible for booking all the intra-Europe flights and trains as separate tickets from the main United award.

You are also responsible for booking a separate one way ticket home from your free one way destination.

Is it better to book a stopover en route like in Awards 1 and 2 or a free one way in Award 3?

You must choose between a stopover en route and a free one way because both use a stopover–the free one way stopover is at your home airport–and you only get one stopover on a roundtrip United award.

Which is a better deal depends on your valuations and the cost of substitute cash tickets. My friend probably would have been better off using a later free one way instead of a stopover en route because Ryanair sells Rome to Madrid for as low as $62 (plus baggage and other fees.)

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 7.38.38 PM

 

For a full discussion, see Choosing Between a Free Stopover and a Free Oneway on United Awards.

“I got an error.” or “Award space disappeared when I searched multi-city.”

All three awards require using united.com’s terrible multi-city search. You’ll get a lot of glitches with it. Sometimes you just get an error message that aborts your search. Sometimes you found space searching one leg at a time, but that space doesn’t appear on united.com when searching multi-city.

For example, when researching this post, I had one multi-city search that included Rome to Newark on July 15. This is the only result I got:

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 6.45.34 PM

But searching one leg at a time, shows award space on the direct flight that the multi-city search didn’t show.Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 6.46.28 PM

The solution, as always with problems on united.com: hold or book one leg and call United to change your award immediately. Free changes are allowed within 24 hours, no phone fee will be charged, and the agent will see all the space you saw online on one way searches.

Searching, Booking, Getting the Miles

When booking any of these awards, start by searching each of the three parts of the award as one way searches on united.com. The three parts of the award are:

  1. Origin to stopover
  2. Stopover to destination
  3. Destination back home

When you have space, move on to a multi-city search, and call United at 800-UNITED-1 if you are getting errors.

United miles are easy to collect on the United cards and cards that earn Ultimate Rewards like the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

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Bottom Line

Don’t just book a boring roundtrip to Europe for your next vacation, add extra cities and possibly a free one way. There are three maximum value awards to Europe that use a stopover.

  1. Stopover (Complete Two City Award)
  2. Stopover + Open Jaw (Incomplete Three City Award)
  3. Open Jaw + Free One Way (Incomplete Two City Award + Later Free One Way)

The best value for you depends on your goals. All three require searching on united.com, using its glitchy multi-city award search, and possibly calling up to finish a booking.

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

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Monday I wrote about my experience flying Singapore First Class, which is one of the nicest five or so First Classes in the world.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.02.44 AM

Some people even consider Suites Class on the Singapore A380 to be the nicest First Class in the world because of the available double bed that two people can share (or one person can get to himself if the flight isn’t totally full.)

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Singapore First and Suites Class are very easy for an American to book from the United States to Europe or Asia. You just have to collect the right miles and pick the right route for your goal.

  • What miles do you need to book Singapore First and Suites Class?
  • What cards offer points that transfer to Singapore miles?
  • What routes does Singapore fly to the United States with First and Suites Class? Where in Europe and Asia can you go?
  • What are the fuel surcharges on each route?
  • How can you search and book Singapore Suites award space?

You Can Only Book Singapore First and Suites Class with Singapore KrisFlyer Miles

Singapore only releases award space in longhaul First and Suites Class to its own KrisFlyer program. You need Singapore miles if you want to book a double bed in the sky. Luckily Singapore miles are extremely easy to get because every transferable points program transfers 1:1 to Singapore miles.

  • Citi ThankYou Points
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • SPG Starpoints (with the customary 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred)

The first three take about 36 hours to transfer. SPG transfers take about a week or two and seem to post on Tuesdays in Singapore.

Right now, the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier have each increased their sign up bonuses to 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You can get both as long as you apply 8+ days apart. The 106,000 ThankYou Points are more than enough to book any award in this post, and even getting one card and getting to 58,000 ThankYou Points is enough to book Singapore Suites.

The Chase Ink Plus (business) and Sapphire Preferred (personal) have a combined 95,000 point sign up bonus after spending $9,000 in the first three months. That is another path to any Singapore Suites flight.

The Membership Rewards bonuses offered on the Premier Rewards Gold, Platinum, and business cards reach up to 50,000 points per card.

The New, Lower $3,000 Spending Requirement on SPG Cards means you can get 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 on the SPG personal card and the identical bonus on the SPG business card.

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What Routes Does Singapore Fly to the United States

Singapore Airlines flies to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and New York. But Singapore is too far away to profitably fly directly, so each route has an intermediate stop in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Frankfurt, or Moscow. Singapore has traffic rights on all individual segments, so you can fly from New York to Frankfurt, say, in Singapore Suites.

West Coast Routes

Singapore’s West Coast routes stop in Asia.

  • San Francisco to Seoul-Incheon to Singapore, 777-300ER
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore, 777-300ER
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita to Singapore, A380

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 1.28.44 AM

Other American Routes

Singapore’s other American routes fly east and stop in Europe.

  • Houston to Moscow-Domodedovo to Singapore, 777-300ER
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore, A380

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 1.29.03 AM

If you don’t live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, or New York or don’t want to go to Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Moscow, or Singapore, you can connect to United flights in the United States or other Star Alliance partner flights in Europe or Asia. If you do that, you will have to book by phone, and you pay full price of 67,500 to 110,000 miles one way for your First/Suites Class award.

If you can just fly the Singapore routes, you can book online at singaporeair.com with an automatic 15% discount on the miles needed for the award. Below are the prices for one way awards after the 15% discount. (A380 flights, ie Suites Class, awards are in bold.)

  • San Francisco to Hong Kong: 70,125 miles + $49.60 (15 hours flying)
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $263.30 (17:45 flying)
  • San Francisco to Seoul: 74,375 miles + $203.30 (12:50 flying)
  • San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $263.30 (19:20 flying)
  • Houston to Moscow-Domodedovo: 57,375 miles + $211.70 (10 hours flying)
  • Houston to Moscow-Domodedovo to Singapore: 93,500 miles + $271.70 (21:15 flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita: 74,375 miles + $113.30 (11:45 flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $275.97 (19:20 flying)
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt: 57,375 miles + $203.30 (7:35 flying)
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore: 93,500 miles + $285.85 (20:05 flying)

Four things that jump out at me:

  1. Singapore Suites and First Class are basically priced the same in miles and fuel surcharges, so book Suites Class all else equal.
  2. There are fuel surcharges on awards. ($23.30 of each award above is government taxes.) These vary greatly and seem to be a lot lower on routes with competition (SFO-HKG and LAX-NRT, though not SFO-ICN or JFK-FRA.)
  3. San Francisco to Hong Kong is fewer miles and lower fuel surcharges than San Francisco to Seoul despite giving you more time to enjoy First Class.
  4. 57,375 miles is a ridiculously low price to sample Singapore First or Suites Class from the United States to Europe. You might get more enjoyment flying Europe to the United States for the same price on a day time flight though.

Searching and Booking Singapore First and Suites Class

Award booking at singaporeair.com is easy. After signing in, check “Redeem award flight(s)”, type in your cities, dates, and cabins. Do not check “Pay with KrisFlyer miles” which is actually a scheme where you get a fixed value for your KrisFlyer miles that would never put a Suites Class award within reach.

Select the flight you want at the Saver level. Although the Saver level is listed as 107,500 miles, there is a 15% miles discount for booking online.

You can see the online price by clicking the “Display total cost” button below and to the right of the flights. In this case, the total cost is 91,375 miles for flights from Singapore to Europe in First or Suites Class.

Selecting a flight takes one to the pricing screen. The out-of-pocket costs are broken down into taxes and carrier surcharges. The currency for awards originating in the USA is dollars. Originating somewhere else will price the taxes/surcharges in the local currency.

Pay your award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, 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.

Bottom Line

You can book Singapore First Class and Singapore Suites with Singapore miles, a transfer partner of every major transferable points currency. I recommend the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, each with a 50,000 ThankYou Points sign up bonus. You can get both as long as you apply 8+ days apart. The 106,000 ThankYou Points are more than enough to book any award in this post.

You can fly Singapore Suites or First Class from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, or New York to Frankfurt, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, or Singapore because all American routes have en intermediate stop in Europe or Asia. You can connect to other Star Alliance award flights, but doing so means having to pay the higher mileage prices on the Star Alliance award chart.

Award prices range from 57,375 to 93,500 miles for 7.5 to 21+ hours in Singapore First or Suites Class. Fuel surcharges range from $26 to $240 depending on the route.

Search for award space on singaporeair.com, transfer your points and wait about 36 hours for them to post, and book your award, paying the taxes and fuel surcharges with a Citi Prestige® Card to get an offsetting statement credit for the taxes and fuel surcharges.

Then go fly in your enclosed double flat bed!

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Key Links:

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

Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

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

Yesterday I published “Awards Between South America and Australia or New Zealand” because two days ago I published “How to Book a RTW Trip in 2015. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World,” which lists the best awards between far flung regions. Take a look at those if you’re an adventurer who wants to take a BIG trip.

I got thinking about other interesting ways to move on from Australia. There are two direct flights to Africa.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.15.46 PM
South African flies to Perth, Qantas flies to Sydney. Source: gcmap.com

South African Airways, a member of Star Alliance like United, flies from Johannesburg to Perth. Qantas, a member of oneworld like American, flies from Sydney to Johannesburg.

Award space is excellent on both routes, but the Qantas route is much cheaper with American Airlines miles than the South African route is with any type of miles.

What is the Business Class Product

South African Business Class on its A340 is ever so slightly angled. I flew it from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg and filed this trip report.

Lounging in the cradle position. The bed gets flatter than this, but not fully flat.

Qantas flies its 747 on its Sydney <-> Johannesburg route. According to Seat Guru, the Business Class is in the nose and upper deck and is fully flat. Here’s my review of Qantas Business Class on the A380.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.07.13 PM
Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Qantas_Airways/Qantas_Airways_Boeing_747-400RR_V2.php

How to Search Award Space

South African award space can be searched on united.com. Here’s how.

Qantas award space can be searched on aa.com. Here’s how.

Award Space Picture

South African Flight

Award space is excellent in economy and Business Class on the South African flight between Johannesburg and Perth for two people for the next 11 months. Many of the daily flights have award space for two people in both economy and Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.16.45 PM

Here are all the award calendars. Yellow means economy award space for two passengers that day. Blue means space for two passenger in Business Class that day. Green means award space for two passengers in both cabins that day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.17.24 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.19.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.19.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.20.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.20.31 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.21.05 PM

It shouldn’t be any trouble at all to find award space in your preferred cabin between Johannesburg and Perth as part of your round-the-world (RTW) trip.

Qantas Flight

The Qantas flight doesn’t have such consistent award space. For instance, for the next month there is no award space for two weeks then award space in economy basically every day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.05 PM

Business Class space is very rare for long stretched. The next day with Business Class award space is August 6.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.35 PM

Business Class space starts to get less rare throughout our Fall, their Spring.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.53 PM

Then Business Class space becomes fairly available in October and November.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.12 PM

Come December, all award space disappears.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.28 PM

Then Business Class space is back to being wide open in January and February, summer in both destinations. Note the gray 37.5k days, indicating that most days without Business Class space during this time period at least have economy space.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.41 PM

Economy space is excellent for most of the year, though with several gaps of a few weeks each.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.48 PMAll the preceding calendars were for 1 person, but I didn’t see a big difference when I switched to searching for two people:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.36.49 PM

Connections

The South African flight, when booking with United or other Star Alliance miles, has few connection options in Australia and New Zealand. The only partner in the region is Air New Zealand, and it only has flights from Auckland and seasonally from Christchurch to Perth.

This flight has much better connection options in Africa because of South African’s hub in Johannesburg. You can connect for zero extra miles within South Africa or within Southern and Central Africa. A few examples:

Possible Itineraries with South African Flight
Possible Itineraries with South African Flight. Source: gcmap.com

By contrast, the Qantas flight offers far more connection options in Australia and New Zealand from Qantas’ Sydney hub. It also offers a few connection options in Johannesburg on British Airways (operated by Comair) flights within Southern Africa. This map offers a few possibilities in Australia and New Zealand and all the options in Africa.

Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com
Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

How to Book

Depends on which miles you want to use.

For the Qantas flight, you definitely want to use American Airlines miles. American charges:

  • 37,500 miles one way in economy between Australia or New Zealand and Africa
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Africa

You can find the British Airways and Qantas space on aa.com, so just book right there. Taxes are $66 from Sydney to Johannesburg and $71 the other way. There are very mild surcharges on the British Airways flights within Africa if you book those as part of the award.

For the South African flight, there are a few options–none very cheap. United (book online) charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way in economy between Australia or New Zealand and Africa
  • 85,000 miles one way in Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Africa

Avianca LifeMiles (book online) charges the same.

Booking with another Star Alliance carrier’s miles will incur fuel surcharges of about $171 per person.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.00.35 PM

There are no cheap deals with other Star Alliance carriers:

  • Lufthansa wants 50k/92k one way
  • Singapore wants 45k/72.5k one way
  • Asiana wants 60k/90k

All these carriers you’d need to call and give the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight you want to book.

Basically the South African flight is very expensive with miles. Book the Qantas flight with American Airlines miles.

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.

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Getting United miles is even easier with 55,000 mile offers on the United personal and business cards plus a 45,000 point offer on the Sapphire Preferred and a 60,000 point offer on the Ink Plus. Points earned on the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

There is good award space between Australia and South Africa with connections in both regions.

The best value awards will use 50,000 American Airlines miles to fly Qantas Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Southern Africa on the Sydney <-> Johannesburg route. Award space is very good on the route for most of the year in economy and part of the year in Business Class. With flexibility, Africa <-> Australia can definitely be part of your big RTW award.

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

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

Yesterday I published “How to Book a RTW Trip in 2015. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World,” which I am very proud of. Take a look if you’re an adventurer who wants to take a BIG trip. In the comments, John Domingo asked about getting between South America and Australia.

The best flights to get between South America and Australia/New Zealand are the direct flights on LAN Airlines and Qantas, booked with American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.47.01 PM
Source: gcmap.com

Qantas flies directly from Sydney to Santiago. LAN flies the same route but breaks it up with a layover in each direction in Auckland. LAN has the rights to carry passengers on any segment or the whole route. Between Australia/New Zealand and Southern South America, American Airlines charges:

  • 37,500 miles one way in economy
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • no one serves the route with First Class
  • American doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on either airline, just minimal government taxes

Award space is excellent on the Qantas flights in economy, though Business Class award space is super rare. Award space is rarer on the Auckland <-> Santiago LAN longhaul, but excellent on the Sydney <-> Auckland portion.

What is the Business Class Product on These Routes?

Business is such a tiny premium over the economy price on this route that it’s the obvious choice if you can find award space.

Qantas flies its 747 on its Sydney <-> Santiago route. According to Seat Guru, the Business Class is in the nose and upper deck and is fully flat. Here’s my review of Qantas Business Class on the A380.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.07.13 PM
Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Qantas_Airways/Qantas_Airways_Boeing_747-400RR_V2.php

LAN flies its 787 Dreamliner from Santiago to Auckland to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.36 PM

The LAN Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class. Here is a video about the LAN Dreamliner in Spanish.

How to Search Award Space

Qantas award space can be searched right on aa.com. Here’s how.

LAN award space is not searchable on aa.com. Search it on ba.com. Any space you see there should be bookable with American Airlines miles.

What Is the Award Space Picture?

Award space is excellent between Sydney and Santiago on the direct Qantas flight in economy for most of the next 11 months, especially next Southern Hemisphere summer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.03 PM

The flight operates four days per week, and for stretches of the year, award space is available on all four weekly flights in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.28 PM

Even over Christmas and New Year, the height of the tourist season in early summer, there is award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.31.35 PM

Unfortunately Business Class award space almost doesn’t exist. There is only one award seat in Business Class between Sydney and Santiago for the next 11 months, July 10.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.29.13 PM

LAN flies its route seven days a week, but with worse award space than Qantas. I searched the next month from Santiago to Auckland and found only one award seat in Business Class and none in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.02 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.08 PM

Then I searched all of October 2015 and found just three days with economy award space and zero with Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.19.23 PM
Source: Award Nexus

February 2016, a time I’d rather fly the route, has better award space, on eight days with LAN.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.14.31 PM

The above images just look at the longhaul from Santiago to Auckland. The plane continues to Sydney, and you can book just the trans-Tasman hop. Award space here is excellent. Almost every day has some award space on the route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.41.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.41.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.42.01 PM

Oddly some of the award space is in First Class. I can’t even figure out what that mistake represents because the LAN 787 has only economy and Business, no third cabin at all (not First, not Premium Economy.)

Connections

As long as your connection follows the published-fare rule, you can start your trip anywhere in Australia/New Zealand and end anywhere in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, or Bolivia for the same number of miles. Or vice versa.

It was easy on aa.com to pull up Perth to Santiago awards for 37,500 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.33.40 PM

…or Auckland to Santiago awards for the same price.Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.34.50 PMIf you want to use LAN flights intra-South America, you’ll have to search that award space on ba.com.

How to Book

If all your legs were searchable on aa.com (ie all Qantas flights), book right there.

If one or more of your legs is not searchable on aa.com (ie LAN flights), note the date, cabin, and flight number of all the award space you find on aa.com and ba.com, and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. Give the agent that information, and book with no phone fee.

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.

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

The only two flights between Australia/New Zealand and South America are flown by American Airlines partners, so American Airlines miles rule this part of a possible RTW trip.

Award space is good-to-excellent in economy and extremely rare in flat bed Business Class, which at only 12,500 miles extra is a steal if you do find space.

You can start the award anywhere in Southern South America and end it anywhere in Australia or New Zealand for the same number of miles. You’re only on the hook for government taxes, not fuel surcharges or a phone booking fee.

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

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

15

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

Until 2014, the best way to use miles to book a round-the-world (RTW) trip was to save a lot of one mileage currency and book a special RTW award with those miles. If you’ve saved up miles for years to book yourself such a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’re probably dismayed that the best two RTW awards from American Airlines and Delta were eliminated in 2014.

You can still book RTW trips in 2015, but now the best way is as a series of one way awards across many different programs to take advantage of sweet spots on each airline’s award chart.

In this post, I’ll list some of the cheapest awards, or sweet spots, from each region. When planning your RTW trip in 2015 or beyond, refer to these lists to piece together your trip. For instance, if you know you want to visit South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, look under each of those headings to find cheap awards to the next region.

But before getting to those lists, let’s consider other types of tickets that should be part of your RTW award.

Avios & Cash

All of the awards on the lists in the next section are from programs with region-based miles. These miles usually offer the best value for international awards.

But before using region-based miles consider using Avios or cash for appropriate flights on your RTW trip.

Cash

Use cash if the possible awards are not getting you a good return on your miles (1.2 to 1.8+ cents each, depending on the miles.) This will be very likely when a low cost carrier flies the route you want to fly, especially within Europe and Southeast Asia or to Iceland.

When cash flights are the best option, you don’t need to actually use cash to book them.

You can book them with points that can be used like cash toward any flight like ThankYou Points or Arrival miles, or you can use the $250 per year airfare statement credit on the Citi Prestige.

Avios

British Airways Avios are fantastic for short, direct, economy awards especially when you can fly a partner with no fuel surcharges. There are tons of times you would want to use Avios on your RTW trip. A partial list:

  • West coast of United States to Hawaii
  • Miami, Dallas, or New York to Latin America or Caribbean
  • Intra-Latin America international flights
  • Intra-Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador (including Galapagos), and Chile (including Easter Island)
  • Intra-South Africa
  • Intra-Australia
  • Intra-Europe, especially on airberlin or Niki for no fuel surcharges
  • Boston to Ireland on Aer Lingus
  • India to Sri Lanka to change zones on the American Airlines chart from India/Middle East to Asia 2
  • Europe to Israel

Region-to-Region Awards

For the longhaul awards, you’ll almost certainly get the best value by using airline miles that allow one way redemptions with the price based on a region-based award chart. A partial list of such airline miles:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Delta SkyMiles (transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and SPG)
  • United MileagePlus (transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Alaska Mileage Plan (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG)
  • Asiana Mileage Club (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (transfer partner of AMEX and SPG)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi, and SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (transfer partner of AMEX, Citi, and SPG)

Some of the awards below are listed because they cost very few miles. Some are listed because they present amazing value in a premium cabin. Links take you to longer articles on that award. Any prices listed are one way unless otherwise noted. If no cabin is listed, the award is in economy. If no fuel surcharges are mentioned, the award has none. Remember to check Avios redemptions and cash tickets before booking any awards on these lists.

From United States

To Europe

To Korea or Japan

To China or Southeast Asia

To Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador

  • with 15,000 American Airlines miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 (these off peak awards must be flown on American Airlines metal)

To Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

  • with 20,000 American Airlines miles each year from March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30 (off peak awards)
  • with 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip on Delta flights
  • in Business Class with 35,000 Asiana miles on United flights
  • in Business Class with 45,000 Alaska miles on AeroMexico flights, try to fly the Dreamliner
  • in First Class with 45,000 Asiana miles on United flights

To Hawaii

To Fiji

To Australia/New Zealand

From Europe

When leaving Europe, don’t fly your longhaul flight out of London. You’ll pay $200 to $300 in taxes for starting a premium cabin itinerary in the United Kingdom. Hop a low cost carrier flight from London to somewhere on the continent and fly your longhaul award to the next region from there.

To United States

  • See From United States to Europe above

To Hong Kong

To Middle East/India/Maldives

To South America

To Australia

  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 80,000 American Airlines miles

To South Africa

  • in British Airways Business Class with 37,500 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
  • in British Airways First Class with 50,000 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
From the Middle East

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Middle East above

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Qantas Business Class on the A380 with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To East Asia

  • in Business Class with 30,000 American Airlines miles
  • in First Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
From North Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to Korea or Japan and From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Business Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Business Class with 45,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 50,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To Oceania

From Southeast Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Australia/New Zealand

  • with 17,500 United miles
  • in Business Class with 35,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 40,000 United miles, try for Thai First Class
From South America

Flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges, so miles that otherwise collect fuel surcharges on most awards are especially well used from Brazil to Europe.

to United States

  • See From United States to Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador and From United States to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

to Europe

  • See From Europe to South America. Note that traveling South America to Europe is better than Europe to South America because flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges.

Intra-South America

to Central America

  • (from Northern South America) with 10,000 United miles

to Africa

to Australia/New Zealand

From Australia/New Zealand

Intra Australia/New Zealand

To Rest of Oceania

To North America

  • See From North America to Australia/New Zealand and From North America to Fiji above

To South America

  • See From South America to Australia/New Zealand above

To Africa

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

Please add your other favorite awards in the comments, and I may include them in this post. Bookmark this post for reference when you want to book a RTW trip.

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

Delta SkyMiles have access to the best award space to all of Argentina–not just Buenos Aires–year round in economy and Business Class.

The backbone of the award space is AeroMexico availability on its daily flights from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. This award space is available for 2+ people in economy and 2+ people in Business Class on the vast majority of flights for the next year. Four flights weekly on the route are even on AeroMexico’s newest plane, the 787 Dreamliner with flat bed seats.

Unlike the Dreamliner Business Class award space to Argentina on United, you don’t have to end your Delta award in Buenos Aires because Delta also partners with Aerolineas Argentinas, which you can fly to a eight other major destinations for zero extra miles on the same award.

  • What is the award space with Delta SkyMiles to Buenos Aires?
  • How is the AeroMexico Dreamliner?
  • Where else can you go in Argentina?

Delta has terrible award space on its own flights from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, but partner AeroMexico releases a ton of award space from the United States to Mexico City and from there to Buenos Aires in economy and Business Class. All Delta partner awards from the United States mainland to Argentina cost:

  • 30,000 SkyMiles one way in economy
  • 62,500 SkyMiles one way in Business Class

Just how good is AeroMexico award space?

AeroMexico Award Space

Every day below that says “65,000” has award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. (Oddly Delta charges more from Mexico to Argentina than from the United States. When we start our award in the United States, we’ll pay just 62,500 miles.)

Other than some missing days around Christmas–and even then there’s space if you’re flexible–you can see there is award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires almost every day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.19.37 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.20.28 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.22.01 PM

The pattern is the same from Buenos Aires back to Mexico City. What about getting between the United States and Mexico City?

Award Space Between the United States and Mexico

Researching this article, I was very surprised how many AeroMexico flights there are between the United States and Mexico. Here’s a combined route map for Delta and AeroMexico flights between the United States and Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 6.21.09 PM
Source: gcmap.com

Notes: BOS-MEX begins June 1, 2015. Fresno only has a direct AeroMexico flight to Guadalajara where you can connect to Mexico City.

If you live in any of the cities on the map, you can get to Buenos Aires with only one connection in Mexico City. While the Delta flights (Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City) don’t have very good award space to Mexico City, the AeroMexico flights have amazing award space for two people in either cabin.

For instance, here is the award space for two people this Argentine Spring–October and November are a fantastic time to visit–from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.50.16 PM

There is award space every day. All of it features an AeroMexico flight from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, though some of it features an Alaska Airlines flight to Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.53.05 PM

Award space is similarly excellent from Argentina back to the United States. For instance, award space for two people in economy and Business Class from Buenos Aires to Washington DC also shows award space almost every day.

Again, the backbone of this space is AeroMexico availability via Mexico City, but there are also options that fly Aerolineas Argentinas via New York. (AR1300 below)

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.55.24 PM

Connections in Argentina

All of these awards land at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport (EZE). Most domestic flights in Argentina leave Aeroparque (AEP), which is much closer to the city, but Aerolineas Argentinas does operate some flights from EZE to the rest of the country including great tourist spots like Iguazu, Mendoza, Bariloche, Calafate, and Ushuaia.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.05.20 PM
Source: gcmap.com

You can add Aerolineas award space to your award for zero extra miles, but you can’t do it online.

You can search the award space on delta.com, like this search from EZE to Ushuaia that shows plenty of Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.02.35 PM But when you try to add the intra-Argentina segment to an international award, you get an error like this despite there being legal award space. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.03.17 PM

The solution? Call Delta 800-323-2323 if you want to book your Argentina award with intra-Argentina award space.

AeroMexico Dreamliner

Four days a week, AeroMexico flies its new 787 Dreamliner between Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The rest of the flights are operated by 767s. AeroMexico also flies its Dreamliner on some New York <-> Mexico City and Los Angeles <-> Mexico City flights.

The Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class in a 2-2-2 configuration, so, as usual, pick a middle seat if you’re flying alone to avoid having to climb over or be climbed over by anyone else.

God Save the Points has a review of Business Class on the AeroMexico Dreamliner. The review is complimentary of the seat, bed, and entertainment though it refers to the crew as “ghosts, you know those things you can’t see, talk to or receive a drink from.” [Scott: hahaha, I believe it]

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.44.10 PM
AeroMexico Dreamliner in reclined, but not yet flat, position. Source: http://www.godsavethepoints.com/news/dreamlinerreview

Try your hardest to fly a day served by the 787, because the 767 doesn’t feature fully flat beds.

Bottom Line

Argentina can be a tough award ticket. There’s almost no space on American Airlines flights to Argentina for most of the next year. United has amazing award space some days, but none for months at a time.

The solution is to use Delta miles on AeroMexico flights. Fly from over a dozen airports to Mexico City and connect to the AeroMexico Dreamliner to Buenos Aires. You’ll pay only 30,000 SkyMiles in economy or 62,500 SkyMiles in Business Class each way for a fully flat bed.

Your award doesn’t have to end in Buenos Aires. You can connect from there to eight cities in Argentina on Aerolineas Argentina for no extra miles, but you’ll have to call to book an award like that.

Further Reading

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

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

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

I just spent a completely legal week in Cuba, split between Havana and Viñales. An American in Cuba in 2015 is a six part series on the trip. This post will focus on how Americans can book flights to Cuba.

Other Posts

Coming soon posts on money, internet, nightlife, lodging, transportation, Havana, and Viñales.

Ways to Get to Cuba

This post will focus on those last two ways because those ways can use frequent flyer miles and are going to be more convenient for people who don’t live in Florida.

One Ticket to Cuba

Copa Airlines, based in Panama, will sell you a roundtrip ticket from the United States to Cuba, but it can cost over $800.

You can also book Copa Airlines award space from the United States to Havana, Cuba via Mexico with several types of miles including:

  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Singapore KrisFlyer miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • maybe other types of Star Alliance miles

You cannot book these awards with United miles because United is afraid, as an American company, to book you a flight to Cuba.

Copa flies to 10 American destination and adds New Orleans on June 24, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.32.47 PM
Source: gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of these cities, you can add United flights to one of these destinations or to Panama City for no extra charge to your Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca award.

You may also be able to fly via San Salvador, El Salvador on TACA/Avianca flights, but I haven’t found that award space.

Getting Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca miles

  • You need 35,000 miles roundtrip for a Lufthansa award from the United States to Cuba. You can get 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles from the Miles & More credit card after spending $5,000 in the first three months and paying a $79 annual fee. Or you can transfer SPG points to Lufthansa miles.
  • You need 70,000 Singapore miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG points all transfer to Singapore miles.
  • You need 35,000 Avianca miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. The only reasonable way to get them is to buy. You can buy them for less than 1.65 cents each until May 29. This means you could basically buy a roundtrip to Cuba for about $600 roundtrip including taxes by buying enough Avianca miles to book the award.

Searching and Booking the Awards

Searching for Award Space

To search for the Copa flights to Cuba on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

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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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If You Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

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. If award space shows up on the days you search, note the dates, cabins, and flight numbers for the booking step below.

If You Don’t Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

You should search your home airport to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington (IAD) and then hook up that award space to award space from those cities to Cuba on Copa. This is just segment-by-segment searching.

Booking the Award Space

If you’re booking with Avianca LifeMiles an award you can book online, book it on lifemiles.com.

If you’re booking with Lufthansa, Singapore, or another type of miles, call a foreign call center of the airline whose miles you’re using. The American call centers won’t book trips to Cuba, so pick a foreign call center in an English speaking country that is open to help you. Consider England, Canada, and Australia.

Feed the agent the dates, flights numbers, and cabins of each flight that you found award space for on lifemiles.com. You can pay the taxes with any credit card, so I of course suggest the Citi Prestige® Card, since it has an annual $250 Air Travel Credit that can refund your award taxes, and you will earn 3x-4x on the taxes paid.

I used these methods to fly from Washington DC to Havana, Cuba with Lufthansa miles on Copa flights.

Two Tickets to Cuba

You can book two awards or cash tickets to get from the United States to Cuba. Since you can get to Cuba with one ticket, the only reasons you’d want to use two tickets are if you wanted to see another country on your way or you didn’t have any Star Alliance miles to fly those Copa award flights mentioned above.

I booked my return from Cuba on two tickets because I wanted to stop in Bogota on the way.

The two ticket options include flying cash tickets or awards from the Caribbean or Mexico to Havana. These flights tend to be expensive in miles and in cash. I paid 17,500 Asiana miles from Havana to Bogota, Colombia.

Flying Blue Awards

Air France’s loyalty program Flying Blue is the best way to book AeroMexico flights from Mexico City to Havana.

Flying Blue charges 15,000 miles one way in economy and 30,000 in Business Class.

Award space was far better in Business Class (29/35 days) than economy (3/35 days) this spring when I searched last month.

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Mexico City is quite out of the way from the East Coast, but pretty much on the way from the West Coast.

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Source: gcmap.com

If you search from the United States to Havana on flyingblue.com, you will get an error message, so these awards are only to get from Mexico to Havana as part of a two award solution.

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Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points. ThankYou Points transfers take about 36 hours as long as you know how to correctly input your Flying Blue account number–it is not intuitive.

My favorite two cards to get ThankYou Points are the:

Cash Flights

Here are all the airlines and destinations that serve Havana. Here are the other airports in Cuba.

I searched on Kayak for many of the destinations and on Cubana’s and Aerogaviota’s sites for their fares. Flights to and from Cuba are shockingly expensive. For instance, I considered entering Cuba from Bogota to visit friends in Colombia first, and the 3.5 hour flight was around $500 one way. Even one hour hops in the Caribbean are almost always over $200.

Here are the cheapest fares I found to and from Cuba when I searched last month:

$158 from Havana to Nassau on April 25, 27, and 29

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$209 from Havana to Grand Cayman on April 26 and 30

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$214 from Havana to Mexico City on April 28

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If you find cheaper fares, put them in the comments. (Include airline, route, and date please.)

Bottom Line

Two ticket trips to Cuba is that it isn’t cheap in miles or cash. You are better off using just one roundtrip award, and I really recommend using 35,000 Lufthansa miles to fly Copa roundtrip, unless you want to stop in another country on the same trip.

US airlines won’t let you use their miles to Cuba or even search their sites for awards to Cuba, but foreign Star Alliance airlines will let you book Copa flights to Cuba by calling their non-US call centers.

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I just booked myself a five city, four country award for 15,000 United miles + $73. Let’s back up a little bit before I explain my current award.

My 2013 Euro Hopper

Two years ago, I flew a Seven City, Seven Flight, Six Country Award in Europe for 12,500 United miles plus taxes. I was able to get all that flying in because United allowed unlimited connections within Europe, so I added six between Zagreb and Munich.

Source: gcmap.com

The huge drawback on such awards is that a connection is a layover of less than 24 hours, so I had less than a day in each city. United doesn’t allow any stops greater than 24 hours on one way awards. I made clear in every post about that award that I knew it wasn’t for everyone because not everyone would enjoy such rapid travel.

But I had a blast.

  • It was my first trip to Dubrovnik, and I achieved a dream of cliff jumping into the Adriatic under the centuries old city walls. I have to go back.
  • It was my first trip to Rome, and I got to see the Colloseum and Forum, places I’d wanted to see since Latin I. I have to go back for longer.
  • I had never been to Brussels, Oslo, or Amsterdam, and while I enjoyed my time knocking off 2-3 of the top sites and activities in each, I learned that I don’t need to go back for longer trips any time soon.
  • Finally I got to Munich in time for Oktoberfest and my flight back to the United States.

As a break from my slow travel routine, I really enjoyed my week of breakneck speed. It was also a useful sorting mechanism. Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, and Munich need extended visits. Brussels, Oslo, and Amsterdam don’t.

Two things have changed since that week in 2013.

  1. United now only allows four segments on a one way award.
  2. United has increased the price of an intra-Europe award to 15,000 miles one way.

My 2015 Euro Hopper

Fast forward to 2015. I’m about to spend four months in Europe that I have mentally divided into four parts, each of about one month.

  1. Madrid, Spain
  2. Helsinki to Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius (the Baltics)
  3. Belgrade, Serbia
  4. Bucharest and Romania

I plan to end the main trip in Bucharest, but my return flight to the United States is an award that flies two segments in Emirates A380 First Class and begins in Zurich.

How to get from Bucharest to Zurich?

Another Europe hopper with 23 hour layovers. This time four segments between five cities and four countries.

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Source: gcmap.com

I start in Bucharest and end in Zurich. My only hard requirement was to fly direct flights only because when you have less than 24 hours on the ground in each place, you don’t want a tough journey to get there.

Because of schedules and interest, my trip ends up being Bucharest to Athens to Dubrovnik to Zagreb to Zurich.

  • This will be my first time in Athens, and I am ecstatic to see the Acropolis.
  • This will be my second time in Dubrovnik. Last time I only had about three hours of sunlight for cliff jumping. This time I plan to jump and hang out on the rocks at least twice that long!
  • This will be my second time in Zagreb. It’s a great place to be on a Friday night.
  • Finally I get to Zurich on Saturday afternoon, my favorite time to arrive in a new city, a few days before my flights back to the United States.

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The entire award costs only 15,000 miles and $72.80 in taxes that I paid with my new Citi Prestige® Card. Its $250 annual airfare and airline fee credit will give me back the $72.80.

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Searching and Booking the Award

Searching the award took me about 20 minutes. It involved a lot of Wikipedia consultation, searching all the possible routes, and writing down the flight times to make sure the scheduled landing time of one flight is less than 24 hours before the scheduled departure time of the next.

Finding award space is the easy part. Intra-Europe award space is usually a gimme, available on almost every flight in economy.

I started at the beginning and checked out the Bucharest airport Wikipedia page to find the direct Star Alliance flight options. There are a lot: Athens, Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Lisbon, Copenhagen, and Istanbul among them.

I immediately eliminated many of the cities because I’ve spent extended time there recently, they were too far away, or I didn’t have interest. My clear top choice was Athens. I was flexible about the date of arrival in Zurich at the end of my award, so I searched Bucharest to Athens on a few days and noted the flight times.

I searched united.com, here’s how, because all the relevant United partners in Eastern Europe are searchable on united.com. The only European partner not searchable on united.com is Brussels Airlines. Search it on aeroplan.com.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.40.01 PM

From Athens, I had a ton of options since it is the hub of Star Alliance carrier Aegean. (To make things easier on yourself when constructing these awards, plan a hub at least every other city.)

I only wanted to go to Dubrovnik. Athens to Dubrovnik is served by both Aegean and Croatia Airlines, but even combined, is not served daily. There was only one day and flight that worked for me. I noted its time.

From Dubrovnik, I had to get to Zurich in two more segments, so I opened the Dubrovnik airport Wikipedia page and Zurich airport Wikipedia page to find cities in common. There are actually a ton of cities in common because Croatia Airlines flies many seasonal routes from Dubrovnik.

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I zeroed in on Zagreb and conveniently there are several daily Croatia-to-Zagreb and Zagreb-to-Zurich flights. I picked the ones that gave me closest to 24 hours, without going over, in each city.

Booking

I put the first segment on hold on united.com with the PayPal trick. Then I called United web support at 866-211-1861. I told the agent I just needed to add three segments to my itinerary and fed her the date, cabin, and flight number of the other segments. She never mentioned or charged a phone booking fee. That’s the advantage of starting the award with an online hold.

I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card to take advantage of its $250 airfare/fee credit. The whole call took about seven minutes. In less than thirty minutes I searched and booked the award.

In the end I get:

  • 22 hours in Athens
  • 20 hours in Dubrovnik
  • 19 hours in Zagreb
  • 3 days in Zurich (before my Emirates flight)
  • (2 days in Dubai as a free stopover on an Alaska Airlines award)
  • (arrive in Houston for a wedding)

It’s going to be a heck of a week!

Other Possible Itineraries

The Star Alliance dominates Europe. These are the European Star Alliance members and their hubs:

  • Adria Airways (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
  • Aegean Airlines (Athens, Greece)
  • Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
  • Brussels Airlines (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Croatia Airlines (Zagreb)
  • LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
  • Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Berlin)
  • Scandinavian Airlines (Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm)
  • Swiss International Air Lines (Zurich)
  • TAP Portugal (Lisbon)
  • Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Ataturk)

All these options make a four segment, five city itinerary very easy to create. Put the cities that you want to explore the most first and last because the three middle cities will only have 23 hours or less of exploration time. Also be sure to check the ease of getting from the airport to the city. Frankfurt is about a 15 minute train while Paris is about a one hour train. That matters a lot when you only have 23 hours.

Other Regions

This award may be possible in other regions, but Europe has some major advantages:

  1. No other region has close to the 11 European partners.
  2. No other region has cultures change over such short distances–short flights are nice when you only get 23 hours in a place.

Bottom Line

I’m taking the long way from Bucharest to Zurich, taking advantage of all four segments United gives you on a one way award with daylong stops in Athens, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb.

I searched on united.com with the help of Wikipedia. I put the first segment on hold and called in to book the award.

The award cost me 15,000 United miles and $73. I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card. Because of its $250 annual airfare/fee credit, I will have the $73 credited back to me. I’ve used up my free $250 for 2015 in the first month of having the card. I’ll get another free $250 for airfare and award taxes in January 2016, so I’ll get $500 in free money for the card’s first $450 annual fee. That’s in addition to the card’s 50,000 bonus points, 3x category bonuses, and free American Airlines and Priority Pass airport lounge access. Read my full review of the Citi Prestige.

There’s no excuse not to have 15,000 United miles. Right now the United card is offering 55,000 bonus miles.  You can get the United card and Citi Prestige on the same day.

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