Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 12 — Europe

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

 

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Europe Awards

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

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • airberlin
  • Finnair

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

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

Pricing

From North America to Europe, American Airlines charges:

  • 22,500 miles one way in economy from January 10 – March 14 and November 1 – December 14 (Off Peak dates)
  • 30,000 miles one way in economy the rest of the year
  • 57,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 85,000 miles one way in First Class

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

These prices are very similar to what United and Delta charge for the same awards. However United and Delta do not have published Off Peak prices to Europe, so American does have the edge for those dates. Note that the Off Peak price to Europe applies on American Airlines planes as well as partners, which is unlike the rest of American’s Off Peak prices that only apply to flying American Airlines planes.

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

Washington to London in British Airways First Class is 85,000 American Airlines miles + $442.
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.21.59 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.22.18 PMWashington to Madrid roundtrip in British Airways First Class is 170,000 American Airlines miles + $1,020

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.26.30 PM

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

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

Routes & Award Space

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

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

Award Space on AA Flights

At the moment, the following routes have a very solid amount of Business Class award space open in early 2017:

  • Chicago and London
  • New York City and Barcelona
  • New York City and Paris
  • Paris and New York City
  • Barcelona and New York City

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.07.40 PM

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

New York to Paris has award space in economy nearly daily outside of peak travel times.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.59.31 PMAnd it also has a good deal of Business Class award space scattered throughout, including a ton of space in 2017.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.00.49 PM
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.48.53 PM

I hardly saw any First Class American Airlines award space at all on any of my searches.

Unfortunately, American Airlines does not open up last second award space in premium cabins on its European flights. Here is the award space from New York to London this week. There is some economy space, but nothing in Business or First.Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.07.13 PM

Iberia, Finnair, and airberlin Award Space

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.42.23 PM

Finnair

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

airberlin

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

For instance, New York to Dusseldorf has a decent amount of Business Class award space this summer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.23.25 PM

Award space in Business Class is not nearly as good on the return to New York from Dusseldorf, but there is still some.
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.27.48 PM

New York to Berlin has wide open economy but not much Business Class space in general.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.39.20 PM

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

Iberia

Iberia has great economy award space and OK Business Class award space as long as you book in advance. For instance, here are the days with Iberia Business Class awards in the first week of April 2017 from New York, Miami, and Chicago to Madrid.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.28.15 PM
Here is the economy space the same week on the same routes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.38.44 PM

What about last minute award space? You sometimes see economy seats available, but not Business. For the routes mentioned above, there is not even economy space within a week of today.

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

Booking the Award

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are not stellar to Europe in premium cabins. The prices are expensive and award space isn’t that hot. Using American Airlines miles during the Off Peak dates to Europe for the lower price of 22,500 miles is a better bet since there is plenty of economy space (and Off Peak prices to Europe apply for American Airlines flights as well as partner flights).

There are some American Airlines, some Iberia, and some airberlin routes with decent award space if you know what to search and can be flexible. But I’d rather book awards to Europe with United, Delta, Flying Blue, or Virgin Atlantic miles.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles, which is more than enough to book a roundtrip in economy or a one way in Business to Europe.


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

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the informative post. Quick question: is there a place where I can see ALL my options for nonstop flights from ORD-Europe? My wife and I are planning a European vacation for September 2016 and we do not have a specific destination chosen yet. Although I am not 100% opposed to connecting flights, I’d really love to pick destination and departure cities that have nonstop flights to Chicago. Is there a list somewhere that would list those options for AA and the various partners mentioned in this post? Or would I need to make my own list from scratch?

    Thank you!

  2. I need all this information to help me book our first award flight with AA miles to Europe. Is there a way to download all the parts in this series? I’d like to keep it so I don’t have to try to hunt it in October when the flights open up.

  3. Scott,

    Great post as always!

    With AA, it might be useful to discuss the product you can expect on these routes. Unless the space you found was on the 777-300ER to London, Business class on AA is abysmal. Similarly for JFK-CDG, it might be valuable to figure out if this was the reconfigured 767.

    I would gladly take airberlin if the only other product available is AA’s old J or BA (damn you taxes and ‘fees’!)

  4. In regards to Y tickets award tickets only:
    While I agree that using BA on a transatlantic segment is a “do not pass go” hard stop due to the YQ, using BA on an intra-European connection isn’t a total mistake, especially since the most AA metal transatlantic award space goes to LHR. The YQ isn’t terrible on intra-European flights.

    • It’s all AA now (and will be officially in October). There are some Charlotte to Europe flights too. Thanks for reminding us.

  5. i booked my flight 9 months in advance (next may) NY/Rome in business using award miles. i would love to leave for Rome a day earlier or come home a day later but nothing is available, i’m holding off making hotel reservations in case i get the extra day closer to my depart date. do you think there’s any chance either business or first milesaver awards will open up on more dates (i’m checking obsessively) or should i just give up?
    thanks
    deb

  6. AA flights to LHR impose the same fuel surcharges as does BA. I don’t think some other airlines–DL, UA, etc. charge them but I’m not sure. Maybe, Virgin Atlantic charges fuel surcharges.

    • On cash tickets, yes there are fuel surcharges on AA flights to Europe. But using AA miles to fly those flights, you don’t pay the fuel surcharges.

      • Puzzling. On AA.com, I see award flights DFW-LHR showing fuel surcharges, same as on BA. I guess a second ticket would be required to fly on BA to Madrid, Rome, Athens, etc.

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