Ultimate Guide for Using Miles and Points to Get to Europe [2019]

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Getting to Europe with miles and points is one of the most popular redemptions I see requests for among miles and points “enthusiasts.” A lot of people don’t realize that there are lots of different ways beyond using American, United, or Delta miles to get to Europe for much cheaper, however. Often you can book the same flight for fewer miles and less in fees but you just have to know where to look. 

Here’s a look at 13 of the best sweet spots for using miles and points to get to Europe.


How to use miles and points for Europe

1) ANA Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed (roundtrip price)

  • Economy: 55,000
  • Business class: 88,000
  • First class: 165,000

The economy redemption to Europe for 55,000 miles is decent but the mileage requirement for 88,000 miles to Europe in business class is one of the best sweet spot redemptions out there and absolutely one of the best ways to use miles and points to get to Europe. ANA will pass on heavy fuel surcharges with many of its partners but United and Air Canada are both exceptions.

Here’s a look at a United flights roundtrip into London for a total of $290.29 in fees. Believe it or not, United wanted to charge $291 in fees for this same flight, not to mention over 30,000 more miles, so this was a much better option.

ANA requires only 88,000 miles and $290.29 to fly business class roundtrip to London from North America

With ANA it only costs 88,000 miles plus $290.29 in fees to fly business class from North America to Europe. So the total fees are cheaper than United’s and the mileage requirement is much lower, too. It’s an all around bargain and one of the best ways to use your Membership Rewards.

But the deal actually gets even sweeter when not flying into London and on Air Canada.

Take a look at the Air Canada flight below from YYZ to MAD — it only comes with $69.49 in fees!

ANA miles on Air Canada to Europe in business class is one of the top sweet spot redemptions.

ANA’s search feature is great when it works but many times it’s a PIA with its incessant error messages. Thus, sometimes you may want to search for United flights by segment on United’s website and/or Aeroplan’s website. Those sites will give you a good indication of whether or not there are any United flights available to Paris and then if you need to you could call in to book them.

ANA allows for one free stopover but they do limit their partner award tickets to only roundtrips.

Miles and points to get to Europe
Amsterdam Damrak in the Netherlands.

2) Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott Bonvoy, and co-branded credit card

Miles needed (one-way price)

  • Economy: 25,000+
  • Premium economy: 35,000+
  • Business class: 50,000+
  • First class: 75,000+

With transfer opportunities from both Citi and American Express, Cathay Pacific is a tremendous program. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles offers some of the best redemption rates in all cabins to Europe. The only problem is that fees don’t show up unless you have the required miles in your account. However, you can guestimate through ITA Matrix and only count the taxes, not fuel surcharges. For example, from JFK to LHR on British Airways you’ll be hit with fees around $300 in total fees in business class.

Asia Miles redeemable for British Airways or other One World airlines for 50,000 miles in business class.

But as Asia Miles uses a distance award chart, the length of your total itinerary can affect the price of miles. For example, LAX to LHR is 25,000 miles more than JFK to LHR. There is a positive though, you can create unique routings.

Asia Miles business class redemption from LAX to LHR.

Again, fees don’t show as I don’t have the required miles. Same goes if you call in, Asia Miles don’t want to disclose fees.

Cathay Pacific does operate on two different distance-based award charts and at first glance they seem very confusing. But if you take a little while to breakdown how each award chart works, it will be worth it in the end.

3) Korean Air

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed (roundtrip price)

  • Economy: 50,000
  • Business class: 80,000
  • First class: 100,000

Korean Air used to be a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Since August 2018, Chase dropped Korean as a transfer partner. So, gaining Korean Air miles as easily as they once were. However, if you have some Korean miles or many Marriott Bonvoy points that need a home, Korean might work for you.

Korean Air offers one of the best ways to get to Europe in business class with its ridiculously low redemption rate of 80,000 miles. Unfortunately, you will pay surcharges for most airlines and those can get quite high.

This is the case even for awards on Delta.

For example, even if you book a roundtrip with Delta to Europe, the surcharges will be around $420+. Thus, while the mileage requirements are very low, if you’re averse to high fees this sweet spot might not be that appealing.

Fees on Delta using Korean Air miles.

The good thing is that you can now book SkyTeam partners online so you don’t have to bother with jumping through all of the hoops that you previously had to do, such as mailing and faxing in documents.

Take a boat tour and explore the Algarve in Portugal!

4) Asiana Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy and co-branded credit card

Miles needed (one-way price)

  • Economy: 50,000
  • Business class: 40,000
  • First Class: 50,000

Asiana is one of the best miles and points program for getting to Europe in business class and first class.The rates are very hard to beat at 80,000 miles. But with Asiana you should be able to get around surcharges by booking Star Alliance partners United and Air Canada, making this a killer redemption.

The 100,000 roundtrip rate or 50,000 one way on first class is terrific.

Fees on certain airlines such as Lufthansa can add up but on a one-way award they can be as low as $291. Since you’d only be paying 50,000 miles for that one-way award, that’s not too bad. The drawback to Asiana is that they are not a transfer partner of a major rewards program other than Marriott Bonvoy.

Visit the Viking Museum in Oslo, Norway while getting to Europe with miles and points.

5) Virgin Atlantic

  • Alliance: Select partners
  • Ways to earn miles: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed (one-way price nonstop)

  • Economy: 30,000 
  • Business class: 50,000

Virgin Atlantic has been gaining a lot of traction over the years for using their miles with partners like ANA and Delta. Well, in all honesty, it should be getting lots of attention.

Using Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta is one of the most lucrative redemptions out there, but only if it’s for a nonstop flight.

Take this flight from DTW to AMS, when it’s nonstop the pricing is this 50,000, but when there is a connection you can see the redemption price went up 22,500 miles. See, Virgin charges for each segment, so if you are searching for a redemption with Virgin for a Delta flight that has a connection, you will be charged for that segment separately.

Virgin Atlantic miles used for Delta airlines from any nonstop Delta flight between the US and Europe

I would also like to note that Virgin does pass on the fuel surcharges and taxes. So, for countries like the UK, you need to be aware that fuel surcharges and taxes will be passed onto you. Also on the subject of the UK, Virgin uses a different award chart for London flights between the US and London. I strongly suggest you ignore Virgin Atlantic miles for flights to London as the redemption cost is slightly higher with much higher fees.

6) British Airways Avios

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy, American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, co-branded credit card

British Airways Avios operates on a distance-based chart, so your points requirement depends on how many miles your trip covers. Generally, when going to Europe it’s recommended to use Avios on partner airlines in order to avoid the high fuel surcharges that you get hit with on British Airways when flying through London.

Miles needed (distance based)

Zone/Flight DistanceEconomyPremium EconomyBusiness ClassFirst Class
Zone 1
1-650 miles (not available in North America)
6,0009,00012,50024,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
9,00012,50016,50033,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
11,00016,50022,00044,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
13,00025,75038,75051,500
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
20,75041,25062,00082,500
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
25,75051,50077,250103,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
31,00062,00092,750123,750
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
36,25072,250108,250144,250
Zone 9
7001+ miles
51,500103,000153,500206,000

Take the example of JFK to MAD nonstop. The required miles and fees are less than connecting through LHR as the flight distance is greater.

Fewer miles and fees compared to connecting.
Connecting increases your distance, while fees raise because of LHR.

If you fly business class or first, expect higher fees as the seats will be taxed for a premium.

7) Iberia Airlines Plus

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy, American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards

Iberia also operates a distance-based award chart similar to British Airways. However, the sweet spots in the Iberia award chart are different from those found in the British Airways award chart. Here is the award chart:

Zone/Flight DistanceEconomy
Off-peak/Peak
Business Class
Off-peak/Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles
4,500/5,0009,000/10,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
7,500/8,25015,000/16,500
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
10,000/11,00020,000/22,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
11,000/12,50021,250/31,250
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
17,000/20,00035,000/50,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
21,250/25,00043,500/62,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
25,000/30,00051,000/75,000

Iberia’s requirements for the first three zones in business class are worse than than British Airways and Aer Lingus, but after that they actually offer better redemptions. Thus, the sweet spots I’ll focus on will be in those zones. Keep in mind that when booking a partner award, you’re going to be subject to the peak mileage requirement. 

The following are requirements for one-way awards.

  • Economy:
    • Off-peak: 17,000
    • Peak: 20,000
  • Business class:
    • Off-peak: 34,000
    • Peak: 50,000

These rates apply to journeys under 4,000 miles, which include:

  • Boston to Madrid
  • New York to Madrid
  • Chicago to Madrid (this is actually more than 4,000 miles but registers as being under 3,000)
Secret sweetspot from Chicago to Europe

This is a tremendous sweet spot for using Iberia Avios to book business class, especially if your trip falls within the off-peak calendar. 68,000 Avios for a roundtrip in business class to Europe beats some of the best redemption rates like Korean Air and ANA and the fees are pretty reasonable.

You should be able to lower the fees by booking flights on American Airlines, but keep in mind that the mileage requirement will go up since Iberia charges more miles for certain partners and you can’t book one-way awards on American Airlines with Iberia.

Fly to Madrid and enjoy authentic tapas.

8) Aeroplan (Air Canada)

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed (one-way price)

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business class: 55,000
  • First class: 70,000

Aeroplan has a decent redemption rate for getting to Europe in business class and if you want you can even book one awards. The key to booking with Aeroplan miles to try to make your bookings on the airlines that don’t require you to pay fuel surcharges.

The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*

I love Aeroplan as an option of getting to Europe and I’ve personally used Aeroplan miles to book a business class one way flight on SAS to Tromsø, Norway. I only paid $12 in total fees and 55,000 miles for a total value of around 14 cents per point. Considering we got to see the northern lights in full display, I rank that redemption among the best uses of miles and points to get to Europe.

It doesn’t get much better than lie-flat seats to Europe with points and miles.

9) Alaska Airlines

  • Alliance: Select partners
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy and Bank of America Alaska credit cards

Alaska Airlines offers rates that differ depending on the partner. There are several different partners you can utilize to get to Europe and they are below quoted at one-way prices:

Aer Lingus

  • Economy: 30,000 – 80,000
  • Business class: 60,000-280,000
  • First class: N/A

American Airlines

  • Economy: 22,500 (off-peak); 30,000 (peak)
  • Business class: 57,500
  • First class: 85,000

British Airways

  • Economy: 32,500
  • Premium economy: 42,500
  • Business class: 60,000
  • First class: 70,000

Condor

  • Economy: 25,000 – 40,000
  • Premium class: 45,000
  • Business class: 55,000

Emirates (New York to Milan)

  • Economy: 47,500
  • Business class: 105,000
  • First class: 180,000

Finnair

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business class: 70,000

Icelandair

  • Economy: 30,000+
  • Business class: 50,000

Out of all these partners, I think American Airlines is probably the best bargain for both economy and business class (50,000 in business class is great). Icelandair options are decent too, but their product isn’t exactly on par with American Airlines.

Also, some of the other economy redemptions are higher than they would be if you just booked with the partner airline’s own miles (Air France, British Airways, etc.) and some redemptions like those for Emirates are just sky high. Thus, I’d probably try to use Alaskan miles on American to get to Europe, and although finding availability in business class can be difficult, that off-peak 22,500 redemption in AA economy is very nice.

Explore Iceland using Alaska miles.

10) American Airlines

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: Marriott Bonvoy and American Airlines co-branded credit cards

Miles needed (one-way prices)

  • Economy: 22,500 (off-peak); 30,000
  • Business class: 57,500
  • First class: 85,000

AA recently announced that any AA marketed flight will use dynamic pricing. That means, for the time being AA will still use the award chart, but prices will vary greatly now. It will basically become random like Delta Airlines.

American Airlines offers some decent rates to Europe in both economy and business class. The biggest problem that almost everybody will tell you is that SAAver award availability in business class to Europe usually is not good at all.

Sometimes American will dump a bunch of SAAver awards out but if you don’t catch them at the right time, it can be difficult to find open seats. Economy is much easier to find, however. Also when flying on American you can expect fees to be pretty reasonable.

You can book American partners like Finnair for pretty low fees, too. For a roundtrip flight to HEL with American + Finnair, I found flights with only $105 in fees. Just beware that Finnair can be bad about showing “phantom award space” so you always need to verify that those awards are actually available.

I would generally stray away from booking British Airways with AA miles because the fees can easily eclipse $1,000. For example, the first class roundtrip below on British Airways flights comes out to over $1,900 in total fees for just one person.

 

However, if you just want to book a one-way segment, the fees in premium cabins can be reasonable if you route through another city. For example, I used AA miles to book British Airways first class routing from Oslo via LHR to IAH and the fees were $270. Not too bad.

British Airways First Class.

11) United Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: Chase Ultimate Rewards, co-branded credit cards, Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed (one-way prices)

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business class: 60,000
  • First class: 80,000

On November 15, 2019, United will switch over to dynamic pricing for their own flights. That means, for any United marketed flight and want to use United miles, the price will be dynamic from tickets bought after November 15th. It will be similar to Delta and how they price their tickets. For the time being though, United partners won’t use dynamic pricing.

Award availability for saver economy to Europe was good when I searched but not the greatest when I searched for business class awards from some hubs like ORD and IAH. However, once I got very far out on the calendar (like 9 to 11 months), the availability opened up on some routes and I found some United flights. On those all United flights, fees only came out to $100+ roundtrip, but on the way to Europe, fees are less as it’s when you leave Europe the fees will kill you.

 

 

 

Here are the mileage requirements for Star Alliance partners:

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business class: 70,000
  • First class: 110,000

The vast majority of the flights I found were on partners, such as Turkish Airlines, LOT, SAS, and Air Canada. For some of the partners like LOT and SAS, the total fees for the round trip were only $88 USD. These fees aren’t bad at all but you have to keep in mind United has a much higher mileage requirement for partners that requires 25,000 additional miles.

When using United miles to book partners like Air Canada and Turkish Airlines the fees can get a little pricey. Overall, if you’re flying to a place like London fees might be around $10 to get there but close to $180 for the way back in economy or $279 for the way back in business class. Paying close to $300 in fees and 140,000 miles roundtrip is much more expensive than some of these other Star Alliance programs so I’d consider your alternatives.

 

Miles and points to get to Europe
Paris, France.

12) Flying Blue

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott Bonvoy

Miles needed:

  • Economy:
    • 12,500 (best promo)
    • 25,000 (standard redemption to Europe)
  • Business class:
    • 55,000

Flying Blue offers amazing promo deals that sometimes offer as much as 50% off to Europe! These deals pop up at the beginning of each month so you’ll need to keep a close eye on them to take advantage of them. If you can ever find a promo award to Europe for 25,000 in economy, that’s one of the most valuable sweet-spot redemptions available. It’s just a rare offer so I wouldn’t count on it but instead just monitor the promo awards. The business class awards to Europe on Flying Blue aren’t the best bargains available but they’re still not that bad at 125,000 miles.

Air France

I don’t generally recommend to use Flying Blue miles to book tickets on Air France. And that’s because you’ll have to pay high surcharges. For example, if you booked a roundtrip from ATL to CDG with Air France, you’d be looking at paying over $500 USD in fees!

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-9-01-12-pm

SkyTeam partners/Delta

If you can book awards on SkyTeam partner Delta, you can dramatically limit the fees you’ll pay. For example, here’s a flight with Delta from ATL to CDG with fees totaling around $156 USD.

Ignore the backwards itinerary.

For economy awards with Delta, you can book tickets with fees as low as $113 USD. And for 50,000 miles, that’s not bad at all.

I searched for availability for flights to Paris about 6 months out and for economy the availability was exceptional and even for business class it was pretty good as well. It wasn’t very hard at all to find Delta flights, either. Below is a snapshot of the business class availability for April/May with the red squares showing Delta flights departing to CDG.

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-8-59-49-pm

Flying Blue also allows for stopovers, so you could always try to work one of these in en route to or form Paris.

13) Delta Airlines

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, co-branded credit cards

Miles needed (one-way prices)

The following are base prices. Since Delta is a dynamic mileage currency, redemption prices change throughout the year for saver tickets.

  • Economy:
    • 30,000+
  • Business class:
    • 70,000+

I really don’t care for the Delta Skymiles program and they are not one of the best programs to get to Europe. However, with that said, I think they can be a decent option to get to Europe (but not to come back on). You can get to Europe on Delta’s metal in business class and only $5 in fees. You can also book partner Virgin Atlantic for 85,000 miles one way plus only $5 in fees from the US to LHR.

I have to admit that It’s pretty ridiculous that ANA offers roundtrip redemptions with a stopover for only 88,000 points and all you could get is a one way trip to Europe with Delta. However, American Express offers four Delta cards that often come with high bonuses (and two others) so it’s very easy to accumulate Delta miles. Since you can easily acquire 70,000+ Delta miles and find lots of awards to Europe for only $5 in fees, using Delta miles just to get to Europe can be a decent redemption. Coming back with Delta will incur higher fees near $300.

If you have Delta SkyMiles and need to burn them, I suggest reading our best ways to use and redeem Delta SkyMiles.


Final word

These are 13 of some of the best ways to get to Europe. Which one is best for you will depend on personal factors but it’s a good idea to at least familiarize yourself with these programs so that you can maximize your value and minimize your costs.

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