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It’s the time of year when folks are planning their summer trips to Europe. Sometimes low-level award seats can be hard to find because it’s such a popular place to go!
So it’s good to have options for the cheapest ways to get there using miles and points!
Here are my favorite cheap award tickets to Europe. If you don’t mind flying coach class, you could get there for as few as 25,000 miles round-trip!
And remember, you don’t have to fly there and back on the same airline.
Sometimes you’ll get a better deal (and more available award seats) by booking 1-way flights on different airlines. Or you might mix-and-match because you don’t have enough points in 1 program for a round-trip ticket.
Top 5 Cheap Ways to Get to Europe Using Miles and Points
This isn’t a ranking! Depending on whether you want to conserve miles and points, or save money, each of these programs is cheap in their own way.
And the location of your home airport is also a factor, so always do the math to see what works best for your situation.
1. American Airlines Miles
I like using American Airlines miles to get to Europe because their taxes and fees are often lower than other airlines. And if you can travel at off-peak times (like spring and fall), you’ll pay fewer miles!
But you’ll pay hefty fuel surcharges for award tickets on British Airways, so that’s NOT a good deal.
Whether you’re flying on American Airlines or 1 of their partners, you’ll pay 60,000 miles round-trip for a coach class flight between the US and Europe. But if you’re able to travel at off-peak times (October 15 to May 15), it only costs 40,000 miles round-trip.
That’s a great deal if you can plan a spring or fall getaway! But even if you’re traveling at peak times, it’s still a good deal because of the low taxes and fees compared to some other airlines.
How to Earn American Airlines Miles
You can’t transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership rewards points to American Airlines. But you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points (and earn a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points).
Or you can earn them from credit cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® or Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® card. Both of these cards currently have a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus after completing minimum spending requirements.
2. British Airways Avios Points
British Airways Avios points can be a great way to get to Europe cheaply for folks who live on the East coast. That’s because British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, so areas closer to Europe cost fewer points!
British Airways adds big fuel surcharges to their own award tickets, and to tickets on some of their partners. That’s NOT Big Travel with Small Money!
You can use British Airways Avios to fly Aer Lingus to Europe very cheaply, especially if you live on the east coast.
That’s because British Airways uses a distance-based award chart. So flights from cities like New York, Boston, and Toronto (which are closer to Dublin) cost fewer miles.
And Boston to Dublin only costs 12,500 miles each way in coach.
You’ll pay fees of ~$150, but that’s still far better than the fuel surcharges (sometimes $600+) added to British Airways’ own flights.
That said, if you prefer flying Business Class, you’ll pay more Avios points on Aer Lingus (and other British Airways partners) starting April 28, 2015.
Note: You can’t search for Aer Lingus award seats on the British Airways website. You could use ExpertFlyer, or call British Airways at 800-452-1201 to check for available seats. And you’ll have to book over the phone (but ask nicely and they might waive the $25 phone booking fee!).
Note: British Airways is in the process of buying Aer Lingus. I’m not sure what impact this will have in the future, but for now this is still a good way to get to Dublin for fewer miles.
Air Berlin is another good use of British Airways Avios points to fly to Europe. You’ll pay taxes and fees on the ticket, but the price is minimal compared to award flights on British Airways!
Again, because Avios is distance-based, you’ll pay fewer miles from the East coast than from other US destinations. For example, Chicago to Berlin costs 50,000 miles round-trip plus $94 in coach class.
Remember, if you want to fly beyond Ireland or Germany using Avios points, you can book relatively inexpensive short-haul European flights. British Airways still adds fuel surcharges to these flights, but they’re much lower than other destinations.
Or you could buy a cheap paid ticket on a discount airline like Ryanair. Or consider taking the train!
How to Earn British Airways Avios Points
British Airways Avios are easy to get. They’re a Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner. And sometimes there are transfer bonuses with AMEX Membership Rewards.
3. Flying Blue (Air France / KLM) Miles
Link: Flying Blue Promo Awards
If you want to save your miles and points, you could do very well with Flying Blue Promo Awards to Europe.
Each month, Air France and KLM discount award tickets on certain routes by up to 50%. You’ll still pay taxes and fees depending on the route, but it could be worth it for folks who want to use fewer miles.
For example, a coach class award ticket between the US and Europe normally costs 50,000 miles round-trip. But when Flying Blue discounts their coach class tickets by 50%, you’ll only pay 25,000 miles round trip.
That said, you’ll also pay taxes and fees which vary depending on destination (usually under ~$200 each way, sometimes even less).
And you don’t have to end your journey in Paris or Amsterdam (the European cities served directly from the US by Air France and KLM). For the same number of miles, you can connect onward to other European cities.
And Flying Blue’s definition of Europe includes Western Russia, Israel, and cities in Northern Africa. So you could stretch your points even farther.
How to Earn Flying Blue Miles
Note: Only Flying Blue miles can be used to book Promo Awards, not miles from SkyTeam partner airlines like Delta.
But you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue at a 1 : 1 ratio, and sometimes there are transfer bonuses. Or you could transfer Starwood Preferred Guest or Citi ThankYou points.
4. Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines might not be the 1st airline that comes to mind when you think about flights between the US and Europe. They’re a Star Alliance member, but add fuel surcharges to both their own and most partner award tickets.
But many folks don’t know you can book Singapore Airlines award flights between New York and Frankfurt for only 17,000 miles (plus taxes and fees) in coach class each way! The price on the award chart is actually 20,000 miles 1-way, but you get a 15% discount when you book your ticket online.
The same applies to award flights between Houston and Moscow.
If you’re trying to make your miles last, this could be a good way to get to Europe. As long as you don’t mind the fuel surcharges.
And if you’ve dreamed of flying in Singapore Airlines suites, this is a good opportunity to try it out. The fees are almost the same as a coach class award ticket, and you’ll pay 57,375 miles.
How to Earn Singapore Airlines Miles
5. United Airlines Miles
The good thing about United Airlines is that they do NOT add fuel surcharges to award tickets! And because they have so many European Star Alliance partners, you’ve got lots of flight options.
For example, you’ll pay 30,000 miles and ~$6 for a 1-way, coach ticket from New York to Frankfurt on Lufthansa using United Airlines miles. The return trip is the same number of miles, but the fees are higher (~$111).
Remember, you might find lots of award seats available on less popular Star Alliance airlines, like Brussels Airlines or LOT Polish Airlines.
I’ve written about all the ways to get to Europe using United Airlines miles.
Although since that post was written, there have been some changes to their award charts. For example, awards on Star Alliance partner airlines, especially in Business and First Class, are now more expensive
How to Earn United Airlines Miles
You can earn United Airlines miles from the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer cards (personal and business). And the business version currently has an increased 50,000 mile sign-up bonus.
United Airlines is also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio.
Save Time While Saving Miles!
Emily and I use ExpertFlyer to plan our trips. It’s an easy way to see which flights have available award seats (but not all airlines are included).
And with a paid subscription, you can set up seat alerts which notify you if award seats have opened up. This saves us lot of time because otherwise we’d have to keep checking the airline websites!
Here are some other resources for travel to Europe:
- The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards – Part 1 – All the Ways to Get to Europe
- The Ultimate Guide to United Miles – Part 8 – All the Ways to Get to Europe
- Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro – Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability Using the Qantas Website
If you’re planning travel to Europe this summer, it’s good to have lots of choices when you book award tickets.
And depending on the airline you choose, you could get there for fewer miles and points, or lower fuel surcharges.
I’ve listed my favorite deals for cheaper travel to Europe. But I’d love to hear your ideas! What’s your favorite way to get to Europe using miles and points?