Here in the 2nd entry of my Sweet Spot series, I’ll show you how to use fewer miles to get to Europe in coach!
These tips are especially useful for those of y’all near Boston, Chicago, Fort Myers, Hartford, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.
To make the most of this Sweet Spot, it’s best if you have (or will have!) a collection of any of these points:
- British Airways Avios
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
I’ll show you how and why to transfer points to the British Airways Avios program to get a great deal on coach award flights to Europe!
Shorter Flights Make Sense With British Airways Avios Points
British Airways award prices are distance-based, so shorter flights tend to be a better deal.
But they’re terrific for short flights on partner airlines like Aer Lingus to Ireland.
The redemption rates for one-way, short-haul coach flights are:
- 7,500 British Airways Avios points required for flights under 1,151 miles
- 10,000 British Airways Avios points required for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
- 12,500 British Airways Avios points required for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles
- 20,000 British Airways Avios points required for flights between 3,001 and 4,000 miles
And there are a number of routes between the US and Europe that fall within their short-haul distances!
Link: Aer Lingus
Ireland’s national airline is partners with British Airways, meaning you can redeem your British Airways Avios points for an Aer Lingus award flight.
Aer Lingus flies to the following cities in the US:
- Hartford (set to begin September 28, 2016)
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Newark (set to begin September 1, 2016)
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
Europe is close enough that folks on the East Coast can get very cheap award flights to Western Europe!
For example, Boston to Dublin is just under 3,000 flight miles, so you can fly that route on Aer Lingus for just 12,500 British Airways Avios points one-way, or a round-trip flight for only 25,000 miles!
To compare, United Airlines charges 30,000 miles in coach one-way between the US and Europe. Or 60,000 miles for a round-trip ticket!
Other good one-way deals in coach on Aer Lingus include:
- Chicago to Dublin – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
- New York (JFK) to Dublin or Shannon – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
- Orlando to Dublin – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
- San Francisco to Dublin – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
Aer Lingus also has very low fuel surcharges, so the fees on your ticket aren’t a lot, although you may have higher charges on your way home due to European departure taxes.
The Sweet Spot Isn’t as Sweet for Business Class Flights
When you use British Airways Avios points, Business Class award flights cost 3X the coach price. So compare that to flying on a United Airlines plane where a one-way Business Class ticket costs 57,500 United Airlines miles no matter where you depart from in the US.
Note: You can NOT search for (or book) Aer Lingus award flights on the British Airways website. But you CAN search for saver level award seats on the United Airlines website (or use ExpertFlyer if you have a subscription). Then call British Airways to book: 800-247-9297. Ask them to waive the phone fee because it’s not possible to book online.
Link: Air Berlin
Air Berlin is a oneworld alliance partner, and another great option for British Airways Avios point redemptions. Especially because they don’t impose fuel surcharges!
Air Berlin’s destinations in the US are:
- Fort Myers
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
Good deals from US cities to Germany on Air Berlin include:
- Boston to Düsseldorf – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
- New York (JFK) to Berlin or Düsseldorf – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
- Chicago to Berlin – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
- Fort Myers, FL to Düsseldorf – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
- Miami to Berlin or Düsseldorf – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
- Los Angeles to Düsseldorf – 30,000 British Airways Avios points
Again, Business Class requires 3X the miles of coach.
Beyond Dublin and Düsseldorf
You can take advantage of these great options even if Ireland or Germany is not your final destination. Travel within Europe is cheap and easy thanks to low-cost airlines like RyanAir and Europe’s sophisticated rail network, both of which can take you to your final destination.
You can also use your British Airways Avios points for short-haul flights to other parts of Europe. Remember, award flights under 750 miles outside of North America still cost just 4,500 British Airways Avios points one-way!
Likewise, Düsseldorf is a great city to visit because it’s close to so many destinations like Cologne (and about midway between Brussels and Frankfurt) that you can make it part of a multi-city tour.
How Do US Airline Awards Compare?
You’ll usually pay more to get to Europe when you use miles from US airlines, like American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines.
Usually, these airlines charge 30,000 miles one-way in coach between the US and Europe.
For example, United Airlines saver awards are 30,000 each way in coach:
Delta no longer publishes an award chart, but this is a typical low-level coach award flight:
American Airlines award flights to Europe are 30,000 miles one-way most of the year, although they do have a short “off-peak” period when awards drop to 22,500 miles one-way:
So in many cases, using British Airways Avios points to Europe from the East Coast can save you lots of points!
How to Earn British Airways Avios Points
Another reason to consider British Airways Avios points is there are so many ways to earn them!
And British Airways is a transfer partner of 3 of the 4 major flexible points programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards (5:4 ratio)
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1 ratio)
- Starwood Preferred Guest (1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer)
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Link: Chase Ink Plus
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. And transfers are usually instant.
Or with our link you can earn 60,000 bonus points if you don’t have a Chase branch nearby, or prefer online applications.
The Ink Plus is a small business card, but you may qualify as a business even if you don’t have millions in revenue!
If you don’t have a business, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred card with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after you meet the minimum spending.
With 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel, and no annual fee the first year, this is one of my favorite cards! Especially if you’re new to the miles & points hobby.
Remember, if you’re just starting out, it’s better to apply for the Chase cards you want first. Because with Chase’s tougher approval rules, if you’ve opened more than ~5 credit cards (not counting these business cards) within the past 24 months from ANY bank, it’s likely you will NOT be approved for most Chase cards.
Transfer Starwood Points
Starwood points aren’t as easy to earn as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but they’re a terrific deal if you transfer them to British Airways.
You’ll get 25% bonus airline miles with most airlines when you transfer Starwood points in increments of 20,000 points. So 20,000 Starwood points = 25,000 British Airways Avios points!
Or use Starwood Nights and Flights to get a 5-night hotel stay along with a bonus transfer to airline miles.
Earn British Airways Points Directly With the Chase British Airways Card
You can also earn British Airways Avios points directly with the British Airways Visa Signature Card. Because this is a Chase card, you’ll also want to consider adding this card to your wallet if you haven’t opened a lot of new cards in the past ~24 months.
You’ll earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
Note: This is NOT the highest offer for the card. Recently, you could earn up to 100,000 British Airways Avios points after meeting tiered spending requirements. And most recently, there was a 75,000 British Airways Avios point offer.
So if you’re not in a rush, you might want to sit tight and wait for a better offer to return!
Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points
Moving American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways isn’t as good as deal as it used to be. Previously, you could transfer points at a 1:1 ratio.
But last year, the ratio changed to 250 AMEX Membership Rewards points = 200 British Airways Avios points. Or 5:4.
I’d rather save my AMEX Membership Rewards points for transfers to airlines with a 1:1 ratio, like Air Canada, Delta, or Singapore Airlines.
But this could be a good option for folks who need to top-off their British Airways account for an award.
Here are cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points:
There’s a terrific sweet spot when you use British Airways Avios points for partner flights to Europe on Aer Lingus and Air Berlin.
It’s easy to earn British Airways Avios points, because they’re a Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood, and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner.
From certain departure cities, you’ll pay fewer points to Europe than with US airlines on similar routes.
And you’ll pay minimal fuel surcharges when you redeem for flights on Aer Lingus and Air Berlin.
Have you taken Aer Lingus or Air Berlin award flights to Europe? Please share your experiences in the comments!
And see more ways to save airline miles in my Sweet Spot series, like flying to Hawaii for less using Chase, Citi, AMEX, or Starwood Points!