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Looking for Best Award Flight Options for My Family Trip to Europe (Part Two)

  1. Best options on American, Finnair and Iberia flights

  2. Best options on  Delta, United and Lufthansa flights

In my previous post I talked about a few possible scenarios for our flights to Europe next summer. All of them involved using AAdvantage miles, which is my strong preference. I would much rather save my future stash of Membership Rewards for another redemption  down the road. Eventually, I hope to get Amex Everyday, so I won’t be under pressure to use up MR points before the annual fees hit on our Amex Platinum cards.

That said, things may not work out with AAdvantage because I sure as heck won’t be paying 65K or even 45K AA miles for one-way economy ticket. That’s where my MR stash will come in handy, I hope. Obviously, I’m assuming that there won’t be a spectacular fare sale that will trump all mileage award options.

The goal is to get to Europe, spend a few days, and then continue on to Belarus (on a  separate ticket). Without further ado:

Flights on Delta

I can instantly transfer MR points 1:1 to Delta program. The lowest  cost is 30K miles one-way in economy. I don’t know what availability will be like next summer, but I was able to find  five economy seats from Tampa to Amsterdam in May of 2017:

delta tampa-ams

There is only one stop, and tax is $5, can’t beat that! Now can we please stop saying that Delta miles are worthless? Try finding five seats to Amsterdam via AAdvantage for 30K miles one-way. On a side note: the increased offers on Amex Gold Delta cards (personal and business) are due to expire today. In all likelihood, you will see them again, though.

If you book your Delta flights through Air France program, you’ll pay just 25,000 miles and avoid Amex fee on transfers to domestic airline programs. Unfortunately, you can only book via Air France 10 months in advance (rather than 11 months with Delta), so it’s a bit of a deal breaker to me. I hope to have my flights lined up as soon as possible because I have five seats to worry about.

But for those of you who are not in a hurry, Flying Blue is a fantastic alternative (join for free here). I could not look up the same flight in May, so chose April date instead:

air france delta

The flights are operated by Delta, Air France partner. Strangely, the tax is $23 instead of $5, but I would gladly pay $18 more per person in order to save 5,000 MR points and avoid Amex transfer fee.

Flights on United

A decent Membership Rewards option for this redemption  is Air Canada Aeroplan program (join for free here). MR points transfer instantly and there is no transfer fee. If you have a membership, you can search online before transferring the points:

aeroplan search The key is to avoid Lufthansa-operated flights. Here is an example of what it would cost to redeem miles for five one-way economy tickets from Tampa to Amsterdam:

aeroplan lufthansa

Ouch! You are paying 150,000 miles+over $2,000 CAD for five tickets. And here are United-operated flights:

aeroplan united

Much better! As you can see, it costs 30K miles one-way to fly from US to Europe, identical to what you would pay through United program itself. Be aware, Aeroplan prices Europe flights according to region, and the further you go, the more you’ll pay in miles. Fortunately, Amsterdam falls into the lowest tier. Overall, Aeroplan is a decent option for flying to most popular cities in Europe because United usually has good award availability.

There is another possibility: Singapore KrisFlyer program. It costs 27,500 miles one-way, a bit less than Aeroplan. The pricing to Europe is flat and doesn’t depend on the region. However, there are a few drawbacks. First, transfer is not instant. Second, you can’t search or book United flights  online.

I’ve also read that Singapore agents sometimes try to add on extra taxes/fuel surcharges, even though technically, redemptions on United flights aren’t supposed to have those. Still, saving 12,500 MR points would be very enticing. I would call first and confirm availability as well as taxes before transferring anything.

Flights on Lufthansa

I saved the best for last. As I’ve mentioned in Part 1, I’m hoping to use my stash of 150K United miles for one-way tickets from Europe to USA. Here is why. I want to fly on Lufthansa and avoid fuel surcharges, and the only way to do it is to book via United program. Since we’ll be flying from Minsk, Lufthansa, or rather Star Alliance is the most convenient option.

But I won’t be flying from Minsk to Tampa in one day, it would be very hard on kids. Instead, I hope to spend one night in Frankfurt before continuing on to Florida. But isn’t a stopover not allowed on one-way United redemptions?  True, but we will have a layover of less than 24 hours, so it should be fine.

Here is how to book it online. First, you select multi-city option:

united search

Then, fill out all the information:

united multi cityNotice how I selected 1-stop option for Minsk-Frankfurt leg? That’s because the only direct flight leaves at 6:05 AM. Not only is it super inconvenient, but it would make our layover in Frankfurt  longer than 24 hours, which would mean paying extra 15K United miles per person.

Instead,we will pay just 30K miles per person, plus $121. The tax is a bit high, but  Frankfurt-Tampa flight on its own comes with $86 tax. So, for $35 extra we will have our intra-Europe leg taken care of. The fact that MSQ-FRA part has a connection isn’t ideal, but flights from Belarus are quite expensive. There is an alternative of flying from Vilnius on Ryanair, but then you risk flight cancellation, and it costs more:

ryanair vno

Plus, we would be flying to an obscure airport quite a ways from Frankfurt. I think having your ticket handled in one transaction is safer in case things go wrong. Plus, we wouldn’t have to pay for checked luggage, and my sister-in-law is a pack rat.

Well, there you have it, folks! If anyone has suggestions on how I can better maximize my MR points for this trip, please, comment.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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6 thoughts on “Looking for Best Award Flight Options for My Family Trip to Europe (Part Two)

  1. Your series on Europe awards show how the fun only starts its collecting miles…. There’s a lot of work in getting the Ickes IF you want the best bang for your miles/points.

    • Leticia, no worries on typos! I make mistakes all the time, and I don’t even type on my iPad. You are right, earning miles is only one side of the coin. You need to know how to use them as well. There are many options, but I wanted to focus on few awards to Europe that are not super difficult to figure out.

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