As I mentioned last week, I’m currently working on getting United miles so we can book tickets from Germany to Italy. Thankfully, we were able to secure quite a few flights using AAdvantage and Avios programs, or just paying good ol’ cash. So, I thought I would share the process and reasoning with you and hopefully help you with your own plans along the way.
Getting the best deal on tickets
Just like with flights in the USA, the first thing you need to do is find out what revenue tickets cost for your particular route. Miles don’t always make the most sense, so do your research. A good starting point is Kayak, which is an aggregator of different travel websites.
In Europe, however, many times it makes more sense to take a train instead of a plane. The biggest advantage is that it drops you off in the center of the city you are planning to visit. That saves valuable time, which allows you to do more sightseeing. That’s where Rome2Rio website will come in handy, as it will show you different ways of getting to your destination. (hat tip The Deal Mommy)
I also highly recommend the website Whichbudget, because it may fill in a gap and show you different airlines not listed on the other two mentioned sites. Europe has quite a few discount carriers, and most of them release their schedule 6 months ahead. By knowing which airlines fly which route, you will have an idea on whether to wait for a schedule to open up or book your tickets right now with another carrier.
Choosing which award program to use
I needed to book quite a few routes because our family will split up and tour different cities in Europe. I had a choice of using AAdvantage or British Airways Avios. Both are redeemable on One World alliance, but programs price out totally differently:
1) AAdvantage: The cost is 10,000 miles one-way for all intra-european flights. The pricing is flat (not per segment).
2) BA Avios program: the cost is per segment and depends on the distance flown. For now, this pricing is good for all One World (including American Airlines) and other partners. Recently, there was a huge scare that the best deals like 4,500 and 7,500 miles routes will potentially go away soon. That didn’t materialize… for now. I’ve said many times that you should never hoard your miles, and my advice hasn’t changed.
I will show you the tickets I booked and the reasoning behind my decisions. All the flights were on Air Berlin, One World partner.
Dusseldorf-Funchal (Madeira islands) flight: The cost was 10,000 AAdvantage miles or 10,000 Avios. Since I get a rebate of 10% with AAdvantage Citi card, I used AA miles. The cost came down to 9,000 AAdvantage miles plus $39.20 in taxes. The revenue ticket was $210 per person, so it made sense to use miles.
Venice-Dusseldorf flight: The cost was 10,000 AAdvantage miles or 4,500 Avios (since the distance was less than 650 miles). No brainer here. Used Avios for the total cost of 4,500 Avios per person plus $28 tax. The revenue ticket was $135 per person, so my redemption was a good deal indeed.
Rome-Dusseldorf flight: The cost was 10,000 AAdvantage miles or 7,500 Avios+$39.20 tax per person. Hmm, let’s check what the paid flights cost. The same route on Air Berlin was $121 per person. That’s just barely over 1 cent per Avios in value, and actually less, factoring in the fact that my in-laws would forgo accruing miles on that route.
Since the Avios stash belonged to my sister-in-law, I let her make the call. She decided to save the miles and just pay cash for the tickets. I probably would have done the same.
Figuring out what to do with the rest of the flights
We still have some gaps to fill, as I’ve said earlier.
A major unknown is our flight to Belarus. Needless to say, there are no non-stop routes from Naples to Minsk. Shocker! I’m looking into several options. There are a couple of discount carriers that fly from Italy to Poland and Lithuania. From there, we could cross the border and drive to my hometown of Grodno. The schedule won’t open up till November, so for now, I’ll have to patiently wait.
Another (if less ideal) option is trying to redeem AAdvantage miles from Naples to Minsk and make 2 connections. This is where AAdvantage flat pricing for intra-Europe flights would come in handy. The route would be nightmarish, but would get us where we needed to go. It would incorporate Air Berlin and S7 airlines, also a One World partner. The cost would be 10,000 AAdvantage miles per person. By comparison, through the Avios program, it would be 22,000 Avios for the same exact flight, since the pricing is per segment.
The bonuses that can help you get the same type of flights
Leana is the 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.