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Using AAdvantage and Avios Programs for Our Intra-European Flights

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.

The biggest discount European airlines are Easyjet and Ryanair. It’s not unheard of to get flights for 15 euros per person (tax included), which is a great thing for a family on a budget.

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.

map
 Image is courtesy of GCMAP
Man, do I hope we don’t have to take this route with two small kids!

The bonuses that can help you get the same type of  flights

Most families who read this blog will use AAdvantage and Avios  miles within North America (as well as Hawaii) and the Caribbean, utilizing them for American Airlines or Alaska Air flights. Fortunately, the same reasoning and principles will apply. I’ve previously written a post on best uses of Avios program for family, which you may want to read.
The  cards I recommend are Citi AAdvantage Mastercard, Chase British Airways Visa and Chase Sapphire Preferred (points transfer to Avios). The last two pay me commission if you apply through my site.
You may also be targeted for a 50,000 Membership Rewards points offer for Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, which also pays me referral. The points transfer instantly to British Airways Avios program on 1:1 basis. You can read about all the bonuses in my page “Best credit card deals for family.”

 

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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.

6 thoughts on “Using AAdvantage and Avios Programs for Our Intra-European Flights

  1. I am planning a graduation trip for my wife for when she finally. Finally. Finally graduates from college in 2016 (when we’ll be dual income and I may no longer be a cheap black dad, but just a black dad). She wants to do Europe. This perspective will prove helpful for when I Start booking flights next year. Gotta manage my Chase apps as I want to use the Ritz Carlton trick to get a Hawaii trip in before her last semester in Fall of 2015.

    Did you do a post on where you stayed already? that’s the piece I haven;t figured out, is how to book the right kind of stay in Europe that can last a week+. I always have time shares to fall back on in the States and Latin America, but I am less certain of how to handle Europe lodging. And I don’t think hostels will work for this trip.

    We split an RCI timeshare deposit with another young couple, but the RCI options look pretty bad around Paris.

    • Cheapblackdad, please don’t change your name! Of course, you could do Fancyblackdad, that doesn’t sound too shabby. Oh, and “once cheap, always cheap,” trust me! 🙂
      Anyway, glad you found my post beneficial. Of course, a lot can change in one year, but hopefully, new AA chart will be similar to the current one.
      No, I haven’t done a post on my hotels in Europe yet. Will get it published at some point, so keep an eye on it. As I said, I’m still working on filling in some gaps. My sister-in-law rented houses in both Germany and Italy, by using http://www.vrbo.com and http://www.greatrentals.com (I think). Also, check out http://www.skyauction.com/vacation/vacation-rentals (look for “World”) and see some available locations.
      If you plan to stay in Paris for a week, I think, your best bet would be those websites. Hotel rooms just don’t make sense value-wise, when you are talking 4 people and a week worth of lodging. The problem with European hotels is that they don’t usually allow 4 in one room, and if you have to get 2 rooms, that diminishes value proposition greatly.
      Of course, there are options on points. IHG has some nice hotels in Paris, though you would need 2 rooms in most of them. Club Carlson is a great choice for Europe in general, because the chain has premium rooms that fit 4, and don’t cost much more in points than regular rooms. Choice also has rooms that should fit 4, so watch for Dailygetaways.com sale next May or June. I think there is a hotel in Paris that costs 25,000 points, so if you buy Choice points at 0.37 cents a piece, it could make sense. However, it can only be booked 60 days ahead.
      I do recommend that you look into rentals. Many can be booked with a credit card, and owners speak English. I’ll get more info from my sister-in-law and do a post at some point on the whole process. We have 9 people going, so renting a house is the only thing that made sense.

      • That was a super helpful response. Yes, a post on the lowdown on Europe options would be sweet, though you just did half of it here.

        Club Carlson is my kryptonite. I need to go through the painful process of freezing my ADS report or whatever.

    • Cheapblackdad, I’m glad you found it useful. I’l try to get a post together on booking our rentals in Europe. As I said, my sister-in-law was the one in charge, so I’ll have to get some info from her. It will probably be a couple of weeks till I get it all together.

      I want to make it thorough, so will try to do some research for you, and maybe look into Paris rental options specifically. Hope it’s OK. Later on, I’ll do another post when I have a pretty good idea on our few hotel stays in Germany and Poland.
      Yeah, that Club Carlson card can be tough, but many have gotten approved. I haven’t tried yet, as I have a ton of IHG points at this time and don’t need any more. Hate hoarding of any kind!

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