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As I mentioned last week, I’m on the verge of booking award flights for another trip to Europe in 2023. Our home airport is DFW, and we are open to visiting a few different destinations in Europe. The return flight will be from Rome after our cruise. I would love to book us in lie-flat business class seats at least one direction, and I prefer no more than one stopover. There are five people in my family, which makes finding award availability more challenging.
Booking award flights can be intimidating for newbies. Heck, it’s even intimidating for non-newbies. There are so many possibilities, and finding the best option is like solving a puzzle.
In the past, I’ve booked relatively easy award flights (like using AA miles for AA flights) as well as slightly more complicated combinations (like using Avianca LifeMiles to book United flights). For this trip, I plan to explore some repeat methods as well as some new (to me) strategies.
What I’m working with:
~600,000 flexible miles/points from Chase and Capital One
~110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles
~65,000 Air France Flying Blue miles
<30,000 United and AA miles
And yes, the vast majority of these miles and points are from credit card bonuses.
Air France Flying Blue
Air France has a nonstop flight from DFW to Paris. In fact, my family used miles to book this exact flight for our trip next month! One-way business class seats run 56,000 miles plus around $200 in fees. Award availability seems to be plentiful, as we actually have 6 business class award seats booked on the same flight this year.
We could likely easily repeat this scenario for our flight to Europe next year. We already have enough Flying Blue miles for one one-way business class ticket. For the remaining, I could transfer Capital One miles and/or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. After landing in Paris, we’d simply hop on a low-cost carrier to our final destination in Europe.
I also see some business class awards from Rome back to the U.S. on partner airlines for 55,000 miles.
Etihad Guest Miles for AA Flight
American Airlines is the only carrier that has nonstop flights between DFW and Rome. However, I don’t have nearly enough AA miles for tickets for my family.
However, since I do have Capital One miles, I can transfer those to Etihad (AA airline partner based out of Abu Dhabi). With Etihad Guest miles, I can book this nonstop flight from Rome to DFW for 30k miles in economy or 50k miles in business class. See this post for more details on using Etihad for AA flights.
Of course, there are a few catches. The first is that AA must have MileSAAver award space. Also, I cannot book these awards online. I must do it over the phone. Before I transfer Capital One miles, I would first call Etihad and put award seats on hold, and then transfer my miles to Etihad for the redemption.
I would love for this flight to be available on miles. Flying nonstop on our trip home after the cruise would be so convenient!
Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles
Miles and Smiles was the “it” program of the last few years, it seems. Everyone was talking about the super cheap award redemptions to Hawaii. But, it also has a great deal on business class flights to Europe for 45,000 miles each way. I can transfer miles from Capital One to Turkish program.
Turkish Airlines has a nonstop flight from DFW to Istanbul, and then it connects to many cities in Europe. I see plentiful award space, even five seats in business class on the same flights. The initial flight is 11.5 hours, which is enough time to sleep. Frequent travelers give Turkish Airlines seats rave reviews. This looks very promising.
However, the Turkish Airlines website is a piece of work. Just creating my Miles and Smiles membership was a big PITA, and I’ve had many issues logging in. I downloaded the app and have had better luck with that.
Iberia (the flagship airline of Spain) is popular with hobbyists flying to Europe in business class. Since Iberia uses a distance-based award chart, you can fly from Chicago or New York to Madrid for 34,000 Avios each way during “off-peak” times. Most of May and June are still considered off-peak. If you transfer points from Chase or Amex to Iberia during a transfer bonus promotion, the net cost is even lower. What a steal!
I’m not really interested in flying from Chicago to Madrid. Why not? My family would have to book a separate flight to Chicago, plus a separate flight from Madrid to our final destination. I’m not a big fan of that many stops. But, adding a leg from Madrid to Venice brings the cost up to 49,000 Avios, which is still a great deal.
However, Iberia has a nonstop flight from Dallas to Madrid in the late spring and summer months. Business class seats run 42,500 miles. It’s hard to get a good picture of award availability for this year, but it does appear that there are frequently only two seats available. I’m ok with splitting my family up into 3 and 2, but not 2+2+1.
I plan to keep my eye on Iberia to see how things shake out.
Since I was recently approved for the Air Canada Aeroplan card, I have 110,000 miles coming my way. Plus, I can always transfer more over from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Capital One.
Air Canada has direct flights from Rome to Canada with connections to DFW. I can also use Aeroplan miles on partner airlines like United and Lufthansa. So many possibilities!
These are just a few of the ways I can book award flights for our Europe trip. I plan to subscribe to ExpertFlyer shortly so that I can get a better view of award availability. Keep in mind that some international airlines open up award availability sooner than U.S. airlines do.
Who am I kidding, I actually love chasing down award flights! I find the chase exciting. I can’t be the only one who feels that way.
Have you booked award flights through one of these methods? What is your go-to way for booking flights to Europe on miles and points?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.