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HOW TO FIND AWARD FLIGHTS TO EUROPE
Being flexible with one or more of the following things will give you the best chance to find the best deal for using points and miles for a flight to Europe
- flexible dates (sometimes even by a day or two)
- flexible departure airport (are you flying out of a tiny airport? is there a bigger airport you could travel to?)
- arrival airport (do you want to go to Florence? then look at Rome and Milan also – they are within a few hours train ride from one another – Many European cities are well connected by train so it’s easy to be flexible with arrival airport)
- destination in general (my philosophy 9 times out of 10 – follow the deal, not the destination)
When I am looking to fly to Europe, there are several US airports I will usually find have better availability
- ORD Chicago
- DFW Dallas
- IAH Houston
- IAD Dulles, Washington
- New York – EWR & JFK
- Miami (better than Orlando or Tampa usually)
- SFO San Francisco
- LAX Los Angeles
- SEA Seattle
- BOS Boston
seats.aero is my favorite search tool. With a free account, you can search the next 2 months of flights. With a paid version ($9.99/month), you can search nearly an entire year of flights.
FINDING FLIGHTS OPTION
On the home screen, click on “search” at the top. For origin Airport, put USA, for destination airport put EUR. Enter your date, then you can say within 1 or 3 or 7 or 14 or 28 days. Once that pulls up the results, you can also click on any of the column titles to sort… by economy or premium economy or business, etc. You can also use the top “search” bar to enter a specific airport.
FINDING FLIGHTS OPTION
In this example… instead of hitting “search” to begin, I’ve clicked on “explore” and it brings down all the airlines you can explore award seats for. For this example, I clicked on Air France…
In the flights from/to, I put North America and Europe. Then I sorted by business (by clicking on the word “Business). Now, I can go… WOW… seats from Raleigh (RDU) to Paris (CDG) in business for 37,500. Maybe I follow that deal? (These are all 1 way flights)
OTHER AWARD SEARCH OPTIONS
There are several other sites that offer award searches as well. You’ll find free & paid versions…
roame.travel is very popluar
pointsyeah.com is gaining a lot of tracation
MORE TRICKS FOR FINDING AWARD FLIGHTS
Air France/KLM – You will need to create a login on search. Once you are logged in and ready to search (from the desktop not the app) you will
- click “book with miles”
- select “one way” – there is no benefit searching roundtrip – it will make it harder)
- enter to & from destinations
- leave the date BLANK
- I only search for 1 adult at a time, even if I need 3 tickets
- enter the class you are searching (economy, premium economy or business)
Searching on your desktop this way will show you the lowest prices by date.
TIP: Air France website will often show you a date with the lowest points. But when you click on that date, that option isn’t there. It’s the following day that will have that best price. It’s just a bug with their website.
Virgin Atlantic – Searching Virgin Atlantic is so easy because it doesn’t even make you sign in. However, it’s frustrating because if you search a date, and there is no availability within 7 days of the date you chose, the results will show you nothing. So, many times there’s a lot of trial & error to find any availability.
Here’s a trick…. if you find a date with availability, you’ll see a screen like this…
THEN, you can go into the website address…. and change the word “dates” to “calendar”….
And now, you’ll see the entire month’s options…
Virgin Atlantic also has a tool called the “Reward Seat Checker”
And after you do an initial search, filling in their from/to drop downs… guess what you can do?
YEP! Change the INFO IN THE URL!
I went in and changed LHR TO ATL and MCO to LHR. And was able to see a month of those results…
MY FAVORITE AWARD PROGRAMS FOR EUROPE
My go to is always Air France/KLM (loyalty program is called Flying Blue). From there, I will search Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada (loyalty program is called Aeroplan), United, Avianca LifeMiles and British Airways. These are all pretty straight forward to search. Turkish Airlines is worth searching if you have Capital One miles, however, you can can only book for yourself online so you’ll need to call if booking for you + others.
Do I search Delta? No. Unless there is a flash sale, their award flights to Europe are usually very high.
Do I search American Airlines? No. They can have really high fees. And I’d rather save my AA miles for Asia, where I feel like you get more from them.
SPECIFIC ROUTES THAT ARE OFTEN AVAILABLE FOR MORE THAN 2 SEATS:
Singapore Air: If searching early enough, you can almost always find flights
– from Houston (IAH) to Manchester, England (MAN) in economy from 25K miles +$5.60 or in business 81K miles (1 way) + $5.60. And don’t discount Manchester… it’s a quick train ride to London.
– from JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) in economy from 25K miles +$5.60 or in business 81K miles + $5.60 (1 way)
**If you do find business availability on Singapore Air, give a quick check over on Air Canada to see if you can possibly get this flight cheaper. Sometimes you’ll find the business seat on Air Canada for 60K miles.
**Singapore Air is the BEST economy flight I have ever taken!
Emirates: It is quite easy to find award flights on Emirates. And Emirates is one of the few award programs you SHOULD do roundtrip searches on – sometimes roundtrip is cheaper with Emirates.
The only route they fly between US and Europe is JFK to Milan.
When searching, click the flexible 3+/- dates so you can see something similar to this…
Here you can see it’s MUCH cheaper (in this specific instance) to fly Thursday to Thursday (45K miles) vs Friday to Saturday (77,500 miles).
BUT I DON’T HAVE POINTS/MILES WITH THESE AIRLINES
After you find award availability, you will TRANSFER points to the airline to book the tickets.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points transfer (1 to 1) to:
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, British Airways, Emirates, Iberia, JetBlue,Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United Airlines, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Bonvoy, Hyatt
Capital One Miles transfer (1 to 1) to:
Aeromexico, Air Canada (Aeroplan), Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways, Choice Pirvileges, Emirates, Etihad Guest, Finnair Plus, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Qantas, Singapore Airlines, TAP Miles&GO), Turkish Miles&Smiles, Virgin Red, Wyndham
American Express Membership points transfer (1 to 1) to:
Asia miles, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, Etihad Guest, Finnair, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Iberia, Qantas, Scandinavian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
(Transfers 2 to 3 for Marriott Bonvoy & 3 to 2 for Singapore Air)
(Amex does charge a fee to transfer Amex points to US based airlines $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99)
Citi Thank You points transfer (1 to 1) to:
Aeromexico, Avianca LifeMiles, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Guest, Eva Air, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), JetBlue (transfer ratio varies by card), Qantas, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Thai Royal Orchid Plus, Turkish Airlines, Wyndham (transfer ratio varies by card), Virgin Atlantic
STEP BY STEP TRANSFER INFO
BUT HOW DO I KNOW WHAT A GOOD REDEMPTION IS?
WHAT ABOUT TRANSFER BONUSES?
Transfer bonuses are announced in our newsletters. Sign up to be sure you don’t miss that & more!
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- I almost always search 1 way for award tickets (Emirates is the exception)
- I search for 1 person, after I find availability I’ll see if that option does have the amount of seats I need
- NEVER transfer points to an airline until you are ready to book
- If you find a redemption that fits your dates & location and looks good, GRAB IT!!! These literally change hour to hour and the award seat will quite possibly be gone when you search again.
- For business class, I often find the best deals booking 11 months ahead. But you don’t have to! Award options change all the time. So keep checking.
- Remember… there may be tons of paid availability on a flight.. but the airline may only release 2 award seats. Paid seats and award seat availability are completely different.
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