We’re planning a trip to Europe for late August, and I wanted to pass along a couple of ideas about how you might be able to get your family across the Atlantic using miles and without paying ridiculous fuel surcharges. I’m really focused on 4 tickets (since there are 4 of us), and despite what you might think if you read the blogging world, some of us actually have children and travel with them (Mommy Points excluded, of course).
– If you have Delta miles you will probably not be going to Europe this summer, unless you want to pay their mid- or high- level rates. In August coach is nearly all high level (130,000 miles) while business class can be had for mid-level (200,000 miles). Remember that they do not charge fuel surcharges on flights to London on Virgin Atlantic, so that may help a bit, but as of today that doesn’t actually open up any low-level availability.
– American has sporadic coach availability on its metal, but tons of availability on British Airways. Unfortunately that means fuel surcharges, and I don’t pay those. Save your American miles for that Caribbean or South American trip this winter.
– Although everyone and their mother complains about United, their award availability isn’t bad in coach (and remember, they didn’t increase partner rates on coach redemptions). There are lots of coach seats and lots of flight options available to and from London from New York all throughout August. The easiest plan would be to book London flights using ANA miles, as they only charge 38,000 miles round trip using their mileage-based chart (transfer your Starwood or Amex points into ANA). And they don’t have fuel surcharges when redeeming on United metal. ANA allows up to 4 stopovers, provided you begin and end in the same city – add up the total miles flown and look at their award chart to see how many miles they require. You’ll likely be looking at only 43,000 miles for the round trip to Europe plus a couple of hops around. That said, you will face fuel surcharges on the intra-Europe legs.
– Because of that great London availability, one option is to fly there and use Ryanair or EasyJet to get to another city after a stopover in London. Then fly back to the US from a different city (ANA allows open jaws, but they do not allow one-ways). London flights have significant taxes (~$200) when you return from London, though there aren’t crazy charges when you fly TO London.
– In August Star Alliance carriers don’t seem to have a ton of availability back to New York when I look at the United tool. However, I’ve noticed that if you look at flights returning to Montreal or Toronto from Europe, it will show greater availability. United’s tool doesn’t like to display a routing like Paris – Frankfurt – Montreal – NYC. Now, you may not want to fly that. But it’s an option. If you’re not seeing flights that you like back to the US, check those Canadian cities (plus Ottawa) – if you’re willing to hop around a bit, more availability opens up.
– If you absolutely MUST fly business class (dude – get a grip. The flight to London is about as long as that flight to San Francisco), you’ll likely want to hold out for a bit. Availability isn’t great this far out (United has tightened up premium cabin award availability). That doesn’t mean it won’t show up, but I’m not seeing much right now. Get Economy Plus, bring an iPad and enjoy Europe with the other 11 billion people who will be there at the same time.