We have been spared from any major award chart devaluation announcements the last couple months and I trust we are settling into a new era of status quo–there has been enough bloodshed over the last year. But whether the award charts get worse or stay the same, here are my top ten award travel bright spots for May 2014.
1. US Airways Dividend Miles – 120K miles r/t for first class between North American and North Asia with a Stopover in Europe
We miss the 90K business class award, but 120,000 US Airways miles to fly between the U.S. and anywhere in North Asia in first class with a free stopover anywhere in between—Europe, the Middle East, or even South Asia—is a great deal. You must contend with the US Airways call center in order to book these awards and may find yourself banging your head against the wall before successfully issuing your ticket, but that’s what Award Expert is for! US Airways membership in the oneworld alliance brings with it many opportunities for first class travel–American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL, TAM (though the end of the year), and Qantas all offer decent first class award space, especially if you book well in advance.
Keep in mind that we are nearing the end of the US Airways MasterCard from Barclays. If you do not have this card, take advantage of the attractive sign-up bonus (currenly at 40,000 miles) before it is too late.
2. British Airways Executive Club – 50K Avios r/t for business class between Boston and Dublin on AerLingus with no fuel surcharge
The cheapest everyday price to get between North America and Europe in business class is by utilizing British Airways’ distance-based award chart to book Boston to Dublin for 25K miles each way in business class (12.5K miles each way in economy class). AerLingus does not have lie-flat seating, great IFE, or exquisite onboard dining, but its business class is a solid product and a great way to travel across the Atlantic.
3. Aeroplan – 90K miles r/t for business class between USA/Canada and Europe with three stops
Aeroplan devalued its award chart yesterday, but left Europe untouched. For 90K miles r/t or 45K miles one-way, you can travel between the U.S./Canada and Western Europe. There are no stopovers on one-way journeys, but if you book by phone you can add two stopovers in addition to your destination for round-trip tickets. Aeroplan has fuel surcharges on Lufthansa, Austrian, TAP and Air Canada awards that make transatlantic travel on those carries much less attractive, but choose United, US Airways, Swiss, Brussels, SAS, or Turkish to avoid added out-of-pocket expense.
4. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – 57,375 miles for Suites Class between Frankfurt and New York Kennedy
Singapore Airlines Suites Class on the A380 is one of the more aspirational award redemptions and one that has been unattainable in the past. Singapore has loosened up award space a bit and it is now possible on many Singapore flight to score saver award space in first or suites class. Singapore offers daily 5th freedom service between New York and Frankfurt on the A380 and a first class saver award is only 57,375 miles each way. There is a fuel surcharge of about $180 each way (plus other taxes bring a r/t price to about $550) and Singapore is an American Express transfer partner. Note that transfers can take up to 72 hours but usually take about 36. More importantly, note that Singapore only releases one seat in Suites class on flights to/from the USA, so if you need a second seat you will need to pay the standard award price. And this deal is not limited just to the JFK-FRA route–it will cost a bit more, but one saver first class seat can often be found on most Singapore longhauls.
5. Air France/KLM Flying Blue – Promo Awards for 62.5K r/t in business class between Washington, DC and Europe/Israel
Flying Blue is offering discounted business class travel from Washington Dulles for July and August travel to anywhere in Europe (and Israel) that turns out cheaper than economy class on most days. At half the price of a saver business class ticket, even with a fuel surcharge this award is a very effective use of your American Express points.
6. Delta Skymiles – 150K miles r/t for business class between Los Angles and Australia on Virgin Australia with no fuel surcharge
Virgin Australia award space was good, then terrible, then good, and now it’s mediocre, but if you can find it (searchable on delta.com) it is a great way to get between the U.S. and Australia for 150K Skymiles (160K Skymiles for travel after June 01st).
Check out Brad’s review of Virgin Australia Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney.
Delta also partners with Air Tahiti Nui, so you can even stop in Tahiti and Australia on the same award for 150K Skymiles r/t as long as you can find the space.
7. ANA Mileage Club – 68K miles r/t for business class travel between the East Coast and Europe (up to 9,000 miles)
ANA levies heavy fuel surcharges on most bookings (worse than Aeroplan) and fuel-surcharge-free US Airways is no longer a partner, but it still may make sense to use ANA over Aeroplan depending upon your routing. With a distance-based chart, East Coast travelers can piece together trips to Europe in business class for 68K r/t. If your trip is under 9K miles and you are stuck using Lufthansa or Austrian, better to use your AMEX points for ANA (68K) versus Aeroplan (90K). Fuel surcharges are more limited on SAS, Turkish and LOT Polish (though still present).
8. Lufthansa Miles&More – 35K r/t business class travel for travel within the Continental USA with no fuel surcharge
Cheaper than United (50K r/t) or US Airways (50K r/t), Lufthansa offers an attractive rate for travel within the Lower 48 at only 35,000 miles for round-trip business class. The Miles & More World Mastercard allows you to earn up to 50,000 miles with the current sign-up bonus. With lie-flat seating and tickets retailing for north of $3,000 on routes like United’s Premium Service flights between JFK and LAX/SFO, Lufthansa is a great redemption opportunity. No close-in booking fees either! Check out redemptions to Hawaii using Lufthansa miles as well.
9. Alaska MileagePlan – 140K r/t first class travel on Cathay Pacific between North America and South Africa via Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific is a beloved carrier with industry-leading seating and service which also makes a good deal of award inventory available if you are able to book in advance. While British Airways’ distance-based chart and American’s nonsensical routing rules make redemptions between North America and South Africa on Cathay Pacific a generally bad cost-proposition, Alaska Airlines allows routing via Hong Kong so first class on Cathay is only 70K miles each way. I’ve booked a number of clients on this–if you are interested, book as close to the 330-day mark as possible.
10. British Airways Executive Club – shorthaul redemptions on American Airlines for as little as 4.5K Avios each way with no fuel surcharge or close-in processing fee
The beauty of the BA Executive Club program is that you can book up to 24 hours before departure (sometimes on even shorter notice), pay no close-in booking fee, and pay based on the length of the flight–which is rarely correlated to the cost of the flight. Thus, an intra-California ticket with a walk-up price of several hundred dollars is often available for 4,500 Avios and $2.50 just hours before travel. Take other pricey routes like American’s Caribbean network from their San Juan station and you have a great use for your Avios.