With the new year here and many changes negatively affecting airline loyalty programs now in effect or shortly taking effect, there are still a number of superb deals available. Here are my top ten award travel bright spots for January 2014.
1. US Airways Dividend Miles – 90K miles r/t for business class between North American and North Asia with a Stopover in Europe
Still the best award in the world, it takes only 90,000 US Airways miles to fly between the U.S. and anywhere in North Asia with a free stopover anywhere in between—Europe, the Middle East, or even South Asia. You must to 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!
Keep in mind that we are in the final weeks of availability for the US Airways MasterCard from Barclays. If you do not have this card, take advantage of the attractive sign-up bonus (up to 40,000 mile) before it is too late. American has already announced that CITI will issue credit cards on the merged airline, so there is no question that this card will not be available much longer.
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. United MileagePlus– 140K r/t for first class r/t between North America and Asia (price changes on 31 January 2014!)
For one more month, you can book round-trip travel between North America and Asia for 140K miles with a stopover in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, or North America. Lufthansa continues to release first class award space about two weeks before travel (though do not trust what you see on united.com) and first class award space on Asiana and Thai remains decent. Even ANA reliably releases one seat at a time on its flights between Washington Dulles or Chicago to Tokyo. First class is only 20K more r/t than business class and spending the extra 20K points is worth every penny.
5. Air France/KLM Flying Blue – Promo Awards for 62.5K r/t in business class between select North American cities and Europe
Only Atlanta, Toronto, and Montreal are featured this month, but check back on this page for the latest promo awards in business class. 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). Earn up to 30,000 miles with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
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) with no fuel surcharge on US Airways
ANA levies heavy fuel surcharges on most bookings (worse than Aeroplan), but not on US Airways. With a distance-based chart, East Coast travelers can piece together trips to Europe in business class with no fuel surcharge on US Airways 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).
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 Premier Miles & More World Mastercard allows you to earn up to 35,000 miles. 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!
Note, because US Airways books domestic “first class” into O-Class, 50K miles would be required for those flights.
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 genreally 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 intersted, 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 hub and you have a great use for your Avios.