Every frequent flyer program has a sweetspot. Whether it is a simple or complex redemption, there is always a frequent flyer program that works best for the award ticket you want to book. The key is having access to miles in that specific program – this is where it becomes incredibly important to ensure you are earning transferrable points. Those include American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy Points, etc.
When you have access to transferrable points, you have access to most frequent flyer programs and therefore don’t need to focus on earning miles in one specific program. While most AMEX and Chase points transfers to miles are instant, the same can’t be said with Marriott – where the transfer can take months to some foreign airlines (like Asiana or JAL).
While there are millions of award ticket sweetspots out there, there are quite a few that I use on a daily basis when helping clients redeem their miles. It is important to note that you can always mix and match airlines and different tickets for different parts of the trip – your entire trip does not have to be all on one ticket!
United Airlines 8k Awards
United Airlines recently introduced this new sweetspot and it hasn’t existed for a long time. You can book any Star Alliance flight outside of the United States and Canada for 8,000 United Airlines MileagePlus miles as long as the flight is under 800 miles in distance and it is a nonstop flight, of course in Economy Class.
This is great for intra-Europe travel on airlines like Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, etc. that charge a fortune for last minute one-way flights. A simple Frankfurt – Munich flight can go for over $500 last minute… or just 8k United miles (transfer Chase points).
British Airways Distance-Based Award Chart
The British Airways Executive Club has a distance-based award chart, meaning that the shorter the flight, the less miles it will cost. Most nonstop Economy Class flights from London to European destinations cost between 4,500 and 7,500 Avios points… which is an incredible deal.
You can use the BA Executive Club to your advantage on any oneworld airline or on any of BA’s partner airlines, like Alaska Airlines. This means that you can fly from the West Coast of the U.S. to Hawaii for just 12,500 Avios + $5.60 one-way on American or Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines Off-Peak Europe Travel
Alaska Airlines partners with American Airlines. You can book a one-way Economy Class ticket on American Airlines within the date range of October 15 to May 15 for just 22,500 Alaska Airlines miles… and you can have a stopover anywhere on your way to Europe. Isn’t that amazing?
But wait… there’s more. You know how most airlines categorise Hawaii as a different zone? Well in the case above, Alaska doesn’t! That means you can fly something like Honolulu – Seattle (stopover) – Los Angeles – London all for just 22,500 Alaska Airlines miles in Economy. Crazy, huh!?
Delta Air Lines’ Ridiculous Sales
This isn’t really a sweetspot, but it still deserves to be mentioned. Delta doesn’t publish award charts, so they just make up the price as they want for each ticket. It isn’t strange to find a one-way Economy Class ticket from Seattle to San Francisco for 50k miles – that’s Delta…
However, Delta frequently has “flash mileage sales” whereby they significantly discount award tickets with some major restrictions. However, if you can work with the dates they provide, you can save big. For example, I was able to book a Seattle – Cancun – Seattle ticket for just 15k miles round-trip plus taxes. That’s amazing.
Lufthansa Miles & More Mileage Bargains
Miles & More, the frequent flyer program of many European airlines, often publishes mileage bargain deals on flights. A lot of restrictions come with the ticket such as limited availability, no rebooking, no cancelling, etc. If you are fine with locking in a round-trip itinerary that you can’t change or cancel, then this may be a fantastic option. However, Miles & More does impose fuel surcharges and therefore you will pay around $500 – $1300 in taxes and fees per person (maybe even more). The fuel surcharges on LOT Polish Airlines are minimal.
Deals include round-trip Business Class from select European countries to select American cities for just 55,000 miles, yes, round-trip! Economy is available for 30,000 miles. The deals are frequently changed and also change from country to country, therefore it is important to check your neighbouring countries!
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World
Air Canada’s frequent flyer program can be amazing in many cases. While Aeroplan does impose fuel surcharges on a number of airlines, you’ll just want to avoid Air Canada, Austrian, and Lufthansa – and you should be ok, with relatively low taxes and fees. The biggest benefit of Aeroplan is that they allow 2 stopovers or 1 stopover + 1 open-jaw on a round-trip award ticket. This is incredibly generous… and they have great redemption rates.
You could fly from Vancouver to London (stopover) – Rome / (open-jaw) / Frankfurt – Vancouver all on the same ticket for the price of a simple round-trip Vancouver – London – Vancouver ticket. American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan instantly at a 1:1 ratio – therefore usually all of my AMEX points are used up with Aeroplan.
While this list of sweetspots is no where near complete, those are my favourite award redemptions with the various frequent flyer programs. There are millions of other award ticket sweetspots with various programs, but these are my favourites and the ones I use on a daily basis.
The beauty of miles is that they can take you anywhere around the world and save you a significant amount of money on your travels. Sweetspots also apply to destinations, for example, some countries (like Brazil) impose restrictions on fuel surcharges – so when flying from Brazil to Europe with Lufthansa First Class, you won’t pay any fuel surcharges (just the mandatory taxes and fees).
I hope you will be able to utilise some of these award ticket sweetspots in your upcoming trips, because all of them really do provide an outstanding value in terms of miles. If you have any favourite award ticket sweetspots that you use and would love to share, please let us know in the comments!