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Top 10: the world’s best mileage award redemptions

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (April 25, 2016): Top 10 best mileage award redemptions in the world.

Frequent-flyer programs allow travelers to earn airline points (or miles) that are redeemable for free flights. I’ve collected and spent millions of miles the last decade, which explains why I am always able to fly in premium cabins (and write trip reports about my experiences). Unfortunately, the last couple of years, almost all major airlines introduced massive devaluations of their loyalty programs and award charts, making the mileage game less attractive as it used to be. Nevertheless, there are still some excellent mileage deals around, and today, I share them with you in my top 10 of the world’s 10 best mileage award redemptions. Keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to collect miles with different airlines to save them up for one of these redemptions; you can also collect hotel points with Starwood’s excellent SPG program which can be converted into frequent flyer miles with more than 30 airline partners.

Do you agree or have a favorite mileage award redemption that didn’t make my list? Leave it in the comments or take my poll below.

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10. HAWAII TO/FROM LOS ANGELES ON AMERICAN AIRLINES

You only need 12,500 British Airways miles (called ‘Avios’) to book an economy ticket on British Airways’ oneworld partner American Airlines for a direct flight from Los Angeles to any of the Hawaiian islands.

  • Number of miles needed: 12,500 (one-way)
  • Airline: American Airlines
  • Travel Class: Economy
  • Frequent flyer program: British Airways’ Executive Club
HAWAII TO/FROM LOS ANGELES ON AMERICAN AIRLINES

HAWAII TO/FROM LOS ANGELES ON AMERICAN AIRLINES

 


9. KLM-AIR FRANCE’S FLYING BLUE PROMO AWARDS

Flying Blue, the loyalty program of the KLM-Air France group, is not very rewarding for frequent flyers, although their so-called “promo awards” can be a terrific deal. Promo awards are discounted award tickets that save you up to 50% on standard award miles and which you can access here. New offers are available on the first day of the month, and you can book them as early as three months ahead of the travel period. Promo awards are available for a limited time only, and sell out quickly.

  • Number of miles needed: as low as 50,000 for a roundtrip Business Class ticket from Europe to the Middle East, or 62,500 for a roundtrip Business Class ticket from the USA to Europe
  • Airline: KLM and Air France
  • Travel Class: Economy, Premium Economy, and Business
  • Frequent flyer program: KLM-Air France’s Flying Blue
KLM-AIR FRANCE'S FLYING BLUE PROMO AWARDS

KLM-AIR FRANCE’S FLYING BLUE PROMO AWARDS


8. USA TO/FROM SOUTH AMERICA ON LAN AIRLINES

AAdvantage, the frequent flyer program of American Airlines, is my favorite loyalty program in the world. Despite the fact that the program devaluated last month, there are still some sweets spots left on the AAdvantage award chart. One of them is that you only need 60,000 miles for a roundtrip Business Class trip from any airport in the contiguous 48 U.S. states to the South American countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, or Manaus (Brazil). You can book the award ticket on American Airlines itself, but a better deal would be to book it on American Airlines’ oneworld partner LAN Airlines, which currently offers a superior cabin products on these routes.

  • Number of miles needed: 30,000 (one-way)
  • Airline: American Airlines and LAN Airlines
  • Travel Class: Business
  • Frequent flyer program: American Airlines’ AAdvantage
USA TO/FROM SOUTH AMERICA ON LAN AIRLINES

USA TO/FROM SOUTH AMERICA ON LAN AIRLINES


7. EUROPE TO/FROM HONG KONG ON CATHAY PACIFIC

Cathay Pacific provides its Business Class passengers an excellent inflight experience. It’s not easy these days to book a cheap award seat into Cathay Pacific’s premium cabin, but one way to do it is via Alaska Airline’s frequent flyer program Mileage Plan, which partners with Cathay Pacific. For 100,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you get a round trip in Cathay Pacific’s Business Class from North America to Asia, which is not bad. But the best deal is a longhaul Business Class roundtrip between Europe and Hong Kong, which will set you back 85,000 Mileage Plan miles, a significantly lower amount of miles as compared to most other frequent flyer programs.

  • Number of miles needed: 42,500 (one-way)
  • Airline: Cathay Paficic
  • Travel Class: Business
  • Frequent flyer program: Alaska’s Airlines Mileage Plan
EUROPE TO/FROM HONG KONG ON CATHAY PACIFIC

EUROPE TO/FROM HONG KONG ON CATHAY PACIFIC


6. LUFTHANSA’S MILES & MORE BARGAINS

Miles & More is the frequent flyer program of the Lufthansa group, which comprises Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines. Miles & More used to be an excellent loyalty program until a massive devaluation occurred a couple of years ago, which drastically reduced the pool of Lufthansa’s most loyal customers. Sometimes a paid ticket on a flight is cheaper as compared to the taxes and fees that you pay for a Lufthansa (or Swiss, Austrian or Brussels Airlines) award ticket on the same flight. No wonder some travelers call the program Miles & Less. Despite all the negatives, the Lufthansa mileage bargains remain an excellent deal though, as they enable you to experience exciting destinations at bargain prices from just 10,000 miles. You can access them here (offers change monthly).

  • Number of miles needed: as low as 40,000 for a roundtrip Business Class ticket from Europe to the Middle East; 50,000 for a roundtrip Business Class ticket from the USA to Europe; and 70,000 for a roundtrip Business Class ticket from Asia to Europe
  • Airline: Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines
  • Travel Class: Economy and Business
  • Frequent flyer program: The Lufthansa group’s Miles & More program
LUFTHANSA MILES & MORE BARGAINS

LUFTHANSA MILES & MORE BARGAINS


5. DUBLIN OR SHANNON TO/FROM BOSTON ON AER LINGUS

British Airways’ Executive Club was undoubtedly Europe’s single best frequent flyer program for many years, until the program changed its region based award chart to a distance based chart and started charging more miles for travel on peak days. However, there are still some sweet spots on the chart, such as the Hawaii to/from USA West Coast flights (cf above). Another sweet spot is an Economy award redemption from London to the USA East Coast (New York, Washington, Baltimore, and Boston) which only costs 26,000 Avios for the round trip in off-peak periods (but these flights come with heavy taxes making them not so attractive after all). The best deal though is the flight from Dublin or Shannon in Ireland to Boston, a flight just under 3,000 miles which will cost you 25,000 Avios for a return trip in Economy or 75,000 for a return trip in Business Class. The flight is operated by British Airways’ partner Aer Lingus and you don’t need to pay taxes, making this the best long-haul redemption award of British Airways’ Executive Club.

  • Number of miles needed: 12,500 in Economy or 37,500 in Business (one-way)
  • Airline: Aer Lingus
  • Travel Class: Economy or Business
  • Frequent flyer program: British Airways’ Executive Club
DUBLIN OR SHANNON TO/FROM BOSTON ON AER LINGUS

DUBLIN OR SHANNON TO/FROM BOSTON ON AER LINGUS


4. EUROPE TO/FROM THE MALDIVES ON ETIHAD OR QATAR AIRWAYS

The Maldives is my favorite destination on earth, so I am biased when it comes to this award redemption. I recently spent a holiday at the phenomenal Soneva Fushi resort, which everyone should put on his/her bucket list (you can read my trip report here). One of the most convenient ways to get from Europe to the Maldives is with the Middle East airlines. Two of these airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, partner with American Airlines which charges the least amount of miles you need to get from Europe to the Maldives in a premium aircraft cabin. While a Business Class roundtrip to the Maldives on Qatar or Etihad Airways used to cost only 60,000 Advantage miles, this award redemption increased to 85,000 miles since March 2016 (but that is still an excellent deal and considerably less as compared to other frequent flyer programs, which charge at least 110,000 miles).

  • Number of miles needed: 42,500 (one way)
  • Airline: Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways
  • Travel Class: Business
  • Frequent flyer program: American Airlines’ AAdvantage
EUROPE TO/FROM THE MALDIVES ON ETIHAD OR QATAR AIRWAYS

EUROPE TO/FROM THE MALDIVES ON ETIHAD OR QATAR AIRWAYS


3. ASIA TO/FROM TAHITI OR FIJI ON AIR TAHITI NUI OR FIJI AIRWAYS

I already mentioned that American Airlines’ AAdvantage is my favorite loyalty program in the world and that you can use it for cheap Business Class award redemptions from the USA to South America, or Europe to the Maldives. Another sweet spot on the AAdvantage award chart are the Business Class flights from Asia to the South Pacific, which only cost 80,000 miles for a round-trip trip between two airports of your choice. This includes routes with American Airlines’ partners to some of the world’s most beautiful destinations, such as the Air Tahiti Nui flight from Tokyo to Tahiti, and the Fiji Airways flights from Hong Kong and Tokyo to Fiji. That’s half the amount of miles you would need to get from the USA to these South Pacific paradise islands (distances are equal though)!

  • Number of miles needed: 40,000 (one-way)
  • Airline: Air Tahiti Nui and Fiji Airways
  • Travel Class: Business
  • Frequent flyer program: American Airlines’ AAdvantage
ASIA TO/FROM TAHITI OR FIJI ON AIR TAHITI NUI OR FIJI AIRWAYS

ASIA TO/FROM TAHITI OR FIJI ON AIR TAHITI NUI OR FIJI AIRWAYS


2. NEW YORK TO/FROM FRANKFURT ON SINGAPORE AIRLINES

With its famous A380 First Class Suites, Singapore Airlines offers one of the most exclusive and luxurious cabin products in the skies. Although one of the founding members of Star Alliance, the airline makes its First Class Suite awards exclusively available to members of its own frequent flyer program, KrisFlyer, and unfortunately it costs a fortune in terms of KrisFlyer miles to book a First Class Suite. However, there’s one sweet spot on the KrisFlyer chart map, and that is the A380 flight that Singapore Airlines operates from Frankfurt to New York’s JFK Airport, which costs 140,000 miles for a roundtrip standard award in a First Class Suite. Even better, Singapore Airlines also releases saver awards on this route which requires even fewer KrisFlyer miles: only 65,000 miles for the roundtrip in First Class! However, saver awards are very popular and availability may be limited – so you may have to plan extra early or be flexible with your travel dates and times.

  • Number of miles needed: 32,500 for a saver award (one-way)
  • Airline: Singapore Airlines
  • Travel Class: First Class Suite
  • Frequent flyer program: Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer
NEW YORK TO/FROM FRANKFURT ON SINGAPORE AIRLINES

NEW YORK TO/FROM FRANKFURT ON SINGAPORE AIRLINES


1. NEW YORK TO/FROM MILAN ON EMIRATES

Flying in an Emirates A380 Business or First Class cabin is on the bucket list of every aviation geek as it represents the epitome of luxury in the sky. I will publish my Emirates A380 First Class trip report soon. Unfortunately, these days, it’s quite difficult to get a decent deal for an Emirates premium cabin seat award without breaking your mileage wallet. But it’s still possible if you don’t mind posting your miles with Japan Airlines’ frequent flyer program, JAL Mileage Bank. JAL partners with Emirates and uses a distance based award chart. It will only cost you 65,000 miles for a transatlantic roundtrip on the Emirates A380 from Milan to New York, and 100,000 miles for a First Class roundtrip.

  • Number of miles needed: 65,000 for Business, and 100,000 for First (roundtrip)
  • Airline: Emirates
  • Travel Class: Business and First
  • Frequent flyer program: Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
NEW YORK TO/FROM MILAN ON EMIRATES

NEW YORK TO/FROM MILAN ON EMIRATES



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1 Comment on Top 10: the world’s best mileage award redemptions

  1. Your #2 is inaccurate. Europe-US East Coast is 67,500 miles for saver one way first class.

    Like

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