Every so often I try to make a post with what I consider to be the top mileage redemption opportunities out there, so I figured I’d share my opinions on the best values at present for travel originating in the US. Of course, it goes without saying that a good mileage redemption is one that gets you to a place you want to go in relative comfort, so there are no “absolute” best redemptions. But I figured I’d share some really, really good deals.
I’ll take it a step further this time around and not just share the best premium cabin redemption values out of the US, but write follow-up posts sharing what I think the best premium cabin redemptions for travel in other regions are, as well as the best economy class redemption values out of the US.
With that out of the way, here are my thoughts as to the best first and business class award redemptions for those originating in the US, in no particular order:
90,000 US Airways Dividend Miles for business class between the US and North Asia
US Airways charges just 90,000 miles for business class between the US and North Asia, which is an amazing deal. What’s especially awesome is that you can route to Asia via Europe, and even have a stopover there. US Airways allows one stopover OR one open jaw per award, so doing a stopover in Europe and continuing to Asia for fewer miles than it would take to just go to Europe is a great value.
I’ve written about this type of award many times before, and even wrote a tutorial on how to book one. For that matter I’ve flown this award several times, including the trip report I’m currently writing. I also took similar trips in January and June.
US Airways charges more for award tickets to South Asia, though I have written about a fun workaround to the higher pricing. Basically if you originate in the Caribbean then US Airways charges the same number of miles for travel to South or Central Asia as they do for travel to North Asia.
25,000 British Airways Avios for Aer Lingus business class one-way between Boston and Dublin
British Airways Avios are extremely valuable for shorthaul redemptions given their distance based award chart. The downside to transatlantic travel using Avios is that British Airways imposes hefty fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways.
That being said, if you fly Aer Lingus transatlantic you benefit not only from their lack of fuel surcharges, but also from the distance between Boston and Dublin, which is just under 3,000 miles.
As a result, a one-way business class redemption between the two cities would cost you just 25,000 Avios. I flew Aer Lingus business class last year on this exact award, and really enjoyed the Aer Lingus service.
70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Cathay Pacific first class one-way between the US and South Africa
The greatest “gem” on Alaska’s award chart has long been for travel between the US and South Africa on Cathay Pacific. They charge just 140,000 miles roundtrip. Given that it’s a ~15 hour flight between the US and Hong Kong and then another ~13 hour flight between Hong Kong and Johannesburg, it’s pretty tough to beat four Cathay Pacific longhaul first class flights for 140,000 miles.
This year the Mileage Plan program became even more lucrative, since Alaska not only began allowing one-way redemptions on partner airlines, but also began allowing stopovers on one-way awards. This means you can fly Cathay Pacific first class from the US to Hong Kong, have a stopover, and then Hong Kong to Johannesburg, all for 70,000 miles.
For what it’s worth, Alaska’s redemption rates for Cathay Pacific first class are the same for travel to Africa, India, the Middle East, and all of Asia.
100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Emirates first class one-way between the US and Asia
Perhaps one of the most aspirational first class products out there is Emirates A380 first class, not only for the onboard bar, but especially for to the onboard shower 😉 . There aren’t many ways to efficiently redeem for Emirates first class, though Alaska Airlines began offering award redemptions on Emirates earlier this year, and offers one of the most compelling values in my opinion.
For 100,000 Alaska miles one-way you can fly from the US to Asia with a stopover in Dubai. For example, you could fly Los Angeles > Dubai on the Emirates A380 (once the service launches in December it’ll be the longest A380 flight in the world), and then Dubai > Bangkok, which is also on the Emirates A380. You could then spend as long as you’d like in Dubai during your stopover. For what it’s worth, they have the same redemption rates if you want to fly to Europe, so you could fly something like Los Angeles > Dubai > Paris instead.
Given that Emirates also includes chauffeur service with first and business class tickets, you’re potentially looking at four chauffeurs – two with each flight. I’ve very much enjoyed my Emirates A380 first class flights between London and Dubai, Singapore and Dubai, and Dubai and London.
130,000 American AAdvantage miles for a zone 6 business class distance based OneWorld Explorer Award
I recently covered the basics of OneWorld Explorer awards, which are American’s distance based awards. One of the most compelling values on the chart is for zone 6, whereby you fly up to 20,000 miles in business class for 130,000 AAdvantage miles. You can fly up to 16 segments and make as many stopovers as you’d like.
20,000 flown miles will cover you from the east coast to Europe and the Middle East, for example. Alternatively it would allow you to go to the Maldives via the Middle East, returning via Asia.
90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for business class between the US and Europe
Aeroplan has made some huge devaluations to their program over the years (including hugely devaluing their award chart and adding fuel surcharges), though one of the best values is still for travel between the US and Europe. They charge just 90,000 miles, and one of the key selling points is that you’re allowed two stopovers OR one stopover and one open jaw. So that means you can potentially visit three destinations for 90,000 miles in business class.
Aeroplan does impose fuel surcharges on many of their partner airlines, but if you fly SAS, Swiss, United, or US Airways, among other airlines, you won’t be hit with those fuel surcharges.
91,375 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles for Suites Class between Los Angeles and Singapore
Along with Emirates A380 first class, I’d say Singapore Suites are one of the single most aspirational premium cabin products out there. I certainly enjoyed my flight in Suites Class from San Francisco to Hong Kong in January.
Up until last year they kept it so exclusive that you couldn’t even redeem miles on the flight at anything approaching a reasonable level. That policy changed last year, and now it’s possible to redeem miles for A380 Suites Class at the saver level.
The Los Angeles > Tokyo Narita > Singapore flight will run you 91,375 KrisFlyer miles one-way (factoring in the 15% online booking discount). While they do impose fuel surcharges as well, they’re not horrible compared to European airlines. The one-way ticket will run you a total of $341.06 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
150,000 Delta SkyMiles for business class between the US and Australia (with a stopover in Tahiti)
So this award is an amazing value on a relative basis. It’s a great value compared to the other options for redeeming Delta SkyMiles, and a great value relative to the other options for getting to Tahiti.
There are only two airlines that fly between the US mainland and Tahiti, and those are Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. American partners with Air Tahiti Nui, while Delta partners with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui.
Delta charges 150,000 miles for business class travel between the US and Tahiti, which is the same number of miles they charge between the US and Australia (since both are in Oceania, per their award chart).
This means that you could really make Tahiti a stopover enroute to Australia or New Zealand. For example, you could fly Los Angeles > Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui, have a stopover, then fly Tahiti > Auckland on Air Tahiti Nui, make that your destination, and then fly Auckland > Sydney > Los Angeles on Virgin Australia.
That’s a much better use than going straight to Tahiti and back, in my opinion.
67,500 American AAdvantage miles for one-way Cathay Pacific first class between the US and Asia
While hardly creative, Cathay Pacific has one of the most solid first class products out there, and the American AAdvantage award rates between the US and Southeast Asia are really reasonable. It’s just 67,500 miles one-way in first class.
Keep in mind with American you can get a stopover at your North American gateway city on a one-way award, so that can potentially add quite a bit of value. For example, you could fly American’s Flagship first class New York > Los Angeles, have a stopover for a few days/weeks/months, and then continue from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.
Alternatively Cathay Pacific has a flight from New York to Vancouver, so you could fly New York > Vancouver, have a stopover, and then continue to Asia.
If you really want to maximize the value of your miles, Cathay Pacific has several intra-Asia routes with first class as well (like to Bangkok and Singapore), which you could include at no extra cost.
70,000 United MileagePlus miles for one-way first class between the US and Asia (via Europe)
So this is definitely one of those “take advantage of it while you can” redemptions. United announced a huge devaluation to their MileagePlus program last week, whereby the cost of a first class Star Alliance redemption between the US and South Asia is going from 140,000 miles roundtrip to 260,000 miles roundtrip. As long as you book before February 1, 2014, you can still lock in an award at the old price.
The great thing about United awards is that they allow one stopover and two open jaws on an itinerary like this. United also doesn’t block any partner award space and doesn’t impose fuel surcharges, unlike US Airways (which blocks Lufthansa first class award space) and Aeroplan (which imposes fuel surcharges on a majority of their partners).
85,000 Japan Airlines MileageBank miles for roundtrip business class between New York and Dubai
Japan Airlines is transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, and has a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates. They charge just 85,000 miles for up to 14,000 miles of travel on Emirates in business class. As luck would have it, roundtrip travel between New York and Dubai is ~13,750 miles.
So for just 85,000 miles you could fly Emirates’ flat bed business class roundtrip between the US and Dubai. Also keep in mind that Starpoints transfer to Japan Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus. That means you really only need 70,000 Starpoints for such a redemption.
For what it’s worth, the same redemption in first class would run you 135,000 Japan Airlines MileageBank miles, or 110,000 Starpoints.
What are some of your favorite premium cabin award redemptions?