Best Economy Cabin Mileage Award Tickets

Following up on my post yesterday of what I consider to be the best first and business class award redemptions originating in the US, I figured I’d make a similar post with what I consider to be the best economy class redemptions originating in the US.

As I prefaced the post with yesterday, it goes without saying that a good value for your points is one that gets you to a place you want to go, so there are no “absolute”  best redemptions. But I figured I’d share some really, really good deals.

With that out of the way, here are my thoughts as to the best economy class award redemptions for those originating in the US, in no particular order:

60,000 US Airways Dividend Miles for roundtrip economy class between the US and North Asia

This is the economy class version of what I consider to be the single best business class redemption out there — you can fly from the US to North Asia via Europe for just 60,000 miles in economy, and have a stopover in Europe en-route. The stopover does have to be at either a Star Alliance hub or US Airways transoceanic gateway city. US Airways usually charges 60,000 miles for a coach award to Europe, so you can basically continue to Asia after a stopover at no additional cost.

40,000 American AAdvantage miles for roundtrip off-peak economy class award to Europe

American charges just 40,000 AAdvantage miles for a roundtrip off peak award between the US and Europe. The best part about this award is how liberal American’s interpretation of “off peak” is. It’s not just a period of a month or two, but rather between October 15 and May 15, so a whole seven months.

You’re also not restricted to flying American on one of these awards — you can book any of their partner airlines, though do keep in mind they impose hefty fuel surcharges for British Airways redemptions. For example, you can fly roundtrip economy class between Los Angeles and London for just 40,000 miles roundtrip:

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But you can do even better than that. American allows a free stopover at your North American transoceanic gateway city. What that means is that for the same price you could book something like Honolulu > Los Angeles, then have a stopover for however long you’d like (since Los Angeles is your transoceanic gateway city), then fly your roundtrip Los Angeles > London > Los Angeles, and then tack on a return back to Hawaii for whenever you’d like to go.

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You can change dates for free as long as the origin and destination stay the same, so it’s a great way to tack on a one-way to Hawaii and a one-way from Hawaii at no extra cost. It is worth remembering the entire ticket has to be used within a year of the date it was issued, though.

Lastly keep in mind that if you have a co-branded American AAdvantage Citi Visa Card you get a 10% refund on award bookings, up to 10,000 miles per year. So that can potentially lower the cost of this award even further.

40,000 American AAdvantage miles for roundtrip off-peak economy class award to South America

Similar to off peak awards to Europe, American also has very lucrative off peak awards to South America. Their date range is generous, given that they consider off peak to be March 1 –  May 31 and August 16 – November 30.

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You can also add on a “free one-way” to Hawaii at no extra cost, similar to the above award. This also qualifies for the 10% rebate on award tickets through the Citi AAdvantage Card, potentially bringing down the cost of this redemption to 36,000 miles.

35,000 US Airways Dividend Miles for roundtrip off-peak economy class award to Europe

US Airways has an off-peak award chart that isn’t nearly as generous as American’s, though is still potentially useful. The most tempting offering on there is for travel between North America (including Hawaii) and Europe. They charge just 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy, and if you have a US Airways MasterCard you get a further 5,000 mile discount, for a total of 30,000 miles.

For Europe the off peak travel dates are January 15 – February 28, which admittedly is a fairly small travel window.

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It’s worth noting that you have to fly US Airways flights to take advantage of this — Star Alliance partner airlines don’t qualify for this pricing.

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If you’re looking for a cheap getaway to Europe this is about as good as it gets, especially if you have US Airways’ co-branded credit card.

25,000 British Airways Avios for Aer Lingus roundtrip economy class award between Boston and Dublin

British Airways Avios are extremely valuable for short-haul 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.

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As a result, a one-way economy class redemption between the two cities would cost you just 12,500 Avios — that’s the same number of points you’d usually pay for a coast-to-coast flight within the US. Unfortunately British Airways doesn’t display Aer Lingus award availability online, so you’ll have to call British Airways Executive Club in order to inquire about availability and make your booking.

25,000 British Airways Avios for a roundtrip economy class award from the west coast to Hawaii

Similar to the Aer Lingus award above, British Airways charges just 12,500 Avios for a one-way flight of under 3,000 miles. This means you can fly from most west coast cities to Hawaii for just 25,000 Avios roundtrip. British Airways partners with both Alaska and American, and  both have fairly good award space to Hawaii.

Add in the frequent transfer bonuses from American Express to British Airways and you’re possibly looking at even fewer points than that.

9,000 British Airways Avios for a roundtrip economy class award of up to 650 miles each way

Airline pricing is rarely rational, and airfare rarely reflects the distance flown. That’s why a shorthaul flight can often be more expensive than a longhaul flight. One of the nice things about British Airways’ distance based award chart is that shorthaul travel is a really good deal. Travel under 650 miles one-way costs just 4,500 Avios.

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For example, a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Monterey would run you just 4,500 Avios.

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Meanwhile a paid ticket would be over $200.

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British Airways doesn’t impose any close-in ticketing fees, which makes them even more lucrative for last minute shorthaul redemptions.

25,000 Delta SkyMiles for a domestic economy class award with a stopover

Admittedly Delta’s domestic award availability leaves a bit to be desired, though I still find this to be a pretty cool “trick.” Basically, Delta is the only major US airline that lets you have a “free” stopover on a domestic award. Take the below itinerary, for example — you can fly from Tampa to Atlanta, have a stopover for a week, then Atlanta to Los Angeles a week later, and then fly from Los Angeles back to Tampa a week after that. And that’s all for just 25,000 Delta SkyMiles.

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60,000 American AAdvantage miles for a zone 3 economy class distance based OneWorld Explorer Award

Last week I wrote about the amazing value which are American’s distance based awards, where you get charged based on the number of miles you fly, regardless of the routing. The sweet spot on these charts is really for business class travel. For example, on a zone 6 (for travel of up to 20,000 miles) you’d pay 100,000 miles for first class or 130,000 miles for business class, which is a really modest premium.

However, one zone where I consider coach to be a good value is zone 3, which is for travel of up to 9,000 miles. If you’re starting on the east coast this will get you to Europe with a bunch of connections. The key benefit of a distance based award is that you’re allowed up to 16 segments, and you can have a stopover at each of them if you’d like.

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What are some of your favorite economy class award redemptions?

Comments

  1. Gee, Great posting! Had I know the first deal (60K US Airways to Asian), I should havew taken it last year.

    Q about US Airways 110K mile business class to Australia — does it has an economy class version? Say, 60K miles, which still allows a stopover in New Zealand?

  2. I would love to see some of the non ex-USA coach redemption listed too.
    For instance Ex North Asia could be interesting since you can get there on the cheap using 90K miles then you can use another coach redemption to visit multiple places with stopovers.
    Another good idea for future posts are maximizing award using overlapping regions from different programs.

  3. @lucky,
    Thank you. In that case, I’d prefer 110K business class. Anyway, I need to wait until late Jan or early Feb to book the tickets. I think I will ask you for help again by that time.

  4. 80K vs 110K? If you can spare additional 30K, I prefer business class, IMHO.
    With 110K US Airways, I booked EWR-YVR-SYD-AKL then AKL-PVG-NRT-ORD-EWR (stop over in Japan for a week) all on business class for next spring.

  5. The Southern South America American award is pretty amazing. My wife and I just took advantage of it to visit Chile (with a stopover to visit family in South Florida on the way) and because of the 10% rebate, it was just 72,000 miles for the both of us. These old American 767s on these routes are not great – but the service was top-notch. We also discovered that gate agents can make pretty much any change to these awards as long as their is “T” award class space available – and it usually is. We were able to move all our flights around without any extra charges.

  6. I’m surprised there’s no mention of ANA. Some great deals east coast-Europe for 38K miles or several options US-Caribbean/Central America for 22K miles. Just like with Avios you have to pick your metal carefully to avoid fuel surcharges but there’s some bargains available.

  7. @Redhat,

    Great advice. I am going to do a similiar trip as yours, but I will have a stopover in Sydney for 10+ days and stay at New Zealand for 5 days. I might consider buying some business and some coach class tickets on the same flight, to save some miles.

    May I ask which airlines (for each segment) you will fly?

  8. I need to make a trip to visit three cities: Taipei,Shanghai,and Singapore. How can I use the stop over and open jaw to book a united trip?

  9. @ Joan — Using United miles you could fly US to Taipei, have a stopover, then Taipei to Shanghai, then have an open jaw between Shanghai and Singapore, and then return from Singapore back home. That way you’d only have to separately transport yourself between Shanghai and Singapore.

  10. Wife and I moved from Charlotte, NC to Sudbury, Ontario two months ago. Air Canada charges just 15k miles for round trip between these two cities and east coast as long as you book on their aircraft. You will also pay anywhere between $150-$200 in taxes and fees but its a great deal for us as flights can be at least $750 and most of the time that’s with two stops, with one stop around $850 and more!

  11. Hi Ben, Thank you for this helpful post. I will save it for reference. I have only 72K miles with United and would like to go from LAX to Moscow and Tokyo then back to LAX. I should be able to have a stopover in Moscow on coach, correct?

  12. @lucky,
    Thanks for posting economy award redemption for the minority in the travel blog. I booked three economy tickets LAX-NRT-PEK-SYD for 60K each. Currently, AA charges 60K from LAX-EZE in mid-April. How do I find three economy tickets for 40K? How do I check LAN availability? Thanks

  13. @ globetrotter — You can check LAN availability on British Airways’ website.

    Are you saying the price is 60,000 miles for a one way to Buenos Aires, or for a roundtrip? If a one way it sounds like that’s the standard award price they’re charging you, which has last seat availability.

  14. @Andy: Sure,no problem.
    7 segments total which cover over 24K miles.
    *UA: EWR-YVR
    *AC: YVR-SYD
    *NZ: SYD-AKL
    *NZ: AKL-PVG
    *NH: PVG-NRT (1 week stop over)
    *NH: NRT-ORD
    *UA: ORD-EWR

    We scrapped the idea flying EVA from NRT-TPE -JFK due to late night arrival

    HTH

  15. It’s 60,000 miles one way. Why Evan #6 flew 80,000 miles less 10% discount for two round trips from MIA-SCL?Is it any different from LAX-EZE? BA does not show LAN availability, just AA and Iberia.

  16. @ globetrotter – That indeed sounds like the “AAnytime” price, not the Saver Award price. Argentina and Chile are in the same zone, which should be 60,000 miles for a round-trip in Economy, or 40,000 if you can book off-peak like Evan did.

  17. Lucky, thank you. I don’t know why I have such a hard time wrapping my head around HNL LAX LAX LHR LAX HNL This is a trip we want to take but how do we originate in HNL? We live in Phx so getting to/from LA is no prob. Just not sure if we need to start in HNL. Please spell it out for me. Thx!

  18. Thx, but I want those Hawaii segments LOL! Just can’t figure out how to physically fly it, I guess we would go to HNL on another tkt?

  19. @ Carrie — Basically the best you’ll get out of it is a one-way to/from Hawaii. Unless Phoenix is your transoceanic gateway city you’d have to otherwise purchase separate tickets to your international gateway city.

  20. Lucky,

    1. For the off-peak award, can you book it and then change the date to peak time w/o incurring addl miles? Also, does the entire trip needs to be within the band of the off-peak or just start of the journey?
    2.Can you add the free one-way to the Explorer award?

  21. @ ff_lover — Yes, the entire trip needs to be during the off peak period. If you change dates to a peak period you’d have to pay the mileage difference.

    An Explorer award is distance based, so any segments you add would count towards that distance.

  22. Thank you for your advice on November 7th about how to book a trip to Taipei, Singapore and Shanghai. How many miles will require to make this trip? I am sorry I did not respond right away, I am a senior and not always on line. However, your blog is one of my favorite readings. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  23. I am confused. I booked a 62,500 first class award ticket on AA from Miami to Washington Dulles , then Dulles to London (LHR) in March 2014. Is there a way I can change the route to go to Hawaii in July 2014 for the one way stop over?

  24. @ Phil N. — Yes, you could have booked Honolulu to Miami, stopover, and then Miami to London, though in order to do that your transoceanic flight would have to depart out of Miami.

  25. I have reservations at the Hilton Moorea in july and I am trying to book 2 couch rountrip flights on Air Tahiti. I have a reservation on hold until march 31st but I still don’t have enough miles. How can I get an extra 70k AA miles by then?
    Or which other way can i go?
    I am thinking I can also just book one way (LAX-PPT) with the miles I have but how can I get PPT-LAX)??
    I have 130K membership rewards.
    Traveling at the end of june, coming back after 1st week of july.
    Please help!!

  26. @ helga — Unfortunately the only way you can get miles that quickly is by buying them. Any other method (like credit card sign-up bonuses) will take longer.

  27. Lucky, thanks for the reply.
    Would i be possible to go on air france and come back on air tahiti or any other way?
    Thanks

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