How Many Miles Are Needed For An Award Ticket?

One of the amazing things about the miles and points game is how far your miles can go if you know what you’re aiming for. It’s one thing to rack up miles from bonuses and promotions, but actually redeeming miles can be more complicated.

Ben has written extensively about how to redeem miles in the various programs, but as there are so many new people this week I thought it would be helpful to give an overview of how many miles you need for an award ticket. For longtime readers this will mostly be review, but maybe you’ll notice a sweet spot you’d missed before.

I’m going to focus on business class as that gives us a good general range, but you can of course redeem for first class as well in many cases! Similarly, these charts are focused on routes to/from North America. There are great values in other regions as well, so we’ve included links to the award charts so you can dig in further.

Finally, not every program out there is included below. If you want a more comprehensive view of award charts, make sure to check out the section on Loyalty Programs.

All prices are one-way, except those marked with an “*” — these programs only allow you to book round-trip awards, so there’s no discount in price for a one-way. It’s also worth noting that Delta no longer publishes award charts, and has a very complicated pricing scheme, so those prices are really educated guesses.

What are all these transfer partners?

Several rewards programs offer the option to transfer points to an airline partner. These are referred to as “flexible points” or “transferable points.” They are most easily accrued through credit card spending/bonuses, but there are often opportunities to leverage shopping portals and other bonuses as well.

Before anyone asks, you generally can’t transfer miles from one airline to another. So while you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan or Delta SkyMiles, you can’t transfer points from Aeroplan to SkyMiles.

Why aren’t you talking about domestic flights? Or economy?

While there are some good values to be found in redeeming miles for domestic flights, it’s honestly not the best use of your miles. Similarly, given that international economy tickets can often be purchased for a very low cost, it generally doesn’t make sense to spend your hard-earned miles to sit in the back of the plane.

There are exceptions, of course, but here at One Mile At A Time we like to focus on the ridiculous and aspirational things you can do with your miles.

Business Class to Europe

There are hundreds of flights a day between North America and Europe, so if you’re flexible with your routing or schedule it’s typically not too tough to find award availability, particularly if you’re booking well in advance.

Airline ProgramMiles Required - BusinessTransfer Partners
Air Canada AeroplanEurope 1: 45,000
Europe 2: 52,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France FlyingBlue62,500American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi ThankYou Points
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanAir France: 62,500
American: 50,000
British Airways: 60,000
Delta: 125,000*
Emirates: 105,000
Starwood Preferred Guest
Alitalia MilemigliaAlitalia: 100,000†
SkyTeam Partners: 80,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
American Airlines AAdvantage57,500 Starwood Preferred Guest
Avianca LifeMiles75,000
British Airways Executive ClubDistance Based
37,500-75,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Delta SkyMiles
No longer publishes award charts
~62,500 American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Korean Air SkyPass80,000* Chase Ultimate Rewards
Lufthansa Miles & More52,500Starwood Preferred Guest
Singapore KrisFlyerSingapore Only: 48,875
(includes 15% online booking discount)
Partners: 65,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest
United Mileage PlusUnited: 57,500
Partners: 70,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Virgin AtlanticDistance Based
40,000-50,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest

One note on Alitalia. They changed their award chart for their own flights back in 2012, but have been offering a “promotional” chart that matches their SkyTeam chart since then. That has technically expired, but whether you pay the promo rates or the “correct” rates really depends on the agent you get.

Aeroplan has hands-down the best value for business class travel, particularly if you can redeem miles on carriers that don’t levy fuel surcharges. They also allow either two stopovers or a stopover and open-jaw on a round trip, and you can always get reimbursed for the fuel surcharges.

Turkish-Business-Class-1
Turkish Business Class has no fuel surcharges when booked through Aeroplan

Singapore KrisFlyer also has fantastic rates for awards on their own metal. You receive a 15% discount by booking online, which lowers the price of those awards dramatically.

Business Class to Central and South America

For some reason, every airline seems to divide this region up differently, so there’s not really a way to make a clean and easy chart here. This should give you a general idea, but if you’re planning award travel to South America you probably want to look at the specific award chart for the program you’re interested in so you know which zone your destination country is in.

Airline ProgramMiles Required - BusinessTransfer Partners
Air Canada AeroplanCentral America: 30,000
Northern South America: 37,500
Southern South America: 47,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France FlyingBlueCentral America: 30,000
Northern South America: 43,750
Southern South America: 62,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi ThankYou Points
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanAeromexico: 35,000 - 45,000
American: 30,000 - 50,000
Delta: 60,000 - 125,000*
LAN: 45,000
Starwood Preferred Guest
Alitalia MilemigliaCentral America: 60,000*
Northern South America: 60,000
Southern South America: 75,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
American Airlines AAdvantageCentral America & South America 1: 27,500 - 30,000
South America 2: 57,500
Starwood Preferred Guest
Avianca LifeMilesNorth of Central America: 36,000
South of Central America: 36,0000
North of South America: 40,000
South of South America: 60,000
British Airways Executive ClubDistance BasedAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Delta SkyMilesCentral America: ~30,000
Northern South America: ~45,000
Southern South America: ~62,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Korean Air SkyPassKorean only: 52,500
Latin America 1 SkyTeam partners: 75,000*
Latin America 2 SkyTeam partners: 110,000*
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Lufthansa Miles & MoreCentral America: 30,000
South America: 52,500
Starwood Preferred Guest
Singapore KrisFlyerCentral America: 30,000
South America: 50,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest
United Mileage PlusCentral America: 30,000
Northern South America: 35,000
Southern South America: 55,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards


LAN offers lie-flat seats in business class to South America

Business Class to the Middle East, Africa, and Indian Subcontinent

This is another region where there is a wide range of geographical definitions, particularly as many mileage programs seem to have rather arbitrary ways of dividing Africa.

In general, when redeeming miles for travel to India or Africa look at routing through Europe or the Middle East whenever possible. You’ll make some additional connections, but will generally get a better product in exchange.

Airline ProgramMiles Required - BusinessTransfer Partners
Air Canada AeroplanMiddle East & North Africa: 82,500
East, West, & South Africa: 75,000
India: 75,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France FlyingBlue100,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi ThankYou Points
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanAir France: 70,000
British Airways: 70,000
Cathay Pacific: 62,500
Delta: 140,000
Delta South Africa: 160,000*
Emirates India/Middle East: 82,500
Emirates Africa: 120,000
Korean India/Middle East: 140,000*
Starwood Preferred Guest
Alitalia MilemigliaIndia/Middle East: 120,000*
North Africa: 80,000*
Central/Southern Africa: 120,000*
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
American Airlines AAdvantageAfrica: 75,000
India/Middle East: 70,000
Starwood Preferred Guest
Avianca LifeMilesSouth Africa: 78,000
North Africa: India/Middle East: 78,000
British Airways Executive ClubDistance BasedAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Delta SkyMilesAfrica/India/Middle East: ~70,000
South Africa: ~80,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Korean Air SkyPassPartners: 120,000* Chase Ultimate Rewards
Lufthansa Miles & MoreMiddle East/North & Central Africa: 67,500
Southern Africa/India: 92,500
Starwood Preferred Guest
Singapore KrisFlyerAfrica/Middle East on Singapore: 80,750
West Coast to India on Singapore: 76,500
East Coast to India on Singapore: 87,125
Middle East/North Africa on Partners: 57,500
Central/South Africa on Partners: 72,500
India on Partners: 97,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest
United Mileage PlusUnited: 70,000
Partners: 80,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Virgin AtlanticMiddle East/North Africa: 80,000
India/South Africa: 90,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest

Qatar-Airways-777-Business-Class-03
Qatar Airways has dine-on-demand catering, and lie-flat seats

For business class, United offers a great value to these regions. You won’t pay any fuel surcharges, and can have open-jaws and a stopover on a round-trip itinerary. Combined with the sheer numbers of Star Alliance partners, there are possibilities for great redemptions.

Business Class to Asia

There are so many good business class redemption opportunities here it’s hard to pick a favorite. There is a bit of a balance between things like stopovers and fuel surcharges, but for the most part I think most of the business class prices are pretty reasonable, so it’s hard to go wrong here.

Airline ProgramMiles Required - BusinessTransfer Partners
Air Canada AeroplanAsia 1: 75,000
Asia 2: 77,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France FlyingBlue 100,000American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi ThankYou Points
Alitalia MilemigliaNorthern Asia: 90,000*
Southeast Asia: 95,000
American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanAmerican Japan/Korea: 50,000
American China: 55,000
Cathay Pacific: 50,000
Delta: 140,000*
Emirates: 105,000
Korean to North Asia: 105,000*
Korean to Southeast Asia: 120,000*
Starwood Preferred Guest
American Airlines AAdvantageAsia 1: 60,000
Asia 2: 70,000
Starwood Preferred Guest
Avianca LifeMilesNorth Asia: 75,000
South/Central Asia: 78,000
British Airways Executive ClubDistance BasedAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Delta SkyMiles~70,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
EVA Air Infinity MileageLandsNorth Asia: 87,500
South/Central Asia: 97,500
Citi ThankYou Points
Korean Air SkyPassKorea/China/Japan on Korean: 62,500
Southeast Asia on Korean: 75,000
Southwest Asia on Korean: 85,000
Northeast Asia on Partners: 140,000*
Southeast Asia on Partners: 155,000*
Southwest Asia on Partners: 170,000*
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Lufthansa Miles & More67,500Starwood Preferred Guest
Singapore KrisFlyerWest coast to Southeast Asia on Singapore: 68,000
East coast to Southeast Asia on Singapore: 72,250
West coast to South China: on Singapore: 63,750
East coast to South China: on Singapore: 78,625
East coast to North China: on Singapore: 87,125
West coast to Japan/Korea: on Singapore: 65,875
East coast to Japan/Korea on Singapore: 89,250
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest
United Mileage PlusUnited Japan: 65,000
United Central/South/North Asia: 70,000
Partners Japan: 75,000
Partners Central/South/North Asia: 80,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Virgin Atlantic 90,000 - 110,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest

Cathay-Pacific-777-Business-Class-16
Every business class seat on Cathay Pacific long-hauls has direct aisle access

Business Class to Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania

Award travel to the South Pacific is complicated — there isn’t a ton of capacity compared to other regions, and availability is generally poor on the few direct routes between North America and Australia. Given that, my favorite programs are the ones that allow you to route via Asia, as that expands options dramatically and gives you access to better products as well.

Delta and United offer some of the best values, in my opinion. United will allow you to route via Asia, and doesn’t levy fuel surcharges. Delta will allow routing via Asia as well, but more importantly they partner with Virgin Australia, which actually releases award space on routes to the US.

Airline ProgramMiles Required - BusinessTransfer Partners
Air Canada Aeroplan80,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France FlyingBlue 120,000American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi ThankYou Points
Alitalia Milemiglia150,000*American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanAir France to Tahiti: 60,000
Cathay Pacific: 60,000
Delta: 160,000*
Fiji Airways: 55,000
Korean Air: 125,000
Qantas: 55,000
Starwood Preferred Guest
American Airlines AAdvantage80,000Starwood Preferred Guest
Avianca LifeMiles80,000
British Airways Executive ClubDistance BasedAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Delta SkyMiles~80,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands97,500Citi ThankYou Points
Korean Air SkyPassKorean: 97,500
Partners: 185,000*
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Lufthansa Miles & More92,500Starwood Preferred Guest
Singapore KrisFlyerWest coast to West Australia on Singapore: 80,750
East coast to West Australia on Singapore: 87,125
West coast to East Australia /New Zealand on Singapore: 85,000
East coast to East Australia /New Zealand on Singapore: 91,375
Partners: 97,500
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Starwood Preferred Guest
United Mileage PlusUnited: 70,000
Partners: 80,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards

Virgin-Australia-Business-Class
Virgin Australia business class is one of the few options for direct flights using miles between Australia and North America

Bottom Line

Obviously award availability is going to be the determining factor in many cases, but hopefully this gives you a general idea of how many miles you’ll need as you’re building up your balances.

Do any of these rates surprise you? Anyone have a favorite redemption to share?

Comments

  1. My three favorites so far are:
    One I just booked for my family of six from Orlando to Hong Kong, 5 in business and one first class on Cathay Pacific using 342,500 AA miles,
    Bodrum to Cairo to Luxor to Cairo to Amman to Istanbul on Turkish and Egyptair using 144,000 ANA miles (instead of 420,000 United miles),
    and Miami to Liberia, Costa Rica on AA using 90,000 BA Avios (instead of 210,000 AA miles)

  2. A good article Tiffany, and I realise you needed to keep things simple, but I think when comparing award costs by program for various destinations you can unintentionally misled if you also don’t provide some indication or guidance that earn rates also vary too by program (meaning it’s very hard to offer comparison on an apples for apples basis, when just looking at redemption costs).

    It would be too hard to provide exact numbers on costs to earn points (as it’s multi-factorial, and shifts and changes regularly), but perhaps anecdotally you can highlight those programs on which cheap point earn is more common, to give added depth to current comparison.

    Like some many things when it comes to determining which is the “best” frequent flyer program, the answer there – “it depends” – extends to this element because there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Readers should take this article as a starting point to kickstart their own research to see what works best for them – newbies to this might not understand that points (of the various frequent flyer schemes) are not created equal.

  3. @ Kieran — Perfectly stated, and great advice. Certainly intended this to be an intro, and you’re spot on that there are SO many variables involved.

  4. Tiffany, I just booked an itineray in Business JFK/HKG/BKK/SIN/HKG/JFK, being the SIN/HKG/JFK just a connection on the way home and I was charge 155,000 miles by AA.
    It did not look bad to me, but now that I am looking at your award chart I am not so sure anymore.
    Please let me have tour comments.

  5. Nice piece but with respect to United, I don’t know where these award numbers are coming from.

    If I go to united.com and look at award travel everything is at least double the numbers being quoted in the article. One way to Europe is 150K miles in business, 170K in first. To Mexico it is 70K. To Australia it is 175K.

    Is the article quoting saver fares (which never seem to be available) or am I totally missing something?

    A little help? (be kind i am new at this stuff, ha)

  6. How much does it cost in points to upgrade a ticket from economy to business, say for a roundtrip journey from US – India?

    Thanks

  7. @Tiffany

    Kind words Tiffany and I appreciate the difficulties involved in walking the balance between having a general article aimed at starters and avoiding it getting too complicated and dense due to it getting bogged down in heavy technical analysis.

    On a side note, I wondered if you or another member of the OMAAT team might write an article outlining the advantages/disadvantages of purchasing tickets (especially mistake like fares) through an online travel agency/consolidator vs an airline website. I must admit I stick with the airline websites for ticket purchases, especially when the fare is deeply discounted, because it feels a little safer to me (even accepting less preferred flight arrangements than can be had through an OTA) but that’s just gut instinct. It’d be interesting to see what the OMAAT view is here.

  8. Hi Tiff,
    There is a mistake on the chart to Asia. Flying to North Asia, South Asia and Central Asia cost 75K and 78K on Avianca instead of 62.5K and 65K.
    They still providing great value though as I can purchase the miles at 1.5 cent per piece.

    Eric

  9. @DougG
    Yes I believe the chart is for saver fares. Most of the articles here only talk about saver fares, as only those are available to partner airlines. And that is what we considered as “award seats availability”.

    Have you play around the dates? You should be able to find availability somewhere in United’s system.

    Good luck

  10. Great resource Tiffany – thanks!
    Would you mind expanding it to include non-US destinations e.g. Europe to/from Asia, Australia to/from Europe.
    I can see a very useful app so will try to convince TPJ Jr to write the code.
    TPJ

  11. Hi everyone at OMaaT!! I’m so excited to have found this website and looking forward to getting started. I’m planning on going to Brazil next year. I’ve decided to focus on AAdvantage rewards. Which would be the best credit card to link with that so I can earn the miles faster? I see that you have SPG listed as a travel partner on the table above but I was also considering Citi Prestige or Citi Aadvantage Executive. Which would you recommend to start off with? Thanks!

  12. @Jerry – because nobody has the miles in Aer Lingus, Finnair or Air Berlin and Iberia chart is equal to BA.

    @Tiffany – sorry, but your Avianca miles are all wrong. I think you’re quoting them from pre-October 2014 devaluation.

  13. When are we going to get back to industry news and trip reports again? It’s a shame you guys have just stopped doing all that.
    Also, does lucky share his referral money with you guys – it’s interesting that this post wasn’t covered in referral links (lucky normally tries to shove in as many links as possible)

  14. Okay, this is an embarrassingly naïve question I’ve been wanting to post for a year, but since we have a bunch of virgins reading now, maybe someone else needs to know this: Are these miles the same regardless of where one is flying from (w/in the 48, of course)? In other words, if I’m flying from an AA hub, like CLT, to say Paris, or I’m flying from beeboptown, Montana (assuming that AA has any flights from there, so does service that airport), are the miles the same? It’s just a much better deal for the bebopper than the Charlotte resident (as opposed to the cost in $$)? I’ll be so glad to finally get this last piece of the puzzle in place. ; ) Thanks.

  15. @ mbh — Oh noes, you should always ask!

    And you’re correct — whenever you have a zone-based system there’s a flat price between anywhere in Zone A and Zone B. So it’s 50k miles if you fly CLT > CDG or 50k if you fly BFE > ORD > CLT > CDG.

    That being said, sometimes it’s tough to find award availability out of secondary and tertiary airports, so you might be looking at buying a ticket to the hub regardless.

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