My Favorite Flights and Award Redemptions for 2017

The year of 2017 is already two months old, but the following list is brand new and hopefully inspiring! You can also look back to My Favorite Awards of 2016 – many of which I did redeem miles for last year.

Aeroplan Awards to Europe using Turkish Airlines or Swiss in Business Class

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Airline Credit Cards

Turkish Airlines Business Class is a great product (even if the connection in Istanbul isn’t so great). Aeroplan (still) allows redemptions from anywhere in the US to Europe via Istanbul for just 55,000 – 57,500 miles one-way in business class.

Turkish Airlines has a deservedly bad reputation for things going wrong; there was lots of drama with the recent snow storms in Istanbul, for instance. Additionally, the airline has now started to randomly cancel flights 2-3 weeks out if the loads aren’t enough for them.

As an alternative, book Swiss, which also has a great business class product and availability is now pretty decent.

Most other carriers in Star Alliance will either incur expensive extra charges (e.g. Lufthansa) or just don’t have the best product on routes to Europe (though United has recently been improving its Polaris business class service).

AAdvantage Awards to the Middle East & Maldives (Etihad, Qatar), Africa (Qatar) and Asia (Cathay Pacific) in Business Class

American also partners with two of the three excellent Middle Eastern airlines – Qatar Airways and Etihad – as well as the rather small Gulf Air. The Middle East award region is huge with AAdvantage and includes the Maldives; just 70,000 miles will pay for a one-way award ticket in business class.

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In order to get to Africa, Qatar is your best choice, with lots of destinations on the continent. While American charges ‘two awards’ for flights with Etihad to Africa, Qatar’s connection in Doha (just a few hundred miles from Abu Dhabi) is considered valid and more direct, and prices as one award.

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To southeast Asia, AAdvantage charges 70,000 on Cathay Pacific, which is a great, solid product as well.

Singapore Airlines to Asia and/or Europe in Business/First Class

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is likely the loyalty program that will devalue next. So far they have not, though, so now’s your chance!

Singapore Airlines redemptions can be done online and you should search for flights from/to its US destinations of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines now mostly flies the 777 (with a first class cabin) and the A350, which has just business and economy class cabins.

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Prices vary, but ~52,000 KrisFlyer miles can already get you a one-way business class seat when booked online (which saves 15%). Also interesting with KrisFlyer is if you search, say, San Francisco to Johannesburg, the miles are not much more than San Francisco to Hong Kong, but the surcharges jump up (though it is still a decent deal).

Delta Awards to the Indian Ocean (Virgin Atlantic and Air France)

Before Turkish Airlines started service to Mauritius and Madagascar, Delta had somewhat of a monopoly, with good value business class awards to the Indian Ocean.

Delta now charges 80,000 miles for a business class flight to the Indian Ocean, including to Reunion, Mauritius and Madagascar. You can freely combine SkyTeam carriers like Air France (though some airlines, including Kenya Airways, will add a fuel surcharge). Virgin Atlantic has a much-improved business class product on its 787 as well. Availability is an issue for both Air France and Virgin Atlantic, but it can be done!

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Delta Awards to Southeast Asia (Garuda & China Airlines)

Delta also charges 80,000 miles for awards to the southeast Asia region. While this is expensive, Delta miles and the easy American Express Membership Rewards transfer option make it pretty feasible to get to that number fairly quickly.

Delta partners with SkyTeam airlines China Airlines and Garuda Indonesia and both get excellent remarks for their business class products. China Airlines recently started flying its A350 from Taipei to San Francisco every day.

Cheap flights to San Francisco

Availability is excellent and Delta does not charge fuel surcharges on these flights.

Turkish Airlines 10,000 Miles from Europe to most of Africa (in Economy)

Miles&Smiles is a tough currency to earn; there are no transfer partners for US-based credit cards and you can’t even transfer Starpoints. I earned them by renting cars from Avis and by flying.

The 10,000 miles redemption rate is valid for most of East and West Africa, but Southern Africa is excluded.

Airline Credit Cards

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It only works for direct Turkish Airline flights (but there are plenty left). There are small airport taxes and fees to pay with these redemptions.

Alaska Mileage Plan Awards to South Africa and the Middle East/Asia/Australia (Cathay Pacific)

Alaska has kept the redemption rates for Cathay Pacific steady and that’s the carrier you should redeem with. It is my favorite business class for an overnight flight. The seats are awesome and the flights usually all leave on time.

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The biggest letdown is often the catering, so come prepared!

Redemptions to Africa and Australia (both via Hong Kong with a possible stopover) or Asia are all in the narrow range of ~60,000 miles in business class.

All flights must be on Cathay Pacific or Alaska and award availability can be spotty (but Cathay seems to change it every day). Johannesburg (the only African destination from Hong Kong) is a solid 12 hours away. I took this trip just last week and thought it was amazing value!

Flying Blue to Asia/Pacific in Business Class for 100,000 miles

Similar to the Delta awards for 80,000, Flying Blue can use the (seemingly) excellent China Airlines and Garuda in business class. It is more expensive than Delta, but Flying Blue is a transfer partner with Citi ThankYou points, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards – all on a 1:1 basis. Fuel surcharges apply on these redemptions.

Interestingly, flights to the Pacific region (which is further away) via Asia are often priced lower. Getting them to price correctly can take a long time, though.

Flights and Award Redemptions

For some time, Los Angeles to Noumea (NOU) came up as 30,000 miles and $59 in charges in economy, but I can’t see this anymore on airfrance.us.

US to Europe 25,000 Lufthansa Miles & More or 25,000 Flying Blue

I flew Norwegian for just $220 round-trip from the US West Coast to Europe last December and was blown away by how good its economy product is. It’s easily one of the best out there.

Flights and Award Redemptions

So why redeem miles? During summer, prices are often sky-high; depending on your airport, the one-way fare can be $700 or more. At this level, is makes sense to redeem miles, even for economy class!

I recently redeemed with Miles & More and Flying Blue and both priced out at 25,000 miles (with Miles & More it does if your account has a US residency). The agents were friendly and professional and the taxes and surcharges both came out to $100. Two 10-minute calls and it was done. I wish award booking would always be so easy!

See all of Indonesia (kind of) for 10,000 Flying Blue miles

This award sounds better in theory than practice… Flying Blue lets you book any award within Indonesia using Garuda Indonesia planes for 10,000 miles. So you can go from Medan (KNO) to Jayapura (DJJ) for 10,000 miles and plan lots of 23-hour stopovers.

Flights and Award Redemptions

Sounds stressful? That’s because it is and Indonesia isn’t exactly rich in well-built roads (from the airports to the towns).

What about Emirates awards?

Alaska Airlines has made redemptions on Emirates so expensive that I don’t find it worth it. However, Japan Airlines has a distance-based award chart and recently capped fuel surcharges at just $78.20!

You can transfer Starpoints to the JAL Mileage Bank and redeem for the Emirates A380 in first class.

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Keep in mind that you can now access the first class lounge at Dubai Airport for a ‘modest’ US $200 (EUR 189) fee per visit (even with an economy ticket) and the A380 shower is rumored to have been made available for a fee as well.

What are your favorite awards?