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First-class award flights to Europe are one of the most valuable ways to use airline miles for maximum value. Here are some of the best options to book a premium award flight and (possibly) avoid fuel surcharges for your first class trip to Europe.
American Airlines and its oneworld alliance partners serve many European destinations. Fortunately, this airline still publishes a fixed award chart. A one-way flight from the US to Europe costs as little as 57,500 miles plus fees and taxes when you snap up a MileSAAver award.
The prices jump up to 110,000 miles (AAnytime Level 1) and 135,000 miles (AAnytime Level 2) when the discounted award flights are unavailable.
First class flights through a oneworld member or a partner airline cost 85,000 miles one-way.
However, it’s essential to avoid flights operated by British Airways as you will pay an expensive fuel surcharge. For example, your fees and taxes can only be $52.68 roundtrip on an American-operated flight to Madrid but $836.38 when on British Airways-operated flights.
The AAdvantage Miles Finder Map can help you quickly compare current award flight prices for various destinations from your departing airport.
Related: The Best Credit Cards for American Airlines Fliers
Delta Air Lines uses a variable pricing model. So, it can take a little while to find the best deal in comparison to its competitors.
Anticipate booking a Delta One fare class to Europe, which provides a flat-bed seat and other onboard amenities. A one-way booking typically costs from 250,000 miles to 375,000 miles between most departure points and destinations. However, you might be able to find a flight for as low as 120,000 miles.
However, premium cabin space may not be available on your desired travel dates. If in this situation, Premium Select is your next best option. A one-way flight typically costs around 90,000 SkyMiles, which is more budget-friendly as well.
Typically, you won’t encounter fuel surcharges on flights originating in the United States, making your fees and taxes as low as $6. Unfortunately, return flights originating in Europe incur surcharges that raise the fees and taxes to approximately $280 USD.
Related: Up to 100k With the Best Delta Credit Cards
United Airlines uses a variable pricing model, although you can compare ticket prices using the 7-day calendar to see the cheapest travel dates. It can be helpful if you have some flexibility when booking your first class trip to Europe.
In most situations, you will need to use your MileagePlus miles for business class flights instead of first class to get to Europe. The latter cabin usually doesn’t become available until 14 days before departure.
A Star Alliance partner operates most of the flights to Europe using United miles. Lufthansa is the primary operator, although it’s also common to catch flights on SWISS Air and Brussels Airlines.
When a United-operated flight is available, look for the Polaris cabin experience to enjoy luxury travel. Additionally, there will be more United flights in the summer of 2023 that can make it easier to enjoy destinations like Rome, Stockholm, and Malaga.
Whether you fly on United or are a Star Alliance member, a one-way flight can cost anywhere from 70,000 to 155,000 miles. The fees and taxes differ by airline but range from $5.60 to about $107 one-way, with European carriers charging the most.
Related: The Best United Airlines Credit Cards
Another way to maximize the Star Alliance network is through Air Canada Aeroplan. This loyalty program uses a distance-based award chart. You won’t pay fuel surcharges on flights to Europe but will pay a fee on the return trip.
One-way first class flights cost 130,000 points (8,000 miles or shorter) or 140,000 points (routes longer than 8,000 miles).
Business class flights cost 90,000 points or 110,000 points with the same mileage bands.
Another reason to consider booking through Aeroplan is for discounted multi-city fares. When booking a one-way award flight, you can add a single city stopover for only 5,000 points. You can make this request online or by calling a booking agent.
Related: New Aeroplan Bonus
There’s no denying that it’s more expensive to fly to the United Kingdom than to continental Europe because of the fuel surcharges. You may consider Virgin Atlantic since they are a transfer partner for several credit card programs.
The airline also participates in the Virgin Red program that lets you pool your Virgin points from the various Virgin travel brands.
This carrier breaks its award pricing into the standard season and peak season. A one-way Upper-Class flight in the standard season can cost the following:
- 95,000 miles from the USA Northeast
- 95,000 miles from the USA Midwest and South
- 135,000 miles from the USA West
Peak season flights cost 115,000 miles or 155,000 miles, depending on the flight region.
A quick word about those pesky fuel surcharges. Virgin calls it a carrier-imposed international surcharge (YQ). For a round-trip award trip, plan on paying $2,032 on most itineraries.
While you’re at it, you may also consider booking a London hotel with points if this city is on your to-do list.
Related: The Best Airline Miles Credit Cards
Credit Card Travel Portals for Your First Class Trip to Europe
As first class and business flights usually have the highest redemption values, you’re usually better off booking them directly through the airline. However, if you plan on using credit card points to secure your seat, you may compare redemption rates before transferring points.
Depending on the travel credit card, your points can be worth from 1 cent to 1.5 cents when redeemed through the travel portal.
American Express Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards® are worth 1 cent for award flights, but you might be able to find discounted business and first class international flights. Their International Airline Program lets you book up to 8 tickets at preferred rates with cash or points.
Related: Best American Express Cards For Travel
Capital One miles are worth one cent for upcoming travel or as a travel statement credit with either the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Capital One Airline Partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Each Chase Ultimate Rewards® point can be worth 1.25 cents (25% more) with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
However, your points are worth 1.5 cents (50% more) through the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Also, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has an excellent limited-time bonus offer. New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,200 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Related: The Best Chase Credit Cards
In conclusion, first class award flights are expensive but booking through a US-based airline helps you avoid expensive surcharges that may make you reconsider flying in a premium cabin. Having a flexible travel schedule and avoiding peak season can also make it easier to find travel deals. Hopefully, this article has helped you find ways to make your first class trip to Europe a reality.