Cheap And Free Flights To Europe With American Airlines Miles
May 6, 2018
Today I will show how to cheaply or even for free fly to Europe using American Airlines miles which is the currency of the American Airlines frequent flyer program called AAdvantage. In many cases, you will have enough AAdvantage miles to fly to Europe after making just one credit card application and meeting the initial spending requirements.
American Airlines, world’s largest airline makes more than 6,600 flights daily and flies to almost 350 cities around the world, including direct flights from the U.S. to Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, Rome, Milan and other cities in Europe. Because American Airlines is a member of the Oneworld alliance, it is possible to book flights with AAdvantage miles on partner airlines (such as British Airways, Iberia and Finnair). Although the membership in the Oneworld alliance expands the geography of where American Airlines miles can be used to fly to, some (but not all) of the partner airlines impose high fees and surcharges which makes their tickets very expensive. However if you choose to use AAdvantage miles for American Airlines flights to Europe, the fees will be low and reasonable.
How Many AAdvantage Miles Will I Need To Fly To Europe?
The cheapest AAdvantage awards flights are called Economy MileSAAver. You can fly round-trip from the U.S. 48 contiguous states to Europe for 60,000 AAdvantage miles, from Canada and Alaska for 65,000 AAdvantage miles, and from Hawaii for 80,000 AAdvantage miles. There is a discount for those flying from the U.S. 48 contiguous states to Europe during off-peak time (January 10-March 14 and November 1-December 14) – you will only need 45,000 AAdvantage miles for a round trip. AAdvantage allows booking one-way awards flights, too; they will cost half of the amount of miles needed for a round-trip. You can see the list of countries that American Airlines defines as Europe here.
When you book flights with AAdvantage miles, you will also have to pay fees that start at $5.60 per one-way trip. Usually, fees are the lowest on the flights operated by American Airlines and Finnair. Other partner airlines impose higher fees (especially British Airways where fees and surcharges can reach even $500-600 which you would need to pay in addition to AAdvantage miles). Below are some of the examples of how much you would need to pay in fees for a round-trip flights operated by American Airlines from U.S. to Europe:
Los Angeles-Paris-Los Angeles: $92;
San Francisco-Lisbon-San Francisco: $61;
And here are a few examples of the fees for round-trip flights booked with AAdvantage miles but operated by Iberia:
Los Angeles-Rome-Los Angeles: $301;
Although you have to pay the fees with the “real money” (not with AAdvantage miles), there are credit card points that you can use to cover the cost of these fees and thus reduce the total cost of your flights to $0. You can read more about that here.
How Can I Earn AAdvantage Miles?
You can read my introductory article about earning miles and points here. Compared to the other frequent flyer programs, AAdvantage provides fewer opportunities of earning miles through credit cards. That’s because AAdvantage does not allow converting credit card points into AAdvantage miles from any of the three major credit card programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi Thank You Rewards). However there are a few great AAdvantage credit cards that earn AAdvantage miles with bonus offers each of which can take you to Europe (round-trip or at least one-way) almost for free (Note: bonus points offers were available at the time this article was written (i.e. in May 2018) and may change of expire at a later date):
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard with 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles offer after spending of $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. You can read my article on how to easily meet credit card bonus spending requirements here. The card has $99 annual fee which is waived for the first year.
AAdvantage has its online shopping portal which allows earning extra miles for each dollar spent online at participating retailers. In order to earn the extra miles, you need to reach those online retailers by clicking a link on AAdvantage shopping portal instead of going directly to the retailer’s website. AAdvantage shopping portal can be reached here. AAdvantage has hundreds of participating retailers; you can see some of them here:
American Airlines has limited availability of cheapest award flights therefore it is important to make your reservations as early as possible and be flexible with your travel schedule. You don’t need to be AAdvantage member to check flight availability or to see how many miles is needed for a particular flight. However, if you want to see the fees that you will need to pay for your fllight (in addition to miles), you will need to join AAdvantage program which you can do herefor free.
After joining the program, log into your account and click “Advanced search” link on your account’s front page:
Then enter your departure and arrival airport, travel dates and answer yes to the question ”Book with miles?”:
At the bottom of the page specify that you are looking for American Airlines flights (not partner airlines as their fees are often higher) and click Search:
When the flight calendar appears, click on “See full calendar” to have a better view of flight availability during the month that you plan to travel:
Flight cost (in miles) will be shown for one-way flights to your destination on each day of the month. Click on the day that you want to depart, then scroll down and do the same with your return flight and click Continue. You will then see a list of flights available on that day. Choose the departure flight and click Continue. Do the same with your return flight and click Continue again. You should be then able to see what the total amount of AAdvantage miles is needed for your trip and what the fees are. If you are satisfied with the cost and have enough miles in you AAdvantage account, you can book your flights now.
Marius Z. is writing about travel to holy places in Israel, Italy, Poland, France, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal and other countries. He writes about how to make pilgrimages inexpensive or even free while using credit card rewards points, frequent flyer miles, and hotel rewards points. History and spiritual message of each holy place is presented along with the information on where to eat, shop and stay while on a pilgrimage.