May 30, 2024

Olympia Travel Tips

Maniac Travel Update

The best mileage redemptions on America’s most popular international flights

The best mileage redemptions on America’s most popular international flights

Redeeming your hard-earned airline miles and credit card points can be stressful. After all, if you’re traveling on a popular international route like New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), there are a multitude of airlines, cabins and tax bases.

However, knowing which airlines offer the most lucrative awards is worth your while. After all, I recently traveled from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Airport (SYD) in American Airlines’ soon-to-be-retired Flagship First for just 62,500 Etihad miles. I would have needed to redeem 90,000 AAdvantage miles for the same seat if I’d booked through American’s own loyalty program.

I’ll take you through some of the most popular U.S. nonstop international flights and show you which programs offer the most appealing award rates.

As you may already know, more and more loyalty programs have drifted away from fixed-price award charts in favor of dynamically priced awards. This is particularly the case when you’re redeeming points and miles with the same loyalty program as the airline you’re flying on (i.e., redeeming Delta SkyMiles for a Delta Air Lines flight).

So, some of these award prices are starting prices that I found, while others are the fixed award rate for a given flight. Confirm that your desired dates have award space before transferring points if you’re transferring credit card points.

All of these options have award availability on multiple dates in the next two months, but you’ll likely find award space later in the year, too. So, let’s dive in!

New York to London

Seat 1A in American Airlines’ Flagship First. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

London is a popular destination from most major U.S. airports. In particular, many travelers cross the pond to London from JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Here are some options to redeem your points and miles to travel from New York to London.

American Airlines

  • Economy: 20,000 Etihad Guest miles and around $50, or 20,750 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $191.
  • Business (or first): 62,500 Etihad Guest miles and around $50.

British Airways

  • Economy: 25,000 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $201.
  • Business: 50,000 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $550.

Delta Air Lines

  • Economy: 24,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $10.
  • Business: 69,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $10.

United Airlines

  • Economy: 27,900 United miles and $5.60.
  • Business: 60,000 United miles and $5.60.

Virgin Atlantic

  • Economy: 10,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and around $152, or 22,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $63.
  • Premium economy: 17,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and around $327.
  • Business: 65,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $201, or 47,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and around $877.

Related: The complete guide to flying to London on points and miles

Honolulu to Tokyo

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Although Japan recently reopened to most international travelers, flights between Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND) have largely returned to their pre-pandemic frequencies.

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There are also flights from Honolulu to other airports in Japan — like Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO). So if you’re running into issues finding availability, consider checking other airports in Japan.

Here are some of the best options for redeeming your points and miles from Hawaii to Japan.

ANA

  • Economy: 27,500 Avianca LifeMiles and around $25, or 33,000 United miles and $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Economy: 32,500 American miles and $5.60, or 40,000 HawaiianMiles and $5.60
  • Business: 52,500 American miles and $5.60, or 65,000 HawaiianMiles and $5.60.

Japan Airlines

  • Economy: 20,750 British Airways Avios and around $248, or 32,500 American miles and $5.60.
  • Premium economy: 41,250 British Airways Avios and around $248.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Related: Flight review: The longest US domestic flight, Hawaiian Airlines’ Boston to Honolulu on the A330 in first class

New York to Toronto

Economy class on an Air Canada A220. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Many people travel daily from New York City to Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). Heads up here — as I mentioned earlier, some of these award prices are dynamically priced, meaning that you could find lower or higher award rates depending on your travel dates. This route is particularly susceptible to dynamic pricing.

Air Canada

  • Economy: 5,800 Aeroplan points and around $25.
  • Business: 14,500 Aeroplan points and around $25.

American Airlines

  • Economy: 7,500 British Airways Avios and around $5.60.
  • Business: 21,500 American miles and around $5.60.

Delta Air Lines

  • Economy: 6,000 Delta SkyMiles and $5.60, or 10,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $17.
  • Business: 15,000 Delta SkyMiles and $5.60, or 17,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and $5.60.

United Airlines

  • Economy: 6,000 Aeroplan points and around $54.
  • Business: 36,700 United miles and $5.60.

Related: The best ways to maximize Air Canada’s Aeroplan program

New York to Paris

A business-class cabin in an Air France Boeing 777-300ER. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Air France-KLM is most likely to be your go-to when traveling between New York and Paris on points and miles. After all, Air France operates up to 18 daily wide-body flights from New York to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Paris-Orly Airport (ORY).

In our tests, Air France has widespread economy- and business-class award space in the next couple of months. Here’s what you can expect when using points and miles from New York to Paris.

Air France

  • Economy: 15,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $63, or 12,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and around $147.
  • Business: 55,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $201.

American Airlines

  • Economy: 20,000 Etihad Guest miles and around $50, 20,750 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $191, or 22,500 American miles and around $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Delta Air Lines

  • Economy: 25,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $10, or 30,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points and $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

United Airlines

  • Economy: 30,000 United miles and $5.60.
  • Business: 60,000 United miles and $5.60.

Related: 11 things I learned during my trip to Paris

New York to Tel Aviv

El Al economy class on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. ISABELLE RAPHAEL/THE POINTS GUY

If you want to use your points and miles to travel to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in business class, be prepared to make a stop in Europe.

Premium cabin award space is notoriously hard to come by on this route, but there’s routinely award space on Air France through Paris (CDG), KLM through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and British Airways through London (LHR). If you use Flying Blue miles and stop in CDG or AMS, consider leveraging the free Flying Blue stopover to spend a few days in Paris or Amsterdam without any extra miles.

Alternatively, here’s how you can fly nonstop between New York and Tel Aviv. Note that even though Delta Air Lines operates daily flights from JFK to TLV, we couldn’t find any Delta saver award space in any cabin.

American Airlines

  • Economy: 31,000 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $330, or 40,000 American miles and $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

El Al

  • Economy: 40,000 Alaska miles and around $23.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

United Airlines

  • Economy: 42,500 United miles and $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Related: Your points and miles guide to Tel Aviv, Israel

New York to Santo Domingo

A JetBlue A320. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The Dominican Republic is another popular international destination from New York. As with Toronto, flights on this route are heavily dynamically priced, meaning that award prices for your travel dates could vary greatly.

Here are some options for using points and miles to fly between New York City and Las Americas International Airport (SDQ).

Delta Air Lines

  • Economy: 5,500 Delta SkyMiles and around $50.
  • Business: 22,000 Delta SkyMiles and around $50.

JetBlue

  • Economy: 7,400 TrueBlue points and around $50.
  • Business: Non-premium cabin aircraft.

United Airlines

  • Economy: 8,900 United miles and around $50.
  • Business: 30,000 United miles and around $50.

Related: How to book a trip to the Dominican Republic using points and miles

Los Angeles to Seoul

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

California is home to the most transpacific flights from the U.S., so it’s no wonder that LAX has multiple daily departures to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (ICN). Here’s how you can redeem points and miles for travel to Seoul.

Asiana Airlines

  • Economy: 38,500 United miles and $5.60, or 40,000 LifeMiles and around $27.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Korean Air

  • Economy: 35,000 SkyPass points and around $258.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Related: How to get to South Korea on points and miles

Miami to Buenos Aires

AIRBUS

Miami International Airport (MIA) to Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) is another premium-heavy route.

While it’s historically been difficult to redeem points and miles to fly on the flag carrier of Argentina, it’s a member of SkyTeam, so Air France-KLM Flying Blue members can redeem Flying Blue miles to fly on Aerolineas Argentinas. Admittedly, however, the award rates are underwhelming, so consider sticking to American Airlines.

Aerolineas Argentinas

  • Economy: 44,000 Flying Blue miles and around $10.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

American Airlines

  • Economy: 25,750 British Airways/Iberia Plus Avios and around $5.60, or 30,000 American miles and $5.60.
  • Business: Limited, if any, award space.

Related: One of the most affordable Park Hyatt hotels is in Argentina’s wine country — but is it worth it?

Los Angeles to Mexico City

Aeromexico economy class. SUSANA GONZALEZ/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

Finally, LAX and Mexico City International Airport (MEX) have lots of passenger movement.

While this route was once operated by most of the full-service U.S. airlines, American Airlines cut most of its January and February flights between LAX and MEX. So, you’re likely going to travel on Aeromexico if you want to redeem points and miles on this route, as the Mexican low-cost airlines like Viva Aerobus and Volaris don’t have robust points-based loyalty programs.

Aeromexico

  • Economy: 16,000 Avianca LifeMiles and around $58, or 18,000 Aeromexico Club Premier points and around $83.
  • Business: 38,500 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles and around $45, or 48,000 Delta SkyMiles and around $41.

Related: Viva Mexico! A review of Aeromexico’s business class on the 787-9 from Mexico City to Buenos Aires

Bottom line

As you can see, different loyalty programs charge different amounts for the exact same seat. Some programs have steep fuel surcharges, which can ruin what would have been a favorable use of points and miles.

The key to successful award redemption is flexibility in travel dates, airports and airlines. Transferable points allow you to transfer to the program best for your particular flight. If your preferred flight doesn’t have award space, consider setting up an alert with ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). That way, you’ll be notified if an award seat becomes available.