Best Ways to Book Europe with Ultimate Rewards: Part 1

Want to go to Europe with Ultimate Rewards?  This is the first of 5 posts about booking Europe with Ultimate Rewards.  In this introduction post, I list my 9 overall favorite ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards for flights between North America and Europe.  In parts 2-5, I will go into more specifics about each of the Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners that offer flights to Europe.

croatia chase ultimate rewards

Hvar, Croatia. We are dying to go back. Lucky for us we have so many options with our Ultimate Rewards points!

Here is a list of all Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners

Want to earn lots of Chase Ultimate Rewards? Sign up for a Chase Sapphire card.  Then learn how to maximize your points earning potential with category bonuses and shopping portals.

Not sure how to transfer? See how to transfer Ultimate Rewards to partners post.

Chase Ultimate Reward Transfer Partners May 2017

There is at least one Ultimate Rewards transfer partner in each of the three major airline alliances in the world.  This means that your options with Ultimate Rewards to book Europe may be better than you think.

  • Star Alliance-Singapore Airlines, United
  • SkyTeam-KLM/AirFrance, Korean Air
  • OneWorld-British Airways
  • No alliance-Virgin Atlantic, Southwest

You can book award tickets to Europe with 6 of the 7 airlines that partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Southwest does not have flights to Europe at this time, but Southwest may still be useful for what is known as a positioning flight.  More on that in a future post.

Ultimate Rewards Partners for Europe

AirlineAllianceEconomy ClassBusiness ClassFirst Class
United MileagePlusStar Alliance30,000 miles each way57,500 each way on United
70,000 each way on partners
80,000 each way on United
110,000 each way on partners
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerStar Alliance22,500 or 27,500 each way65,000 each way76,000 or 80,000 each way
Korean Air SkypassSkyTeam50,000 roundtrip 80,000 roundtrip100,000 roundtrip
KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlueSkyTeamas low as 25,000 each way (lower with promo awards)62,500 each way (lower with promo awards)NA (only available to elite members and at a high price.)
British Airways Executive ClubOneWorldAs low as 13,000 each wayAs low as 50,000 each wayNA
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubnoneAs low as 10,000 each wayAs low as 47,500 each wayAs low as 47,500 each way
Southwest Rapid RewardsnoneSW does not fly to Europe, however, it may be useful for positioning flightsNANA

It is impossible to determine which partner is the best just by looking at this table.  Of course the lowest cost awards are initially going to be the most attractive.  But once you start your search you will realize that you need to consider other factors such as fuel surcharges.  Everyone has different opinions about this, and there is no right or wrong decision.

Here is an example of a fuel surcharge dilemma:
  • A first class flight on Lufthansa from New York to Frankfurt is 80,000 miles each way if you use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book the ticket, but you will pay over 400$ in fuel surcharges
  • That exact same Lufthansa flight booked with United will set you back 110,000 miles each way, but United does not charge a fuel surcharge.
  • So you have 2 options.  You can either save 30,000 miles and pay an extra $400 or you can fork over an extra 30,000 miles and save your cash.
  • My personal opinion: I would rather save the points and pay the cash.  So I would use Singapore Airlines to book this flight.  With that said, there are plenty of people who would take the other option.  You just have to decide what is best for you.
Factors to consider when deciding which partner to choose:
  • Availability for your dates
  • Price in miles
  • Fuel surcharges
  • Booking fees
  • Cancellation/change policy
  • Taxes: taxes are imposed by local governments and are generally the same no matter what airline you fly.  This could add extra out-of-pocket fees onto your award ticket, but depending on the cash value of the ticket, it’s usually not a big deal.  Taxes are different than fuel surcharges.  Most flights originating in Europe will have taxes.
A few tips before transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to partners:
  • As always, never transfer your points until you have confirmed that the ticket or tickets you’re trying to book are available for your date and destination.
  • Most transfers are instant, but you may want to place the award ticket on hold if possible before transferring.
  • Once you transfer your points to one of these partners, you’re subject to that airline’s award ticket policies and pricing.  For example, you can use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book United tickets, but you’re subject to KrisFlyer’s award charts, not United’s.  Any award ticket pricing and policies you see on united.com do not apply if you’re booking with KrisFlyer miles.
  • If you have other points (either with an airline or with another transferable program such as American Express Membership Rewards) you may also want to check that airline and/or the transfer partners.
  • The cost of award tickets included in this post is the lowest cost possible (sometimes known as the saver level).  If no saver level tickets are available for your dates, the prices you see will be higher.  It helps to have flexible dates.

Calculate the cents-per-point value before transferring

  • Check the cents-per-point value you’re getting before transferring.  I generally consider anything around 2 cents per point a good deal, but there are times when I will book a less valuable ticket.  Check out my post about how to calculate the value of a point or mile when redeeming if you have no idea what I am talking about.
  • Because you can often find cheap flights from the US to Europe, especially in economy, you may find that your cents-per-point value is less than 2 cents per point.  You can save your points and wait to use them on a more valuable redemption, or you can consider using the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.  You can read about the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking portal by clicking here.
  • If the value you’re getting is 1.5 cents per point or less, you may want to consider using Chase’s booking portal to redeem the points.   By doing this, you’re basically using your points as cash.  Remember that the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets you 1.5 cents per point when using the travel redemption portal.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets you 1.25 cents per point.  In other words, with CSR, 100,000 Ultimate rewards gets you $1500 worth of travel if you use the booking portal.  If you have the CSP and 100,000 Ultimate Rewards, those are worth $1250 in travel if using the booking portal. See also: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

My overall favorite ways to book Europe with Ultimate Rewards:

1. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book Singapore Airlines flights for 22,500 miles each way in economy  

Singapore Airlines only has two routes between the US and Europe.  These are JFK-Frankfurt and Houston-Manchester so if you live in Houston or New York, you’re in luck.

2. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book United/Star Alliance partner flights in economy at 27,500 miles each way

It costs less miles to book a United flight with KrisFlyer than with United Mileage Plus.  With United, it would be 30,000 each way in economy.  Some partners may come with a fuel surcharge but United does not.  United generally has good saver award availability from the US to Europe in economy no matter what your home airport is.

3. KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue to book KLM, AirFrance, and Delta flights between the US and Europe for 25,000 miles each way in economy  

FlyingBlue usually has good availability at the saver level for economy tickets between the US and Europe.  Award tickets booked with FlyingBlue but operated by Delta do not have fuel surcharges on transatlantic flights.  Flights on KLM and AirFrance do have a charge.  For comparison, Delta’s own program (Skymiles)charges 30,000 each way at the saver level for these flights between the US and Europe.

4. KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue to book Promo Awards on KLM and AirFrance  

If you’re able to take advantage of a promo award, you can save between 20% and 50% on the amount of miles required.  Promo Awards are select destinations that are offered for a reduced number of miles.  The list of destinations is updated every month and availability is limited.  You can get deals on economy and business class tickets!

5. United Mileage Plus to book United flights for 57,500 each way in business class

You can book other Star Alliance flights with United miles, but partner flights are 70,000 miles each way.  Considering the fact that United does not pass on carrier imposed fuel surcharges for award tickets even on partners, some people prefer to book partners such as Lufthansa with United miles to avoid these charges, even though 70,000 miles is higher than other programs would charge for that flight in business class.

6. Korean Air Skypass to book KLM, AirFrance, or Delta flights from the US to Europe in business class for 80,000 miles roundtrip  

This is a great deal, but there are a few catches.  First of all, Korean Air will collect fuel surcharges on these partners for transatlantic flights.   For example, a Delta flight I found from Detroit to Paris in business class booked with Korean Air miles showed a charge of just under 300$ in carrier/fuel surcharges roundtrip.  This is not terrible compared to what some airlines charge.   The other catch: Korean Air only allows roundtrip award tickets so there must be availability both ways.

7. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book Singapore Airlines Suites in their fancy A380 for 76,000 each way

singapore airlines suites jfk-fra, europe with ultimate rewards

Fly one of the fanciest first class products in the world for free! Photos courtesy of Singaporeair.com

Keep in mind there are only 2 routes between the US and Europe on Singapore Airlines.  These are JFK-Frankfurt and Houston-Manchester.  Only the JFK-Frankfurt and Frankfurt-JFK flights are operated by the A380, so this is the only route between the US and  Europe for which you can book a Singapore Airlines suite.  You can add a United flight from your home airport to JFK as long as United has saver availability.  If you have to add a United flight to get from your home airport to JFK, you will be subject to the partner airlines chart so it will be 80,000 miles each way.  That’s still a great deal considering you only have to fork over 4,000 more miles if you do not live in New York.

8. Singapore Airlines to book partner flights for 80,000 each way in first class   

Remember, while Singapore Airlines does not impose any extra fuel surcharges on their own flights for award tickets, you may be subject to these charges on partner flights.  For example, if you use Singapore Airlines to book a Lufthansa first class ticket, you will be charged an extra ~$400.

9. British Airways Avios for flights between the East Coast and Europe for as low as 13,000 Avios each way in economy

Since British Airways is part of the OneWorld alliance, Avios can be used to book flights on American Airlines, airberlin, Finn Air, as well as British Airways.  Also, Iberia, a carrier based in Spain is part of the OneWorld alliance.  In addition to being OneWorld partners, Iberia and British Airways have a unique partnership because they are under the same parent company.  I will go into more detail in Part 4 of this series, but you can actually transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia.  This means that you can indirectly use your Ultimate Rewards to use Iberia’s loyalty program.  Iberia’s carrier-imposed charges are a little more reasonable than British Airways, so this could save some out of pocket costs.

Conclusion

These are definitely not the only options for flights from the US to Europe with Ultimate Rewards.  In parts 2-5 I will go into more detail about options with each Ultimate Rewards airline partner.  Some of these other options may work better for you depending on your home airport, the class you’re trying to fly, and the other factors listed above.

 

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5 thoughts on “Best Ways to Book Europe with Ultimate Rewards: Part 1

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