Positioning Flights and My Favorite US-Europe Business Class Redemption

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One of the most requested topics among readers and those that follow on social media is how to book business class flights to Europe.

The best way to book depends on a number of factors, including departure/destination, dates, number of seats you want to book, type of miles and points you have, and more. But the best way to book “on paper” won’t always work in practice because award seats are subject to availability.

I can tell you the Chase, Amex, Capital One, etc partner that will get you from your city to where you want to go in Europe for the lowest redemption price, but at the end of the day, if an award seat doesn’t exist for your route on dates that work for you, it doesn’t matter.

You can read this post with 21 ways to book Europe with Chase Ultimate Rewards points*, but if you aren’t having luck finding anything, I have a suggestion.

*Note that Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture, and Citi Thank You share some transfer partners so some of the Chase redemptions discussed in that post are also possible with these types of point as well.

Consider booking a flight from another US city that does have availability. Then you can book a “positioning flight” either with miles or money. It can be well worth it for business class. I understand this isn’t going to be for everyone, and if your travel dates are tight, you may not want to spend the extra time to position to another city.

I’ll show you how I would use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book 2 roundtrip business class flights to Europe from a nonhub city. What I’m booking is for 2 people and the total value is almost $9,000.

All of this is subject to availability. Never transfer Chase points to a partner airline or hotel without first confirming that a seat or hotel room is available to book for your dates.

One of my favorite US-Europe routes is the Emirates fifth freedom route between JFK and Milan on an Airbus 380. It’s nonstop, so if you’re able to get to JFK on a nonstop, you really only have one layover. More on that and how to time it in a moment.

book emirates to europe with chase ultimate rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture, and Citi Thank You all transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio, so it is very easy to earn Emirates miles. If you’re brand new to award travel, we suggest starting with Chase Sapphire Preferred®. If you’re looking for Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture, or Citi Thank You earning cards, check out our list of current favorite offers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

No matter what your travel goals are, Chase Sapphire Preferred® should be your very first credit card.  The welcome bonus is worth at least $1000 in travel, the annual fee is reasonable, and the rewards (Chase Ultimate Rewards) are easy to earn and redeem.

Chase Sapphire Preferred 2022

Current offer: Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Check out our list of 36 redemption ideas!

Here are the earn rates:

  • Earn 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases
  • Instead of the old earn rate of 2, you can now earn 3 points per dollar on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout)
  • 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (this excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 3 points per dollar on select streaming services
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Also, receive credit of up to $50 annually on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. New cardmembers will receive this credit immediately and existing cardmembers will start earning after the next anniversary.

Each anniversary, you’ll receive bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year. This excludes any sign up bonus points, so it’s only on points earned from spending.

The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to 11 different airline frequent flyer programs, including Emirates, or 3 different hotel loyalty programs.  You can also redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.  Each point can be redeemed for 1.25 cents.  That makes the welcome bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points worth $1000!  

First we need to talk about award inventory

One of the reasons I suggest this route as a backup plan for anyone who cannot find a flight from their home airport is the redemption pricing Emirates has for this route. But before I give the numbers it’s important to understand how award seat inventory works.

Every airline is different, but many programs including Emirates will have two types of award tickets. There’s usually a saver ticket and then another level of ticket. Emirates calls theirs Saver and Flex Plus. To give more examples, AAdvantage calls theirs Milesaaver and AAnytime. Singapore Airlines Krisflyer has Saver and Advantage.

The saver tickets are the tickets that are going to be more limited. But they’re also the ones that are going to have a lower redemption price.

A lot of times when programs sell out of saver award inventory or are not releasing saver seats for whatever reason, they’ll still let you book award tickets with their own miles (again, AAdvantage calls these AAnytime tickets, Emirates calls them Flex Plus). The catch is that these tickets are going to have a higher redemption price. In fact, some programs such as AAdvantage and Singapore Airlines Krisflyer price their upper tier (AAnytime is AA’s name, Advantage is Singapore’s name) tickets so high that I can’t imagine redeeming miles for this type of ticket on most routes. Emirates, however, on this route at least, is different. The Flex Plus redemption price for this route is as good or better than a saver ticket between US-Europe in business class with some other programs. UPDATE: a day or two after this was published, Emirates quietly raised Flex Plus pricing by 10k miles each way. It’s still better than some saver pricing on US-Europe routes with some of Chase’s other partners, but obviously it’s best if you can get Emirates saver seats.

Note: When booking Emirates on this route, the Emirates program actually is the best way to book the flight. With other airlines/routes, this isn’t always the case. For example, British Airways sometimes has better pricing for American Airlines operated flights than AAdvantage does for its own flights. But if I wanted to use British Airways to book an American Airlines flight, American Airlines only makes the milesaaver available to book with partner airlines. The aanytime tickets are exclusive to Aadvantage.

So back to availability.

Of course we want to book at the saver level when possible, because it means less miles. But even when those are not available, the Flex Plus price is reasonable, and availability is usually easier to find than US-Europe seats on other airlines.

how to book italy with chase points in business class 2022
It’s easy to get from Milan to anywhere you want to go in Italy
JFK-MXP redemption pricing

Saver tickets are only bookable roundtrip. If available, the redemption price for JFK-MXP in business class is 90k roundtrip (which comes to 45k each way). There are fuel surcharges but they are very reasonable and your total with the fuel surcharges and all taxes and fees is about $158 per ticket at this time.

how to use emirates miles to book europe

If you can’t find saver tickets on dates that work for you, Flex Plus tickets on this route in business class are 62.5k each way or 125k roundtrip per ticket. Flex Plus tickets are bookable as one way tickets. UPDATE: a day or two after this was published, Emirates quietly raised Flex Plus pricing. Saver is still 90k roundtrip, but Flex Plus is now 72.5k each way.

chase ultimate rewards for business class to europe



The total for 2 saver tickets JFK-MXP roundtrip in business class would be 180k miles plus $315. Remember, you can transfer Chase UR, Amex MR, Citi TY, or COV to Emirates 1:1. Click here for Chase transfer instructions.

These tickets are $3800 each, so the total value for 2 tickets is $7600.

emirates business class to europe
Is this the only nonstop Emirates route to Europe?

No, there is also EWR to Athens. It’s the same redemption price, but note that it is on the Emirates 777, not the A380.

If you’re not in the EWR/JFK vicinity, it could easily be worth booking a positioning flight from your home airport to JFK (or EWR if you would rather fly to Athens)

How would the positioning flight work?

This will be a totally separate ticket from the Emirates ticket.

I usually recommend getting there the night before if at all possible. For this one, the outbound on the date I’m looking at in September leaves at 11pm. You could probably get away with scheduling a same day positioning flight, but you do need to give yourself plenty of time. You’ll have to collect your bags and then check in with Emirates and recheck your bag.  Plus you want to give yourself extra time in case of delays. If you get delayed and miss your Emirates flight, you really have no recourse since this is a totally separate ticket. So that’s why I usually suggest getting there the day before if possible.

On the return, I’m less cautious about the timing and more likely to schedule a same day positioning flight, but this particular flight on the date I’m looking at doesn’t land at JFK until 7pm. It’s probably best to book a hotel that night and plan to fly home the next day.  We will discuss hotels in a moment as well because if you have Chase points, you can get a great hotel at a great value!

What’s the best way to book a positioning flight?

Same way you would normally book a domestic ticket. If it’s really cheap, I’d consider just paying cash. Of course if you can find a good deal on points that may also be an option. I’m going to use Indianapolis for this example.

The 2 tickets I’m looking at are September 18-26 for JFK-MXP roundtrip. 

Chase ultimate rewards emirates business class

Despite the late departure time on 9/18, in an effort to practice what I preach, we’re just going to plan to get to JFK 9/17. Since the return lands at 7pm, we will plan to stay overnight 9/26 and fly home on 9/27.

We’re looking for IND-JFK 9/17-9/27.



The cheapest ticket as of the time of publishing (February 2022) is $200 for a basic economy ticket. This is a nonstop Delta operated flight. Economy is $250 per ticket roundtrip. You can redeem in the Chase portal at a fixed value of 1.25 cents per point. Note that if you have Chase Sapphire Reserve, the value is 1.5, so the redemption price would be less. I’m using 1.25 for these examples.

That means the basic economy would require just under 16,000 per ticket.

chase ultimate rewards redemption portal positioning flight

Economy would require just under 20k per ticket.

is it worth it to book a positioning flight to get business class
Another possible option

Note: This is just one example and the lowest I could find of all partners for this particular route (IND-JFK). But if you’re in another city, check all Chase/Amex options if you want to use transfer partners for a positioning flight.

Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards both transfer to Virgin Atlantic. You can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta operated flights.

This is always subject to availability, but seats were available on the dates I’m looking at. The redemption price for IND-JFK on a nonstop Delta flight is 8,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $5.60 each way per person. That means roundtrip is 17k each way per person plus $11.20. Note that when booked with Virgin Atlantic miles, this is going to be an economy ticket, not a basic economy ticket, so that may be a reason to consider using VS miles rather than booking through the portal.

virgin atlantic to book delta flights with chase points

So here are your options as of the time of publishing. Flight prices could definitely change (for better or worse) between now and September.

  • Buy a basic economy ticket for ~$200 each
  • Buy an economy ticket for $250 each
  • Redeem in the portal for basic economy (16k points) at a fixed value
  • Redeem in the portal for economy (20k points)
  • Transfer 17k per ticket to VS and pay $11.20 to book Delta (always subject to availability, confirm availability with Virgin Atlantic before transferring ay points)
What about a hotel?

With Chase points, I’d recommend seeing what Hyatt has available. Chase transfers to Hyatt 1:1. 

I would probably plan to stay at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World the night before departure and the night of returning to JFK. If you want to stay in the city, there are also some good Hyatt properties.

hyatt regency jfk resorts world

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World before our Maldives trip and it was perfect for a quick stay close to the airport. As a category 3, a free night in a standard room would be 9k/12k/15k (off peak/standard/peak).

So I would need to book 9/17 and 9/26.  On these dates, the room is 12k.

world of hyatt chase points

The paid rate is $342, but after taxes and fees it’s $424 per night. When you book a Hyatt stay entirely on points, there are no taxes and fees. This means I can book the room for 12k Chase points per night and $0 by transferring Chase to Hyatt

Remember, all of this is subject to availability. Never transfer Chase points to a partner airline or hotel without first confirming that a seat or hotel room is available to book for your dates.

Grand totals

Emirates

  • Total for 2 tickets: 180k miles plus $315
  • Total value for 2 tickets: $7800

90k plus ~$157 per ticket ($3800 value)

Hyatt

  • Total for 2 nights: 24k points plus $0 (12k per night)
  • Total value for 2 nights: $848 ($424 per night after taxes and fees)

IND-JFK roundtrip

I would probably choose the Virgin Atlantic to book Delta option.

  • Total for 2 tickets: 34k points plus $22.40 (17k Virgin Atlantic points plus $11:20 per ticket)
  • Total value for 2 tickets: $500 ($250 each)

Here are the options:

  • Buy a basic economy ticket for ~$200 each
  • Buy an economy ticket for $250 each
  • Redeem in the portal for basic economy (16k points) at a fixed value
  • Redeem in the portal for economy (20k points)
  • Transfer 17k per ticket to VS to book Delta (always subject to availability, confirm availability with Virgin Atlantic before transferring ay points)

  • Grand Total: 238k plus about $337
  • Total Value: $8948

That comes to 119k plus about $169 per person. This is better than you’ll do with some other airline programs on business class to Europe even if they have saver availability from your city.

Final Thoughts

The Chase airline partner programs I usually suggest checking if you’re in a non hub city are AirFrance to book Delta/AirFrance/KLM and then either United or Air Canada to book Star Alliance.  If you’ve looked at all your transfer partner options and you aren’t having any luck, it may make sense to book a positioning flight to another city that does have availability on a route that works fo you.

Emirates fifth freedom routes to Europe are my favorite back up plans since availability is usually more abundant than some of the other options. Another good deal you can find from the east coast is Iberia Avios (miles)to book Iberia flights to Madrid. On off peak dates you can get business class for as low as 34k each way. Chase and Amex transfer to Iberia.

One more thing I want to point out: this also works on the destination end. For example, if I wanted to go from Dallas to Amsterdam but there are no flights from Dallas to Amsterdam available, I could book something that is available, such as Dallas to Paris, and then position to Amsterdam by plane or train.

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Looking for your first travel rewards credit card? Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your very first credit card.  The welcome bonus is worth at least $1000 in travel, the annual fee is reasonable, and the rewards (Chase Ultimate Rewards) are easy to earn and redeem.

Chase Sapphire Preferred 2022

Current offer: Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Check out our list of 36 redemption ideas!

Another favorite:

Another Favorite: American Express® Gold Card 

The American Express® Gold Card earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and on purchases at amextravel.com, 4 points per dollar at restaurants and, 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases annually. For restaurants and US supermarket spend, this is one of the highest earn rates available.

There is a great welcome offer for this card!

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The annual fee is a little steep ($250)[See rates and fees], but there are statement credits and benefits that help offset this fee. For example, you can receive up to $120 annually in dining credit. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

3 points per dollar on flights is as good or better than most of our other favorite travel cards, but the categories that really stand out here are 4 points per dollar at restaurants and US supermarkets.

You can choose between a gold or a rose gold card if that sort of thing matters to you!

Unlike typical credit cards, the Gold Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.

Amex Rates and Fees:

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. The comments have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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