Fly to Europe Using Half the Number of Miles Using Promo Awards
Every month, several frequent flyer programs offer a set of discounted promo awards, where you can book tickets using a significantly smaller-than-normal number of miles. If a promotion award is available, they are usually the least costly way to fly to Europe.
The most notable promo awards are from Flying Blue. At any given time, there are usually several promotional offers that let you fly from cities to and from anywhere in Europe, using only 50-75% of the normal number of miles. In addition, there are promotional awards available from other European frequent flyer programs.
Flying Blue Promo Awards
The most famous promotional award program is operated by Flying Blue, the shared frequent flyer program of Air France, KLM (Netherlands), and a few other airlines.
- It is worthwhile to check the Flying Blue website to see what is available and maybe even plan a trip around a particularly good deal. Current Flying Blue Promo Awards.
- To redeem promo awards, you can transfer points from all the major credit card programs: Amex’s Membership Rewards, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, Citi’s ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Rewards. If you have any of these points, you can transfer them to Flying Blue to take advantage of their Promo Rewards.
- A new set of offers is available each month.
- Depending on the award, you must fly on either Air France and/or KLM. You can't fly on partners.
- Once the promos are announced, they usually need to be booked by the end of the month and flown within a 2-month span starting a couple of months later. Space is limited, so the set of available redemption dates might start drying up and better offers may disappear quickly.
As an example, with a recent set of promotions, you could fly round trip between Boston and Europe for only 37,500 miles, rather than the normal 50,000 miles. Occasionally, 50% off awards are available. For international flights, you can typically fly between selected US cities and any of the airline's destinations in Europe.
Miles & More Mileage Bargains
The other major promotional award program is operated by Miles & More, the shared frequent flyer program for Lufthansa (Germany), Swiss, Austrian, and LOT Polish airlines.
- Like the Flying Blue promo awards, it is worthwhile to check the Miles & More website to see what is available and maybe even plan a trip around a particularly good deal. Click to see the Current Miles & More Promo Awards. Then change the "Flights from" drop-down to USA or Canada to see the currently available offers.
- These promos work from any departure city in the US to specific cities in Europe. This makes them a bit nicer than Flying Blue's awards because it is usually easier to travel between one of the available destinations and your desired location in Europe, then between your home town and a valid departure city in North America.
- Fees and surcharges are very high, except on LOT Polish. Lufthansa, Austrian, and Swiss charge very high surcharges of over $500 on coach awards and over $1,000 on business class awards. So, even at promotional prices, these offers aren't always a good value. However, LOT Polish has much lower charges.
- There is only a limited window to take your flights. Most promo awards require you to fly sometime during a six-week span. However, promo awards are announced months ahead of time.
- Awards are non-refundable. If you need to cancel, you'll lose your points.
- It can be hard to get Miles & More points Lufthansa has a US-based credit card and the Miles & More program is part of the Marriott points transfer program, but doesn't partner with the major credit card reward programs.
Lufthansa flies from around two dozen cities in the US and Canada. Swiss uses Montreal, Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA. Austrian uses New York, DC, Miami, Toronto, Chicago, and LA. And LOT flies from New York, Toronto, Chicago, and LA.
American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards
You won't get cheaper awards to Europe with American Airlines, but you can get cheaper awards within the United States. American offers a significant discount for award flights to a large list of destinations. The list changes every month and promos are good for travel within the following four months.
Discounts are only available to people who have one of the American Airlines credit cards. With most of their cards, you can book rewards for 7,500 fewer miles than normal. However, if you have the AAdvantage Gold or Aviator Blue, you'll only get a 5,000-mile discount. Discounts apply to awards in all classes of service, not just economy award tickets. If the flight is under 500 miles, AA already offers a reduced 15,000-mile award (round trip), so you'll only receive a 2,000-mile discount. AA Reduced Mileage Destination List.
LOT Polish “Monday sMILEs”
LOT Polish offers occasional promotional award rates, called Monday sMILEs for last minute award redemptions on flights to and from Warsaw. Flights from the US only require 25,000 miles round trip (and 20,000 miles one way). While often less flexible than the other options, the combination of lower award pricing and surcharges makes this (by far) the cheapest option.
LOT Polish is a member of the “Miles & More” program, along with Lufthansa, and a few other programs. You can obtain miles with the Lufthansa credit card or transfer Marriott points.
With mileage requirements this low, it can be worthwhile to use them to fly across the ocean and then book your own connecting flights to/from the departure city and to/from Warsaw. You can usually book connecting Miles sMILEs flights to many destinations in Europe for 7,000 miles one-way and 10,000 miles round-trip.
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