4 Oneworld Transatlantic Award Sweet Spots in Business Class

Looking to avoid British Airways’ massive cash surcharges? Try these routes instead.
Brad Walters
By Brad Walters 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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When using your American Airlines miles to book business class flights to and from Europe, you’re often stuck with two less-than-ideal choices: 

  • Booking on American’s own flights for an exorbitant number of miles.

  • Flying with American’s Oneworld partner British Airways and paying many hundreds of dollars in surcharges.

Better options exist among American’s other partner airlines if you know where to find them. Here are four sweet spots. (In certain cases, you could save miles by booking with other reward currencies that are transferable from programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards®.)

1. For good availability: Mexico City to Madrid (and beyond) on Iberia Airlines

This is a hidden gem for anyone who has easy access to Mexico City — for example: Southern California residents, who can fly domestically within Mexico from Tijuana’s airport via San Diego’s Cross Border Express, or those in Texas or elsewhere who can grab a connecting nonstop flight on a Mexican low-cost carrier.

American’s Oneworld partner Iberia runs nonstop service multiple times per day between Mexico City and the Spanish carrier’s hub in Madrid, with good availability for a solo traveler for much of the year.

While it’s generally difficult to find Iberia awards to and from the U.S., when we last searched we found plenty of availability between Mexico’s capital and Madrid in August, as well as September. 

You’ll pay 62,500 American miles each way — standard American partner award pricing from Mexico to Europe — plus around $170 in surcharges. Given how easy it can be to find a flight that works with your travel plans, that’s a decent value. 

As a bonus, you’ll get around 11 hours of eastbound flying time and more than 12 hours westbound, plenty of time to enjoy two meals and a full night’s rest.

2. For low surcharges: U.S. to Helsinki (and beyond) on Finnair

If even Iberia’s relatively reasonable surcharges sound like too much, how does $5.60 sound? That’s what you’ll pay in cash to fly to Europe on Oneworld partner Finnair from its U.S. gateways in:

  • Chicago-O'Hare.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Miami.

  • New York-JFK.

  • Seattle. 

These business-class flights are all available for 57,500 American miles, which is standard American partner award pricing from the U.S. to Europe.

Finnair availability is tighter in general than the Iberia sweet spots, but flying from New York-JFK yielded decent availability for a solo traveler toward the tail end of summer when we recently checked:

Note that if you’re flying the other way, from Helsinki to the U.S., surcharges will be slightly higher, but still reasonable. 

3. A unicorn for East Coasters: To Europe via Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc

American partner Royal Air Maroc offers U.S. nonstop service only from Miami, New York-JFK and Washington-Dulles to its hub in Casablanca, Morocco. But the North African carrier features the same solid 57,500-mile pricing as its European partners. Again taking August as an example, availability from Washington-Dulles to Casablanca was wide open at last check:

4. For last-minute West Coast flights: LAX to Paris on Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui, an American partner outside the Oneworld alliance, runs a lesser known flight between Paris and Los Angeles, connecting onward to Tahiti. That can be booked for the same 57,500 miles as the flight above, with the same surcharges ($5.60 to Europe, around $130 coming from Paris). 

Availability comes in waves, and right now it’s nonexistent — unless you’re flying last minute, in which case you can bring the whole family. We recently saw this close-in availability for four travelers leaving L.A.:

Unlike the above options, you won’t be able to connect all over Europe, since Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t fly onward within the continent. But if Paris isn’t your cup of tea (sacre bleu!), Europe’s bevy of low-cost carriers can get you the rest of the way to wherever you’re going.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Air Tahiti Nui launched a seasonal nonstop flight between Seattle and Paris last year, but we haven’t spotted any award availability on that route.

Mostly not worth it: American flights on its own metal

American has turned to dynamic pricing for its own flights, which basically means it’s impossible to predict exactly how many miles you’ll pay. Contrast that to the partner airline awards above, which stick to a fixed award chart, at least for now. While a U.S. to Europe flight on a Oneworld partner airline will set you back 57,500 American miles, the same flight on American’s own metal could cost you upward of 279,000 miles:

Occasionally it’s possible to luck out and find deals on American flights as well. But in this era of supercharged travel and overfull planes, expect American to command a mileage premium for seats in its own cabins.

Why British Airways is the opposite of a sweet spot

When searching for awards to Europe using American miles, British Airways often pops up as the only option. The carrier serves several U.S. cities where American itself doesn’t offer nonstop service to Europe, including:

  • Austin.

  • Nashville.

  • New Orleans.

  • San Diego.

  • Tampa.

Although British Airways releases a fair amount of award space, there’s another reason their awards are plentiful. Flights in premium cabins often command hundreds of dollars in surcharges in each direction — for instance, over $700 if you’re flying in business out of the New York area: 

How to make those surcharges a bit more palatable

If the pull for a flat bed across the Atlantic is strong but you’re faced with British Airways as your only available award option, this trick could help you save hundreds of dollars: Try flying through, rather than from, London, if you have the flexibility to do so. A business-class flight from Lisbon, Portugal, to Dallas that transits through London commanded $313 in fees at last check:

But booking the leg from London to Dallas by itself cost more than double that, over $630:

The bottom line

When flying between the U.S. and Europe using American miles, it’s hard to avoid British Airways’ hefty cash surcharges or American’s inflated mileage costs. But the four sweet spots above all represent decent-to-excellent value. 

Your best bet for finding these flights is to use American’s award calendar and search nonstop availability between the partner airline’s European base and any of its gateways on this side of the Atlantic, then build out the rest of your trip from there.

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