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5 of the Best Airline Award Sweet Spots

Aug. 23, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel
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It’s difficult to talk about the best airline sweet spots without knowing when, where and with whom you want to travel. However, understanding points and miles well enough to know what’s a good deal is well worth the time spent.

Here are five of the best airline sweet spots to give you some great ideas for your next trip.

1. Domestic United flights with Turkish miles

You can get a great deal booking United flights within the United States with Turkish Airlines miles. Yes, you read that right — use Turkish miles, not United miles. You’ll pay the following one-way prices, which are generally far cheaper than United’s rates:

  • Economy: 7,500 miles.
  • Business class: 12,500 miles (that’s what you’d generally pay for an economy flight using United miles).

How to get points: Turkish Airlines’ Miles and Smiles program is a Citi ThankYou transfer partner, so miles are easy to come by if you have a card that earns points in that program.

» Learn more: Citi ThankYou points: How to earn and use them

2. Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines flights with Alaska miles

Alaska Airlines offers some incredibly low award prices to get to Asia on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. When you redeem Alaska miles, you can even have a free stopover on a one-way award.

For flights on Cathay Pacific, you’ll pay the following prices each way to Asia:

  • Economy: 30,000 miles.
  • Premium economy: 35,000 miles.
  • Business class: 50,000 miles.
  • First class: 70,000 miles.

For flights on Japan Airlines, you’ll pay the following prices each way for flights to Asia:

  • Economy: 35,000 miles.
  • Business class: 60,000 miles.
  • First class: 70,000 miles.
  • Flights to Southeast Asia cost an additional 5,000 miles in each class of service.

How to get points: You can transfer Marriott points to Alaska Airlines at a 3-to-1 ratio, or look into the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, with which you can earn Alaska miles.

» Learn more: Alaska Airlines credit card review: Well worth $75 a year

3. Short flights with British Airways Avios

British Airways has a distance-based award chart, which means the number of miles required for an award is based on distance flown. Redeeming British Airways Avios for long flights is typically a terrible idea, but it can represent an amazing deal for short flights in economy.

You can expect to pay the following prices for one-way economy flights using Avios:

  • 0-650 miles: 4,000-4,500 Avios (7,500 Avios for most partners).
  • 651-1,150 miles: 6,500-7,500 Avios (9,000 Avios for most partners).
  • 1,151-2,000 miles: 8,500-10,000 Avios (11,000 Avios for most partners).

If you don’t know how many miles a flight is, you can use Great Circle Mapper to get an estimate or use the British Airways reward flight calculator.

4. Royal Air Maroc business class with Etihad miles

Etihad offers an insanely good deal on business class awards with partner Royal Air Maroc. You can fly to Casablanca from the United States for only 44,000 Etihad miles each way in business class. In fact, this rate applies to any flights over 2,000 flown miles.

Etihad is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, AmEx Membership Rewards and Capital One, so it’s easier to get your hands on Etihad miles than you might think.

» Learn more: AmEx Membership rewards: How to earn and use them

5. ANA to Japan with Virgin Atlantic miles

Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for ANA flights to Japan is a particularly good deal in business and first class. The rate depends on where in the U.S. you are flying from.

Round-trip flights from the Western U.S.:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles.
  • Business class: 90,000 miles.
  • First class: 110,000 miles.

Round-trip flights from the Eastern or Central U.S.:

  • Economy: 65,000 miles.
  • Business class: 95,000 miles.
  • First class: 120,000 miles.

Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
8 sweet-spot redemptions in Turkish Airlines’ award program
How to save money on international flights

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