Want cheap economy award flights to Europe next summer? Focus on these programs – LSB

Garima
9 Min Read


Summer is the peak time and price of flights across the Atlantic reflecting how many travelers want to visit Europe in the sunshine.

Round-trip economy flights for less than $400 are common during the slower winter months. However, if you want to walk the cobblestone streets of Rome or sunbathe on a Greek island next summer, you can expect to pay significantly more than that.

While redeeming points and miles for long-haul economy flights isn’t usually a great value — aim for premium cabin redemptions instead — $1,500 round-trip economy flights next summer aren’t uncommon.

If walking past Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower is more important to you than scoring a lie-flat bed, we’ve rounded up the best value economy award options for travel to Europe.

Loyalty programs for the “Big Three” US airlines – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – have lower fees, lower taxes and better availability for economy class flights to Europe this summer. However, their dynamic pricing means you can expect to pay at least 80,000 points or miles round trip to Europe, which isn’t much.

Instead, look for programs with fixed or more reasonable prices.

The good news is that these programs partner with several major transferable credit card point currencies, so you have plenty of options to top up your account.

Related: A review of United Airlines’ economy on a Boeing 767 from Newark to London

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Gene Arnas/The Points Guy

If you’re planning a trip to the UK next summer, consider redeeming Virgin Atlantic points. You’ll need 40,000 points for a round-trip flight from the East Coast or 50,000 points from the West Coast on peak dates between June 16 and September 2, 2024, which is a decent deal. If you can travel outside of those peak dates, you’ll only need half the points.

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Virgin charges fees, taxes and fuel surcharges of just under $500 per person round trip, so compare that to an equivalent cash fare. If you can find a cash ticket for less than $800 on the peak date, paying cash is probably a better deal.

Award tickets include free seat selection and checked baggage.

If you’re traveling to other destinations in Europe, Virgin Atlantic is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which means you can redeem Virgin Points on airlines like Delta, Air France, KLM, Air Europa and Aeromexico.

Flights operated by Delta in the UK have their own award chart, with economy flights from 15,000 Virgin points each way for travel on standard (off-peak) dates from the East Coast. You can use up to 30,000 points to travel on peak dates from the West Coast.

VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

Delta-operated flights from the US to mainland Europe cost 30,000 Virgin Points on each date.

Redemptions on other SkyTeam airlines are based on distance with no peak or off-peak prices. Most destinations from North America to Europe fall within the following distances (each way excluding fees and fees, taxes and surcharges):

Flight Distance (miles)Virgin Points Required (Economy)
3,001-4,00020,500
4,001-5,00025,500
5,001-6,00031,000
6,001-7,00037,000
7,001-12,00050,000

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Nick Ellis/The Points Guy

The Flying Blue program awards are dynamic, meaning they can change significantly. It’s common to see 100,000-plus miles for round-trip economy flights to Europe during peak periods.

However, saver prices have recently been reduced to just 30,000 Flying Blue miles round trip, starting in Europe. Although these prices are very low during the summer, we found return flights for 40,000 Flying Blue miles and a reasonable $218 in fees, taxes and surcharges on Air France and KLM on fairly easy dates. So, it’s worth your time to play around with date and city combinations to see if you can find a good deal.

AIRFRANCE.COM

Also, keep an eye out for Flying Blue’s fantastic monthly promotional rewards, where discounts can be offered on a select number of routes for a limited time.

Iberia Plus

JT Genter/The Points Guy

Dreaming of sunny Spain? Iberia flies to several US destinations, including Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

You’ll only need 20,000 Iberia Avios each way in economy to travel from the Midwest and East Coast to Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) on peak summer dates.

Fees, taxes and surcharges are reasonable at around $100 each way, and this flight includes checked luggage.

British Airways Executive Club

Liam Spencer/The Points Guy

If a trip to the Emerald Isle is on your bucket list this summer, you can visit Ireland through the British Airways Executive Club program. Aer Lingus flies to Dublin Airport (DUB) from various destinations in the US

If you’re focusing on the Northeast, consider New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). In that case, you can book a round-trip economy flight for 33,000 Avios plus about $360 in fees, taxes and surcharges, depending on the departure airport.

BRITISHAIRWAYS.COM

You can combine your Avios across the four airlines that use it as currency.

Related: 4 versions of Avios: when to use Aer Lingus, Qatar Airways, Iberia and British Airways

Avianca LifeMiles

Jack Honig/The Points Guy

The quirky Colombian airline loyalty program has long been an underrated option for booking Star Alliance flights on airlines like United, Lufthansa and Air Canada.

While maintaining a zone-based award chart, the carrier’s chart is complex, with the US and Europe each divided into three different regions, resulting in nine different award chart options for economy alone. Most of these zone pairs are 30,000 miles each way (so 60,000 round trip), which is an acceptable but not great deal.

However, there is a sweet spot: flying from the northeastern United States to parts of northern Europe and western Europe costs only 20,000 miles each way. These include the UK, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

LIFEMILES.COM

With minimal fees and taxes, it’s a great way to fly to these select countries in Europe. It’s also convenient that Star Alliance member Scandinavian Airlines has multiple bases in Northern Europe that cover this zone, opening up more flights and more redemption options.

How to Earn Transferable Points

Earning transferable credit card points allows you to use them in different programs when and how it suits you As major airline programs switch to dynamic pricing with that 100,000-mile price for economy travel, having flexibility is more valuable than ever.

Related: The Complete Guide to Airline and Hotel Transfer Partners for Major Credit Card Programs

You can transfer points to the following programs at a 1:1 rate:

If you’re looking for a new card in one (or more) of these programs as you plan future travel, here are some solid options:

For additional options, visit our Best Credit Cards page.

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If you’re looking to book flights to Europe next summer, your affordable cash options may be slim right now. Round-trip economy flights above $1,000 are the norm, not the exception.

That means points and miles can be a great way to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. While some programs will now charge you 100,000 miles or more for a round-trip economy flight to Europe, some affordable options exist.

If you have transferable points, you should focus on the programs above for the best payouts.

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