Posted by Ric Garrido

Boohoo. While you can’t fly business class roundtrip from the USA to Asia for 90,000 miles anymore, there is no reason to cry if you can stomach economy class and want to get to Europe on 20,000 miles before May 15 or after October 15, including award flights to TBEX 2014 Athens, Greece in October 2014. This post shows several AAdvantage award flight options for off-peak travel to Europe.

You have plenty of options with American AAdvantage frequent flyer miles for flying to many places in Europe with American off-peak awards for 20,000 miles one-way. Off-peak season to Europe is October 15 to May 15. This means an AAdvantage frequent flyer miles award ticket is only 20,000 miles each way. This post shows how award taxes and fees are highly variable, depending on the airlines you fly and places you transit.

Delta and United charge 30,000 miles each way from USA to Europe, so American AAdvantage miles truly have an advantage for awards to Europe during seven months of off-peak season award rates.

Award Travel Tip: Watch out for London transit fees.

One of the main points to know about USA to Europe flights are the high taxes if transiting through the UK. A large proportion of AAdvantage award travel availability is through British Airways flights via London. If London is your destination, then be prepared for high taxes on your award ticket.

Athens as a destination means that British Airways may be part of your itinerary.

AA SFO-ATH page

Looking at three possible flight options for October 2014 travel from San Francisco area to Athens shows two itineraries require an overnight in London. and flying US Airways  with 8-hour layover in London and arrival in Athens at 3:10am.

AA SFO-ATH US

US Airways flight and British Airways to London has hefty tax and fees at $328.90 for the one-way trip.

Selecting one of the other two flights with American Airlines over the Atlantic to London and an overnight reduces the tax and fees on the award ticket to $103.00 for a $225 savings compared to the British Airways award flight. There are many hotels around London Heathrow with low weekend rates under $100. Also, by spending an overnight at London, arrival in Athens is mid-day rather than wandering the streets of Greece at 4am with the US Airways itinerary.

SFO-ATH flights

AAdvantage award San Francisco-Athens one-way for 20,000 miles + $103.

There are many routes to Greece.

The other day I was speaking with another travel blogger about the possibilities with overnight transit stops in cities on award and paid travel. As travel writers, the opportunity to spend one day in a city is a bonus of airline travel, whereas, an award itinerary like this for a business traveler is a nightmare. Arrival in Athens happens 44-hours after departure from San Francisco.

There is an added expense of two nights paying for hotels or sleeping in the airport.

BA SFO-ATH

British Airways award travel with AAdvantage miles is 20,000 miles + $321 taxes and fees when leaving one day later. The fees are $200+ more expensive than flying American Airlines over the Atlantic. This itinerary, with an 11am arrival, allows nearly 20 hours in London. A good eight hours of touring time in London might be worth the extra $200 over the American Airlines itinerary. Also, these flights avoid an overnight in Chicago.

Fly to another city on AAdvantage Award, then pay for Athens flight

Another option that can be cheaper and allow you to visit another city for a couple of days is to book an AAdvantage award for 20,000 miles to some airport where American Airlines or US Airways flies. This can offer great savings with reduced taxes and fees. Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich and Brussels are some of the options.

AA SFO-FRA

Flying American Airlines to Frankfurt reduces the taxes to $5.00. There is an overnight with 19 hours in Dallas that allows a good day of sightseeing before going to Europe.

FRA-ATH 300

Frankfurt-Athens round-trip for $300 on Aegean is an average fare for intra-Europe travel to Athens.

US FRA-SFO 132

On the return trip, scheduling a couple of days in Frankfurt is a possibility and then fly back to San Francisco for 20,000 miles + $132 on US Airways. Taxes are higher on the Europe to USA awards.

Total trip cost = 40,000 miles + $437 for American AAdvantage round-trip award travel and a separate paid round-trip ticket from Frankfurt to Athens.

This is just one sample itinerary showing how to get to Athens for far less than the $1,000+ airfares typical for a SFO to Athens round-trip search.

Frankfurt is just one European city option.

This kind of itinerary is also possible from a dozen other cities for the same cost if you would rather spend time in Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Barcelona or Rome. A round-trip AAdvantage award can be booked for under $150 to many of these places and a round-trip ticket to Athens on Aegean Airlines is about $300 from most European cities.

There are numerous possibilities for getting 40,000 mile award round-trip award tickets with AAdvantage miles.

Here is one other to get your travel planning juices flowing.

San Francisco – Rhodes, Greece

AA SFO-RHO

AAdvantage one-way award from San Francisco to Rhodes, Greece for 20,000 miles + $52.50 flying American Airlines and Air Berlin.

Overnight and opportunity to spend half-day in Chicago with 16 hour layover.

Arrive in Berlin at 9:30am and overnight with 6:00am next day departure for Rhodes, Greece. Arrive in Rhodes at 10:00am.

Fly from Rhodes to Athens for $57.

RHO-ATH

San Francisco to Athens with overnights in Chicago and Berlin for 20,000 miles + $110 one-way.

This kind of itinerary to Europe is a business traveler’s nightmare and a travel writer’s adventure.

Planning a route back to the USA offers so many options and opportunities.

So, like I said at the beginning of this piece, the changes to American Airlines AAdvantage awards is sad news for business travelers who burn miles for last minute AAnytime flights and travelers flying internationally in premium cabins. Off-peak saver awards at 20,000 miles to Europe between October 15 and May 15 still offer leisure travelers an AAdvantage adventure at a low price.

6 Responses

  1. DFW-based traveler here. I love the off-peak options but I find that I do mostly have to fly to or through London, often with BA as well, for which the taxes are quite tough. It’s helpful to realize other options.

  2. ORD-based traveler here with the same problem. It’s just not worth taking a 3-stop flight to Europe when it can almost always be done with 1-stop on *A or a paid booking.

    Comment by ORD Traveler on April 10th, 2014 at 10:18 am
  3. If you’re buying an additional intra-EU ticket, such as FRA-ATH, don’t forget about extra luggage fees. The same trans-Atlantic baggage rules won’t apply any more.

    Comment by BOS_Flyer on April 10th, 2014 at 10:37 am
  4. @BOS_Flyer – The cost of intra-Europe baggage fees is definitely a game changer for some travelers with more bags on low-cost airlines.

    You might be looking at $100+ in baggage fees to check two bags.

    Check airline bag fees carefully when booking additional flights separate from award travel.

  5. I will be there – hope to catch you there!

  6. My preferred AA choice.
    W Coast to LHR RT using AA / AS metal only.
    or into Brussels then train to AMS or LUX
    40k.

    Yes, sometimes you have to O/N @ gateway.
    I have done ORD and DFW, typically arrive v.late into LHR so get P/line LHR hotel on arrival, and sometimes LHR hotel the night prior to return.

home top