Using Sweden for cheap flights to California in 2016

One of the primary reasons I developed a deep interest in airline loyalty programs in the late 1990s when I was a school teacher was to use miles to reduce the cost of travel during holiday periods. Teachers get lots of time off during the work year, however, those school breaks for travel opportunities are also during the main calendar holidays of the year. These are the same travel periods with highest airfares. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and summer break in July are the busiest times of the year for air travel with highest prices. These can also be the most difficult times to find award space with miles.

American Airlines ticket flying British Airways San Francisco to Amsterdam

Friday Feb 12 – Saturday February 20


SFO-AMS AA $1,104 Feb 12-20

Now, I could have bought a Business Class ticket four days ago for $120 more, if I had purchased tickets on British Airways during the $2,015 two day sale when flights from San Francisco to Europe were mispriced at $1,624 and an additional $400 AARP discount would have knocked the ticket price down to $1,224 round trip SFO-LHR.

I considered that business class option, but $1,224 was still a high price to pay out of pocket. A stash of British Airways Avios points would have made the tickets quite affordable with a total ticket price around $450 for 30,000 Avios, but that option was not available to me since I have not already accumulated Avios points and the mistake rates were only around for about six hours.

American Airlines Scandinavia to California round trip tickets from $400 to $614 in 2016

I had already developed an alternative plan to take advantage of my new AAdvantage Executive Platinum status with several flights to Europe over the next year. Low fares from Scandinavian airports to California allow me to ticket trips during peak holiday periods and summer at a fraction of the cost of regular priced economy class tickets originating in California to Europe during peak season time frames.

American Airlines Stockholm ARN – San Francisco SFO

$486.00  Wednesday January 27 – Friday February 12, 2016

14,869 flight miles; $32.69 per 1,000 EQM.

ARN-SFO AA $486 Jan 27-Feb 12

February Winter Break

Presidents Week in February is a week-long winter break season for many places in the USA. Ski resort airline tickets are peak season. Sun resort hotel prices are tip of the top.

The flight itinerary shown for Stockholm to San Francisco is an extra long itinerary in flight miles.

Even longer is a similar itinerary transiting with a Dallas DFW connection on return to Stockholm rather than New York JFK for 15,046 flight miles. The ticket cost is only 3.23 cents per EQM or $32.23 per 1,000 EQM.

I prefer to value miles in chunks of thousands. I can calculate ticket value toward Executive Platinum 100,000 EQM easily as $3,223. The MIA and DFW routing earns 30,092 redeemable miles for Platinum and Executive Platinum members.

For $20 less there are SFO-LHR nonstop flights. Fewer miles.

It really is personal preference whether one chooses a flight itinerary between California and Europe with 12 hours on the plane or one six hour and one eight hour flight flying California to east coast and from there to London. Each to his own. I find one long-haul flight to be really good when I feel good and either I sleep or I am entertained by the aircraft entertainment system. And long-haul flights are really bad when I ache, feel exhausted and nauseous, can’t rest and the flight entertainment sucks.

“But, you do not live in Stockholm, Sweden darling!”

My wife loves to point out the obvious impediment to cheap tickets originating outside the USA by reminding me I don’t live in Stockholm. I live in Monterey, California.

Oakland and San Francisco Airports are about 115 miles from my home in Monterey.

Norwegian Airlines Oakland – Stockholm ARN nonstop

$160.10 one-way Friday, January 22

OAK-ARN $160 ow Jan 22 Norwegian

Arrive in Stockholm on a Saturday afternoon in January, hang out four nights and fly back to San Francisco from Stockholm on an American Airlines $486 ticket.

$646 for Oakland-Stockholm-SFO-Stockholm on two tickets. American Airlines ticket earns nearly 30,000 redeemable miles and 14,869 elite qualifying miles for Platinum and Executive Platinum members.

The main point so far in this post is I can establish Sweden as my home base for 2016 airline travels with a $160 one-way Norwegian Airlines ticket to Stockholm and establish my Scandinavian starting point for future tickets. Then, when originating in Sweden, return flights can be scheduled to fly San Francisco to Europe during the typically high priced USA holiday season and high-priced summer travel dates over the first half of 2016.

Another ticket is needed since I have to get back to California after the first ticket ends when I land in Stockholm on February 13.

Flying to Amsterdam, that $1,104 ticket in the first image is the destination. SAS will fly me Stockholm to Amsterdam for $50 each way in February.

Third Ticket

American Airlines flying British Airways

Stockholm ARN – San Francisco SFO

$466.40 Wednesday, February 24 to Wednesday March 30, 2016

ARN-SFO $466 AA Feb24-Mar30-16

The next holiday break is Easter and that vacation break falls April 2-10, 2015. The second American Airlines ticket takes me back to Stockholm for arrival on Thursday evening March 31, 2015 with 60 hours to get to any airport in Europe to meet up with my wife arriving the morning of Sunday, April 3.

Fourth Ticket

April is the lowest priced month for tickets ex-Scandinavia.

I can change airports to Oslo or Bergen in Norway for around $400 round trip. Gothenburg, Sweden has low prices for summer travel dates.

American Airlines flying British Airways

Stockholm ARN – San Francisco SFO

$416.00 Monday April 11 to Monday June 13, 2016

ARN-SFO $416 Apr11-Jun13

Fourth ticket takes me back to California after Easter vacation and back to Europe at start of summer vacation in June.

Fifth Ticket Summer Travel to Europe

The next ticket is more expensive since this is basically peak summer travel season From USA to Europe. But the ticket is still cheap compared to ticket prices originating in California.

American Airlines flying British Airways

Gothenburg GOT Sweden – San Francisco SFO

$614.00 Monday, June 20 to Tuesday July 19, 2016

GOT-SFO AA $614 June 20-July19

Summer dates are hardest to work around for cheap fares. Gothenburg has the longest season of the Scandinavian airports I checked for lowest priced flights.

American Airlines flying British Airways

Gothenburg GOT Sweden – San Francisco SFO

$614.00 Thursday, August 11 to Monday Sep 5, 2016

GOT-SFO $614 Aug 11-Sep 5

The past two years I have spent half of September in Europe. 2016 might follow that trend again.

Assume I can carry this trend through the end of 2016 with trips back to Scandinavia for Thanksgiving and perhaps even December holidays.

This is an example of how I can maximize my American Airlines Executive Platinum status in 2016, re-qualify for at least 50,000 miles Platinum status for 2017 through the Scandinavian flights and possibly fly 100,000 EQM in 2016 for under $4,000 on American Airlines tickets.

Summary of 2016 Flights

Ticket 1: Jan 22, 2016 Norwegian Airlines $160 OAK-SFO

Ticket 2: Jan 27 – Feb 12, 2016

American Airlines $486.00 Stockholm, Sweden ARN – SFO

Ticket 3: Feb 24 – Mar 30, 2016

American Airlines $466.40 Stockholm, Sweden ARN – SFO

Ticket 4: Apr 11 – June 13

American Airlines $416.00 Stockholm, Sweden ARN – SFO

Ticket 5: June 20 – July 19

American Airlines $614.00 Gothenburg, Sweden GOT – SFO

Ticket 6: August 11 – Sep 5

American Airlines $614.00 Gothenburg, Sweden GOT – SFO

Total ticket price = $2,756.40

Getting back to California after the last ticket drops me off in Sweden is simple a matter of another Norwegian one-way paid ticket or AAdvantage miles for a one-way return.

AAdvantage Flight Miles and Earned EQM/RDM

For calculations I assume ticket routings average 12,500 per round trip, although it is possible to get 15,000 EQM from a single round trip Stockholm to San Francisco. Most of the itineraries shown here are simple SFO-LHR-ARN on British Airways. Assuming I follow through on this scheme, I would prefer to fly more American Airlines flights for the use of upgrade certificates when I purchase tickets. This post is simply laying out the strategy for how I can go to Europe several times in 2016 while racking up lots of redeemable miles in AAdvantage and earn at least mid-level Platinum elite status from 2016 flights.

62,500 flight miles on five Sweden to California round trip tickets with 100% bonus miles as AAdvantage Executive Platinum earns 125,000 redeemable miles RDM. These itineraries can easily be routed for 70,000 total flight miles with 70,000 EQM and 140,000 redeemable miles for the same ticket price.

$2,756/125,000 miles = $22.05 per 1,000 redeemable miles.

$2,756/62,500 EQM = $44.10 per 1,000 EQM.

Requalification for AAdvantage Executive Platinum will cost $4,410 to fly 100,000 EQM at this rate.

At the higher end of miles earning, I can stretch the routings to earn 70,000 EQM by averaging 14,000 flight miles per ticket.

$2756/140,000 miles = $19.69 per 1,000 redeemable miles.

$2,756/70,000 EQM = $39.37 per 1,000 EQM.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum requalification at $3,937 is a favorably priced top elite status price objective of under $4,000 to fly 100,000 miles. That is the criteria I used more than a decade ago when I planned annual United 1K qualification over several years.

The redeemable AAdvantage miles earned are sufficient for two economy class tickets to Europe in peak season at 60,000 miles each and with miles I earned from last month’s travel, I can send Kelley to Europe in February, April and twice in summer on AAdvantage awards.

Nine trips to Europe between Kelley and I for an average price of about $330 per ticket is a good value scheme for 2016 travel. 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. @Danny – possibly. AA.com shows Systemwide Upgrade availability for American Airlines flights to and from London. I have 8 SWUs and some or most will probably be used for my wife’s travel.

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