United Mileage Plus introduced a new award type Nov 1, 2017 for travel outside North America at 8,000 miles for nonstop flights of 800 miles or less in a single award region. This post is a general look at how these changes make intra-Europe travel easier and for many routes cheaper.
Europe has exceptional coverage with the new United Airlines 8,000 mile award for nonstop flights. The number of Star Alliance airline members with hubs in Europe makes intra-Europe travel on nonstop flights possible to all 44 countries in United’s Europe award region.
Star Alliance airline members
Air Lingus (Ireland) – partner airline, not Star Alliance
Brussels Airlines (Belgium)
Croatia Airlines (Croatia)
LOT Polish Airlines (Poland)
SAS (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)
Swiss Airlines (Switzerland)
TAP Portugal (Portugal)
Turkish Airlines (Turkey)
Nonstop flights from these Star Alliance member hub airport countries will take you to most any major city and many regional cities around Europe.
There is exceptional coverage through Central Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Europe and Northern Europe from multiple cities.
Spain, Italy and Portugal are more problematic for 800 mile nonstop routes, but any place TAP Portugal flies in Spain and most of France falls within the 800 mile limit. Greece, Turkey and most of Italy are covered with Swiss, Lufthansa, Austrian, Aegean and Turkish Airlines. Croatian and Adria Airlines provide routes to most of the Balkan countries.
Finding 800-mile nonstop routes
A great resource would be a complete list of intra-Europe nonstop routes at 800 miles or less with these airlines. I have not compiled that kind of list yet.
My simple strategy for finding routes from any specific airport like Zagreb ZAG Croatia is Wikipedia airport articles, where most articles list airlines and routes. Even new routes to be launched in 2018 are posted. Some routes are out of date, but in general, this proved to be a good resource, along with gcmap.com to check flight distance between two airports. I welcome suggestions for other websites where I can quickly see a list of nonstop routes for any airport.
This new award type covers travel to nearly every country in Europe, except Portugal is kind of outside the 800 mile zone as far as I can see for getting to Portugal from another airport like Brussels or Geneva, both slightly over 800 miles. TAP Portugal flights from Lisbon, Portugal to Spain and France cover most cities in Spain and several cities in France including Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes and Paris. Nice and Lyon are over 800 miles from Lisbon.
United Mileage Plus 8,000 miles + $33.60 TAP Portugal award
Paris ORY – Porto, Portugal OPO Thu Nov 30 (748 miles)
This Paris-Porto TAP Portugal ticket sells for $91, so not a good value use of miles.
Even with TAP Portugal flying London Gatwick to Porto OPO at 795 miles according to gcmap.com, I only see that route priced at 15,000 miles. Geneva (Swiss) and Brussels (Belgium) are both outside the 800-mile limit for any flights to Portugal.
In contrast, Stockholm ARN to Vienna VIE shows up at 801 miles on gcmap.com, yet I found 8,000 mile award rates for this route for Austrian Airlines nonstop flight.
Austrian Airlines Stockholm ARN – Vienna VIE, Austria
Thu Nov 30, 2017 8,000 miles + $19.40. (801 flight miles)
This 4:50pm flight is priced at $170 giving 8,000 miles a $150 redemption value. Air Baltic would fly you to Vienna for $100 via Riga, a good deal if you could leave 4 hours earlier and don’t mind an extra 2.5 hours of flight time.
Swiss Airlines provides coverage to much of France, Italy and Spain from Zurich and Geneva. ZRH-MAD Madrid is 771 miles. Southern Spain can be problematic, unless you are starting in Portugal.
United 8K award 8,000 miles + $36.40 Croatia Airlines
Rome FCO – Dubrovnik, Croatia DBV Sun July 8, 2018
Croatia Airlines has this ticket priced at $316 one way. Rome FCO to Dubrovnik DBV route has a lower $99 fare flying Vueling nonstop that same date. That is an affordable alternative, although bag and seat fees will be extra. As a Star Alliance Gold flyer through Aegean Airlines in summer 2018, I’d favor flying Croatia Airlines for extra benefits like free bags.
From Stockholm ARN and Copenhagen CPH to Europe with 8,000 United Mileage Plus miles
Much of my European travel ends up taking me through Stockholm ARN or Copenhagen CPH due to low cost flights with Norwegian Airlines and WOW Air to and from California airports or low cost round trip tickets from Stockholm to California with major alliance airlines.
Stockholm is kind of far from most countries in Europe for 800 mile nonstop flights. Nearly all of Scandinavia, Finland and Baltic countries are within reach flying SAS. Amsterdam (718 miles), Frankfurt (762 miles), Vienna (801 miles), Brussels (802 miles) all price at 8,000 miles. Warsaw and Krakow, Poland are also within reach on 8,000 mile awards.
Stockholm ARN to Budapest (847 miles), Kiev (823 miles), Paris (959 miles) and London (911 miles) are out of reach.
Copenhagen CPH is within 800 miles of London, Paris and Budapest, but still over 800 miles to Kiev.
Oslo OSL is within 800 miles of London LHR, but over 800 miles to Paris.
The issue for me is flights are generally about $100 more to Oslo and Copenhagen compared to Stockholm for travel from California.
Paying that extra amount might be worthwhile if my destination plans mean a low cost award flight is available from Copenhagen or Oslo. Another strategy is flying from Stockholm to Poland. Norwegian often has ticket prices from Stockholm ARN to Warsaw WAW and Krakow KRK priced under $50 one way. Stockholm NYO has Ryanair and Wizz flights frequently under $15 one way to Poland.
LOT Polish nonstop flights from Warsaw or Krakow open up many opportunities for intra-Europe travel at 8,000 miles. Paris and London are over 800 miles, but all of Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Milan, Venice, and southeastern Europe, for countries north of Greece is within 800 miles of Warsaw.
LOT Polish Warsaw WAW – Luxembourg City LUX
A nonstop flight on LOT Polish is 8K + $16 for a Warsaw-Luxembourg flight with a $323 ticket price. Eurowings flies WAW-LUX via CPH for $134 in 4 hours. Ryanair flies from Warsaw Modlin WMI to Charleroi CRL, Belgium for $22, but that is 95 miles from Luxembourg. These are the kinds of deals available with United 8K tickets as a good alternative to low cost carriers for intra-Europe travel.
Warsaw WAW to Tirana TIA, Albania is 745 miles and Sofia SOF, Bulgaria 665 miles.
Warsaw WAW, Frankfurt FRA and Vienna VIE, hubs for LOT Polish, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines cover most of Central and Eastern Europe.
Brussels BRU and Zurich ZRH flights cover most of western and southern Europe.
Adria, Aegean, Austrian, Croatia and Turkish Airlines cover southeastern and central Europe.
LOT Polish and SAS cover eastern and northern Europe.
Tap Portugal covers Spain and Portugal and parts of France.
Value of United Awards compared to alternative flights
In my travel planning I find it easy to get most anywhere in Europe using low cost carriers. The issue tends to be finding a way there and also a way back to the city for my California flight at low cost for the specific dates I want to travel.
8,000 mile awards in Europe for nonstop routes 800 miles or less opens up loads of travel options in combination with low cost carrier flights on Norwegian, EasyJet, Vueling, Eurowings, Ryanair and Wizz. The real value I see is the opportunity to string together low cost flights and low cost awards to create itineraries for many more countries.
Austrian Airlines Vienna VIE – Athens ATH (795 miles)
Tue June 12, 2018 UA award = 8,000 miles + $35.70
While this is a good price for a ticket that would be $202 on Austrian Airlines, this is not a good value redemption since Aegean has a nonstop flight for $74 leaving 30 minutes later.
I tried to come up with a good example of high value award travel From Frankfurt through Greece and Italy, but fares were so cheap, under $75 for each segment for Athens, Naples, Olbia-Sardinia and back to Frankfurt that I dropped that example.
One of the issues limiting the value of these United award tickets for 8,000 miles is the general prevalence of low fares around Europe. There are definitely great United award deals to be found, but it is more dependent on the need to travel specific dates with no flexibility for planning travel around low cost dates and low cost carriers.
One of the areas where I see real value in United 8K awards are seasonal routes, which tend to be places that have high demand and high prices.
Aer Lingus is another United Airlines European partner. One of the places I want to visit in Europe is Jersey Island. British Airways has a lock on flights and they tend to be high-priced much of the time for one-way travel.
Aer Lingus has seasonal nonstop flights from Dublin to Jersey JER.
Aer Lingus Dublin DUB – Jersey JER Mon Sep 3
Or 8,000 UA miles + $29.50 USD.
This is a fantastic savings for this particular date. The same flight is available the day before on Sun Sep 2 for $78 one way to buy the ticket.