I do what I can to write about the best deals for earning and redeeming miles. In this post I wanted to share what I consider to be some of the most useful sweet spot award redemptions right now. I wanted to provide a fresh look at how you can get the most bang for your buck when redeeming points.
Suffice it to say that 2023 hasn’t treated us well so far when it comes to sweet spot redemptions. We’ve seen many of the best offers devalued, ranging from Etihad Guest redemptions on American, to Virgin Atlantic Flying Blue redemptions on ANA, to Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions on Japan Airlines. Fortunately there are still some deals to be had.
In this post:
Aspirational vs. practical award sweet spots
Before I share my top picks, I want to emphasize that my goal is to make a list of sweet spot awards that are practical. This means that there’s wide use for them, the points are pretty easy to accrue, the redemption process is fairly easy, etc.
I’ll intentionally be leaving out some niche redemptions that make a great headline, but won’t be useful for a vast majority of OMAAT readers. Let me give an example, just to demonstrate why.
Assuming you wanted to redeem miles for Lufthansa first class, you can redeem just 50,000 Asiana Club miles for a one-way award between the United States and Europe. That’s an incredible price, on the surface much better than the 87,000 LifeMiles or 90,000-100,000 Aeroplan points you’d pay for similar redemptions. That being said:
- Asiana Club isn’t transfer partners with any of the major transferable points currencies, so the points are hard to rack up
- Asiana Club passes on carrier imposed surcharges, which total nearly $1,000 one-way between the United States and Europe in Lufthansa first class, which basically negates the mileage savings, by most reasonable points valuations
- You need to book by phone through the Asiana Club call center, and it’s not even open 24/7
- Asiana Club requires you to ticket awards at least 72 hours in advance, and often Lufthansa only opens first class awards last minute
Of course redeeming just 50,000 miles for Lufthansa first class makes a great headline (and is a good value overall), but practically speaking it’s not something most people will use.
My favorite airline mileage sweet spots
I wanted to share some of my favorite airline mileage sweet spots. I’m specifically focusing on redemptions that with points that are easy to accrue (ideally with transferable points currencies), where the booking process is fairly easy, and where there’s wide appeal.
With that out of the way, here are some of my favorite award redemptions, in no particular order.
ANA first & business class using Virgin Atlantic miles
All Nippon Airways has a phenomenal new first class and business class product, and the best way to book this is through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Unfortunately earlier this year, this redemption was devalued in first class, though it’s still an exceptional deal in business class, and I’d argue it’s potentially a good deal in first class as well. Specifically, redemption rates are as follows (one-way):
- Flying between the US West Coast and Japan costs 45,000 Flying Club points in business class or 72,500 Flying Club points in first class
- Flying between the US East Coast and Japan costs 47,500 Flying Club points in business class or 85,000 Flying Club points in first class
This is an incredible redemption value, though the major catch is finding award availability, especially for multiple passengers. While there are fuel surcharges on these redemptions, they’re quite mild.
How do you book All Nippon Airways awards? You can search award availability through another program (Aeroplan, MileagePlus, etc.), and then call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book — they can be reached at 800.365.9500.
How do you earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points? Virgin Atlantic is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, so there are quite a few ways to earn their points. Also look out for transfer bonuses, which can stretch your points even further.
Qatar Airways business class using American miles
Qatar Airways’ Qsuites is one of the best business class products in the world, and the most economical way to book this is with American AAdvantage miles. For one-way travel, you can redeem just 70,000 AAdvantage miles from the United States to the Middle East or India, or 75,000 AAdvantage miles from the United States to Africa.
There are no fuel surcharges on these redemptions. This can be useful whether you’re looking to travel to India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, South Africa or wherever else. Note that for those redemption rates you can also fly Etihad Airways, though I do have a slight preference for Qatar.
While not to or from the United States, I’d note that you can also redeem just 40,000 AAdvantage miles between the Middle East and Asia on Qatar Airways, which is arguably an even btter deal.
How do you book Qatar Airways awards? These awards can be booked directly on aa.com.
Air France & KLM business class using Flying Blue miles
Air France business class and KLM business class are both solid products, and they’re among the most practical options for crossing the Atlantic with miles. Flying Blue recently standardized award pricing, and now you’ll pay 50,000 Flying Blue miles for a one-way business class award across the Atlantic. On top of that, Flying Blue even allows stopovers on one-way awards, which makes this an even better opportunity.
While Flying Blue does have fuel surcharges, they’re not too bad compared to some other programs. You can expect to pay around $200 one-way in business class across the Atlantic. Given the otherwise good value in redeeming for these kinds of awards, I’d say that’s fair enough.
How do you book Flying Blue awards? These awards can be booked directly on flyingblue.com (unless you want a stopover, in which case you need to book by phone). Use the secret award calendar to find availability.
How do you earn Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles? Air France-KLM is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, so there are quite a few ways to earn their points. Also look out for transfer bonuses, which can stretch your points even further. Flying Blue also often sells miles at a discount.
Turkish Airlines business class using Turkish miles
Turkish Airlines is my favorite airline brand in the world, and the airline has an excellent business class soft product. The Turkish Miles&Smiles program has some real sweet spots, especially for travel on Turkish Airlines flights. Keep in mind that Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, meaning the airline can really get you just about anywhere with one stop.
You can expect to pay the following number of miles one-way:
- Flying between the US and Europe will cost you 45,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and Middle East will cost you 47,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and Central Asia will cost you 52,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and North Africa will cost you 60,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and Far East will cost you 67,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and Central Africa will cost you 72,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
- Flying between the US and South Africa will cost you 85,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles
Turkish Miles&Smiles allows a stopover in Istanbul, but only if traveling roundtrip. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines does have fuel surcharges on award tickets, but they’re quite mild.
How do you book Turkish Airlines awards? These awards can be booked directly on turkishairlines.com.
Transatlantic Star Alliance business class using LifeMiles
I’d say the single most common “aspirational” award that people are looking for is a business class ticket to Europe. After all, that’s achievable, and covers a lot of destinations. For these kinds of awards, Avianca LifeMiles charges just 63,000 miles for one-way business class travel.
This can get you flights on a variety of Star Alliance airlines, ranging from Austrian, to LOT, to Lufthansa, to SWISS, to United. There are no fuel surcharges on these awards, so given how easy it is to rack up LifeMiles, I’d say that’s a great value.
Just don’t plan on booking anything too complicated through LifeMiles, and be aware that in some cases LifeMiles might not have access to the same availability as other programs. When you can find transatlantic business class availability through LifeMiles for 63,000 miles, I’d say it’s often the best value. That’s especially true since I usually acquire LifeMiles for just over a cent each, or with a transfer bonus from a partner.
How do you book Star Alliance awards? These awards can be booked directly on lifemiles.com.
How do you earn Avianca LifeMiles? LifeMiles is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou, and often sells miles at a discount. Look out for consistent transfer bonuses, which can make your acquisition cost with LifeMiles really low.
Aeroplan long haul award with stopover for 5,000 points
I’m going to be less specific with this one than the other awards on the list. I consider Air Canada Aeroplan to be the single most useful frequent flyer program, and I particularly like how the program allows stopovers on one-way awards for an additional 5,000 points. That pairs beautifully with all the unique airline partners that Aeroplan has.
Aeroplan has a hybrid zone and distance based award chart, and generally has pretty lenient routing rules, so see my post on how to redeem Aeroplan points like a pro. Just to give a few examples of potential redemption opportunities (all prices are one-way and include the extra 5,000 points for a stopover):
- For 90,000 Aeroplan points you could fly from Newark to Paris to Bahrain on United and Gulf Air in business class, with a stopover in Paris
- For 90,000 Aeroplan points you could fly from from Toronto to London to Bangkok on Air Canada and Thai Airways in business class, with a stopover in London
- For 85,000 Aeroplan points you could fly from Paris to Mauritius to Cape Town on Air Mauritius in business class, with a stopover in Mauritius
Long story short, any time you want a stopover that’s somewhere around the middle of your journey, Aeroplan offers spectacular value.
Even without a stopover, the value is incredible. For example, earlier this year I booked an Aeroplan adventure, where I flew in business class from Chicago to Vienna to Rome to Bahrain to Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi for 115,000 points, and then in business class from Hanoi to Frankfurt to Toronto to Miami for 87,500 points.
How do you book Aeroplan awards? These awards can be booked directly on aircanada.com.
How do you earn Air Canada Aeroplan points? Air Canada is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, has the Aeroplan® Credit Card (review) in the United States, which is quite lucrative, and often sells points at a discount.
Alaska & American economy awards using British Airways Avios
While not as aspirational as some of the above options, British Airways’ distance based award chart can be useful for regional awards on Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. Specifically, you can expect to pay the following for one-way travel:
- Flying a single segment of up to 1,150 miles will cost you 7,500 British Airways Avios
- Flying a single segment of 1,151-2,000 miles will cost you 10,000 British Airways Avios
- Flying a single segment of 2,001-3,000 miles will cost you 12,500 British Airways Avios
In other words, flying from Miami to most points in the Caribbean would cost just 7,500 Avios, while flying from the US West Coast to Hawaii would cost you just 12,500 Avios. If you can find award availability, this is a pretty unbeatable deal.
How do you book Alaska & American awards? These awards can be booked directly on ba.com.
How do you earn British Airways Executive Club Avios? British Airways is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, has the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card (review) in the United States, and often sells Avios at a discount. If using points from a transferable points currency, be on the lookout for transfer bonuses.
United domestic awards using Turkish miles
The Turkish Miles&Smiles program isn’t just useful for travel on Turkish Airlines, but it’s also great for domestic flights within the United States. Turkish Airlines is in the Star Alliance, so it’s possible to redeem Miles&Smiles miles for travel on United Airlines.
For domestic flights within the United States, Turkish charges just 7,500 miles in economy or 12,500 miles in business class (one-way). The best part is that this pricing is valid within all 50 United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
That’s an outrageously good deal. The catch? United isn’t great about making saver level award seats available on domestic flights. Furthermore, these awards aren’t consistently bookable online, and calling Turkish’s call center can be an adventure.
How do you book United Airlines awards? You can search award availability through another program (Aeroplan, MileagePlus, etc.), and then generally have to call Turkish Airlines to book — they can be reached at 800.874.8875.
Other niche sweet spot redemptions worth knowing
While I think the above eight are the most useful award sweet spots out there right now, I did want to mention a few other redemptions that I consider to be particularly lucrative, though perhaps the appeal isn’t quite as widespread (either due to ease of earning points, award availability, etc.). In no particular order, here are a few that come to mind:
- You can redeem 55,000 Alaska miles for Fiji Airways business class between the United States and the South Pacific, with a stopover in Fiji; the catch is that Fiji Airways can be stingy with award availability, and has a limited network
- You can redeem 55,000 Alaska miles for Qantas business class or 70,000 Alaska miles for Qantas first class between the United States and Australia; the catch is that award availability is really tough to come by
- You can redeem 50,000 Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific business class or 70,000 Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific first class between the United States and Asia; much like with Qantas, the issue is that award availability is extremely limited
- You can redeem 60,000 Alaska miles for Air Tahiti Nui business class between the United States and Tahiti, which is much less than you’ll pay with other programs
- You can redeem 62,500 Virgin Atlantic points for Air New Zealand business class between the United States and New Zealand, the catch is that Air New Zealand barely releases any long haul premium cabin award space
While there are lots of amazing airline award redemptions out there, the above are some of my favorites. I didn’t just choose redemptions that have the lowest cost on “paper,” but rather redemptions that I think are largely actually valuable based on ease of accruing points, award availability, eligible routes, etc.
Unfortunately sweet spots do tend to get devalued over time, and that’s fair enough. 2023 has been especially rough in that regard, as several of the (previous) best redemption options aren’t available anymore.
What are your favorite airline award redemptions?