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We’ve been saving up miles for a while and are planning our first big getaway without the kids. What is the best way to get to Italy from ORD, in international 1st class, in 1 stop or less, using miles? Ideally, not flying on United or American, but something with a better 1st class product.
I have lots of Amex and Chase points, so can go with either one. I don’t have a specific city in mind. Suggestions appreciated.
I’d start with using the Award Maximizer from Travel Codex:
It will show the minimum number of miles required using various programs though keep in mind several programs now have dynamic pricing so you may not be able to find awards that cheaply. Then it will be up to you to search for available routes. The obvious one is going to be ORD-FCO and that will likely be the one with the most choices and will be non-stop though I’d guess there may be a few other cities in Italy with non-stop service to ORD.
Also remember to utilize alliances. For example (and I’m totally making this up), you may find that it takes fewer miles on Air Canada than it does on United for a ticket. But United has a really good search engine so you could search on the United site, find a flight on, say, Lufthansa and then check the Air Canada site to verify it also sees the space and book the ticket. **Make sure you do not transfer points to any airline until you’ve confirmed on their site or with their telephone agents that the airline can see the available award space.** And don’t forget about fuel surcharges! BA and Lufthanasa in particular like to include hefty fuel surcharges that could make that “free” ticket cost hundreds of dollars.
You also mention first class and while it’s certainly possible you’ll find a couple of seats, you will have a lot more choices if you include business class as well.
If you have specific questions, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help.
Thanks MidSouth! That is helpful. I will look later tonight on travel codex.
The aspirational trip would be Swiss Air, but award availability is tough. I’d be very happy with Lufthansa biz or 1st. Not sure if Emirates is an option or not.
If American or United, I’d definitely want a lie flat seat.
For me, all of the Italy is great, so I’m not as picky about where I go, but would just like the best flight I can get.
I did some looking around, and I think the most straightforward approach makes sense. Flying on business on an American 787 nonstop to FCO. I have enough MR and UR points. What is the best partner airline to book through?
@ the maximizer — If American actually has saver availability (which is a little rare when booking to Europe in advance, and especially on that route), then Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles (via Amex) is likely the best option.
Definitely make sure award space is actually available before moving any points around!
Thanks Tiffany. So I can only book a saver award on a partner airline?
That’s correct. Airlines only make saver award space available to their partners – and sometimes not even all saver space. So if an airline shows 2 saver seats available on their own site, a partner may only be able to book 1 (or none!) of those.
So if you find an AA flight with space available, be sure to look on the Cathay site (if that’s the “currency” you’ll be using to book) to ensure they can see the seats too before you transfer your Amex MRs to Cathay.
Gotcha. I’ll try looking on Cathay and Qantas too. Thanks!