9 Of The Best Sweet-Spot Airline Awards

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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 wrote a similar post a few month ago, but some things have changed, so I wanted to provide an updated list.

While there are lots of great redemption values out there, my focus here is on ones that are actually practical for the average person looking to travel internationally (especially in premium cabins), rather than focusing on super niche redemptions.

For example, there are lots of amazing niche redemptions, though I’m guessing they’re not useful for most:

So here are what I consider to be the most useful and valuable sweet-spot award redemptions available right now:

Royal Air Maroc business class one-way to anywhere for 44,000 Etihad Guest miles

Etihad Guest partners with Royal Air Maroc, and they charge 44,000 Etihad Guest miles for a business class ticket covering a distance of over 2,000 flown miles.

Now, Royal Air Maroc doesn’t have that huge of a route network, but in the US they fly to Boston, Miami, New York, and Washington.

So you could redeem 44,000 Etihad Guest miles to fly from Miami to Casablanca to Frankfurt, or to fly from New York to Casablanca to Doha, or to fly from Washington to Casablanca to Cairo, just to give a few examples.

Royal Air Maroc has a solid business class product, and one benefit of flying with them is that their short haul aircraft feature proper business class seats. Contrast that to most European airlines, where business class is just economy with a blocked middle.

These redemptions are subject to carrier imposed surcharges, though they’re mild — think around $200 one-way.

Read more about redeeming Etihad miles on Royal Air Maroc here.

Redeem Etihad miles for Royal Air Maroc’s 787-9 business class

How to redeem Etihad miles on Royal Air Maroc

Search award availability directly through Royal Air Maroc’s website, and then call Etihad Guest to book. They can be reached at 877.690.0767.

How to earn Etihad miles

Etihad Guest is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou, so there are quite a few ways to earn their points.How to earn Etihad Guest miles

Earn Etihad Guest miles

ANA first or business class roundtrip from the US to Japan using Virgin Atlantic miles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some great niche redemptions, though arguably the best use of their miles is flying ANA first or business class between the US and Japan. Here’s their award chart for that:

So for example, you can redeem just 90,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly ANA business class from the US West Coast to Japan, or 110,000 miles to fly first class. This is an exceptional deal, especially when you consider that there are often transfer bonuses when converting points to Virgin Atlantic.

There are some carrier imposed surcharges, which you can expect to total under $300 roundtrip.

Read more about redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA here.


Redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for ANA’s 777 first class

How to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA

Search award availability through another program (Aeroplan, United, etc.), and then call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book. They can be reached at 800.365.9500.

How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, so there are quite a few ways to earn their points.

Earn Virgin Atlantic miles

Delta business class to Europe or Asia using Virgin Atlantic miles

Not only can it be a great deal to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA, but it can also be a great deal to use Fying Club miles for Delta flights.

Virgin Atlantic should have access to all Delta “saver” award space, so you can redeem:

  • As little as 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one-way Delta business class ticket from the US to Europe (there are no surcharges if you originate in the US and travel to somewhere in Europe other than the UK)
  • As little as 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one-way Delta business class ticket from the US to Asia, India, or Africa (there are no surcharges for these redemptions)

This is an exceptional use of Virgin Atlantic miles, and the costs are much lower than when booking directly through Delta SkyMiles.

Read more about redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on Delta here.


Redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta’s A350 business class

How to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Delta

You can book Delta awards using Virgin Atlantic miles directly on Virgin Atlantic’s website.

How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, so there are quite a few ways to earn their points.

Earn Virgin Atlantic miles

Qatar business class to the Middle East, India, or Africa, using American miles

Qatar Qsuites is my favorite business class product in the world, and the single best value for experiencing that is booking through American AAdvantage.

You can redeem 70,000 AAdvantage miles one-way if traveling to the Middle East or India, or 75,000 AAdvantage miles one-way if traveling 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.


Redeem American miles for Qatar’s 777 business class

How to redeem American miles on Qatar

You can book Qatar Airways awards directly on aa.com, so you can search and book there.

How to earn American miles

While American AAdvantage doesn’t belong to any transferrable points currency, there are several co-brand credit cards with which you can earn miles.

Earn American miles

Star Alliance business class to Europe using Aeroplan miles

Air Canada’s Aeroplan program charges just 55,000-57,500 miles for one-way business class tickets from the US to Europe, depending on the part of Europe you’re traveling to.

This gives you access to lots of options, though the way to really maximize your value is to fly one of the airlines on which Aeroplan doesn’t impose surcharges. These airlines include Brussels Airlines, SAS, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish, and United.


Redeem Aeroplan miles for Turkish’s A330 business class

How to redeem Aeroplan miles

You can book many Aeroplan awards directly on their website, though if you’re planning a complicated itinerary with a stopover you’ll have to call.

How to earn Aeroplan miles

Air Canada Aeroplan is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Capital One.

Earn Aeroplan miles

Cathay Pacific business class to Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or India using Alaska miles

Alaska Mileage Plan is one of my all around favorite frequent flyer programs, thanks to their unique partnerships. Among my favorite uses of Alaska miles is for travel on Cathay Pacific.

What makes these redemptions so great is that you’re allowed a free stopover enroute to your final destination, so you can spend a few days in Hong Kong before continuing to your final destination.

Alaska has some really generous routing rules for Cathay Pacific redemptions, as you can redeem:

  • 50,000 miles for a one-way Cathay Pacific business class ticket to Asia
  • 60,000 miles for a one-way Cathay Pacific business class ticket to Australia
  • 62,500 miles for a one-way Cathay Pacific business class ticket to Africa, India, or the Middle East

All of these are spectacular values, and there are no carrier imposed surcharges on any of them.

Read more about redeeming Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific here.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class
Redeem Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class

How to redeem Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific

Alaska’s website doesn’t show Cathay Pacific award availability, so you can search availability through British Airways’ website, and then call Alaska to book. You can reach Mileage Plan at 800.654.5669.

How to earn Alaska miles

Alaska Mileage Plan has excellent co-branded credit cards, and they also often sell miles at a discount.

Earn Alaska miles

Japan Airlines business or first class to Asia using Alaska miles

Much like the great value of redeeming Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines can be a great value using Alaska miles as well.

You can redeem 65,000 miles for a one-way Japan Airlines business class ticket to Southeast Asia, or you can redeem an extra 10,000 miles to fly first class.

Why is this such a good deal? Because many people want to visit both Southeast Asia and Japan on a single trip, and flying from Tokyo to Singapore is a flight of over six hours.

So to be able to visit both on a single award ticket is a spectacular value.

Read more about redeeming Alaska miles on Japan Airlines here.


Redeem Alaska miles for Japan Airlines’ 787 business class

How to redeem Alaska miles on Japan Airlines

Alaska’s website shows Japan Airlines award availability, so you can search and book directly at alaskaair.com.

How to earn Alaska miles

Alaska Mileage Plan has excellent co-branded credit cards, and they also often sell miles at a discount.

Earn Alaska miles

Alaska or American economy to Hawaii using British Airways Avios

British Airways Executive Club has a distance based award chart, and they charge just 13,000 Avios for a one-way economy ticket covering a nonstop flight of 2,001-3,000 miles.

This means that you can redeem just 13,000 Avios for a one-way ticket nonstop from the US West Coast to Hawaii on either American or Alaska. This is potentially a really good deal.

However, do be sure you compare the value of this to a paid ticket (especially when using an Alaska companion ticket). We’ve seen a huge drop in airfare to Hawaii, and as Southwest continues to expand between the West Coast and Hawaii, I’d expect we’ll see even more fare sales.

Redeeming 13,000 Avios is a great deal if a one-way ticket would otherwise cost $300+, but is not a very good deal if the one-way fare would otherwise cost $125.


Redeem British Airways Avios for a flight to Hawaii

How to redeem Avios on American or Alaska

American awards show up directly on British Airways’ website, while Alaska awards don’t. So for Alaska you’ll have to call British Airways to book, after searching availability on either the American or Alaska websites. They can be reached at 800.452.1201.

How to earn British Airways Avios

British Airways Executive Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Earn British Airways Avios

United economy or business class on domestic flights using Turkish miles

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is a zone based award chart, and they have some incredible redemption opportunities. Possibly the best is their redemption rates for travel within the 50 United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

You can redeem just 7,500 miles for any domestic economy ticket, or 12,500 miles for any domestic business class ticket. Turkish’s only US partner is United Airlines, so that’s the airline you’d be flying with.

Redeeming just 12,500 miles for a domestic business class ticket is an outrageously good value.

Read more about redeeming Turkish miles on United here.


Redeem Turkish miles for United first class

How to redeem Turkish miles on United

Search award availability through another program (Aeroplan, United, etc.), and then call Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles to book. They can be reached at 800.874.8875.

How to earn Turkish miles

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is transfer partners with Citi ThankYou.

Best award sweet-spots summary

The above are just nine of what I consider to be the best redemption values out there right now, mostly from a US perspective.

There are lots of other amazing values out there, though the above are among my favorites. There’s never going to be a “one size fits all” list, given that we all live in different places, have different travel preferences, etc.

But hopefully this inspires at least some of you to book one of the above awards.

What other sweet-spot redemptions do you particularly like?

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Comments
  1. For redeeming VS miles on DL to Europe, booking a non-UK RT or multicity seems have to half the surcharges of a one-way from Europe to US.

  2. How long do Chase transfers take to Virgin? One can call Virgin first and put these awards on hold right?

  3. Great article! I would add using Avianca Lifemiles within South and Central America. 8.5k one way to the Galapagos or 10k from N. South America to Central America. Peru to Chile is also a sweet spot!

  4. *cries in OK redemption using Etihad miles*
    yeah but that is a very niche redemption, so I get it if you do not want to include in the list.

  5. This is really helpful. Currently planning a trip to Sri Lanka and didn’t realize you could get there using AA miles on QR as a single award!

  6. For the Alaska Airlines redemption for Cathay Pacific award seats, does anyone know if Alaska can hold the award seats for some time to get the miles situated in the account?

  7. Thanks for the list Lucky!

    I really would want a list of all the super “niche” redemptions too. More stuff like Czech Airlines and the Dakar. What else would come to mind as being super cheap on miles?

  8. Whats the best way to search for Delta saver award availability without a chart? Still Delta website? Expertflyer? Airfrance?

  9. I’ve been trying to figure out the VS to DL redemption for a while. Does VS have access to ALL DL routes? For example, DL flies non-stop ATL-BCN but VS doesn’t have access to awards. Why is that? There are a few other European routes that VS doesn’t have access to and I can’t determine why (or why not).

  10. Last summer I booked the following itinerary for 55,000 lifemiles + 120$ish in fees:

    DSS-BRU-MUC-PEK-TSE.

    Lifemiles allows some crazy routings to be booked. Factor in that I bought those miles for 0.01375c each, and it comes down to about 875$ for over 10,000 miles flown in Business Class. In reality I really just wanted to get to PEK so I skipped the last leg to Astana, but even so, what a steal! (Economy flights on the one way DSS-PEK would’ve been 1200$+ on via ADD).

    Used to also have a too good to be true deal if you flew Europe to Beijing on Air China, and booked the award through to Chita, Russia; forcing it to count as an Europe-Europe redemption. <30k miles for intercontinental business? Alas, CA no longer flys to Siberia 🙁

    Despite what difficulty with Lifemiles, with enough research and Skype credit, I managed to deal with the call center and get these types of itineraries booked!

  11. Alaska has much better sweet spots if you use the stopover option properly. I am not sure if its an error-fare, which has to be kept a secret, or just no-one thought of it as a useful, flyable option. But 12.500miles/segment for 7,5 hours in a 787 bizclass cabin is really a sweet-spot for me.
    I never saw this one ever written on any blogs though.

    Lucky, could you make a list of these super-saver extra niche redemptions, for us?

  12. The same is true for any other lifemiles Southern Africa to North Asia routing. Force it through Europe and PEK/ICN/NRT and then book it on to Astana/Islamabad or somewhere in the Central Asia region. Skipping the last leg on an award ticket is very rarely an issue, as long as you remember to have your bagage checked only until your real destination.

  13. For Royal Air Maroc, are you able to book the award further than where the fly into the US? I’m looking at options for next year to get home from Cairo and have enough MR points to make it work. Can I book the Cairo – Casablanca – Washington – Cincinnati all via Etihad? I tried searching but ran into troubles trying to get further than Washington (adding the Cincinnati segment).

    Trying to make sure this is even possible before calling Etihad to try and figure it out.

  14. @tiffany ATL-BCN is not searchable on the website and I’ve called countless times, assuming I didn’t have an “experienced CSR” to no avail. And when given the example of ATL-LHR to DL metal, but not ATL-BCN on DL metal, no one can explain why you are not even able to search it (let alone book).

  15. You can fly biz with an open jaw to either Europe or South America for 88k ANA miles (Amex transfer partner) which is also a very good deal. It is less flexible because round trip is required and you have to be careful of the fuel surcharges because ANA adds some on, some not. I like to use the new Polaris United (close-in booking fee is not added on by ANA), SAS or the JFK-FRA Singapore route to Europe and United or Avianca to South America. The only downside is that Amex transfers to ANA are not instant but take 24 to 48 hours and they can’t put awards on hold.

  16. @ Rob — Etihad can’t really handle mixing partners like that, given that they have different prices for each partner airline. So you’ll need to book the WAS-CVG separately.

  17. Why pay 90k on Virgin to fly rt ANA business class when you can pay just 75k directly on ANA (also transferable from Amex) to fly rt ANA business class? Yes, it’s their off peak rate but their off peak includes some of the best times to go to Japan (cherry blossoms in April). I get that Virgin sometimes has a transfer bonus, but ANA opens up more seats for its own members.

  18. @Jordan, Lifemiles was playing in really a different league, when it comes to tricked awards. The TSE stuff doesn’t work anymore, nor the all-time best deal ever, when some airports were coded in the wrong continent, such as SAW. But these are gone with the new site.

  19. This is such a great article – lots of ideas to take for additional routes as well. Keep these coming!

  20. @Tiffany – Thanks! Would you foresee any issues with that? I’ve never book an international itinerary on two separate reservations like that. I always get concerned with missing the connection and not being protected, luggage, etc. Any thoughts / concerns?

  21. @Lucky – you should amend the section about Qatar airways to also include Etihad, now that AA has opened up the routing exceptions to Africa via Abu Dhabi.

  22. @Jordon “Skipping the last leg on an award ticket is very rarely an issue, as long as you remember to have your bagage checked only until your real destination.”

    Can we request to have the baggage picked up at any destination rather than the final destination?

  23. while American isn’t a transfer partner with any of the transferrable point currencies, it is with Marriott (as with the rest of the airlines). I’ve transferred from SPG the last two years when American offered a transfer bonus from hotel programs.

  24. Random question, is redeeming 80k Alaska miles + 300 in fees a good deal for TLV-LHR-SEA all in first?

  25. @Peter – I agree. I booked JFK-ICN rt on Asiana metal through ANA for 95,000 + 300 in fees. Cash ticket was $4,700. Not bad. On ANA metal it would have been cheaper but I wanted the direct routing. There are some nice *A redemptions through ANA, and the fees are similar to VS. Only downside is the transfer time from Amex.

  26. @ Roberto — I’d say that’s a fairly good deal. Those are low fuel surcharges for British Airways!

  27. Does anyone ever have concerns of booking a one way on two separate itineraries? For example, CAI-AUH-WAS on one itinerary using Etihad miles for Royal Air Maroc, then another itinerary for the WAS-CVG segment, either paid or miles on any other airline?

    My concerns are about missing the connection (so I would probably build in a lot of time) and checked baggage, is this something that people do regularly (I’ve never done it before so I’m hesitant)?

  28. I can find barely any availability on Delta Suites routes to Asia on the VS site next year (Feb/Mar).

    Found two seats, ATL-NRT and DTW-NRT, both in Feb. Rest of the calendar completely blank… :/

  29. Qantas intra-Australia with Avios is a good deal.

    Also northern Canada with Aeroplan is a good deal. Obviously not everyone’s cup of tea but you can use a small number of points to visit fairly exotic places that are normally very expensive to fly to.

  30. @Rob Just give a little extra time and if possible, stick to the same alliance. Beyond that not much more you can do. Usually I aim for 2-3 hour intl layovers on a single ticket. In a few weeks I’ll be changing tickets to combine flights through Athens so I booked a 4.5 hour layover to be safe.

  31. @HChris – specifically for the S.America that you mentioned, do you have any particular route/planes that you recommend? Some routes have some pretty low quality biz class, right? Although I guess I really just care about lie-flat

  32. @Jose
    In my experience yes. I’ve usually just asked for it to be checked until x segment and then pick it up there

  33. I tired calling Etihad last week to book a ticket on RAM from Washington IAD to Casablanca to Cairo. The agent said that I must buy two separate tickets. Is there a special way to book these multi-city award tickets to avoid having pay double the number of points? Also, is there a maximum number of days that I can stay in Casablanca for to count as a connection? Sorry if the questions are basic ones

  34. United non-US short-haul awards (on their partners, which is a plus, let’s face it) are pretty good – I believe 8,000 for under 800 miles in economy on a Saver basis. Nice to use around a region.

  35. That’s a lot of information. The one critical thing that’s missing is availability. Mentioning Turkish miles to Hawaii is great, but I checked a couple of days ago, and saw zero business class availability for all of next year from ORD to HNL. That’ll cool somebody’s travel award ardor in a hurry. Another example would be to mention that you can only book a single Cathay trans pacific first class seat per flight until a couple of weeks ahead. Mentioning these points would make a lengthy post even longer, but I think it would be well worth it for people to not feel that you’re telling them to do something that can’t be done. JMTC.

  36. In my experience, the Delta and VS availability rarely align. I can find Delta awards to Europe at the 80k saver rates but the VS availability is much more limited.

  37. Roundtrip to Argentina from the us in economy for 37.5k Etihad miles is still pretty killer based on the cash prices.

  38. There is basically zero ANA F award available to Virgin and most of the JAL F that I used to see on Alaska is now gone as well.

  39. @ Christian – I agree with you, United’s domestic savor business award availability seems non-existent, perhaps since most of those seats go to people with status for free upgrades. But then their domestic business class isn’t that great…

  40. I tried yesterday to book economy tickets United using Miles & Smiles points for May 6 from KOA to EWR. The Turkish Airlines guy on the phone said there was no availability for economy that week “on his screen” although the United Airlines clearly shows lots of award availability. So perhaps Turkish Airlines has only limited access to United Awards, or something has changed. perhaps the stories about this deal on this and other travel sites has had an impact.? Any suggestions?

  41. It’s a bit annoying how US oriented some of these articles are. “One way to alaska” – cool, but from where?

  42. Great article but you forgot to mention for American you can also use Bonvoy (formally SPG) points to transfer to American as well as Alaska Airlines.

  43. American Airline told me I have to book a flight on American first unless it’s not offered to a location. I’m planning a trip to Australia and would like to fly on Cathay.

    Also, I planning a trip to Bari, Italy. Iberia is a partner of AA, but I was also told flights have to be booked on AA first. 😮

  44. So delta is on here for 50k to Europe? Meanwhile, Iberia to Europe is 32k and Avois is one of the cheapest currencies to acquire? With clock-work like availability? This really makes me wonder.

  45. I like Alaska Airlines’ intra-Asia awards on Japan Airlines. 25k “oneway” business class gets me on a CGK-NRT/HND-SIN ticket with a 5 day stopover in Tokyo.

  46. @dlld
    Economy off peak from the US to South America is 20k miles but somehow anytime of the way back is 17.5k
    150k miles and I’m flying my whole family of 4 roundtrip. Cheapest revenue tickets I found were 2500$ so saved me almost ten grand.

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