As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, Chase Ultimate Rewards points (much like American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Chase URs are getting a little more difficult to earn thanks to Chase’s 5/24 Rule, but if you already have the points or are new to the credit card game, they can be quite useful for getting you to Europe!
Chase offers only one personal card that allows for the transfer of Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners – the Sapphire Preferred card. Chase is pretty strict with their approvals for this card, so if you have picked up more than 5 credit cards in the past 24 months, chances are good you will be denied if you apply for this card, so plan accordingly/carefully. Chase also offers the business Ink credit card, which has been offering some great sign up bonuses lately.
Now that you know how to earn the URs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned URs to get you to Europe!
Your URs will transfer to 6 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:
|Airline||Alliance||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Korean Air||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|British Airways||OneWorld||1:1||Same day|
|Singapore Airlines||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|United||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|Virgin Atlantic||N/A||1:1||Same day|
As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).
Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to Europe on your URs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast is going to be higher than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Paris (CDG/ORY).
Korean Air is a SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can redeem your SkyPass miles for travel on Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Delta flights. Korean Air is largely considered to be one of the best bang for your buck redemptions to Europe in general and is the best option among UR transfer partners.
A roundtrip redemption will cost you 50k miles for coach, 80k miles for business class and 100k miles for first class – which is the best option for premium cabin redemptions to Europe. Korean Air does allow for one-way award tickets, however the cost is the same for a one-way award as it is for a roundtrip. You are also allowed one stopover on a one-way award ticket and two stopovers on a roundtrip award ticket, which is truly incredible considering you are already getting one of the best redemption rates to Europe to begin with.
While Korean Air Skypass miles offer one of the best values, it can be difficult to work with Korean Air. If you are planning to use your miles to book an award ticket for another person, that other person has to be a family member (mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, wife, husband or child). You will also need to call in to Korean Air to book your award and the process is somewhat arduous. I would recommend that you call in to make sure space is available and then place a hold on your award ticket(s) before transferring your URs to your Skypass account.
British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to Europe will cost you. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book British Airways, Iberia, Air Belin, Finnair or American Airlines flights to Europe.
From the East Coast of the US (Boston), you can expect a cost of ~17-24.5k Avios (depending on peak or non-peak travel dates) for coach, ~30-44k Avios for premium economy, ~57.75-69k Avios for business and ~75.75-87.75k Avios for first for a one-way redemption. Keep in mind that Boston is your best bet for a departure airport for keeping your award ticket costs low. Other East Coast airports like Philadelphia (PHL), New York (JFK), Charlotte (CLT), Washington (IAD/DCA) and Chicago (ORD) are all going to put you into the next award ticket distance bracket which obviously increases your award ticket cost.
From the West Coast of the US it will be a bit more expensive as you can expect a cost of ~21-20k Avios (depending on peak or non-peak travel dates) for coach, 36.5k-56.5k Avios for premium economy, ~83-99k Avios for business and ~108-128k Avios for first for a one-way redemption.
Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights to Paris, so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination. Also keep in mind that British Airways levies hefty fuel surcharges for flights on their aircraft, so if you can avoid flying their aircraft to London/Manchester, you are much better off.
In light of the costs (both Avios and fuel surcharges), unless you are based out of an East Coast airport where you can find a direct partner flight to your European destination or have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your URs elsewhere for a redemption to Europe – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.
Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Kris Flyer miles for Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Aegean, Brussels Airlines, SAS, LOT, Turkish Airlines and TAP Portugal flights to Europe. In other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
A roundtrip redemption will cost you 55k miles in coach, 130k miles in business and 160k miles in first. Singapore Airlines does allow for one-way award tickets at 27.5k miles in coach, 65k miles in business and 80k miles in first.
Also remember that Singapore flies a fifth freedom route from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA). If that route works for you it will cost you 20k miles in coach, 57.5k miles in business and 67.5k miles in first for a one-way redemption. If you book this flight online, you will receive a 15% discount on the cost, meaning the flight will cost you 17k miles in coach, 48,875 miles in business and 57,375 miles in first. Although you must find your own way to JFK and terminate in Frankfurt for this flight, if it fits your schedule it is an excellent option (plus you get to fly Singapore’s A380!).
If you are looking to fly coach, Singapore is a program worth looking into. If you are looking to fly business or first class, there are better redemptions to be had.
United is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Kris Flyer miles for Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Aegean, Brussels Airlines, SAS, LOT, Turkish Airlines and TAP Portugal flights to Europe. As with Singapore Airlines, that means you are going to have a ton of options!
United uses a two-tier award system for their awards. Economy tickets are the same cost regardless of whether you are on a United flight or a partner flight. A roundtrip saver coach award ticket will cost you 60k miles.
Business and first class award tickets on the other hand will differ in price depending on whether you are flying on a United operated flight or a partner operated flight. For United operated flights, a roundtrip saver business class award ticket will cost you 115k miles and a roundtrip saver first class award ticket will cost you 160k miles. Alternatively, for partner operated flights, a roundtrip saver business class award ticket will cost you 140k miles and a roundtrip saver first class award ticket will cost you 220k miles.
As you can see, the much better value when redeeming for premium cabins is with United operated flights – though the actual product is going to be far less enticing than what some of United’s partners such as Swiss Air offer. Since Singapore Airlines would have access to much of the same award inventory as United, you are better off transferring your URs to them instead and then booking the exact same flights for 5-60k miles less.
Virgin Atlantic also uses a distance based award chart so again your home airport is going to largely dictate your redemption cost. The downside to this program is that the destinations offered are pretty limited (London (LHR), Manchester (MAN), Frankfurt (FRA) and Milan (MXP)) and the taxes and carrier imposed fees are outrageously high.
From New York (JFK) to London (LHR) a roundtrip award ticket will cost you 35k miles + ~$500 in taxes and fees for coach, 55k miles + ~$810 in taxes and fees for premium economy and 80k miles + ~$1,300 (!!) in taxes and fees for upper class (business class).
From Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR) a roundtrip award ticket will cost you 42.5k miles + ~$500 in taxes and fees for coach, 70k miles + ~$810 in taxes and fees for premium economy and 100k miles + ~$1,300 (!!) in taxes and fees for upper class (business class).
Virgin Atlantic does partner with Delta on certain routes where your can redeem your Flying Club miles. Those routes include London (LHR) to Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis (MSP), Philadelphia (PHL) and Salt Lake City (SLC); Edinburgh (EDI) to New York (JFK); and Manchester (MAN) to Atlanta (ATL). These routes will cost you 40k miles for coach and 90k miles for business class roundtrip. If you will be starting your trip from the US on the above mentioned routes, your cost increases to 60k miles for coach and 100k miles for business class roundtrip. It is unclear what the surcharges would be as Virgin Atlantic does not list them for Delta, but they should be less than what Virgin Atlantic charges for redemptions on their own flights.
Although the mileage redemption rates (ignoring the outrageous taxes and fees) are actually not horrible, the astronomical taxes and fees makes Virgin Atlantic the worst UR transfer partner for award tickets to Europe in my opinion. I would strongly recommend you avoid this option at all costs unless you literally have no other option.
Unfortunately Southwest does not currently fly to Europe, nor do they have any partners that fly to Europe. If you have a Chase co-branded Southwest credit card, there is a way around this to use your RapidRewards points for international travel, but the value is usually exceedingly poor and I will not get into how to do so here as it will rarely work out in your favor.
As you can see, the UR transfer partners do not offer a lot of options for finding award availability to Europe, though they do offer some of the less expensive options among MR, UR and TYP transfer partners. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your URs for a trip to Europe!
Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs!
What is your favorite way to redeem URs to get to Europe?
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