I'm working up my MR points for travel to Europe through the 7-day cert and the 120,000 miles. I'm a member of the Sky Miles, AAdvantage, and the Mileage Plus programs but no elevated status in any of them. So my question is which one is the best to have the 120,000 miles applied to? It looks like, when I notionally booked travel, that United and Delta were about the same, 120,000 miles round trip for two tickets and anywhere from $250-$350 in additional taxes/fees. However, AA could be booked for 80,000 miles (2 round-trip tickets) with less than $150 in taxes/fees.
Obviously everyone has their favorites but what are some of your recent experiences in travel? Which airline would you choose for international travel and why?
Thanks in advance for the suggestions and recommendations.
I fly AA almost exclusively, ExcPlat with several million miles....so I might be a little jaded towards AA. The reason however I fly AA is that their program seems to have the best value for redeeming points. If you plan it correctly you can fly economy to Europe for 40k points round trip. You can mix and match as well, one way 50k miles business class (nice for outbound overnights) and then tack on the 20k, return in coach. With no status you would have to pay for the economy plus upgrade in coach but totally worth it for that long a flight. Remember coming back to the US takes longer.
I have mixed it up a bit though, BA, Delta and Virgin have some nice options as well but depends on your routes. Delta has the higher use of points as I recall as well, not sure if you can xfer into Virgin points. BA is basically AA, so you can choose to fly on BA flights through the AA site list of available flights. If in coach the 747s have some decent seats in normal coach that have good leg room.
The other big factor is timing. Both in when you go and how early you can book your ticket. Earlier the better.
Thanks for the reply. I've flown to Dubai a few times (coach) on Delta and United (or their equivalent) but I wasn't footing the bill. I have about 50,000 miles with Delta but their fees for international travel seem outrageous! I fly domestically often enough but it's dictated by price so I usually go with Southwest...not very helpful in this instance.
It looks like the 120,000 will get my wife and I over and back with any carrier, so I guess it's really the fees that I'm trying to avoid. Would rather spend the extra money while on the ground (belated honeymoon) and not on associated airline fees.
That was a great answer, Zuk. You made some good points and touched on all of the pertinent elements to consider when utilizing award travel to the EU. I'll be flying AA to Europe on an award ticket soon, and am curious to assess my flight experience to see how they stack up against their European competitors, not having flown AA across the pond for about 10 years now.
When paying cash for Europe tickets (and no FF status), I have preferred the foreign carriers, in particular Lufthansa and Air France over the U.S. carriers for slightly better service. I am also partial to the A380 aircraft (it's airframe and cabin design), which is a member of the LH and AF fleets, though they are only used on certain routes, so depends where you're flying from.
Honestly when I fly AA I going to Europe from the east coast I only look for business class. The seats they have on the 777-300 (77W) are better than most other carriers first class seats. I'm flying back from LHR this week on BA in seat 1K, first class, very front of the bus so I'll report back if there's any difference with them but from the pix I suspect not.
AA's business class product is pretty top rate. Fully lie flat seating, with ample length and good width. Overhead spaces are generally "named" to the seat and the entertainment bits are great. They also give you fast track passes for the UK boarder lines, which is awesome.
here's what they look like, I have flown so far this year 8 legs in these seats and they are really pretty nice.
If I was looking for a way to slice it up, I'd see if you could convert a few extra miles from Delta across to MR/AA ones and fly outbound business @ 50k/seat then return in coach (day time flight) for 20k/seat.
Nothing says you have to fly round trip with one carrier. See what makes sense for your trip. If you can nail down 2 bus class seats on AA for 100k and get back on Delta for 50k in coach, see if the fees line up. Probably take about 10mins online to get the answer but could wind up with a pretty good deal
Thanks for the advice zukracer.
These fees are so strange. I can book a round-trip ticket (Delta) at 120,000 mi plus $212 (U.S) for two people, however, one-way return ticket on Delta is 60,000 mi plus 450 (Euro) for two people ? Looks like I'm going to have to get really creative.
Appreciate the AA 77W business class info. That's what I'll be flying (on 100K miles from a Marriott travel package) next month (from the left coast). I'm looking forward to the experience and am greatly encouraged by your report.
8 legs and only February... that's a lot of flying, Mister.
You'll enjoy those seats. The window seats have a little more space, 2 air vents for your seat and full sized overhead bins. You'll also have ready access to the in flight buffet at the mid galley and even better, you'll be among the first off the plane, as they block rows 5 back until first class has deplaned. They of course cannot do that until rows 3 and 4 are outta the way
My suggestion, drink plenty of water, get up and do whatever you need (potty, drink, etc) just after the serve breakfast, then you wont have to stop on your journey to customs....and probably will beat the other 300 people to the queue LOL. If you are landing at LHR and exiting customs there, you'll have access to the arrivals lounge, with a full english breakfast and the full private bath. The showers there are pretty outstanding after the long flight
Oh yeah one other thing. They will have Bose noise cancelling headphones for you at each seat. They are the over ear style and use a 3 prong plug inside the little cabinet at your seat. If you have your own headphones you'd rather use, just ask the FA's for the adapter from their headphone kits, otherwise you'll have mono sound in yours.
Have a great trip and remember it didnt happen if you don't have pics
A year later, I'm happy to report that I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding AA's 77W business class product. Extremely nice, all that you described... Very roomy, very comfortable, very private and good service too. I did fly their 788 in business last year from ORD to DFW as well. Exact same business product. Was equally impressed, and now all that I aspire to, whenever possible, from west coast to Europe. Have to fly through LHR, but worth it for the nice ride. (Until/unless AA adds more 77W routes - would be so nice if they would show CA some love by offering a non-stop to CDG on a 77W or a 788/9. Maybe someday)
I will fly the 77W across on AA again next month.
Pluto, unless you just want to use the extra points, if flying AA I'd seriously consider the business class. I've had the option to fly first a few times, honestly on AA I've never really seen the value for the 6-8hr flight. Depending on your length of the flight, could be as they have lumbar adjustments and a bit more room up in first, though its nothing like the 380s.
By all means do yourself a favor and find a route where your longest leg is on the 777-300 (77W on AA.com) OR if you are able the new 787. The 767s and 777-200 (777 on AA.com) just aren't the same. So much so I fly RDU - JFK - LHR instead of direct RDU - LHR (767). The difference is well pretty night and day.
And do expect a bit of a price increase in fees if you return from the UK. I've not seen the same issue from the EU FWIW.
I only fly to Europe once/year (twice/year when my kids lived in Germany for 4 years) from CA. No FF status, so no miles or upgrades, only cash tickets, ergo, always economy seats, though it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'll be spending for upgraded economy from here on out. That's why I prefer the A380's (and sorry to say, but the service in general is better on AF and LH). The upcoming 77W flight will just be a rare and special treat (I had to do a number of shenanigans to acquire the 200K miles necessary to purchase the 2 RT business tickets). I envy business travelers who have piles of miles for B/F upgrades on leisure travel, but that's a lot of flying. Well, you've earned it then.
Not being a fan of United, the only time I'll likely see the inside of a 787 anytime soon is the next time I visit Seattle and Boeing's Museum of Flight.
Be sure to utilize seat guru (www.seatguru.com) to help you select the better seats in the economy cabin. Book as early as you can (like even 9-10 months in advance) for the best seats and the best award deals. Travel during the shoulder season too, if possible.
If you are using points, American seems to the best in terms of seat availability and the best part is that you can book on either American or their oneworld partners (like British Airways). You can also do the same on United and their StarAlliance partners.
If you are not booking through points, look into some 5th freedom flights or other carriers. There are many Middle Eastern and Asian carriers that fly from New York to Europe (Kuwait and Emirates are two examples) and their are usually relatively inexpensive
Now they also have Wow Air and IcelandAir from Iceland and FlyNorwegian. Also, sometimes Finnair has some really inexpensive fares from Chicago to Europe
To be honest, I have no favorite airline, anymore. Picking an airline is like voting and I'm usually picking the least objectionable among some unsavory choices. The food is consistently poor and the service is mediocre on a good day.
The answer is going to vary, depending upon destination and frequency of air travel. For business travelers with lots of miles accumulated the choice is different than for someone like me who makes several road trips each year and makes only about one or two airline trips each year.
We have elite status with United through our Marriott Platinum and that makes United the best choice for us. Beyond that, the choice is always dismal. We fly economy plus and hope for upgrades, which come almost half the time.
Since I live close to Atlanta, I only fly Delta to Europe, mostly direct to Toronto, Montreal, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome; via JFK to Venice and others, as Atlanta is "gateway" to these cities.
Therefore, I would suggest whichever "gateway" is closer to where you live might dictate airline you choose to avoid multiple stops, which I'd prefer rather than multiple stops at lower fares.
You may want to also consider two one-way tickets as if you go with AA miles there may be some OneWorld partner options that will allow you to maximize miles on the inbound and outbound flights. Same would apply for Delta and Skyteam partner airlines as well as United and Star Alliance. Some airlines also allow stopovers.
Things to consider in addition to what other Insiders have offered:
Keep us informed of your options as there are a great number of folks here with excellent travel experiences and suggestions.
Wow, thanks a lot for the helpful advice. I wouldn't have thought about the amount of cabin pressure on a trip.
Funny that you mentioned MUC because the more and more I've been looking at various locations in Europe, the more Munich is standing out to me. The beer gardens; day trips to Nuremburg, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Neuschwanstein castle...possibly Prague if we want to really push it. Because we'll be limited to the one hotel (7 night cert) it seems like a great launching point for several of these day trips as well as being able to explore Munich at our own leisure.
This will be the first trip my wife and I have taken together, and neither of us have been anywhere in Europe so I'm excited by the opportunity.
Thank you again for the helpful advice.
The cabin pressure as well as the 15% humidity in the air system makes even more of a difference, normal cabin humidity is around 4-5%.
MUC is great, or flights back home left mid morning so we stayed at the Kempinski Hotel right in the terminal building. An excellent hotel and about a two minute walk to the ticketing and check-in area for UA who we flew. The terminal has a train station which will allow you to be in downtown MUC in about 40 minutes.
As for making connections, we came in on a flight that was almost two hours late which gave us less than 30 minutes to make the connection. Thankfully we came in on UA and were leaving on LH, but even with UA plane parking on the ramp and getting a bus to the terminal we made it through Immigration at MUC and were sitting on the LH flight with enough time to have a drink before they closed the door on time. Amazing airport!!
It all depends on where you're flying to and from. I think this list is up to date (looks to be)...
If paying cash check out Icelandair. They fly 757s (adding a couple 767s soon) and everything goes thru Iceland. The connections are short but they have things down to a science so you still have time to kill without rushing. Service is great. Their Saga class (similar to domestic first) is a good bargain. Also, when connection thru Iceland you go thru Passport control there as they are not part of the EU but are part of the Schengen zone. Painless passport control.
Having been lucky enough to fly to Europe over 100 times, this was a favorite! A 747 Air France trip! 1st Class, Bulkhead, memorable.
That closet right in front of us saved us from having to use the overhead, what a treat!
Dining was exceptional as well!
Nothing like having The Marriott arrange to pick you up at CDG and whisk you directly to the hotel. This spoils you, but it's sure worth it!
Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but you get 132,000 miles if you redeem MR points with United, a little more than with the other carriers. Also, watch for bonus offers. I recently redeemed MR points for a vacation package including United miles, and United had a promo going where I got an extra 25,000 points in addition to the 132,000 you'd ordinarily get, plus an extra 501 miles for some other thing United had going on at the time.
I haven't actually flown United on any international routes, though, at least not yet. DL, AA, and BA for those, so far.
I'm not sure how easy it is, as I've never tried myself, but you can also use United miles to book award travel on Star Alliance partners as well (such as my favorite carrier so far, Lufthansa). So the increased miles from the United ratio doesn't necessarily have to be used to book with United. There may be limitations to doing it that way, just wanted to put it out there. Would be great to hear if anyone has been successful doing this, as I'd love to redeem United miles on Lufthansa next time I'm heading to Europe.
Our last trip to Europe we used UA miles with a connection in Toronto then on to Milan on Air Canada in Business Class it was like 140,000/person round trip. About six weeks out I was tinkering around and found Business Class from Houston to Frankfurt on Lufthansa then to Milan and returning from Bologna to Munich on Lufthansa then Munich to Houston on UA non-stop which reduced the mileage used down to 100,000 miles.
There are deals out there, just have to search a bit.
That's not bad, I could handle 100,000/person r/t in Business. Definitely can't do Economy to Europe! Assuming it was a recent trip, how would you compare Lufthansa vs United? I haven't flown United internationally yet, but Lufthansa Business is by far the best I've personally experienced so far.
Having flown Continental to Europe quite a few times and now being United, we've been lucky to have former Continental planes and crews (nothing against United crews as they are very good from what I've seen domestically), but have not been on a former United International plane other than a modernized updated B763 to San Francisco last year. It has the same lie flat seats and Business Class arrangements the Continental planes have and it was a great short flight, but would have been just as good for a long overseas flight that we'd gotten used to from Continental.
In comparing Lufthansa to United International flights I'd say similar. The Lufthansa service was very good as has been the United in our last two International long haul trips, yet again on Continental plane and with crew and would expect nothing different with service from a former United crew. The only thing I would pay attention to on selecting of a flight on United would be to make sure you have a two class layout and no rear facing seats (unless you like that). Some of the old United metal has some of those configurations, otherwise you should enjoy the United Business Class food and service (to include prescribed med) right jerrycoin?
I can compare LH to UA to Europe in economy and LH wins HANDS DOWN (caps for emphasis, not meant to yell.) LH upgraded me to business from AUH and I didn't even have status, just flew them regularly twice/year. Will fly LH to Europe on a B747-8i and back on a UA B788 in Sept. Will provide a flight analysis then.
I have not flown United to Europe, but have flown others (US Air and Air France are the others I can recall, maybe one or two others) but agree for Economy LH wins in my experience as well, even being the main one that I've flown so plenty of opportunity to disappoint. It's the main reason I switched to United once USAir went to AA and oneworld; I wanted to ensure my mileage on Star Alliance when in Europe on business would continue to bank somewhere useful. It never made sense to me to join LH's program as some of my colleagues have, as it's far harder to use any miles for leisure travel in the US.
What I've found over time is that the foreign carriers (primarily AF and LH) do provide in flight service that surpasses that of the domestic carriers, at least in comparing past 747 travel (all planes being equal) from NA to Europe. Further to that, I've also found that (for me) the aircraft makes a difference as well. For economy travel, I find the A388 economy cabin to be much more comfortable than other aircrafts that I've sampled on long hauls, save perhaps AA's 77W. Since there are no domestic carriers with A388's, it's easy to then say that AF and LH are better, simply due to their aircraft, but I also have found their in-flight service to measure above that of the U.S. legacy airlines in general (on any aircraft). As I mentioned above, I will be trying a couple of new (to me) aircrafts later this year. I have a feeling that I'll be Ga Ga over the 747-8i, which only LH flies. I do hope that I will be impressed with UA's cabin and service on their Dreamliner. We'll see.
At the end of the day (at least presently), When I fly to Germany, I prefer LH (Star) for the A388 in economy, good in-flight service, and direct non-stop from left coast to Germany. When I fly to France, I prefer AF (SkyTeam) for the exact same reasons (LH doesn't do non-stops to Paris; AF likewise doesn't do non-stops to FRA - from the left coast, you see the problem.) I would love to stick with one carrier, but alas, AA (One World), my domestic carrier of choice, won't take me to Paris on a non-stop, and then there is the issue of my pickiness regarding airframes. I won't touch a 777-200 or any of their 757's or 767's, or an A320. Or the A330 or old B747's for that matter. The new planes have been spoiling. A lot depends on what planes fly where. If you're lucky enough to live near a hub with the good planes that fly where you want to go, you're lucky enough!
I'll be doing one of BA's A388's next month (yes, I have to fly through LHR to get to Paris), and only because they partner with AA, and then will fly one of AA's B77W's home. It's an economy thing. If B/F, this would be a different conversation.
I try to stick with mileage partners too, naturally, but sometimes mileage isn't everything.
I don't fly nearly enough to have any preferences for particular airframes, but hope to change that in the near future. I emphasize mileage programs because I earn most of my miles the "wrong" way, maximizing the non-flight options rather than actual flying. In about 3 years I've racked up nearly 200,000 non-flight miles on MileagePlus, so it's valuable to me to be loyal to the program.
I'm on the right coast, so we have a bit more flexibility for options to Europe. I'm also about halfway between PHL and EWR (maybe 10-15 minutes closer to PHL), so can go either way. I think LH still flies more out of PHL than EWR, but I haven't flown international since shortly after the USAir-AA merger so I'm not sure what's changed there. Hope to be flying into MUC in the next couple years for a vacation, so I'll be sure to check my options and airframes when planning that trip. Hopefully LH will add some routes into MUC on a 747-8i by then, as I only see them into FRA at the moment.