It seems like every week some airline or hotel is making it harder to redeem your points. Whether it is devaluing your points or reducing award space, finding decent award flights around the holidays is easier said than done. Thankfully there is some great American availability this off-season, I am going to illustrate how you can maximize your award flight to Europe.
American Airlines has a great off-peak rate to Europe, just 22,500 points each direction plus applicable fees. The normal rate of 30,000 points one-way to/from Europe is reduced during these date ranges; January 10 – March 14 and November 1 – December 14.
Isn’t it cold in Europe during those dates?
In some countries it would be cold during those dates, yes. Fortunately, one of the sweet spots allows you to fly to the Canary Islands where it is much warmer. In November you are looking at mid 70’s during the day in Tenerife, Spain.
Here are the Canary Islands highlighted in red on a map (just west of Northern Africa):
How much are the fees?
The good news is you pay just $25 in fees on the way there if you fly on AirBerlin. AirBerlin is a OneWorld partner so you can use just 22,500 American Airline points during the off-season for one-way flights. AirBerlin flies from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York JFK during the off-season. All three of those airports are major hubs for American Airlines which means getting there should be rather easy.
When flying AirBerlin you will connect in Dusseldorf or Berlin Germany. From Dusseldorf you can reach MANY countries in Europe, all still included in the 22,500 point fare.
This sample routing shows a flight from Phoenix > Los Angeles > Dusseldorf > Tenerife for 22,500 and $25 one-way, the week of Thanksgiving.
If you don’t live in L.A, Miami, or New York, you can look for availability on a connecting American or Alaskan flight. Being that Alaska Airlines is a partner of American they will allow you to pick up your first leg with them. If you live in Portland or Seattle you would be able to route to Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines and then catch your AirBerlin flight to Dusseldorf. All that for 22,500 + $5 in fees (one-way).
Once you find availability for a SAAver (the cheapest awards) flight to Dusseldorf or Berlin, you can then start playing with destinations that AirBerlin connects to. Remember, as long as you book all on a single itinerary, your SAAver flight should be 22,500 plus fees one-way during the off-season dates.
Here are some of the cities that you can connect to/from Dusseldorf or Berlin via AirBerlin (if there is availability on your preferred date)
Remember, you can transfer Starwood points with a 50% bonus to American Airlines. That means 20,000 Starwood points will yield 30,000 American Airline points for a limited time. The transfer takes about 1 ~ 2 days (only took 26 hours for me).
I would try to avoid British Airways connecting flights when using American Airline points. You will pay hefty fuel surcharge fees in addition to your points anytime one of your legs consist of a British Airways flight.
For return flights you can catch a cheap RyanAir flight from TFS airport (Tenerife South) to Madrid for only $25. From Madrid you can find many American award flights back routing through Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dallas, and New York-JFK. You’ll pay just 22,500 points + $52 in customs/duties fees to return to the US from Madrid or Barcelona, Spain.
22,500 x 2 = 45,000 points round-trip
$25 in fees to Tenerife
$25 RyanAir flight from Tenerife to Madrid
$52 in fees to return to the US from Madrid
45,000 American Airline points plus $102. Not bad for the Canary Islands, huh? Heck, spend a day or two in Madrid or Barcelona before your American Airlines flight back to the US and make it a two-fer.