Edited to add on April 8, 2014 – this award will now cost 110,000 miles. Better to go for first class for an additional 10,000 miles.
With the days waning of the US Airways award calendar combined with the awesome transfer bonus of 100% in share miles, I wanted to share my recent award booking. I have booked these before but this was the first time it has been for me. 🙂 This award is undoubtedly one of the best premium award values out there and its days are numbered!
90,000 Miles for Business Class to Europe/North Asia
First, let’s look at something amazing – for business class flights with US Airways or United miles to Europe, you will pay 100,000 miles. In the pre-devaluation days of Delta, you will pay 100,000 miles in business class. So, is it really possible to chop 10,000 miles off of that AND fly to North Asia? Believe it or not, yes it is! It is a very interesting sweet spot in the award calendar that certainly should cause those who are booking business class tickets to Europe with US Airway miles to think about adding a stop in North Asia on the way home. 🙂 Really, this is business class, so how uncomfortable can it be to have to fly another 10 hours? 🙂
Here is how this award is technically structured:
- Depart from the US
- Fly to a Star Alliance hub city in Europe – this acts as a stopover even if you make it for months long
- Fly to any city in North Asia (which consists of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) – this acts as your destination even if it is only an hours long stop
- Fly back to the US
The key part in planning this is that your city in Europe as to be a Star Alliance hub city for you to work this award. While this may seem like a big restriction, it is really not bad! There are plenty of hub cities in Europe. In fact, when I was planning my trip, I was assuming that I was going to have to fly in Athens and then buy a cheap flight to get to Thessaloniki. Except I found out that Aegean actually treats Thessaloniki as a hub city so I was able to book it all the way to Thessaloniki!
To demonstrate how easy it actually is to find a hub city in Europe to count as your stopover, check out this list:
- Ljubljana (Slovenia) – Adria Airlines
- Pristina (Kosovo) – Adria Airlines
- Athens (Greece) – Aegean Airlines
- Thessaloniki (Greece) – Aegean Airlines
- Vienna (Austria) – Austrian Airlines
- Helsinki (Finland) – Blue1 (as SAS)
- Brussels (Belgium) – Brussels Airline
- Zagreb (Croatia) – Croatia Airlines
- Warsaw (Poland) – LOT
- Frankfurt (Germany) – Lufthansa
- Munich (Germany) – Lufthansa)
- Copenhagen (Denmark) – SAS
- Oslo (Norway) – SAS
- Denmark (Sweden) – SAS
- Zurich (Switzerland) – Swiss Airlines
- Geneva (Switzerland – Swiss Airlines
- Basel (Switzerland) – Swiss Airlines
- Lisbon (Portugal) – TAP
- Porto (Portugal) – TAP
- Istanbul (Turkey) – Turkish Airlines
- Ankara (Turkey) – Turkish Airlines
If you thought your choices in Europe were limited by having to choose a hub, you can see that is mistaken! Given the amount of low cost airlines in Europe as well as other fine modes of transportation, the likelihood of you being able to reach your actual destination in Europe at a minimal cost is very good! Plus, it allows you to see a different country while you are at it!
The list of North Asian destinations is pretty fair as well. Especially when you consider how cheap the low cost carriers in Asia are! Given that China, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong are on the list, it should be fairly easy for you to reach anyplace else in the area of Asia at a low cost. Or, you simply select one of the North Asian countries as your final destination. There are many fine destinations available to you as well as some other countries (like the stan countries) that you may never have though of visiting before. But, if your real goal is business class to Europe, why not save the extra 10,000 miles and add an exotic stop to North Asia on your trip? 🙂
Booking a 90,000 mile trip in business
Unfortunately, since none of these options are displayed on US Airway’s award calendar, you will need to call in to their service center to book this flight. This can be quick and painless or long and difficult all depending on the representative you get. I was fortunate to get an excellent rep who had my itinerary booked in 18 minutes. It helped that I had already selected my flights before I called in using United’s award calendar (which does a great job of displaying Star Alliance availability). The problem is that many reps do not want you to feed them flights. So, you need to approach it in the right way. I politely told the lady on the phone that I understand this could be a huge headache to book so I put together some flights that looked as if it might work better and would she mind if I just passed those along or would she prefer to search for them on her own? She said she didn’t mind. 🙂
So, before you call the service center, head on over to United and start building your trip leg by leg. For instance, let’s assume you want to fly from my home in Rochester to Copenhagen to Tokyo to Rochester. The first thing we would do is to search on United for a one-way award flight from Rochester to Copenhagen.
Don’t forget to search for a one-way!
Green indicates good availability in classes of travel. In this case, there were many options on the selected dates. Scroll down to see what works best.
Remember, you are not actually selecting any flights – this is just to see what flights are available and are preferable to you for your US Airways ticket. Write down the flights that you find and then move on.
Scroll to the bottom of the flight page and change your search for your flight from your European city to your destination city in North Asia
In my experience, flights from Europe to Asia always demonstrate the largest amount of available options so you should have no trouble selecting your flight to Asia from Europe!
Another nice option – write down this flight information and go back to the bottom to enter the final leg – Asia to US
I prefer longer flights to more “shorter” flights so anything from Asia to Chicago is good!
Put it all together
Now take all the flights you have selected and make your call (800-428-4322 for general members) and get ready for your booking! You will be charged a $50 award processing fee and all of the taxes. But, the taxes are not all that bad (mine were under $100) and definitely cheaper than purchasing a ticket!. You have the option to hold the award for 72 hours after they have made the reservation. I typically do that just to give myself the time in case other options pop up. The ticket is yours – you just have to have it ticketed, so it is not going anywhere.
The above was just a demonstration – remember that you can actually route back through Europe on your return!
A couple of things to remember
Once you start a US Airways award journey, you cannot change the ticket. So, make sure you are happy with the whole trip before you begin. Also, once the merger goes through with AA, you will not be able to change the ticket anymore. You would be able to have the miles refunded (for a fee) but you will not be able to book a Star Alliance award with them. So, again, make sure you are happy with the trip before you ticket it! And finally, if you have trouble with a representative on the phone, do not be rude but kindly say that you will have to think about it. Call back later or at a different shift time and try again. If you give a hassle, they may put it in your notes and each rep will see it. Plus, it’s not nice to be rude. 🙂
Ok, so what did I book? 🙂 Next year, we will be back in the US for some family stuff but I will need to come back to Greece for a few days in the middle of our trip. So, I was just going to book an economy award ticket back here. But, with this sweet spot award about to disappear, I thought I should do it for myself at least once to get the whole experience and not just the booking part! So, for 30,000 miles more (thanks US Airways Share Promo!), I decided to use 90,000 miles for business class to Europe and check out some city in North Asia while I was at it. It works out great – flights from Europe to the US do not leave but in the morning/early afternoon anyway. I would have to leave a day later than I actually could because of morning commitments. BUT, flights to Asia leave Europe in the evening! So, that meant that I would only be staying an extra day than I originally was going to be gone because of the earlier departure! Perfect!
So, I leave from Rochester to Thessaloniki (stopover city – stay a few days) and go from Thessaloniki to Seoul, South Korea (destination city – stay one night). I will be flying United, Lufthansa, Aegean, Asiana, and Air Canada – all in business class! I will also be trying out the Park Hyatt Seoul (15,000 Hyatt points) and will find a few things to do while I am in the city (including a nice run that will take me to the Olympic Stadium).
Best Resource for all things US Airways 90K awards
My favorite resource for this award gem is definitely One Mile at a Time. He has fantastic posts on the subject and really knows the whole thing in and out – even better than the US Airways people! Check out some of these posts for more in-depth information.
This makes a great deal with the current share promo going on. If you are able to transfer 45,000 US Airways miles to another account, it will cost you $513.75 to take a flight like I have mentioned above. Not bad at all – far less than just coach to Europe! If you do not have the 45K miles, ask your family and friends if they will transfer and you can transfer back. It will end up costing a little over $1K, but if it is travel you plan on taking anyway, it is a great way to add some interesting travel to your upcoming trip!