Cheap economy award flights to Europe with transferrable points

Ben Smithson


Summer is peak time for flights across the Atlantic, and prices reflect how many travelers want to visit Europe right now.

Round-trip economy flights for less than $500 are common in the slower winter months. But if you want to walk the cobbled streets of Rome or take in the sunset on a Greek island this summer, you can expect to pay significantly more than this.

While redeeming points and miles for long-haul economy flights isn’t usually a great value — aim for premium cabin redemptions instead — we are in a time of $1,500 economy flights during a “sold-out summer. If taking a stroll past Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower is more important to you than a lie-flat bed, we’ve rounded up the best value economy awards to Europe this summer.

The Big Three U.S. airline loyalty programs have very low fees, low taxes and good availability for economy class flights to Europe this summer. However, their dynamic pricing means you can expect to pay at least 80,000 points or miles round-trip to Europe — not a great deal. Instead, look at these programs with fixed or more reasonable pricing.

The good news is these programs partner with several major transferable credit card points currencies, so you have plenty of options to top off your account.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club


If you’re traveling to the U.K. this summer, consider redeeming Virgin Atlantic points. Ordinarily, you’ll need 40,000 points for a round-trip journey from the East Coast or 50,000 points from West Coast, which is a decent deal.

However, Virgin is currently offering a 30% discount on redemptions in all cabins to and from the U.S. for travel until Sep. 30, provided you book by July 24; it’s reducing the points needed to purchase a flight so that a round-trip journey will cost just 28,000 to 35,000 points. This discount only applies to flights operated by Virgin Atlantic. There is, unfortunately, no discount on the fees, taxes and surcharges.

Virgin imposes fees, taxes and fuel surcharges of just under $500 per person round trip, so compare this against equivalent cash fares. If you can manage to find a cash ticket for less than $800 on the dates you wish to travel, paying cash is probably a better deal.

Award tickets include free seat selection and checked baggage.

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If you’re traveling to destinations in Europe other than the U.K., Virgin Atlantic is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, meaning you can redeem Virgin Points on airlines like Delta, Air France-KLM, Air Europa and AeroMexico. The current 30% discount does not apply to flights operated by SkyTeam partner airlines.

Redemptions on SkyTeam airlines are distance-based with no peak/off-peak pricing. Most destinations to Europe from North America will fall within the following distances (prices are per person, each way and exclude fees, taxes and surcharges):

3,001-4,000 20,500
4,001-5,000 25,500
5,001-6,000 31,000
6,001-7,000 37,000
7,001-12,000 50,000

Air France-KLM Flying Blue


The Flying Blue program prices awards dynamically, meaning they can vary significantly. It’s not uncommon to see 100,000-plus miles for round-trip economy flights to Europe during peak periods.

However, with some flexibility and different city pairings, we have found round-trip flights for as low as 34,000 Flying Blue miles, plus a reasonable $208.75 in fees, taxes and surcharges on Air France and/or KLM. So it’s worth your time to play around with dates and city combinations to see if you can find a good deal.


Also, watch for Flying Blue’s fantastic monthly Promo Rewards, where a limited number of routes can be discounted for a limited only.

Iberia Plus


Dreaming of sunny Spain? Iberia flies from a handful of destinations in the U.S., including Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). You’ll need just 20,000 Iberia Avios each way in economy to Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) from the Midwest and East Coast.

The fees, taxes and surcharges are reasonable at around $100 each way, and these flights include checked baggage.


British Airways Executive Club


If a trip to The Emerald Isle is on your bucket list this summer, you can fly to Ireland via the British Airways Executive Club program. Aer Lingus flies to Dublin Airport (DUB) from several destinations in the U.S. If you focus on the Northeast, like New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (BDL), you can book round-trip economy flights for as little as 40,000 Avios plus about $350 in fees, taxes and surcharges, depending on the departure airport.


You can also combine your Avios across the four airlines that use it as a currency.

Read more: 4 versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Qatar Airways, Iberia and British Airways

Avianca LifeMiles


The quirky Colombian loyalty program has long been an underrated option to book Star Alliance flights on airlines like United, Lufthansa and Air Canada.

While maintaining a zone-based award chart, it’s a complex chart, with the U.S. and Europe divided into three different zones each, resulting in nine different award chart options just for economy. Most of these zone pairs are for 30,000 miles each way (so 60,000 round trip), which is an OK but not excellent deal.

There is, however, one sweet spot: Flying from the northeast U.S. to Northern and some of Western Europe costs just 20,000 miles each way. In Europe, this includes the U.K., Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.


With minimal fees and taxes, this is a great value way to fly to these selected countries in Europe. It is also handy that Star Alliance member Scandinavian Airlines has multiple bases in Northern Europe covered in this zone, opening up more flights and more redemption options.

Related: Small and satisfying: Flying premium economy on Scandinavian Airlines’ new A321LR from Washington to Copenhagen


How to earn transferable points

Earning transferrable credit card points allows you to use your points in various programs when and how it suits you. As major airline programs switch to dynamic pricing with those 100,000-mile prices for economy trips, having flexibility is more valuable than ever.

You can transfer points into the following programs at a 1:1 rate:

If you’re looking for a new card in one (or more) of these programs as you plan future travel, here are some solid options:

For additional options, be sure to check out our best credit cards page.

Bottom line

If you are still hoping to book flights to Europe this summer, your affordable cash options are few and far between right now. Round-trip economy flights above $1,000 are the norm, not the exception.

This means points and miles can be a great way to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. While some programs will now charge you 100,000 miles or more for a round-trip economy flight to Europe, there are some affordable options. If you have transferable points, you should focus on the programs above for the best value redemptions.


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