Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® or 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Aeroplan, a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, has some great award prices for flights from North America to most of Europe in Business and First Class on Star Alliance airlines like United, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Turkish, SAS, and more.
The drag is Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges on many flights that can add up to over $1,000 roundtrip. Exceptions to this rule include United, Brussels, SAS, Swiss, and Turkish Airlines flights, which have no surcharges.
But if you can’t find space on those airlines, you can end up paying only about $200 in fuel surcharges for a flight thanks to quirks in the way they are calculated, so even fancy Lufthansa First Class is affordable.
1+1 is more than 2 for round trip flights
Yes, a roundtrip should have higher surcharges than a one way trip. But they shouldn’t be more than twice the cost of two one way tickets.
Yet that’s the case with carrier surcharges, making a round trip award more expensive than buying two one way awards.
Note: all the screen shots you see here are in Canadian dollars. U.S. dollars get you about a 20% discount to these prices at current exchange rates.
Here’s a roundtrip in First Class from Washington to Frankfurt on Lufthansa with surcharges of $1,087 Canadian dollars
But booking the trip as two one way tickets the cost is $543 + $267 = $810 Canadian dollars in taxes and charges, a $277 savings.
Here’s Washington to Frankfurt for $543 Canadian…
And here’s Frankfurt to Washington for $267 Canadian, making the two one ways cost $277 less than a roundtrip award!
Yes you earn the right to a stopover when you book a round trip award, but $277 is a high price to pay if you ‘re not planning to use one.
Surcharges are lower from Europe
This is the most useful quirk of surcharge pricing and Aeroplan awards.
Surcharges are much lower for flights *from* Europe than they are on the way to Europe.
In the example above Washington to Frankfurt is $543 Canadian dollars in carrier surcharges (about $438 U.S. dollars).
Yet Frankfurt to Washington is just $267 Canadian dollars (about $235 U.S. dollars) in carrier surcharges!
Yes, other taxes and fees are higher when coming from Europe, so you pay a total of $429 Canadian ($343 U.S. dollars) but you have to pay those anyway, even with United, which doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on awards.
Here are the taxes/fees on the same Frankfurt to Washington award booked with United MileagePlus in U.S. Dollars – about $110.
So using Aeroplan to book from Frankfurt would only cost you about $235 U.S. more than using United miles.
Yet using United miles you’d have to pay 70,000 miles for the award rather than just 45,000 with Aeroplan. So your $235 is saving you 25,000 miles, which is a good deal, and like buying miles for less than one cent a piece.
It’s a great deal if you can access flights that are more convenient for you than other options and Star Alliance has lots of award space from Europe to the U.S. all year round.
Or if you want to try Lufthansa First Class – book a trip starting from Europe and you can enjoy it on the cheap. Just remember Lufthansa First Class seats are rarely made available more than 2 weeks out so you need to be really flexible to give it a try.
And this pricing doesn’t just apply to Lufthansa flights.
Air Canada’s own flights also have lower fuel surcharges on one way tickets from Europe.
Here’s an example from Paris to New York using Air Canada with a surcharge of just $249 Canadian ($201 U.S.).
Star Alliance availability in general is pretty good thanks to Lufthansa, even to the West Coast, making Aeroplan a great tool to complete your award trip. You’re going to be paying over $100 in taxes on an award from Europe no matter what miles you use, so paying just about $200 more can be a real value for Business and First Class on the days you want to travel.
How to play this
How to earn Aeroplan miles
Follow @MileCards on Twitter for the latest updates and new offers
Foreign Transaction Fee Waived
Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?
Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.
"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."