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A spot check of Summer 2016 Business Class awards to Europe

by on Tue August 4, 2015 • 8 Comments


As of this week you can book flights on dates including all of June 2016 and more with your miles.

This summer is one of the hardest yet for using miles to get Business Class seats to Europe and with all the fears about Delta’s SkyMiles changes, which can affect flights from June 1st onward, we were curious how basic Saver award availability would stack up for next summer.

Picking New York as a starting point, since 1) it has more traffic than any other U.S. city to Europe, and 2) it’s a hub for all 3 of the remaining big U.S. airlines, we did a spot check of award availability for 2 people both with and without partner options.

The number don’t look great for any of the airlines, but there are differences:

  • Putting in an effort: American AAdvantage has the most days with an option on its own flights, which are surcharge free. When you add in partners every day has an option, but that almost always means paying surcharges so the 100% total is a little misleading.
  • Playing Scrooge: United MileagePlus has few Saver seats on its own flights, and less than 20% of days have an option when partners are included.
  • Jekyll and Hyde: Delta SkyMiles partners have lots of availability. Its own flights have almost none, but that’s not new.


We also looked at what they charged on days no Saver awards were available:

  • The most Delta is charging for trips *starting* in the U.S. is 147,500 miles one way, which isn’t a newly established high price. It’s the same lousy peak flight price we’ve seen for a while.
  • United charges more than Delta. The non-Saver United award is 150,000 miles one way, which is (and has been for over a year) higher than Delta’s highest observed price.
  • AAdvantage is the best on peak days. We couldn’t find a day where you’d be forced to pay more than 110,000 miles one way if you were willing to take any flight option that day. That’s a terrible price, but compare it to 147,000 and 150,000 with Delta and United and it feels more reasonable. But still painfully expensive.

What should you do?

  • SkyMiles are still incredibly useful to get to Europe if you have the miles now or can earn them quickly to start making bookings now. Whether that will remain the case in a few months is a question we’ll only know the answer to after it’s too late.
  • United is aggressively holding back seats, though that’s nothing new. As Lufthansa releases more awards into the system, and United flexes its inventory, you should see more pop up, but with no regularity. So the strategy with United is to keep checking early and often.
  • And if you have American miles lock in space now. American appears to be getting more comfortable making seats available far in advance, which wasn’t as prevalent this time last summer, so grab them while you can. You can change dates for free up to 21 days before your flight.
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8 thoughts on A spot check of Summer 2016 Business Class awards to Europe

  1. Dan

    Do you know why
    “This summer is one of the hardest yet for using miles to get Business Class seats to Europe” ?

    I’m guessing it’s because of all the firesale Business class deals during the summer, but I was wondering if there’s some other reason.

  2. Dan

    You mentioned
    “This summer is one of the hardest yet for using miles to get Business Class seats to Europe,”
    and do you know why this is happening?
    It’s absurd to see how few business classes have been available during this summer.
    I’m guessing it’s because of those firesale Business class deals, but I was wondering if you knew other reason


      @Dan – That is one reason – they are finding cash at low prices more attractive. Another is there are fewer seats for sale, for a couple of reasons. First, airlines have cut capacity to Europe due to the softer economy there, and second the number of business class seats per flight is lower as the cabins are retrofitted with full lie flat seats, which result in fewer seats per cabin.

      Finally, the economy in the US is good and exchange rate favorable, so there’s more demand from the US to head to Europe. Add on to that more people trying to use miles and you get what’s taken place this year.

  3. Robert Hanson

    I thought you could change the dates for an AA award for free at any time, as long as the origin and destination remain the same. This post says up to 21 days. Has the AA policy changed?


      @Robert- There is no ‘date change’ fee any time. But if you change your date in the 21 day window your change will subject you to the $75 ‘expedited processing’ fee. Which is really just a $75 change fee.


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