One of the most frequent questions I get from friends, family, and readers is: “How can I get to Europe during the spring/summer using miles?” I don’t blame them – the weather in Europe is beautiful during those times of the year, and I’m so super excited about my upcoming trip to Nice/Cannes that I bet they can feel it.
Unless you’re willing to shell out the big $$$ for a paid business class ticket, I always recommend the more fun and cheaper alternative – using miles. The good news is that there are currently many cards that are offering higher sign up bonuses, so getting miles is easier.
With the attractive sign-up bonus on the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, a lot of us are currently awash in Ultimate Rewards.
As you already know, I’m a United gal, and I primarily transfer Ultimate Rewards to United miles, so I wanted to share with everyone one of the best ways to get to Europe with United miles.
In February, United split its award chart in two, and it now charges different prices for premium awards on its own flights versus on partner flights.
- United BusinessFirst (flat bed) costs 57,500 United miles each way
- United Global First (flat bed) costs 80,000 United miles each way
- Business Class on a partner airline (not always flat bed) costs 70,000 United miles each way
- First Class on a partner airlines (flat bed) costs 110,000 United miles each way
Because of how much cheaper the awards on United’s own flights are, the best way to book a premium cabin award to Europe with United miles is on a transatlantic route where United opens up a lot of saver award space on its flights.
My number one tip is to search for award space on United’s flights to Brussels from Newark, Chicago, and Washington DC, which tend to have fantastic award space. From Brussels, you can connect all over Europe on Brussels Airlines for no extra miles.
Award Space to Brussels
Currently you can use United miles to book flights through mid-April 2015. Next spring there is fantastic premium award space on all of United’s flights to Brussels.
On the following calendars, green and blue days have award space in a premium cabin on the direct United flight to or from Brussels.
Next Spring, there is award space in a premium cabin between Newark and Brussels 2-5 days a week.
The return picture is even stronger next March, though no award space has been released in April yet.
Next Spring, there is award space in premium cabins every Tuesday through Friday from Washington Dulles to Brussels.
Some days have award space at the Saver level in all three cabins.
The award space picture on the return is equally impressive in premium cabins, including lots of coveted Sunday award space.
Chicago to Brussels has the most award space in premium cabins of all three routes.
The picture is the same for the return.
As expected, award space to Europe in premium cabins is extremely scarce for Summer 2014 at the moment. More award space will likely open up on many routes in the days before a flight’s departure if seats remain unsold. But a route showing any premium cabin award space at the moment for this summer is rare.
United’s flights to Brussels show some premium cabin award space.
There are 11 days this July and August with award space in premium cabins between Chicago and Brussels.
Newark to Brussels has 10 days with award space in Business or First Class.
There are only eight days with premium cabin award space from Washington-Dulles to Brussels, but five of them are on Fridays.
Unfortunately all the returns from Brussels have an award calendar like this one, with practically no space available.
I expect more space to open up in the weeks and days before departure, but if you want to lock in your entire trip now for this summer, you should look elsewhere for the return flight from Europe.
You can mix-and-match on United awards and fly any cabin on the outbound and any cabin on the return for:
- 30,000 miles each way in economy
- 57,500 miles each way in Business
- 80,000 miles each way in First
These are the mileage prices no matter where in America you live and no matter where in Europe you fly to.
Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card would give you a nice stash of Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.
If you also got the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Visa Card and added an authorized user, you’d have another 49,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
With those two combined, you’ll have just about the 115k needed for a roundtrip in Business Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Europe.
In addition to the miles, United will collect government taxes on the award. Government taxes in Belgium are low, so a roundtrip will set you back about $60.
Forget about Newark, Chicago, DC, and Brussels
This post is designed to draw attention to award space on United’s direct routes from Newark, Chicago, and DC to Brussels because it is plentiful and cheaper than flying United’s partners.
But this award space is readily usable even if you don’t live in Newark, Chicago, or DC and don’t want to go to Belgium.
For no extra miles, you can add domestic First Class flights on United to get to the international flight. And for no extra miles, you can add Brussels Airlines Business Class award space from Brussels to the rest of Europe.
Brussels Airlines award space is widely available and searchable on united.com. They fly all over Europe and Africa.
United miles are still a good way to get to Europe, and the sign up bonuses on the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card can be stretched farther in United BusinessFirst and Global First than on United’s partners. If you want to go to Europe this summer or next spring, the United routes brimming with saver availability up front are from Chicago, Newark, and DC to Brussels, with easy connections from there to the rest of Europe.