Prior to this morning, I had always thought the cheapest way to fly to Europe from the New York area was to fly JFK-DUB utilizing British Airways’ Avios (but flying on Aer Lingus metal), which costs 20,000 Avios + about $75 in taxes. This option is still a great deal, especially if you have Membership Rewards points to spare during a transfer bonus like the 35% bonus on transfers to Avios that’s sadly ending today (with the 35% transfer bonus, 15K Membership Rewards points = 20,250 Avios).
However, MileCollector, just sent me a message informing me of what I now believe to be the cheapest way to get to Europe from New York.
How cheap? 13,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (which can be transferred 1:1 from your Chase Ultimate Rewards Account) + $98 in taxes for New York to London via Virgin Atlantic. The fare is valid from both Newark and New York-JFK, however, there seems to be more award space available out of JFK.
For comparison purposes, the same award would cost:
- United – 30,000 miles + $5
- American – 30,000 miles + $2.50 (or 20,000 miles + $2.5 during off-peak times)
- British Airways – 20,000 Avios + $253(!)
As you can see, 13,000 miles + $98 is by far the best option – and there appears to be incredible award availability! Yes, even for this summer!
How to Search for Virgin Atlantic Award Space
- Login to your Flying Club account. Not a member yet? Join here.
- From the main screen, search for a One Way flight between NYC and LON. Select that you would like to pay for your ticket by ‘spending your miles’. Then, click ‘Book my flight’.
- If there are flights available on your selected date, the flight options will appear. The example below shows what you’ll see if you’re searching for a flight on July 4th.
If there is not a flight available on your selected date, a calendar will appear and you will be able to select any dates which have flights available. Using a sample search of NYC-LON on July 1st, the following result appeared, which shows that there is award availability on 26 out of the 31 days in the month.
I tried selecting five days at random from those shown above, and all the flights priced out for 13,000 miles + $97.50 in taxes and fees.
Unfortunately, there is no great way to get back to New York from London due to those pesky UK taxes. The following are the return prices (i.e. LHR-JFK) in both miles and dollars).
- Virgin Atlantic – 13,000 miles + about $277
- United – 30,000 miles + $181
- American Airlines – 30,000 miles + $181 (or 20,000 miles + $181 during off-peak times)
- British Airways – 20,000 Avios + $361
However, if you fly out of a different country, the tax goes down dramatically. For example, for Paris to New York, the taxes are only $86 on the United Award. Think about using Avios for short-hops around Europe, as awards under 650 miles are only 4,500 Avios each way.
Getting Ultimate Rewards Points:
As stated above, Virgin Atlantic is a new Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, and points transfer 1:1. If you have one (or more) of the following credit cards, you’re in luck. If not, below are the best public sign-up bonuses.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 in 3 months, enough for 3 one-way New York to London flights
- Chase Ink Plus Business 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months, enough for 4 one-way New York to London flights after completing your minmum spend.
- Chase Ink Bold Business 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months, enough for 4 one-way New York to London flights after completing your minmum spend.
Got those cards but need a boost? Consider adding the Chase Freedom Visa to your wallet, which will give you an additional 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $500 in 3 months (combine this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred to transfer points between accounts. Or consider using the Freedom card in conjunction with your Ink by linking your personal cards to your Chase business login. With the Chase Freedom Visa, you can also get an additional 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points a month by enrolling and participating in the 5x quarterly bonus promotions.
I’m so glad MileCollector reached out to me with this information. It’s always been super impossible to find an abundance of summer award availability to Europe. Now I’m off to plan a trip to London (And Rome.)… – Stay tuned.