American’s primary transatlantic partner is British Airways, but American adds fuel surcharges to awards on BA. Fuel surcharges can run $828 roundtrip for a simple New York – London roundtrip, pushing total taxes and fees up close to $1200! (Although there’s a trick to shave some money off this.)
This is especially frustrating because it’s not like you will often find any business class award space to Europe on American’s own flights.
So how do you get to Europe using American Airlines miles? Air Berlin, of course, which doesn’t add fuel surcharges to their paid tickets even which means you can also book these flights with British Airways without paying extortionate fuel surcharges. Finnair via Helsinki but business class award space is quite limited. US Airways, which has a fantastic business class seat and an awful inflight product (and only a handful of routes with much availability). And Iberia.
Iberia award space is cyclical. It’s feast or famine, sometimes I’ll see 7+ award seats and other times nothing. But the beauty of Iberia is that their Madrid hub offers plenty of connectivity beyond Spain with good availability. (Even if I’m willing to pay fuel surcharges on British Airways, once I get to London finding some of the flights beyond the UK can be a challenge — their Italy flights are the bane of my existence.)
Iberia has a New York JFK – Barcelona flight, but otherwise you’re looking at Madrid.
Madrid is, in my view, the best place to go looking for award seats. New York JFK – Madrid, Miami – Madrid, and Chicago – Madrid will often have space. Indeed, it’s not just Iberia, either — American’s Miami – Madrid service is actually one where business class awards do sometimes exist, along with Miami – Barcelona (although you’ll prefer Iberia’s Miami – Madrid new cabin on that route over American’s old business seat).
I picked March as a month at random to search.
Here’s New York JFK – Madrid and Miami – Madrid non-stop for 2 business class award seats during the first 29 days of the month.
Here’s a search for 2 business class award seats during the first 29 days of the month non-stop on Iberia.
It’s not every single day availability from every city, but it’s a destination where award inventory is ‘pretty darned good’ which is something to be said when using American miles for business class awards to Europe.
New York JFK isn’t ideal for domestic connections from many airports, while Chicago can be (although award space West Coast – Chicago may be a challenge but short hop space is good). Miami is another good option that many won’t think of as a connecting point for Europe. Again, it depends on where you’re flying from.
Madrid is a good way to do Europe in business with those American miles and without extortionate fees.
While Iberia includes fuel surcharges on paid tickets, the fuel surcharges that American adds to those award tickets are de mininis — and Iberia itself adds only those de minimis charges when booking the seats through their own program. So you can use this trick to avoid the extortionate fees on Iberia flights when using British Airways points as well.