What are the Very Best Value Mileage Awards?

By reader request, here’s my take on the very best airline mileage award values. I’ll offer my top five.

New York-JFK – London Heathrow roundtrip in Virgin Upper Class for 63,000 ANA points. What’s more, they don’t hit you with the extortionate fuel surcharges that Virgin does with their own program when you redeem the same flights. (Theirs is a distance-based chart, from other nearby East Coast cities the roundtrip award is 68,000 points). The award would cost the same on other Star carriers as well.

East Coast of the US to Europe in business class, 4 stopovers in addition to destination, for 80,000 Asiana points using Star Alliance partners. Even better if you earn those miles for $40,000 in spend on the Bank of America-issued Asiana American Express. The Asiana chart is distance-based, the total mileage of the award needs to be kept under 10,000 at this price.

Air Canada Aeroplan 120,000 miles for first class from North America to South Asia (as far as Singapore — Malaysia and Indonesia bump the price significantly) using their Star Alliance partners. The real value here is the ability to route via the Atlantic or the Pacific or one ocean in each direction, as well as to have two stopovers in addition to the destination. And arguably even better:, it’s just 140,000 miles from the US to Australia and you can route via Asia (with stopover) so add those Bangkok – Sydney – Bangkok first class flights on Thai for an incremental 10,000 miles each way!

Alaska Airlines’ North America to Africa in first class for 140,000 miles via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Same mileage as US to Asia only.

US to Israel for 80,000 miles in business class on Turkish via Turkish Miles & Smiles. The trick here is that Israel is in their ‘Near East’ zone rather than Middle East..

Surely there are other outstanding awards out there that I’m missing in my top five, that are better than the ones I’ve listed, what are they?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very cool.

    Any suggestions (from anyone, not just Gary) on the top 5 *coach* awards?

  2. This is great stuff Gleff. I wish more FF articles and blogs would discuss the best values in award redemptions. I know it is not your manner of flying, but it would be nice if you could write a similar article discussing some of the best value awards for economy flights as well.


  3. The AA oneworld multiple partner award is great. Was able to get 3 trips in J (mco-eze-scl-ipc-Mia) Mia-ist-Mia and mco-Lon-mco. Lots of mileage bAsed opportunities but complex to book

  4. Thanks. This is very helpful. Now I just have to figure out the strategy of transferring miles to these programs, if possible.

  5. Gleff,

    This kind of info is useful, and hope it becomes an occasional feature. Though, I must agree with Frank, above. While it is obvious that you and some of your peers place a greater value on higher end travel, many of us are equally satisfied in coach on flights and in more modest lodgings. To each his own. Yet, an analysis of best value coach mileage awards would be appreciated too.

    In this vein, I know that Delta Skymiles gets slammed frequently concerning members’ ability – or lack thereof – to book award travel. Yet, is this criticism based on business class and first class travel? Over the years, I’ve had considerable success booking award travel in coach and have occasionally found a reservations agent that was extraordinarily helpful in making it happen with optimal Delta and partners’ flights.

  6. I love your suggestion about 1st class to Australia with a stop in Asia for only 140k miles on Air Canada! Do you know if Continental, United or US Airways will also let you make a free stopover in Asia on an award ticket to Australia?

  7. Thanks, What do you consider the Very Best Value Awards , using USAirways Dividend Miles?

  8. For me 140K LH M&M miles for TLV-FRA-SFO//LAX-FRA-TLV in Lufthansa/Swiss 1st class…

  9. These are great! I just booked an award that I think was a great value.

    I did San Francisco to Easter Island with a stopover in Lima on the way there and Santiago on the way back on LAN for 80,000 British Airways miles in Business (Premium Business from SFO-LIM). The same itinerary is 40,000 BA miles for coach. This is particularly good because BA counts Easter Island as South America and charges 20K (coach) & 40K (business) to all of South America. These levels are not as good for norther South America but good for further south destinations that American for example requires 30K & 50K.

  10. TATL in Y:

    VS NYC-LON 29.5k.
    NH NYC-LON 38k.
    VS MCO-LGW 35k.

    Taxes, fees and fuel charges will be higher than US programs.

  11. The Turkish option sound great but I don’t see a way to transfer miles to them. I don’t see them listed as a transfer partner on either Starwood AMEX or AMEX Membership Rewards.

    Am I missing something? Any other way to get Turkish miles?

  12. I think that the best award out there is Tel Aviv to Bangkok/Hong Kong/Beijing in Business Class on El Al for only 60,000 AA Miles Round-Trip. Tel Aviv-Bombay is even less at 50,000 AA Miles.

  13. What, no mention of BMI awards at all?! 37,500 in J US-much of Western Europe, for example, albeit with a small co-pay? And their amazing Asia – Europe Zone 2 awards?

  14. These types of discussions are the best ones. But i think most of your reader probably fly in Coach most the time.

  15. As for all the comments about flying in coach vs. biz/1st…

    I purchase only in coach, but redeem primarily in business international… I’m hoping to start redeeming in first international too! You DO have folks who benefit from your premium travel focus! We’re fans! Keep doing what you do!!!

  16. I love reading about premium focus too,…. But I usually fly coach 3x to every 1x I fly Biz/, and have only flown F twice in my life. When i read Gary’s great stuff like this post, i usually have to dig up all the same individual award charts for every program and see how they rank up for an economy flight.

  17. AZ Millemiglia (most often vie AMEX Membership Rewards):
    US-Israel, 50K in Y, 80K in J, as they differentiate between “Near East” and “Middle East”

    Skyteam partners and out-of-the-way stopovers allowed (I.e. BOS-FCO-TLV(dest)-FCO-AMS(stop)-CDG-BOS)

    Some other “near east” destinations include: Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

  18. Star Alliance carriers all have different zone definitions and requirements which leads to some interesting redemption opportunities. I nice one I did recently was SIN-MLE for 30k RT in biz via US Air’s table. All other carriers have this trip at least twice that many miles but US puts Maldives in same region.

  19. Steve S,
    I just booked Turkish First Class JFK-IST-CAI-SSH
    by transferring 145,000 AMEX points into Continental.

  20. Further to all the questions about coach awards: can anybody recommend blogs that provide similar sorts of tips, news and advice to View From the Wing, but from a budget/low-end point of view? “View From the Landing Gear”, as it were.

  21. Anon256, I have asked the question a couple of times over the months. Gary seems to like the front of the plane and the white linen restaurants. There is definitely a market for us too, though. Shall we start a blog? 🙂

    Nahhh…too much work. Look up a couple of posts and see TMtravelworld, which is the closest thing I could find.

    If you find another, please post.

  22. ive been looking on the ana search for availability on jfk lhr on the va upper class ticket, but it always comes up as “rq” can anyone tell me what that means?

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