Award space to Germany is generally pretty good with Lufthansa flying from nearly everywhere in the US to both Frankfurt and Munich. Dusseldorf, on the other hand, is not the most popular location to visit in Europe (though I have heard good things about it), but the airport is a strategic location for miles/points aficionados like ourselves. Air Berlin is an airline that is seldom discussed, but is worth looking into for several reasons.
First of all, Air Berlin serves New York JFK and Miami year round, and Los Angeles on a seasonal route to Dusseldorf (DUS) airport. It also serves JFK and Chicago ORD on routes to Berlin (TXL) year round.
Second of all, Air Berlin is part of the Oneworld alliance, which means you can use American Airlines/US Airways miles and British Airways Avios. Yes, Avios are devaluing in a big way this April, but it will still have uses for Economy passengers.
Award prices from the US to Europe using AA miles is 30K in Economy and 50K in Business one way. That’s a good value, especially for Business Class where Air Berlin has flat-bed seats and is considered a good product to fly. The better news is that there are no fuel surcharges and taxes are generally as cheap as they get for flights. Even better, Air Berlin award space is shown on AA.com, making it easy to search for space quickly.
As the title of this post suggests, award space is plentiful for much of the Summer, especially September and beyond. The Los Angeles – Dusseldorf route isn’t always easy to get, but there’s availability more often than not in September.
You might notice that Oktoberfest starts in September, so this could be a great way to get there. The part that might not be so apparent is the use of Avios on these routes. Avios are generally easy to come by as the co-branded Chase credit card provides 1.25 points per dollar on all spend and British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Amex just finished a 40% transfer bonus as well, so many people have quite a few Avios laying around.
The price from LAX-DUS using Avios is the same 30K that AA charges. If you have the option, I definitely recommend using 30K Avios over 30K AA miles as those AA miles are much more valuable when used on partners like Etihad or Cathay Pacific. Business availability is limited on this route, but is not a good value at 60K Avios one way.
One the other hand, flying JFK-DUS is good value in both Economy and Business Class using Avios. Since British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, this route will cost you only 20K Avios in Economy and 40K in Business Class, which represents a better value all around versus using AA miles. Award space on this route is even better than the LAX route, but still a bit tough to come by in Business Class.
Regardless of which miles you decide to use, you’ll only be paying the $5.60 in taxes for the one way departing the US.
From Dusseldorf, you can connect to any number of cities throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. It’s a useful way to get to Marrakesh specifically, which can be tough to get to using miles. You have even more options if you fly to Berlin.
If you haven’t seen Air Berlin’s Business Class, it’s pretty nice. It’s similar in size and structure to Asiana’s Quadra Smartium Business Class on their 777 and A380s and to ANA’s 787 Business Class.