I recently found myself with a couple weeks free to take a trip somewhere. I decided to go to Europe since it had been a while since I’d spent some time on the continent (not to mention the US Dollar is currently pretty strong compared to the Euro, so it seemed like a great time to go). That’s one thing I love about airline miles – even though I was planning a trip within a week of departure, I could try to find something that would work even during peak travel time. I ended up going to Barcelona, Madrid, Porto, and Lisbon.
Since I live on the east coast now, I was okay with flying coach across the Atlantic since it’s such a short flight, so long as I’d be able to use my status for things like lounge access or preferred/extra legroom seats. However, I found decent availability on AirBerlin’s New York-Dusseldorf flight in business class. AirBerlin is a member of oneworld and does not charge fuel surcharges, so it’s great for those with American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios.
One of the great things about AirBerlin is that you can search availability directly on the AA.com website, and they tend to have good availability relatively close-in. Below is a selection of flights from North America to Europe on AirBerlin:
I decided on Barcelona as my first destination, and booked Pittsburgh – New York JFK – Dusseldorf – Barcelona for 50,000 miles + ~$20 in taxes. Since I hold the Citi American Airlines Visa (as well as a Barclaycard Aviator Red/Silver card), I got 10% of the miles back, so I was out 45,000 miles out-of-pocket. Not bad for business class across the pond!
As for my return, I booked Lisbon – Frankfurt – Chicago in Lufthansa First Class using 62,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, transferred from American Express Membership Rewards, and then Chicago-Pittsburgh with 4,500 Avios (there wasn’t availability on the United flight, plus I would have had to have called Air Canada to book a 3-flight one-way itinerary which would have incurred a $30 phone fee, so I was okay with spending Avios and flying American over United when a terminal change would be required for both).
What’s interesting to note is that Lisbon-Frankfurt-Chicago is not exactly the shortest route, and is much longer than the Maximum Permitted Mileage for a Lisbon-Chicago one-way. I know that Aeroplan has gotten rid of MPM restrictions but this helped confirm it for me.
I did have to pay about $295 in taxes/fees/fuel surcharges on my Air Canada award since the fuel surcharge was about $211. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pay it, that’s actually pretty low when it comes to fuel surcharges. I could have used 110,000 United miles sans fuel surcharge, but since I don’t have United status nor the Chase United Club card, I would have been charged $75 for close-in ticketing (Lufthansa First can generally only be booked within 2 weeks of departure). I was okay with paying ~$130 more in fees to save 47,500 points.
I’ve flown Lufthansa First Class a couple of times already and have already visited the First Class Terminal a couple of times as well (if you have an upcoming visit to the FCT in Frankfurt, go check out the guestbook – I’m on page 1!). However, there is one part of the Lufthansa First Experience that I had yet to enjoy, and I made sure to leave enough time to allow it to happen!
Stay tuned for the reports on AirBerlin Business Class and the Lufthansa First Class Porsche Experience!