Summer is the peak time for flights across the Atlantic, and prices reflect how many travelers want to visit Europe in the sunshine.
Round-trip economy flights for less than $400 are common in the slower winter months. However, if you want to walk the cobblestone streets of Rome or take in the sunset on a Greek island next summer, you can expect to pay significantly more than this.
While redeeming points and miles for long-haul economy flights isn’t usually a great value — aim for premium cabin redemptions instead — $1,500 round-trip economy flights next summer are not unusual.
If taking a stroll past Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower is more important to you than scoring a lie-flat bed, we’ve rounded up the best value economy award options for travel to Europe.
Loyalty programs for the “Big Three” U.S. airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — have low fees, low taxes and good availability for economy class flights to Europe this summer. However, their dynamic pricing means you can expect to pay at least 80,000 points or miles round trip to Europe, which is not a great deal.
Instead, look at programs with fixed or more reasonable pricing.
The good news is these programs partner with several major transferable credit card points currencies, so you have plenty of options to top off your account.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
If you plan to travel to the United Kingdom next summer, consider redeeming Virgin Atlantic points. You’ll need 40,000 points for a round-trip journey from the East Coast or 50,000 points from the West Coast on peak dates between June 16 and Sept. 2, 2024, which is a decent deal. If you can travel outside of those peak dates, you’ll only need half as many points.
Virgin imposes fees, taxes and fuel surcharges of just under $500 per person round trip, so compare this against equivalent cash fares. If you can find a cash ticket for less than $800 on peak dates, paying cash is probably a better deal.
Award tickets include free seat selection and checked baggage.
If you’re traveling to other destinations in Europe, Virgin Atlantic is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, meaning you can redeem Virgin Points on airlines like Delta, Air France, KLM, Air Europa and Aeromexico.
Flights operated by Delta to the U.K. have their own award chart, with economy flights from 15,000 Virgin points each way for travel from the East Coast on standard (off-peak) dates. You’ll need to use up to 30,000 points for travel from the West Coast on peak dates.
Flights operated by Delta from the U.S. to mainland Europe are priced at 30,000 Virgin points each way on all dates.
Redemptions on other SkyTeam airlines are distance-based with no peak or off-peak pricing. Most destinations to Europe from North America will fall within the following distances (prices are per person each way and exclude fees, taxes and surcharges):
|Flight distance (miles)
|Virgin points required (economy)
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
The Flying Blue program prices awards dynamically, meaning they can vary significantly. It’s common to see 100,000-plus miles for round-trip economy flights to Europe during peak periods.
However, starting saver prices to Europe were recently reduced to just 30,000 Flying Blue miles round trip. While these prices are scarce in summer, we found return flights for 40,000 Flying Blue miles plus a reasonable $218 in fees, taxes and surcharges on Air France and KLM on peak dates fairly easily. So, it’s worth your time to play around with dates and city combinations to see if you can find a good deal.
Also, watch out for Flying Blue’s fantastic monthly Promo Rewards, where a select number of routes can be discounted for a limited time.
Dreaming of sunny Spain? Iberia flies from a handful of destinations in the U.S., including Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
You’ll need just 20,000 Iberia Avios each way in economy to travel to Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) from the Midwest and East Coast on peak summer dates.
The fees, taxes and surcharges are reasonable at around $100 each way, and these flights include checked baggage.
British Airways Executive Club
If a trip to the Emerald Isle is on your bucket list this summer, you can fly to Ireland via the British Airways Executive Club program. Aer Lingus flies to Dublin Airport (DUB) from several destinations in the U.S.
If you focus on the Northeast, consider New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). In that case, you can book round-trip economy flights for as little as 33,000 Avios plus about $360 in fees, taxes and surcharges, depending on the departure airport.
You can also combine your Avios across the four airlines that use it as a currency.
The quirky Colombian airline loyalty program has long been an underrated option to book Star Alliance flights on airlines like United, Lufthansa and Air Canada.
Maintaining a zone-based award chart, the carrier’s chart is complex, with the U.S. and Europe divided into three different zones each, resulting in nine different award chart options just for economy. Most of these zone pairs are for 30,000 miles each way (so 60,000 round trip), which is an acceptable but not excellent deal.
There is, however, one sweet spot: Flying from the northeast U.S. to Northern Europe and some of Western Europe costs just 20,000 miles each way. This includes the U.K., Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
With minimal fees and taxes, this is a great way to fly to these selected countries in Europe. It is also handy that Star Alliance member Scandinavian Airlines has multiple bases in Northern Europe covered in this zone, opening up more flights and more redemption options.
How to earn transferable points
Earning transferable credit card points allows you to use them in various programs when and how they suit you. As major airline programs switch to dynamic pricing with those 100,000-mile prices for economy trips, having flexibility is more valuable than ever.
You can transfer points into the following programs at a 1:1 rate:
|American Express Membership Rewards
|Chase Ultimate Rewards
|Citi ThankYou Rewards
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
|Air France-KLM Flying Blue
|British Airways Executive Club
If you’re looking for a new card in one (or more) of these programs as you plan future travel, here are some solid options:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
For additional options, check out our best credit cards page.
If you want to book flights to Europe next summer, your affordable cash options may be few and far between now. Round-trip economy flights above $1,000 are the norm, not the exception.
This means points and miles can be a great way to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. While some programs will now charge you 100,000 miles or more for a round-trip economy flight to Europe, some affordable options exist.
If you have transferable points, you should focus on the programs above for the best value redemptions.