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We are in the midst of planning a trip to Boston, Ireland, Scotland, England, and France! The airfare is booked, now we just need to fill in the other details. In this post, I will show you how we used three different airlines and five different award programs to book the flights. A bit of creative routing and knowledge of sweet spots in airline award charts helped us maximize our points!
This article only covers our flights. We took a Megabus sleeper bus overnight from Glasgow to London, and we took the high speed Eurostar train from London to Paris. Both of these were covered by Barclay Arrival+ miles.
Leg 1 – Southwest Airlines: MCI to BOS – 11,342 Southwest RR miles + $5.60 (Companion Pass + $5.60 for my wife)
We begin by flying on Southwest Airlines from Kansas City to Boston. I’ve never been to Boston before, so I’m excited to spend a couple days exploring the city. However, this was not our primary reason for flying into BOS. There is a sweet spot in the British Airways award chart between Boston and Ireland, which I will cover in Leg 2. This leg is called a “positioning flight,” because it will allow us to take advantage of a less expensive trans-Atlantic award redemption.
Leg 2 – Aer Lingus: BOS to SNN – 12,500 British Airways Avios + $34.27 each
Aer Lingus (yeah, I cringe when I hear the name too) partners with British Airways (BA), allowing us to redeem Avios for this flight. BA uses a distance-based award chart, and flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles cost only 12,500 Avios. This trans-Atlantic sweet spot only exists between Boston and two airports in Ireland:
- BOS – SNN = 2,895 miles
- BOS – DUB = 2,993 miles
Wow! These airport barely fit inside the zone! Finding Aer Lingus *cringe* availability can be tricky, so I suggest using the United Airlines website to search for award flights. Once I found flights, I called BA to confirm availability between BOS and SNN on the date we wanted. The BA rep confirmed two remaining seats, so I instantly transferred 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to BA Avios. The rep refreshed my account and saw the Avios immediately. She used them to book our tickets and waived the phone booking fee, because these flights cannot be booked online. Even better, Aer Lingus does not have any fuel surcharges!
Leg 3 – Aer Lingus: DUB to GLA – 4,000 Barclay Arrival+ Miles each
Once we land in Shannon, we plan to rent a car and drive around for a few days, ending up in Dublin. The next leg will take us to Glasgow, Scotland, again via Aer Lingus. A few budget airlines offer this route, including Ryan Air ($23), but their flight times were inconvenient. We opted for the $40 flights on Aer Lingus, and used our Barclay Arrival+ miles** to cover the charge.
**My Arrival+ card is grandfathered to allow redemptions as low as $25, instead of the $100 minimum for new cards.
Leg 4 – American Airlines: CDG to MCI – 18,000 AAdvantage miles + $79.46 each
The final leg of our trip will bring us home from Paris, France to Kansas City. I logged into my AA account to search flights from CDG to MCI. I crossed my fingers as I clicked search, and we definitely got lucky! We snagged two tickets on AA metal from CDG-CLT-MCI. This is fortunate, because I was able to book our tickets without worrying about BA’s high fuel surcharges, or building an itinerary with partner airlines. Since we are traveling in the “off peak” time, our tickets cost 20,000 AA miles each. Then, we get a 10% miles rebate from our Citi AA Platinum card.
To recap, we used the following award programs and airlines for this trip:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- British Airways Avios
- Aer Lingus
- Barclay Arrival+ Miles
- American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
We will be traveling round trip to Europe, including a stop in Boston and a short hop flight, for only $119.33 per person! Taking it one step further, we used the Barclay Arrival+ to pay these fees, and we redeemed A+ miles to cover the charges. This reduced our Total Airfare cost to $11.20!!!
This award booking experience shows how you can save cash and miles if you know how to identify sweet spots, take advantage of off-peak awards, utilize partner bookings, and recognize synergies between award programs. Hopefully this inspires you to think creatively while booking your next big trip! If you need help putting this complex puzzle together, check out our Travel Coaching services. Cheers!