Airline Awards to Book Right Now

While right now is most certainly not the time to start getting on airplanes, it is the time to start thinking about where to go in the fall, winter, and beyond.

Since we’re all stuck at home, planning the perfect trip can not only be a great distraction but also a way to take advantage of awesome airline inventory.

We wanted to share four of our favorite awards that we’ve booked over time, and that still provide excellent value for when you head back to traveling again.

Delta SkyMiles for Domestic Flights

Considering that we might be on lockdown for a while, now might just be a fantastic time to discover more of the USA. Delta SkyMiles prices change based on distance and they often run sales on destinations at low, low prices.

Short flights can often be had for 2,500 miles or slightly more. Short flights like Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, New York to Detroit, or even Seattle to Los Angeles are all deeply discounted during fare sales. Longer flights like San Francisco to New York sometimes come in at 6,500 miles each way.

Delta Plane in Atlanta

Since during normal times, Delta prices their awards based on the actual cost of the ticket, make sure to look at the monetary cost before redeeming your Skymiles for what could be a very cheap trip.

Delta SkyMiles can be transferred from American Express Membership Rewards or from Marriott Bonvoy. American Express transfers at a 1:1 ratio where 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points will net you 25,000 SkyMiles.

Alaska Airlines Miles for Cathay / Japan Airlines Awards

With the announcement of Alaska Airlines joining the OneWorld alliance, we’re very concerned that two of the best award sweet spots out there might be disappearing very soon. 

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s #1 airline, has ridiculous amazing values for award tickets in both business and first class. Japan Airlines does as well. Since they’re about to be a part of the OneWorld alliance, I can predict that Alaska Airlines will soon be adjusting their prices to be more in line with the other airlines in the group.

First Class tickets from the US to Asia and Africa are only 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, and Japan Airlines is the same. Alaska only charges 50,000 miles for business class one-way, and that deal can’t be beat.

Ben had the chance to fly Cathay Pacific’s Business Class product from Vancouver to New York and was blown away. You can read about the lounge here and the flight here.

Using Virgin Atlantic Miles while Flying Delta 

Virgin Atlantic is in trouble, as the airline is struggling due to the Coronavirus. Richard Branson has even gone as far as offering the UK government his private Necker Island to get some assistance for a bailout.

The mileage program, however, remains a point of interest to me and should be to you as well. Virgin and Delta partner together, and if you can find flights on Delta One business class service, you can rack up tons of savings.

Richard Branson Virgin Seattle

Richard Branson Virgin Seattle

Virgin only charges 45,000 miles one-way in business class to head from anywhere in the USA to anywhere in South America. Compare this to 110,000-210,000 miles with Delta and you can see how this represents a massive savings. Just look below. On October 1st, you can fly from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Atlanta for either 45,000 Virgin Miles or 205,000 Delta SkyMiles.

Virgin is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, AND Citi Thank You points. Getting miles into Virgin to top off your account should be easy as pie.

Etihad First Class Apartment with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

Rumors have been flying for months that Etihad and American Airlines might be severing their ties as they haven’t bothered to renew codeshare agreements and they’re also not part of any formal alliance.

Using your American Airlines AAdvantage miles to get flights on Etihad in first class, in my opinion, remains the absolute best value in the market today.

Etihad Apartment Ben’s Caviar Spread

You can use 62,500 miles to fly from Europe to the Middle East in the Apartment, or you can spend 110,000 miles to fly from the USA to the Middle East. 

We’ve flown them plenty of times, and if you haven’t thought about the apartment, check out the review. Maybe it’ll change your mind.

Booking flights can be a bit of a struggle. The flights recently appeared on American’s website, then disappeared, then disappeared again. The easiest way is to find the space on Etihad’s website and book buy calling American’s Australian call center. Full details on how to book can be found in our post here.

Award space right now is wide open for 2021. We found a flight almost every other day from Abu Dhabi to JFK in 2021.

Book Now

Now really is the best time to book these flights. The majority of airlines are being flexible with their change policies, and award space is wide open. If you wait to make changes or bookings until later, it is completely possible that either the flights will be gone or they will be more expensive. 

Happy Flying! We’ll see you in the skies in 2021.

Do you have any other flights you’re booking with miles right now?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. Just finished booking my October (fingers crossed) vacation:

    MIA – DOH – CMB (with an overnight) – MLE | 70k AA Miles flying Q suites from Miami to Doha, LATAM wet lease to CMB, and Sri Lanken 1-2-1 A330 to Male

    MLE – IST – DPS | 30k Turkish Miles&Smiles in Business…including IST to DPS in the 787…have found some incredible sweet spots with M&S in business if you just look hard enough…thats over 20 hours in TK Biz for 30k miles which is quite a steal

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    • I wish there was an easy to follow award chart for them. It doesn’t seem to follow rhyme or reason. Nice snag.

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  2. I admire that you’re looking at options right now and to some degree I’m doing the same. It might be worth mentioning a caveat or two about the above. For instance what happens if you book a partner award with Virgin miles and they shut down? Will the ticket still be honored? If not, it becomes a lot more tenuous to transfer outside points to their program right now. Another caveat would be to mention that Cathay now only allows one partner award seat in first class per flight.
    That said,if award space is there, why not take a chance for a period months down the road? Doesn’t Etihad do the same as Qatar where you can fly to India from the US on a reasonably priced award ticket in premium cabins?

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  3. I noticed today pricing some domestic awards Delta is having a big, as in half off reward sale the end of May.

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  4. What would you recommend for people who have UA miles?

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    • It goes back to where you want to fly. For me, I like using them for Lufthansa, Swiss, or Austrian. Honestly, if you can choose the right United plane, the Polaris is actually quite nice.

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