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I booked my next flight to Europe last week and discovered my new favorite way to do so. The closest major international airport I have access to is Washington D.C. (WAS), which is roughly 3 hours away. I do have access to 3 smaller airports, one of which (PHF) only being 5 minutes from where I live, so I try to use it as much as possible. Not only do I escape the big city airport hassle (crowded security lines, for example) by doing so, but it’s only a $10 taxi ride to get there (including tip). I’ve found that for domestic flights, my best approach is to use either the Chase or Amex travel portal. Since I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I save 20% on points using the Ultimate Rewards portal, so my last flight from PHF to ONT was only around 45,000 UR points. The cash price for that ticket was somewhere around $700 with Delta. Using points this way allowed me to also collect some Delta SkyMiles, as the airline viewed it as a cash transaction.
Flight To Europe
Traveling internationally is entirely different, however, and I had to switch up my strategy to find a budget friendly flight to Europe. A flight from PHF to FRA in the off season is still around $1,300, and with flights to Europe being sub $400 from some US airports, I refused to pay anything close to that price. Fares from WAS would’ve still set me back around $800, so I decided that cash wasn’t my best option. Plus, I’m no big fan of driving for 3 hours after an 8 hour flight.
I checked several different award flights and concluded that using United Airlines MileagePlus or Flying Blue miles would be my two best options. I ended up spending 25,000 Flying Blue miles each way plus just a total of just under $200 for fuel surcharges to fly from PHF to FRA with Delta. I used my Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum card for the fuel surcharges to bank those newly introduced 5x points on airfare. I also used the same card to upgrade my seat to Main Cabin Comfort+. American Express refunded me those $180 instantly, as that transaction is considered a fee and falls under the $200 airline credit benefit for American Express Platinum cardholders. I do not need to use the credit for baggage fees, because Delta allows 2 complimentary checked bags for active duty military personnel on leisure travel. Jackpot, if you ask me. Unfortunately, my flight to FRA includes an almost 9 hour layover in ATL and 5 hours on the return flight. But ATL hosts a total of 10 Delta Sky Clubs (Delta still only lists 9 on their website, but all 10 are displayed on the Terminal map) throughout the airport’s 7 Concourses and also a Priority Pass lounge in Concourse F, the International Terminal. So I will have ample time to explore as many of them as I can and then, of course, post a comprehensive review.
As stated, I could have also used United MileagePlus miles to get to Europe. United charges 30,000 miles each leg and just over $50 in fuel surcharges total. While this is also a good deal, it would be the equivalent of paying the fuel surcharge I incur with Flying Blue with miles instead of cash, which is a terrible way to use miles. It is generally best to pay any type of surcharge with credit card and collect points on that transaction, especially if they’re 5x points. In addition, PHF does not serve United, nor any other Star Alliance carrier, so I would’ve had to depart from either ORF or RIC, with are both roughly 45 minutes away.
For those that are unfamiliar with Flying Blue, it is a KLM and Air France frequent flyer program. Both airlines are also part of SkyTeam, which makes Flying Blue compatible with other SkyTeam airlines, such as Delta. Lucky for me, because the lowest Delta SkyMiles award flight from PHF to FRA I could find is 60,000 miles plus $128 in surcharges for a round-trip flight. This makes Flying Blue extremely valuable. But it gets even better, because Flying Blue has monthly Promo Awards, which offer substantial domestic and international travel savings.
We have countless options to get that perfect flight to Europe without spending an arm and a leg. Location may dictate our decision to an extend, but proper planning and personal preference are absolutely instrumental. Also, thanks to today’s very generous credit card benefits, we no longer need to be a regular business traveler in order to enjoy a little more comfort while doing so.
Tell us about your last flight to Europe, your strategy and favorite frequent flyer program. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on social media.