Which airlines are best for Marriott Travel Packages?

Yesterday, Greg wrote about the potential for a huge win with Marriott Travel Packages. Of course, we don’t know that there will be a huge win — it’s just potential. Still, I know many readers are probably looking at these packages and wondering which airlines are the best transfer partners. While United offers the most miles at 132K with the largest (best-value) packages, they don’t necessarily offer the best value in terms of award pricing. Of course, which partner is best depends entirely on your situation. That said, see below for the partners I would pick for business and first class international travel. For more on why Travel Packages are a good deal in general, see: Why are Marriott Travel Packages a good deal?

Best options to get to Asia

Great Wall of China in Beijing

First Class winner: Virgin Atlantic

Award 110K-120K round trip ANA first class
Fuel Surcharges? Yes, but low (~$200 or less round trip)
Key disadvantages? Only direct flights (no connections), limited to one partner (ANA)

First class runner up: Alaska

A key plus for Alaska here is the fact that they allow a stopover on a one-way award. This means that you could fly from the US to Tokyo in first class on Japan Airlines, stop over for days/weeks/months, and then continue on to another Asian destination for the same price as if you only visited Tokyo.

Award 70K one-way JAL or Cathay Pacific first class
Fuel surcharges? No
Key disadvantages Availability can be less than that shown to other partners

Business class winner: ANA

In a rare instance where it might make sense to take a less-favorable 85K airline miles with a travel package, ANA takes the cake. The best deals are 75K/85K round trip to Japan in low / regular season or 80K round trip to Asia 1 or South Korea during low season. Star Alliance awards to Asia 1 ring in at 95K round trip – make up the difference with 10K transferred from Membership Rewards.

Award price: From 75K-100K round trip on ANA
Fuel surcharges: Yes, but not all partners. Choose a destination like Hong Kong to save on fuel surcharges.
Key disadvantages: Must book round trip, watch out for waitlisted seats

Business class runner up: Alaska

Award price: 50K each way on Cathay or Hainan, 60K each way on JAL or AA, 60K each way or less on Korean
Fuel surcharges: None
Key disadvantages: Availability can be less than what is shown to partners

Best options to get to Africa

Business class winner: ANA

The key disadvantage here is that you must book round trip and Marriott will not give you enough miles for a round trip with ANA — you would need to top off your account with Membership Rewards points or more Marriott/SPG points. For better flexibility, you might consider United. While United charges 80K for one-way Star Alliance business class, the 132K miles received from a package will easily cover you one-way with miles to spare and no fuel surcharges.

Award price: 104K round trip on Star Alliance
Fuel surcharges: Yes, but not on SAS or United flights to Africa, low on LOT
Key disadvantages: Must book round trip, taxes & fuel surcharges can be quite high with some partners ($600+ RT)

Business class runner up: Alaska

Alaska offers a number of ways to get to Africa at a bargain price on miles, but none is better than the rates on Cathay Pacific. At 62.5K in business or just 70K in first, you could fly from New York to Hong Kong (with a stopover) and continue on to Africa. The 120K you get from a travel package won’t quite get you round trip, but it’ll get you close.

Award price: 62.5K one-way on Cathay Pacific (or 70K in first class!)
Fuel surcharges: None
Key disadvantages: Availability can be less than that shown to other partners

Business class honorable mention: Etihad

This award is an even better deal than ANA, but it’s with a single partner and it is neither easy to find availability online nor book it. But it is possible. Note that this is another 85K Marriott package, but Etihad is partners with both Membership Rewards and Citi.

Award price: 44K one-way on Royal Air Maroc
Fuel surcharges: Yes, but moderate (~$220 from the US to Morocco)
Key disadvantages: Must call Etihad to book, not easy to search availability online

 


Best options to get to Europe

First class winner: Aeroplan

Asiana actually charges fewer miles each way (50K), but since you get 120K miles with Aeroplan (vs 85K with Asiana) and you can also search and book most awards online with Aeroplan, Aeroplan gets the nod here.

Award price: 70K one-way in Star Alliance first class
Fuel surcharges: Yes, (none on Aergean, Brussels, SAS, Swiss, Turkish, United…but you’ll probably want this award for Lufthansa, which will add surcharges)
Key disadvantages: High fuel surcharges on Lufthansa. Aeroplan will no longer be affiliated with Air Canada in 2020

Business class winner: Iberia

From Chicago, New York, and Boston, it’s hard to beat Iberia’s off-peak pricing at 34K one way….except when they run occassional promotions dropping it to 25.5K. A travel package could get two people to Europe round trip in flat bed business class.

Award price:

34K one-way off-peak  business class on Iberia from Chicago, New York, or Boston to Madrid

42.5K off-peak one-way business class on Iberia from Miami to Madrid

 

Fuel surcharges: Some, but relatively low
Key disadvantages: Best pricing is on Iberia metal. Most partner awards are completely nonrefundable.

Business class winner #2: Aeroplan

Since Iberia is limited in terms of off-peak dates and routes, Aeroplan deserves a mention. Note that while Alaska also offers business class for about the same price with Icelandair, Condor, or AA, Aeroplan gives you a lot more options in terms of partners.

Award price: 55K one-way in Star Alliance business class
Fuel surcharges: Yes, but none on None on Aergean, Brussels, SAS, Swiss, Turkish, United
Key disadvantages: High fuel surcharges on Lufthansa. Aeroplan will no longer be affiliated with Air Canada in 2020

Best options to get to Australia

Mini-Kangaroo (Wallaby)

Winner: Alaska airlines

Alaska handily wins for both first and business class here, the trick is just finding availability. They charge 70K one-way in Qantas first class or 55K in Qantas or Fiji Airways business class or 125K round trip in Korean business class (Korean must be booked as a round trip). Remember that Alaska allows a stopover on a one-way award, so see 2 Australian cities on your award out and have a stopover in Fiji on your way back. The trick is finding availability, though that can be challenging to Australia in general. Nobody else really comes close to Alaska in terms of pricing.

Award price:

55K one-way business (Qantas or Fiji)

70K one-way first class (Qantas)

Fuel surcharges: No
Key disadvantages: It’s tough to find availability.

Best options to get to South America

Business class winner: Asiana

Asiana is one of the airlines that only offers 85K miles with a Marriott package. That said, you can fly round trip to Northern South America for 55K miles or Southern South America for 70K miles with no fuel surcharges.

Award

55K round trip to Northern South America on Star Alliance

70K round trip to Southern South America on Star Alliance

Fuel surcharges? Not on partners serving South America
Key disadvantages Must book via phone, US call center has limited hours.

Runner up: Alaska

While it’ll cost you more miles, the 120K you get from a travel package will still more than cover round trip business class on either American (30K to Northern, 67.5K to Southern) or LAN (45K).

Award price:

30K one-way to Northern South America (AA)

57.5K to Southern South America (AA)

45K to all of South American (LAN)

Fuel surcharges: No
Key disadvantages: Finding LAN availability is tricky since the merger with LATAM. Search the BA site for flight numbers that begin with LA (not JJ).

Bottom line

Despite some of the great options with ANA and Etihad miles, I am most likely to redeem a package or two for Alaska miles. As you can see, there are some great sweet spots where Alaska is very competitive, and it is difficult to accumulate Alaska miles since they are not transfer partners with anyone but SPG/Marriott. The above isn’t to say that you shouldn’t redeem with other partners, but rather that these are some of the best deals for premium cabin international travel with Marriott’s airline partners. If you are combining with an existing balance, or have a specific destination in mind that is best served by an alliance not represented here, it can certainly make sense to consider the other options. It is also worth considering how you would top off an account and/or use any orphaned miles — airlines that aren’t transfer partners with Amex, Chase, or Citi might leave you with a hard-to-use balance.

Which airline are you considering if you redeem for a Marriott Travel Package?

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Maria
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Maria

Great write-up, Nick.

For Virgin Atlantic, you mentioned the following disadvantage: Only direct flights (no connections), limited to one partner (ANA). Does that mean that the only destination from N. America is Tokyo, or wherever ANA flies directly to without a connecting flight?

Brenton
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Brenton

I’m surprised that ANA aren’t included in best business class to Europe and South America at 88k roundtrip…

Jules
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Jules

Alaska has been my go-to for all my Marriott Travel package redemptions with the exception of one time when Aeroplan offered a 35% transfer bonus from Marriott (no longer available for travel packages). As a side note, getting to Asia from Europe is only 42.5k on Cathay which is a real sweet spot in my opinion.

Anders
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Anders

@Jules, wondering about using Alaska for Asia to Europe on Cathay or on any other carrier. Could I for example fly from Zurich (or any other European city) to Bangkok via Hong Kong for 42.5 or is that two awards (or can one only go as far as Hong Kong )? Is there a way to find availability without using a paid service? Thank you

@nick , any possibility that you could follow up this post with your thoughts , focusing on economy class? Personally I have been redeeming for United instead of Alaska, as I fly with my family on Asia North America, and Alaska always sees one seat less than American does, and often they see zero when American or ba sees and is willing to book two or more seats. United seems to have even more space than japan and Cathay combined

Thank you

fll
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fll

Go to Alaska airlines site to see the specific chart on partner redemption. Dont use the map but read the wording of the actual chart.

For Europe to Asia your only option is on CX to HKG. That is it. If you want to go beyond HKG, it is an additional award.

Mickey
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Mickey

Thank you

Jules
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Jules

@Anders: fll is correct that HKG is the only option from Europe. I find it interesting that several people are struggling to find award space in Bus and First but I suspect this is mostly for US departures. I’ve had no trouble at all finding Bus class availability to HKG from LHR and ZRH and very recently, I made several Bus and First class bookings. I do agree, however, that First class availability can be challenging to find, especially if you’re looking for two tickets on the same flight. Note that as of April next year, first class cabins will no longer be available between ZRH and HKG so you might want to redeem ASAP for those awards if that’s something you’re targeting.

fll
Guest
fll

CX has pulled all award availability from Partners. Go check it out yourself. What you have booked even just a couple weeks ago, does not mean there is still availability TODAY.

As of now, neither BA nor QF site sees any CX availability in J or F on any route, including intra-Asia routes (the sweet spots of BA charts).

We dont know if the inventory would return or only return a much small fraction as what it was before, now the new Asia Miles charts have come in effect as of June 22nd HKG time. It is already June 23rd, but noting has shown up on partner sites.

Those who want to transfer to AS should wait a bit and see how CX availability would come back before you pull the trigger.

JL still works but the chart is also ripe for devaluation.

Jules
Guest
Jules

Availability from Europe to HKG in J is wide open.

Robert
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Robert

For Australia (and NZ), it’s important to include Alaska’s redemption on Cathay for 60k biz / 80k First especially since Qantas and Fiji are so stingy with awards.

fll
Guest
fll

Actually you will find it is easier to get QF F than to get CX in J for HKG-Australia routes on both directions.
Right now QF seems to randomly release a pair or so F seats between Australia and US in various months, on both directions. It usually happens at 5 to 7 months out.

CX between HKG and Australia IS very tough to get J seats, despite it flies to 6 gateways and 3 of them have 3 daily flights.

The summary is a very nice way to sum up the sweet spots on each program.

The caveat that is missing though, is that the award availability is very difficult to find on CX premium cabins, even the very reliable last min availability in the past is no where to be found these days.

Speculation on CX forum has been that after June 22 when the new Asia Miles charts are in effect, CX would release more award seats. This remains to be seen. As of now, the availability system-wide, is exceedingly poor. Almost ZERO availability on Premium Cabins, on US-HKG routes and on EU-HKG routes, and the usually very tough HKG-Australia/New Zealand routes.

I have not seen this bad situation for the past 6 or 7 years we have been flying CX using AA and AS miles.

The availability is so poor that I would not add to our existing AS balances when we already have enough to cover 2019 travels.

Blue
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Blue

I get worried about accumulating on Alaska for a speculative redemption—a lot of devaluation danger.

Brenton
Guest
Brenton

I do too, but I’m hoping they’ll give notice after all the negative press they got after the Emirates devaluation. And maybe that motivates me to do a last minute roundtrip to Hong Kong in Cathay first… 🙂

fll
Guest
fll

Both the devaluation danger and the dry up of availability on the CX routes.

Anyone who wants to transfer to AS should do some checking on the CX availability and see for themselves how the current situation is before doing a speculative redemption.

Just a fair warning – The availability in both business and the infamous 1F, is completely ABSENT.

We flew CX twice or three times a year on AA/AS awards for the past 6 or 7 years. The current availability situation is the worst I have ever seen. In fact I have never seen it so bad even it was deteriorating since some 9 to 12 months ago, but there were still availability, enough so that if one did not mind to fly on different flights a few hours apart, or 24 to 72 hours before departure, one was able to find a seat. Not so since Mar or Apr. NOTHING in J or F is available for months on end or for close in.

Jan
Guest
Jan

Man, that is bad news! I thought it was just me, but you have confirmed my worst fears! I guess it was too good to last as abundant as it was, even just for last minute bookings. A real shame! I do hope they get back to ‘normal’ ;/ ;D

Ken
Guest
Ken

Great! Any chance you could do one for economy too? Specifically JL (or anyone else with 33″+ pitch) since I can actually fit in their Y seats.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Amazing article, thank you. Any tips on LAX to Europe (preferably Italy)? Currently sitting on about 430,000 Ritz points. Also would prefer first class/ business. Appreciate it!

P-nope
Guest
P-nope

If you really want to do Fiji and Australia and you don’t mind economy, you can position yourself in Honolulu. Some West Coast cities to Honolulu only costs 15k Alaska miles, and it’s 27.5k miles from HNL to Australia with a stopover in Fiji (3 days I think).

Virgin Atlantic Miles from Honolulu to Japan are also good. Then just use avios to fly Japan to other Asian destinations.

Avios from HNL to Tokyo in economy is only 20k miles and 10k miles from Tokyo to a lot of Asian destination.

NinjaX
Guest
NinjaX

damn nick! ur the facking man with these types of posts. this is some good shit. straight practical insight of packages as it stands today. totally useful. thank you.

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[…] couple of good posts at Frequent Miler involving the Marriott Travel Packages. One about the best airlines to go with them and the other contemplating how to win big before August. I advise bloggers to draft posts […]

Larry
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Larry

My use of the travel packages for the economy coach option was for 120k Southwest RR points to use with my existing companion pass doubling the value. It’s only coach Southwest and much less exciting than business or 1st to Asia or S America but it saves a lot of money we would be spending otherwise and Chase is making most of their goodies untouchable for many of us over 5/24. Or if you manage to get down to 4/24 the chance of them shutting your accounts has to make you hesitate before applying.

OR97
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OR97

2 different browsers (Safari and Chrome) not letting me book this online – the pop up comes up but no next step allowable. 3 phone numbers today with long hold times (pushing an hour in total). 2 reps had no idea what I was talking about (and that is calling the Rewards line). How are these getting booked? Suggestions?

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[…] Which airlines are best for Marriott Travel Packages? […]

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[…] Yesterday, Greg wrote about the potential for a huge win with Marriott Travel Packages. Of course, we don’t know that there will be a huge win — it’s just potential. Still, I know many readers are probably looking at these packages and wondering which airlines are the best transfer partners. While United offers the most miles at 132K with the largest (best-value) packages, they don’t necessarily offer the best value in terms of award pricing. Of course, which partner is best depends entirely on your situation. That said, see below for the partners I would pick for business and first class international travel. For more on why Travel Packages are a good deal in general. LEARN MORE! […]