Europe 2021: United business class awards wide open (book for 45K w/ Turkish)

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I just got an email alert from Thrifty Traveler Premium alerting me to tons of United business class saver award space on many routes from the US to/from Europe through the end of the schedule in 2021. I’m seeing nearly daily availability and in many cases with 4 or more seats. While United charges 60K each way for these tickets, as you’ll see in our post on the Best ways to get to Europe using miles (premium cabins), you can save miles by booking with Turkish Miles & Smiles for 45K each way or with ANA for 88K round trip. Transfers to either airline are not instant, but Turkish does allow award holds if you can get through to an agent. Obviously, we don’t know what 2021 travel will look like, but if you’re willing to bet on visiting Europe in 2021 there is a lot of award space available.

This could be you next spring for 45K Turkish miles and $5.60.

The Deal

  • United Airlines business class award space is wide open from many US cities to its European destinations through April 2021. Thrifty Traveler indicates the following destination cities with open award availability, but more may be possible:
    • Amsterdam (AMS)
    • Brussels (BRU)
    • Frankfurt (FRA)
    • London (LHR)
    • Munich (MUC)
    • Paris (CDG)
    • Zurich (ZRH)

Quick Thoughts & Best ways to book

Again, this is notable because it’s wide open from tons of cities and on tons of dates. As a random example, here is February and March 2021 for four passengers(!) from Newark to Amsterdam, with business class available daily (the same holds to the end of the schedule in April 2021):

Some flights have plenty of availability to bring your whole squad. Here’s a look at a date with 6 seats in business class from Newark to Amsterdam:

We don’t often see that kind of saver space. Since these are saver awards, keep in mind that you can save miles booking with partners. For example, here’s a date I searched through Turkish Miles & Smiles, showing it could be booked for just 45,000 miles and $5.60 through Turkish (a 1:1 Citi transfer partner).

Keep in mind though that transfers from Citi to Turkish are not instant. However, they do put award tickets on hold for 48 hours, which gives you plenty of time to transfer from Citi after getting an award on hold. I don’t know what their phone situation is at the moment, but readers were reporting success in putting United flights on hold over the phone before the pandemic hit. Alternatively, you could try holding via email. See our guide on How to book United Flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles for full details. Turkish has just a $25 cancellation fee, so it is also a good option in terms of flexibility down the road.

The cheapest deal would be booking via ANA for 88K round trip. ANA is an Amex transfer partner, but the problem is that transfers take a day or two and ANA does not hold partner award tickets, so you’d have to transfer and hope that availability sticks around. It may, but there’s no guarantee and no going back once you’ve made the transfer.

Another option worth considering here is Air Canada’s Aeroplan since they charge 55K miles one way and are an instant Amex transfer partner. The advantage of going with Aeroplan is that a transfer of 50K points to Aeroplan would also give you entry level Aeroplan elite status for all of 2021 due to the current promotion.

Again, we obviously don’t know what the 2021 travel situation will look like. There is obviously some risk in booking flights without knowing whether travel will be possible or what modified schedules might look like. Still, if you’ve been hoping to get a family to Europe in business class, you won’t often see this much award space on United, so it might be worth a gamble.

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Justin
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Justin

Also keep in mind Turkish can easily do 23.5 hours in a city in Europe before moving on. Can’t do that with LifeMiles since it doesn’t price online, and who knows if you can even get Aeroplan to work anymore.

stvr
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stvr

Does Turkish still respond to email? They ghosted on me before.

Patrick
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Patrick

Lot of availability out of ORD too.

CLG
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CLG

I keep trying to buy spring break ’21 tickets and it is erroring out on UA.bomb… Is this phantom space?

CLG
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CLG

Update: I got the UA TATL segment to ticket. It’s the LH segment causing the issue – please disregard my above post.

rich
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rich

I’m not likely to do this but isn’t one big problem for some people is the likelihood of schedules changing substantially for flights in 2021? I’d imagine as the airlines try to figure out demand, flight frequencies, times, layovers, etc. could vary significantly and may end up undesirable for some travelers.

This used to happen before but I’d imagine it will be worse for the next couple of years.