For spring break this year, we knew that the goal was to go skiing in Europe and check out the Alps. Ideally, we wanted to check out Zermatt, Switzerland, and be able to ski into Italy for the day.
Given that it was only my mother and I, and the trip was only going to be around 5 days in length, finding business class tickets was the goal. We knew that we were bound by the days and availability of my university’s spring break dates, but we were flexible on routing and exact dates.
If you want to read reviews of the business class products, check out the trip report here which includes:
The goal for our flights was to fly business class without breaking the bank. In this case, the points bank, since paid business class was out of the question.
The sweet spot that I focused on was ANA Mileage Club’s 88,000 mile round trip flight awards from the U.S. to Europe. This ticket would allow me to fly from any U.S. city, giving me flexibility to position to New York for example, if the ideal flights from a Washington D.C. airport were not available.
Further, I could fly into any European city and the ticket could be open jaw. This means that I could fly into one city, but out of another city. For example, I could fly into Zurich and out of Geneva. I was also free to fly ANA’s Star Alliance partners including United and Swiss.
The main drawback of this award is that any carrier surcharges are passed onto the customer. This limited options since flying Lufthansa or Swiss, for example, would require surcharges upwards of $1,000 for the round trip award. This meant that I needed to find award space on United, Air Canada or TAP Air Portugal. I could have also flown Turkish or LOT Polish, which would have had fuel surcharges but much less significant.
In a perfect world, I would fly from Washington Dulles directly to Zurich, Geneva, or Milan (all easily within train distance of Zermatt), and the return flight would be the same but in reverse. This would prevent unnecessary connections and increase time on the ground.
I mainly used United’s website to search for available flights. The calendar function was particularly helpful since we did have a small available date range.
Any time I found flights that I thought would work and confirmed it was I fare, which is Star Alliance business class award space, meaning it should be available to all partners, I double checked with Air Canada to ensure it wasn’t phantom space.
Ultimately, I found availability to fly the dates we wanted from Washington D.C. to Zurich via Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal. Further, I was able to find a direct return flight on United, from Zurich back to Washington Dulles.
Although we would spend more time traveling to Zurich than ideal, it was a worthwhile tradeoff to not arrive completely jet lagged.
After finding the availability for two seats on the flights that worked, I plugged it into ANA’s website to confirm it could be booked. Unfortunately, one of TAP’s segments did not appear properly online.
I called the ANA help desk and they were able to confirm the availability for all of the flights I wanted. While they would not hold the award space for me, they informed me that some of the flights had at least 9 seats available in business class.
With that in mind, I transferred 176,000 American Express Membership Rewards to ANA mileage Club and began my impatient wait. Unfortunately, with this transfer, it is not instant and can take up to a few days, which would allow time for the award space to disappear.
Roughly 54 hours later, with the points safely in the ANA account, I called ANA back and they were able to book the award flight for me. I made sure to mention that it would not allow me to book online, which waived the phone-booking fee.
Being able to book Washington D.C. (IAD) to Lisbon (LIS) to Zurich (ZRH) and then back from Zurich (ZRH) to Washington D.C. (IAD) in business class for just $75.37 per person plus 88,000 points is an amazing deal compared to the cash fares north of $3,500. Always love a lie-flat seat.
We were able to keep the taxes and fees low by choosing to fly United and TAP, and I was happy to try out their business class offerings. Compared to United wanting 137,000 miles per person for the same flights, or 60,000 per person in economy class, this was a terrific deal.
The Last Point
This ANA redemption is one of my favorite sweet spots. It allows you to get to Europe in business class for 44,000 miles (you are required to book round trip), which is an amazing deal in the world of ever increasing award costs.
We were limited to flying fewer airlines than if I had booked with a program that does not pass on surcharges such as Air Canada Aeroplan, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff in order to keep both points and dollar costs low.
For $75 in round trip business class to Europe, I would gladly do this again. Make sure to check out my reviews of the business class products as well.