Before Aeroplan revamped its program, finding availability and cheap flights to Europe with points was difficult. Since then, all Air Canada seats are now up for grabs with Aeroplan points. The new downside is that they are subject to dynamic pricing. As for partner airlines, they remained in limited quantity before and now, so there are no changes for them.
Therefore, it is crucial to know all the tips and tricks accessible to score some decent valued flight with points. Juggling with Aeroplan is a start, but you also must turn to additional programs such as Avios and Flying Blue, to name a few.
In another article, we’ve discussed how to use rewards points for an affordable flight, and we’ll now be talking about how to find cheap round-trip tickets to Europe with points (airline points).
Start planning early
To find cheap flights to Europe with points, you need to track down affordable award space, which applies to all airline loyalty programs. ExpertFlyer can help do this.
As mentioned, Air Canada’s flights are subject to dynamic pricing, so they probably will be more reasonable if there are still many free seats. As the plane gets more and more full, the price will rise as the lowest fare will already be long gone.
For partner airlines, the space is limited, and they are up for grabs about a year out. Once they are sold, it is unlikely to see more of them unless someone cancels or their flight isn’t selling as expected. In that case, seats may be released at the last minute.
Consequently, you must be prepared to book as early as possible when hoping to find cheap round-trip flights to Europe with points.
That also means you need to have earned the points already. If you are in a rush, here are some of the most generous offers of the moment to help you reach the amount you need for Aeroplan:
For Flying Blue:
But how to identify the correct type of points I will need for my trip if I have no idea of the availability for my desired dates? The easiest way to go is to aim for American Express Membership Rewards points simply as they are so versatile.
When the time comes to book, you will have options among the major airline loyalty programs, and you won’t be stunned by an amazing Flying Blue Promo Rewards when you’ve been focusing solely on Aeroplan.
Indeed, you can keep earning Membership Rewards, and they transfer them to the appropriate program in time to buy your cheap flights to Europe with points.
Cheap flights to Europe with Aeroplan
A general rule of thumb is that secondary airports will have more affordable prices for direct flights with Air Canada. Remember that their fare reflects demand, and prime destinations are more popular so they will be more expensive.
You must also concentrate on finding an entryway when looking for a cheap flight to Europe with points. From there, you can reach your true destination with a low-cost carrier. For example, Nice is not that far from Italy, and it can be much for affordable than flying to Rome.
The best secondary airports to focus on with Air Canada are:
Indeed, it is more likely to find availability and affordable fares to those destinations than Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Zurich, London, etc., which are bigger connecting hubs and receive more traffic from people wanting to go to and through Europe.
Then, while airports like Athens aren’t considered a connecting hub compared to the others, it’s Greece’s capital city, the gateway for cruises and the popular Cyclades, so the demand will be higher than for Toulouse.
The massive advantage of partner airlines is that they allow us to have a clear goal during the earning phase, as the price for their flights will always be fixed. In this table, we can see the Aeroplan award cost from North America to Europe.
Because the fare is calculated with the distance flown, you should be under 6,000 miles from everywhere in Canada to almost everywhere in Europe, depending on whether you have connecting flights or now. You can use GCMap to calculate your exact journey in miles.
And with the following examples from Montreal to Madrid, we can notice how the first itinerary, solely with Air Canada, is priced toward the higher end of the range while the second route is at a fixed price since all segments are operated with a partner airline.
Also, the brackets are only a general reference, and Air Canada is not restricted to those fares, so don’t be surprised to stumble upon something more expensive for the same route.
However, when you combine the two (a partner and an Air Canada flight), you may be able to bring it down below the fixed price for partner airlines. It does not work all the time, but looking for connecting flights with a small segment with Air Canada may be the key to finding cheap flights to Europe with points.
Cheap flights to Europe with Avios
British Airways Executive Club is often overlooked when searching for cheap flights to Europe with points. Indeed, Avios is a great currency to use to travel to Europe if you are on their off-peak dates.
For as little as 50,000 Avios and $200 in fees, you can journey from Montreal to London and back. Then, you can purchase a low-cost carrier flight to almost any destination on the old continent.
It is also possible to add a segment to that flight. So, for about 68,500 Avios and $202 taxes, you can reach Paris, which is similar to what you can get with Aeroplan for a round-trip. However, you may not always find availability, so it is best to keep your options and be open to looking at Avios.
Stopover in London
With British Airways, breaking your journey with a free stopover in London is possible. When you search for your flights, they will ask you if you wish to do so.
This is great if you want to visit London and/or the United Kingdom on your way to another destination in Europe!
While Aeroplan also has a stopover option, it will cost you 5,000 points.
Cheap flights to Europe with Flying Blue
Children preferred pricing
When travelling as a family, it is even more crucial to find cheap flights to Europe with points, mainly because the children can’t help during the earning phase! Flying Blue has discounted pricing for kids under the age of 11.
Indeed, a family of four can get to Europe for 52,500 Flying Blue Miles! Since points do not have the same value, that amount equals 70,000 Membership Rewards points or 70,000 Aeroplan points. It is always good to bring it back to a similar currency to compare.
We can quickly notice that it would be very unlikely to find four tickets for 70,000 Aeroplan points since the standard one-way fare is about 35,000 Aeroplan points per person!
Flying Blue is also known to have high taxes and fees than programs such as Aeroplan. Therefore, you must do the math to see if it is more economical to pay a little more taxes and save on the number of points required or the other way around. To do so, you need to put a value on the points you are saving.
Same as with Avios, Flying Blue allows you to add a free stopover, with a maximum of one year, on reward flights! At this time, it is only possible to do this by phone.
Every month, Flying Blue launches a new Promo Rewards campaign, and you should watch them as they are a great way to find cheap flights to Europe with points.
Since the lowest fare from Montreal to Europe is 15,000 miles, we can sometimes see promotions such as 50% off, which means you can fly to Europe for as low as 7,500 Flying Blue Miles.
To compare, 7,500 Flying Blue Miles equals 10,000 Membership Rewards or 10,000 Aeroplan points. That is very hard to beat, even if taxes are a bit higher.
Mix and Match Programs
To book cheap flights to Europe with points, you need to find availability at the best price. So, what if you can get a 7,500 Flying Blue miles ticket to Paris but can’t find anything decent back? Be open to mixing and matching various programs!
For summer 2023, there was a single date available in July at 7,500 Flying Blue miles from Montreal to Europe with their April Promo Rewards. There was nothing affordable going home (for example for August 18th-20th).
Therefore, take it and find your way home with a different program. You may be able to come back with Avios on an off-peak date with British Airways or an affordable fare with Aeroplan for the same date!
The solution may also be buying a one-way with airline points and one flight paid in cash and using travel rewards to absorb the cost.
You can also consider booking two cheap flights to Europe with points this way:
- One round-trip from Montreal to Europe departing in July and returning in January
- One round-trip from Europe to Montreal departing in August and returning in December
This is a great way to save on costs if you have to schedule two trips, whether it is to visit family or simply to have two holidays (a summer escape and a winter one).
Indeed, depending on promotions and availability, this may be the tactic to go.
This is especially true if you are mixing with Travel Rewards programs as round-trip flights from Europe to North America are sometimes cheaper than the reverse route, specifically during flash sales or promotions.
There are a variety of combinations that can get you cheap flights to Europe with points, but you have to do the work to find them. The best advice I can give you is to think outside the box and focus on earning Membership Rewards, as they are the handiest currency to have when you want to mix and match.
Apart from the generous sign-up bonuses you can gain with cards such as The Platinum Card® or the American Express® Gold Rewards Card, you can receive a steady flow of Membership Rewards points on your day-to-day expenses with the American Express Cobalt® Card; bonuses are great, but you need to have a sustainable long-term strategy as well if you wish to keep getting cheap flights to Europe with points.
The American Express Cobalt® Card has a 5X accelerator for groceries and restaurants; because you can find gift cards for a wide variety of stores that would usually only generate 1X or 2X in groceries, it’s an excellent way to extract more points.
Securing cheap flights to Europe with points requires careful planning and employing various airline rewards programs. While Air Canada’s dynamic pricing can complicate things, being flexible with travel dates and considering secondary airports can be beneficial. Monitoring partner airlines and taking advantage of fixed costs is also critical.
Earning and transferring versatile points like American Express Membership Rewards can provide more options when it comes time to book, whether you use Aeroplan, Avios, or Flying Blue. You can save money on your next European adventure by being able to choose the best program depending on your dates and mix and match them.