Let’s Go to Europe This Summer – Greece (and its islands)

Let’s Go to Europe This Summer – Greece (and its islands)

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This is Part III in a series. See Part I: Let’s Go to Europe this Summer – Dublin and Part II: Let’s Go to Europe This Summer – Rome. All screenshots showing award space are reflective of the day posted.

Every summer thousands and thousands of tourists migrate over the Atlantic ocean and flock to European cities.

Though the ideal time would have been September 2015 to start looking at summer to Europe award availability, sometimes it’s hard to know summer schedules so far in advance.

Can we find any available now?

This week we’ll be looking at a few of the interesting Top 10 Trending European Summer destinations according to Kayak.

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Before we get started, here are the search parameters:

  1. All travel will be searched roundtrip, originating in the United States
  2. Connecting flights are acceptable; direct are preferred
  3. All travel will be for two passengers in both economy and business, if available
  4. The peak months of travel to Europe, June and July will be examined.
  5. NYC will be used as the departure location as it has hubs for all the airlines; plus it is geographically the closest location to Continental Europe.
  6. Searches will be conducted on United (Star Alliance) Delta or Air France (SkyTeam) American or Alaska (One World)

Which Miles to Use?

Here are redemption prices to Europe. All values are roundtrip and in the thousands.

Economy Business About Fuel Surcharges & Tax Stopovers? Comments Tranfers from:
United 60 115 – 140 None; avoid returing from London On roundtrip and one open jaw Higher price is partner award pricing Chase
American 60 115 Avoid flying British airways or returning from London None SPG
Delta 60 125 All one-way flights returning from Europe have fuel surcharges; avoid connecting through Moscow None Delta award pricing is variable, but these are the lowest and most desirable redemption prices SPG, AMEX
Air France 50 125 No fuel on Delta & low when departing fromthe U.S.; highest when connecting through Moscow One stopover and one open-jaw AMEX, CIti
Air Canada’s Aeroplan 60 – 75 110 – 115 No fuel on United, Brussels, Scandinavian, Swiss, Turkish and low on LOT Polish One stopover or one open-jaw, or two stopovers on a roundtrip Europe is diveded up into two regions AMEX, CIti
Alaska 60 100 Avoid flying British or returning from London One per direction of travel, but no mixed airline awards Pricing based off of flying on American SPG
Singapore 55 130 Fuel surcharge on most except United Not within Europe SPG, Citi, AMEX, Chase

Overall, Star Alliance has the most options for getting to Europe from the U.S. United miles are really excellent option as they never pass on fuel surcharges. If you are going to leave from Europe, avoid London and other London-area airports at all costs. Fuel surcharges range between $150 – $300 depending on the class of service.

Sometimes it will make sense or be necessary to book two one-ways. Practically, this means you’ll lose that stopover.

Coach redemption prices are pretty reasonable across the board. The cheapest are on Singapore, United and using Alaska miles to fly American metal to Europe. (They still price out awards like the old American award chart.) 

In terms of business, they are also pretty standard, but if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, that usually means when redeeming Star Alliance miles you’ll be limited to United flights and the occasional SAS, Swiss and Brussels planes. Lufthansa, with the exception of booking on united, can run $300+ in fuel surcharges.

If you’ve been saving those Delta miles, business class to Europe represent a great redemption at 62.5K one way, 125K roundtrip. You can fly on solid partners like Air France, Alitalia or Virgin Atlantic.

Award Availability: New York to Athens (and the Islands)

Athens, or Greece in general, is a peculiar award destination.

Greece does have a major airline carrier, Aegean Air, which is part of the Star Alliance, but they do not have any direct flights to the United States or North America. In fact, from what I can tell, they have never operated flights that go across the Atlantic.

Even with miles, it’s a seasonal destination for United (Newark), Delta (JFK), American (out of Philadelphia), Air Canada (Montreal and Toronto):

Seasonal North American routes to Athens
Seasonal North American routes to Athens

But from within Europe:

Intra-European routes to Athens
Intra-European routes to Athens

That being said… Most people are heading to Greece to go to the islands. Let’s look at top three busiest airports, outside of Athens, in Greece by passenger traffic (and the ones we’re all familiar with and able to pronounce!):

  1. Heraklion – HER
  2. Thessaloniki – SKG (not an island)
  3. Rhodes – RHO
  4. Though not top three, Santorini (JTR) is a popular, if not pricey, destination in the Grecian Islands

Click the links to see their list of destinations. As you’ll see, many are seasonal.

Back to North American Departures…

Assuming you can find availability direct to Athens on a seasonal flight from New York (JFK and EWR) or Philadelphia, or the Canadian gateways, you may need to connect via Athens. Or, if you get on a flight to Europe, you may have to make a connection in Athens also to get to your final destination (if that’s the islands).

Let’s look at award availability!

One World

I’m not too optimistic on the outset here for any month this summer… You’d have to get on that direct flight from Philadelphia to avoid going through London (and injuring high fuel surcharges). We already know availability to Madrid, Helsinki and Berlin are limited. Theoretically, if you found availability via those One World partner hubs you could create the itinerary from Madrid, Helsinki or Berlin to Athens or any of the Greek islands.

Philadelphia – Athens – Philadelphia (June, Coach and Business)

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Philadelphia – Athens – Philadelphia (July, Coach and Business)

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As you can see, there are no non-stop flights from Philadelphia to Athens. Because you cannot search Iberia award availability via the American search engine, you won’t see all the options. It’s also easier to search one leg at a time: New York – Madrid, Madrid – Athens, Athens – Madrid, Madrid – New York, etc.

Alas, do not despair if you have American miles you’d like to use. There is some coach availability via Madrid on Iberia to Athens. Use the Qantas search engine to find those flights. Be sure to click the exact date (and not just rely on the flexible date calendar). Many flights will be routed through Dubai! (You can also do a day-by-day search on British Airways).


I’ll spare you the screenshots and wasted word count: there is no non-stop saver space on Delta in either direction of travel or coach or business class.

There is some business class space in June and July from New York to Athens via Moscow. Typically, I would avoid flying partner Aeroflot via Moscow because of the high fuel surcharges, but if the first leg is on Delta the taxes will come out to $130 (better than $300, but still too much).

Because it’s Europe, and it’s Skyteam, the return will incur fuel surcharges regardless of the airline you fly. Avoid it if you can.

Star Alliance

Not surprisingly, Star Alliance will probably yield the best results (as it has in our previous installments) in both classes of service. Additionally, you may find availability via a European destination to get directly to one of the above islands, in addition to Athens. So, without further ado…

New York – Athens (Coach & Business, June/July)

Of Dublin and Rome, this represents the most options in June and July, it seems.
Of Dublin and Rome, this represents the most options in June and July, it seems.

Athens – New York (Coach & Business, June/July)

There's even decent space in July!
There’s even decent space in July!

Non stop from Newark – Athens – Newark

Coach only, but some direct from Newark to Athens for 2 passengers in the beginning for June
Coach only, but some direct from Newark to Athens for 2 passengers in the beginning for June
Also in coach, but some direct from Athens to Newark in Coach for 2
Also in coach, but some direct from Athens to Newark for 2

Now using this direct award availability, let’s see if we can piece together an itinerary to one of the islands (Santorini, in this case):


30,000 per passenger, 60,000 total
30,000 per passenger, 60,000 total

Yes! It’s possible. To find something similar, search one leg at a time. You could also fly from New York (or Chicago, Miami, etc.) to Europe and then catch a partner flight to Santorini, Heraklion or Rhodes. In this case, you also have a connection that’s about 19 hours. You would get in early enough to see of Athens before you head off to island paradise.

And here’s some connecting availability to Rhodes from North America:

Chicago – Rhodes (June, Coach/Business)

Some of these have two stops--One in Athens and one in Europe.
Some of these have two stops–One in Athens and one in Europe.

And here are some limited options, coach and business from Chicago to Rhodes with one stop (so Chicago – Europe (-Athens) – Rhodes)Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.53.55 AM


Lots of screenshots, lots of words, but a lot of availability.

I hope this paints a picture of the beautiful availability if you want to head to Athens or Greece’s islands in June (and somewhat in July). Try your hand at piecing together itineraries–it can be helpful for more complicated award bookings.

-The Miner

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