The Middle East is a notoriously expensive award travel destination. It will cost 45,000 miles each way on American Airlines. It is similarly expensive when using United Airlines miles, US Airways miles or Delta Airlines miles. To add insult to injury, none of these award charts offer off-peak pricing to the Middle East region. I am a big fan of the American Airlines AAdvantage off-peak award chart, where one of the highlights is award ticket to Europe for 20,000 miles each way. There are plenty of other great destinations with lower rates during certain times of year, but nothing discounted to the Middle East.
So what if you want to travel to Israel or Amman or Abu Dhabi? Do you have to pay 90,000 miles just to fly in Economy class. I’m sure you’ve already guessed what the answer is no. If there were no way to avoid spending all these miles, why would I be writing this post? Well, just because there’s no off-peak rate to the Middle East on the award chart, that doesn’t mean you can’t use off-peak pricing to get to the Middle East and it all relies on taking advantage of the right trick. As always.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I do earn a referral if you apply for some credit cards mentioned on my website through my links. I always include the best offer whether I earn a commission or not and would never recommend a credit card that I would not be interested in myself. If you decide to use my links, as always, I’m grateful for your support!)
It turns out that you can actually get to a several Middle East destinations for as little as 30,000 miles each way between October 15 and May 15. This won’t get you to every Middle East destination, but a great way to save miles when heading to the areas closer to Europe. The rest of the year, you can go for 70,000–80,000 miles. The idea is to split your itinerary into two pieces, one booked with American Airlines miles and the second with British Airways miles. Here are the concepts we will take advantage of:
- Europe is actually quite close to the Middle East relatively speaking. You can get there for 20,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles each way in the off-season.
- You can then book your connecting flight with British Airways miles. British Airways has a distance-based award chart and charges only by distance per segment. This allows you take advantage of the proximity between Europe and the Middle East. Several Middle East destinations are only 10,000 miles from Europe.
Since you’re booking the trip to Europe and the onward trip to the Middle East separately, you can even stop in Europe without paying any additional miles. American Airlines doesn’t allow any stopovers outside North America so this is a great work-around for that restriction too!
The Steps to Booking an Off-Peak Priced Itinerary to the Middle East
- Find a oneworld itinerary connecting through Europe from your home city to your Middle East destination. (Avoid British Airways operated flights or you will be charged a hefty fuel surcharge). This is the itinerary you will split between American Airlines miles and British Airways miles.
- Book the first part: an American Airlines AAdvantage off-peak round-trip award ticket to Europe for 20,000 miles each way.
- Book the second part: Travel from Europe to the Middle East using British Airways Executive Club Avios miles.
- Connect your two oneworld itineraries into one by calling Customer Service and linking your records.
Let’s go through an example. Samba for Miles’ parents want to go to Israel from Kansas and want to know how to get a good deal and collect the right miles. I am going to go through the steps for how they can book round-trips to Israel from Kansas for 60,000 miles. That’s a lot better than 90,000 miles per person!
Step 1: Find An Itinerary Connecting Through Europe
The first step will be to search the full itinerary from your home city to your destination in the Middle East and see if you can find something connecting through Europe. You will want to avoid including any British Airways operated flights on these itineraries as they have extensive fuel surcharges. You’ll want to stick to American Airlines, air berlin, Finnair and Iberia for the flights to Europe.
Samba for Miles’ parents want to fly to Tel Aviv so let’s find an itinerary for them. We’ll start by visiting the American Airlines website and searching. When we search, we find an itinerary connecting through Berlin and then connecting to Tel Aviv. Although it does say 45,000 miles each way, you can ignore this. We are going to get the much better price when we book.
Berlin will be where we “cut” the itinerary into two separate parts. The first we will book with American Airlines AAdvantage miles. The second we will book with British Airways Executive Club Avios miles.
Step 2: Book an American AAdvantage Award Round-Trip to Europe for 20,000 Miles Each Way
The itinerary to Berlin can be booked right online. To book this, they need to simply search from Kansas with their final destination Berlin. Since they are traveling in March, the will get the off-peak pricing to Europe. This will cost 20,000 American Airlines AAvantage miles each way.
As a warning, you cannot cancel an American Airlines AAdvantage miles award once booked, even within 24 hours, without a $150 fee. However, you can hold award tickets for up to 5 days. You may want to place your award on hold at this point to ensure everything goes well with the second itinerary. Then come back and book.
Miles spent so far: 40,000.
Step 3: Book a British Airways Avios Award Round-Trip to the Middle East for 10,000 Miles Each Way
Now that they have their flight to Berlin secured, they would then have to go over to the British Airways website and book the onward flight. The British Airways award chart is very different. Rather than pricing based on regions, it prices based on distance per segment. In this case, the flight from Berlin to Tel Avis is 1800 miles and will cost 10,000 more miles.
For this, we go over to the British Airways website and book. For a full guide on how to use the British Airways website for award bookings, you can check out my guide on How to Redeem British Airways Miles on American Airlines Flights. While these flights are not on American Airlines, the process is completely similar. You simply visit the British Airways website and search for your award flights.
This will price at 10,000 miles each way. Once they’ve booked both directions, Samba for Miles’ parents have their full itinerary to Israel.
Additional miles spent: 20,000.
Total miles spent: 60,000.
One thing to notice here is that German departure taxes are slightly higher than German transit taxes. So they’ll be paying an additional $30 for splitting their trips this way. This should come out to about $60 additional, but as they will be saving 30,000 miles per person versus just booking with American Airlines miles. This makes it well worth it.
Step 4: Connect your itineraries and records into one
The last step is to make sure everything is connected on a single itinerary so it’s all together. If something happens along the way and you miss your flight in Berlin, you want to make sure you’re rebooked on the next flight and the rest of your itinerary is not ruined. To do this, simply call customer service and let them know you’d like to link your two records.
Can we do better?
If you happen to live in an international gateway city, you should never forget about free one-ways. If you are planning an international trip, check out my posts on free one-ways with American Airlines to see how you can add free one-way trips within North America onto your itineraries:
- How to Add Free One-Way Trips on American Airlines Awards
- Adding “Better Than Free” One-Ways on American Airlines: Fly to South America for 20,000 Miles All Year!
- From Caribbean in Winter + to Europe in Summer for 20,000 American Airlines miles TOTAL
Of course, if you live somewhere with non-stop flights to the Middle East, you may be able to do even better with British Airways miles. As an example, there is a non-stop flight from Chicago to Amman, Jordan. The distance here is only 6236 miles each way and the itinerary will price out at 30,000 British Airways miles each way any time of year. That matches our off-peak pricing construction without the need to connect through Europe. I thing non-stop flights are great and minimize additional hassle from travel.
You can also use the British Airways Award Calculator to figure out the number of miles it would cost to fly non-stop from one destination to another. British Airways miles can be earned a multitude of ways:
- Transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest at 1:1 or get 25,000 British Airways miles for every 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points transferred. These can be earned with the Starwood American Express card.
- Transfer from American Express Membership rewards at 1:1.
- Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards at 1:1.
- The Chase British Airways co-branded credit card.
- American Airlines does not directly offer off-peak pricing to the Middle East region and award tickets are quite expensive at 45,000 miles each way. But we can fly for as few as 60,000 miles.
- We can take advantage of American Airlines off-peak pricing to Europe for 20,000 miles each way between October 15 and May 15 to get as close to the Middle East as we can.
- From Europe, we can use British Airways Executive Club Avios to connect to the Middle East. Their distance-based award chart allows us to take advantage of the proximity of Europe to the Middle East.
If you like this post and what you see here, please share it with friends!