When starting the points and miles hobby, understanding which airline to consider for a given destination is a difficult thing to understand. Pricing flights on dozens of airlines is an arduous task.

If you peruse the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group, you’ll find that some of the members seem to have a knack for memorizing which airline best serves each destination. It seems like a mystical power.

Every airline’s award chart works differently. The idiosyncrasies of a particular airline’s award chart create what we refer to as a “sweet spot.” When you’re getting some great advice from a 10xTravel insider, it’s generally because they happen to be aware of one of these sweet spots. Understanding sweet spots isn’t as magical as it first appears.

Let’s take a look behind the curtain and see how the trick is done by discussing some of the best sweet spots for economy flights.

Sweet Spots to Central and South America

Aeroplan to Central America

The sweet spot of Aeroplan’s award chart lies in its four-region award map. Dividing the world into just four zones means you can travel within regions for fewer miles than with other airlines that consider the same zones “cross-regional travel.”

For example, Central America joins the United States, Canada and Mexico in the North America region.

This is a key use for Aeroplan points. As a Star Alliance partner, Aeroplan allows you to fly on any Star Alliance airline between the U.S. and Central America for precious few points. You can also add stops on your trip via Aeroplan’s generous stopover policy to cover more of Central America on one trip.

The only drawback is partner flights booked through Aeroplan include a 39 Canadian dollar partner booking fee. Although fees are annoying, you should still consider using Aeroplan the next time you travel to Central America.

For example, tickets from Houston (IAH) to Panama City, Panama (PTY), start at 12,500 Aeroplan points each way.

Here’s a few other one-way economy flights to consider for your trip to Central America:

  • Chicago (ORD) to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) – 12,500 points
  • Miami (MIA) to Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA) – 10,000 points
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Belize City, Belize (BZE) – 12,500 points

Remember, Aeroplan prices its flights based on the region first and then the distance of the flight within that region. If your home airport is in the vicinity of one of these airports listed, you should see a similar rate.

The best part is Aeroplan points are easy to earn. You can convert Capital One Venture Miles, American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.

The Aeroplan® Credit Card has generous earning rates, but you may be better off transferring points rather than earning the bonus right now, given how the bonus is structured.

American Airlines to Peru or Ecuador

If you want to travel just a little further south, keep American Airlines in mind for flights to Peru, Colombia or Ecuador.

American Airlines divides South America into two regions. Travel from the United States to any country in South America Region 1 costs just 20,000 miles each way. You might find off-peak MileSAAver availability for as few as 17,500 miles.

Here’s a full list of the countries in South America Region 1:

  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Manaus, Brazil
  • Peru

One of the most exciting things about this sweet spot is it puts an aspirational trip to the Galapagos Islands within easy reach. Because the Galapagos is part of Ecuador, you have to connect through Peru or Ecuador to land on the tiny islands.

Another fun aspirational trip is Manaus, which is home to the Amazon rainforest in northwestern Brazil. Using this sweet spot means you can take these once-in-a-lifetime trips more than once!

You can earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles easily. You can earn points through a plethora of card options issued by Citi or Barclays.

Either of these card options earn enough miles to get you to the northern portion of South America and back for $99 at the most.

Sweet Spots to Europe

Flying Blue Miles within and to Europe

It’s not surprising that Air France or KLM operating out of Europe have good rates on European flights, but Flying Blue miles are something special.

In addition to competitive award flight pricing, Flying Blue offers monthly promotions called “Promo Rewards” that offer discounts on specific routes. Before you book a European trip, see if your route qualifies for a Promo Reward.

Certain short-haul routes are discounted by as much as 50% during these promotions. For instance, for travel dates of March 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2022, you can find one-way flights at the following rates:

  • Paris (CDG) to Helsinki (HEL) – 5,625 miles
  • Paris to Berlin (BER) – 4,500 miles
  • Amsterdam (AMS) to Brussels (BRU) – 4,500 miles

Using short-distance flights to add a stop or create an open-jaw ticket is a great way to experience Europe.

Short-haul flights aren’t the only reason to keep checking the Flying Blue program. Flights from the U.S. are also steeply discounted.

Check out some of these long-haul flights to Europe:

  • New York (JFK) to Paris – 16,500 miles
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Amsterdam – 20,650 miles
  • Miami (MIA) to Paris – 16,125 miles

If you can’t find Promo Rewards for your specific route, you aren’t completely out of luck. For instance, departing from Newark (EWR) as opposed to New York (JFK) for Paris still costs 24,000 Flying Blue miles each way. Flying Blue is not to be overlooked when Europe is on the itinerary.

You can estimate the cost of a flight by using the Miles Price Estimator, which is an extremely user-friendly way to calculate the Flying Blue miles required for your trip.

All four flexible points programs transfer to Flying Blue: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One Venture Miles.

You can also earn Flying Blue miles by applying for the Air France KLM World Elite MasterCard issued by Bank of America. However, don’t apply unless you are well over 5/24, as there’s plenty of additional ways to earn Flying Blue miles.

Iberia Avios to Spain

If you can’t find Flying Blue promotions for your trip to Spain, consider using Iberia Avios. There are four Avios programs: British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Qatar. Each version allows free transfers between programs (Qatar is limited to transferring only to British Airways), so if you have lots of Avios with BA, you can transfer them to Iberia. However, flight pricing may differ based on your destination.

Iberia is a Spanish airline, so this sweet spot isn’t a surprise. The caveat to Avios is award flights are priced per segment, so finding a direct flight is the key.

You can book direct flights from several East Coast hubs to Barcelona (BCN) or Madrid (MAD) for 17,000 Avios each way if you book a Blue Class seat.

Blue Class is Iberia’s limited economy seat, comparable to American Airlines “Saver” or Delta Air Lines “Basic economy.” You forfeit the ability to change or cancel the flight without a fee if you book a Blue Class ticket.

Here’s the routes with economy direct flights to Spain.

  • New York (JFK) – Madrid (MAD)
  • New York (JFK) – Barcelona (BCN)
  • Boston (BOS) – Madrid (MAD)
  • Boston (BOS) – Barcelona (BCN)
  • Chicago (ORD) – Madrid (MAD)

Iberia has also announced that it’s adding service to Dallas (DFW) and Washington DC (IAD) to their schedule in 2022. Because Avios uses a distance-based award chart, flights to Dallas will likely require more miles, but Washington flights should price similar to these routes.

Iberia Avios are easy to earn. You can apply for the Iberia Visa Signature Card through Chase or transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. Although Venture Miles don’t transfer to Iberia Avios, they do transfer to British Airways, making them an option for completing your trip to Spain.

Sweet Spots to the Middle East and Africa

Fly to Tel Aviv or Dubai on Finnair using Alaska MileagePlan

Sweet spots often feel so hidden because you must use surprising airlines to find them. You probably wouldn’t think of a Finnish airline when planning a trip to the Middle East. However, Finnair has an interesting sweet spot for both Israel and United Arab Emirates. Even more surprising is we’ll use Alaska Mileage Plan miles to book it!

Israel is a popular destination for those who want a chance to walk the steps of Jesus, visit holy sites or connect with the ancient roots of their family. Even a casual tourist can appreciate the culture, food and history of the region.

United Arab Emirates is another destination that benefits from this unorthodox way of dividing the world. Dubai is a popular aspirational trip for many. Some of the most amazing modern architecture and luxurious accommodations are in Dubai.

Because Alaska Air recently joined the Oneworld alliance, you can use Mileage Plan miles to book Finnair flights. Although Finnair has decent pricing for this trip, Alaska’s is slightly better.

Flights from the United States to the Middle East require 40,000 Mileage Plan miles when booked on Finnair. Neither airline’s rewards points are ubiquitous. Your points bank balance will determine how you book this flight.

You can earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles by applying for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card. There are no transferable point currencies that transfer to Mileage Plan.

If you can’t earn Mileage Plan miles, you can still book this flight by redeeming 45,000 Finnair Plus points. Finnair points aren’t the easiest to earn either, but luckily you can transfer Capital One Venture Miles or American Express Membership Rewards to your Finnair account at a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that transfer can take time. Plan about five days for the transfer to complete.

Fly to Africa on Emirates

Emirates is known for its plush first-class product, but don’t overlook the airline’s economy rates that allow you to stretch your points even further. Ever wanted to see the wildebeest migration in Kenya or go on safari in South Africa?

You can fly to Johannesburg, (JNB), from the United States for 47,500 Emirates Skywards miles each way. Because Emirates is based out of the UAE, it’s easier for the carrier to get you to Africa than for a European or an American airline.

All four flexible point programs transfer to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio, making Emirates Skywards easy to come by.

Domestic Sweet Spots

Fly to Hawaii with Turkish Miles&Smiles

Turkish Airlines is another airline with a surprising sweet spot. You can reach Hawaii from the continental United States for just 20,000 Miles&Smiles miles round-trip. This sweet spot is about half the price of a normal trip to Hawaii.

Because Turkish Airlines is part of the Star Alliance alliance you can take advantage of this great pricing even though Turkish Airlines doesn’t service Hawaii.

Turkish Airlines online experience is best described as lousy. Many people miss this great award redemption because it’s hidden behind a difficult technology experience.

Luckily, you don’t have to use the Miles&Smiles site to find space. United is the best Star Alliance site to search for award availability. Once you find available seats on the United site, use the date to search for award availability on the Miles&Smiles Star Alliance booking tool.

Logging into the Star Alliance booking tool on the Miles&Smiles site isn’t intuitive. When you log in to your Miles&Smiles account, you’ll see a field to plug in your departure and arrival cities. Easy right? Not exactly.

This works if you need to search for flights operated by Turkish Airlines. However, because we’re trying to book a flight on a Star Alliance partner, we need to utilize a different portion of the site, which seems hidden.

Hover over your name and click "miles transactions" to begin booking a Star Alliance partner flight on Turkish.

To locate the search tool, hover over your name in the top right corner and select “Miles Transactions.” This will take you to an additional site that looks like this. Click on the inconspicuous red “Book Now” hyper-link under “Star Alliance award ticket. This will take you to another search tool that looks nearly identical to the first, but it’s used for finding Star Alliance availability.

Click the "book now" button under the "Star Alliance award ticket"

Key in the dates that you found on the United site, and your award availability should show up. If it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean it’s not available. It means you have to call Turkish Airlines at 800-874-8875 to complete your booking.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what program to use for each destination can be a lot to remember. After planning a few trips, you will start to get the feel for which airlines are the best starting places for the regions you like to travel. You can reference this article the next time you are planning a trip to see if your destination falls into an award chart sweet spot.

Of course, you have a life to live, and maybe you are so busy earning miles, you’d rather not spend the time learning how to redeem them. In that case, you can use 10xTravel’s award booking service, and we’ll use our knowledge of all the best award chart sweet spots to maximize your points and help you reach your destination.

Having trouble redeeming your miles?
We can help.

Sit back and relax while our experts do all of the work to help you get the most out of your points & miles.

Book Now