The best ways to get to Paris using points and miles
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Paris, the City of Light, is an absolute must-see for any foodie, romantic or history buff out there. As one of the most populous cities in Europe and a global hub of finance, fashion and more, it should come as no surprise that there are a large number of ways to get there from the U.S. If you’ve been planning a trip to Paris, you’re in luck, as today we’re going to look at the best ways to get to the French capital on points and miles.
Airlines that fly to Paris
Paris has two major airports: Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY). Almost every long-haul, international flight goes in and out of CDG, which is what we’ll focus on in this post. However, if you’re connecting through another European city, you may find yourself flying into or out of Orly. While Orly is slightly closer to the city center, Paris has a very comprehensive public transit system and it’s quite easy to get downtown from either airport.
Note as well that you’ll occasionally run across an award ticket that connects in Paris but requires you to change airports, like this one booked through the Flying Blue program:
This will be the exception rather than the norm, but be sure you pay close attention to your itinerary to make sure you don’t wind up with an unexpected, required airport transfer.
Back to CDG … in order to make this list a bit more approachable, I’ve broken it up by alliance and only included airlines that are relevant to a U.S.-based traveler. While Emirates flies to Paris three times a day from its hub in Dubai (DXB), most frequent flyer programs require you to take a more direct routing.
United flies from nearly all of its major U.S. hubs to Paris, including Washington-Dulles (IAD), Newark (EWR), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and San Francisco (SFO).
The following Star Alliance carriers also fly to Paris:
- Air Canada flies from both Montreal (YUL) and Toronto (YYZ) to Paris
- Austrian flies from Vienna (VIE) to Paris
- Brussels Airlines flies from Brussels (BRU) to Paris
- LOT Polish flies from Warsaw (WAW) to Paris
- Lufthansa flies from both Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC) to Paris
- SAS flies from Copenhagen (CPH), Oslo (OSL) and Stockholm (ARN) to Paris
- Swiss flies from Zurich (ZRH) to Paris
- TAP Portugal flies from Lisbon (LIS) to Paris Orly**
- Turkish flies from Istanbul (IST) to Paris
American Airlines flies from a number of U.S. cities to Paris, including Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Philadelphia (PHL) and New York-JFK.
The following Oneworld airlines also fly to Paris:
- British Airways flies from London Heathrow (LHR) to Paris
- Finnair flies from Helsinki (HEL) to Paris
- Iberia flies from Madrid (MAD) to Paris
Because of its joint venture with French flag carrier Air France, Delta flies to Paris from the following cities: Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL), Cincinnati (CVG), Detroit (DTW), Seattle (SEA), Salt Lake City (SLC), Boston (BOS), Indianapolis (IND), Raleigh-Durham (RDU) and New York-JFK.
The following SkyTeam airlines also fly to Paris:
- Aeroflot flies from Moscow (SVO) to Paris
- Alitalia flies from Rome (FCO) to Paris
- KLM flies from Amsterdam (AMS) to Paris
With its Paris hub, SkyTeam member Air France warrants a section all to itself. The carrier flies to a number of U.S. cities, using a mix of aircraft including its (woefully uncompetitive) A380, 777-300ER (featuring the carrier’s top-notch, La Premiere first class), A330 and newer 787 aircraft. Current North American routes including the following cities:
- Seattle (SEA)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Houston (IAH)
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Miami (MIA)
- Washington-Dulles (IAD)
- New York-JFK
- Detroit (DTW)
- Boston (BOS)
- Montreal (YUL)
- Toronto (YYZ)
And of course, there are numerous Air France-operated flights within Europe, so if you can get to another SkyTeam city on the continent, you shouldn’t have any problem booking a connecting flight into Paris.
Best Mileage Options
Given how much of the market share on these routes is dominated by U.S. airlines and their European alliance partners, you’ll have an easier time planning if you focus first on which airline and route you want to fly and then look for the best way to book it. Once again, it helps to group your options by alliance.
It’s easy to start with Star Alliance because it offers both the most one-stop routings from the US to Paris and the greatest number of loyalty programs with which to book. Here are your best mileage options for round-trip award flights:
|Program||Transfer partners||Round-trip mileage costs|
|ANA Mileage Club||Amex, Marriott||
|Aeroplan||Amex, Capital One, Marriott||
|Avianca LifeMiles||Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott||
|Singapore KrisFlyer||Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott||
|United MileagePlus*||Chase, Marriott||
* United recently removed its award chart and moved to dynamic pricing for flights on its own metal beginning Nov.15. The prices shown here are for Star Alliance partner flights, which continue to utilize a fixed-price award chart (at least for the time being).
While ANA does have the cheapest award rates pretty much across the board, it does come with a cost. For starters, you’re only allowed to book round-trip awards, which takes away an important degree of flexibility. ANA also passes on fuel surcharges, which can run quite high on certain Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa. However, you are allowed both an open jaw and a stopover on an award ticket, meaning you could fly from Chicago to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, stop for a few days, and continue on to Paris. You could then make your way down to Rome before flying back to Chicago, all on the same ticket. That gives you three destinations for the price of one, an absolute steal.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is likely your next best option, and it comes with the flexibility to book one-way awards. Just be careful which partner you choose to fly, as select partners incur fuel surcharges when booked through Aeroplan. For example, the added costs on a one-way, Lufthansa first-class award come out to a whopping $875. Just be aware of customer service issues Aeroplan has been struggling through at the end of 2019.
If you can find the award space, you’d be much better off flying with an airline like United, which will only incur $5.60 in taxes for an award ticket booked through Aeroplan.
Another very popular choice — especially for those looking to avoid fuel surcharges entirely — is Avianca LifeMiles. Economy awards cost the same 30,000 miles each way as Aeroplan, while business-class awards cost 63,000 miles and first-class awards require 87,000 miles. However, you could end up paying less than that, especially if you’re flying in first class. LifeMiles offers slight discounts on mixed-cabin awards, which are all but guaranteed if you’re connecting in Europe after a first-class flight. In the example below, flying Lufthansa first class from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA) and then connecting in business class would only cost 85,510 miles instead of 87,000 — and only $40 in taxes vs. the $875 Aeroplan would charge for the same award.
If you have your heart set on flying Lufthansa first class, however, just be aware that award space typically doesn’t appear to partner programs until at most 15 days prior to departure.
Finally, it’s essential to point out United’s recent switch to dynamic award pricing. For flights departing on or after Nov. 15, 2019, United no longer uses a fixed award chart for flights on its own metal. It’s still relatively easy to find economy awards for only 30,000 miles each way, but business class has gotten much more expensive. Paris is a premium destination thanks to a strong mix of business and leisure travel, so expect to pay over 100,000 miles each way for business class awards if you’re planning to fly on United-operated flights.
Unfortunately, these higher-priced flights aren’t bookable through any partner program — you’d need to find saver-level awards to use Aeroplan or LifeMiles for these United-operated flights.
If you’re looking to fly to Paris on a Oneworld airline such as American Airlines, you have a more limited route network to utilize, but if you’re flexible, it can be done. The first program you should consider booking through is American AAdvantage. The round-trip award costs are as follows:
- Economy: 45,000-60,000 miles
- Business: 115,000 miles
- First: 170,000 miles
Obviously the best deal here would be landing an off-peak economy award for only 22,500 miles each way, and award availability is wide open.
The off-peak dates for 2019 run from November 1 to December 14 and continue from January 10 through March 14 in 2020.
If you have Membership Rewards points, you could also look to book American-operated flights through Etihad Guest. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier still uses award rates from before the 2016 AAdvantage devaluation, meaning that one-way awards from the U.S. to Europe will set you back just 20,000 to 30,000 miles in economy and 50,000 miles in business class. You can vide the entire award chart at this page (warning: PDF link).
If you’re based on the East Coast and don’t have access to a haul of American miles, you might also be able to get away with a distance-based program like British Airways Avios — which currently has a 40% bonus for transfers from Amex Membership Rewards. The flight from New York-JFK to Paris, for example, covers a distance of ~3,600 miles. Even after a slight devaluation earlier this year, British Airways’ partner award rates are very reasonable. Here are the one-way costs for this route:
- Economy: 20,750 Avios (just 15,000 Amex points with the current transfer bonus)
- Premium economy: 41,250 Avios
- Business: 62,000 Avios
- First: 82,500 Avios
However, British Airways does charge by segment, so you’ll want to do your best to stick to nonstop flights to Paris if redeeming Avios. And whether booking through American or British Airways, try to avoid routing through London-Heathrow (LHR) to avoid BA’s notoriously-high fuel surcharges.
While dynamic award pricing is all the rage today, in many ways it was pioneered by the SkyTeam alliance and its two most popular frequent flyer programs: Delta SkyMiles and Air France-KLM Flying Blue. Let’s start by taking a look at Delta to see an example of dynamic pricing in action.
On any given day, one-way, business-class awards range from 75,000 miles on the low end all the way up to 320,000 miles for a seven-hour flight.
The good news is that even when Delta is offering its cheapest awards, you can frequently score a much better deal by transferring points to book Delta-operated flight with Virgin Atlantic instead.
For example, at the time of writing, Delta is charging 80,000 SkyMiles for a one-way, business-class award from JFK-CDG on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.
However, booking that exact same flight through Virgin Atlantic would set you back just 50,000 miles.
There isn’t a clear pattern to the carrier’s Delta award availability, but the ability to book business class seats for only 60,000 miles each way is something to take advantage of if at all possible.
While Air France-KLM Flying Blue has lost a lot of value as a loyalty program since its own switch to dynamic pricing, you may still want to consider it given the large number of direct flights it offers between the US and Paris. Like Delta, you’ll see award prices fluctuate as much as 5x from day to day. In this example of business-class tickets from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Paris, you’ll see that even the lowest 55,000-mile awards come with ~$230 in taxes.
If you’re flexible with your departure airport, you’ll want to keep your eye out for Flying Blue’s monthly Promo Rewards. Here’s the current list of eligible cities in the US:
- Boston (BOS) or Houston (IAH) to anywhere in Europe in economy: 25% discount
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to anywhere in Europe in business class: 25% discount
The business-class discount also applies to flights from Vancouver (YVR), Edmonton (YEG) and Calgary (YYC). If you fly out of Chicago and can find Promo Reward availability, you’re looking at just 39,750 miles each way.
Even with the taxes and fees, that’s a great award rate.
No matter which airline you decide to fly with for your next trip to Paris, you’ll have the most flexibility in your trip planning if you work on accumulating transferable points. There are a number of great credit card offers on the market today that you can utilize to help build your stash up quickly:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee): Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You’ll enjoy 3x points on travel (excluding $300 annual travel credit) and dining along with a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership and primary car rental coverage (among many other perks).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee, see Rates and Fees): Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months — though be sure to check and see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point bonus through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time). You’ll earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline and enjoy an array of perks like Priority Pass membership, Delta Sky Club access (when flying Delta), Centurion Lounge access and an up to $200 annual airline fee credit. Terms apply.
- Citi Premier℠ Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. Enjoy 3x points on travel purchases (including gas) and 2x points on dining and entertainment. (The information for the Citi Premier Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year): Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Miles can be redeemed directly for travel or transferred to over a dozen airline partners.
For more details on how these programs can help you book awards across the major carriers, check out the following posts:
- Best ways to redeem Amex points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Chase points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Citi points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Capital One miles: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
There are a ton of nonstop flights between the U.S. and Paris, from major hub airports like JFK and LAX as well as smaller cities like Cincinnati. If you broaden your horizons to include one-stop options, there are thousands of combinations to help you get your French vacation on its way. The best strategy for planning a trip like this is to identify the airline and route you want to fly, and then once you’ve found award space, work backward to find the best frequent flyer program to book that ticket. In no time at all, you’ll be saying “Bonjour!” to a fantastic Paris trip.
Featured image by Givaga/Getty Images
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
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