Sunday, January 29th, 2012, 2:30 pm
To avoid all fuel surcharges:
-For Delta travel transfer points (from 40K) to Flying Blue.
-For Skyteam travel on airlines besides Delta, transfer points (From 64K) to Delta.
-For Star Alliance travel transfer points (from 64K) to USAirways.
-For OneWorld or El Al travel transfer points (from 64K) to AA.
To travel for the least amount of Starpoints while paying fuel surcharges:
-For Air France/KLM travel during a promo period transfer points (from 20K) to Flying Blue. Current promo cities include NYC and LAX. For more on this option see this previous post.
-For OneWorld travel transfer points (from 32K) to JAL.
-For Skyteam travel transfer points (from 40K) to Flying Blue or Alitaila.
-For Star Alliance travel transfer points (from 48K) to ANA.
Rates listed in this post are for round-trip travel and are assuming that you maximize the 25% point bonus for transferring Starpoints in blocks of 20,000 points (which you may or may not be able to do depending on the number of passengers so you may have leftover miles)
Before you transfer try to find availability to see which transfer you should do!
As you probably know already, the Starwood card is one of the best cards out there for general spending. The points you get from it are just so much more valuable than other point currencies. You can use just a couple thousand points for free hotel stays or transfer points into miles with dozens of airlines.
Getting to Israel using Starpoints must be one of the most common questions on this site, maybe this will settle it once and for all?
Of course there are many other uses for Starpoints than just transferring them into miles. I helped a friend book a Hawaiian vacation over the peak December holiday season when rooms for going for $600/night using Starwood Cash and Points and his rooms were as little as $60+4,000 Starpoints! Those points were worth their weight in gold (well, closer to 13.5 cents per point, but you catch my drift) And that’s besides for other awards like 5th night free.
If you are transferring points you may also want to consider Starwood’s Nights & Flights option where you can save 8,000 points on a mileage transfer and any future 5 night stay in a category 3 or 4 hotel.
Still ready to transfer points to go to Israel? Great! Here’s how to do it for a little points as possible.
To make a transfer just login to your Starwood account at SPG.com. If you have never made an account at SPG.com you may need to set one up. Locate your SPG number on the Starwood AMEX statement where it lists how many points you earned in the past month and for the year. Then you can setup for SPG.com account. Click here to transfer Starpoints into airline miles. Transfers don’t happen instantly. They can take between 1-20 days. On average figure on about 3-7 days though.
While these aren’t nearly all of the possible transfer options, this should cover many of the good ones. If I’m missing any good Starwood transfer methods or if there any mistakes please post a comment!
The rates in this chart are for flights from NYC to Tel Aviv. Rates from other North American cities should be similar, but may differ depending on the airline. Remember to try to do your own research online when searching for award flights. With enough time and effort you should be able to easily book something over the phone. Remember the phone agents just want to get you off the phone as quickly as possible and aren’t likely to want to try to find any creative routings to get you your free flight.
Confused about which airlines charge a fuel surcharge on award travel? The good news if that generally US based carriers never do, but I’ve been compiling a chart of the policies of 44 airlines on the Dansdeals Forums where you can read more about the murky policies of fuel surcharges.
I wish the offending airlines would just call them what they really are: Mileage co-pays. It has nothing to with fuel and everything to do with a deceitful cash grab that will ultimately kill the mileage cash cow that is the most (only?) profitable segment of the airline industry! The airline that books your reward ticket (not the operating carrier) decides whether to charge a fuel surcharge or not. On principle I avoid accumulating miles with airlines that resort to charging them. For a trip like NYC-TLV a fuel surcharge may range from $250 to as much as $700 per ticket! I’ve noted which airlines below charge them.
Airlines that fly nonstop from North America to Israel:
-Air Canada from Toronto (bookable via Star Alliance miles)
-Continental/United from Newark (bookable via Star Alliance miles)
-Delta from JFK (bookable via Skyteam miles)
-El Al from JFK, Los Angeles, Newark, and Toronto. (bookable via AA, connections to Eilat for the same mileage available)
-USAirways from Philadelphia (bookable via Star Alliance miles)
None of these carriers offer First Class seating to Israel for miles on nonstop flights. (El Al does offer First Class, but you can only use AA miles to redeem for Coach or Business Class on El Al).
Posted mileage requirements are for round-trip travel. Some programs may allow for one-way award redemptions (for example Flying Blue miles will let you fly one-way on Delta, but you can’t use Delta miles for a one-way ticket on Delta.)
With 27 airlines (not even counting that most airlines have even more non-Star Alliance partners), Star Alliance offers the best availability for flights to Israel by leaps and bounds. Besides for the nontop flights on Air Canada, Continental, and USAirways from North American there are many options via Europe worth looking into including Swiss via Zurich, Lufthansa via Frankfurt and Munich, Brussels via Brussels, Austrian via Vienna, Turkish via Istanbul, Singapore/Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Aegean via Athens, LOT via Warsaw, or a mix of carriers like Continental from Newark to one of dozens of European cities and a European carrier to Tel Aviv. By utilizing free stopovers the possibilities are endless if you take the time to research your options!
Using USAirways miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-If there is Star Alliance availability, transfer enough points to USAirways to have 80,000 miles per ticket for coach, 120,000 miles per ticket for business (including the lie-flat cabins with BusinessFirst on Continental, Envoy on USAirways, and Executive First on Air Canada), or 180,000 for first class (the best for travel to Tel Aviv include flights on Swiss via Zurich and Lufthansa via Frankfurt or Munich).
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 USAirways miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 64,000 Starpoints in coach, 96,000 Starpoints in business, or 144,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel Surcharges: USAirways never charges fuel surcharges, although they do have a modest $50 award ticketing fee offset by the fact that they waive the phone booking fee for Star Alliance tickets.
-While you can check availability for Star Alliance rewards on Continental.com and Aeroplan.com, some partner airlines will not show up. You must call USAirways to check availability and to book flights on many partner airlines. You may be able to check Star Alliance availability on ANA’s website and then call USAirways to book. See this forum thread for info on using ANA to search Star Alliance availability and workarounds to use ANA’s website even if you don’t have any ANA miles.
-USAirways charges $150 for date and route changes and $75 for tickets booked within 14 days of departure. See this post for a roundup of award fees that US-based airline charge.
-USAirways does not allow for changes after you take any flight on a Star Alliance itinerary.
Using Air Canada Aeroplan miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-If there is Star Alliance availability (besides for on Air Canada, as you should use USAirways miles to book travel on Air Canada), transfer enough points to Aeroplan to have 80,000 miles per ticket for coach, 135,000 miles per ticket for business (including the lie-flat cabins with BusinessFirst on Continental, Envoy on USAirways, and Executive First on Air Canada), or 190,000 for first class (the best for travel to Tel Aviv include flights on Swiss via Zurich and Lufthansa via Frankfurt or Munich).
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Aeroplan miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 64,000 Starpoints in coach, 108,000 Starpoints in business, or 152,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel Surcharges: Air Canada is in the process of adding fuel surcharges for travel on select partners.
As of 01/29 if you fly on these carriers you will pay a fuel surcharge: Adria, Air Canada, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, bmi, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and THAI.
As of 01/29 if you fly on these carriers you will not pay a fuel surcharge: Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, Brussels, Continental, Croatia, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, SAS, Singapore, South African, Swiss, TAM, Turkish, United, and USAirways.
-Air Canada miles require activity every 12 months to keep them active. They also expire 7 years after they are earned regardless of activity. Both of these policies are harsher than US carriers policies.
-Air Canada generously allows for 2 free stopovers, so you can check out 2 American or European cities in addition to Tel Aviv for the same amount of miles!
-There is a $90CAD charge to change or cancel an award ticket.
-Air Canada charges significantly less in fees for lap children than the US carriers do, especially in premium classes.
-There are no last-minute “close-in” or “expedite” fees.
-While you can check availability for Star Alliance rewards on Continental.com and Aeroplan.com, some partner airlines will not show up. You must call Air Canada to check availability and to book flights on many partner airlines. You may be able to check Star Alliance availability on ANA’s website and then call Air Canada to book. See this forum thread for info on using ANA to search Star Alliance availability and workarounds to use ANA’s website even if you don’t have any ANA miles.
Using ANA miles, from 48,000 Starpoints.
-If there is Star Alliance availability and you prefer saving some Starpoints and paying a fuel surcharge, transfer enough points to ANA to have 60,000 miles per ticket for coach, 90,000 miles per ticket for business, or 140,000 miles per ticket for first class.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 ANA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 48,000 Starpoints in coach, 72,000 Starpoints in business, or 112,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel Surcharges: ANA now charges hefty fuel surcharges on all airlines.
-It takes a number of days for Starpoints to transfer into ANA miles and there is no way to have ANA hold a ticket if have no miles in your account.
-ANA miles expire after 3 years, regardless of account activity.
-ANA partner flights must be booked 7 days in advance.
-ANA does not charge for date changes.
-ANA allows a ticket to be canceled and the miles to be redeposited for a fee of just 3,000 miles.
-You can book alliance travel on on ANA’s website once you have miles in your account, although you may need to call them to book travel for flights not found on their website.
Oneworld availability to Israel can be tough. Flights to Israel include BA from London, Iberia from Madrid and Barcelona, Royal Jordanian from Amman, and Malev from Budapest.
El Al does have decent availability. While AA is partners with El Al, they are a non-alliance partner so you can book travel on El Al with AA miles, but not with other OneWorld mileage. It’s more advantageous to book El Al travel with AA miles than it is with El Al miles (the miles received from the HAS Advantage card) because El Al loads fuel surcharges onto their own tickets, but you do not pay any fuel surcharges for booking El Al tickets with AA miles.
Using AA miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
Via AA’s All-Partner Award Chart.
-If there is OneWorld or El Al availability, transfer enough points to AA to have 80,000 miles per ticket (for coach via Europe between 10/15-05/15) or 90,000 miles per ticket (for coach nonstop on El Al or via Europe between 05/16-10/14) or 135,000 miles per ticket for business nonstop on El Al or via Europe), or 180,000 miles per ticket for first class via Europe.
You can also use AA’s OneWorld award chart which allows for up to 16 stopovers starting from 90,000 miles in coach, 115,000 miles in business, and 150,000 miles in first, but the rules of this complicated award that requires at least 2 OneWorld carriers besides AA and excludes partners such as El Al are beyond the scope of this article.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 AA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 64,000 or 72,000 Starpoints in coach, 108,000 Starpoints in business, or 144,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel Surcharges: There are fuel surcharges if you want to travel on BA, but not for travel on AA or on any other partner airlines.
-You can check AA availability on AA.com. You can check OneWorld availability on BA.com or Qantas.com. (BA or Qantas frequent flyer account required) You can check El Al availability on elal.com (Matmid account required). You can also check availability by calling AA. Tickets must also be booked by calling AA.
-The best shot at availability without paying fuel surcharges would be to take AA to London or anywhere else in Europe and then El Al from London or anywhere else in europe to Tel Aviv. This routing would be 80,000 miles between October-May or the same 90,000 miles as the nonstop El Al flight from the US during the summer.
-AA allows for free date changes and routing changes on award tickets.
-AA allows you to redeem for one-way tickets for half the miles.
-Don’t forget that AA allows for a free stopover at the North American gateway city and 2 free stopovers by booking one-way tickets.
-Based in NYC and Want to get in free flights for Hawaii and Los Angeles for booking a ticket to Israel?
Book Honolulu-JFK nonstop on Hawaiian, “stopover” in JFK as long as you want, book JFK-Tel Aviv-JFK nonstop on El Al at anytime later, “stopover” in JFK for as long as you want, then book JFK-LAX nonstop on AA all for the same 90K round-trip rate as just booking JFK-Tel Aviv-JFK! Plus you can change the dates as many times as you want for free.
Don’t have any other trips planned? Just book the added segment at the end of your trip (to anywhere you want, Miami, Los Angeles, Anchorage, Vancouver, Kauai, Maui, you name it!) and you’ll have a free one-way ticket there that you can change or not even bother using for free!
Using BA miles, from 52,000 Starpoints
-If there is OneWorld availability for your dates: Transfer enough points to BA to have 65,000 miles per ticket for coach, 130,000 miles per ticket for business, or 195,000 miles per ticket in first.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 BA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 52,000 Starpoints in coach, 108,000 Starpoints in business, or 156,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel Surcharges: BA charges hefty fuel surcharges on their own and on most partner airline flights (excluding LAN and AA flights that are wholly within the Western Hemisphere.)
-You can only search partner flights on BA.com after searching for BA availability. If there is no BA availability you will then see the option to include partners in the search. This search is far from perfect, you should call BA to check more partner availability, but beware that calling will subject you to fuel surcharges on AA travel.
-Oneworld availability can also be searched by creating an account and searching on Qantas.com.
Using JAL miles, from 32,000 Starpoints
-If there is BA availability, transfer enough points to JAL to have 40,000 miles per ticket (for coach between 10/15-05/15) or 60,000 miles per ticket (for coach between 05/16-10/14) or 75,000 miles per ticket for premium economy, or 80,000 miles per ticket for business, or 100,000 miles per ticket for first.
-If there is OneWorld availability, transfer enough points to JAL to have 60,000 miles per ticket for coach, 90,000 miles per ticket for business, or 120,000 miles per ticket for first.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 JAL miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 32,000 Starpoints for off-peak coach on BA, 48,000 Starpoints for other coach travel, 60,000 Starpoints for premium economy on BA, 64,000 Starpoints for business on BA, 72,000 Starpoints in business on other partner airlines, 80,000 Starpoints in first on BA, or 96,000 Starpoints in first on other partner airlines.
-Fuel Surcharges: JAL seems to always charge a fuel surcharge.
Using LAN kilometers, from 44,800 Starpoints
-If there is availability on Royal Jordanian, transfer enough points to LAN to have 112,000 kilometers per ticket for coach or 224,000 kilometers per ticket for business.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=50,000 LAN kilometers. At a 1:2.5 ratio this means 44,800 Starpoints in coach or 89,600 Starpoints in business.
-Fuel Surcharges: LAN does not charge any fuel surcharges (and is probably the only program left that doesn’t surcharge BA award flights!)
Skyteam has pretty poor award availability. You can try searching some Skyteam availability on Delta.com. and AirFrance.com. Options to Israel besides Delta’s JFK flights are on Czech via Prague, KLM via Amsterdam, Air France via Paris, and Alitalia via Rome.
Using Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) miles, from 20,000 Starpoints
-If there is a promo award available on Flying Blue for your dates: Transfer enough points to Flying Blue to have 25,000 miles per ticket for coach or 50,000 miles per ticket for business, plus expect to pay fuel surcharges.
-If there is no promo award or for travel on partner airlines like Delta transfer enough points to Flying Blue to have 50,000 miles per ticket for coach or 100,000 miles per ticket for business.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Flying Blue miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 20,000 Starpoints in coach or 40,000 Starpoints in business for a promo award. For regular tickets and partner ticket 40,000 Starpoints per ticket in coach or 80,000 Starpoints per ticket in business.
-Fuel Surcharges: Flying Blue no longer charges a fuel surcharge for travel on Delta to/from Israel!
For travel on airlines besides Delta, Flying Blue generally charges a larger fuel surcharge than Alitalia.
-Flying Blue allows you to redeem for one-way tickets for half the miles.
Using Alitalia miles, from 40,000 Starpoints
-If there is Skyteam availability transfer enough points to Alitalia to have 50,000 miles per ticket to Alitalia for coach or 80,000 miles per ticket for business,
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Alitalia miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 40,000 Starpoints in coach or 64,600 Starpoints in business.
-Fuel Surcharges: Alitalia charges a fuel surcharge for travel on all airlines, although it tends to be less than what Flying Blue charges.
Using Delta miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-You can also transfer to Delta Skypesos to avoid fuel surcharges, but their mileage rates are variable. Coach can be between 80,000 and 190,000 and business can be between 120,000 and 370,000.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Delta miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 64,000-152,000 Starpoints in coach or 96,000-296,000 Starpoints in business.
-Fuel Surcharges: Delta does not charge a fuel surcharge for round-trip travel originating from the US on Delta but does charge fuel surcharges on select partners.
Delta charges a fuel surcharge for round-trip travel originating from select regions outside the US (Originating in Europe is surcharged, but originating in Israel is not.)