How To Get To Athens For (Almost) Free Using Points And Miles

Per The New York Times, Athens is enjoying high times after a long debt-crisis induced slump. The city’s status as a global cultural hub is unperturbed, and nightlife is rich.

There are only a few airlines that serve Athens nonstop, so flying on a points or miles itinerary likely will require some flexibility and connections. Still, for those with credit card points or frequent flyer miles saved up, Athens is well within reach. There are scattered openings for points and miles award flights in July and August, but if you can hold off until September, options improve dramatically.

If you’re looking to get into collecting miles, consider signing up for a credit card that comes with a points bonus. These cards will all net enough bonus points to cover a flight to Athens.

This post offers some tips for finding and booking award flights with various frequent flyer miles and points (which can be transferred to some frequent flyer programs). If you’re having trouble navigating the process of redeeming your points and miles, consider reaching out to an assist service like Points Pros or Juicy Miles.

Booking an Award To Athens — Nonstop Flights

Since long, overseas routes are more difficult to find mileage award seats on, it’s wise to check availability on these long flights first.

American Airlines operates a summertime flight between Philadelphia to Athens on an Airbus A330-300. Sparsely available saver award space costs 30,000 American AAdvantage miles in economy and 57,500 miles in business class.

You can search American award options using AA.com, just by clicking the “Redeem Miles” check box on the flight search page. This nonstop can be combined with domestic connections to other U.S. airports.

Availability for economy seats on this nonstop Philadelphia to Athens flight is widely available, though business class flyers will have to pay up to the excessive “Anytime” rates, or look elsewhere.

There’s good economy space between Philadelphia and Athens on a nonstop American Airlines flight. These awards can often be easily connected to domestic connections. Business class travelers will have to pony up, at least this summer.

Emirates Airline flies all year between Newark to Athens on a Boeing 777-300ER, replete with enclosed first class suites. The three cabin configuration holds eight first class suites, 42 business class seats and 10 across economy rows. Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank remains the best value for booking mileage flights on Emirates, though award flights now include high fuel surcharges.

New First Class on Emirates B777-300ER. Source: Emirates

New First Class Suites on Emirates B777-300ER. Image by Emirates

Using JAL Mileage Bank miles, one-way awards to Europe on Emirates cost 37,000 miles in economy, 60,000 miles in business class and 90,000 miles in first class. Premium cabin taxes and fees total about $300 one-way when departing from Athens and exceed $500 when departing from Newark. Ouch

The only convenient way to get credit card points into a JAL account is via a Starwood Preferred Guest crossover transfer.

Alaska’s Mileage Plan program can be used to book Emirates award flights and is also a Starwood transfer partner. Alaska charges somewhat more miles for Emirates flights, but does not apply fuel surcharges. Taxes and fees are generally limited to $19 out-of-pocket.

Alaska’s website is a great way to search for Emirates space. Just click “Use Miles” when searching for flights on the homepage.

Emirates’ own Skywards Rewards program is an American Express Rewards transfer partner, but charges extremely high surcharges, often exceeding $800 on business and first class tickets, making this an unpractical strategy for those looking to save money on a Europe redemption.

United operates summertime Newark to Athens daily route flying a Boeing 767-400ER. Available redemption rates for the current schedule start at 30,000 United MileagePlus miles in economy and over 100,000 miles in business class each way. Taxes and fees are minimal.

Between New York City and Athens, there are a few dates this August on which United offers saver level economy awards, at 30,000 United MileagePlus miles, but they are few and far between. Business class saver awards, at 70,000 miles each, are available on a couple days as well.

Delta Air Lines flys two summertime New York Kennedy (JFK) to Athens services. To find space on Delta, click the “Show Prices In Miles” tab when doing a flight search on delta.com.

Redemption rates for the current schedule start at 34,000 Delta SkyMiles in economy and 82,000 miles in business class, one-way. Taxes and fees are negligible when departing from JFK and approach $300 when departing from Athens.

Expanded Award Options to Athens With Connections in Europe

Beyond nonstops from the US, travelers may be able to find award flights connect through European hubs.

United MileagePlus options

A quick scan of United’s website award search feature offers options to Athens from North America both on United operated flights through a European connection with Aegean Airlines, and also via partner airlines Lufthansa, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Between North America and Europe, economy saver awards price at 30,000 United MileagePlus miles per leg and business class saver awards price at 60,000 or 70,000 miles per leg depending on whether United operates the transatlantic segment.

United offers lie-flat business class seats between Newark and Athens. Image by United

Even for those living in and around New York City, economy saver awards with connections between New York and Athens are wide open in both directions beginning in September through the end of the schedule. Almost all dates have more than one seat available for redemption at saver levels. Business class saver awards become widely available in October through the end of the schedule and tend to have more than one seat available for redemption on most dates.

Economy saver award availability departing San Francisco is open over the entire schedule while availability for flights departing from Athens opens up in September. The majority of dates have more than one seat available for redemption. The same is true with business class saver award availability, though wider spread availability begins in November through the end of the schedule in both directions.

Delta SkyMiles Options

Searching for Delta SkyMiles awards to Athens via Delta’s website provides yet additional possibilities. Through Delta’s partnerships with Alitalia, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France, fliers can select between multiple routes on many dates to reach Greece. Lower level economy and business class awards price at 30,000 or 40,000 miles and 70,000 miles respectively.

From Atlanta, lower level economy award availability opens up in September through the end of the schedule in both directions with multiple seats available for redemption on most dates. Fliers will find a smattering of lower level business class availability in the fall and spring, with the majority of availability opening up in the winter months in both directions, typically with more than one award seat available.

The Upshot

Athens isn’t the easiest place to reach directly from the U.S., but if you have some flexibility and can connect in a European hub like Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris, it is possible to find space to use credit card points and frequent flier miles to significantly reduce the cost.

What is your preferred routing to Athens? 

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