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So I saw an article on USA Today the other day about the 50 longest airline routes from the US and Canada.  Starting from YVR-AKL on Air Canada (7066 miles or 6131 nautical miles) at #50 up to #1 ATL-JNB at 8448 miles on Delta.


Air New Zealand from YVR-AKL is #50 on the list. Photo: Boeing

It was an interesting read (though fairly time-consuming to try and scroll through all the pictures).  It got me interested in a little exercise to try and figure out WHAT flight would have the cheapest redemption with airline miles (points) per actual FLOWN miles.

The longest flights

So the USA Today article only gives us the top 50 flights ORIGINATING from North America.  To get the full list, I first turned to Airline Route Mapper, which is a handy tool that I like to use to figure out who flies where.  There are some data issues, but I’d say it is about 99% accurate, which generally speaking is good enough for my purposes.

I started by taking all of the flights that were 8000 miles and above.  I messed with that for a little bit, until I happened to Google something on the topic, and of course the Wikipedia already had me covered!! 🙂

As most AvGeeks will know, the current longest flight in the world is now Dallas-Sydney, flown by Qantas (since the discontinuation of Newark-Singapore in November 2013).

I took a look at those flights and compared them to how many airline miles are needed for a ticket on those flights.  I mainly focused on American, Alaska, United, and British Airways, though I also checked ANA, Air France (since Delta doesn’t allow one-way redemptions until 2015), Air Canada and a few others.  If I missed a mileage plan that you think would give a better price, make a mention of it in the comments.

So for each of those longest flights, I took the number of airline  miles needed (I called them points to distinguish them from actual flown miles), and then divided that by the flown miles to calculate the Points per Mile (PPM) cost.  Lower is better!  Obviously this is setting aside the fact that miles in different program are not really 1:1 equivalent

  1. The best flight I found was JFK-HKG on Cathay Pacific, at 8068 miles, which you can book for 35,000 American AAdvantage miles, or 4.335 PPM
  2. EWR-HKG is 8061 miles which is also Cathay and you can also book for 35,000 American miles, or 4.339 PPM.  United also flies this route, but takes 40,000 miles.
  3. DFW-SYD is the longest flight at 8578 miles (operated by Qantas) and can be booked for 37,500 American miles, or 4.37 PPM

Connecting flights

Another very valid point that I have totally overlooked is connecting flights.  I chose to concentrate solely on direct flights since otherwise the problem would be a LOT harder to solve.  You could definitely take advantage of some of the “region-based” award charts (which is most airlines) to lower your PPM.  I’m thinking something like Barrow, Alaska to the southern tip of Chile.

Other flights with lower Points per Mile

Another post that interested me was Running with Miles mentioning that JetBlue has lowered the redemption price for several of its flights to 3500 miles.  Looking through the list of flights, the longest one seems to be JFK to Jacksonville, which is 830 miles, or 4.22 PPM.

I decided to disqualify promotional offers, so the 1500 mile redemptions from airberlin and the seasonal Air France promo awards were right out.

That led me over to Avios, who have a distance-based chart.

british airways award chart

  • So Avios Zone 1 is 4500 points for 649 flown miles, 6.93 PPM
  • Zone 2 is 7500 points for 1149 miles, 6.53 PPM
  • Zone 4 is the sweet spot – 12,500 miles for up to 3000 miles, or 4.17 PPM.  This is the magic of the well-known BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus trick, since that comes in at 2987 flown miles

American off-peak awards

American has off-peak awards for many of its routes – 17,500 miles to Hawaii, 12,500 to Mexico and the Caribbean, 15,000 miles to Central American and northern South America, 20,000 miles to Europe and southern South America, and 25,000 miles to Japan and Korea.

  • Buenos Aires (EZE) to either Dallas (DFW) or New York (JFK) – both 5308 miles for 20,000 points offpeak, 3.77 PPM
  • New York (JFK) to Tokyo (NRT) – 6736 miles for 25,000 points offpeak, 3.71 PPM
  • Dallas (DFW) to Seoul (ICN) – 6834 miles for 25,000 points offpeak, 3.66 PPM
  • San Diego (SAN) to London (LHR) – 5477 miles for 20,000 points offpeak, 3.65 PPM
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Lima (LIM) – 4180 miles for 15,000 points offpeak, 3.59 PPM

So there you have it

As far as I could figure it out, Los Angeles to Lima is the grand winner in this (mostly meaningless) game.  One other note to consider is that although I focused mostly on direct flights, another option would be an itinerary with ANA, where you can get up to 18,000 flown miles for only 65,000 ANA miles, or 3.61 PPM.

Of course, now you have to figure out whether spending 16+ hours in Economy is a GOOD thing or not 🙂

Did you find a flight with a lower Point-per-Mile value?  Leave me a note in the comments!

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