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The Guide to Fly to Azerbaijan with Points
Azerbaijan is a tricky country to book points with because there’s no direct flight coming from the US. But, certain airlines and programs allow for connecting flights with the same amount of points due to them having regional award pricing, or take you on the long-haul part to a transit airport comfortably in Business Class with points. Then, you can simply while pay the final short-haul leg to Baku in cash.
This guide will show you some of the most effective ways to fly to Azerbaijan with points.
Book Star Alliance Flights
To fly to Azerbaijan with points, we need to focus on Turkish Airlines. Chances are, you’ll need to have a layover in Istanbul to go to Azerbaijan. Turkish Airlines is a part of the Star Alliance, so there are plenty options of mileage programs to choose from. To make it easier, I’ll just break it down to 2 programs you can use: ANA Mileage Club and Turkish Miles & Smiles.
ANA Mileage Club
ANA Mileage Club can provide decent value for Europe flights coming from the US. To fly to Azerbaijan with points under ANA, you’ll need 88,000 ANA Miles for a round trip ticket. Luckily, Azerbaijan is included in the Europe region according to ANA rules (tricky in real life too I suppose), and is the easternmost country in the zone (Zone 7).
The catch with ANA is that you need to book a round trip ticket for award international flights, so finding availability is harder, but should be doable if you book far in advance.
One noticeable downside on booking with ANA is that the fuel surcharges are passed on to you, in which Turkish Airlines mildly impose. Because you’ll be flying 4 separate Turkish Airlines flights, the fuel surcharge will be quite high. In the example given below, you’d have to pay ~$718 in fuel surcharges flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Baku (GYD) in Business Class Round Trip.
Booking a round trip Business Class with ANA Miles net you ~2.5 cents per point after accounting for the fuel surcharges and other fees. This is quite a good redemption!
However, the same cannot be the same for Economy Class. Economy Round Trip would cost 55,000 ANA Miles. But, due to the fuel surcharges, I don’t recommend using ANA Miles to book Economy as the value proposition is terrible compared to the actual cash rate.
The valuation of economy class redemption is ~0.72 cents per point after comparing the cash rate of $975 (which can be cheaper at times) and accounting the high fuel surcharge. That’s worse than cashback! Business class is the way to go for points redemption.
Paying cash instead nets you rewards from your credit card spend and Turkish Miles after attaching your Turkish Miles & Smiles frequent flyer number to your flights.
How to Earn ANA Miles
ANA Mileage Club is a transfer partner to American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. By simply earning Membership Rewards points, you can then transfer them to ANA at a 1:1 ratio. It may take 2-4 days for points transfer to go through.
Marriott Bonvoy lets you transfer to ANA at a 3:1 ratio with a bonus of 5000 miles if you transfer at least 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in a single transfer, resulting in total of 25,000 Miles. Although, I’d rather use Marriott Bonvoy points for Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
Beware that ANA Miles will expire after 3 years starting the date of the completed points transfer. There’s no way to extend the expiration date in the current system!
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is another program you can use instead to fly to Azerbaijan with points. Unlike ANA Mileage Club, you can book one-way ticket so you’re not forced into having to book a round trip ticket. This can be useful if you want to hop to nearby countries after visiting Azerbaijan before going home!
45,000 Turkish Miles is required for a one-way ticket on Business Class, and 30,000 for Economy Class. A round-trip itinerary is simply double the amount, which is a bit more than ANA Mileage Club. But, Turkish Miles & Smiles charges less fuel surcharges on Turkish Airlines flights (metal).
The valuation for a round-trip Business Class comes out to be ~2.67 cents per point, which is slightly better than ANA Mileage Club.
For round-trip Economy Class, the valuation comes out to be ~1.17 cents per point. While it’s better than ANA, it’s better to top up 30,000 more points for much more comfortable experience. Again, it’s better to pay cash instead if you want to fly economy to earn credit card spending rewards and a bit of Turkish Miles for a future redemption!
Layover flying from/to United States-Azerbaijan can be long, but booking Business Class grants you access to Business Class Lounges to make the wait much more bearable!
The Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge in IST is one of the most revered airport lounges out there. It comes with PlayStation stations and virtual golf! This trip can definitely provide the sweet time needed to relax and enjoy!
This wraps up the methods to fly to Azerbaijan on points with Star Alliance flights! If I would choose between ANA vs. Turkish Airlines, I would go for Turkish Airlines, but ANA is still a good option for those who are only running an American Express setup.
How to Earn Turkish Miles
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is a partner to Citi, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy. Citi and Capital One can transfer their respective points to Turkish Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Having cards from both issuers like Citi Premier and Capital One Venture X can let you rack up a lot of Turkish Miles to last you more than one round-trip itineraries thanks to their massive signup bonuses!
Turkish Miles expire 3 years after issuance. The only way to extend them for another 3 years is to pay the rate of $10 per 1000 miles! Make sure to use them before then!
Book Qatar Airways
Moving on from Star Alliance, the Oneworld alliance is another route to take to fly to Azerbaijan with points. While business class flights are nice in general, going the Oneworld route will let you experience one of the best, if not the best, business class in the world. That is the Qatar Airways QSuites! For Qatar Airways, I’ll focus on two programs: Qatar Airways Privilege Club and American Airlines AAdvantage.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Qatar Airways Privilege Club provides good value for Qatar Airways flights coming from/to Doha, the capital city of Qatar. From the US to Doha, you can expect to pay 70,000 Qatar Airways QMiles for a one-way flight inside the QSuites, one of the best business class seats in the world.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club has a handy miles calculator where you can expect the miles required for a redemption.
LAX is one of the many airports with direct flights to Doha with QSuites as Business Class seats. After landing in Doha, you can purchase a separate flight to Baku. Depending on your schedule, you’d likely spend at least a night or two in Doha. There are cool hotels to check out in Doha, so it can be worth the stopover!
The separate one-way ticket from Doha to Baku can be quite steep for what it is however. Cash price on Economy can be at ~$550 for one way (~$2000 on Business!!) on Qatar Airways (sole non-stop option). It’s about half off when it’s done on the flip side (GYD-DOH).
Luckily, you can opt to pay an extra 15,000 for a connecting flight to Baku on Business Class with Qatar Airways Privilege Club. Just be aware that the final leg to Baku won’t be in QSuites, and it’s a short haul flight that goes under 3 hours.
Remember, it’s simply a connecting flight, so depending on where you’re flying from, you might have a short or a lengthy layover. It appears though the wait isn’t long if you’re flying from one of the major US airports.
Being a Qatar Airways Business Class passenger allows you access to the Al Mourjan Lounge in DOH. Just like the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge in IST, the Al Mourjan Lounge is one of the most revered lounges as well!
How to Earn Qatar Airways QMiles
Qatar Airways Privilege Club is a partner airline to Citi. Citi ThankYou is the only effective way to earn QMiles through credit card spending. As Citi is also a partner of Turkish Airlines, you can do a mixed approach in redeeming one-way tickets with both Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways, totaling to 130,000 Citi ThankYou points required for a round trip while trying out 4 different Business Class seats in one go!
Don’t forget, Capital One is a partner to Turkish Airlines as well, so you can opt to use Capital One Miles instead for the Turkish Airlines portion of the trip.
American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines AAdvantage is mostly the go-to program to use for Oneworld flights, in which Qatar Airways is a part of. So that means, AAdvantage miles can be used to redeem for the QSuites!
The points requirement to fly from the US to Doha in QSuites is actually the same as the miles required under Qatar Airways Privilege Club with 70,000 AAdvantage Miles.
The catch is, finding a connecting flight can be really difficult, so you’ll most likely book a separate leg to your final flight to Baku. If you’re lucky to find one however, you’ll be paying the same 70,000 AA Miles for the additional final leg to Baku!
Redeeming with points for Business Class from Doha to Baku isn’t worth the extra 42,500 AAdvantage Miles to book considering the flight duration, but redeeming for Economy can net a decent value. With all that said, AAdvantage can be useful if you want to spend a few days in Doha while on your way to Baku or Baku home. Hehe.
How to Earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles aren’t transferable from major credit card issuers. But, they do have plenty of co-branded credit card options from Citi and Barclays, including business cards to avoid the pesky Chase 5/24 rule. One of them have ridiculously easy signup bonus requirement by just completing a purchase of any amount and paying the first year’s annual fee (Aviator Red).
Many of them include free first checked bag as a benefit, and there will be times where you have to take a domestic flight to an airport hub to fly an award ticket. This benefit alone can outweigh the annual fee you pay. For myself, I have to fly to LAX from SFO to be able to fly award tickets on Turkish Airlines as there’s literally no award tickets for direct flight on SFO-IST.
And of course, just like with Qatar Airways Privilege Club, you can do a mixed approach with Turkish Airlines as long as you can find award availability for both of your departure and return flights.
These are the four effective ways to fly to Azerbaijan with points. Even though Azerbaijan does not have a direct flight coming from the US, the programs mentioned allow for connecting flights or book separate short-haul flights while experiencing one of the best business class seats and do a stopover in Doha.
This strategy can also work if you’re flying to Georgia or Armenia as well. But for Armenia, the Star Alliance method won’t work as well since Turkish Airlines don’t fly directly to Armenia. Going to the Caucasus region on points isn’t as hard as it looked!
I hope this will make you think about going to Azerbaijan! It’s definitely a hidden gem of a destination that I’d like to return to again one day. If you’re interested, there are blog posts about Azerbaijan here in Seal the Deal Travels!