Trouble finding business class award space to Europe? Here are your best bets

Everyone wants to fly in the flashiest, latest and greatest business class seats. Good luck getting in on that deal. With more points than ever on the open market, finding award space on popular and well known airlines is ever more difficult.

Want to use 57,500 AAdvantage miles to get to Europe in American Airlines reverse herringbone seat this fall? Happy hunting. American is now charging AAdvantage award prices upward 150,000 one-way for most seats on these aircraft. Finding a saver award on American’s best planes can be a needle in a haystack affair.

Fortunately, the following airlines are ready and willing to clean up your award booking mess. Lessor known carriers and those offering fifth freedom routes between Europe and North America often have wide open business class award space, if you know where to look.

Here are your best bets for finding business class saver space to Europe in the coming months. Still having trouble finding space, or perhaps you don’t have time to search all these carriers? Contact the award booking specialists at JuicyMiles for help.

Star Alliance

Star Alliance awards are easily searchable and can be booked through United (Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner) and Aeroplan (American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner).

Tickets can be booked through any Star Alliance airline mileage program, but the best value for cardholders is usually to book through Aeroplan, where transatlantic business awards are available for 55,000 miles. Singapore KrisFlyer, a common transfer partner for all cards, charges 65,000 miles each way for partner business awards to Europe, though bookings must be made over the phone. United, which charges 70,000 miles, offers decent but not great value as a transfer partner for Chase cardholders.

If you are booking a round-trip itinerary, ANA (an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner) charges just 88,000 miles for Star Alliance partner business awards. No open jaws are allowed, however.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777 and 787 (pictured) offer lie-flat herringbone business class seats with direct aisle access.

Yes, you can fly Air New Zealand from the United States to Europe. As a fifth freedom leg on its London to Auckland itinerary, Air New Zealand offers daily nonstop service between Los Angeles and London on a Boeing 777-300er.

You can search availability through United, which charges 70,000 miles one-way in business class, no fuel surcharges.

NZ’s business class is highly regarded. The 777’s herringbone seating is not the most spacious or private business class setup out there, but offers direct aisle access and fully flat sleeping surfaces. As for the service, Skytrax rates NZ among many of the world’s best airlines. Enjoy.

LOT Polish Airlines

LOT Polish Airways offers fully flat business class seats on board its 787s.

LOT flies from its hub at Warsaw Frederic Chopin International Airport (WAW)  to New York Kennedy (JFK), Newark (EWR), Chicago (ORD) and Los Angeles (LAX). LOT has generally good business and economy award availability for flights to a wide variety of European destinations, and does not impose fuel surcharges.

The airline’s business class cabin features 18 lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. These are the straight-forward lie-flat seats offered on many airlines, including Turkish, LATAM, Hainan and Xiamen. While they lack features like storage compartments and direct aisle access, these seats are generally renowned for their overall spaciousness.

Poland’s national airline has garnered good reviews of late, and holds a three-star Skytrax rating, the same as the major U.S. carriers American, Delta and United, though recent feedback on the Skytrax site indicate the airline may be improving quickly.

Connections through Warsaw’s Frederic Chopin International Airport should be seamless. The international terminal is new, features several executive lounge options and one of the few duty-free stores I actually find value at. The airline is on the smaller side, and most travellers report minimal problems with customs and security lines, making quick connections possible.

As a bonus, all LOT transatlantic flights are flown on new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines Business Class cabin.

Turkish is currently offering great award space not only on transatlantic itineraries to Europe, but also to the Middle East and Asia. They fly to a number of U.S. cities, including Boston, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Despite an inferior 2-3-2 layout in its business class cabin, Turkish offers spacious lie-flat seats and some of the best on board service and cuisine of any airline.

Even when United’s award calendar isn’t showing saver availability, airlines like LOT and Turkish often have seats available for 70,000 miles. The same seats can be had for 65,000 KrisFlyer miles or 55,000 Aeroplan miles.

The airline has suffered from overblown security concerns following an incident last year outside of Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. Cautious fliers have contributed to relatively abundant award space on Turkish in both economy and business class, and low overall fares. The airline’s international terminal is renowned for its security measures, however, and no Turkish Airlines passengers have ever been affected by civil disturbances in Istanbul.

While Istanbul Ataturk Airport can be a bit tricky to navigate, the airline offers excellent lounge service and one of the best onboard experiences around.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines' New Business Class onbaord the A350. Source: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ New Business Class onboard the A350. Source: Singapore Airlines

One of the world’s best airlines is also one of the easiest ways to get across the Atlantic using points and miles. The only catch here is that you’ll need a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account to search for award availability, as Singapore does not show up on Star Alliance partners like Aeroplan and United, and they rarely release even saver award space to Star Alliance partners.

KrisFlyer is a transfer partner with both Chase and American Express, and Singapore consistently has award space available on their two transatlantic fifth freedom routes, Houston (IAH) to Manchester (MAN), on an A350, and New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA), on an A380.

Singapore’s Houston (IAH) to Manchester (MAN) fifth freedom flights are operated by Airbus A350 aircraft and cost 65,000 miles plus $23.60.

You can also waitlist saver space on these flights, which is essentially requesting the first available seat that opens. Singapore will email you when space opens up, and you’ll typically have 24 hours to book the award before losing it.

It is possible to waitlist Singapore KrisFlyer awards, meaning the airline will hold the first available seat and notify you when it becomes available.

If you’re able to find saver award space on a Singapore leg and separate saver award availability on a connecting carrier (i.e. Air Canada, Lufthansa or United) you can book a connecting itinerary, like New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) to Warsaw (WAW) to Budapest (BUD) as a Star Alliance partner award, for the same price. You’ll have to call Singapore’s awards office to make the reservation, though.

You could use saver space on other Star Alliance carriers to book an onward journey from Frankfurt. Conversely, you could use United saver space to connect from another U.S. city to New York or Houston.

Most frequent fliers will probably agree, this is the most comfortable business class seat regularly crossing the Atlantic. Did I mention you can also use KrisFlyer miles to book Singapore’s famous first class suites across the pond? Yes, you can.

Ethiopian Airlines

I include Ethiopian last in this section, not because of any particular reservations I have about safety or service, but because of their limited route frequency.

Ethiopian Airlines offers angled lie-flat seats on its fifth freedom flights three times per week between Los Angeles (LAX) and Dublin (DUB), served with 787 Dreamliners, and also offers fifth-freedom service in one direction from Dublin to Toronto (YYZ) and Washington Dulles (IAD). While frequency is limited, award availability appears to be at or above 50 percent on flights operating this summer and fall.

The airline’s 787s feature modern business class cabins, though the slightly angled seats aren’t adventageous. Expect a variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes on the flights, an unusual and different culinary experience for those bored by the standard rotation of business class airplane meals.

Business class award space on an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 787 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dublin (DUB).

SkyTeam

Skyteam members include Delta (an AMEX transfer partner), Air France/KLM Flying Blue (a Chase and AMEX transfer partner), Alitalia (AMEX) and Korean Air (Chase and AMEX).

Some of the below airlines can be rather difficult to find space on, given that neither Delta nor Air France search portals display award space for AirEuropa.

If you’re hellbent on flying Delta metal, it is possible to book SkyTeam partner awards using skymiles, and then call to request a change onto Delta aircraft after a schedule change (even a 10 minute departure shift can sometimes do the trick).

AirEuropa

Air Europa plans to install fully flat business class seats on its A330 and new 787 fleet. Hopefully award space will remain available following the conversion. Source: AirEuropa.

This lessor-known European SkyTeam partner offers service to four U.S. cities: Boston, New York (JFK), Miami and seasonally to Las Vegas. While AirEuropa does not yet offer fully flat beds on its transatlantic fleet, it offers abundant award space in angled lie-flat business class.

I consider AirEuropa to be the La Compagnie of European award space — not as nice as a business class seats on a legacy airline, but a good value when other options are nil.

You’ll have to call either Delta, Flying Blue or another partner to book awards on AirEuropa, as they are not available online.

Award space between Miami and Madrid is fairly wide open beginning in the fall.

The business class cabin is also wide open between Boston and Madrid, although frequency is limited to Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Aeroflot

Moscow is one of the more commonly avoided hubs in the world, perhaps because of perceptions about Russian politics, and perhaps because of misconceptions about complex visa requirements affecting U.S. citizens there. Rather, transiting Moscow’s international terminal should be fairly painless and Aeroflot offers a decent business class lounge to relax in.

Aeroflot’s business class cabin has earned solid reviews, though, and this general avoidance makes it fairly easy to get to a variety of European and Central Asian destinations on Russia’s flagship carrier, which also happens to be one of the world’s oldest airlines. Aeroflot operates 777-300er aircraft between its hub in Moscow and New York (JFK) and Los Angeles. Beware, Airbus A330 aircraft often used to service Miami feature angled seating.

If you’re willing to stomach an intermediate fuel surcharge, it’s very easy to find business class awards on Aeroflot to a wide variety of European destinations.

Aeroflot award availability is easy to search through Delta.com, while Skyteam partner FlyingBlue offers better mileage redemption rates on flights between the U.S. and Europe.

One World

Air Berlin

Avoiding fuel surcharges to Europe using One World partners can be tricky. The number one transatlantic One World carrier is British Airways, the fuel surcharge witch of the west, and American Airlines has offered exceptionally sparse business class availability on its own metal of late.

Air Berlin often slips through the cracks as a smaller airline, but with daily service to Boston, Chicago, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), Orlando and San Francisco, it can be a great way to access. It is possible to search for Air Berlin awards through American Airlines or British Airways, which is an American Express and Chase transfer partner.

Availability on Air Berlin through American is wide open through the summer.

Non-alliance

The biggest advantage of non-alliance carriers is that they often have partnerships with airlines across alliance borders, actually improving your options for booking an award and the opportunity to find a low price.

Jet Airways

Jet Airways 777 premiere business class features the same herringbone seats used on Delta and Air New Zealand’s 777s. Award availability between Toronto and Amsterdam is generally wide open. Source: Jet Airways.

While Jet Airways does not currently fly to any U.S. cities, their daily 777-300er service between Toronto and Amsterdam has outstanding business class award availability, which can be booked through a wide variety of frequent flier programs across all alliances, including American Airlines, ANA, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta, FlyingBlue, Korean Air, Etihad, Emirates, and Virgin Atlantic.

You’ll have to use ExpertFlyer to search availability, and call your frequent flyer program of choice to book. To string together an itinerary originating in the United States, it is probably easiest to book with either American AAdvantage or Delta. Korean Air is also a good option, but can only be used to book round-trip itineraries.

Availability for two seats is open more often than not on Jet Airways’ Toronto to Amsterdam route, and can be combined with Delta or American Airlines award flights to U.S. cities.

One of the most enticing values out there is to book directly with Jet Airways, which recently became a Citi ThankYou transfer partner. Business class tickets between Toronto and Europe cost 40,000 points one-way.

Onboard, Jet Airways offers direct aisle access herringbone suites, among the better seats included in this list.

AAdvantage miles can also be used to book semi-enclosed first class suites on the 777, though you’ll have to call to check availability, as it does not appear through ExpertFlyer.

Have you found good award availability to Europe lately? Share them in the comments section below.

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Comments

  1. Some advice on Air Berlin…

    I just flew back to NY this week in Air Berlin business class. The product and in-flight service was great. The plane was brand new as well.

    Warning – good luck if you need to check a bag. They outsource all baggage handling and deflect all questions to a baggage office at JFK that doesn’t answer the phone and has a voicemail that is full. My wife’s bag (despite a priority business class tag on it) has been lost for 3 days and their phone, Twitter and Facebook support team’s each send you back to this office which is unresponsive. There has been 0 update and it seems they have 0 interest in helping fix the situation. There were at least 15 others on our flight who did not receive their luggage as well upon landing and it appears that this is a major issue for the airline, based on what their customer service rep told me.

  2. the ANA Android app says “no flights” when i look for NYC to Frankfurt mid Sept return late Oct early Nov for many date combo’s … i would have expected to see their Star Alliance partner Singapore air show up. Does ANA android app not show alliace flights? … in general, how would i book a star alliance award ticket via ANA (i would be transfereing AMEX points or Chase points or Citi points)

    • As mentioned in the article, Singapore Airlines space does not appear on other Star Alliance partners, and is rarely even made available at the saver level. You can transfer Amex, Chase, or Citi points directly to Singapore KirsFlyer. This would be the only way I’d recommend booking these flights.
      Cheers,
      John

  3. Can the connecting itinerary for Singapore be either before OR after the Singapore leg? ie. If I find availability JFK-FRA, can I book a flight to JFK on United and include it on the same award?

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