The Best First Class & Business Class Sweet Spots For Each Program

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The Best First Class & Business Class Sweet Spots For Each Program

The Best First Class & Business Class Sweet Spots For Each Program

If you’re looking to fly in style, these are the best first class & business class sweet spots for each award program. We’ll look at each of the major award programs and find their best sweet spot for first and business class bookings. For those wanting to fly in style without spending a ton of miles, this is for you.

What Is A Sweet Spot?

I’ll admit this word probably gets overused in this hobby. For me, a “sweet spot” is a route in the airline’s award chart where you get outsized value. If an 8-hour flight normally needs X amount of miles, but there’s a certain route that’s 9 hours and costs only 1/2 of that, that’s a sweet spot. Each airline award program has them.

For today’s purposes, I’m considering the following criteria for sweet spots:

  • Distance: must cross a sea or ocean / go to a different continent
  • Price: must cost under 50,000 miles per person for a one-way flight

Thus, New York to Los Angeles flights aren’t being considered. It’s pretty simple to find deals on those. “Good value” isn’t enough to make the cut for my “sweet spot” definition.

First Class & Business Class Sweet Spots In Each Program - Alaska Airlines

First Class & Business Class Sweet Spots In Each Program

Program by program, we’ll go through the best sweet spots in that program. Each has its positive and negatives. We’ll also cover how to make the booking.

Air Canada / Aeroplan

Aeroplan from Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance, and the program is getting overhauled later this year. We covered the updates here. They are a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send), and a 2:1.5 transfer partner from Capital One.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 45,000 miles per person, one way on multiple airlines between Central/Eastern Europe and India, Maldives, etc. (needs to be under 4,000 miles)
  • First class: 40,000 miles per person, one way on Etihad first class (seats, not the Apartments) between Abu Dhabi and Amman, Beirut, Khartoum, Istanbul, etc. (needs to be under 2,000 miles)
  • Booking: book online for either award

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has numerous partnerships and is also joining oneworld alliance. Their miles aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be. However, Alaska Airlines is a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). Alaska Airlines also has a personal and a business credit card from Bank of America. The Alaska Airlines Business Card and the personal card currently have the same welcome offer: 40,000 Alaska miles after spending $2,000 in 90 days. The annual fee on either card is $75.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 30,000 miles per person, one way on American Airlines from mainland US + Alaska to South America zone 1 (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru & Manaus, Brazil)
  • First class: 27,500 miles for Cathay Pacific or 30,000 miles on JAL will give you a first class flight if you stay within the “Asia” region, which is huge.
  • Booking: book online for the AA award, call 800-252-7522 to book Cathay

American Airlines

American Airlines is a member of oneworld. They are a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). American Airlines also has co-branded credit cards from Barclays and Citi to help you quickly earn their miles through welcome offers. The CitiBusiness AAdvantage card offers 65,000 miles after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months. The Barclays AAdvantage Aviator card has a welcome offer of 60,000 miles after you make your first purchase within 90 days and pay the $95 annual fee.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 40,000 miles per person, one way from Asia 1 or Asia 2 to South Pacific. This covers all of Asia that’s east of India down to Australia, New Zealand or South Pacific Islands. Airline options are Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines (JAL), Malaysia Airlines, and Qantas.
  • First class: 50,000 miles per person between the Middle East and Asia 1 or Asia 2. This covers Etihad Apartments from Abu Dhabi to Seoul, South Korea. More on that here.
  • Booking: book online for either award

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Japan’s ANA is a member of Star Alliance. ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). Note that you MUST make round-trip bookings with ANA for their awards.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 60,000 miles round-trip from Japan to Central Asia, India, or The Maldives.
  • First class: 90,000 miles round-trip between Australia and New Zealand using fifth freedom flights in Singapore Airlines first class.
  • Booking: book online for either award

Asiana Airlines

South Korea’s Asiana is a member of Star Alliance. The airline is a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). There is also an Asiana Visa Signature card from Bank of America. Spend $3,000 in the first month to earn 30,000 miles.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 27,500 miles one way from mainland U.S. to South America 1. Options include United, Copa, and Avianca.
  • First class: 40,000 miles one way between Europe and the Middle East. This includes Etihad Apartments that run between Abu Dhabi and London or Paris.
  • Booking: call 800-227-4262 to book partner awards

Best sweet spots with Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca

Colombia’s Avianca runs the LifeMiles program. Banco Popular out of Puerto Rico offers 2 separate credit cards (Vida & Vuela) which can provide welcome offers of up to 60,000 LifeMiles, depending on the current offer. LifeMiles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Points, Capital One Rewards (2:1.5 transfer ratio), and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 40,000 miles one way per person between the “Others” region of Oceania and eastern Asia. 2nd place vote goes to the 50% off an award ticket to Colombia from the U.S. if you have the LifeMiles credit card and spend $12,000 on it annually.
  • First class: no routes actually exist which fit our “under 50,000 rule”, cheapest routes start at 60,000 for Lufthansa first class to Central Asia
  • Booking: book online

British Airways

Oneworld member British Airways and its Flying Club program have a co-branded credit card from Chase: the Chase British Airways Visa. You can earn up to 100,000 avios during your first year with tiered welcome offers. British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate RewardsAmerican Express Membership Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 34,000 miles per person each way from the U.S. East Coast to Madrid using Iberia. This is for off-peak times; peak jumps up to a full 50,000. Honorable mention sweet spot: lie-flat island hopping in the Caribbean.
  • First class: while Moscow is cheaper at 34,000 avios per person in first class (4hr flight), I think the best sweet spot is London to Tel Aviv, Israel for 42,500 miles each. Watch out for some big fees on this, though!
  • Booking: book online

Etihad Airways

Independent airline Etihad Airways operates out of AUH airport in Abu Dhabi. While they’re not in an alliance, they have tons of partners. Etihad Guest (their loyalty program) is a transfer partner of American Express Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Points, Barclays (1.4:1 transfer ratio), Capital One Rewards (2:1.5 transfer ratio), and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 25,610 miles is an oddly specific number for each person to fly in business class between Prague and Seoul, South Korea on Czech Airlines.
  • First class: use Oman Airways to fly between Muscat, Oman and India, Nepal, or The Maldives for less than 50,000 miles per person in first class.
  • Booking: call their contact center to book

Korean Air

The SKYPASS program from Korean Air lost some value when it stopped accepting points transfers from Chase. Now, it is only a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). They also have the SKYPASS Visa Signature Card from U.S. Bank. You can earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days, and the card has a $95 annual fee.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: you must book round-trip awards with SKYPASS, and the only sweet spot is 80,000 miles round-trip between the U.S. and Europe in business class. Watch out for fees, so try different airlines and layover airports to reduce fees.
  • First class: there aren’t any that fit our criteria
  • Booking: book online for most partners

Best sweet spots with Singapore KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines

KrisFlyer from Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance member) is a transfer partner of everything. You can send over points & miles from Chase Ultimate RewardsAmerican Express Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Points, Barclays (1.4:1 transfer ratio), Capital One Rewards (2:1.5 transfer ratio), and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: “Central America & Hawaii” is an interesting zone in the award chart, so you can fly from this zone to South America for 46,000 miles per person each way. Hawaii to Costa Rica or the Caribbean is a lot of distance for not a lot of miles. Pay $100 to add a stop-over in the mainland U.S. and this becomes 1 ticket to end vacation 1 and start vacation 2!
  • First class: there aren’t any that fit our criteria; the numbers exist on the chart but don’t have any airlines actually running first class there
  • Booking: book online

Turkish Airlines

Miles & Smiles from Turkish Airlines has some quirks. Booking online can be difficult for partner itineraries. That said, there are some great sweet spots for awards. Turkish Airlines is a Star Alliance member and a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: Think of Western, Northern & Central Europe. You can fly from there to the U.S. for 45,000 miles or to East Asia for 45,000 miles. Those are per person, one way.
  • First class: none that actually have first class flights in the regions
  • Booking: book online or by phone if having problems

United Airlines

Star Alliance member United Airlines runs the MileagePlus program. With numerous co-branded credit cards from Chase (both personal and business), it’s easy to rack up miles with United. United is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1.1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send). The Marriott transfers give a 10% bonus compared to other airlines, due to the agreement with Chase.

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: 45,000 miles per person from Southeast Asia to Australia or New Zealand
  • First class: 45,000 miles per person from Oceania to Japan in first class. It’s theoretically possible, but good luck booking this. You’ll need to go from any of the islands via New Zealand on Air New Zealand business class (which rarely gives award space to partners) and then connect on first class products from ANA, Singapore, or Thai.
  • Booking: book online

Virgin Atlantic

After a hiccup due to recent financial issues, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club looks like it’s sticking around, so your miles shouldn’t be going anywhere. Virgin Atlantic is not a member of any alliance but has tons of partners. Flying Club is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate RewardsAmerican Express Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio + 5,000 bonus miles for each 60,000 Marriott points you send).

The Sweet Spots
  • Business class: the most famous is flying Delta when on sale to Europe for 50,000 points, but I’ll do better: South African Airways has a fifth freedom flight from Washington, D.C. to Dakar, Senegal. If you’re looking to connect to West Africa, this is a steal at 25,000 miles per person. (This obviously assumes South African Airways starts running this route when they solve their financial issues.)
  • First class: to redeem miles on ANA, you have to book round-trip. For 90,000 miles round trip, you can fly between Japan and Hawaii in first class.
  • Booking: call 800-365-9500 to book partner awards

Final Thoughts on First and Business Class Sweet Spots

This “best of” comes from a live session we did with our Diamond Patreon members. In that session, we covered every single business class and first class booking available for under 50,000 miles. All of them. In every program.

Here, we looked at the best first and business class sweet spots for award bookings on the major loyalty programs. Programs like Lufthansa Miles & More are absent because they don’t have any premium cabin bookings that meet our distance & price criteria.

What’s your favorite sweet spot? Do you think there’s a better, more deserving sweet spot for one of these programs?

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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15 COMMENTS

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii (HNL) to New York (JFK), 10-hour flight, direct! First class using miles or Pualani Platinum free upgrade (if available). It is a sweet ride, lie-flat seating, gourmet food, the works!

    • It costs 130,000 miles for that flight in first class, so I would definitely not consider this a sweet spot. It might be a good flight, but it’s not a sweet spot.

  2. I think being able to use 35,000 Asiana miles to fly one way on UA’s metal from North America to Argentina or Brazil is a pretty sweet spot.

  3. Great compilation. The only additions that strike me offhand are 50,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class to all over Asia from the US and 40K/50K Asiana miles to Europe, if that’s still a thing these days.
    Any chance that something similar is in the works that’s more North America specific? Even if the prices are higher, I know that such a list would illustrate kind of the best prices to or from home rather than more esoteric options.

      • Pretty much. Like before BA relocated Boston to make BOS-LHR more expensive that was a great deal, Asiana 40k business class to Europe on*A. I have no way of really knowing for sure but I’d think that the majority of your readers would find deals to or from North America to be useful.

    • I priced it when I first started researching for this, but I didn’t write down what I used, so of course now I can’t find anything. 🙁 This is another reason why I hate their new dynamic pricing. You can fly from Northern/Sahara Africa to South Africa for 45k, but I’m going to change this since I can’t get it to price any more.

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