The Cheapest Business Class Awards to Europe
There are a ton of different business class products that fly across the pond. Each Alliance has a strong array of partners in Europe, leaving you with many option depending on where you want to go and what product you want to fly. But booking options are much better than others. Here are the seven cheapest business class awards to Europe, in terms of sheer number of miles:
Asiana Club Miles
Not the first one you expected? Premium cabin flights between the U.S. and Europe are one of the best sweet spots on the Asiana Airlines award chart. Business class awards cost a mere 40,000 miles each way, and one-way awards are possible! There are few other carriers that offer this kind of value. First is also an excellent deal, at just 50,000 miles one-way.
Do keep in mind that you’ll pay fuel surcharges on Asiana awards. Carriers like Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian might hit you with several hundred dollars in fees. Still, paying 40,000 miles and $400 for a business class seat could be pretty sweet, considering some other carriers charge over twice this number of miles.
The main drawback of Asiana Club is that they aren’t a transfer partner of any bank program. Your only option is to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Asiana Club miles. You could also consider the Asiana Airlines co-branded Visa card issued by Bank of America.
Korean Air SkyPass
Korean is another excellent option for flying between the U.S. and Europe. As a SkyTeam member, you can use SkyPass miles to book Delta, Air France, KLM and Alitalia flights. You’ll need to find the award space first, which can be done online at Korean’s website. The cost for business class between the U.S. and Europe is just 80,000 SkyPass miles round-trip. For partner awards, you must book round-trip.
Like Asiana Club, first class is also 100,000 miles round-trip. But this is moot, since no SkyTeam carrier has a bookable first class product between these two regions (Air France La Premiere is restricted to their own program).
If you need SkyPass miles, you’re in the same boat as with Asiana Club: transfer them from Marriott Bonvoy. The loss of SkyPass as a Chase transfer partner was a hard hit. Do also be aware of fuel surcharges on awards, as SkyPass will pass these on.
Turkish Miles & Smiles
Turkish is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, and one of the best, in my opinion. Until recently, I really hadn’t ever looked at their award chart or investigated the value of their program. But now that you can use them to book Hawaii for just 7,500 miles one-way, they are the new hotness. They have some other sweet spots, including being one of the cheapest business class awards to Europe.
Miles & Smiles business class awards to Europe cost a mere 45,000 miles each way. You can even search for these online (although searching the United website and then calling Turkish will likely be more fruitful). I would suggest starting with the website for simple awards (nonstop business). Turkish Airlines agents have become much more well-versed in ticketing partner awards.
One of the only banes of the Miles & Smiles program is that you’ll pay fuel surcharges on basically everything, except United flights. They used to even levy fuel surcharges on United. No clue how they did that since United doesn’t charge them.
Some example awards for 45,000 miles include: San Francisco to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, SWISS from Chicago to Zurich, LOT from Los Angeles to Warsaw, and Lufthansa from Detroit to Frankfurt. All of these are an excellent deal, considering United charges 70,000 miles for partner awards.
If you’re flush with Citi ThankYou points, Turkish Airlines is where it’s at!
ANA Mileage Club
ANA is yet another Asian carrier with a phenomenal award chart for travel between the U.S. and Europe. Flights in business class cost a mere 88,000 miles round-trip, and can even include a stopover. Unfortunately, one-way awards are not allowed.
ANA does pass on fuel surcharges, but with such a phenomenal price, it may be worth it. You’ll be paying ~60% more miles for partner awards if you’re using United miles!
One award that I have looked at is Arcata-San Francisco-Frankfurt-London, flying the new United Polaris 777-300ER on that route. The return could be via Istanbul, where I could take a stopover, and then Istanbul-San Francisco-Arcata. Such an award would probably cost ~$300 in taxes and fees, though. Still, well worth it for paying just 88,000 miles.
ANA does limit you to 3 outbound segments and 3 inbound segments on awards. You can get an additional segment if one is intra-Japan. But obviously that doesn’t come into play when we’re looking for the best miles to Europe in business class.
ANA is a transfer partner of American Express, and one of the more excellent ones, if you know how to use them well.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
If you’re a loyal Delta flyer, you do not want to overlook the power of Virgin Atlantic miles. They are a solid option in many cases, but especially so when it comes to the cheapest business class award options to Europe on the USA’s best airline.
You can book nonstop Delta flights between the U.S. and Europe for just 50,000 Flying Club miles one-way. This is an excellent deal, if you live at a Delta hub. If you don’t, it may not be as nice, as Virgin Atlantic will charge you separately for each segment.
Virgin Atlantic award agents are a dream to work with. They are one of the few airlines I prefer to call first rather than trying to book on their website. If you can find the space, just give them a ring to get booked.
One caveat to the great pricing: if you’re looking to book Delta flights to the UK, you’ll end up paying a lot in surcharges. Virgin levies obscene fuel surcharges on their own flights, and they seem to apply these to Delta flights to the UK as well.
Should you need to to up on Virgin Atlantic miles, transfer either your Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. They are one of the cheapest business class awards to Europe where miles are also easy to accrue.
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Asia Miles, the frequent flyer program of Cathay Pacific, is a rather overlooked program with great potential for travel to Europe. The program is complex, but you can do a lot with Asia Miles, if you know how to work the charts to your advantage.
One of the sweet spots for travel to Europe is from the Eastern half of the U.S. on American Airlines. You can score a round-trip flight for only 100,000 miles. This can even include an open jaw and a stopover (which will have to be domestic if you’re using 100% American Airlines metal). One-way awards are also available for 50,000 miles. You’re limited to two segments in each direction, from what I understand.
You can also use Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to book British Airways and Finnair. In the case of the former, I’ve actually heard that Cathay Pacific levies less in surcharges than what you’ll pay using either Avios or American AAdvantage miles. For nonstop BA flight less than 50,000 miles, Cathay Pacific is a decent option. It would be even nicer if you can score one of the new BA club suites!
If you combine flights on 2 or more Oneworld carriers (not including Cathay Pacific), you actually use an entirely different chart, which has its own pros and cons. The Oneworld chart has some sweet spots for business class travel. It is distance-based, so add up the segments to see where you fall. The best part is that you can have up to 5 stopovers on an award ticket!
In general, you should be able to score tickets to Europe using Asia Miles for anywhere from 90,000 miles to 135,000 miles. If you hit the upper bands, make sure you take advantage of those stopovers to make it worth it. Most other programs don’t offer you this sort of flexibility.
Asia Miles are a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou and American Express Membership Rewards.
They are also a transfer partner for Capital One‘s new transferable system so you have lots of ways to earn miles.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Another great StarAlliance option is Aeroplan. You can acquire Aeroplan miles by either transferring American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, or transferring Bonvoy points. Capital One also transfers to Aeroplan. They are one of the better options for redeeming a Marriott Nights & Flights package, in my opinion.
Aeroplan divides Europe into two zones, aptly named Europe 1 and Europe 2. Flights between the U.S. and Europe 1 cost 55,000 miles one-way in business, and the zone includes basically all of western Europe (Germany, Italy and westward). Flights between the U.S. and Europe 2 cost 57,500 miles one-way in business. You can check out the zone definitions here.
One of the tricks to the prices is that they only depend on origin and destination. So if you are flying, say, Turkish or LOT, even though you’re connecting in the Europe 2 zone, you’ll only pay the Europe 1 price for a flight to a Europe 1 destination. I believe that you can even connect in, say, Cairo, when flying to Greece, and still pay the Europe 2 price. An interesting quirk to keep in mind.
Also keep in mind that Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on some carriers, and these can be significant. I would avoid awards on Lufthansa, Austrian, and SAS, and Air Canada itself (go figure). Instead, consider redeeming for business cabins on:
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
Overall, Aeroplan is a solid option for StarAlliance flights, especially if you can avoid fuel surcharges. Also consider working in either a stopover or an open-jaw on a round-trip award.
Other Cheapest Business Class Awards to Europe?
If you are flying one of the new Polaris routes, I’ll argue that 60,000 United miles each way isn’t terrible. There also won’t be any fuel surcharges. There are just better ways to score a seat using other StarAlliance programs. Singapore Airlines isn’t too bad either, if you’re flying NYC to Frankfurt.
American Airlines offers a decent business class rate at 57,500 miles each way. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it isn’t awful. Delta is one of the worst, in my opinion, charging 86,000 miles one-way, at the cheapest.
Hopefully this gives you some idea of how to use your points most effectively. Foreign programs can be intimidating, but if you want to stretch your miles, these are the cheapest business class awards to Europe.
Have you booked any of these awards? Which programs are your favorite?
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Asiana charges fuel surcharges on Swiss? Swiss doesn’t normally charge YQ, so I just want to be sure.
I believe they do. Technically, they do have fuel surcharges. If you used Miles & More, they would be levied, as with all other Lufthansa Group carriers. However, they are not passed on using UA and AV miles (no YQ passed on ever) and also Aeroplan.
Checking out SFO-ZRH round-trip in ITA matrix, the YQ levied are ~$1,200.
Just booked SAS business from Copenhagen to Dulles for my wife and I using Aegean miles – 45K plus only $34 in taxes 🙂
Ctrl + F “Iberia” not found. 68k RT during off-peak from Chicago, Boston, and New York City. 49K MRs with the ongoing 40% transfer bonus and reasonable cash fees.
I considered Avios from the East Coast, but given that it isn’t standard for everyone in the nation, decided to leave it off. But…as you’ve pointed out, adding in off-peak pricing and transfer bonuses makes it ideal for many.
Aegean for 45k should be on this list as well.
Good catch. I’m *completely* unfamiliar with the program. But given that Bonvoy points can be transferred to Miles+Bonus, it should at least be considered. You pretty much have the same option with Turkish, though.