What are the best frequent flyer miles to fly to Europe in First Class or Business Class? I get this question regularly from clients and readers, so I'll set out my thoughts. Keep in mind that, in my view, many of the best first class and business class products go to Asia, the Middle East or Australia, so there is a more limited subset when looking just at routes between the U.S. and Europe. Note that all miles amounts given are for one way travel; if booking with US Airways Dividend miles you will need to book a roundtrip award.
1. Singapore Suites / Singapore Business Class NYC to Frankfurt on the A380 with KrisFlyer Miles
Singapore Suites is the best first class product between the U.S. and Europe, although unfortunately it only flies from NYC (JFK), so it's not helpful to those originating on the West Coast who want a nonstop flight. If anything, you may want to fly Singapore Suite on the return flight instead (an early morning flight from Frankfurt) to be able to enjoy the service more, although it's hard to beat the Singapore Suites bed for sheer comfort and a good night's sleep.
Singapore Business Class is a great product as well, with a wider seat than other business class products, and still with access to meal preordering via “Book the Cook.”
Singapore Suites: 57,375 KrisFlyer miles + ~$240
Singapore Business Class: 48,875 KrisFlyer miles + ~$230
Earning the Miles: Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points or AMEX Membership Rewards points to KrisFlyer. There's currently a 70K Ink Plus bonus offer, which is a great deal if you're eligible and don't currently have the card/haven't received a bonus for the Visa version of this card within the past 2 years.
2. Lufthansa First Class to Frankfurt or Munich with Miles & More Miles
Lufthansa First Class is far from my favorite first class product, but it is, apart from Singapore Suites, one of the nicer ways to get to Europe. Note that you will *not* be able to redeem United or other Star Alliance miles for it except potentially up to 15 days in advance of the departure date. Plus, even if you do manage to score last minute availability with United miles, it's a lot more expensive after the United Award Chart devaluation, although you do avoid fuel surcharges.
In order to be able to book Lufthansa First Class in advance, you'll need Miles & More miles, which you can earn from the Miles & More credit card and/or by transferring SPG points to Miles & More (transfer in increments of 20,000 points to receive a 5000 mile bonus with each 20K points transfer).
One of the most in-demand awards is Lufthansa First Class between the West Coast and Europe (which is the same number of miles as awards between Europe and the East Coast), but note that these have become very tough to book, even with Miles & More miles, especially for two people.
Miles & More: 85,000 miles + ~$430 (less for the return from Europe)
Singapore KrisFlyer: 80,000 miles + ~$240
United: 110,000 miles + ~$80
Earning the Miles: There's currently a 50K Miles & More offer until Nov. 30, and you can then transfer in additional miles from SPG points. And if fuel surcharges are anathema to you, consider using the bonus from the 40K Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard to reimburse yourself $460. You'll earn 46,000 miles (40K bonus + 6K from $3000 spend) giving you $460 in travel statement credits, and earn back 4600 miles ($46) as a 10% miles rebate.
3. British Airways New First Class to London
British Airways New First Class seems to be a product that people love to hate, deriding it as the best “business class” product. Certainly, the high fuel surcharges that British Airways imposes on its award tickets (regardless of which miles you use to book them) don't help. And admittedly, British Airways has a more crowded and less exclusive first class cabin than other carriers, due to having 14 seats, but that can also work to your advantage in terms of award availability, especially from the East Coast.
Avios: 75,000 Avios + ~$480 from the West Coast; 60,000 Avios + ~$440 from the East Coast
AAdvantage: 62,500 AA miles + similar fuel surcharges/taxes as above
US Airways Dividend Miles: 62,500 Dividend miles + similar fuel surcharges/taxes as above
Earning the Miles: One of the easiest ways to earn Dividend Miles is with the 40K US Airways Premier World MasterCard, and many have had success in applying for this card again for another bonus, after a few months. Or earn AAdvantage miles or British Airways Avios with the Citi AAdvantage cards and BA Visa listed on the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards page.
As with the Lufthansa Miles & More awards, you'll want to use the bonus from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard for the fuel surcharges, so you can reimburse yourself.
4. SWISS Business Class to Zurich
It's not possible to book SWISS first class unless you're a top tier Miles & More elite booking with Miles & More miles, and even SWISS Business Class awards can be tough. Again, as with Lufthansa First Class, you'll often only be able to book SWISS Business Class in advance with Miles & More miles, and only close to day of departure with United, KrisFlyer or other Star Alliance miles.
Miles & More: 52,000 miles + ~$400 (less for the return from Europe)
United: 70,000 miles + ~$125
Singapore KrisFlyer: 65,000 miles + taxes
LifeMiles: 63,000 miles + taxes
Earning the Miles: There's currently a 50K Miles & More offer until Nov. 30, and you can then transfer in additional miles from SPG points.
5. AA First Class to London on the 777-300ER
American Airlines' new 777-300ER planes, particularly first class, have become a new favorite for many business travelers to and from London, if originating in NYC JFK, LAX or DFW. The flat bed is 6 ft 6 inches in length, these are nice new planes, and it offers a good hard product, even if food and service aren't generally as good as top European, let alone Asian competitors.
The problem is that there's very scarce award availability at the saver award level, so this isn't a very practical award, unless you're willing to pay high First AAnytime award levels.
6. Iberia Business Class to Madrid
I wasn't overly impressed with either Iberia's New Business Class or Iberia's Old Business Class, but it is a decent option if you're headed to Spain or Morocco, as fuel surcharges tend to be lower than with British Airways. See How to Transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Plus to Avoid High Fuel Surcharges Note that Iberia Avios and British Airways Avios use a distance based award chart, so awards will cost more miles the longer they are.
Iberia Avios: 40,000 Avios + ~$90 for JFK-MAD
7. Airberlin Business Class to Berlin
I haven't flown airberlin yet, but it does have a fully flat bed product in business class. The issue is that it's one of the shortest business class beds, at just under 6 feet, so this is not the product to fly if you're tall and need to be able to fully stretch out while lying down.
That said, it's one of the best options for getting across the pond in business class with no fuel surcharges, especially using Avios.
Avios: 40,000 Avios + $5
AAdvantage miles: 50,000 AA miles + $5
US Airways miles: 50,000 Dividend miles + $5
Earning the Miles: Simply apply for the 50K British Airways Visa, a 50K Citi AAdvantage card or the US Airways Premier World MasterCard (plus some additional spend or miles purchased when there's a bonus) for this award.
What do you think are the best frequent flyer miles to get to Europe in first class or business class?
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