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TPG reader Ali emailed me to ask about transatlantic flights:

“I’m planning to fly from Miami to Madrid with my wife and three young children. I have enough miles to fly business class in one direction; would you recommend we do that on the way to Europe or on the way back?”

I try to fly in business and first class as much as possible — not only because I’m tall and can’t fit comfortably in smaller seats, but also because I find premium flight service really augments my travel experience. However, even if you score a great deal or book a discounted award, you only have so many dollars and miles to spend. Deciding when to fly up front and when you should just stick to economy is an important part of maximizing your travel.

Generally speaking, there are two major differences between eastbound and westbound transatlantic flights. First, flights to Europe tend to travel overnight, while flights back to the US travel with the daylight. Depending on your normal bedtime, you may find it easier to sleep on the outbound leg. Second, westbound flights are a little longer due to headwinds, so you get more time on the plane (for better or worse).

For Ali, I’d say picking between the two boils down to what you want to get out of the experience. If the goal is for everyone to sleep more comfortably, then you should book business class on the way to Madrid. The extra room should help your family arrive feeling more rested and ready for adventure. On the other hand, if your goal is for the family to enjoy a more luxurious flight, then you should book business class on the way back to Miami. You’ll be awake to appreciate it, and you’ll get an extra hour or so in the air.

If you need to be fully rested, go for business class on the way to Europe.

There are three nonstop options between Miami and Madrid. Iberia flies an A330-300 with a 1-2-1 configuration in business class. These seats have 78 inches of pitch and lie fully flat, and the service is pretty good in my experience. American flies an older 777-200 with a 2-3-2 configuration in business class. These seats are angle-flat and have only 60 inches of pitch, so they aren’t quite as comfortable as the fully flat seats on the retrofitted aircraft. However, the seating arrangement might be more amenable to a family with young children.

The last nonstop flight is on Air Europa, and it’s clearly inferior to the other two. That may be your only option if you’re booking with miles through a SkyTeam partner, but if that’s the case, just pay cash and save your miles for another time.

For more on flying business class to, from and around Europe, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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