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If you’ve ever flown business class within Europe, you surely know about the disappointing seating options available on most flights. Most European business-class products consist of economy-class seats with a blocked middle seat. Usually, you’ll get the same amount of legroom as you would in coach.
This aircraft arrangement allows the airlines great flexibility in selling tickets. If business class is empty, a carrier can simply unblock a middle seat, move the curtain divider and sell another few rows of economy — or vice versa if business class is selling well. Unfortunately, this arrangement doesn’t allow for much flexibility for tall travelers like TPG.
Most aircraft designated for intra-Europe flights have these kind of subpar business-class seats. So, the trick is to find an internationally configured aircraft that’s being utilized on a flight within Europe. The easiest way of finding these are finding fifth-freedom routes that start or end in Europe. However, you’ll also run across some other one-off internationally configured aircraft that are flown intra-Europe during gaps in long-haul schedules.
Here are some of the best business-class options for flights within Europe:
1 and 2. Turkish Airlines 777 and A330
If you’re flying to or from Istanbul (IST), the most reliable option for an excellent business-class product is to fly Turkish Airlines. Turkish currently flies an internationally configured wide-body aircraft — with lie-flat or angle-flat seats — between IST and the following European cities:
- Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
- Athens (ATH)
- Barcelona (BCN)
- Berlin Tegel (TXL)
- Copenhagen (CPH)
- Dusseldorf (DUS)
- Frankfurt (FRA)
- London Heathrow (LHR)
- Milan (MXP)
- Munich (MUC)
- Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
- Stockholm (ARN)
- Vienna (VIE)
- Zurich (ZRH)
Some of Turkish’s short- and mid-haul aircraft also have business classes similar to what we’d expect here in the US. However, you’ll want to avoid the A319, A320 and 737-800s — as you’re likely to end up with a more typical European business-class product.
3. British Airways A321 with Club World
British Airways is one of the most consistent offenders when it comes to subpar European business-class hard products. However, BA has seven “ex-BMI” A321s configured with lie-flat business-class seats. The problem is that it’s hard to tell if you’ll be on one of these aircraft or one of British Airways’ A321s with subpar “Club Europe” seats.
Based on the most recent schedule release, here are the routes and flights this type of aircraft is scheduled for:
- London-Athens: BA640 LHR0715-ATH1050 xSat/Sun + BA641 ATH1145-LHR1545 xSat/Sun
- London-Athens: BA640 LHR1300-ATH1635 Sun + BA641 ATH1730-LHR2130 Sun
- London-Moscow: BA233 LHR0845-DME1440 xMon/Fri + BA232 DME1545-LHR1755 xMon/Fri
- London-Moscow: BA235 LHR1055-DME1655 Daily + BA234 DME1825-LHR2025 Daily
- London-Nice: BA342 LHR0650-NCE0855 Sun + BA343 NCE0955-LHR1210 Sun
- London-Oslo: BA762 LHR0650-OSL0900 Daily + BA763 OSL0950-LHR1220 Daily
- London-Rome: BA556 LHR1320-FCO1550 Daily + BA557 FCO1645-LHR1925 Daily
- London-Stockholm: BA776 LHR0650-ARN0920 Mon, Sat + BA777 ARN1015-LHR1305 Mon, Sat
4. Swiss 777 — Zurich to/from Athens (ATH), Geneva (GVA) or Frankfurt (FRA)
Swiss has a spectacular first-class product on its 777, as TPG contributor J.P. experienced firsthand this July. Can’t afford to fly it transatlantic either with cash or miles? Lucky for you, the carrier has three intra-Europe routes using this spectacular product. Unfortunately, the 777 is more the exception than the rule on these routes, so make sure to look closely at the equipment type before booking these routes.
Even better, on these short routes Swiss Air treats the first-class seats as part of the business-class cabin.
- Zurich-Athens: A few times per month, you can luck out and get the 777-300ER on Swiss flight #1838 (ZRH-ATH, 1:05pm-4:40pm) and #1839 (ATH-ZRH, 6:10pm-7:55pm), with Aegean as a codeshare partner.
- Zurich-Frankfurt: Swiss often utilizes the 777-300ER on flight #1072 (ZRH-FRA, 12:10pm-1:15pm) and #1073 (FRA-ZRH, 2:15pm-3:10pm), with Lufthansa as a codeshare partner.
- Zurich-Geneva: 3-4 times per week Swiss will use the 777-300ER on flight #2802 (ZRH-GVA, 7:55am-8:40am) and #2807 (GVA-ZRH, 10:00am-10:55am).
5. LATAM 787 — Madrid (MAD) to/from Frankfurt (FRA)
LATAM flies its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between Santiago (SCL) and Madrid (MAD). Since this flight takes 13.5 hours, the aircraft can’t fly both directions in the same day. Rather than leaving this wonderful aircraft sitting on the ground, LATAM uses it to fly a daily fifth-freedom route between Madrid (MAD) and Frankfurt (FRA).
Interested? These flights are currently being operated as LATAM flight #704 (MAD-FRA, 3:10pm-5:45pm) and #705 (FRA-MAD, 7:30pm-10:10pm).
6. Iberia A340 — Madrid (MAD) to/from London (LHR)
Iberia operates an A340 between Madrid (MAD) and London (LHR) that’s internationally configured. Interestingly, this isn’t part of a fifth-freedom route. Iberia just seems to have some gaps in its A340 schedules and fills these holes with a run back and forth from MAD-LHR. No need to worry about legroom in this business class; the seat pitch is 78 inches to allow for the seats to lie almost flat — in case you need a quick nap on the 2.5-hour flight.
These flights are currently being operated as Iberia flight #3164 (MAD-LHR, 4:25pm-5:50pm) and #3179 (LHR-MAD, 7:10pm-10:35pm). British Airways is a codeshare partner for these flights.
7. Ethiopian Airlines 787 — Vienna (VIE) to/from Stockholm (ARN)
Ethiopian Airlines runs a 787 Dreamliner between Vienna (VIE) and Stockholm (ARN) four times a week — Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The VIE-ARN leg runs immediately after Ethiopian’s Dreamliner arrives from Addis Ababa (ADD). Then, the same aircraft returns ARN-VIE-ADD later the same day.
These flights are operated as Ethiopian Airlines flight #724 (VIE-ARN, 6:50am-9:05am) and flight #725 (ARN-VIE, 8:10pm-10:20pm).
8. Emirates 777 — Larnaca, Cyprus (LCA) to/from Malta (MLA) or Athens (ATH)
Emirates operates a daily flight from its hub in Dubai (DXB) to Larnaca, Cypress (LCA). Rather than turning the aircraft around and flying back to DXB, Emirates keeps this flight heading outbound. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the 777 continues on to Malta (MLA). On the other days of the week, the aircraft flies from LCA to Athens (ATH).
Interested? The Malta route is operated as flight #109 (LCA-MLA, 12:20pm-2:10pm) and #110 (MLA-LCA 3:30pm-6:55pm). Meanwhile, the Athens route is flight #107 (LCA-ATH, 12:55pm-2:40pm) and #108 (ATH-LCA, 4:50pm-6:35pm).
9. Singapore Airlines 777 — Munich (MUC) to/from Manchester (MAN)
Through October 29, you can still catch the Singapore 777 flying the two-hour route between Manchester, England (MAN) and Munich, Germany (MUC). Fares are running as low as $300 one-way or $517 round-trip.
If you’re interested, act quickly. For the next month, these flights are being operated as Singapore Airlines flight #328 (MUC-MAN, 6:35am-7:50am) and #327 (MAN-MUC, 9:10am-12:15pm).
10. Korean Airlines 777 — Vienna (VIE) to Zurich (ZRH)
Korean Airlines is running a new fifth-freedom flight from Vienna (VIE) to Zurich (ZRH) from October 29 to March 25. During this range, you can catch a ride onboard the Korean 777-200 “Prestige” class product from VIE to ZRH on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Unfortunately, this route only runs one-way, as Korean flies the aircraft straight back to Seoul (ICN) from ZRH.
Interested? Look for Korean Airlines flight #933 (VIE-ZRH, 6:10pm-7:35pm). But, the one-way business class ticket will set you back ~US$522.
While internationally configured intra-Europe flights are hit-or-miss, they’re worth the search if you’d otherwise be uncomfortable in a typical European business-class cabin. Also, these routes are great to consider if you’re looking to try out an excellent business or first-class product. While the cash price might be priced at a premium, you’re likely to find an excellent deal on these flights using miles.
What’s your favorite intra-Europe business-class cabin?
Featured image of the Iberia A340 business class. Photo by the author.
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