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The cheapest business class awards across all three alliances

July 07, 2020
26 min read
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Booking business class tickets can be one of the best ways to use your transferable points. When headed to Europe, Asia, or other far-flung destinations, using your miles will help you save thousands of dollars on your booking, and get you there in comfort too.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find the best deals on business class awards. Transferable points programs like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards each have a handful of different partners, and some may even be in the same alliance.

For example, you could transfer Membership Rewards points to ANA Mileage Club, Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore Airline Krisflyer to book a United Airlines business class ticket. Each of these, however, charges a different amount of miles, taxes, and fees.

In this article, I’ll run through each of the three major airline alliances and show you the best ways to book long-haul business class flights using your American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Bookmark this article and use it as a jumping-off point when you book your next business class award. In doing so, you’ll never spend too many points on a ticket. Let’s get started!

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Booking Oneworld business class award tickets

The Oneworld alliance is home to many great airlines like Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, and Japan Airlines. One of the largest domestic airlines — American Airlines — is a founding member too.

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While American isn’t a transferable partner of the major bank rewards programs, several Oneworld airlines are. So you can use these Oneworld transfer partners to book business class tickets on the airline (and its Oneworld partners).

Book American Airlines business class with Etihad Guest

Etihad and American have had a longstanding partnership that allows Etihad Guest members to redeem miles on American fights, and vice versa. Etihad redemption rates on American flights are great too and largely reflect pre-American devaluation pricing.

Etihad’s award chart is split up by region and class of service. Some of the highlights include 50,000-mile business class flights to Europe and East Asia, 62,500-mile flights to South Pacific and 25,000-mile first-class tickets on American’s premium transcontinental routes. In our experience, the airline doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on any of these tickets.

Etihad Guest American Award Chart
(Image courtesy of Etihad)

The only major downside to using Etihad Guest miles is that you cannot book awards online. Instead, you have to find award space using your favorite Oneworld search engine and then call Etihad to book.

How to earn Etihad Guest miles

You can transfer both Citi ThankYou and American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest miles at a 1:1 transfer ratio. If you’re short on points, you can apply for a card like the American Express® Gold Card or Citi Premier® Card.

Find more Cathay Pacific award space with Asia Miles

(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

Cathay Pacific has long offered its members access to more award space than partner airlines. So if you’re planning on connecting via Hong Kong in the future, be sure to check Asia Miles.

As mentioned in our guide to Asia Miles, the airline offers two different award charts: Standard and Choice. Standard is the equivalent of a “saver” award on most airlines and offers cheaper pricing, so we recommend you go with these routes.

(Image courtesy of Asia Miles)

Most U.S. to Asia awards fall into the Long 2 and Ultra-Long categories, which each have solid pricing. A flight from New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) would cost 80,000 miles in Cathay Pacific business class and Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong costs 70,000 miles.

You can also book partner awards with Asia Miles, but these awards cost more. We’ve found the difference to be between 5,000 and 20,000 miles. For example, a 3,451-mile journey from New York-JFK to London (LHR) costs 61,000 Asia Miles. Better yet, the taxes and fuel surcharges are lower than British Airways too.

(Image courtesy of Asia Miles)

On the other hand, a 6,704 mile trip from New York-JFK to Doha (DOH) on Qatar Airways costs 75,000 Asia Miles and $666.47. This is a 10,000-mile surcharge over a Cathay Pacific flight of the same length, and you’re also assessed higher fuel surcharges.

(Image courtesy of Asia Miles)

In the end, Asia Miles are your best bet for booking Cathay Pacific awards. They can also be a good bet for booking British Airways awards if you want to avoid high fuel surcharges. You may find a good deal when booking other partners too, so use the Asia Miles calculator to find how much your route of choice costs.

How to earn Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000 Asia Mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 points transferred.

Book Iberia business class with Iberia Avios

Iberia A330 business class (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

If you’re headed to Europe, you may want to consider booking a ticket in Iberia business class. The airline is based in Madrid and offers flights from major U.S. airports like New York-JFK, Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), and Miami (MIA), amongst others.

You’ll find the best deals when booking Iberia business class tickets on off-peak dates. These flights cost as little as 37,000 miles one-way, with minimal taxes and fees. The airline hasn’t posted its 2021 off-peak dates online yet, but you can find off-peak pricing when searching for award tickets on Iberia’s website.

(Photo courtesy of Iberia)

Peak pricing isn’t bad either — a flight from New York-JFK to Madrid costs just 50,000 miles.

JFK MAD On-Peak Iberia Pricing
(Image courtesy of Iberia)

It’s hard to find a cheaper business class flight to Europe, so we highly recommend that you check this out for your next trip. Plus, Iberia’s business class isn’t half-bad — you can expect solid dining, new seats, and quick but attentive service.

How to earn Iberia Avios

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Iberia Avios at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 points transferred.

You can also transfer Avios between British Airways and Iberia accounts at a 1:1 ratio so long as both accounts have been open for at least 90 days.

Related: 6 best ways to redeem 100,000 Iberia Avios

British Airways Avios covers everything else

British Airways is the catch-all for all other Oneworld business class redemptions. That being said, it isn’t perfect. The program has a distance-based award chart that prices itineraries leg-by-leg, so you’ll pay more for a connecting flight than a nonstop.

The airline has two award charts: one for International Airlines Group (IAG) and one for Oneworld partners. The IAG chart applies to Aer Lingus, BA, and Iberia. You’ll want to stick to Iberia Avios for Iberia redemptions, but there are deals to be had for Aer Lingus and BA.

These charts aren't published by BA, but we’ve compiled a list of our findings in the full guide to the BA award chart. Many travelers find it easier to just search for availability on the BA website.

On the partner side, some of the best deals for business and first class are for mid-haul routes. A good example of this is Lima (LIM) to Miami (MIA) on American Airlines. You can book this lie-flat route for 38,750 Avios and $20.60 one-way.

(Image courtesy of British Airways)

Off-peak BA redemptions have the potential to be a good option if you don’t mind paying high fuel surcharges. For example, a one-way, off-peak business class ticket from Boston (BOS) to London will set you back just 50,000 Avios and $697.90 in taxes and fees.

BOS LHR British Airways Avios Pricing on British Airways
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

How to earn British Airways Avios

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 points transferred.

Booking SkyTeam business class award tickets

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

SkyTeam is a tricky alliance. Most carriers have done away with their award charts in favor of dynamic award pricing. This can be good on low-cost dates, but also means the cost of certain awards has skyrocketed. For example, a transatlantic flight can set you back 270,000 Delta SkyMiles.

Not all SkyTeam partners are created equal though, so if you know where to look, you can score a pretty solid deal on your next flight. Here are your best options for booking SkyTeam business class award tickets.

Related: Best ways to redeem Chase points on SkyTeam airlines

Virgin Atlantic is your best bet for Delta flights

Like Etihad and American, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines have a non-alliance partnership. You can use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book Delta award tickets that are priced based on a predictable award chart, some of which offer excellent value.

Here’s a look at the award chart. All pricing is for round-trip tickets, with one-ways costing just half the points cost.

(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

One of the best deals here is a 50,000-mile Delta One ticket from the U.S. to Europe. This covers all of Delta’s transatlantic routes, and only minimal taxes and fees are assessed. We recently found this Delta One ticket from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) for just 50,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes.

JFK FRA Virgin Atlantic Delta One Pricing
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Unfortunately, connecting tickets do cost more than nonstop tickets. A nonstop Delta One ticket from Seoul (ICN) to Seattle (SEA) costs 60,000 miles while a one-stop option via Minneapolis (MSP) costs 82,500 miles. Both flights have under $50 in taxes and surcharges.

ICN SEA Virgin Atlantic Delta One Pricing
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

You can book most Delta award tickets on the Virgin Atlantic website without issue. We have run into issues where we can’t search for specific routes on the Virgin Atlantic website. If this happens to you, find availability using your favorite SkyTeam search engine and call Virgin Atlantic to book.

Booking Air France and KLM with Virgin Atlantic miles

(Photo by Nicholas Ellis / The Points Guy)

Virgin Atlantic also has a partnership with Air France and KLM, and you can often find good deals in both economy and business class. The award chart is more complicated than the Delta award chart though, as it’s based on peak and off-peak dates as well as zones.

Searching Mar. 2021, we’re able to find Air France business class tickets from New York-JFK to Amsterdam (AMS) via Paris (CDG) for just 48,500 miles and $269.80. This is cheaper than the Flying Blue price (more on that soon), with similar taxes and fees.

JFK AMS Virgin Atlantic
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Club at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer at a 3:1 ratio, and you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

That said, Virgin Atlantic isn’t in the best financial place right now. It recently downsized its route network and retired a handful of planes, leading many to wonder about the future of the company. Only transfer miles to the airline if you’re confident that it will make it through the coronavirus travel downturn without going belly-up.

Related: If you are worried about airline bankruptcy, here’s how to burn through your miles now

Use Flying Blue for most other redemptions

Most other SkyTeam award tickets should be booked using the Air France and KLM joint loyalty program, Flying Blue. The program prices its awards dynamically, but you can usually find a solid deal when searching a few months in advance of your departure date.

There are a couple of, things you should know about Flying Blue before you book. The first is that the airline does impose fuel surcharges. A typical transatlantic flight will have $200-$300 in fuel surcharges, which is still less than half of most British Airways redemptions.

Second, the program is known for its illogical route pricing — for example, this New York-JFK to Sao Paulo (GRU) itinerary that routes via Paris (CDG).

Odd JFK to GRU via CDG Routing Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of Flying Blue)

That said, you can frequently find business class tickets to Europe for under 60,000 miles, even during peak dates. Just make sure to look through all available options when searching for a flight.

JFK AMS KLM Flying Blue Pricing Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of Flying Blue)

These deals extend to other regions around the world too. Tickets to the Middle East often price reasonably, with this flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tel Aviv (TLV) via Amsterdam (AMS) routing coming in at 70,500 miles and $227.95 in business class.

LAX TLV Pricing KLM Flying Blue Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of Flying Blue)

Play around with your dates and destinations to find deals on SkyTeam carriers. Just be sure to cross-check prices with Virgin Atlantic when booking Air France, Delta, and KLM flights.

How to earn Flying Blue miles

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Capital One points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer at a 3:1 ratio, and you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming with Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Booking Star Alliance business class award tickets

Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance based on the number of member airlines. Some of the big names include United Airlines, Lufthansa, All Nippon Airways, and Air Canada. So you’ll have plenty of options for booking flights around the world. Here are all the best ways to book Star Alliance business class tickets.

Avianca LifeMiles has low fees on all partners

EVA air business class (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)
EVA air business class (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)

Avianca LifeMiles has long been one of my favorite ways to book business class tickets. The airline no longer publishes its award chart online but has stuck to standard award pricing. That said, there are some oddities that you can use to bring the price of your tickets down even more.

Additionally, LifeMiles doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on any of its award tickets. This includes high-surcharge partners like Austrian and Swiss. This has made LifeMiles one of my go-to programs for frequent Lufthansa flights to Central Europe to visit family.

You can expect to pay 63,000 miles and minimal taxes for a one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Europe on any Star Alliance carrier. Plus, you can bring this flight down to 61,710 when you add an economy segment within Europe.

EWR PRG LifeMiles Pricing With Short Haul Economy Leg Connection
(Image courtesy of Avianca)

The same goes for flights between the U.S. and Asia. A flight from Seattle (SEA) to Hong Kong (HKG) via Taipei (TPE) on EVA Air costs 75,000 miles in business class. The price drops to 69,440 miles when you book the Taipei to Hong Kong leg in economy class.

SEA HKG LifeMiles Pricing with Short-Haul Leg Booked in Economy Class
(Image courtesy of Avianca)

If Africa is on your bucket list, LifeMiles can be an excellent booking option. This flight from New York-JFK with Ethiopian Airlines is only 78,000 miles in business class.

JFK to JNB on Ethiopian Airlines LifeMiles Pricing
(Image courtesy of Avianca)

How to earn Avianca LifeMiles

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points to Avianca LifeMiles at a 1:1 ratio. Capital One points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy points transfer 3:1. Avianca frequently runs promotions where you can buy Lifemiles for as little as 1.32 cents each. You can also get the cobranded Avianca Vuela Card to jump-start your earnings.

Booking business class tickets with ANA Mileage Club

ANA Mileage Club is another favorite of mine. You can only use the program to book round-trip tickets, but you can add open-jaws and a free stopover to any round-trip award. This opens up some amazing redemption opportunities.

The only major downside to ANA is that the airline adds fuel surcharges to many tickets booked with partners. Thankfully, there are some exclusions like ANA, Air Canada, Copa Airlines, Air China, Ethiopian Airlines, and most United Airlines routes. Further, LOT Polish Airlines only adds moderate fuel surcharges, which should be around $21 from the U.S. to Europe.

Related: Ultimate guide to ANA Mileage Club

Pricing ANA awards can be tricky. The airline has different award charts for pricing international ANA and partner award tickets. For ANA flights, you’ll start by figuring out if your travel date falls in the low, high, or regular season.

(Image courtesy of ANA)

Next, find the region of your origin and destination on ANA’s website and match the pair to its corresponding award chart. Locate your class of service. The price of your award ticket will be listed.

(Image courtesy of ANA)

There are some excellent deals on this award chart. Some of the best are North America to Japan during the low season. You can book round-trip flights for 75,000 and 150,000 miles respectively in first and business class.

As discussed, these tickets include a stopover and open-jaw. For example, you could book Los Angeles to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and return from Sapporo (CTS). Your ticket from Tokyo to Sapporo would be included with the itinerary. This ticket costs 75,000 miles and $57.95 during the low season.

ANA Ticket With Stopovers and Open Jaw Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of ANA)

This is by far the best way to get to Japan in business class. It can be an excellent option for a post-coronavirus outbreak trip to Asia if you’re looking for a way to maximize your American Express Membership Rewards points.

Pricing partner awards with ANA Mileage Club

Pricing Star Alliance partner award tickets with ANA Mileage Club is more straightforward. First, find the region for the zone and origin of your flight using the partner zone list on ANA’s website. For example, a flight from North America to Europe would correspond to Zone 6 to Zone 7.

Then, scroll down the page and find the corresponding award chart for your zone pair. These are broken down by class of service, so it’s easy to find how much your award costs.

In the case of a U.S. to Europe award, you’ll pay just 88,000 miles and $245.98 to fly from Newark to Frankfurt and return from Geneva (GVA). Again, the flight from Frankfurt to Geneva is included with the airline’s stopover rule.

ANA Sample Partner Booking in Europe
(Image courtesy of ANA)

This works great for partner awards to Africa too. A trip from New York-JFK to Cape Town (CPT) that returns from Addis Ababa (ADD) is 104,000 miles round-trip in business class. Better yet, you’ll pay under $100 in taxes and fees for the entire trip.

ANA Partner Award Ticket to Africa Example with Stopover and Open Jaw
(Image courtesy of ANA)

If you don’t mind booking round-trip tickets, ANA Mileage Club is as good as it gets for Star Alliance business and first-class bookings. The pricing is very reasonable, and the ability to add an open-jaw and stopover lets you stretch your miles even further.

How to earn ANA Mileage Club miles

You can stock up on ANA Mileage Club miles by transferring American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. ANA is also a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, with points transferring 3:1 to ANA.

Singapore Krisflyer shows premium Singapore Airlines award space

(Photo by Agent Wolf/Shutterstock)

Finally, we have Singapore Krisflyer miles. These miles are best used for booking first and business class tickets on Singapore Airlines flights. That’s because they generally only open long-haul premium products to their own members.

That means that this program is your best bet for flying the famous Singapore Suites first class or business class on the world’s longest flight from Singapore (SIN) to Newark. That said, there are a couple of sweet spots for booking partner awards with the program too.

Booking Singapore Airlines tickets with Krisflyer

All of Singapore’s flights are priced based on the airline’s standard, zone-based award chart (warning: PDF link). Keep in mind that the airline has two award booking classes: Advantage and Saver. Advantage award space is more plentiful, but Saver awards are significantly lower priced.

Saver awards are pretty reasonably priced, especially when you consider how premium Singapore’s first and business class are. For example, you can book Newark to Singapore nonstop in business class for 99,000 miles one-way.

SIN EWR Krisflyer Pricing Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Want to fly first class instead? Hop aboard Singapore Airlines’ fifth-freedom route from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) for 107,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees.

LAX NRT First Class Award Pricing Screen Shot Singapore Airlines
(Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Krisflyer partner ticket sweet spots

Krisflyer can be a good option for booking partner award tickets, but you’ll generally get better value with LifeMiles or ANA Mileage Club. These are priced based on the airlines’ Star Alliance partner award chart (PDF link).

There are some sweet spots out there though, like booking transcontinental tickets from Newark to San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles on United. The airline operates lie-flat seats on these routes, with some frequencies being operated by its brand new Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

You can book this ticket for 23,000 miles each way, which is a solid deal for over five hours in business class. This pricing is the same for other domestic U.S. flights as well, though Hawaii is excluded.

Speaking of which, flights to Hawaii can be booked for 34,500 miles each-way in business class. That is a great deal for United flights from Chicago, Newark, and Washington-Dulles (IAD) that are operated by lie-flat equipped wide-body aircraft.

Bottom line

Long-haul business class is great — you get great service, good food and will arrive at your destination properly rested. So it’s definitely worth educating yourself on the best way to get there using points and miles. Bookmark this page and refer to it the next time you book a business class ticket. That way, you’ll never spend too many miles on an award ticket.

Featured image by Iberia is flying the A330 to The Maldives. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.