TPG Readers Share the Best Ways to Fly in Business to Europe Using Ultimate Rewards

Jun 24, 2018

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One of the best parts of having a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the ability to cash in all those precious Ultimate Rewards points for hotel stays at Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties around the world. Even more nifty is the ability to trade in your UR points for flights on airline partners like United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and more.

TPG reader Chris M. recently asked folks in the TPG Lounge to share their best tips and go-to ways to fly business class from the East Coast to Europe using Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here’s what they had to say. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

The Go-To Airlines and Business-Class Products

As our readers regularly show us, there’s more than one way to go about things. Everybody’s got a favorite go-to carrier or biz-class product they love to cash in Ultimate Rewards to fly on, whether it’s an old standby like Delta One or a fifth freedom route to Europe on Singapore Airlines.

“Iberia all the way. Best bet and low fuel surcharges.” — Ben K.

“PHL–DUB [Philadelphia-Dublin] with 60,000 Ultimate Rewards one-way on Aer Lingus with lie-flat seats and low taxes.” — Cameron R.

“Singapore Airlines’ fifth freedom route JFK–FRA [New York-Frankfurt]. Otherwise Lufthansa, Austrian or Brussels Airlines booked via United. Other good options are KLM or Aeroflot booked via Korean Air, though only B777-300 for Aeroflot — its 330s still have angle-flat seats.” — Michael F.

“I book Delta through Air France or KLM and look for Delta One flights. 1/4 of the points.” — Jason M.

“If you’re flying solo, Austrian Airlines’ 1–2–1 configuration. If you’re flying with a partner, Lufthansa’s 2–2–2 config.” — Deniz W.

“Virgin Atlantic. Bar on the plane, fun crew, great lounges. Fuel surcharges a major buzzkill though.” — Tyler H.

“Air France is my personal favorite, but you want to get it on the 787 or 777 in the new 1–2–1 configuration. Be careful though, not all 777’s are on the 1–2–1 configuration, but if you can get it, you’ll love it! this is for J [business], although the same applies for F [first], as the 777 in F also has a much better product than the outdated A380 products. Moral of the story: Air France is amazing in the 777 and 787, as long as you get the 1–2–1 configuration product in either class.” — David B.

Air France's 787 business-class product seems to be a crowd pleaser for crossing the pond.
Air France’s 787 business-class product seems to be a crowd pleaser for crossing the pond.

“I live in the Northeast so Montreal and Toronto are closer than JFK or BOS [Boston] and nonstop flights are bountiful. Also, if paying cash, it”s $1,000 cheaper than business on Delta. I was on the inaugural flight from CDG [Paris] to Montreal in June for the new 777 product. My wife now compares everything to her Air France experience.” — Wayne F.

“Depends on the route and time. I generally use Virgin Upper Class to [fly to] London, Delta One to [fly to] Dublin. The food on Air France is great. Singapore Airlines is good, but I don’t really like the seat design for a day flight. Air Canada’s Dreamliner product is pretty good. Avoid BA [British Airways] unless you are flying first or on BA First, which is great fun. United is not the best, although Polaris looks good. Not sure which gives the best value for Ultimate Rewards.” — Stev H.

“Delta Airbus 1–2–1 in reverse herringbone is great.” — Jonathan M.

“Turkish Airlines is pretty legit. Flew it this winter.” — Joseph J.

“Singapore Airlines’ A380 from EWR [Newark] to FRA.” — Bill K.R.

“Swiss business is pretty slick. Always on time.” — Wade W.

“I think Virgin Atlantic has the most fun Upper Class but the surcharges kill it for me. Depending on how you’re doing it, you can try the Emirates fifth freedom flight but its business class isn’t that extraordinary in my opinion. Swiss is a solid product with a lot of availability. Lufthansa has a very consistent and good product.” — Gaurav N.

“Of the EU [European Union] carriers, I’d say that Swiss and Austrian have the best soft and hard products. Despite many previous suggestions, I’d avoid Lufthansa business class if possible. I’m not a fan of its 2–2–2 hard product configuration and I find that either Swiss or Austrian are much better if there’s award availability. For booking business class to Europe using points, try transferring them to Aeroplan. You’ll find one-way flights for 55,000, which is much less than what other programs require. Good luck and happy travels!” — Adrian L.M.

But What About All Those Taxes in London?

Several readers brought up the notorious taxes and fees you may face when booking a flight redemption and flying out of London. Luckily, a few of them had ideas for getting around it.

“You’re fine to ticket through LHR [London Heathrow], just not to start there. Flying in should not attract taxes, although some airlines try to charge them.” — Stev H.

“Yup. This. Flying LAX [Los Angeles] to LHR in Delta One in April for 70,000 Skymiles + $5.60 in taxes.” — Dan B.

“Business class in Europe is pretty bad, usually just economy with an empty middle seat. That being said, I’d fly to Zurich in Swiss, then take a one-hour flight to London if it saved me $500 each way in taxes.” — Gaurav N.

Flying through LHR can sometimes add additional taxes and fees to your trip.
Flying out of LHR can sometimes add additional taxes and fees to your trip.

“You can fly AA business class to LHR and connect throughout Europe for under $100 in taxes and fees. Yes, it’s more expensive than the $5–$25 in fees on other awards, but nothing like the more than $500 (you’ll pay) in fees for flying BA.” — Dan K.

“Correct. I booked DFW–PSA [Dallas-Pisa, Italy] through LHR in AA business and fees were $81.” — Aneesh D.

Readers Helping Readers

We love it when our readers get so involved in a topic that they answer each other’s questions and chime in with their own advice. That’s what happened when Steven M. asked for more info on finding redemption options with partner airlines.

“So when you consider Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Emirates, Virgin, etc., do you just go to each site individually or will those come up under a search as a partner airline on something like American Airlines or United? I just never think of checking something like Swiss Air, but from what you said, it has a good product and availability. Interested in how you find these.” — Steven M.

Fellow TPG Lounge members Gaurav N. and Mary A.J. were quick to respond with their tips…

“For Swiss and Lufthansa, you can search through the United or Aeroplan sites pretty easily. ANA supposedly has a good system too but I find it difficult, to be honest. For Emirates, I usually check on Alaskaair.com and for Virgin, I check directly with Virgin.” — Gaurav N.

“I booked business class in August through United on Swiss ORD–ZRH–FLR [Chicago-Zurich-Florence] for this June and then returning FCO–ZRH–ORD for 70,000 miles each way. Haven’t seen same deal since. If you are a United Explorer card member, some flights listed are available just to you. If you connect in Europe and book through UA, look into its Excursionist Benefit. You will need to call the foreign airline to get seats — United assigned us random seats, not even together. I downloaded the Swiss app and loaded info there so I can see seat assignments and check in.” — Mary A.J.

Featured image of Paris by RossHelen / Getty Images.

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