Book Now to Europe for Next Summer: Business

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Want to book a dream summer vacation to Europe? The time is now. Award space is still very good on a number of great routes on great products and will deteriorate in the coming months.

Here’s how I would go about booking my dream award. Step one is the miles–more on getting those at the end of the post. You need:

  • 60,000 miles for a roundtrip economy class ticket
  • 100,000 for a roundtrip business class ticket
  • 125,000+ for a roundtrip first class ticket

Business

This post will focus on booking a business class award for next summer. The next installments will focus on economy and first class.

I recommend collecting United or US Airways miles to book a business class award to Europe for next summer. Both are members of the Star Alliance, so both type of miles can be used on the same flights on the following Star Alliance options to Europe.

  • United (flat beds)
  • US Airways (flat beds on A330)
  • Lufthansa (flat beds on 747-8)
  • Austrian (flat beds)
  • Swiss (flat beds)
  • Brussels (flat beds)
  • Air Canada (flat beds)
  • Scandanavian (angled beds)
  • TAP (angled beds)
  • Turkish (flat beds on 777-300ER)
  • LOT (flat beds on the 787 Dreamliner) <– secret weapon

When to Use United Miles and When to Use US Airways Miles?

Not only does the Star Alliance have the most space, but it has the most options in lie flat business class beds, the goal when you’re shelling out 100k miles for a roundtrip.

When booking an award in business class to Europe, I follow a simple procedure.

  1. Find transatlantic space in both directions.
  2. Find domestic US space to/from transatlantic space.
  3. Find intra-Europe space to/from transatlantic space.

The first step is to find the transatlantic space. All the airlines’ space we want is searchable on United.com, so I head there.

I use wikipedia to determine possible routings before searching. See How to Use Wikipedia to Book Awards Like a Pro.

Then I fill out the form on united.com for a oneway flight on a route that I expect to have award space. If I wanted to search united.com for award space from Chicago to Frankfurt on Lufthansa or United, I would search like this:

Now we can easily use the award calendar at the top of the search screen to see what’s available when. (Don’t forget that sometimes you need to trick the award calendar to get it to show what you want.)

Here are some routes’ availability this summer. Keep in mind that yellow denotes economy space, blue denotes business or first space, and green denotes both. White means there is no saver space on the route that day in any class. (Saver space is space at the 100k miles roundtrip price point.)

Chicago to Frankfurt

Chicago shows strong availability if you have even a little flexibility. About half the days in July and August have space on direct flights on United or Lufthansa. Click a date to find out which of United’s two flights or Lufthansa’s two flights have space.

United’s flights depart at 2:20 PM and 6:15 PM. I saw more space on the earlier flight and more space in first class than business class in general.

I would prefer United’s fully flat bed to Lufthansa’s angled beds on the 747-400 in business.

Overall Chicago to Frankfurt has excellent space in business class at the moment for next summer.

New York to London

Without a Star Alliance partner in London, only United serves this route with five daily departures, all from Newark. Space is limited early in the summer, but readily available by July.

Here are United’s five flight times–four redeyes and a daytime hop.

Four of the departures fly a 757 with the fifth on a 777. All the planes are configured without a true first class, but the business class seats are lie flat beds.

The most common business class space was on the daytime departure, leaving at 9:00 AM and arriving at 9:30 PM. Not taking the redeye would have its advantages and disadvantages, but this is certainly the hardest flight to connect to if you don’t live in Newark.

San Francisco to London

What about us West Coasters? It’s normally much tougher to find transatlantic award space from the west coast to Europe than from the East Coast, but San Francisco to London on United has incredible space for Summer 2013 on its two daily flights.

There is generally more space on the 1 PM departure than the 7:40 PM departure. The 1 PM departure can be tough since you land at 11:10 PM San Francisco time.

Miami to Zurich

Swiss business class is a holy grail for some. I usually search for it from Miami, an odd route since Miami is not a Star Alliance hub. Space out of Miami is bad, but there are a few days this summer when you can hop on a Swiss bed.

Mondays in July are the best bet.

Here’s a video of Swiss biz to whet your appetite; definitely a product on my bucket list.

The other thing I noticed for Swiss biz out of all of its gateways–New York, Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami–was that there was some business class space this week. Swiss opens up business class seats at the last minute, which may be your best chance to get on board.

Chicago to Vienna

Austrian’s new business class looks world class. It impresses me enough that I booked a flight in October from Vienna to Chicago on it instead of a direct flight from Munich to Chicago on United. There is incredible business class space on the flight five days a week this summer.

Here’s how I got a seat in Austrian biz as part of my best award ever.

The flight leaves Chicago at 4:00 PM and touches down in Vienna at 8:40 AM the next day.

Philadelphia to Rome

US Airways flies most of its European routes with an A330, on which it has a worldclass business class bed that it calls an Envoy Suite. Availability isn’t great to Rome, but it is worth a look.

If you’re flexible, there is space early in the week.

Domestic Space

To get to the gateway of the transatlantic space you find, you can search united.com for domestic award space. You should find plenty as United offers the most domestic award space of any legacy carrier in my experience. Remember that both United and US miles can access this United space.

Tip: You are entitled to domestic first class (or business on three cabin services), but you can also use economy class space if the times work better.

Intra-Europe Space

I think you’ll find this incredibly easy to find on united.com. Many of the European airlines release space on seemingly every flight of theirs. Intra-European business is the exact same seat as coach, so don’t hold out for business if economy space is the only thing available.

Putting it all together

If you book with United miles, you should be able to easily book online. If you can’t easily book online, you can book by phone for free using this trick.

If you book with US Airways miles, write down all the flight dates, numbers, times, and cabins and call US Airways at 800-622-1015. Partner bookings do not incur a phone fee.

Tricking it out

See here for more information on adding free oneways to United awards (article, video) and US Airways awards (article, video).

Getting the Miles

This offer has expired. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

There isn’t quite a quick way to rack up 100k US Airways miles. You can get 30k US Airways miles on first purchase with the Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard, but the card has an $89 annual fee the first year. You can also get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express with a 25k bonus that transfers 1:1 to dozens of airlines with 5k bonus miles for every 20k points transferred.

Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Recap

Space to Europe in business class for summer 2013 is excellent right now. I recommend booking now before it deteriorates as it certainly will. I ran through the process to book, specific routes with great availability, and specific fantastic beds.

I even told you how to get the miles for a roundtrip business class ticket with two credit card applications on the same day. Now it’s your turn to live up to your part of the bargain: I do the work. You do the travel.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Good post as usual, just a couple points:

    1) It might be helpful to mention that sometimes UA.com shows phantom space on some airlines (Lufthansa)?

    2) Might just be a regional or a minor grammatical thing, but when I hear “next summer”, I usually think “the summer following the upcoming summer”. I’d refer to summer 2013 as “this summer” or “this coming summer” or “summer 2013”. I was confused when I read the post initially because I thought I had been incorrect about award charts generally opening up 330-365 days out.

    Thanks as always for the thoroughness and interesting angles that you take!

    • 1) Good point. It doesn’t show any phantom business space that I’ve found, so I was saving that point for the post about booking first class space.

      2) Classic ambiguity in our usage of the word “next” that I should have caught.

    • If you want flat beds, your best bet is to fly JFK-LHR in Delta biz. There is decent availability on that route. Getting to NYC with Delta miles from your home airport may be a different story.

  2. As the others stated, great post and thank you. Summer of 2014 will be our first visit to Europe and this was a great primer. Bookmarked for future reference.

  3. I spent the last few days looking for a return segment from EU to US on a Sunday in July (using united.com/MileagePlus points) . Getting an afternoon flight from NYC or ORD to my home airport (RDU) is impossible (with *A or OW(using BA points)). Saver awards are only available with the early morning flights and given that most transatlantic flights arrive in the afternoon, it’s “expensive” to get home. How soon after my departure from EU or from the entry point in the US would my trip have to be complete (using united.com/MileagePlus points)? I do see saver award availability late on Sunday night (on united) but I can’t get united.com to include that segment.

    • You can layover anywhere on an international award for up to 24 hours, so if you are willing to overnight in the US on the return, that would be one solution.

  4. Is it possible to do an open jaw when arriving in the US (one way award) from abroad, e.g. arrive at JFK and continue from EWR or LGA?

  5. Is the difference in 1st class vs business worth it in your opinion. We have only flown coach to Europe
    I have the miles either way, I would be flying DFW to Paris, and I will most likely be using your booking service

    • It depends on the airline you’re flying. I wouldn’t pay 35k extra miles r/t for United first over United biz. To me a flat bed is a flat bed for the most part. If you really want better service and food, or if the seat/bed is substantially better in first like it is on some airlines, you may want to pay the premium. This is a tough question to answer generally.

  6. You forgot to mention the US Airways card with 40,000 miles after first purchase and annual fee waived the first year.

    • I think it’s inferior because almost no one reading this blog qualifies for it. It’s open to Chairman’s Preferred US Airways flyers and US Airways employees.

      • Per FT, that offer is working for everyone, similar to the expired AA offers still working for everyone, not just time travelers. 😉 I got 10K on anniversary and I am not an employee or a Chairman. Per milevalue accounting, the 10K on anniversary and the waived first year fee and are worth at least $250. BTW, you can’t rely on what the Barclay’s reps tell you if you call about the 10K on anniversary. I have yet to see and consistent reports on FT that the 10K is not posting on anniversary. Patience grasshopper!

        • When I called and the rep told me I wouldn’t be getting a 10k anniversary bonus, I had to cancel the card. In my mind, paying the annual fee and not getting the bonus miles was/is likely and is the worst possible outcome. Also, I believe that you can only have two US Airways MasterCards at a time, so it’s probably better to cancel one of your two to get a new one and 40k then hold for 10k anniversary bonus.

          • Best offer is 40K, no first year fee, 10K on every anniversary. As far as getting the second year fee refunded after anniversary, I recently got refunded on my Barclay’s AirTran card so I’d say it’s likely you would get refunded within X days, particularly if the 10K doesn’t post. Some have reported the 10K posts before anniversary.

            FT thread is here:
            http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/milesbuzz/1182580-fee-waived-no-spend-us-air-card-40k-55k-benies-116.html

            Pretty much everyone is reporting 40K after first purchase. Until we see credible reports that the first year fee is no longer waived, it’s still the better offer, with or without 10K at anniversary.

  7. I’ve already booked a RT economy ticket to Europe for the summer. Now that some more business seats are opening up, I’d love to switch one leg to business (I recently got some more miles — thanks Chase Ink!). Looking at the United website it seems it would cost $75/pp to change to business class. However, after booking my flight I received an email that our flight itinerary was changed and we are now arriving 5 hours later to our destination. Is this enough to get the ticket cancelled so that I could rebook in business without change fees?

  8. as always awesome post. thx
    I don’t really understand why using wikipedia is better then searching on ita
    unless wikipedia is better when it comes to award routings. which still doesn’t explain why kvs/expertflyer wouldn’t be better??

  9. Thank you for showing so many useful information on the post! I wonder if I book a international roundtrip ticket with one stopover and already fly one-way, would I be able to change the coming-back flight due to a schedule change? Is there any fee or tax associate with the transaction?

  10. what color of business space shown on UA.com will be bookable by U.S Airway? Are those blue/green color non-stop saver business saver will be bookable by U.S dividend miles?

    • US Airways can book space united.com displays as Saver space. On the little calendar above the search results, yellow means there is saver space that day in economy, blue means there is saver space that day in a premium cabin, and green means there is saver space that day in both. On the actual search result, you are looking for a blue Select button not a yellow Select button in the column representing the cabin you want.

      • I follow your instruction but can’t see any biz eat from JFK to vie in Apr or may. Did I do something wrong? Why they say there are many seats available? Tks.

  11. I am puzzled about the apparent lack of interest in tricks to obtain upgrade space, the only way to both travel in comfort AND build credit toward elite status. Dr B

    • Share any you have. Upgrades look like a horrible deal to me when compared to outright business class award bookings.

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