Who Has the Best Business Class to Europe for Using Your Miles?

Reader Pamela wants to know,

Which is your favorite airline for business class from the east coast to Europe? I have tons of points and miles for any alliance. To date we have preferred Lufthansa (but don’t even mention Air Berlin around me!). Any gateway is fine and any destination can work.

I believe that business class is all about the seat. That’s the biggest thing, do you have personal space and can you sleep? Of course you need to eat, it’s nice when you get good service, and storage space makes things more convenient.

See also:

There’s no question that the single US-Europe flight is Singapore Airlines A380 between New York JFK and Frankfurt. But that’s just a single flight. If you want to redeem miles for premium cabin seats on that aircraft you need Singapore’s own points, fortunately you can transfer from Chase, American Express, Citibank, and Starwood into the Krisflyer program.

Singapore combines seat, service, food (although no amenity kit in business) and really is a cut above anything else offered across the Atlantic.

But that flight aside my criteria is:

  • Fully flat seat
  • All seats with aisle access
  • Not on a 767, the plane is narrow and so the seats meeting the above criteria are too narrow

My absolute favorite seat that meets this criteria is aboard the American 777. I’ve called the American 777-300ER the best business class seat across the Atlantic. (They now have a couple of reconfigured 777-200s in service as well.)

It’s not only fully flat all aisle access, but features my favorite ‘reverse herringbone’ style of seats (which you can find on Cathay Pacific’s long haul fleet and also on EVA Airways’ 777-300ERs). Delta flies the seat to Tel Aviv and across the Pacific also. And American’s new 777s have inflight internet as well.

The problem is that you’ll almost never find business class saver awards on these aircraft, or on American’s transatlantic flights period.

So if that’s out my preference would be — believe it or not – US Airways business class. You won’t get good food and probably won’t get good service, but they were the pioneer of that reverse herringbone business class seat. And while availability isn’t great, I’ve certainly found seats say Philadelphia – Madrid on US Airways in business class and also to London Heathrow.

Speaking of London, and much more available, Virgin Atlantic‘s seat is a notch below these and their food isn’t fantastic but availability is better and their lounges are outstanding for business class offerings.

And you can redeem Delta miles for Virgin Atlantic flights without fuel surcharges (If you book one-way awards with Delta miles originating in Europe, or roundtrips originating there as well, you will pay surcharges — so book roundtrips originating in North America).

A notch below these products are Lufthansa’s new business class, and Brussels Airlines, which are reasonably available with miles in a Star Alliance program. While fully flat you don’t have the same personal space.

A similar offering is from Star Alliance member Austrian, but the overall product is a notch above because of Austrian’s fantastic catering (and coffee).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Iberia’s new business class (they have no First) is very good too. If I recall correctly not all aircraft have it yet.

  2. AA/US and Iberia – business class products that are the hardest to find to Europe with award miles unless you want to pay double!

  3. Unfortunately you can’t book any of these using reasonable amounts of miles. Doug Parker’s destruction of the AAdvantage program is nearly complete.

    AA has completely outsourced their premium cabin award flying to BA and their dreaded fuel surcharges. This allows aa.com to show availabillity, which no reasonable person would use. Congress needs to investigate the practice of fuel surcharges – could almost see them when fuel was $200 barrel, but today it dropped below $50.

  4. If you are flying as a family of 3, we really enjoyed the layout of the BA flight Dulles to Heathrow, since we could sit one parent on each of the outside seats with the kid in the middle.

  5. Just flew Air Canada business YYZ-MUC. Excellent product, great service, and good food. Don’t count them out…

  6. 100% agree on US airways. But make sure it’s the A330! Their 767 is by far the worst biz seat. Also Deltas A330 seats are pretty decent (WAY better than their 767). And their service isnt bad.

  7. I flew AC as well (LIM-YYZ – so not Europe) on a 767 and they had a 1-1-1 layout. I agree it was a bit narrow, but was really good for a 8 hour redeye.

  8. Don’t forget that Air Canada is now flying their 787s with the reverse herringbone pods on some European routes.

  9. Air Berlin has lay flat business across the Atlantic but I understand the product is cramped and not all that great.
    +1 making sure you don’t accidentally book the US Air old 767 angled flats. Typical on the PHL-FCO Winter runs in past years.

  10. Delta’s A330-200 and -300 fleets are also equipped with reverse herringbone seats in business class, and the airline serves a number of transatlantic routes with these aircraft.

  11. Very soon you will be able to start flying AF’s new business class which features the reverse herringbone design – surprised it wasn’t mentioned here!

  12. fyi your SQ J photos are from their new 77W, not the A380 that they use for SQ 25/26. It’s a bit misleading as they’re very different seats, though the A380 seat is also pretty great. Also agree with other posters that DL A330 seats are a great transatlantic option in reverse herringbone.

  13. I’ve flown Virgin Atlantic several times across the pond and love their catering. Not sure what happened on your flight.

  14. Out of the west coast, can you do better than Turkish? I understand the food in business rivals Austrian. Seat is fully flat but 2-3-2. Award availability was sensational, but may have dried up by now.

  15. It borders on blasphemy in the frequent flyer world, but I’m not a big fan of biz class to Europe (at least from the East Coast). The flight is simply too short. I recently booked my family on Brussels which, while some people “complain” about their seating-style, is clearly one of the better transatlantic products. We all agreed we arrived LESS rested than if we had flown coach! Why? Because their service, food and drink is good, and we all ate and drank more than we would have in coach — and stayed up later. This is not a recipe for a good next day when you basically arrive at 2 am. I guess you could say one should exercise willpower when flying a good biz product transatlantic, but doesn’t that sort of defeat the point? Personally, I’d focus my biz redemptions on ultra-long haul flights (12+ hours) where the bed and food/drink are truly useful.

  16. Turkish, hands down. Personal chef & the best Biz Loinge in Europe! Plus, b/c they don’t have F, their Biz is an F-Biz hybrid.

  17. Turkish, hands down. Personal chef & the best Biz Lounge in Europe! Plus, b/c they don’t have F, their Biz is an F-Biz hybrid.

  18. Turkish, hands down. Onboard chef & the best Biz Lounge in Europe! Plus, b/c they don’t have F, their Biz is an F-Biz hybrid.

  19. @iahphx the key to East Coast – Europe is to do a quick service meal or pre-flight supper and go straight to sleep. Don’t wake up for breakfast, sleep as long as possible. Shower in an arrivals lounge and have a quick breakfast.

  20. Thanks, Gary! I wouldn’t have considered Austrian. The AA seat pictured in your post looks exactly like the Cathay seats we just had to Asia and back. I love the storage space because I want all my electronics handy. We are not fond of NY-Europe flights because the flights are too short for a good night’s sleep. In fact, to route us to Paris in April, I took openings on Iberia (I know…) so that we could fly via Madrid and get some sleep! We actually think that good catering is important and loved the Book the Cook option on Singapore in the past. Austrian will be a target since I need to book flights pronto for May and October. See you in San Diegto!

  21. Thanks Gary for the info..
    OK. I’ve booked both BA & AA.
    Doing BA on A380 LHR-LAX
    AA on the way back LAX-LHR.

  22. I’d also argue that Alitalia has a solid hard product and they have great transatlantic business class availability. Food with them is pretty good too. Air France’s new business class which isn’t wide spread is reverse herringbone, so when it is fleet wide, they will make for a great business class option.

  23. @Gary You are undoubtedly correct that the best East Coast-Europe biz strategy is to pass on the meals and try to sleep as much as possible. And, if I was flying Brussels every few weeks, I would certainly try that (although I find it difficult to sleep with all the lights on and the clanking — just as I find it difficult to remain asleep when they do the ridiculous and totally unnecessary transatlantic breakfast service). But as an OCCASIONAL biz class flier, I (and probably folks in my camp) find it difficult to resist the decent food and excellent spirits (better than I usually buy for myself) plied by the cabin crew. I mean, when you’re used to crummy USA domestic service, you really want to enjoy Brussels transatlantic service! Nothing wrong with this but, as I said, don’t expect to arrive “better rested” than if you flew coach.

  24. look at the bright side. I enjoy it all, get 3-4 hours sleep and have NO problem staying up til 10 PM and getting a great night’s sleep the day I land. To me it’s the best of both worlds.

  25. An alternative is Air Canada. They offer excellent service and for the most part their Business Class configuration is good. The food is tasty, and amenity kits are provided. From most US east coast cities there is easy connection through AC YYZ or YUL hubs.

  26. An alternative is Air Canada. They offer excellent service and for the most part their Business Class configuration is good. The food is tasty, and amenity kits are provided. From most US east coast cities there is easy connection through AC YYZ or YUL hubs.

  27. The whole experience. Not just the seats. I have no familiarity with Virgin Atlanta and Delta business class. What privacy, if any?

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