Among Canadian points collectors, flying in business class to Europe seems to be one of the most popular travel objectives, particularly with European countries being among the first to reopen their borders during the pandemic.
In this article, we’ll outline the best airlines for Canadians to redeem their miles for a luxurious flight across the Atlantic. For each airline, I’ll comment on the ideal points currency to use, which routes to search for, and the general availability patterns.
What ranks a transatlantic airline among the “best”? Well, all of the airlines listed here allow you to fly directly from Canada across the Atlantic in a lie-flat seat, with minimal fuel surcharges, and in a way that provides a good value for miles that you can easily collect in Canada.
In This Post
- 1. Aer Lingus
- 2. Air Canada
- 3. Air France/KLM
- 4. Austrian Airlines
- 5. Lufthansa
- 6. LOT Polish Airlines
- 7. Swiss
- 8. TAP Air Portugal
- 9. Turkish Airlines
1. Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus is one of the few non-Aeroplan redemption options I’d list among the “best” airlines when redeeming points for transatlantic business class.
As a British Airways Avios partner, the Irish flag carrier serves multiple points within North America, levies minimal surcharges, and provides easy onward connections to the rest of Europe.
Currently, Aer Lingus’s sole Canadian route is Toronto–Dublin, which can be redeemed for 50,000 Avios in business class on off-peak dates and 60,000 Avios on peak dates. Avios can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio from both American Express Membership Rewards and RBC Avion, so that’s a pretty attractive price point.
The airline was also supposed to launch a Montreal–Dublin route in 2019, although that’s been postponed indefinitely. If it were to launch in the future, you’ll be able to redeem only 31,250 Avios in business class on off-peak dates, which is an incredible deal!
Meanwhile, residents of Western Canada can consider redeeming Avios on the Seattle–Dublin route, which costs 62,500 Avios on off-peak dates (the peak price of 75,000 Avios is significantly less compelling). They’ll have to travel to Seattle on a separate award, though – perhaps using a cheap award on Alaska miles.
Speaking of which, you can in fact book Aer Lingus flights using Alaska miles as well. The price for a standard award is 60,000 Alaska miles one-way.
Alaska miles are generally regarded as best used for premium redemptions to Asia, so it’s debatable whether you’d want to drop 60,000 Alaska miles on an Aer Lingus flight.
However, it might present a better value than Avios for those living in Western Canada, since you can string together the Alaska Airlines flight down to Seattle and the Aer Lingus flight to Dublin (and perhaps beyond!) on a single itinerary, rather than booking separate awards more expensively using Avios.
Aer Lingus has been quite generous with award availability in the past, although they appear to have tightened things up a bit since the pandemic. If you’re only able to find one seat available on your preferred route, be sure to check departures from nearby US hubs, as you may be able to find more space.
Aer Lingus award space shows up on the Alaska website, but not the Avios website. If you’re redeeming Avios, then you must search for space separately (using ExpertFlyer, the Alaska website, or the United website), and then call British Airways to book.
I haven’t personally flown Aer Lingus business class, but my partner Jessy said she had a pleasant experience when she flew with them a few years ago. They’ve got a decent-looking staggered business class configuration (including ultra-private “throne” seats), and friendly service with a healthy dose of Irish charm.
2. Air Canada
Air Canada offers Canadians the most options for flights to Europe with direct flights from hubs in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. Most of the routes offer lie-flat pods in business class, meaning that you’ll be entirely comfortable for the ride across the Atlantic.
The easiest way to earn and redeem points for flights with Air Canada is with Aeroplan points.
Flights to Europe are priced in four distance-based bands on Aeroplan’s North America–Atlantic chart.
When redeeming for business class flights with Aeroplan, you’ll need to consider both the actual distance flown and the dynamic price.
Many flights to Europe from Toronto or Montreal fall within the first distance band of 0–4,000 miles. Dublin, London, Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon all clock in at fewer than 4,000 miles.
With dynamic pricing, you may be able to book any of these routes for 60,000 Aeroplan points in Air Canada business class, but you may also see the cost rise to the other end of the spectrum at 160,000 Aeroplan points or more!
For travellers based in Western Canada, direct flights to Europe fall within the second band, meaning that the price starts at 70,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
As we’ve covered in detail, one way for anyone with Aeroplan Elite Status to reduce the cost of flying in business class is to book a Latitude economy fare and then use eUpgrades to instantly confirm a seat in business class.
Aeroplan redemptions are no longer subject to carrier-imposed surcharges. Depending on your airport of origin, you can expect to pay up to $100 in taxes and fees.
If the price of the flight you’d like falls on the more expensive end of the dynamic spectrum, it may be worthwhile to consider other options that will both save you points while still affording you a comfortable flight.
3. Air France/KLM
SkyTeam airlines Air France and KLM operate flights between their hubs in Paris and Amsterdam to several Canadian destinations.
Air France flies to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City, while KLM flies to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Both airlines have extensive networks in Europe, offering easy single-stop connections for travellers from these cities.
Redeeming miles for flights on Air France and KLM is best achieved with Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles.
The easiest way for Canadians to earn these is by transferring Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:0.75 ratio. You can also transfer from Marriot Bonvoy in optimal increments of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to 25,000 Flying Blue miles.
You can expect to pay as little as 53,000 miles for a one-way flight from Canada to Europe in business class with either airline. Factoring in the 1:0.75 transfer ratio, this would result in a cost of at least 70,667 MR points.
Keep in mind that Flying Blue redemptions are also priced dynamically. So while you can expect to pay as few as 53,000 miles, you’d have to pay more if the lower fares are no longer available.
As opposed to other airlines on this list, you will incur fuel surcharges on redemptions with Air France or KLM. While they aren’t as heavy as redeeming with British Airways, you can expect to pay around $300–$350 for a business class flight.
Keep an eye out for Flying Blue Promo Rewards, which offer reduced award pricing on specific routes each month. Canadian routes have previously been featured, so if flying with either Air France or KLM interests you, be sure to sign up to receive promotional emails from the program.
4. Austrian Airlines
Vienna-based Austrian Airlines flies to Montreal, New York JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, and Chicago.
As all of these flights are over 4,000 miles, adding a connecting flight from most locations in Eastern Canada will still total less than 6,001 miles, keeping you within the second distance band of Aeroplan’s North America–Atlantic chart.
As Aeroplan redemptions with partner airlines come at a fixed price, you can expect to pay 70,000 points for a one-way flight in business class from one of Austrian’s North American hubs to Vienna. The taxes and fees come at a modest $106 on the direct flight from Montreal to Vienna.
If you’d like to continue to another destination in Europe, the fixed-price of 70,000 Aeroplan points remains the same, as long as the total distance flown doesn’t cross into the next distance band. The taxes and fees increase marginally to $133 when flying from Montreal to Rome via Vienna.
While the business class hard and soft products may not be the best on the market, you will still have a lie-flat seat and Do & Co catering. The airline also tends to release ample award space, meaning that it should be relatively easy to find availability.
One way that Star Alliance partner airlines can be particularly useful on Aeroplan redemptions to get to popular destinations with direct flights that are victim to dynamic pricing.
For example, Air Canada operates a direct flight to Rome from Toronto and Montreal. Because Italy is a popular destination, finding a seat at the lower end of the dynamic pricing for Air Canada may be quite difficult, even when booking far in advance.
So, while it’s always optimal to be on a direct flight, making a single connection via Vienna would save you a significant number of points.
5. LOT Polish Airlines
Poland’s national airline, LOT, has added several North American routes in recent years, and is quite a popular choice for Canadians redeeming their points to Eastern Europe with Aeroplan. You’ll pay 70,000 Aeroplan points for a flight from most of LOT’s North American destinations to Warsaw.
The flagship Canadian route is Toronto–Warsaw, which is served by the airline’s relatively new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In addition to Warsaw, LOT also maintains hubs in other Polish cities and even Budapest as well.
As a result, their additional North American routes include:
New York JFK–Warsaw, New York JFK–Budapest, Newark–Warsaw, Newark–Kraków, Newark–Rzeszów (seasonally)
Within Europe, LOT has excellent coverage of the Baltic region and Eastern Europe, so they’d be my first-choice carrier for planning a trip there. If you’re travelling to Western Europe, on the other hand, you may find it a bit of a detour to go through Poland on the way, and doing so may bump you up to the next distance band on Aeroplan.
Business class space on LOT Polish Airlines is relatively easy to find if you’re searching far enough in advance. In particular, LOT is one of the easiest European awards to find departing straight out of Toronto.
I had the opportunity to fly on LOT’s 787 Dreamliner in 2019 from Toronto to Warsaw. The seats aren’t the most advanced, but they’re perfectly fine for couples travelling together. I was pleasantly surprised by the food and service, and found the latter of which to be very polished.
The German carrier Lufthansa has an extensive worldwide network. It operates direct flights to Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver from both Frankfurt and Munich, as well as 12 destinations in the United States.
In Aeroplan’s previous iteration, many would avoid flying with Lufthansa due to hefty carrier-imposed surcharges. Luckily, these aren’t applicable anymore, which gives more reason to consider flying with them.
Business class award space can be hit or miss. Since Air Canada also operates routes on many of these flights, you’re more likely to wind up flying with Air Canada than with Lufthansa.
Unlike many airlines, who have moved to pod-style seating in business class cabins, Lufthansa has been slow to follow. Therefore, you can expect to be seated next to a friendly neighbour on most routes, as the seats are arranged in 2-2 formations.
Flights from Montreal to Frankfurt or Munich, as well as flights from Toronto to Frankfurt, are under 4,000 miles, placing them in the first distance band at 60,000 Aeroplan points for a business class seat.
Meanwhile, flying from Toronto to Munich, or from Vancouver to either destination, will cost you 70,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
As one of Europe’s largest carriers, Lufthansa offers many convenient connections to other popular destinations in Western Europe.
Having said that, Lufthansa doesn’t have the greatest reputation for hard or soft products, I’d consider flying with most other airlines on this list if possible.
The Montreal–Zurich route on Swiss is by far one of the most straightforward ways for Canadians to fly to Europe, and it’s great that Swiss releases a healthy amount of business class seats on this route.
Through the US, Swiss also flies from Zurich to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (both Newark and JFK), and San Francisco. In addition, there’s a New York JFK–Geneva route as well.
As is often the case with transatlantic flights, Swiss tends to release more space on the East Coast routes than the West Coast ones. Flights to Boston, Chicago, and New York are generally readily available if you search well in advance, whereas the LAX and SFO flights are much tougher to find.
The direct flight from Montreal to Zurich costs 60,000 Aeroplan points in business class. Adding a connection to most destinations in Europe will bump up the cost to 70,000 Aeroplan points.
In addition, Swiss is also a very reliable airline for opening up last-minute award space, putting out a significant number of business class seats within two weeks of departure – even on the tougher-to-find West Coast routes.
The Airbus A330s are used on the Montreal route, although some travellers find the seat to be too cramped. The best seats on these aircraft are the throne seats, which offer an ample amount of space in the cabin.
Switzerland is located smack dab in the middle of Europe, and Zurich Airport is an absolute dream for transiting passengers, with tight connections easily doable. Throw in the very reasonable $100 or so in taxes and fees, and you can’t go wrong flying Swiss across the pond.
Keep an eye out for the updated cabins on routes offering the Boeing 777 route, which I flew way back in 2017. The food was actually a little below my expectations, and the service seems to be hit or miss, but the overall “Swiss factor” makes this airline an ever-popular choice.
8. TAP Air Portugal
The Portuguese flag carrier TAP-danced its way into this list with ample award space and a solid network to popular destinations in Europe. In Canada, TAP operates direct flights to Toronto and Montreal.
TAP has undergone significant expansion in recent years, with Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York (Newark and JFK), San Francisco, and Washington Dulles counting among their US destinations. Newark also has a direct flight to Porto as well.
TAP Air Portugal is amongst the easiest airlines for locating business class award space. If you’re searching a few months in advance, finding space out of your desired gateway city shouldn’t pose much a problem at all.
Direct flights from Toronto or Montreal to Lisbon cost 60,000 Aeroplan points and around $100 in taxes and fees.
The exception, again, is the San Francisco flight. While TAP does make a few seats available on this route, it’s still much more limited compared to the Eastern cities.
As a general rule of thumb, I’d say that travellers based in Western Canada would have a much easier time connecting through Toronto or the US East Coast rather than San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Geographically speaking, it’s not much of a detour to route through Portugal on the way to virtually anywhere in Europe, and Lisbon and Porto make for excellent 24-hour layovers as well. However, with Portugal being on the westernmost extremity of continental Europe, the downside here is that the flight times from North America are not very long, so it may be tough to get proper rest onboard.
Further, although both Toronto and Montreal are fewer than 4,000 miles from Lisbon, most European destinations beyond Spain will result in bumping up to the next distance band. This would add another 10,000 points to the cost, which could still be a worthwhile option to consider.
I flew from Toronto to Lisbon in 2019 onboard the Airbus A330. These days, they’re running newer A330-900neos or A321neos to Toronto with direct aisle access from every seat, but the overall experience should be similar.
I thought the food and service were good but not great, although with TAP’s lofty expansion plans, they should only improve as time goes on.
9. Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, and naturally that includes a good handful of routes that benefit North American travellers. Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver are served in Canada, in addition to eleven cities in the US.
There doesn’t appear to be much consistency with how Turkish Airlines releases award space. They seem to add and remove business class availability at will, and it’s not uncommon to see entire months’ worth of space appear, then disappear, and then reappear a bit later on.
If you see available seats that you like, I’d recommend that you book them as soon as possible, because they might be gone the very next day.
The downside to flying with Turkish is that it’s a pretty significant detour if you’re travelling anywhere in Western Europe. While all three Canadian cities are less than 6,000 miles from Istanbul, placing them in the second distance band at 70,000 Aeroplan points, adding connections to Western Europe would bump up the cost to 85,000 Aeroplan points.
If you’ve managed to snag a seat on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Vancouver to Istanbul, then adding any connections will bump you up to the third distance band, as the distance of the route itself clocks in at 5,973 miles.
When searching for flights, be mindful that Turkish Airlines operates three aircraft to Canada: the Boeing 777 to Toronto, the Airbus A330 to Montreal, and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Vancouver and sometimes Montreal.
If at all possible, you’ll want to fly on the Dreamliner, as it has an updated hard product to accompany Turkish Airlines’s excellent soft product.
Service on Turkish can be hit or miss, but the food and drink is where the airline earns its glowing reputation. And if you have some time to spend in Istanbul’s airport, be sure to check out the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge there.
People are always asking me “what’s the best way to use my miles to fly to Europe in business class?”, and this post is designed to comprehensively answer that question. Between the above nine airlines, you should certainly be able to find some way of redeeming miles to cross the Atlantic that works for you.
Seven of the nine airlines are booked with Aeroplan points, while Aer Lingus can be booked with either Avios or Alaska miles, and Air France/KLM can be booked with Flying Blue miles. Having points available in different currencies certainly increases your odds of finding a flight at a good deal.
If you’d like to try out some airlines beyond those on this list, you’d likely have to connect via a US gateway airport to get onboard the transatlantic services by Air Serbia, Brussels Airlines, SAS, United, or any number of other transatlantic carriers accessible via the US.