Amongst points collectors, flying in business class to Europe remains one of the most popular travel objectives. After all, Europe is always a great destination to visit year-round, since it offers so much diversity in a relatively small geographical area.
In this article, we’ll outline the best airlines for redeeming points for a luxurious flight across the Atlantic. For each airline, we’ll look at 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 alphabetically here allow you to fly directly from North America across the Atlantic in a lie-flat seat, in such a way that provides a good value for miles that you can easily collect.
In This Post
- 1. Air Canada
- 2. British Airways
- 3. Air France/KLM
- 4. Austrian Airlines
- 5. Iberia
- 6. LOT Polish Airlines
- 7. Lufthansa
- 8. Singapore Airlines
- 9. Swiss
- 10. TAP Air Portugal
- 11. Turkish Airlines
- 12. United
1. Air Canada
Air Canada offers Canadians the most options for flights to Europe with direct flights from hubs in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. If you’re travelling from the United States, it’ll be an easy connection to one of the Canadian hubs before heading onwards.
Most of the long-haul routes offer lie-flat pods in Air Canada Signature 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.
Aeroplan points may be earned by transferring on a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards or through one of many co-branded credit cards, such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card.
In the United States, Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express US Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Furthermore, there’s the Chase Aeroplan Card, which comes with many unique features.
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, too.
With dynamic pricing, you may be able to book any of these routes for 60,000 Aeroplan points in Air Canada Signature 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, 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 an Economy (Latitude) and then use eUpgrades to instantly confirm a seat in business class.
Aeroplan redemptions aren’t subject to carrier-imposed surcharges, so you won’t have to break the bank to fly with Air Canada. 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.
2. British Airways
British Airways is one of the few good non-Aeroplan options when redeeming points for transatlantic business class flights.
On the earning front, Avios can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio from both American Express Membership Rewards and RBC Avion, as well as 25:10 from HSBC Rewards. You can also earn Avios directly through co-branded credit cards, such as the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite.
The same is true in the United States, with Avios being a transfer partner of American Express US Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
There have also been transfer bonuses to Avios in the past, which further reduces the cost of redemptions.
Currently, British Airways flies to Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver in Canada, as well as to a number of destinations across the United States.
When it comes time to redeem Avios for a flight with British Airways, you’ll likely have a number of options available to choose from. British Airways guarantees that it releases at least four business class award seats on every single flight, which makes it both predictable and reliable for when you’re planning a trip.
This can be especially useful for families, for whom finding multiple business class award seats can be tricky.
Aside from being relatively easy to earn and having ample availability, the downside is that British Airways levies carrier-imposed surcharges on award bookings. It’s not uncommon to see taxes and fees totalling close to $1,000 (CAD) on a booking made through Avios or another partner, such as Alaska Mileage Plan.
However, British Airways recently introduced Reward Flight Savers, which let you pay more in Avios and less in cash for long-haul flights with the carrier.
For example, an off-peak business class flight from Toronto to London costs 80,000 Avios and $350 (CAD) in taxes and fees as a Reward Flight Saver. Note the other pricing options that are available, which let you pay less in points and more in cash, should you be so inclined.
Similarly, an off-peak flight from Vancouver to London prices out at 90,000 Avios plus $450 (CAD) in taxes and fees.
If you’re flying westbound from London to North America, you’ll want to be mindful of the Air Passenger Duty (APD), which can’t be avoided for direct flights departing from the UK. Rather, you may want to consider connecting through a different European hub to save some money along the way.
It’s worth mentioning that flights with Aer Lingus used to be a sweet spot within the Avios program, but have become subject to carrier-imposed surcharges in the recent past. You can expect to pay around $600 (CAD) in taxes and fees for an eastbound booking.
Westbound, the taxes and fees are a bit more palatable, at around $190–400 (CAD) for flights departing from Dublin. If you’re able to, consider flying to Europe with British Airways and from Europe with Aer Lingus to minimize costs as much as possible.
The award availability with Aer Lingus isn’t as generous as British Airways, though, which may become a difficult barrier to navigate.
3. Air France/KLM
SkyTeam airlines Air France and KLM operate flights between their hubs in Paris and Amsterdam to many North American destinations.
Air France flies to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, 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.
The airlines also fly to a host of destinations across the United States.
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.
In the United States, Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner from American Express US Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.
On both sides of the border, you can check out the Air France/KLM World Elite Mastercard for earning miles on your daily spending.
You can expect to pay as little as 55,000 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 73,333 MR points.
Keep in mind that Flying Blue redemptions are also priced dynamically. So while you can expect to pay as few as 55,000 miles, you’d have to pay more if the lower fares are no longer available.
As opposed to most 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, say, British Airways, you can expect to pay around $300–$350 (CAD) 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 with one-way fares as low as 27,500 miles in business class to Europe, so if flying with either Air France or KLM interests you, be sure keep an eye out for our monthly updates.
4. Austrian Airlines
Vienna-based Austrian Airlines flies to Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York (JFK), Newark, and Washington Dulles.
As all of these flights are over 4,000 miles, adding a connecting flight to or from most locations in Eastern North America 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 (CAD) 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 (CAD) 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.
Another Oneworld carrier on this list is Madrid-based Iberia. The Spanish carrier doesn’t have as wide of a network as other airlines, but there are some compelling sweet spots to be aware of for flights across the Atlantic.
Earning Iberia Plus Avios may appear to be daunting at first, especially in Canada since there aren’t any direct transfer partners to the program.
In the United States, Iberia Plus Avios is a transfer partner of American Express US Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
Aside from getting a US-issued co-branded credit card, there’s always the option of transferring Marriott Bonvoy points at the ideal ratio of 60,000 points = 25,000 miles.
However, keep in mind that you can move British Airways Avios and Iberia Avios freely between your accounts. This means that as long as you can earn British Airways Avios, you can also earn Iberia Avios.
Once you have Avios in your Iberia account, you’ll want to keep an eye out for a direct flight from any of its US destinations, which include Boston, New York (JFK), Washington Dulles, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Iberia uses peak and off-peak pricing, with very reasonable prices for direct flights to Europe.
From Boston, Chicago, New York (JFK), and Washington Dulles, you’ll pay just 34,000 Avios for a one-way flight in business class on off-peak dates, or 50,000 Avios for the same flight during peak dates.
From any of the other cities, you’ll pay 42,500 Avios for off-peak dates in business class, and 62,500 Avios on peak dates.
Better yet, you won’t encounter significant taxes and fees on these flights. Expect to pay around €110–150 ($160–215 CAD) per person per direction, which isn’t unreasonable.
While Iberia might not have the flashiest product out there, it’s still good to have as a backup option if nothing else is available.
6. 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, such as Kraków and Rzeszów.
LOT’s additional North American routes are as follows:
New York JFK–Warsaw, Newark–Warsaw, Newark–Kraków, Newark–Rzeszów (seasonally)
Within Europe, LOT has excellent coverage of the Baltic region and Eastern Europe, so they’d be a 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.
The seats on LOT’s 787 Dreamliner aren’t the most advanced, but they’re perfectly fine for couples travelling together. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the food and service, the latter of which can 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 20 destinations in the United States.
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.
The airline is expected to announce details of a revamped business class cabin in Spring 2023, which hopefully means a better product is imminent.
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, so you might want to consider flying with most other airlines on this list if at all possible.
8. Singapore Airlines
While Singapore Airlines may only fly two fifth freedom route between North America and Europe, you can fly in one of the best business class cabins in the world while getting across the Atlantic.
In late 2022, ample long-haul award availability on Singapore Airlines became available through Aeroplan. As part of this development, the two Singapore Airlines fifth freedom routes between North America and Europe became even more intriguing.
Singapore Airlines flies between New York (JFK) and Frankfurt, as well as between Manchester and Houston. The best part is that these flights will only cost 60,000 and 70,000 Aeroplan points in business class, respectively.
On the Frankfurt–New York (JFK) route, you can enjoy an epic ride on the Airbus A380, complete with seats that combine to form a bed.
In terms of getting to and from Europe in style, it doesn’t get much better than this. Be sure to consider the New York (JFK) to Frankfurt route, especially if you’re flying as a couple.
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 to Aeroplan.
In recent times, Swiss has also started direct flights from Calgary and Vancouver to Zurich through its sister company Edelweiss Air.
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, which often has ample award space for multiple passengers.
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 Los Angeles and San Francisco flights can be 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.
From any of the Western North American cities, expect to pay 70,000 points in business class, including with its sister company Edelweiss Air from either Calgary or Vancouver to Zurich.
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. The food can be a little below what you might expect, and the service seems to be hit or miss, but the overall “Swiss factor” makes this airline an ever-popular choice.
10. 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, 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.
11. 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, 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 90,000 Aeroplan points.
If you’ve managed to snag a seat on the flight 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.
If at all possible, you’ll want to fly on the Dreamliner or the A350, as they have 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.
Rounding out this list is United, which offers its flagship Polaris business class on many routes between North America and Europe.
United maintains hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles. From these airports, and also from other major US cities, the airline operates a number of direct flights to Europe.
As a Star Alliance member, United can be booked with many different loyalty programs. The easiest programs to access through credit cards are Aeroplan and United MileagePlus.
On both sides of the border, Aeroplan points are very easy to come by, as the loyalty program is accessible through co-branded credit cards, transferrable points, crediting paid flights, and many other avenues.
On the other hand, United’s own loyalty program is less accessible. You can either earn points directly with a co-branded Chase credit card, or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio.
With most other airlines, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to airline miles at the optimal ratio of 60,000 points = 25,000 miles. However, with United, you can benefit from a 10% bonus, resulting in a ratio of 3 Bonvoy points = 1.1 MileagePlus miles or 60,000 points = 27,000 miles.
Generally speaking, you can find good Aeroplan award availability for United business class flights to Europe from its major East Coast hubs, including Chicago, Newark, and Washington Dulles. If you’re able to take a positioning flight to one of these airports, you should have a good chance at scoring a seat.
Keep in mind that these three airports (as well as in Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), you’ll enjoy an excellent ground experience in the airline’s flagship United Polaris lounges. Prior to your flight, you can sip on delicious cocktails, dine à la carte, and freshen up with a shower before heading to board your flight.
Flights from Chicago to destinations in Ireland and the United Kingdom fall under the first distance band with Aeroplan, as they all measure less than 4,000 miles. A business class flight prices out at 60,000 Aeroplan points, plus a modest amount of taxes and fees.
From Newark, you’ll have a bit more latitude to work with while staying under Aeroplan’s first distance band. A direct flight from Newark to many destinations in Western Europe, such as Zurich, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, all cost 60,000 points in business class.
Otherwise, most destinations served by United will cost 70,000 points in business class, especially if you add a connection on either end of your trip.
It’s not unusual to find upwards of nine seats on a United route, which can be a great option for families or groups. You’ll want to keep an eye on some of the less popular routes, perhaps from Brussels to Washington Dulles, and you’re more likely to spot these on off-peak dates rather than during the summer months.
In terms of the onboard experience, United isn’t necessarily known for having the most cutting-edge hard or soft products, but it’s still an entirely comfortable way to fly. You’ll enjoy a lie-flat seat on United’s different aircraft, as well as decent catering (including ice cream) and a set of pajamas to add to your collection.
When you’re planning a trip to Europe, be sure to look at United for a combination of an excellent ground experience and a restful way to get across the Atlantic.
People often ask about the best way to use miles to fly to Europe in business class, and this article is designed to comprehensively answer that question. Between the above twelve airlines, you should certainly be able to find some way of redeeming miles to cross the Atlantic that works for you.
Nine of the twelve airlines can be booked with Aeroplan points, while British Airways and Iberia can be booked with Avios and Alaska Mileage Plan, 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, or any number of other transatlantic carriers accessible via the US.