My Experience Finding Summer Flights to Europe in Business Class

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Summer Redemption to Europe

As many long time readers of the site know, I write much more about earning miles/points as opposed to redeeming them. There are some bloggers who have award booking services and thus have more knowledge about redemptions, simply by virtue of the amount of time they work on them.

With that said, I do carry out all of the redemptions for my family and know a thing or two. If there is one piece of advice I could give regarding award redemptions, it would be to plan ahead. This is of course something that I am terrible at.

Tough to Plan Ahead But Club Carlson Helped

This year has been particularly tough in the planning ahead department because of the arrival of the baby. Since I wanted to leave everything flexible, I put off booking a summer trip for me and my son. That changed the other day.

The first thing that allowed this trip to happen was logistics. My wife and I agreed that a father/son trip would be good and now that we have developed more of a routine with the baby, we both felt confident that us leaving for a week would work. The second deciding factor was the Club Carlson deadline.

Where to Go

business class europe summer
Radisson Blu Strand Stockholm. Picture from their website.

I had pretty much decided on a trip to Europe a few months ago, although I didn’t know exactly where. My criteria was pretty simple. I wanted to visit countries/areas we had not been to before that had decent Club Carlson properties. A few good amusement parks along the way wouldn’t hurt either.

Thankfully the Scandinavian countries are among the last I have to visit in Europe, they have some world class amusement parks and some decent Radisson Blu properties. Of course, I was up against the wall time wise, so I had to figure out how to make the flights work.

Booking the Flights

I have points/miles in a number of different airline programs and with healthy Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards and SPG balances, I could transfer miles to a number of others. Unfortunately I wanted/needed to get everything nailed down so I didn’t end up having to cancel my Radisson Blu bookings. Thus I needed something I could book right away.

Since I have a boatload of AAdvantage miles, I looked for availability on Finnair and struck out. The only options with AAdvantage miles over the pond were on British Airways and I don’t want to pay their fuel surcharges. Then I hit up United. My original plan was to fly into Copenhagen, but alas no availability existed outside of coach when searching the entire itinerary.

Now don’t get me wrong, I will fly coach if I need to, but I have enough miles to fly in Business class. After a few more searches looking only for the Transatlantic segment, I discovered availability in Business Class on a flight from Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) on a United 777-200.

business class europe summer
United 777-200. Photo by Bill Abbott.

At this point I could have tried to find all of the connecting flights and called in, but I wanted to get this booked and wanted to avoid the phone fees if at all possible. After finding the ORD-LHR flight, I once again searched from LAS-CPH and nothing came up. Then I searched from LAS-ARN (Stockholm) and there it was.

The system had found two seats from LAS-ORD in domestic first class and two business class seats from ORD-LHR. Finally we will fly from LHR-ARN in SAS Scandinavian Business class, which I believe is not really much different than economy. I immediately transferred over 115,000 Ultimate Rewards points and paid the $80 in fees. We were booked.

Is This a Good Redemption?

This is far from the perfect redemption, but I am happy for two reasons. The flights are on United metal, meaning they only cost 57,500 miles each instead of the normal 70,000. While I would prefer to fly another airline, 70k in business class to Europe isn’t competitive plus there wasn’t any availability I could find on other Star Alliance carriers anyway.

Also, this trip is in August, which is the height of the summer season. Being able to find 2 business class seats along with the positioning flights was exciting. Of course we are transiting London, meaning we did get hit with an extra $35 in taxes for the pleasure of spending about 90 minutes there.

The Product

business class europe summer
United’s Business Class 777-200. Photo by Alan Light

United’s business class product on their 777-200 planes is lie flat and generally alright. The seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration with absolutely no privacy. Thankfully I was able to snag two seats together on the right side of the plane, so my son and I will be close, but don’t have to worry about sitting near others.

I have flown in Business Class on the United 787-800 and the seat on the 777-200 is very similar, although slightly narrower. I’m sure it will be plenty comfortable for our trip over, although I am going to be searching for a way to make the flight back special.

Hotels & More

business class europe summer
Radisson Blu Riverside Gothenburg. Picture from their website.

In the end, I burned about 140,000 Club Carlson points and we will be staying two nights in Stockholm, two nights in Gothenburg and 2 nights in Copenhagen at Radisson Blu properties. I have to decide how we will end the trip, but I am thinking perhaps I may burn my two free Hyatt nights at the Vendome in Paris or perhaps the Park Hyatt in Zurich.

Conclusion

In the end, the lesson to be learned here is to not wait until the last minute like me. There were a number of times over the past several months when availability opened up on several routes (including when United was only charging 57,500 miles on partners in Business Class), but I wasn’t yet ready to book.

Thankfully now that everything is settled with the baby, I can start to plan ahead. Of course I still need to figure out our flights home from Europe, but I may just leave those to the last minute with the hope that an amazing redemption opportunity opens up at the last minute. Playing with fire? Perhaps.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like a great trip for you and your son! I am very jealous. Scandinavia in August and hitting theme parks with your son sounds pretty dang nice.

    While getting amazing redemption value is nice, getting good redemption value (as you are – especially by taking advantage of the Club Carlson free nights!) for something convenient is great too.

    Look forward to hearing more about your trip.

  2. Regarding your conclusion, I booked 4 in business class from Europe, with the transatlantic leg from Zurich on Swissair when United had the 57,500 mile partner promotion (outgoing flight is on Virgin Atlantic on a Premium Economy daytime flight to LON). Now, several months later, the return date is seeming too late, but, I effectively can’t change it, as it would cost an additional 12,500 miles and $200 each (e.g., times four) to make a change. So, booking early was not a great decision.

    On the other hand, I just took a quick, last-minute trip to Spain, and though I paid 70,000 miles and $75 close-in fee for the return trip in Business, I booked the night before the flight and left not only on the day but at the exact time that I wanted.

    More and more, I’m thinking, especially for those with somewhat flexible lives/jobs, last minute is the way to go.

  3. You could have transferred MR points to Aeroplan and got the same tickets for 45k miles in business per person, unless you value MR higher than UR

    • You are right. There is one main reason I didn’t do this and I’m not sure if it was the right move or not. After the 140% bonus on Avios earlier this year, my Ultimate Rewards balance is significantly healthier than my Membership Rewards balance. That should change soon when my 150K bonus posts on the Business Platinum, but that is sort of what went into my thinking. I generate so many UR points, that I made the split second decision to book with United.

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