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The Best Airline Miles to Use for Booking Business Class Flights

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Want to fly in a business class seat somewhere overseas? Unless you're prepared to shell out thousands of dollars per ticket (and let's be honest, you're reading a site called Thrifty Traveler…), you need the right airline miles.

No matter where you're heading or what cabin you want to fly in, airline mileage programs are not created equally. Some go much further than others – especially for booking business class flights. Sorry, loyal Delta aficionados: SkyMiles don't make the cut. Same goes for you, United flyers.

But earning the best miles for booking business class is even easier thanks to credit card transfers. That means you can easily earn the miles you need for that lie-flat seat from popular travel cards like the *chase sapphire preferred*, the *amex gold card*, or the *venture x*, among many others.

Here are seven of the best airline mileage programs where we frequently turn to book business class flights for less.



Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada's mileage program isn't just one of the best for booking business class flights like United Polaris business class, SWISS business class, and even Singapore Airlines to Southeast Asia or Etihad to the Middle East. Honestly, Air Canada Aeroplan is easily one of the best airline loyalty programs, period.

It's got reasonable mileage rates and low taxes, so you won't have to spend a boatload of miles and cash to book your lie-flat seat abroad. Its website is easy to use with excellent features, like the ability to add a stopover to any flight for an extra 5,000 points. Air Canada has more airline partners than any other carrier on the planet, meaning you can use those Aeroplan points to book flights on roughly 50 airlines all around the world.

But this article is about business class, and that's one area where Aeroplan really shines. Thanks to Air Canada's quirky pricing scheme, exactly how many miles business class will cost you depends on which regions you're flying between and the length of the flight. From the U.S., you can:

  • Book United Polaris flights from coast to coast for just 25,000 points each way
  • Book business class to Europe on airlines like United, SWISS, Lufthansa, Austrian, and more starting at 60,000 points each way from the East Coast
  • Fly from Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo in ANA business class for just 55,000 points – literally half of what you'd pay booking the exact same flight using United MileagePlus miles.
  • Get a lie-flat bed from many U.S. cities to almost anywhere in Southeast Asia for 87,500 points each way
  • It's even a solid way to book Lufthansa First Class, typically for 90,000 or 100,000 points each way


newark to copenhagen biz class


The savings go beyond points and miles, as Air Canada tacks on incredibly reasonable taxes and fees when redeeming points – almost always under $70 or so when departing the U.S. It'll save you stress, too: Unlike some many airlines (including others on this list), the Air Canada website is incredibly easy to use and reliable. 

There are some niche options with Aeroplan, too.

Singapore Airlines is the world's reigning top carrier with fantastic first class suites and business class seats flying to Southeast Asia. With premium cabins so nice, the airline typically doesn't let travelers use other airlines' miles to book them … but Aeroplan is an exception

Not only can you book Singapore Airlines business class with Aeroplan points, but it's a tremendous deal: Even business class on the world's longest flight from New York City (JFK) to Singapore (SIN) is bookable for just 87,500 points, substantially less than what Singapore's own Krisflyer program charges for the same route.


singapore business class alert


Get alerts to fly business class with your points and miles with Thrifty Traveler Premium!

You can even book business class on many airlines that aren't part of Air Canada's Star Alliance, like Emirates, Etihad, Oman Air, and many more!


How to Earn Aeroplan Points

Don't worry about racking up miles on Air Canada flights to earn these points. It's gotten even easier to pile them up over time.

Aeroplan is a Chase transfer partnerAmex transfer partnerCapital One transfer partners, and a Bilt transfer partner, too. That means you can transfer all the points you need from cards like the *chase sapphire preferred*, the *amex gold card*, and the *venture x*, among others.


Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Sacre bleu! Yes, Air France/KLM's Flying Blue program needs to be on your radar if business class is on your bucket list.

This is the joint mileage program of Air France and Dutch carrier KLM. And while it's loaded with sweet spots to book flights for fewer miles, it's a go-to for redeeming miles for a business class flight overseas. In fact, while seemingly every other airline is raising award rates, Flying Blue's charges to book business class have actually gotten cheaper!

As with almost anything in the world of travel, there are tradeoffs. Namely, Flying Blue charges higher fees than you might prefer to pay: Think $200 or so for a one-way to Europe and closer to $400 for a one-way home to the States. Both airlines' websites can be temperamental when searching for award tickets, though their smartphone app is typically reliable for booking a flight.

But the upside is undeniable: Incredibly reasonable rates like 50,000 miles nonstop to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS), sometimes a tad less when you connect onward into Europe. Time it right with one of the airlines' monthly Promo Rewards discounts, and it can get even cheaper, closer to 30,000 miles each way! And unlike other airlines that make finding business class award availability like finding a needle in a haystack, Air France and KLM generally make it much easier to find and book these flights.

Case in point: We've even sent Thrifty Traveler Premium members an alert for wide-open award space during the peak summer, when finding business class seats bookable with points is typically impossible. 


air france biz class alert


You might still see higher-priced business class redemptions of 70,000-some miles – maybe even 100,000 miles or more each way. But no other airlines make it this easy to find cheap business class redemption rates.

Thrifty Tip: Leave your dates blank when searching for Air France or KLM flights to get a monthly calendar view of availability!


jfk to paris business class calendar


Flying Blue miles have gotten even more valuable lately with a fun addition: free stopovers on any award ticket, whether you're flying Air France business class or using miles to book a partner airline like Delta. For now, you'll have to call the airline in order to book one of these two-for-one tickets. 

The savings go beyond booking Air France business class or KLM business class. Flying Blue is our go-to way of booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class suites to London, as you'll pay a fraction of the nearly $1,000 in fees that Virgin Atlantic Flying Club charges for these same flights. It's also a great way to get to Taipei (TPE) in China Airlines business class.


san francisco taipei


How to Earn Flying Blue Miles

These are among the easiest miles to earn in the world without even setting foot on a plane.

That's because Flying Blue is a transfer partner of all the major credit card companies. So whether you've got points on the *chase sapphire preferred*, the *amex gold card*, the *venture x*, or even the *citi premier*.

Plus, we frequently see transfer bonuses of 25% or more from all those banks to Flying Blue, like a recent bonus using Chase points. Time it right and you'll need even fewer points to book these business class flights.


All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

Whether you want to fly ANA business class to Japan, hop on another airline between the U.S. and Europe, or fly around the world in business class, ANA Mileage Club is one of the best airline programs on the planet. Even after an (admittedly painful) increase earlier this year, these business class redemptions are still among the best in the world.

It practically goes without saying – but I'm going to say it anyway – that flying a business class suite like this over to Japan is tough to beat. But doing it for as few as 100,000 miles roundtrip – less than most airlines charge for economy? Yes, please!


ana business class suite


Check out our full guide to redeeming ANA Mileage Club miles!

ANA calls these business suites The Room, and they live up to the name: At a whopping 38 inches wide with privacy doors and a stunning design, they're easily among the best business class seats in the sky. But they're hard to find: Only a handful of U.S. routes feature these suites. And ANA has gotten incredibly stingy with releasing award space to actually book its business class with miles.

We sent Thrifty Traveler Premium an alert to some wide-open opportunities to fly these suites to Japan last year for a trip in 2023. 


ana award space alert


But there are other options to use ANA miles for a lie-flat seat that are much easier to pull off. One of our favorites is using just 100,000 miles to book roundtrip business class between the U.S. and Europe. Focus on specific airlines like United, SAS, Air Canada, and TAP Air Portugal, and you won't pay a fortune in fees, either.


boston to lisbon business class redemption


Follow our step-by-step guide on booking this incredible deal!

Here's just how good ANA Mileage Club is for booking business class: These exact same TAP business class flights to Lisbon (LIS) next year would cost you 88,000 United miles each way or 176,000 miles roundtrip.


united redemption boston to lisbon


Want to circumnavigate the globe in lie-flat seats? There's no better way to book that huge, bucket-list trip than ANA's around-the-world redemption: It'll cost you roughly 125,000 miles total – maybe a tad less if you really cut corners traversing the globe. 

So yeah, it's easy to see why ANA cracks the list of the best ways to book business class flights. That said, there are two big caveats to keep in mind:

  • When you use ANA miles, you have to book roundtrip: One-way redemptions are not allowed. You can, however, book a multi-city trip (like flying into London and home from Paris, for example)
  • You can only book flights for yourself and family members. No booking flights for friends using your ANA miles, unfortunately.


How to Earn Mileage Club Miles

Got points on *amex platinum card* or the *amex gold card*? You're in luck.

ANA is one of the many Amex transfer partners – and one of the best if you ask us. That means you can easily transfer a stash of 100,000 Amex points to get the 100,000 ANA Mileage Club miles you need to book these flights.

The big hitch is that, unlike many airline transfers that go through instantly, sending points to ANA often takes 48 hours or so. That's a bummer, as it means those business class flights you found through ANA could disappear by the time the miles get to your account.

With these kinds of deals, though, it could easily be a risk worth taking … or you could speculatively transfer some Amex points to ANA to ensure they're ready when the next deal pops up.


American AAdvantage Miles

These days, you're likely to find sky-high rates when trying to use American AAdvantage miles to fly at the front of the plane with American. But where AAdvantage miles shine brightest isn't flying with American: It's using them to book some of AA's stellar partner airlines in business class.

How about flying Japan Airlines (JAL) business class to Tokyo or back for just 60,000 American miles each way? And not just nonstop flights from JAL's major U.S. outposts, but maybe including a connection on American from your home airport?


japan airlines business class


Get alerts to use your American miles (and other points) with Thrifty Traveler Premium!

Or flying in the world's best business class – Qatar Airways Qsuites – for 70,000 AAdvantage miles each way. You can even tack on a flight all the way down to Cape Town (CPT) in South Africa or almost anywhere else in Africa for just 75,000 miles total. It's one of the best deals in the world of points and miles, period.


qatar airways qsuite


qsuites booking


Be warned: Booking Qsuites with miles can test your patience. The airline tends to release award availability to actually book these award tickets in waves – and the airline has been incredibly stingy lately, particularly with American.

But forget business class. You can even fly one of the best first class seats in the world, the heralded Etihad Apartment onboard the airline's double-decker A380, using American miles for an unforgettable flight between London-Heathrow (LHR) and Abu Dhabi (AUH).


etihad apartment alert


How to Earn American Miles

Transferring miles to American isn't as easy as other airlines on this list – that is, unless if you're earning Bilt Rewards points on rent or with the *Bilt Mastercard*. American is a Bilt transfer partner … and not for much longer: That ends in late June 2024.

But there are plenty of other ways to rack up AAdvantage miles.

Between the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you could quickly rack up 110,000 AAdvantage miles.


Avianca LifeMiles

I need to be honest: Avianca LifeMiles is not for the faint of heart.

Its website sometimes works fine, but often doesn't. Customer service by phone or email is spotty even in the best of times. With that in mind, it can be a real pain if you need to change plans – it requires a phone call and hefty fees of up to $200 per ticket to cancel a business class award to get your miles back.

But for many, it's worth putting up with LifeMiles for some unbeatable sweet spots to book business class on two dozen Star Alliance airlines for fewer miles – and low taxes and fees, to boot. Here's just a small sample:

  • Whether you start in New York or D.C. or all the way on the West Coast, you can fly from the U.S. to almost anywhere in Europe in business class for 63,000 LifeMiles each way
  • There's an inexplicable exception: One-way flights from New York City (JFK) to Lisbon (LIS) in TAP Air Portugal business class can be booked for just 35,000 miles each way! But only that single route is bookable at the unthinkably low rate – even return flights from Lisbon back to NYC price out at 63,000 miles
  • Looking for a comfortable way to fly down to Brazil? Look no further than using LifeMiles to fly United Polaris business class for just 50,000 miles one-way
  • Even after a massive hike last year, one-way business class flights to Asia and throughout Southeast Asia for 85,000 to 90,000 LifeMiles is a solid deal – especially with lengthy connections
  • At 87,000 miles each way from every hub in the U.S., it's the cheapest way to book Lufthansa First Class – and thanks to LifeMiles' goofy pricing logic, you can make it even cheaper by adding in a connection within Europe in business class


dc to athens lufthansa first class


How to Earn LifeMiles

It's gotten far easier to earn LifeMiles over the years. Odds are, you've got a way to get them and may not even know it.

LifeMiles is a Capital One transfer partner, American Express transfer partner, and Citi ThankYou transfer partner. That means the miles you earn from the bonus on the *venture x* could be more than enough for many of the options you see listed here.


Avios … From 5 Different Airlines

Long-haul business class seats are often pricey when booking with British Airways Avios. Thanks to the distance-based award chart British Airways and its partner airlines (like Iberia and Aer Lingus) use to determine how many miles it costs to book a flight from point A to point B.

But there are a few tremendous exceptions where turning to Avios is the best bet for getting a bargain.

Let's start with the cream of the crop: Flying Iberia business class from the U.S. to Madrid (MAD). While most airlines charge at least 60,000 miles (or much more) for a one-way business class ticket to Europe, you can book for as low as 34,000 Avios each way! It's not too good to be true: In fact, there are only a few hoops to jump through to make it happen:

  • You have to fly nonstop between Madrid (MAD) and select U.S. cities like Boston (BOS), New York City (JFK), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), and Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to get this low rate.
  • You have to fly at the right time: These low, 34,000-mile rates are only available during off-peak periods – peak summer trips are pricier, though still a bargain for as low as 50,000 miles each way.
  • Your searches might still turn up blank, as you need to find the award availability to actually book these flights with your miles.

We've got you covered. We do all the legwork for our Thrifty Traveler Premium members: Finding availability, in-depth booking instructions, and guiding you to the best credit card points to use to book what's typically a $4,000-plus fare. If there's a transfer bonus to Iberia (or British Airways), it can get even cheaper just like it did on this deal we sent subscribers for a trip to Spain this fall.


avios alert for iberia business class


But British Airways is also an amazing way to book some ultra-long flights to Doha (DOH) in Qatar Qsuites. Just like American further up on this list, it'll cost you just 70,000 Avios each way and a reasonable $100 or so in taxes and fees. If you want to make a connection to Dubai (DXB) or elsewhere in the Middle East or maybe even head somewhere like the Maldives, you'd want to consider kicking those Avios over to Qatar and booking that way instead.


lax doha ba


Whichever route you choose, Avios are all but essential these days. British Airways and Qatar Airways give you an edge to book before other travelers snap up these prized suites because you can book practically a full year in advance – as compared to just 330 days when using American AAdvantage miles. That monthlong advantage is a serious difference maker.

Read more: The #1 Trick to Booking Qatar Qsuites Right Now

The newest airline using Avios is Finnair … and it might be the best one on this list.

Using Finnair Avios, you can book:

  • Finnair's own business class seats from the U.S. to Helsinki (HEL) for 62,500 Avios each way – including a nifty trick that allows you to book two business class seats when American travelers can typically only book one.
  • Cathay Pacific business class seats from anywhere in North America for just 75,000 Avios each way, including all the way from New York (JFK)!


New York to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific using Finnair Avios

Read more: Why You Should Care About Finnair Avios


How to Earn Avios

Avios are one big (and growing) family, and that makes them some of the easiest miles to earn in the world.

British Airways, Qatar, Iberia, Finnair, and Aer Lingus all use Avios as their frequent flier currency. And they break one of the cardinal rules of airline miles: Unlike almost every other carrier, you can transfer Avios between all these airlines.

Read up on how to combine Avios between all five airlines!

You can transfer points from Chase, Amex, and Capital One directly to your British Airways account. Meanwhile, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points and American Express points to Qatar Airways. Only Capital One miles transfer straight to Finnair.


Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Last but certainly not least, we've got Virgin Atlantic and its Flying Club points. It's easily the best way to book business class … not to London on Virgin's own planes, but flying partner carriers to Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and beyond. 

The airline's partnerships often make Virgin the most cost-effective way to book lie-flat seats, with gems including: 

  • Booking Delta One to Europe for just 50,000 points each way – even when Delta itself is charging 400,000 SkyMiles or more for the same flight.
  • Want to fly straight to Rome? Book ITA Airways business class for as low as 75,000 points each way
  • While award rates just increased, it's still tough to beat flying ANA business class for as low as 52,500 points each way
  • China Airlines business class to Taipei (TPE) or back to the U.S. clocks in at 100,000 Virgin points
  • Best of all, Air New Zealand business class to Auckland (AKL) costs just 62,500 points each way! 


air new zealand deal


Some of these stellar redemptions are much easier to book than others. A few airlines are notoriously stingy with releasing award availability to book these seats with Virgin points. And even if you've zeroed in on flights that work, a few of these redemptions require calling up the airline to actually book.

But the real reason Virgin cracks this list is just how laughably easy these points are to earn. 


How to Earn Virgin Points

Name a bank, and you can send your points to Virgin. 

Virgin is a transfer partner with American Express, Bilt, Chase, Capital One, and Citi. No matter what credit card points you've got, there's a way to turn them into the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points you need to book these business class seats. 

But it gets even better. No airline program on this list is more liberal with offering 30% transfer bonuses – heck there's a pair available as we speak from both Chase and American Express. And we tend to see identical transfer bonuses (if not bigger, thanks to Bilt) once or even twice a year from the other banks, too.

With a 30% bonus, you only need to send 41,000 points to Virgin to book a nonstop business class seat to Tokyo or only 39,000 points for this Delta One business class award to Europe. 


Delta One JFK-FRA via Virgin


Bottom Line

You might have never set foot on these airlines, but these mileage programs are far and away our favorites in order to book business class flights for fewer miles than you'll see using other carriers. And transferrable credit card points make it easy to get all the miles you need to take advantage of these sweet spots.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are 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 posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  • I have redeemed several flights with Aeroplan.
    I heard British Airways let many points expire even during the pandemic.
    Asia Miles was pesky with giving miles when I tried it and often did not give miles from multiple flights.

  • It helped a lot to read this article.
    I have been using ANA to book most of my international flights last 15 years, but getting business class seat for ANA or other Star Alliance airlines become extremely difficult these days. I have substantial amount of AMEX points (multi millions) and my most traveling routes are to Asia. What would be the easiest airlines program to secure business class tickets from US (preferably Atlanta but any East Coast airport would be OK) to Asia? My main destination is Seoul Korea, but I can take connection from Tokyo, Taipei or any near by countries. Thank you in advance for your professional support.

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