9 Best Business Class Awards

I get questions almost every day asking what I consider to be the best value business class options for award tickets.

For the most part, I tend to think the best use of your miles is the one that gets you where you want to go in relative comfort, and ideally without exorbitant costs, so there are no “absolute” best redemptions.

But there are some really, really, good deals, and there are definitely ways to use your miles that will get you more “value” than others.

It’s also worth noting that in many cases the premium for first class over business class is quite low, and if you’re looking for straight “value” that’s nearly always going to be higher in first class. However, when it comes to capacity and availability there is always going to be more of both in business class, and I recognize many people are looking for awards for multiple people, in which case business class is often of greater interest.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I’m sure I’m going to take a lot of flak for what is or isn’t included in this list 😉

With that out of the way, here are nine of the best business class awards for your miles, as I see it:


 #1 | 60,000 American AAdvantage miles – Roundtrip between North America and Central/South America Zone 1

Why I Like This Award: Most programs charge around 100,000 miles for round-trip business class tickets to anywhere in South America. Because American includes “northern” South America along with their Central American region, you can visit Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, or Venezuela for just 30,000 miles one-way.

LAN-Business-Class-2

Tip: Combine this with a US Airways award or Avios for additional travel in South America
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred Guest, Citi AA Cards


#2 | 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles – Roundtrip between North America and most of Europe

Why I Like This Award: Getting to Europe in business class for less than 50,000 miles each way is a bargain. Air Canada is a member of the Star Alliance, which has over 100 flights per day between North America and Europe, so if you’re willing to be creative with your routing this is a great way to find award space to Europe. Aeroplan also allows two stopovers or a stopover and an open jaw, which can be a great way to visit multiple destinations as well.

Turkish-Business-Class-1

Tip: Aeroplan does not impose fuel surcharges for travel on Brussels, Scandinavian, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish, or United, and the fuel surcharges on LOT are really low, so look for space on one of those carriers to reduce the cost of your award ticket.
Earn Miles With: American Express Membership RewardsStarwood Preferred Guest


#3 | 85,000 Japan Airlines MileageBank miles – Roundtrip between New York and Dubai (75,000 Starpoints)

Why I Like This Award: Japan Airlines is transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, and has a distance based award chart for travel on Emirates. They charge just 85,000 miles for up to 14,000 miles of travel on Emirates in business class. As luck would have it, roundtrip travel between New York and Dubai is ~13,750 miles.

So for just 85,000 miles you could fly Emirates’ flat bed business class roundtrip between the US and Dubai.

Emirates-Bar

Tip: Keep in mind that Starpoints transfer to Japan Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus. That means you really only need 70,000 Starpoints for this trip.
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred Guest


#4 | 60,000 American AAdvantage AAdvantage miles – Roundtrip between Europe and the Middle East

Why I Like This Award: There are some phenomenal business class products flying between Europe and the Middle East, and American partners with many of them. Being able to redeem miles on nearly a dozen partner airlines means availability is good as well.

Etihad-Business-Class

Tip: Avoid flights on British Airways to reduce fuel surcharges
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred GuestCiti AA Cards


#5 | 30,000 US Airways Dividend Miles – Roundtrip within South America

Why I Like This Award: Although the fine folk at US Airways may not be exceptionally good at geography, they do correctly identify Easter Island as part of Chile, unlike American which considers IPC to be in the South Pacific.

Santiago

Tip: Combine this with an AAdvantage award to Peru to stretch your miles
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred Guest, US Airways Mastercard, or purchase during promos


#6 | 97,750 Singapore KrisFlyer miles – Roundtrip between New York/Frankfurt or Houston/Moscow

Why I Like This Award: Singapore has a phenomenal business class product, and as they don’t open up most premium cabin space to their partner airlines, availability is generally fantastic. Singapore also offers a 15% discount on their own awards when booking online, so while you will pay ~$400 in fuel surcharges for the roundtrip, this is still a good overall value.

Singapore-Business-Class

Tip: Don’t rely on the “waitlist” clearing – look for flights that show “available.”
Earn Miles With: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, Citi ThankYou


#7 | 125,000 Delta SkyMiles – Roundtrip between North America and Morocco or Tunisia

Why I Like This Award: It feels dirty including any SkyMiles award in a best value list, but this is truthfully a good value. Availability is generally good on partner airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Alitalia, and you can even find space on Air France and KLM if you’re planning 11 months out. SkyMiles allows both an open jaw and a stopover on award tickets, so you can add in a European city for no additional miles.

Alitalia-Business-Class

Tip: Domestic availability on Delta is abysmal, so be prepared to organize separate tickets to the partner gateway city.
Earn Miles With: American Express Membership RewardsStarwood Preferred Guest


#8 | 110,000 US Airways Dividend Miles – Roundtrip between North America and Australia

Why I Like This Award: US Airways has generous routing rules, so you can generally route to Australia via Asia, or potentially even Europe or the Middle East if you can keep the number of segments down. This makes a tough destination like Australia more realistic when using miles, but plan on a more creative, rather than more direct, routing.

Qantas-Business-Class

Tip: When it comes to US Airways, it’s especially important to be nice, and prepare to hang up and call again (repeatedly).
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred Guest, US Airways Mastercard, or purchase during promos


#9 | 125,000 Alaska Air Miles – Cathay Pacific Business Class from North America to Africa/India/Middle East

Why I Like This Award: Cathay Pacific has one of the best business class products in the sky, and redeeming through Alaska Mileage Plan is a simply phenomenal value. South Africa and India are incredibly popular destinations, and many programs insist on a transatlantic routing, so this is particularly convenient for West coast travelers.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class

Tip: Alaska allows stopovers even on one-way award tickets, and open-jaws are allowed as well.
Earn Miles With: Starwood Preferred Guest, Alaska Visa cards


Anyways, those are a few of what I think are the best business class award tickets out there right now.

What do you think? What are your favorite business class awards?

Comments

  1. What happened to the Lucky I know!! This article is so TPG-esque!! Where are the RHOA GIFs, or the humor!? 😉 I’m also supprised you didn’t mention the LAN 35-100k KM award region. Up to 100,000km with no routing rules (or so I can see)

  2. Genuinely surprised that, of the Delta SkyMiles business awards, you posted that one, rather than the 160,000 mile award from LAX to Sydney in either Business Elite on Delta or Business on Virgin Australia. Depending on the dates (which you obviously have to hunt for), there’s decent availability for this one.

  3. I achieve amazing values with zone to zone awards where I can add business class connections and stopovers to second/third tier cites. Recently: Osh, Kyrgyzstan; Antala and Gaziantep, Turkey (Europe), Chengdu and Lhasa (North Asia).

    Anywhere in North America to any obscure place in SE Asia with stopovers for the same miles as LAX/HKG.

  4. Lucky,

    If I find a Business reward on United, MCO-IAD-FRA and want to book through Aeroplan, will they consider the stop at IAD part of the award? Or will I have to find a JFK-FRA for 90,000 mile award and pay for an additional positioning flight?

    Thanks as always

  5. If according to #3 Aeroplan doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on Singapore, wouldn’t it take fewer miles (90K round trip) and no additional $ to book a round trip to Frankfurt by transferring miles to Aeroplan rather than directly on Singapore?

  6. Does Emirates stop in any European cities from US? Seems if it’s distance based and 85k to dubai, that would beat the 90k aeroplane award.

  7. @ audrytec — In theory, though unfortunately Singapore doesn’t make any longhaul business class award space available to partner airlines.

  8. @ mike — Emirates has a flight from New York to Dubai via Milan, though it’s operated by a 777-300ER featuring their angled business class seats.

  9. Question re # 8, US Airways 110,000 North America to Australia. Is it possible to use Tokyo as a stop over and continue to Australia after few days on the same award? If so, how long the stopover can be? Would be nice to fly SFO or LAX to Tokyo, and continue from Osaka to Australia, and back to USA with just direct flight. But I guess, that would be pushing too much:) But even a few days in Tokyo would be nice too:)

  10. @ Lana — You could absolutely stop in Tokyo, and for however long you wanted, you’d just need to leave from Tokyo as well.

  11. How is 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for US to Europe better than ANA (both can be transferred from MR.) I’ve price a few routes out and cannot get it to be the case. 68-85K to fly business to Europe with same/less fuel surcharge with ANA.

  12. @ TM — Because there are multiple partners on which Aeroplan doesn’t impose fuel surcharges, while that’s not the case with ANA.

  13. Lucky,

    A minor detail for SQ partner award space, it’s my understanding that they do not release any premium award space for their A388, B77W or A345 operated flights – but they _do_ release some Business award space on flight operated by flights often equipped with their other (older) Business products. For example I’m able to book C award on CPH-SIN operated by 772, through ANA. Is this your understanding as well?

  14. @ Karl — Yep, that’s a good point. A vast majority of their longhaul routes are operated by 77Ws and A380s, so I shouldn’t generalize, as there is indeed some space on their other aircraft. It’s rare to find, but it’s there sometimes for sure…

  15. Ben/Lucky (and @ Lana),
    Regarding No. 8, I think US Airways is cracking down on routings to Australia and New Zealand through Asia. I did an award booking this spring: outbound from east coast US to New Zealand (via LAX and SYD) in US domestic first and QF Economy (no business class to be found anywhere — through HKG, NRT, PVG etc.); returning via SYD (stopover) and HKG and ORD in CX Business and AA domestic first. The award cost 110,000 miles.

    [Incidentally, I did this booking about 2 weeks after your post about US Airways’ new One World chart. I think I posted an (unanswered) question in the 2012 US Airways DM redemption basics thread, but I was probably asking for too much for free!! 🙂 Fortunately, with a few hours, the KVS tool, some wine, and three different US reservation agents, I was able to get a decent itinerary.]

    Each time I spoke to agents, I already had the itinerary planned out. Some agents are more responsive than others to having you do the work for them. And, of course, the information you can get from the KVS or other tools is not always up-to-date with what you can book with your airline. None of the agents seemed to have any idea that there was a problem with routing through HKG to get to Australia and New Zealand.

    After the routing was all set (with the third agent), the agent put me on hold to finalize the reservation. She then came back to say that the return routing through HKG violated their mileage rules and wasn’t allowed. She tried to look for availability in Qantas business (w/o needing to go through HKG). Of course, there was none. She said she’s talk to her supervisor to see if they could approve it. She did so, and fortunately, I got a waiver.

    I’m not sure how often the agents check. (It sounded like it was part of the protocol now.) And I’m not sure how often they approve the waivers. (I’m US CP, so that might have been a factor in granting one.) But, I just wanted to alert you that the strange and wonderful routings on US awards may not be long for this world. Have you been “Lucky” at getting this to work recently?

    Best.

    P.S., Ben/Lucky, you might be interested to note that, at least in April, US Airways did not recognize QF’s New Zealand subsidiary, JetConnect, as part of the OW alliance. My understanding is that JetConnect is like US Airways’ US Airways Express or Cathay’s Dragon Air. It just operates the flights for QF between Australia and New Zealand. AA already has a reciprocal agreement in place with QF to include JetConnect in awards, but US had no such thing yet. Since my award was using US DM, I had to use only the airlines that US had official agreements/relationships with in OW. Fortunately, I was able to book the once-daily LA flight between SYD and AKL to complete the trip to New Zealand. I’m not sure if US has fixed this discrepancy — it more or less strands New Zealand from award activity for legacy US DM members (with the single LA flight as the only option). I wrote and told them, but no response.

  16. @ Michael — They have indeed been getting stricter, though I’ve still had luck with some routings through Asia, as long as the number of segments is kept down to 2-3. But they definitely are getting stricter, you’re right.

  17. It’s also worth noting that in many cases the premium for first class over business class is quite low

    That is definitely true for #6 — those routes in F are 114,750 round-trip so just 17,000 more. Obviously, finding F space may not be easy, especially out of New York.

  18. Lucky, as far as I can remember, I think a cathay award to Asia/Middle East/Africa on alaska costs 100,000 rather than 125,000

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