Ross and I are going to Europe in September 2019! Paris is included in the trip so I’ll be checking one place off my travel bucket list! Best of all, we’re flying Business Class to Europe on Aeroplan!
When we talked about where we wanted to go in 2019, Europe was on the top of our list. I particularly wanted to go to Scotland, and Ross hasn’t been back to Scotland since he left in 1974! It was definitely the right destination for us!
No time to read it now? Pin it for later!
Ever since I began collecting miles and points, I knew my ultimate goal was to fly Business Class to Europe on Aeroplan. I suffer badly with jet lag and really wanted access to those legendary lie-flat seats! Imagine being able to sleep comfortably on your flight to Europe and arrive feeling refreshed and human? I definitely want to!
Europe is Popular in Summer
From all of the reading and studying I have done while learning how to collect miles and points, I knew that booking Business Class to Europe from North America would be a major challenge. It seems everyone who collects Miles and Points wants these flights! Canadians and Americans love going to Europe, especially in the summer. Of course they do! Europe in summer is an amazing destination with so many stunning places to go. You could go every summer and not run out of great places to go.
Now, we could easily book Economy Class (or Steerage, as a friend likes to say!) with our points and there seems to be no shortage of seats. Aeroplan economy class return tickets to almost any city in Europe cost 60,000 points (and sometimes less).
Cash vs. Points
You can also easily find an economy class ticket to Europe for around $700 cash. For example, check out these flights you could buy today for flights in May 2019:
These aren’t even special deals. It’s hard to justify using hard-earned points on economy class flights when you pay relatively low fares like these.
Another down-side frequently heard about booking Aeroplan flights are those enormous fees and surcharges! Here’s a perfect example:
Why would anyone book a flight to Paris on Aeroplan, using almost 50,000 points AND pay $645? You could book the same flight for almost the same price, and keep your points!
The Secrets to Booking Business to Class to Europe on Aeroplan
There are several obstacles to booking Business Class to Europe on Aeroplan: availability and surcharges.
Availability of Business Class seats is limited, especially during the peak tourist season in Europe. If you’re willing to fly a convoluted route through the US in order to fly Business Class to Europe, it’s a bit easier as there are more options available. But, if you want to fly as direct as possible, availability is really limited. Understandably, airlines are reluctant to release their Business Class seats for points members if they can sell them for cash, so only a limited number are released at a time.
Fuel surcharges are notoriously high on many of the flights via Aeroplan, making the value proposition ridiculous, as seen in the example above.
Leverage time and flexibility
The first thing I did when I was ready to book Business Class to Europe on Aeroplan was learn how far in advance Star Alliance carriers release seats to Aeroplan. Some airlines release seats 355 days in advance and some release seats 330-340 days out. I was able to confirm this by noodling around with the Aeroplan search engine to see how far in advance flights were bookable. Both Business Class and economy class are released at the same time in most cases, although a lot more economy class than Business Class.
With this information in hand, I learned which carriers in the Star Alliance network don’t levy fuel surcharges. Yes! There are quite a few airlines bookable via Aeroplan that DO NOT charge fuel surcharges. These include Brussels Airlines, EVA, SAS, Swiss and United. Several additional carriers charge low fuel surcharges including LOT Polish Airlines.
We didn’t want to fly through the US so one of the biggest possibilities – United – was out for us.
Use the Right Tools
I began exploring the other possibilities one at a time. Using Flight Connections to learn which airlines flew which routes was easy so I could focus my attention on the routes we were interested in. I used Expert Flyer to narrow my search to find which airlines had more Business Class seats available. We wanted to fly into a European city, but preferably not London so as to avoid the high arrivals tax (75-150 GBP per person!). We preferred a city used as a hub by either RyanAir or EasyJet so we could get very cheap flights to anywhere else in Europe.
When I had enough Aeroplan miles in my account, I began searching Expert Flyer again to search for Business Class to Europe in earnest. I was ecstatic when I was able to book this, for a total of 115,000 Aeroplan miles:
Can you guess what the total cost was? For two people:
Granted, these are one way flights. However, the return flights were even less:
Grand total: $681.50 plus 225,000 Aeroplan miles for two Business Class return flights to Europe. Not too shabby!
Just for kicks, I checked Air Canada to see what we’d have to pay for equivalent flights. For similar Air Canada and Lufthansa flights in Business Class on the same dates, Air Canada would like $27,507.28. Um, no thanks.
Miles & Points Value
Miles and Points enthusiasts like me love calculating the value of our points when redeeming for flights like these. Value is usually calculated as follows:
(price of cash ticket – award taxes and fees) / points redeemed
Using this formula, we’re getting almost 12 cents per point, which is an incredible value given that getting at least 2 cents per point is considered ideal. Even if I added in the costs of acquiring the points (which in my case are the credit card annual fees), we still get more than 11 cents per point.
Advice for Booking Business Class to Europe on Aeroplan
Figure out your travel plans as far in advance as you can. A year is preferable so that you have the time to do the necessary work to find the ideal flights for you. Have your stash of Aeroplan Miles ready for when you’re ready to book.
The September 2019 flights to Wroclaw were booked on September 28, 2018. I booked the return flights for October 2019 on November 6, 2018. I think I could likely have waited a week or two longer to book but not much more than that.
When I first started doing the research for this trip, flying into Poland did not immediately spring to mind. But, when I realized that RyanAir had frequent flights to and from Wroclaw from less than $75 I knew it was a good choice. We’re still not sure if we’re going to fly out of Wroclaw or take our time and go by train, but I’m glad to have the option.
Use airlines that don’t charge fuel surcharges
Focus your search for flights on airlines that don’t charge fuel surcharges or whose surcharges are low, like LOT Polish Airlines. If you can be more flexible and fly out of a US city, you’ll have even more choice a available to you via United. Avoid Air Canada and Lufthansa, who are notorious for sky-high fuel surcharges.
How to Collect Aeroplan Miles
I collected the majority of the Aeroplan miles we used for these flights by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan. Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan, and can also be transferred 1:1 to British Airways Avios. You can transfer Membership Reward at a lower rate to Alitalia, Delta, Asia Miles, and Etihad Guest.
To start collecting your own Membership Rewards, I recommend starting with the Amex Platinum Card. Apply here. You’ll receive 50,000 Membership Rewards points to get you started on your next Business Class flight to Europe, plus an amazing array of other benefits.
Have you ever flown Business Class to Europe?