Late last year, our family kind of started doing a whirlwind series of trips as we combined business and pleasure (which included family visits!) across the US. It was a lot of driving, a lot of hotels, and I still managed to have to do a fair amount of flying during that time with multiple, fast trips.
How We Flew Our Family of 6 To Europe – In Business Class
At the end, we flew back to Greece and we did it in Turkish Airlines’ business class. Flying 6 people to Europe in business class (with miles) is not always the easiest of tasks!
Not only can it take a lot of miles, it always requires that award space be opened – something that can be hard to find. Fortunately, we were able to check both boxes and it was a fantastic trip! Here is how we found availability and what miles we used.
Picking the Airline – Pros and Cons
We decided early on that we would rather fly to Europe in business instead of from Europe. Even though the flight from Europe is always longer, it is a daylight flight which meant that it wasn’t as important from a sleeping perspective.
The bad part is that business class awards to Europe are typically harder to find than business class awards from Europe. The other bad part is that the fuel surcharges (for the airlines that pass them through) are also higher from the US than from Europe.
Turkish Is the Winner
So, that made us to narrow our search to airlines like Turkish as it fit the bill with low/no fuel surcharges from the US (Aeroplan does not charge fuel surcharges with Turkish but Aegean does). Another good thing about Turkish is that the flight to Istanbul is one of the longest from the US to Europe so it would allow more sleeping time.
By the way, another reason we chose Turkish had to do with something that is actually a negative about their business class cabin – 3 middle seats. For our family of 6, having all of us in two rows in the middle worked out great!
Picking the Route for Our Business Class Awards to Europe
We knew we would be flying from Arizona so that meant departing from airports like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or heading a bit more east for airports like Houston or Chicago. The bad part is that award availability out of San Fran or LAX on Turkish is very hard to find in business class!
So, I focused my search on Houston. Surprisingly, there was availability for at least 3 passengers in business for every day of February and March on Turkish! After searching out of a lot of airports, I really believe that Houston is like a secret departure city for Turkish business class. Houston would be our liftoff point for our trip!
Picking the Award Program for Our Business Class Awards to Europe
I already had accumulated the miles needed for this trip in two Star Alliance programs – Aegean and Aeroplan. I earned the miles for Aeroplan by transferring over SPG points during a transfer promo (even though I kind of wasted a free week at a hotel) and by transferring Membership Reward points. I earned the miles for Aegean by winning 250,000 of them a couple of years ago.
Using Aeroplan, it would be 57,500 miles per person for business class from the US to Eastern Europe. For Aegean, it would only be 45,000 miles.
But, Aegean only allows one connection and they charged fuel surcharges for Turkish. The fuel surcharges were not like flying with Lufthansa but still not cheap (we paid $180 per person for 3 award tickets). When you combine that with the ticket cost for Phoenix to Houston, Aegean was actually the more expensive program even though we used 12,500 fewer miles.
But, we were still flying in business class on tickets that would have cost us almost $4,000 per person had we paid! So, we still came out way ahead with using miles.
Tip: If you need more Aegean miles, you can now transfer from anyone else’s account for a low, flat fee!
Booking Our Business Class Awards to Europe
The only downside was that the day we needed for our flight back had only 3 seats for Houston to Istanbul in business and then economy from Istanbul to Greece. I checked San Francisco and, fortunately, there were 3 seats in business from there to Istanbul.
So, I went ahead and booked my wife and two of our kids out of Phoenix through Houston (using our Aeroplan miles). Then, I had to call in (you can now book these awards online)to book myself and our other two kids in business using Aegean.
Surprisingly, when I checked after booking my wife’s group, 3 more seats had opened up out of Houston! Not only that, but business from Istanbul to Greece was now available!
I am not sure what happened with that but it ended up working out great! In the end, we all flew business all the way through and together (business opened up on the last leg and Aeroplan rebooked that segment for free in business class since it was a business class award).
How Was the Trip?
This was not the first time our family flew to Europe in business class. But, the last time we had done it was several years ago when the kids were smaller! Now, they are all growing up and the overnight flight to Europe is always really hard on them as they try to get comfortable and sleep.
It was the perfect decision to book business class from the US to Europe. The kids slept for about 8-9 hours of the trip and it was the best family flight we have ever had!
The flight crew was awesome with our kids. Our kids are pretty well behaved and always behave well on flights (our fellow passengers in business kept telling us how good they were – a welcome surprise for them I am sure!) and you could tell the flight attendants appreciated that!
In the end, we used 307,500 airline miles total and about $960 for our family of six to fly to Europe in business class. That works out to being 51,250 miles and $160 per person – less than what United would have charged us by about 19,000 miles per person! 🙂
Was it worth it? Absolutely! But, the story of our trip did not end when we got off the plane! The kids slept so well that they enjoyed something else that I will cover in the next post! 🙂