The Basics

Reasons to Book Premium Awards FROM Europe to the US

lufthansa first class
Written by Charlie

See some reasons that you should use your valuable miles to redeem for business or first class FROM Europe to the US instead of the reverse. It could save you money, give you more time to enjoy the flight, and more!

Let’s face it – getting travel for almost “free” with miles can be a rush! But, the real rush can set in when you redeem those miles for a business class or first class seat that would normally cost thousands of dollars! Many of us save our miles for just those kinds of redemptions, especially if it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Reasons to Book Business Class or First Class Awards FROM Europe to the US

Why Choose One Direction for Premium Awards?

With airlines increasing award redemption rates for premium cabins and credit card issuers getting stingier with their points, it can be much harder to justify the redemption of your hard earned miles and points for premium cabins than it used to be.

My first time redeeming miles for first class on Lufthansa was about 5 years ago and it cost me 67,500 United miles to fly from the US to Europe and just under $30 in taxes. Now, you cannot even redeem that many United miles for Lufthansa business class. If you want to fly that same thing in First Class, it will now set you back 110,000 miles for a one way ticket!

With changes like this, many travelers cannot redeem for premium cabins for roundtrip travel – at least not on all of their trips. So, it can many times come down to things like “Which direction should I redeem for business class in?“. Hopefully, this post helps you a little with that decision, at least for premium award redemptions between the US and Europe.

Flights FROM Europe to the US Are Longer

Let’s look at a popular route – Frankfurt to JFK. This route clocks in at a blocked time of 8 hours and 55 minutes. That same flight in the reverse (from JFK to Frankfurt) only occupies a slotted time of 7 hours and 35 minutes.

business class from Europe to the US

business class from Europe to the US

In actual flying time, the flight from JFK is more around 7 hours and the flight from Frankfurt is more around 8 hours and 25 minutes. No matter how you look at it, flying FROM Europe to the US will give you around an extra 90 minutes onboard vs going the other way.

This is just one example but the flights from Europe to the US all take longer so they do give you that extra amount of time to enjoy your premium award redemption.

Opposite point: You will also notice that most of the flights from the US to Europe involve an overnight while flights from Europe to the US are all daytime flights. If you wanted to keep your same sleeping schedule, the flight from the US would help with that but shorter hauls – like the East Coast to London – should be avoided if you want more than just a few hours of sleep!

If you really want to enjoy your huge stash of miles for that business class or first class seat, going from Europe to the US will give you extra time – and daylight time – to do just that. If you fly Turkish Airlines, that could give you a minimum of 11 hours of business class enjoyment!

Flights FROM Europe to the US Have Better Ground Experiences*

If you are going to splurge with your miles, you really want to get the whole premium experience! When flying with carriers like Lufthansa, that means getting the whole ground experience also.

If you are flying Lufthansa First Class, you get to enjoy things like the whole First Class TERMINAL in Frankfurt (with private shuttle service) and the exclusive First Class lounges. This can be a lot of fun and include great food, bathtubs, private and fast passport processing, and a lot of being made to feel like you are a VIP! And this is all before you even set foot into the First Class cabin onboard Lufthansa!

many airport lounges

Depending on your ticket class and some other details (which depend on the lounge rules), you can get access to these lounges when you arrive in Europe from the US and Lufthansa does have a very nice First Class area of their lounge in JFK, but the best way to experience all of this for most would be the enjoy the lounge before that awesome business or first class flight.

Another part about the better ground experiences is that I, many times, enjoy the catering out of the airlines’ hubs more than from the US (if it is a European airline). The food is still good but I just find it to be better when it is in their own backyard.

I put the asterisk there because it is possible to get that lounge treatment from the US in Europe, depending on your ticket, and the food quality can be subjective. But, these reasons have certainly been my experiences in all my flights between the two continents.

Make the Journey Home to Be an Extension of the Vacation

This assumes you are from the US and in Europe on vacation, of course! But, making that homebound flight an extension of a fantastic journey can be a great reason to redeem your miles for business or first class. Not only that, but it can actually help you to arrive home rested.

Book Star Alliance awards

Another reason this is a great way to go is that you can actually really enjoy your final day of the vacation and make it last as long as you want! With many flights from Europe to the US departing in the morning (especially if you are connecting from a European city to your long-haul flight), flying business class or first class will give you a nice block of time to enjoy some sleep and still enjoy the whole premium experience (refer to the first point!).

Again, this one could go either way but I know that I have always really enjoyed looking forward to that premium travel on the way home!

Pay Less Surcharges and Taxes*

This will depend on the airline you are redeeming miles with and I am making this point being about Star Alliance carriers. They have the huge presence in European cities for premium redemptions (think Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, etc) and they are also the ones that can have a variance with these big fees.

First things first – if you are redeeming miles with United, you won’t pay any fuel surcharges when redeeming for things like Lufthansa First Class. But, you will be paying a lot of miles – 110,000 miles for a one way trip!

In contrast, you can redeem just 70,000 Aeroplan miles (80,000 from Europe 2) for Lufthansa First Class – but you are going to have to pay fuel surcharges. If you were to use Aegean miles, it would cost just 60,000 miles – but you would pay fuel surcharges.

Here’s the thing – you will actually pay more in fuel surcharges with Aeroplan/Aegean/etc for awards that depart from the US as opposed to those that depart from Europe. (there are airlines that do not pass on the fuel surcharges like United, LOT, SAS, Turkish at a minimal amount, and Swiss with Aeroplan). Here is an example:

business class from Europe to the US

The flight from the US to Europe using Aeroplan miles

business class from Europe to the US

The amount of carrier surcharges you would pay departing from the US

A business class flight on Lufthansa from the US to Europe will incur $550 in carrier surcharges (the numbers in the image are CAD). That same exact flight in reverse (Europe to the US) will only cost $220 in carrier surcharges. That is a huge difference! This works the same on all Star Alliance flights with mileage programs that would pass on these surcharges – going from Europe is going to be cheaper.

business class from Europe to the US

The same flight in the reverse – Europe to the US

business class from Europe to the US

The surcharges from Europe to the US

Of course, if you have the United miles or Ultimate Reward points, it would come down to this – would you rather pay 40,000 more miles or up to a few hundred dollars in surcharges/extra fees? If you don’t mind burning 110,000 miles for a first class flight using United miles, it doesn’t matter what the fuel surcharges are! Or, you could redeem 70,000 miles for business class on airlines like Lufthansa and that would be a great redemption as well (just 15,000 more miles than Aeroplan and you don’t pay the surcharges).


Sure, other people may have other great reasons to use your miles to go in the reverse – or to not fly business/first class at all! But, if you were really wanting to redeem your miles for a great business/first class experience on a trip between the US and Europe, hopefully these reasons will help to point you in a direction that works for you!

No matter which way you choose, flying business class or first class is still an awesome experience and one that you should enjoy at least once in your life!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.