Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How to fly long-haul planes on short-haul European flights

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

This article is about how to fly short haul European business class flights which use long-haul aircraft (ie a 747, 777, 787, A380, A350, A330, A340 etc).

Why would you want to do this? Well, for fun!

European business class flights are rarely exciting. Yes, British Airways offers you an empty middle seat, free champagne and some average food. At the end of the day, though, you are still sat in pretty much the same seat as everyone else.

However, wouldn’t it be great if you could fly a long-haul plane around Europe?  It may only be a couple of hours to Madrid or Helsinki, but if you could get yourself a flat-bed seat – and for the same number of Avios as a seat on a standard plane – that’s pretty cool.

The reason you can (very occasionally) do this is mainly due to ‘fifth freedom’ flying rights. This allows an aircraft to fly between two countries as a ‘tag’ to another flight. The flight would not be viable if the aircraft could not drop passengers in both cities.

There are also some airlines who use long-haul planes around Europe for cargo reasons.  Whilst they are not on the list below, because they are not ‘fifth freedom’ flights, you have – for Avios redemption:

Heathrow to Madrid on both BA and Iberia (one flight each per day is long-haul, see my Iberia A350 review here)

Heathrow to Helsinki on Finnair (one flight per day is long-haul, see my Finnair A350 review here)

BA will also occasionally use long-haul aircraft on Heathrow to Moscow – there is a Boeing 787 being used in October.  There is also, for Star Alliance redemptions:

Heathrow to Istanbul on Turkish (some flights each day are on a Boeing 777, see my Turkish Boeing 777 review here)

Fifth Freedom flights within Europe

This article from US blog FlyPointyEnd offers a pretty comprehensive list of all of the ‘fifth freedom’ flights currently operating.  Qudos to them for putting this together and keeping it updated because it is an ever-changing field.

Here are the intra-European ones worth a look.  These are taken from the FlyPointyEnd list – it is possible that it is not 100% accurate but I am confident in most of it.

I have added the airline alliance the airline is with, so you know whose miles you would need to redeem.  I have only included flights on long-haul aircraft.

Emirates (no alliance) – Larnaca to Malta

Ethiopian (Star Alliance) – Stockholm to Oslo

Hainan Airlines (no alliance) – Dublin to Edinburgh

LATAM (oneworld) – Madrid to Frankfurt

MIAT Mongolian Airlines (no alliance) – Berlin to Moscow

Korean Air (SkyTeam) – Vienna to Zurich

Kuwait Airlines (no alliance) – Frankfurt to Geneva

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Moscow to Stockholm

If you want to use your Avios points, you only have the LATAM flight between Madrid and FrankfurtWe reviewed this here.  A one way trip in business class is 15,000 Avios plus £17 or £36 of tax depending on which direction you go.

Personally, I like the sound of flying MIAT Mongolian Airlines, an airline I can honestly say I had never even heard of before I wrote this article.

There are other European airlines which run occasional routes using long-haul aircraft, similar to the Iberia service to London, but they are not included above as there is no comprehensive list available.  I think the Madrid, Finnair, Moscow and Istanbul services are the only ones from Heathrow.

Fifth Freedom flights which start in Europe

It is also worth highlighting Fifth Freedom flights which start in Europe but go elsewhere.  These flights are often easy to get as frequent flyer redemptions because they are rarely full for the second leg.

Air China (Star Alliance) – Madrid to Sao Paulo

Air India (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to New York

Air New Zealand (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to Los Angeles

Emirates (no alliance) – Athens to New York

Emirates (no alliance) – Milan to New York

Ethiopian (Star Alliance) – Dublin to Los Angeles 

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – Amsterdam to Bangkok

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – Vienna to Bangkok

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to Bangkok

Jet Airways (no alliance but a Virgin partner) – Amsterdam to Toronto

Qantas (oneworld) – London Heathrow to Singapore

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Manchester to Houston

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Frankfurt to New York


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (99)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Mammon says:

    “Heathrow to Madrid on Iberia (one flight per day is long-haul, see my Iberia A350 review here)”
    Thought this was on an A340 now.

    • Kevin says:

      That’s not what the article says. The article says one flight per day is long haul – it doesn’t specific the type. The connected review is for an A350. Same for FY which is a mix of A330/A350

    • David says:

      BA usually have a 777 on one service a day MAD-LHR;, I’m booked on one next month.

      • James says:

        Flying it on Monday. CW cabin looking very busy.. hoping the open up F. Has this happened to anyone and if so, how do they select?

        • Tim Rogers says:

          Definitely happens. I flew the evening service back from MAD-LHR in July and was in the First cabin. Only a shame that they didn’t turn on the entertainment system 🙁

        • BillyK says:

          Flew MAD-LHR on a 4 Class 777 end of last month as part or a ATH-MAD-LHR-MAN redemption of soma AA miles. CW cabin was full and so I was the last to board due to short connection and I was in a 11E I asked the CSM as I boarded if there was any chance of a window or aisle seat after a little play on the iPad I was taken to 5A result.

      • Simon says:

        I’m flying business Lon – Mad next March. Is there any way I can see the plane we will be on?

        Thanks.

        • Rob says:

          Yes, do a dummy booking on ba.com and click on the flight number when it comes up.

        • fivebobbill says:

          Flew Iberia MAD – LHR Business on Tuesday, and it was was on an A330 – 300, Flight BA7058, 15.55.
          Set up was 1-2-1 configuration, compared to BA 777 going out 2-4-2.
          Travelled as a couple so had the double centre seats both ways, difference was like night and day, Iberia A330 was like having your own private cabin!
          One other perk of the Iberia choice is that when flying Business you can select your seat right away, regardless of loyalty level. I was able to select those double centre seats in row 1 immediately after booking.
          A brief note though on something Rob mentioned last week. Food and service on BA was much better than the return Iberia leg, and the new DO-CO passion fruit dessert delightful!

        • RussellH says:

          This only works if they load the correct seat map alongside the flight.

          We did LHR-MAD return in March, 777 both directions. Booked us into aisle seats (either sides of the aisle) on the outward,, but that is not what we got. Turned out I was trying to book seats on a 777 while BA provided a 787 seat map.

          We ended up getting the full cost of the trip, including 4 nights hotel, refunded under EU261, as the inward leg from MAD was delayed sufficiently to miss our connection to NCL – we were around 11 hours late.

  • CT says:

    O/T anyone know if you still receive the sign up bonus on the AmEx platinum if you’ve had the bonus before? There was talk a few months ago about the rules being changed to make the bonus once in a lifetime….

  • K says:

    I have the new AMEX Gold Credit card with the sign up bonus. If I were to re-apply (6 months passed) for the Platinum Chargecard, do I get the sign up bonus for that too (both being in the MR scheme)

    • filipino_chino says:

      you need to wait for 6 months after you have cancelled the gold card, unless you still have the gold card then you upgrade via the link below:

      https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/platinum-charge/upgrade/

      If you use the link above you can upgrade and get 20k points points, then cancel and wait 6 months to start the whole process again.

      • Rob MC says:

        Doesn’t work on the gold credit card only charge card apparently..

      • Mike says:

        Can you definitely still get 20K MR upgrade bonus for going from Gold Credit Card to Plat Charge Card ?

        • Mark2 says:

          No, Gold charge only.

        • VK says:

          I have heard of instances when if you call them and explain you want to upgrade but you can’t as it’s credit they have been generous to apply the upgrade credit, or at times give you full 30k sign up bonus.

        • Digestive30 says:

          Related to this, if you were to upgrade to the plat charge card after having renewed your gold charge card for the year (I have hit 15k spend and want the bonus points), do you have to call up to get the gold card’s annual fee refunded? I don’t want to do an upgrade if somehow you had to pay the gold charge card’s full fee and also the platinum fee! Cheers.

    • Alex W says:

      Inside Flyer is reporting that people with the new gold credit are being told by American they can apply for Amex Plat AND get the sign-up bonus. Waiting to see whether this comes to fruition or not.

      • Rob says:

        That is complete nonsense. It is driven entirely by whether you have a Membership Rewards account.

        Do you have an idea of the legal consequences of someone who doesn’t even have a Consumer Credit Licence recommending a £450 annual fee card on the basis of a bonus which, under the rules, you should not get? If there is a single link to the Amex website in that article then the author could face legal issues (no link = no issues as it is not a marketing statement).

        • Alex W says:

          Whoa don’t shoot the messenger Rob. This is what Amex has told them and they are waiting to find out whether they do get the bonus or not.

        • Ols says:

          I’m a bit lost with this thread. I thought Gold charge card was no more. I was planning to upgrade gold to plat soon for the 20k bonus. Is that no longer and option?

          • Rob says:

            You can’t upgrade Gold credit because you can’t turn a credit card into a charge card.

      • Ben says:

        I’ve just hit amex plat and gold credit bonuses. Both bonuses credited , transferred out and card closed this week.

  • darrenf says:

    I’m flying the Emirates Larnaca-Malta leg soon as it happens. Paid around £200 one way in economy then upgraded to business for a handful of Skywards miles via an Amex MR transfer. Looking forward to it!

  • Joe says:

    I think BA also have a triple 7 flying to Madrid each day?

    • Glen says:

      They do. I took that flight in Business 2 weeks ago. Full meal service and champagne. Customers were also sat in Premium and First.

      • RussellH says:

        I mentioned above that we got seriously delayed MAD-LHR on a 777 back in March. Many people complained about the slow boarding contributing to further delay. Pilot made an announcement that boarding a 777 has to be slower than an A320 because the rules are different (more stringent) for long haul aircraft, apparently. The route itself, he said, was irrelevant.

  • C says:

    Does PIA (Pakistan Airways) still fly to New York via Manchester? And can you buy tickets/redeem points?

  • Joe Carr says:

    Mongolian is fine, I’ve flown them myself from Ulaanbaatar to a mine site. Their logo is a rather angry looking eagle.

  • Dev says:

    Rob – factual error. Jet airways is not star. It was part of the etihad airways partners but i think that is non existent now.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.