Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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

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

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2024)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £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 famous annual 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 £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (98)

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

  • Concerto says:

    I think the FRA-GVA route on Kuwait Airways has been long gone, because I wanted to try it a couple of years back. If it’s started again, perhaps in the winter timetable, that will be really great.

    As for Moscow, I’ve been going visa free because of my football Fan ID and will go again in November. But immigration can really be a bit testy at the moment. Would love to try the MIAT Mongolian route but I need to do as many segments as possible on Lufthansa Group to requalify for FTL Silver (Miles & More) until the year 2022.

  • guesswho2000 says:

    There’s a fair few between Australia and NZ if anyone happens to be in the area too. MEL-CHC EK on an A380 (EK used to operate a lot more, but they’re gone now), MEL-WLG SQ on a 777 and SYD-AKL LA on a 787 are the ones I’ve flown personally (well, LA is coming up – EK F, SQ J, LA J)

    QF also operate various domestics (MEL-SYD for sure, not sure what else) using A330 long haul planes with flatbed J, I always try and get an A330 on this route, but a lot are still 737s.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      CX A350 J between SGN-HKG was also excellent. And, haven’t flown it personally, but QR fly (I think an A330) between SGN-PNH. I had the latter booked but had to canx, as couldn’t make it work with my other plans in the area. I was gutted!

    • Lumma says:

      The non stop London to Perth Qantas flight continues on to Melbourne too

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Indeed, and MEL-PER (and I presume vice versa) on QF9/10 can be booked domestically, but QF don’t seem to be releasing award space at the moment…

      • Rob says:

        Bet that plane is a total tip after the 17 hour run from London though!

  • Denis says:

    I fly BA Heathrow to Moscow a lot. They always run planes with flat bed business class seats on all flights, even on single isle planes. The only difference is which plane they decide to use. I saw 787, 777, 747, and 320 over the years. 320 version they received from a merger, so it’s not their normal empty middle seat set up but a very clever 2+1 chairs in each row. Best company to fly to moscow by a mile.

    • Jack says:

      The 320s from the BMi takeover – with brand new seats. I used to take one of those from London to Amman once a month a few years ago. I literally felt like a king…

  • Jack says:

    By coincidence, I’m fliying LATAM Madrid to Frankfurt today. Ticket cost £29 in economy via a German website, and then I put in an offer to upgrde to business for 50 USD (£33) – which has just been accepted. Not a bad result! Just a shame I don’t need the tier points, as after this segment, and one more BA segment back home, I’m done with BA and OneWorld. I would have been done with them this time last year had I not been comped gold. Star Alliance here I come!

  • Scottydogg says:

    O/T , i’m looking to take out another IHG premium card , the sign up bonus is 20,000 points , has this ever been known to change ? have they ever done special sign up bonuses ?

    • Genghis says:

      Yes – 40k about 21 months ago.

      • Benylin says:

        What is the strategy for this card?
        You earn 20k signing up.
        Is the £99 refundable?
        Can you pool points within family?
        How often can you churn it?

        • Rob says:

          No, No, you can’t.

        • Alex W says:

          Non refundable fee, you don’t get your free night voucher until the anniversary. My strategy is to keep it long term, it’s a very good MasterCard – for £10k spend you get free night voucher (~£250) plus 20k points which roughly cancels out the £99 fee. Therefore approx 2.5% return on spend.

        • will says:

          Use AMB weekend cert and the free night to make a 3 night weekend break in an IC paying for only one night. If you’re lucky you can keep a posh room from the AMB cert nights using the free night on the 3rd night.

        • Benylin says:

          Thanks guys. So if you receive on anniversary the free night, that means 2x £99 charges right?

          Also the free night, what kind of place are we talking about?

          • Rob says:

            Up to you. If you want the InterContinental Bora Bora beach resort, you can have that. If you want the Holiday Inn Express Rotherham you can have that.

            It is an annual benefit so it makes sense to permanently pay the £99 and get a night every year.

    • wimpy says:

      yes you can get good value for £99, I’d recommend it to all as Raffles does

  • Chilibenny says:

    Slightly o/t question – can anyone help?
    We have been putting the spend through my wife’s BA Amex card. Can she get the 241 voucher and use it for us both for a long haul redemption – even though I have most of our current avios? I am the head of the household account and she is a member. (I have 160k and she has 50k avios)

  • beardie says:

    Sichuan Airlines 3U 8295 PRG-ZRH

  • Stuart says:

    I was booked on a 777 from Istanbul to Dalaman next week although Turkish airlines have since changed my flight so not sure if it was just a one off / error / or what!

    • Stuart says:

      Just checked and TK2558 at least on Wednesday and Friday next week is on an A330

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

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