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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.

  • James OBrien says:

    Are lingua dogs a a330 from DUB to Malaga

  • Mr. AC says:

    OT: can’t figure out how exactly does the BA status freeze work for new parents (terms here under “Maternity” – It states “Eligible Members can continue to collect Tier Points and Avios and enjoy their tier benefits. Should a Member qualify for a higher Tier during the extension period this will be honoured and the extension on your previous Tier will come to an end.” Does that mean I can potentially extend the year for gathering Tier points and hit Gold, which I can’t reach otherwise without doing silly TP runs? Or does it just mean that everything resets, but I just don’t lose the status: namely, the TP counter still goes to zero on the sign-up date as expected?

    • swhostring says:

      You’ll get longer to qualify for Gold – idea being that parents who fly for work – precisely the customers BA wants to retain – were being unfairly knocked out of status by *not* flying/ getting TPs during maternity leave, ie this makes it fairer for them (& helps BA retain target/ desirable customers).

      Some people here don’t like it but I think it’s a good initiative – & good for BA’s shareholders!

      • Ellis says:

        Or bad for BA shareholders… realistically however, I think that the direction the wind is travelling has more impact on BA’s share price than corporate mothers taking 6 months off work to pop a baby out.

      • Pid says:

        I thought the TP counter reset as usual but you just retained the status for the next year. That is what happened to me, although I did not apply as soon as my daughter was born so it might have been after my new year started. No change in my travel patterns, she has just come with us, but Silver for another year which I would not have retained without a TP run.

  • Gus says:

    A few more to add:

    TAP Portugal sometimes flies Lisbon to Vienna with A330.

    Swiss sometimes flies A330 Zürich to Copenhagen with A330.

  • Christian says:

    Wonderful post. Thanks. I didn’t know about EVA flying from Bangkok to Amsterdam. The only problem is, I can’t find any award space, even almost a year out. Any suggestions? Sorry, but any help appreciated.

  • Alex says:

    A321 to Moscow has a better seating than the usual BA business class .

    • Alex Sm says:

      ‘Cause it’s former BMI aircraft previously used for ME routes (and Moscow, ironically – it was the best service on this route…) and they had proper business seats!

  • Peter says:

    By chance I have just flown back from Moscow today with Aeroflot on a A330-300 and their business class is 2-2-2. Far superior to BA in terms of layout (not packed in like sardines) but I don’t know if the seats recline fully.. Sadly the flight on from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) – almost twice as long as LHR-SVO – is on a B737, but as Alex says above, the business class is better than BA, being 2-2. The seats are wide and there is plenty of space between them but they do not recline much.

  • Alex Sm says:

    My partner and I flew IB A340 from Madrid to London last week – CW redemption from ‘crazy’ Iberia promo a while ago. Tbh, the service and the seat were good but not impressive. SQ did much better on a similar length route from SIN to DPS last month…

    Do go out and try SQ from Moscow to Stockholm and vice versa!

  • Alex Sm says:

    Also, saw that Air Europa (SkyTeam member and now EY partner) uses B787 on the routes between Barcelona and Madrid though you would perhaps not have enough time to make your bed flat on this route…

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

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