With so many countries in Europe, and so many airlines (and alliances), many folks ask whether it is worth upgrading from Economy to Business Class on an intra-European flight. First off, for some clarity, the Business Class I’m talking about here is the one you’d fly from London to Paris, or Zurich to Brussels, for example. Despite it being an international route, it’s all classified as intra-European.
When compared to products in the US, there’s both benefits and cons to the way things are done across the Atlantic.
In general, here’s what you’re looking at when you fly in domestic first (comparable to European business) in the US:
- A larger, wider seat, generally in a 2×2 layout.
- Meal service on flights longer than about 2 hours (in many cases no service, or service only on longer flights)
- Priority boarding
- Free checked baggage
And here’s what you’re looking at in Intra-European business class:
- The same seating and legroom as in economy class, however with the middle seat blocked. So, there would be 2 passengers on one side, two on the other, in a 3×3 layout.
- Meal service on most flights, regardless of length.
- Business Class lounge access, regardless of status or membership.
- Priority boarding
- Free checked baggage.
When it comes to business class here, you’re getting no better of a seat – in fact, it’s the same seats as the folks behind the curtain. You will be guaranteed an empty middle seat, but there’s only so much additional comfort that can provide without the extra legroom. If you’ve got status on the airline, you’re real only difference is being provided a meal onboard – which I think most can do without, especially on short-haul flights.
- You can read my review of Air France’s intra-Europe business class here.
- You can read my review of British Airways Club Europe business class here.
What about pricing?
You can expect nearly double the price over an economy seat. Let’s take this Air France flight from Paris to Zurich for example. In economy, the cheapest ticket is $200.
In business, that ticket rises to close to $500.
What about award tickets?
It’s the same with award tickets unfortunately — nearly double the price. For a Zone 1 award using British Airways Avios, a peak Business Class ticket will cost you 9,000 Avios – and only 4,500 for economy. UPDATE: This now costs 7,500 miles in economy.
Buyer beware – if you’re flying in and out of London, you’ll also incur a premium luxury tax. On a trip from Zurich to London, for example, the total taxes were around $50 or so.
Ultimately, I think this decision comes down to whether you have status on the airline/alliance, and how long the journey is:
If you don’t have status on the airline or alliance…
- Since you don’t normally have lounge access, priority privileges and complimentary checked baggage will pay for the journey in and of itself.
Watch for prior-todeparture upgrade opportunities as these offers can be reasonably priced, saving you from spending a lot of money on purchasing the seat in advanced.
If you do have status on the airline or alliance…
- It’s generally not worth it to upgrade, since you’ll receive a majority of the privileges anyway, less the meal onboard.
Watch for prior-to-departure upgrade offers where you may get re-ticketed in full business class fares. This may be worth it for accumulating elite qualifying points or miles.
If the trip is over 3 hours in length…
- If the trip is over three hours in length, a complimentary meal and drink refills can make the journey a bit more pleasant. Additionally, it provides a bit more room to work on your laptop or watch movies. If you’re smart and can select a bulkhead seat, you may be provided with additional legroom, too.
Do you consider it worth it to upgrade to intra-European business class?
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