Which airlines operate long-haul-configured planes on European routes from the U.K.?

Oct 27, 2019

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If you’ve flown business class on flights within Europe you may have been disappointed. The vast majority of airlines on these routes use economy seats for business class but just block the middle seat. So while you won’t have anyone next to you, the seat width, pitch and recline will be the same as economy.

Fortunately, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Some airlines choose to operate some services using wide-body, long-haul aircraft on short routes. This can mean a better flight regardless of which class you are in. For economy passengers it may mean seatback screens with lots of entertainment options. Up front, the difference can be more noticeable. While the flight may only be a few hours, you could score a fully flat bed with direct aisle access, plenty of storage and privacy. Here’s what to look for.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines operates a number of different aircraft types from Istanbul’s two airports (IST and SAW) to the U.K. On some of its Heathrow routes, it operates Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-300 aircraft, which have long-haul configurations. You can read a full review of the Turkish 777 economy experience from London (LHR) to Istanbul (IST) here. (Hint: it’s an excellent product for a short flight.)

In business class, while Turkish does offer a recliner seat that’s better than economy on its narrow-body aircraft similar to the domestic first-class seats seen on U.S. carriers, its A330s and 777s feature fully flat seats with legroom for days. Here is a comparison of the best business-class products of Turkish Airlines and British Airways between London and Istanbul.

Turkish A330 Business Class. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

British Airways

BA operates one of its daily flights between London Heathrow and Madrid (MAD) using long-haul-configured Boeing 777 aircraft. At the moment, you should look for flight numbers BA460 and BA461.

These flights feature BA’s Club World seat for the short Club Europe flight and have seatback screens in economy too.

BA Club World. (Photo courtesy of British Airways)

Iberia

Like British Airways, Iberia operates one daily return service between London Heathrow and Madrid using a long-haul-configured, wide-body aircraft, either Airbus A330 or A340. Look for the IB3166/IB3167 flight numbers.

These aircraft have a 2-4-2 seating configuration in economy, which is great for couples and families. In business class, there are flat beds, all with direct aisle access.

Iberia business class. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Finnair

Finnair has plenty of daily flights from the U.K. to its hub in Helsinki (HEL). But look for flights to and from Heathrow Airport operated by its Airbus A330 (currently AY1337/AY1338 daily rotations), or even better, its brand new Airbus A350s (currently AY1331/AY1332 daily rotations) for its long-haul product including reverse herringbone flat-bed seating in business class.

Finnair A350 business class. (Photo by The Points Guy)

Aer Lingus

Dublin (DUB) based carrier Aer Lingus has recently taken delivery of their first two Airbus A321LR aircraft which though the aircraft is a narrow-body plane, there are flat-bed seats in business class. The airline is currently operating this aircraft type on EI154/155 rotations between London Heathrow and Dublin from the start of this month, though looking at the flights already operated, some days have been operated by A320 aircraft which do no feature the long-haul product.

How to book with points

Unfortunately, Turkish Airlines don’t release much award availability on its London routes, but if you do manage to find some, these can be booked with miles through Star Alliance partner programmes like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Avianca LifeMiles and United Mileage Plus.

For British Airways flights to Madrid, these can be booked as Reward Flight Savers for 6,500/7,500 Avios off-peak/peak in Euro Traveller economy, or 12,750/15,000 Avios in Club Europe business class.

For Iberia, Finnair and Aer Lingus, the partner award chart applies when using Avios to book, which will cost you 9,000 Avios in economy 16,500 in business class to Madrid or Helsinki, or only 6,000 Avios in economy or 12,500 Avios in business class to Dublin (noting it is a very short flight!).

Featured image by The Points Guy

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