How I upgraded my economy flight to lie-flat business in Europe for £16

Nov 9, 2019

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For as long as I can remember, booking a flight from A to B has never been just as simple as doing a quick search and booking the first direct flight available. There is so much more to consider. Early or late? Low-cost or full-service? Nonstop or with a stop if it earns me more Tier Points? Miles redemption or revenue ticket?

To make matters even more complicated, if there are a number of different airports you could fly from, then the possibilities can be seemingly endless. I was challenged with this recently when planning a trip from Barcelona to the Black Forest in Germany. There are three airports close to where I needed to be: Frankfurt (FRA), Stuttgart (STR) and the tiny airport of Karlsruhe/Baden Baden (FKB), which happened to also be the nearest to my destination.

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My other specifications were that I wasn’t flexible with my date of travel, I needed a checked bag and the flight needed to arrive no later than 6 p.m. It quickly became clear that I had a whole host of options to chose from.

My first option was from Barcelona (BCN) to Frankfurt (FRA) with Lufthansa. As most of my friends were arriving into Frankfurt, I started with the Lufthansa hub. A Google Flights search brought up several day flights with the German flag carrier for £121. Initial thoughts were that it wasn’t too expensive, but with the addition of a bag and seat selection the total came to £147.

(Image courtesy of Google Flights)

My second option was from Barcelona (BCN) to Stuttgart (STR) with Vueling. Stuttgart is slightly closer to Baden Baden than Frankfurt, so it was also an option to consider. At £106 for a one-way flight, a bag and seat selection with a low-cost airline that would even earn me valuable Avios, I was very nearly tempted. But, my inner AvGeek was not excited enough by this.

(Image courtesy of Google Flights)

My third option was from Barcelona (BCN) to Frankfurt (FRA) via Madrid (MAD). After quickly realising flying to Baden Baden via Stansted with two Ryanair flights wasn’t the best option, I thought I’d see what was available via another airport hub and one that would make a lot more sense: Madrid. This is when I struck gold, or should I say purple. LATAM flies nonstop from Madrid to Frankfurt on a Dreamliner. But how?

(Image courtesy of Google Flights)

The route is a fifth-freedom route from Santiago, Chile (SCL), to Frankfurt (FRA) via Madrid (MAD). The fifth-freedom rule permits a foreign airline to carry passengers between two foreign states. There are three main reasons why this flight ticked all the boxes for me: the flight times were great, LATAM is a Oneworld member (for now), meaning I would earn Avios and Tier Points, and the flight would be on a wide-body aircraft rather than a tiny A320 or B737. The latter would  mean more comfort, less noise and an all around improved AvGeek experience.

I hastily made the booking. Then, I realised that the Dreamliner would have lie-flat seats in business and if I’d have thought of it, I could have made an Avios redemption. Out of curiosity, I headed back to Google Flights to see how much the flight would be in business.

Related reading: Lufthansa will begin flying to a new U.K. airport

(Image courtesy of Google Flights)

And there it was, £121 for a one-way business class ticket complete with lie-flat seat on a Dreamliner. As I was well within the 24-hour cool-off period, I called LATAM straight away. The call centre agent was more than happy to upgrade my flight for the difference in what I had paid — a mere £16. Not only would I have lounge access thanks to flying a Oneworld carrier and having British Airways Silver status, I would now be flying in style and earn myself 40 Tier Points in the process.

To get from Barcelona to Madrid, I simply booked a British Airways Reward Flight Saver with Iberia for the small sum of 5,000 Avios and £17.60 — a ticket that would have cost well over £100 in cash.

Related reading: The hardest and easiest long-haul routes on which you can typically find Avios availability

Bottom line

The route I decided on to take me from Barcelona to Frankfurt was neither the most direct, nor the cheapest. But, the most important thing for me is making the most of my Oneworld status perks and maintaining that for as long as I can. So, by flying two Oneworld carriers using a mixture of points and miles, I saved money on the first leg and bagged myself a cheap business-class ticket as well as valuable Tier Points on the second.

When planning any trip, try to be as creative as possible with your route, airline choice and even class of travel to make sure you are always maximising your travel.

Featured image by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy

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