The Secret Route to Get from the West Coast to Europe in Business Class Using United Miles

Most Europe trips using miles from a Star Alliance program like United are going to take two stops in each direction when departing the West Coast.

You’ll often have to fly Los Angeles to Houston or Chicago, or even Toronto, Montreal, or Calgary (often in coach), before catching a transatlantic flight. You’ll land in a European hub and catch connecting service to your European destination. That’s pretty grueling, although you do what you have to do to use miles sometimes (especially when travel dates are pretty firm). And I’d say three flights in business class is usually better than two flights in coach when covering that much distance.

Fortunately, there’s a new ‘stealth’ option to use to go non-stop from Los Angeles to Europe, with good business class availability on the days it operates.

Ethiopian launches service Los Angeles – Dublin next month (with continuing service to Addis Ababa).

  • The flight operates three days a week, Monday/Thursday/Saturday
  • It’s operated by a Boeing 787, so a great new aircraft.

The first 787s that Ethiopian took onboard came with angled flat business class seats. That’s competitive with what you’ll get on some Los Angeles – Europe routes like Air France’s evening LA – Paris flight onboard the Boeing 777.

Even better this year they started taking on 787s with a flat business seat, making it even better.

Either way you’re looking at six-across seating in business class (the same configuration that United offers on their 787s).

The flight has award availability for two passengers in business class every Monday and Saturday in July except for July 11. The Thursday departure doesn’t have two business seats available, unfortunately.

When the flight first comes into the schedule, return availability isn’t as good. However, booking far in advance you’ll find that the flight is available in both directions most every day that it operates with at least 2 business class award seats each way.

Of course, once you’re in Dublin many European routes require two flights as it isn’t a Star Alliance hub. Fortunately though United partners with Aer Lingus (you can’t check award availability at United.com, try the Qantas frequent flyer website though it isn’t always a match) and they’ve got an extensive route network from Dublin which allows you to make a one-stop connection. Ryanair offers many cheap flights from Dublin as well.

This isn’t Emirates first class onboard an Airbus A380 with shower (and heated floors). But it’s one of the best ways right now to get from the West Coast to Europe non-stop in business class using United (or other Star Alliance) miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi Gary, this is great info! But I keep searching for dates in Oct via the united tool (LAX-DUB), but keep getting this message once I select both flights:

    “Due to rapidly changing partner availability the following flights are no longer available. Please choose another flight or modify your search criteria.”

    I search again, and it always biz seats are avail, but it never lets me finish. Thoughts?

    ps- for what it’s worth, I tried searching the dates (10/5-10/10) on the ANA tool, and it does NOT show biz class availability on these ethiopian flights. Is united phantom inventory?

  2. @Matt united.com is glitchy, I’m seeing availability on the dates I had searched earlier matching up to ANA site (although that site too isn’t as good as it used to be). I was searching yesterday using Aeroplan’s engine. In any case I haven’t had problems with bookings. Call.

  3. @Rob yes you can, i wasn’t thinking clearly when i wrote this super early this morning — you did not used to be able to combine star alliance and non-star alliance awards on the same ticket with united but that’s a long time ago…

  4. Starting next week the evening LAX AF 777 flight should have new biz seats. Glad to see fewer angled flats operating west coast transatlantic flights.

  5. More like “LAX to Dublin” not West Coast to Europe, though the latter no doubt generates more clicks. Nobody who values their time is going to fly from SFO (or points north) to LAX to Dublin and then on to Europe when they can simply fly SFO-LHR or SFO-FRA direct, or alternatively via ORD which is a much nicer hub. 3 days a week is a major negative in the event of irrops, not to mention fewer seats. And finally, doesn’t this cost a ridiculous # of miles since UA revised its award chart? I think most of us would rather settle for UA’s mediocre service than pay more. That being said, it’s always nice to have more options…

  6. @Gary
    Thanks for this post!
    Couple questions that I hope you could help with, and I really appreciate:
    1. How many United miles does it cost for LAX-DUB one way per person in Ethiopian business class? Which website should I use to find the award seat availability, is it only in United website?
    2. According to above comments, since we can connect to Aer Lingus, so if I want to go to Paris from LAX, I can do LAX – DUB (layover) – CDG (destination) and it will cost the same miles?

  7. @Boraxo

    Thanks for sharing, since I am based in SFO it’s really helpful to know that there are better ways to go to Europe as it has been my dream to go there since I just started this hobby.
    In regards to SFO – LHR and SFO – FRA, which airline and what frequent flyer miles and how many miles needed for the award seat, and how to find the availability?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  8. @John United is 70,000 miles each way business class US-Europe. You can find the Ethiopian space on the Aeroplan website (and the United website, but that can be unreliable). Aer Lingus space as United books it isn’t online per se but it’s often a decent match for what shows on the Qantas frequent flyer website, then you have to call to book.

  9. @Boraxo United’s first class awards are ridiculous, their business class awards aren’t, and tell me how you plan to score San Francisco – Frankfurt non-stop awards in a premium cabin for a reasonable number of miles and without fuel surcharges booked at all in advance?

  10. @Gary
    Thanks for the quick response! I believe you also see the Boraxo comments that there is direct flight SFO – LHR and SFO – FRA, what airline is it and how many miles (and what FF program) does it cost for business? Thanks a lot again.

  11. @John United and Lufthansa fly San Francisco – Frankfurt. Good luck finding premium cabin award space on those flights. United will let you book most seats at 150k per person each way in business of course. Saver award space (57.5k per person each way) doesn’t come along often. Lufthansa doesn’t make much space available on that route.

    United, BA, and Virgin Atlantic fly San Francisco – London Heathrow. BA availability used to be good, not so much anymore. The best availability will be with Virgin. (Both Virgin and BA incur fuel surcharges, BA awards are also more expensive post-April 28…)

  12. The challenge Gary alludes to is that for United miles holders, it’s pretty close to impossible to secure a miles biz seat on the Star partners going out of west coast cities. From LAX, that means it’s tough to grab a seat to Star hubs like FRA, IST, LHR, and ZRH. United have pretty much stopped flying to Europe from anywhere but ORD, EWR, IAH and DEN.

  13. @Gary
    I see….so there are many options but the most important is that if you can find the award availability on those, have you have any luck setting an advanced alert in Expert Flyer so you get notified right away when there is availability opens up for those SFO-FRA or SFO-LHR flight?
    Otherwise, looks like connect in LAX is the last hope of flying nonstop from West coast…..

  14. If going to Germany there has been good award space on Lufthansa. From the West Coast you can get to FRA / MUC with one stop in BOS, for example.

  15. Tomorrow will be the last time in my life I ever fly UA….had 2 FC tickets SFO-IAD with seat assignments since November…….today as I tried to check in my aisle seat had been taken away (Sky Marshall)………and my wife who has medical issues that need not be shared will now have the anxiety of having to sit near Sgt Snuffy because of piss poor planning on the Sky Marshall’s and United’s part to not block the seat they wanted in the first place or have the decency to keep a family of 2 (on the same reservation) together………that’s fine as a retired Army Officer I am not amused at the lack of leadership on both their parts and will have no difficulty buying a Gulf carrier seat in the future………..US flag carriers…..it is a del inflicted wound that open skies mean you lose……….

  16. @John – Expertflyer won’t alert you to Lufthansa space opening up unfortunately, or United space, or BA, or Virgin so unfortunately that’s not a help.

  17. I am seeing significan discrepancies betwwen UA and Aeroplan website booking availability on this route.

  18. @ Gary

    I have a question, why there is a difference in miles needed for redemption on United business class from USA to Europe? If United charge by region that it should be the same amount of mileage. For example:
    1. SFO – FRA is 57.5k per person each way for saver award business
    2. LAX – DUB is 70k per person each way for saver award business (in Ethiopian)
    Why such a 27.5k miles difference?

  19. John it is a 25k difference roundtrip and the difference is the cheaper price applies to flying United versus on their partners.

  20. I just Googled Ethiopian Airways Reviews – boy almost nothing good to say about them. The most common word describing the planes is “filthy”.

  21. @John – United recently significantly increased the number of MP miles required to fly Business on Star Alliance partners, so it costs a lot more to fly on them than on its own metal. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop – the enhancement of the mileage requirement for United award flights, too – just to make it fair, of course. United will say that the devil – er, Star Alliance – was begging them to make it fair.

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