Big Savings On Mixed Cabin Itineraries From Australia to Europe

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Earlier this week, Ben wrote about how to save money by booking mixed-class itineraries where you book business (or first class) one way, and economy the other way. He used USA to Europe as a routing example. As soon as I saw the headline, I immediately thought of the ‘trick’ many Australians have been using to get to Europe for years. This is slightly different but potentially an even better deal.

Let me explain.

Australia is expensive

Australia seems to be expensive for just about everything, and premium airfares to Europe are no exception. Have a look at return business class fares from Sydney to Paris, booked three months in advance, vs. the same dates in the other direction (Paris to Sydney) (all amounts in AUD$):

Not great connections, and not my first choice of airlines
The world’s best airlines, but even more expensive


Lower prices, better connections and much better airlines if originating from Europe

The trick

You’ll notice that all of these listed airlines with the best prices (in either direction) operate via Asia. Asia has for a long time been a popular transit point for Australians headed to Europe, though the Middle East has quickly become very popular too.

Depending on where you are connecting, most flights from Australia to Southeast Asia are only about seven to eight hours in length, followed by a much longer flight from Asia to Europe. Though some of the bigger airlines like Singapore and Cathay Pacific offer flights from Australia to Asia and then to Europe at all different times of the day, perhaps the most common schedule is to take an afternoon flight to Asia and then an overnight flight to Europe, arriving in Europe in the morning.

The trick is if you can ‘handle’ an economy flight from Australia to Asia (return), it is usually MUCH cheaper to then fly business class onto Europe.

Using the Sydney to Paris example with the same dates as above (AUD$):

Combined this with a (separate) economy flight to get you to and from Asia (I’ve removed LCC options, but they would be even cheaper):

Combined, you are looking at as low as AUD$3,000 return for the mixed-class itinerary vs. more than AUD$5,000 for the fare all in business class. So you can save about 40% by sitting in economy for the shorter legs.

Ben’s examples earlier this week also gave savings of about 40%, however as his were business one-way, economy the other (so 50/50 time in each cabin), mine are economy Australia to Asia return, and then Asia to Europe for the longer legs in business return, so you get much more ‘time’ in business class than you have to endure in economy (so 60/40 time in each cabin or up to 70/30), especially if choosing Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

If you are originating from Perth it can be as little as 4 – 5 hours to Southeast Asia, which is easily doable in economy.

Southeast Asia is much closer to Australia than Western Europe

Now some caveats

You’ve probably noticed that the itineraries above are hardly ideal. I admit that! If you want a comfortable, one-stop option all in business class, on a premium carrier then by all means book Qatar, Cathay Pacific, etc. But be aware you will be paying dearly for it.

You may have noticed/realised from my mixed-cabin examples above that:

  • The Asia to Europe options are not nonstop, meaning at least two stops from Australia to Europe, maybe more. That’s because any airline operating a non-stop service between two cities is going to charge a premium over competitors operating an indirect one-stop flight
  • While the economy options I’ve listed are good quality, household airline names you may hold status with (which will make the economy legs far more pleasant), some of the Asia to Europe carriers are not carriers you would think to fly, and don’t belong to an alliance, so mileage earning opportunities may be limited
  • You are booking two separate itineraries, so will need to build in a buffer (but equally, hello stopover!) as you won’t be protected if a delay in itinerary one causes you to miss itinerary two
  • Many flights from Asia back to Australia are overnight, which is not going to be pleasant in economy, although carriers like Singapore and Cathay Pacific always have ‘day flights’ to Australia
Gulf Air Business Class – not too shabby!

Bottom line

I would never book this option for my parents, because it is too complicated for them and they would probably prefer a one-stop premium economy itinerary on a reliable airline all the way, which would run about AUD$4,000 per person. It’s definitely a bit of stuffing around, but if you have a sense of adventure and want a proper lie-flat bed for the longer overnight flights for a cheaper price than premium economy the whole way, think about this option.

I’ve flown economy from Melbourne to Paris with Singapore Airlines before, and while the shorter afternoon flight up to Singapore was quick, pleasant, and dare I say enjoyable, the 12+ hour overnight flight to Paris was hell, and I was wishing I had a lie-flat seat for that journey.

Have you booked a mixed itinerary flight to Europe?

  1. I think travelers such as yourself have become so accustomed to flying longhaul in premium cabins that you find it almost impossible to even imagine flying in economy: “4-5 hours in economy is doable”. I have taken multiple 4-5 hours in Ryanair (no recline, no entertainment, no power ports), and have found the experience pleasant. 12 hours in economy isn’t hell, and I’m sure doing Perth – London in economy would be fine (the 17 hours will fly by if you have good entertainment) .

  2. @ Bruce – I am accustomed to both premium cabins, and Ryanair as I write about everyday on this site. I flew Norwegian Y LGW-BOS last year (~6 hours), and thought it was excellent.

    My issue is that I can’t sleep sitting up for more than about 10 minutes at a time. So for a 12 hour overnight sleep sitting up, it is a series of awful, broken snatches of sleep and I arrive feeling dreadful, dumped on the streets of Paris at 7am.
    I’ve no issues with day-time Y flights, I just struggle with overnights.

  3. @ejg238 – yes BA16 flies SYD-SIN-LHR.

    You can book either, or both legs separately. Qantas flies the same route as QF1 with an almost identical schedule on their A380.

  4. Hi James, thanks for the post, but some added clarification to whether monetary values are provided in AUD or USD would benefit. (For example: “they would probably prefer a one-stop premium economy itinerary on a reliable airline all the way, which would run about $4,000 per person.” US$4,000 for premium economy seems quite steep, but A$4,000 is quite a good deal.)

  5. @ Alvin – all amounts are in AUD$ (i.e. the Google Flights showing $A) but I’ll update the post to clarify. Cheers.

  6. The prices you have shown are hardly representative. Until recently you could pick up an Oman Air itinerary departing Australia with MH codeshare business the whole way for $4200-4200 AUD return.
    Also Vietnam Airlines generally cost the same for $4200-4400, I would rather pay that than $7200 for SQ with woeful catering and dreadfully uncomfortable seats. Smiling Cabin crew and a nice lounge don’t make it worth 3k more.
    China Airlines have great deals for $3700 to AMS with brand new A350 for the whole journey. Hainan recently had a special for $3000 for CDG from MEL

  7. @ Chris – there will always be better and worse deals that come and go. As you have said – some of your specials were available, but are not anymore. I could have picked dates and destinations to manipulate the prices, but in fairness I picked 3 months out, and probably the second most popular European destination from Australia, after LHR. For any comparison article you need to pick a baseline, and stick to it, which I have done.

    I decided not to choose LHR because the APD tax tends to warp cheap prices somewhat.

    If you can get J all the way for under $4k I would definitely go for that!

  8. The Gulf Air option is especially appealing as they are soon getting their new 787-9s with apex suites

  9. @James, first of all – harden up… lol! C’mon, as a fellow Aussie, I am very familiar with, and completely adapted to long haul in economy. We get it done because we love travelling ;).
    Regarding the article, great idea and certainly thinking outside of the box develops well through travel experiences. But I really wish airlines made this much easier to do in one single booking, especially the likes of Singapore, Cathay, Emirates, etc. We are now getting to the point where you can choose your meal in advance and also what movies to “pre-program”, but for some reason the flexibility of having different cabins is simply not there.

  10. On the other way around (from EU), it’s not uncommon to see sub 2k EUR fares on QR/EY. Now that’s what I consider a deal. Also, QR/TK have more and more often sub 2k USD fares from CGK/MNL to various points in Europe. Even a better deal (and an easy hop from OZ/NZ).

  11. James you are too kind. Not every post merits a response. Keep posting on topics that help readers. If people don’t like it they can move on. Don’t want you to burn out. Even though you never said you can’t bear economy for more than 4-5 hours…. even if you did.. there’s nothing wrong in saying so.

  12. Hi James! I’m a relative novice here, but isn’t there also a risk that, if your Australia-Asia leg were delayed or canceled, you might be completely out the cost of the Asia-Europe leg? Really appreciate your contributions!

  13. I think if someone do this 1x a year, it’s ok to take 5hrs in economy.
    But if you do this 3+x per year, maybe you could use other strategy.
    Buy one way from AUS to EUR using miles and then buy tickets rt from Europe.
    If you can use the return of the cash ticket on the date, nice. If not, you pay the change fee. (even in this case, you’re saving money)

  14. Yes hence why should you should build a buffer between flights on separate itineraries (see my previous post on this topic)

  15. @ James…. nice succinct article – glad to see your contributions!

    The steal for Aussies and Kiwis requires a little planning: by using air miles or cheap tickets to position to Europe, that luxurious 4 sector business class trip on a decent airline is highly achievable.

    Eg Dec 2 Syd-HKG (Economy)
    Dec 3 HKG-CPH (Business)

    Dec 8 OSL-DOH-SYD (Business – QR)


    Feb 19 CPH-HKG (Business)
    Feb 20 HKG-SYD (Economy)

    Amazingly the return flight QR in business class will be much cheaper than the return flight between Hong Kong and Copenhagen with CX not including the economy sectors even. Positioning from Europe is always the best deal for Australian pax if you know / want to do two trips.

  16. James – any thoughts on one-ways? As an Aussie resident who took advantage of cheap star alliance TG F from SYD-BKK-CDG points in October, I have run out of miles and need to pay for a one-way flight home. Can the same pricing be applied for one ways?

  17. I worked in Hong Kong for 23 years and used to make many trips to Europe with family in economy on CX. You get used to economy if you have to .

  18. My last 2 trips to Europe from SYD I have flown Scoot Biz to SIN and jumped on to an SQ award flight.

    Re James’s comment about allowing a buffer … when we moved to London last July, our Scoot Biz flight was scheduled to arrive in Singapore at about 7pm so we had planned a hawker’s stall meal and a good sleep in the transit hotel. Scoot email arrives advising a new arrival time of 3am! We were lucky that an SQ employee checked our bags through (you need to go through immigration to collect bags of course, as we didn’t qualify to check them through). We were on SQ premium economy SIN-LHR and should have waited for the check-in counter to open. Business check in is 24 hours.

    Moral of the story is that sometimes the buffer needs to be huge, though we did get a lot of notice and could have changed flights at whatever cost.

    Next time I will def look at Scoot Biz and Norwegian premium from SIN to London, acknowledge it is a premium eco option.

  19. Emirates will let you book this all on one ticket, so you’re covered if a flight is late.

  20. James

    Thanks for the article. Reminds me of the airfares out of Singapore in the 80’s designed to keep the locals from travelling.

    Do you have any advice on how to score two OW J tickets from NSN, WEL or AKL to DPS next March? Ek or SQ are in the $1800 NZ range for a OW. Nothing seems to come at a cheaper rate and the distance is not that great so these are really high prices.


  21. Residents of South Australia (Adelaide) have the unfortunate situation where we are the only major city in Australia that Qantas does not operate international flights from. Qantas expects us to flty to SYD / MEL / BNE / PER and connect out. However, many flyers from S.A., myself included fly to DPS / SIN / HKG direct, do a stopover and then fly onto the USA / Europe on a separate ticket. Normal for us – thanks Qantas.

  22. @ Azamaraal – if you cna ‘handle’ an economy fight to SYD or MEL consider Jetstar ‘Business’ to DPS. It’s more like premium economy than business, but will be much, much cheaper.

  23. James, the situation you describe is also a perfect use for ScootBiz and AirAsia X business class for positioning into Asia – in fact I’m sitting on TZ19 from Melbourne to Singapore as we speak, $460 each way for what is in effect a premium economy day flight.

    Depending on routings and destinations, the cheapest Asian ports are usually KUL, MNL, BKK, SGN and ICN.

  24. Also re @Azamaraal, the new Malindo MEL-DPS flight will be a far better option than JQ in every conceivable way.

  25. On a slightly different scale, we did a similar thing last year. BNE to HKG using Alaskan Airlines points to fly CX in J. From there we redemed QF points and flew EK first to Rome and saved a bucketload in taxes/points by routing out of HKG. The difference in taxes/fees was much more then the cost of the Alaskan Miles to fly CX in J.

  26. Are there travel agents in Australia who will
    a) look out for cheap business class fares from Asia to Europe &
    b) book it for you?
    We are in our seventies & keen to do this next year. My husband will be closer to eighty than seventy then & feels very cramped on long flights.
    We don’t mind the Australia to Asia section in economy ( I usually book him an exit row seat as he’s tall),
    Think we’d prefer 5 star airlines though.
    It looks quite a complicated business to do it yourself.
    PS very good of you to provide a service like this!

  27. Oman Air has mixed class tickets from Australia to Europe for about $3K or so – amazing value. Apparently you fly economy between Australia and KL with MH then Oman Air biz from there to UK/Europe. That’s a steal!

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