Intra-European flights are really nice because as everything in Europe is close, you can literally be somewhere in under two hours by plane. This makes it very convenient to fly. However what isn’t so convenient is the way you buy the actual airplane ticket since it can sometimes be a nightmare. All major European cities have hundreds of flights into/out of them and most likely several flights per day to hub cities like London, Frankfurt, Paris, etc.
What is sometimes (most of the time) frustrating (at least for me), is how I am going to pay for my flight – money or miles? I constantly have a hard time deciding if I should spend ~$300 USD for a flight or if I should use ~15k miles (one-way). The thing is that mileage redemption purely in Europe is not valuable, most airlines start at 15k miles and some (like Lufthansa) even charge fuel surcharges and taxes/fees for short flights which make redeeming miles for short flights suck. British Airways is nice in that they have a distance-based award chart but that is only nice for flights to the UK (which will be changing soon anyway).
People flying into Europe from other continents have it nice because the European segments in the journey are almost always included for free, so you can stop in a few cities and fly back – all for the price of the transcontinental flights.
Search for: Kraków – Frankfurt – Kraków, this route usually costs ~$1000 PLN which is around ~$300 USD in Economy class. I won’t even go into Business class prices because it is ridiculous – more than $700 USD.
The same route costs 30k Miles&More miles + ~$150 USD. Are the 30k miles really worth $150? Nope. Much more than that. Of course you could book through other airlines (like United) and avoid the fuel surcharges, but I still wouldn’t spend 30k for a intra-european award as I can use those miles for a one-way Economy flight to America.
Intra-European Business class
is just regular Economy class in front of the plane with a blocked middle seat. DO NOT PAY FOR INTRA-EUROPEAN BUSINESS CLASS. EVER. However if you plan on using miles, it really comes down to your personal preference and the amount of miles you want to use. Generally I would say the following: if you are an elite member, it is most definitely not worth even using miles for intra-european business class, because you already get all of the ground benefits through your elite status like Priority Check-in, more baggage, lounge access, etc. Once you get on the plane, you are more or less in Economy class… without someone sitting next to you and *slightly* better food service, if that.
Now for someone who doesn’t fly frequently, has a lot of miles, and isn’t an elite, it may be worth it. Say you have a ton of miles to spend and you would be more than happy to pay twice what is required for a blocked middle seat and better food… but wait! If you are not an elite, you also get all of the elite ground services like more baggage, lounge access, etc. So if you want to travel more efficiently (I wouldn’t say comfortably because it is an Economy seat), and don’t have elite status, go for it!
It is your decision
If you value your miles highly and plan on using them for what they are meant for (in my opinion: long-haul First Class), you should just pay for the short flight because think of it this way: $300 USD for a two hour flight or 30k miles? Multiply that by two: $600 USD or 60k miles? 60k miles will get you a one-way Business class ticket to Europe (if not almost First Class). So are those 60k miles now worth $600 USD or much more? Much more.
Now of course, if using a programme in which you can redeem miles based on the distance, I would say it is much better to use miles if it is a short flight.
It really does come down to your personal preference and whether or not you want to use miles or money. I constantly have this battle in my head and that is why booking pure intra-european flights is SO difficult.