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My Experience Booking Aer Lingus Business Class With British Airways Avios

by on May 25, 2013 · 45 comments

in Aer Lingus, British Airways

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A group of friends and I are going to Dublin for a friend’s birthday this summer and we were trying to decide how to get there. We wanted to leave the return open-ended since we’ll be making a whole trip of it (potentially to Croatia) and aren’t sure yet where we’ll be returning from, but we do know that we need to get from NYC to Dublin.

Aer Lingus Plane

Tickets this summer are already running pretty expensive, so we were thinking of using miles. Delta, American, United and Aer Lingus all fly NYC-Dublin non-stop, and even though I don’t have any Aer Lingus miles, they are partners with British Airways and their awards have very low fees, which is one of my favorite tricks for avoiding huge fuel surcharges on award flights to Europe using Avios.

The next step was actually making sure there were award seats available on our dates. A quick search of ExpertFlyer revealed that there were 9 business class award seats available on the flight we wanted (!) from JFK to Dublin. ExpertFlyer doesn’t always match up exactly to partner inventory, but I started to alert the troops that we’d each need 40,000 Avios (since Avios is a distance-based mileage program) for a one-way business class ticket into each of our accounts to book the flights.

Amex
I had the Avios, but my friends did not. The easiest top-up I recommended is American Express Membership Rewards, which is a transfer partner of British Airways and is currently offering a 35% transfer bonus to Avios until June 7. This means that the 40,000 Avios needed for the award would only require 30,000 Membership Rewards points! That’s what most programs require for one-way economy class awards and less than the bonus I got from my recent round of credit card applications when I got the Mercedes-Benz Platinum Amex with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus. Amex points transfer instantly so you can process the transfer while on the phone with the British Airways representative. The Amex Business Gold also offers 50,000 points after $5,000 spent within 3 months with the $175 annual fee waived the first year.

Chase
My one friend didn’t have any Amex points (ridiculous, I know), but he did recently get the Ink Bold, so that 50,000 point sign-up bonus alone was more than enough to cover the flight. Ultimate Rewards points transfer in instantly, so he was good to go (even though I cringed thinking that transferring Amex at 35% is such a better deal, sometimes you need to let people learn the hard way. The Ink Plus also has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 within 3 months with the $95 annual fee waived the first year. The Sapphire Preferred has a 40,000 point sign-up bonus after $3,000 spent within three months and is the other Ultimate Rewards cards that allows points to be transferred to United or British Airways. Chase also issues the British Airways Visa that offers 50,000 Avios after just $1,000 spent within three months with a $95 annual fee.

Starwood
Starwood points also transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 5,000 Avios bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. So to get the needed 40,000 Avios, you’d only have to transfer 35,000 Starpoints (though transferred 40,000 would yield 50,000 Avios so you’d have some leftover for future flights). However, transfers can take well over a week, so this method is not recommended for last minute bookers, because British Airways will not let you put an Aer Lingus award on hold. To boost your SPG account, you can get the Starwood Amex and Business Starwood Amex each have 25,000 points bonuses after $5,000 spent within the first 6 months with the $65 annual fee waived the first year.

Getting It Booked
I had to call up British Airways’ customer service number at 1-800-247-9297 (I didn’t have to sit on hold for long either) and ask a representative to search for the flights for me. British Airways phone agents are always a bit brusque and this one was no exception. Still, she was efficient and found the flights in a jiffy, so I can’t complain, but she informed me that there were only two available seats on the flight we wanted. However, 4 hours earlier there was another JFK-DUB flight and there were two business class seats on that. As much as I wanted to all fly together, it really isn’t a big deal to split into two, so we went ahead and got them booked.

**United Angle
Aer Lingus is a partner of United, but recently United.com stopped showing award availability. I called United to see if they had the same availability as British Airways or if it matched up with ExpertFlyer and it took the agent a while to figure it out, but United had much more availability and I was able to book up to 9 seats on a given flight. United charged 50,000 miles and since I value United miles more than British Airways Avios, I decided to stick with Avios for my reservation- even though we had to split up. Though note that booking an entire family or group together may be easier using United miles than Avios. Always good to know your options!

Waiving the Phone Fee
Unsurprisingly, the agent I got told me I’d have to pay a $25 phone booking fee, but I politely explained that I had tried booking the award online but the website would not allow me to search for it so I asked her to waive the fee and she did. If I change or cancel my ticket, I have up to 24 hours ahead of time to do so and will pay a $40 fee to do it online or a $65 fee to do so over the phone.

All told, my ticket came to 40,000 Avios (30,000 MR points!) and $30.57 in taxes and fees.

BA Aer Lingus miles

That same ticket would have cost me $2,150, giving me a very decent value of 5.3 cents per Avios.

Aer Lingus 2150

Now, I’m not chomping at the bit to fly Aer Lingus’s business class since it’s not an amazing product, but using just 30,000 Amex points and paying $30 was just too good a deal to pass up to get across the Atlantic, and I like not having to connect anywhere…and all my friends and I are going to be able to get where we need to go for a great time. And plus, I’m Irish so I gotta see what the Irish national carrier is all about!

Aer Lingus's business class isn't top-notch but it'll do for a quick flight.

Aer Lingus’s business class isn’t top-notch but it’ll do for a quick flight.

If you’re thinking of using Avios to get to Europe this summer but are trying to avoid paying huge fees by transiting through London, you can also consider flying BA’s Oneworld partner, Air Berlin, which has hubs in Berlin and Dusseldorf and doesn’t charge huge fees, or flying Iberia via Spain instead since taxes and fees on those routes are always much lower.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Chirpchirp

    Hi Brian, I’m a complete newbie and I have a quick question. I live in Boston and I know I can get to DUB easily on Aer Lingus using Avios, which great. However, can I still easily use Avios if I’m actually headed somewhere else (using DUB just as an entry point into Europe)? I’m a teacher so I usually do most travel in the summertime and I don’t know how easy it will be to get connecting flights to say Berlin or Budapest or Paris, etc using Avios (especially hoping for first/business class). Thanks for any info. :)

  • Acker

    Didn’t you give up 15k Avios by flying out of JFK and not BOS?

  • thepointsguy

    First off- using Avios from Boston is AWESOME because it is only 25,000 Avios ROUNDTRIP for coach Boston-Dub or 50,000 for business class. Once in Dublin you can use Avios to book oneworld flights- for example connecting onto London on British Airways, Germany on Air Berlin, Finland on Finnair, etc. Using Avios intra-Europe can be a good use because fees are low and short/midhaul awards require less miles than most programs. You just need to pay for each leg- AVios prices trips leg by leg so try to fly the most direct routing possible to use less Avios. Hope that helps!

  • mjm122696

    Thank you for spelling out the details. Our closest international airport is DFW, but where we tend to need to end up is Africa. Do you have any carrier, or other recommendations on flying out Dublin with this as your final? Say- Zimbabwe for example? Thank you.

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  • Jamie

    Do you mean that united.com stopped showing business class availability on Aer lingus? I see plenty of Aer lingus economy awards when I search united.com.

  • rob

    You would’ve saved over 10K Avios if you instead connected through Boston for 4500 Avios

    NYC –> BOS –> DUB = 29,500 Avios and of course a free stopover in Boston if you’d like

  • thepointsguy

    For first class JFK/lga-bos you’re looking at 13,500 +25,000 = a measly savings especially considering time lost

  • SFOPhD

    Typo in: “Starwood points also transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 5,000 Avios bonus for every starpoints transferred.” I’m sure you meant “every 20,000 starpoints transferred.”

  • Misterstuf

    My wife and I are going to Edinburgh in August and decided to use Avios to fly from Boston to Dublin in Business and then use Avios to get from Dublin to Edinburgh (and eventually London for a couple of days) in coach. My experience with BA’s phone agents was actually quite good (for the most part).

    When I initially booked it I called up because of the inability to book Aer Lingus on ba.com, and the agent was extremely nice and after checking to find if there was any availability on a few different dates (and even into a few different cities for comparison), we found dates that worked and he booked the entire itinerary for us with no fee. Unfortunately, a week later when my wife noticed how late we would be arriving in Edinburgh (due to the need to connect through London for about 5 hours), and she asked me if we could change to a direct flight on Aer Lingus to save most of a day. I didn’t find any award availability on those flights when I looked on Qantas’s award search.

    I called up BA and they confirmed they didn’t see availability on that flight so I asked if I could cancel just the DUB-EDI leg(s) and keep the rest (It was about $85 per person to just buy the flights outright). The phone agent stated that what I was asking for was against the Terms and Conditions since the whole trip was on one itinerary instead of 3 separate itineraries.He told me I would have to cancel the entire itinerary and rebook each of the parts I wanted to keep but there was nothing available on our dates so we’d have to wait for the award space to be reloaded and there was no guarantee that it would ever be available to us again.

    I asked to speak with a supervisor and proceeded to explain to her that I had never intended to book it all as one itinerary and that I wanted to make sure that I could still have the first flight and the last flight but cancel the middle section. She ensured me that she saw availability on all segments and that she had to transfer me to an agent to take care of this for me.

    The agent I got was perhaps the best BA phone agent I’ve ever dealt with. He was friendly, helpful, and knew what he was doing. Without my prompting he suggested that he should reserve the space on all legs before even trying to cancel my other itinerary to ensure that we would get it. He then asked if he could put me on hold to take care of that, and he profusely apologized for the “awful” guitar music that would be playing while I was on hold :-). When he came back and everything was done, he even managed to waive the phone fee AND gave me the internet cancellation fee instead of the phone cancellation fee. In the end, after all was said and done, even with the cancellation fees, he managed to get me some money back from my original booking.

  • Chirpchirp

    Wow! Thanks to Brian (TPG) for sharing all this information!! I also loved hearing that experience Misterstuf. You were both very helpful. You definitely lucked out with that phone agent!

  • thepointsguy

    correct- let me rephrase

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- it does not show business class availability for some reason

  • thepointsguy

    BOS-DUB is 25k and JFK-DUB 40k. One way coach JFK-BOS is 4,500 and first 13,500 plus you lose a bunch of hours. I’d rather spend the 40k and not worry about the hassles of connecting.

  • thepointsguy

    So how to use points from Dublin to Africa? You probably won’t want to fly British Airways because fees are high. Star Alliance is probably your best bet- via ANA/Aeroplan or if you have Chase then to United

  • thepointsguy

    I flew Dublin-Edinburgh on Ryanair- sometimes buying cheap flights is better than using Avios. Though beware RyanAir WILL get you with fees http://thepointsguy.com/2013/01/ryanair-is-the-worst-airline-in-the-world-2/

  • Misterstuf

    I decided that Aer Lingus was probably the better option of the two (having heard horror stories – including yours). I think that I’ll read through some of your old posts for inspiration on things to do in Dublin for 2 days (and of course any advice you have is greatly appreciated).

  • Jamie

    Thanks for the heads up! I think you just made our Christmas trip. It was so deceiving that the coach availability showed up that I assumed it was correct that there was no business class. This has finally convinced me that expertflyer is worth the $5/month.

  • Jeremy

    Brian, good post. If Expertflyer shows 9 for the EI award seats in J, does that generally mean there will be one and ideally two seats available to book with Avios?

  • Allison Braddock

    Hey Brian, if you had 54k Amex points and 80k BA points 70k spg points 100k AA and 100k US Air points and needed to get 2 people to London in June/July how would you do it? Not sure if I can justify flying my gf on business class so economy might be an option and we will have to deal with it. Maybe we should stop in Ireland for a night to meet up w you guys!

  • thepointsguy

    Do it- my friends and I are a riot- especially when in Dublin with our crazy Irish friends.

    If you’re going to use Avios and fly coach you gotta do Aer Lingus/Air Berline/ Ineria to avoid the huge fees. Where are you based?

  • Allison Braddock

    Im out of STL. Let me know when you guys will be there and I will see if we can swing it with a layover or stoping in both places diring the trip!!

  • Allison Braddock

    Im out of STL. Let me know when you guys will be there and I will see if we can swing it with a layover or stoping in both places diring the trip!!

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  • Eugene

    Hi Brian,

    I am based in BOS and thank you for posting this great deal on using BA Avois with Aer Lingus to fly BOS-DUB. I do have some more questions:

    1) If I wanna continue on from DUB to London, can I redeem BA Avois on EI flight? I know I can fly BA but figure it’s safer just in case BOS>DUB gets delayed.

    2a) I know transfer passengers need to clear immigration at DUB. I am not a US citizen but my passport does NOT require a transit visa according to the official info (http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Transit). So as long as I have a UK visa, I should be all set transiting at DUB , right?

    2b) Ireland and UK have the Common Travel Area thing, so do I need to clear UK immigration again after arriving in London from DUB?

    Thank you!

  • Peter McGurk

    Hey Eugene. To answer your questions:

    1. Yes, you can redeem Avios on any EI flight. I recommend you book this as a through ticket – then you are protected in case of any delay. It costs the same Avios as 2 separate bookings.

    2a. You will need an appropriate visa for Ireland, I think – because of 2b…

    2b. You will not clear immigration at London. All flights from Ireland to the UK are treated as domestic for immigration purposes. Therefore you will I think need an entry visa for Ireland because you will clear immigration there – and there only.

    If you can post your nationality we can clear it up for you…

  • Eugene

    I hold a Chinese passport so will need visa to enter UK as well as Ireland. But If I transit thru Dublin en route to London, I do not need a transit visa. So I am guessing I only need a UK visa if I fly BOS-DUB-LHR …

  • Peter McGurk

    Hi Eugene. It seems a bit complicated! I did some digging tonight – if you were flying *Direct* to the UK on a UK visa, then you wouldn’t need a visa for a tourist visit to Ireland… and you’re right, you don’t need a transit visa… but because of the Common Travel Area, I am not sure if you are counted as being in “transit” at DUB. I’ll do some more digging…

  • Eugene

    Yes, DUB apparently does NOT have a transit facility, even in the newly constructed T2 where EI resides. That’s what makes me scratching my head right now … Thanks for looking into this!

  • Peter McGurk
  • Eugene

    Thank you for looking into this, Peter! I appreciate your patience and assistance. I will email the authorities and let you know once I hear back from them.

  • Katrina Johnson

    Just booked a trip from DUB to BOS on EI 137 on 22JUN14. The call rep was friendly and waived the fee before I asked. Piece of cake. Best 50k on 2 business seats I ever spent. Thanks, Brian.

  • Himan

    Eugene,

    I flew the same route last year BOS-DUB and then transited to Amsterdam on another

    Aer Lingus flight. I am an Indian passport holder, and had a schengen visa and didn’t need a transit visa for the brief stay in Ireland.

    It was a pain for me to figure it out too, but someone in the Aer Lingus office helped me with this.

    Hope this helps!

  • kerry

    Do I read this right?…50,000 BA Avios for RT BOS DUB on Aer Lingus? Looks like same RT on BA would be 100,000 Avios, any clarification would be a big help
    thanks

  • thepointsguy

    It wouldn’t be 100k avios on BA, but probably 60k plus huge taxes and fees

    Bos-dub is only 25k roundtrip in coach and 50k roundtrip in business when flying aer lingus- with very low fees

  • kerry

    Thanks for the speedy reply, for that cost I can skip the full flat seats!

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  • TimmyG

    Aer Lingus starts a new route from SFO to DUB in April. BA told me they have not released any award seats yet on that route. They suggested I call AL. Their nice customer service rep told me that she was unable to find out when award tickets would become available on the new route, but suggested I call AL every few weeks to check. Is there a better way to figure out when seats become available? Also how many points from sfo-dub in bus and economy rt?

  • Paul

    Thanks to your article I booked a trip to Ireland using Avios! Now I’m wondering is there a way to view your reservation on the Aer Lingus site that you booked using Avios? I know how to do it with American Airlines, but couldn’t get it to work on the Aer Lingus site. I want to make sure that my flight got ticketed and would like to choose seats.

  • thepointsguy

    Try calling British Airways and getting your Aer Lingus confirmation number from them and that should enable you to log in to see your reservation.

  • queenb588

    I have not had success booking Aer LIngus with this strategy. I need 4 business class tickets for our family. Qantas and Expertflyer.com show all kinds of Chicago-Dublin availability, but the BA phone representatives only show 2 business and 2 economy tix at most and often times no availability for the dates I see. Am I misreading the online sources for availability?

  • tscateh

    Just booked BOS-DUB on EI136 for 10Jun2014. Easiest call I’ve ever made. And the rep was really nice and helpful! Now just need to figure out dates for returning.

  • jerrymandel

    BOS-DUB costs less Avios than JFK-DUB. On April 21, Aer Lingus will start to fly nonstop Toronto (YYZ)-DUB. But check to compare about Canadian departure taxes and compare availability.

  • Erin Mann

    We are headed to Europe (France and Italy) for our honey moon in July. I am having trouble booking online using the avios we have. We have a huge amount of avios about 500,000 and I would like to use them to get from San Francisco to Paris then Italy and back again. Any tips?

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