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Video SRQ: Avoiding High British Airways Surcharges and Finding Award Availability

by on May 19, 2013 · 18 comments

in Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, British Airways, ExpertFlyer, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

TPG Reader Eric is having trouble using Avios for a flight from New York to London:

“How is it possible that buying an award ticket from NY to London this summer using Avios in coach costs more than purchasing the ticket outirght in cash? Those surcharges are ridiculous. Also, is there any Anytime option for air using Avios? Their award availability is awfully limited.”

The cheapest way to use Avios for a flight to London is to redeem on Aer Lingus or Air Berlin. Neither of these airlines charge those crazy $600 or $700 fuel surcharges, however BritishAirways.com may not show these options especially if there are multiple legs involved in your trip.

Search for Aer Lingus awards seats in business and economy using ExpertFlyer.com

Search for Aer Lingus awards seats in business and economy using ExpertFlyer.com

For help finding award seats on Aer Lingus use ExpertFlyer.com, which will let you search for award availability in both business and economy. If there is nothing available at the time of your search you can set an alert and the second the award seat is released you’ll receive an email letting you know so you can immediately call to secure your seat. Read these post for instructions on how to search for availability and set flight alerts on Expert Flyer.

As for Air Berlin availability, it should show on BA.com but I actually prefer searching on American’s AA.com for Air Berlin awards. Any Mile SAAver availability that you see on AA.com, especially on partner airlines, should be available on BA.com.

Forget London! Use less Avios and pay fewer fees and taxes to get to Dublin instead.

Forget British Airways! Use less Avios and pay fewer fees and taxes flying Aer Lingus instead.

Your second question was about British Airways having terrible availability. They actually have the same exact availability as AA.com, but a lot of times British Airways’ website award search engine is terrible at finding flights so it may make sense to call up and request availability instead of searching online, especially if you know that availability is out there but the site isn’t letting you book it. In that case, you should ask them to waive the phone booking fee  as well – it never hurts to ask!

Good luck, I hope this helps you to find some availability where you can avoid those high taxes and fees! Please comment below if you have any other suggestions for Eric.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • caveman

    How is the business class product of both these airlines. Do they have fully flat seats? Any flights from west coast?

  • Chirp chirp

    I’m a newbie and I’m considering the BA credit card for the bonus pts., but I’m not sure if it’s worth it? I live in Boston, so I can fly to Dublin “cheaply” using pts and avoiding large fuel surcharges. However, can I easily get to say, Munich, Paris, or Budapest (as examples) via Dublin on Aer Lingus still using Avios (assuming I have enough in my acct?) or would I end up having to transfer through London anyway? I’m brand new to points collecting, so I’m not sure if this would work. Basically, I’m wondering if the BA Chase CC would make sense for me?

  • Chirp chirp

    Also, I’m a teacher, so much. Of travel wild be summer/high season, so I’m not sure if availability is usually good?

  • steven22

    I have called BA before based on AA availability and they said they do not have the same inventory.

  • R B

    BA website is also helpful to book tickets on Cathay. I have had some luck booking tickets on Cathay Pacific (business class) between JFK-HKG-DSP a few months ago.

  • sfomsp

    Unfortunately offering up options that require stops in Dublin or Berlin on the way to London isn’t what most people had in mind when getting a BA credit card. It’s a terrible program for their most frequent flights – those Heathrow – NY runs.

  • sfomsp

    Air Berlin is lie-flat. Aer Lingus is angled. Aer Lingus did fly to SFO, but stopped. It’s dithering on whether to start again

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/business/aer-lingus-mulling-san-francisco-route-593244.html

  • Dee

    Search TPG for “Avios” or click the “Avios” hot link to the right. Brian wrote a whole series on getting the most out of your Avios. That should help you decide if it is worth it for you.

  • Raffles

    Air Berlin is NOT flat, it is angled (although they have just started rolling out lie flat). See my review of airberlin JFK-Berlin here – http://www.headforpoints.com/2013/03/11/review-new-york-jfk-to-berlin-tegel-on-airberlin-in-business-class/ Tax is $2 one-way.
    Aer Lingus availability is NOT on ExpertFlyer, at least not the availability BA has. This is FAR superior to what Qantas etc can access, especially in Business. The ONLY way to check Aer Lingus availability using Avios is to call BA.

  • http://www.weflyfree.com/ Justin

    “and the second the award seat is released you’ll receive an email”

    It’s within hours–minutes if you’re lucky, but not instantaneous.

  • Matt Campbell

    I find Avios miles very difficult to use for partner airlines. I just called last week to check availability on AA this summer. It took me around 15 minutes on hold to get through to BA’s customer support, and the agent then told me there was no availability at all from July 1-6. I then asked just for my major leg, SEA to ORD. One flight on July 1, that’s it. United has tons of award flights, even if you have to use more miles, and I can search them all online in about two seconds. I transferred a lot of Amex points into Avios and so far I’ve been unable to use them.

  • dude26

    It’s also possible to search aer lingus availibility via Qantas website as they are partners…

  • TracyC

    I just experienced the same thing not 5 minutes ago. I called BA to redeem points for a 1 way on AA. He told me they had no availability for 7/4, 7/5 or 7/6. I told him I thought the award seats were all pooled together for the alliance airlines to use as well. He told me no that AA releases certain seats for alliance airlines. What gives? Should I try and call back and see if I have luck with another agent?

  • thepointsguy

    Are you 100% it is saaver (non anytime) award space? BA can only see saaver

  • DM

    Here an example. Just tried to book JFK > LHR and via AAdvantage taxes were $168. Using my Avios on BA the taxes we’re $684, ironic as they both used a mix of BA and AA flights.

    I’ve often use AAdvantage points for cheap travel but I’ve had thousands of BA Avios for years that I collected when I lived in the UK that I cannot get rid of. I’ve even tried letting family members access them but no one has succeeded as black out days and taxes are prohibitive.

    Basically Avios are garbage, especially if you live in the US. Switch your plan to AAdvantage and if you must fly BA collect the points on your AAdvantage card. As for all those Avios points, keep them for a bit and try to use them, or donate them to charity.

  • thepointsguy

    Use avios for AA short haul flights within the US or on partners that have no fees like air Berlin and aer lingus. Many ways to use them smartly

  • Mike

    Hi,
    Sorry to bother you.
    Can you please help me.
    I need to book a flight from BWI/IAD/JFK/LGA/EWR to London roundtrip.
    I have over 300k amex points, what are my best options, as far as not having to pay enormous taxes and fees yet still getting good value for my miles. What would you do?
    Thanks so much!

  • jerrymandel

    No, you don’t have to connect in LHR even though the BA website always shows that way only.

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