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As yesterday marked the start of Aer Lingus’s non-stop flight from San Francisco to Dublin, the airline’s social media team was in a full-on frenzy promoting the new route (#DUBSFO).
The airline is flying its new SFO-DUB route aboard its flagship A330-200’s, all featuring WiFi connectivity throughout the flight, as well as power outlets at every seat in business class and between every two seats in economy, which is a nice update. It’s great to see more and more airlines adding in transatlantic WiFi, making it easier to stay up-to-date on work even while over the ocean.
The airline will operate five flights per week in each direction. Flight EI146 departs SFO at 5:20pm and arrives in Dublin at 11:35am, while flight EI145 departs Dublin at 12:20pm and arrives in San Francisco at 3:20pm. Flight time is 10:15 hours on the outbound and 11:00 hours on the return.
My friend who lives in San Francisco recently traveled to Dublin to meet me for my birthday and at the time he flew United from SFO to Frankfurt, then on to Dublin. Given the new direct route, we were discussing options how to get there using the various miles and points he’s accrued. Last year, I flew Aer Lingus Business Class from JFK to Dublin and at the time, I booked it using 40,000 British Airways Avios and only $30 in taxes in one direction, and saved tons of cash by not having to pay BA’s fuel surcharges.
Curious about the new SFO-DUB route, I did a search on ExpertFlyer for award availability on Aer Lingus through September. However, I could only find flights available in economy so far – I suspect more availability will open up as time goes on, I’d set some award alerts for your prospective dates.
Using British Airways Avios
That said, Michael, my friend in San Francisco, has a bunch of Avios and Ultimate Rewards points that he can transfer to British Airways, so I gave British Airways a call to see what the options available were flying on Aer Lingus (none showed up on the BA website). After a long hold (which has seemed to be their standard as long as I can remember), I was able to get in touch with someone at BA who told me that the the cost of a one-way award in economy would be be 25,000 Avios and $55.87 for economy or 50,000 Avios and $80.87 for business class. BA.com won’t display Aer Lingus award flights, so you’re better off searching ExpertFlyer or united.com to find seats and then ring up BA. British Airways will try to charge you a $25 phone booking fee, but remind the agent that the website doesn’t show Aer Lingus award availability and if they’d be willing to waive the fee, and that tends to do the trick.
I’d say this is one of the best use of Avios to get from the west coast to Europe since you avoid paying BA’s huge fuel surcharges and use a relatively low amount of miles compared to Delta and United these days. Not only that, but British Airways is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards if you have a premium card like the Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold; as well as Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus; and Starwood Preferred Guest – so you have options. I covered my experience booking JFK-DUB on Aer Lingus with Avios last year.
United is also one of Aer Lingus’s airline partners, though Aer Lingus isn’t in Star Alliance. I checked on United.com – which is displaying Aer Lingus award space again – and though I still couldn’t find much SFO-DUB space, I priced out awards from Aer Lingus’s other North American destinations and award tickets were coming to 30,000 miles + $5 each way in economy or 70,000 miles + $5 each way in business (well, once those business awards start opening up).
United is also an instant 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so that’s an option – though personally I’d rather use 25,000 Avios than 30,000 United miles – and most certainly 50,000 Avios instead of 70,000 United miles to book the same ticket!
It’s obviously good to have options, but in terms of going head to head, using Avios seems like the clear winner here. If you were to purchase the ticket direct from the airline, the roundtrip costs begin at $706 for economy and $2,170 for business class – so you’re getting a decent value.
There are plenty of ways to book your trip, and once Michael figures out if/when he’ll go back, hopefully he’ll take advantage of one of the options! I personally love Ireland and go back every year or so. Not only is it a great, quick trip from the east coast and an easy flight, but it makes for a great gateway to the rest of Europe and is a smart way to put your Avios to use while avoiding British Airways’ huge fuel surcharges.
Oh, and if you’re feeling lucky, the SFO Airport’s Facebook page is running a contest to give away a trip for two on Aer Lingus to celebrate the new route!
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