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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – British Airways Visa Signature Card
This nifty little piece of advice comes courtesy of my friend Lucky at One Mile at a Time.
While the British Airways Visa Signature Card 100,000 Avios points credit card offer is one of the best deals out there (currently unavailable), it’s not perfect for those that want to go to Europe because BA tacks on hefty fuel surcharges and taxes which often run over $600, even in economy. Well, there’s a handy way to get around those: by using Avios to book a ticket on Aer Lingus instead.
Now, I usually talk about using Avios on BA’s other oneworld partners, but let’s not forget that Aer Lingus is another BA partner, even though it’s not in any of the alliances and their Gold Circle loyalty program works a little differently than most and isn’t based on distances flown.
That doesn’t really matter for this scenario, since we’ll be using Avios anyway. So to take an example, priced out a roundtrip ticket from Boston to London Heathrow from May 9-May 15. Using BA’s booking system, the total came to 40,000 Avios and $654 in taxes and fees. Not a very good redemption, and the fees alone are almost as much as just buying a ticket.
If your goal is just to get to Europe, though, Dublin might be just as fine a launching point for you as London—it’s even closer to the US, cutting your flight time by an hour, and if you fly from Boston, it just squeaks in under the 3,000-mile mark, meaning you can get there and back roundtrip for just 25,000 Avios in Economy and 50,000 in business! (New York and Chicago to Dublin are both 40,000 Avios roundtrip though). Plus, the major discount airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir have tons of flights from DUB. And if you’re just looking for a general European getaway, I love Dublin and had a great time there with my family back in February.
Meanwhile, as you can see from just a fake booking I did on Aer Lingus’s site, the taxes for a roundtrip ticket to Dublin in May (which is still expensive in and of itself), were just $106. Much better. So for an award ticket using Avios, you could potentially get from North America to Europe for 25,000 Avios and just over $100 in taxes and fuel surcharges. What a deal!
So now let’s try to find availability on Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin using Avios on BA’s search engine. Bad idea! BA’s search engine is notoriously wonky, and makes it difficult to search airline partners. Instead, you can use ExpertFlyer, United.com or Qantas.com.
As I’ve written about before ExpertFlyer is a great tool for searching award availability, and sure enough one Aer Lingus non-stop flight #138 popped up with 9 T Economy Award Fare seats available on May 9, and for the return, there were also 9 T class tickets available on Aer Lingus flight 137.
If you are not registered on ExpertFlyer, don’t worry, you can also use Qantas’s search engine. Though Qantas is a member of oneworld and Aer Lingus is not, the airlines are still partners, and Qantas’s search engine should still show award availability on Aer Lingus, plus it’s the best airline search engine in oneworld, so it’s a great tool to use regardless.
You do have to sign up for a Qantas Frequent Flyer account, but that just takes a minute, and then you can search award availability by clicking on the “Award Booking” tab on the left side of the screen.
Sure enough, those very same flights are available—though Qantas says I’d need 56,000 of their points to do it. Forget that, instead, call up British Airways (yes, I know it’s a pain), and ask them to book the exact flights and fares for you on Aer Lingus. They will try to charge you a fee for doing it over the phone, but explain their booking engine wasn’t working, and they will sometimes waive the fee.
Even with just the 50,000-Avios bonus you get for using your new British Airways Visa Signature Card for the first time, you’d have enough for 2 roundtrip coach tickets on Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin, though you’d need 80,000 from another city within the 3,000-4,000-mile radius.
And if you didn’t get the card this time, don’t worry, there are still other ways for you to take advantage of this route. If you have American Express Membership Rewards, remember there’s a 50% bonus transfer promo, so those 25,000 Avios would only be costing you 16,667 Amex points. With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.
With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.