Using Points and Miles to Travel to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day
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Green beer, boisterous parades, the luck of the Irish…is there any more cheerful holiday than St. Patrick’s Day? While many of the biggest festivities actually take place on the US side of the pond, if you’re looking for a gentler, more authentic St. Paddy’s Day in Ireland itself, you can use your points and miles to make it happen. But do it soon, since the holiday is fast approaching and is on a Saturday this year, meaning plenty of revelers will likely be looking to get in on the action.
Here are some ideas on how to get from the US to Ireland over the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day (March 16 through 19 or 20). We’re talking mainly about Dublin, though you should try to venture farther afield to see some of the country’s other treasures like the recently opened Waterford Greenway. We’re also mainly looking at options directly to Ireland rather than transiting a third country or hub like Frankfurt on Lufthansa or Madrid on Iberia (though we might mention one or two of those, too).
One last caveat before we dive in: Even if you don’t have enough points or miles, or don’t want to use your miles for this particular trip, you might still be able to find some cheap last-minute airfare deals, which have popped up in past years. So don’t lose hope just yet. You might still be able to find a four-leaf clover for St. Patrick’s Day.
We’re giving Ireland’s flag carrier its own subsection because, though it is now owned by the same parent company as British Airways and Iberia, it’s not formally part of Oneworld. It also probably represents the best opportunities to use points or miles to fly between the US and Ireland, including in its highly rated international business class.
Over this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Aer Lingus is flying from its hub in Dublin (DUB) to:
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Hartford (BDL)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- Newark (EWR)
- New York (JFK)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Toronto (YYZ)
- Washington DC (IAD)
It also flies from Shannon (SNN) to Boston and New York JFK.
Check our guide to booking Aer Lingus awards using points and miles. If you’re starting from scratch, note that Aer Lingus’s AerClub mileage program was recently added as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so you can always transfer points from there. AerClub has a distance-based award chart and off-peak award levels available until March 22 that include some phenomenal values.
For instance, most of those East Coast cities cost just 13,000 Avios each way to/from Dublin or Shannon in economy and 50,000 Avios in business class, while the West Coast cities plus Miami and Orlando cost 16,250 each way in economy and 62,500 in business class.
To book this way, you’ll have to create an AerClub account here, and you can then link it with your existing Avios accounts. Don’t get too excited just yet. Award availability on dates to either side of the weekend is quite low as of now, though there are some flights available on March 13 and 14 for the outbound, and on March 20 and 21 for the return. Here’s a sample round-trip between New York JFK and Dublin for just 26,000 Avios and $283 in taxes and fees.
You could also redeem British Airways and Iberia Avios for Aer Lingus flights. They are both transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Like with using Aer Lingus Avios, British Airways’ award chart now has off-peak dates on Aer Lingus that include most of March, and that have the same attractive sweet spots with reduced-price awards.
You cannot search Aer Lingus awards on the BA website just yet, but if you find awards using Aer Lingus’s own site or United’s site, you can then call the British Airways Executive Club desk to book.
Speaking of United, the airline actually still partners with Aer Lingus, and you can use United MileagePlus miles (which transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards and, at a less-favorable 2:1 ratio, from Starwood Preferred Guest). United will charge you 30,000 miles each way in economy from North America to Ireland, and 70,000 in business class. Here’s a sample round-trip economy award from New York to Dublin on Aer Lingus and Air Canada for 60,000 miles and about $114 in taxes and fees (most of that is a $75 close-in booking fee that United reduces or waives for elites).
Oddly enough, this same Aer Lingus award did not come up when searching Aer Lingus, and the British Airways agent I called up could not see it either, so I’m not sure what the story is with what award inventory the airline releases to which partners.
Though you could fly via London Heathrow on British Airways, doing so is likely to incur taxes and fuel surcharges of about $400 on economy tickets and nearly $1,000 in business class.
Instead, consider flying American Airlines, Finnair or Iberia, though Finnair and Iberia are not great options for this particular trip since connection times in Helsinki (HEL) and Madrid (MAD) respectively are very long (like almost a whole day in some cases). At the moment, American is only flying nonstop to Dublin from Philadelphia (PHL) using a legacy US Airways A330.
Using American miles, the only saver-level business class award I found was for this rather circuitous, and expensive, itinerary on British Airways.
In economy, you’ll end up paying non-saver mileage levels for the nonstop itinerary, like this one.
But as I mentioned, the best use of your Oneworld miles — specifically British Airways Avios — might just be on its non-alliance partner, Aer Lingus.
Delta flies nonstop to Dublin from its hub at New York-JFK. Unfortunately, awards at the moment are pricing out exorbitantly, to put it mildly. Here are the lowest mileage rates I could find for the week leading up to the holiday.
And here were the rates for the return.
As you can see, these redemptions would hardly be worth it, even if you have a ton of Delta miles, or American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points to transfer into your SkyMiles account.
Though it’s not in SkyTeam, I wanted to mention Virgin Atlantic since it’s a close partner with Delta and you can use Delta miles to fly the carrier, as well as Virgin’s own Flying Club miles, to which you can transfer from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.
While Virgin doesn’t fly to Dublin, you can catch a flight to or from several US airports to London Heathrow (LHR) and buy a cheap onward flight from there. Award availability from most US cities is scant on the outbound, but if you want to return on March 19 or 20, there are economy awards on several of the airline’s routes to the US, including these ones from London Heathrow to New York JFK for just 10,000 Flying Club miles and 195 GBP ($268).
By contrast, Delta would charge you 45,000 miles and 246 GBP ($339).
You might also consider Flying Blue, the mileage program of Air France/KLM. It can be especially useful since it’s a transfer partner of all four major transferable points programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so it’s easy to top up your account.
While I couldn’t find any awards from about six different major US cities to Dublin, I did find a lot of economy, premium economy and business-class awards right around St. Patrick’s Day to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), and you could catch a cheap flight from either of them to Dublin.
Here’s a sample economy award from San Francisco to Paris nonstop on Air France for 50,000 miles and $261 in taxes/fees.
And here is a business-class award on the same route for 125,000 miles and $618.
As you can see, taxes and fees can be high, but if you were going to combine Ireland with another European destination on a longer trip, this might be worth it.
Star Alliance presents a number of interesting opportunities to book award travel to Ireland. Before you get started, check out this post on which Star Alliance mileage program might be best for you, and this one on strategies for searching Star Alliance award availability. And remember, United is a partner of Aer Lingus, so you might be able to use your MileagePlus miles outside the alliance.
United itself flies nonstop to Dublin from its hubs at Newark (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD). The airline will charge you 30,000 miles each way in economy or 60,000 miles in business class on its own flights, and 70,000 miles or 110,000 miles in business and first class respectively on a partner like Lufthansa. That is, if there is saver-level availability. Unfortunately, on United’s own nonstop flights at the moment, there is not.
The best I could find was non-saver availability for several days around the weekend for 140,000 miles round-trip in economy or 310,000 miles round-trip in business class. There were, however, saver-level awards on United in business if you fly Aer Lingus to London then from London to Washington Dulles on United like on this roundabout return flight.
You could also get a little creative, like with this one-way economy award from Newark to Dublin via London on Air India and Frankfurt on Lufthansa for 30,000 miles and $110 in taxes fees.
Or this more straightforward itinerary from JFK to Frankfurt and on to Dublin on Lufthansa.
Or this one from JFK to Zurich and on to Dublin on Swiss.
Now for some real out-of-the-box thinking. Ethiopian, which is another Star Alliance carrier, operates a nonstop from Los Angeles to Dublin en route to Addis Ababa, and award availability is actually there on the March 16 flight. For the return, you’ll likely have to take another partner like Lufthansa, as in this example, which would cost 60,000 miles and $148 in taxes and fees (though again, part of that is a $75 close-in booking fee).
Air Canada flies nonstop to Dublin from its hub in Toronto (YYZ), and the Aeroplan program is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Award availability on this route is decent. United would charge you 60,000 miles and about $132 in taxes and fees (including a $75 close-in booking fee, which you might get reduced or waived if you have United elite status). By contrast, Aeroplan would charge 60,000 miles and $582 CAD ($453) for a round-trip economy award.
Because of United’s astronomical partner award rates for premium cabins, you might instead want to use Air Canada’s own Aeroplan miles to book a premium ticket either on Air Canada itself, or a partner, just beware of the high surcharges. Aeroplan is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. The following sample itinerary would get you from Toronto to Zurich on Air Canada and then on to Dublin on Swiss, returning on Air Canada’s own nonstop for 110,000 miles and $803 CAD ($625).
Once you nail down a ticket to Dublin, you’ll need a place to stay. Luckily, the city is home to many points properties, some of which still have award availability. The rates quoted below are for March 17-19.
Hilton has several properties in the city, including a Conrad. Rates are high, at well over 305-427 euros ($372-$521)…
With IHG Rewards, you have a few choices. The Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre is available every night except March 17 for rates starting at $154 or 40,000 points.
The InterContinental just has suites left that weekend, starting at $676, but no award nights.
The Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport, Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport and Crowne Plaza Dublin-Blanchardstown (a ways from the center) all have rooms starting at around $200 per night or 30,000-35,000 points on various nights, but not all together.
Points rates are also available.
The only Marriott property in the city with rooms left is The Shelbourne Dublin, a Renaissance Hotel for a jaw-dropping 696 euros ($849) per night.
The reason is probably because the only vacant accommodations are suites, like this one, which you could also get for 600 euros ($731) plus 40,000 points per night. Rooms at the hotel are usually more around the 250-euro ($305) range.
If you’re skipping around to different properties, you can get a room at the hotel for the night of March 18 for just 12,000 Starpoints or 6,000 Starpoints + $110.
Both the Westin and The Shelbourne are members of American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts where your Platinum Card from American Express or Amex Business Platinum Card can get you elite-style perks, as are The Merrion Dublin and The Westbury Hotel Dublin. Visa Signature Hotels include The Merrion, the Westin and The Westbury as well as the Conrad. If you have the Citi Prestige and are planning a longer stay, remember to maximize your 4th Night Free benefit to shave some dollars off your stay.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, you can still put your points and miles to use booking a trip to the Emerald Isle in celebration of the big day. You will have to be flexible, especially in terms of airline routing, but there are still award tickets to be had and hotel reward nights to be booked, so may the luck of the Irish be with you.
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