Head to Dublin this winter with Aer Lingus business-class award space for two
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel deals because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until the late spring or early summer – and even then be mindful of cancellation policies.
Dublin is great any time of year, but I’ve always had an affinity for visiting in the wintertime. The city dresses up nicely for the holidays, with a selection of Christmas markets, decorated bars and good spirits of Dublin locals. Plus, with the gap between the U.S. Dollar and Euro continuing to close, it’s becoming more and more affordable for Americans to visit Europe.
So if you’re looking to plan trips for after the coronavirus outbreak is contained, Dublin should definitely be on your list for late 2020 and early 2021. We’re finding excellent Aer Lingus business-class award space between the East Coast of the U.S. and Dublin on numerous dates in December and January, giving you a chance to spend the December holidays, New Year’s Eve or your hard-earned winter break in The Fair City.
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Even better? Many of these flights are operated by planes equipped with the carrier’s latest business-class product. Expect good food, solid service and a modern cabin that makes the transatlantic hop super comfortable. You can book these tickets with a variety of different points too, with British Airways Avios and United MileagePlus being two of the best.
Interested in booking one of these tickets? Read on to see all of the open dates from applicable cities, and see the best ways to book the ticket. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: booking post-coronavirus travel.
Should you book travel now?
At the time of publishing this article, the world is in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. We’re seeing the travel industry change before our eyes, with dwindling demand, significant border restrictions and even complete suspension of operations from select carriers. This travel downturn won’t last forever though, and here at TPG, we’re hopeful that the outbreak will be contained by the end of the year. At that point, many of us will be able to continue traveling as we did in years past (albeit, with some changes).
There’s no guarantee to this though, so you should be aware of the risks that come with booking future travel. In short, you need to have a game-plan in mind for a worst-case scenario; namely, one that includes canceling your travel plans if need be. As a result, make sure to familiarize yourself with the change and cancellation policies of the program through which you’re booking, and keep an eye on the CDC’s travel website in the weeks leading up to your trip. This will ensure that you stay safe while traveling and know what to expect if you do need to cancel a trip.
Available award space
Aer Lingus flies from a number of different U.S. airports to Dublin (DUB), including major hubs like Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), New York-JFK, Newark (EWR) and Washington-Dulles (IAD). As a surprise to some, however, the airline also flies to a number of smaller East Coast airports — including Boston (BOS), Hartford (BDL) and Philadelphia (PHL). This makes Aer Lingus a convenient way for many East Coast travelers to get to Europe, and it also helps keep award space wide-open.
We’re seeing award space from and to these airports on a number of different dates in December 2020 and January 2021 — including over major holidays. In fact, some Aer Lingus gateways have availability every single day in December and January.
Many of these dates have space for two or more people too, so you can take a friend, family member or significant other with you across the pond. You’re not limited to visiting Dublin either — we’re seeing open award space on many continuing flights to major European cities like London-Heathrow (LHR), Manchester (MAN) and Prague (PRG) with a quick stop at DUB.
For the purpose of this article, though, I’ll show you open availability on nonstop, Aer Lingus flights from the airline’s various East Coast gateways to Dublin (DUB). Each of the dates listed below has at least two business-class seats open, but some dates have as many as four. Solo travelers may find even more dates with open availability at the end of the year.
Here’s a look at what I’ve found:
Boston (BOS) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 1-31; January 1-31
- Inbound: December 1-31; January 1-31
Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 13-23 and 25-31; January 1-3
- Inbound: December 13-24 and 26-31; January 1-3
Hartford (BDL) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 2-4, 6-7, 9-11, 13-14, 16-18, 20-21, 23, 27-28 and 30-31; January 1, 3-4, 6, 8, 10-11, 13, 15, 17-18, 20, 22, 24-25, 27, 28 and 31
- Inbound: December 2-4, 6-7, 9-11, 13-14, 16-18, 20-21, 23, 27-28 and 30-31; January 1, 3-4, 6, 8, 10-11, 13, 15, 17-18, 20, 22, 24-25, 27, 29 and 31
Miami (MIA) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 2, 5-6, 9, 12-13, 16, 23, 26-27 and 30; January 10, 13, 16-17, 20, 23-24, 27 and 30-31
- Inbound: December 2, 5-6, 9, 12-13, 16, 23 and 30; January 2, 6, 9-10, 13, 16-17, 20, 23-24, 27 and 30-31ia
New York-JFK to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 1-23 and 25-31; January 1-31
- Inbound: December 1-31; January 1-31
Newark (EWR) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 1-23 and 25-31; January 1-31
- Inbound: December 1-23 and 26-31; January 1-31
Orlando (MCO) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 1-2, 5, 8-10, 12, 16-17, 19, 22-23, 26 and 29-30; January 13-14, 16, 19-21, 23, 26-28 and 30
- Inbound: December 1-3, 5, 8-10, 12, 15 and 31; January 2, 5-7, 9, 12-14, 16, 19-21, 23, 26-28 and 30
Philadelphia (PHL) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 2-4, 6-7, 9-10, 12-23 and 26-31; January 1-31
- Inbound: December 2-7, 9-23 and 26-31; January 1 and 3-31
Washington-Dulles (IAD) to/from Dublin (DUB)
- Outbound: December 1-5, 7-12, 14-15, 17, 21-22, and 26-31; January 1 and 3-31
- Inbound: December 1-7, 9-13, 15, 18, 20-23 and 26-31; January 1, 3, 5-31
How to book
Aer Lingus isn’t a member of any of the three major airline alliances, but it does partner with a few major loyalty programs. The two programs I recommend booking with are British Airways Executive Club and United MileagePlus. This is because each partner charges a reasonable number of miles to book Aer Lingus business class, and each partners with least one major transferable point program. British Airways partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, while United MileagePlus accepts transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy (the latter of which with a 10% bonus thanks to the RewardsPlus Partnership).
Unfortunately, things get a bit more confusing when it comes to choosing between these programs.
Should I use United or British Airways miles to book?
Whether it’s best to use United Miles or British Airways Avios depends on the specific route you’re flying and which transferable points you have at your disposal. While United recently removed award charts for its own flights, partner awards with saver-level space — which these are — typically price at 70,000 MileagePlus miles for a one-way, business-class ticket. This price stays the same if you’re flying from Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD) or any other gateway, so it’s a great deal for some of the longer routes mentioned above.
In addition, the cost of a parter award ticket booked through United usually doesn’t go up when you add a connection — as long as the domestic segment has open, saver-level award space. In the case of the Aer Lingus awards discussed here, this means you could book Des Moines (DSM) to Chicago (ORD) to Dublin (DUB) for 70,000 miles. And if you have a United credit card — like the United Explorer Card or the United Club Infinite Card — you’d have an even higher chance of finding economy award space.
Further, you can also tag on connections within Europe for free, so an Aer Lingus flight from Chicago (ORD) to Prague (PRG) via Dublin (DUB) would cost the same 70,000 miles each way. Just note that Aer Lingus doesn’t operate business class on many of its intra-Europe flights, so you’ll likely fly in economy on the intra-Europe leg and may have to call United to book.
Finally, if you’re booking a round-trip award ticket with United, you could consider adding a stopover via the carrier’s Excursionist Perk benefit. This would allow you to fly from the U.S. to Dublin, stop for several days and continue on to your final destination in Europe. For example, let’s say you wanted to fly from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA) with a stop in Dublin — and then fly back to Chicago from Germany. If you do a multi-city search on United.com, your flight from DUB-FRA will price at 0 miles:
As a result, United MileagePlus is likely the best option if you’re hoping to add a free stopover in Dublin.
British Airways approaches things a bit differently, as it uses a distance-based award chart to determine how many Avios you’d need for a flight, and it also has slightly different rates for peak and off-peak dates. Here’s what that looks like for business-class awards on Aer Lingus:
|Distance (in miles)
|Zone 1 (1-650)||7,750 Avios||9,000 Avios|
|Zone 2 (651-1,151)||12,750 Avios||15,000 Avios|
|Zone 3 (1,152-2,000)||17,000 Avios||20,000 Avios|
|Zone 4 (2,001-3,000)||31,250 Avios||37,500 Avios|
|Zone 5 (3,001-4,000)||50,000 Avios||60,000 Avios|
|Zone 6 (4,001-5,500)||62,500 Avios||75,000 Avios|
|Zone 7 (5,501-6,500)||75,000 Avios||90,000 Avios|
|Zone 8 (6,501-7,000)||87,500 Avios||105,000 Avios|
|Zone 9 (7,001+)||125,000 Avios||150,000 Avios|
To find how much the ticket you’d like to book costs, find the length of your flight using Great Circle Mapper, then find the corresponding price in the above award chart. Just note, however, that the program “adds” 8 miles to the distance of BOS-DUB — so it falls into Zone 5 instead of Zone 4.
Here’s how the above routes fall in the award chart:
- Zone 5: Boston (BOS), Hartford (BDL), New York-JFK, Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
- Zone 6: Miami (MIA) and Orlando (MCO)
Note as well that the award rate varies significantly, depending on whether you’re booking a peak or off-peak award. Off-peak pricing can yield an excellent deal and — when used for Aer Lingus business class — is one of the cheapest ways to travel from the U.S. to Europe in a premium cabin. You can view off-peak dates on Aer Lingus’ website (warning: PDF link). Unfortunately, much of December is classified as peak, and the early part of January is too. You’ll want to compare.
For example, a one-way, business-class award flight from New York-JFK to Dublin on a peak date would set you back 60,000 Avios, since the flight covers a distance of 3,179 miles.
There’s another major restriction to booking with Avios: Every segment is priced separately, so you can’t add free connecting legs to this itinerary on either end. For example, a trip from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to New York-JFK to Dublin (DUB) on a combination of American Airlines and Aer Lingus would cost 78,500 Avios, as the 733-mile flight from ORD to JFK requires 16,500 Avios in business class per British Airways’ partner award chart.
Taxes and fees are relatively low on both programs. A round-trip ticket from the U.S. to Ireland in Aer Lingus business class costs around $100 using Avios or roughly $50 with United MileagePlus. This makes booking with Aer Lingus a great way to redeem British Airways Avios without the huge fuel surcharges that are charged when redeeming for British Airways flights.
So, which program should you use? If you have both Avios and MileagePlus miles available to you, you’re usually better off booking with United if you need to add a connecting flight or a flight from Florida during peak dates. On the other hand, travelers based on the East Coast with a direct itinerary should book with British Airways to save points.
Can I use Aer Lingus AerClub Avios to book this award?
While you can use AerClub Avios to book an Aer Lingus award ticket, the taxes and fees are significantly higher. You’ll pay around $300 for a round-trip award ticket between the U.S. and Ireland, which is over three times the number of taxes and fees of booking with British Airways. Award pricing is the same from a points perspective too.
Unlike British Airways Avios, however, you can book Aer Lingus flights online with AerClub Avios. This isn’t worth the extra cost though; in my experience, British Airways’ phone representatives are extremely helpful and have taken care of my bookings in a timely matter.
How do I book these tickets?
Despite International Airlines Group (IAG) owning both British Airways and Aer Lingus, Aer Lingus award space doesn’t show up on the British Airways website. Oddly enough, the airline does show award space on United’s website. This means that — if you’re booking with United MileagePlus — you can find and book your award on United.com. On the other hand, those booking with British Airways Executive Club should find award space on United.com and then call British Airways to book.
Finding award space is simple enough. Just head to United.com, enter your search criteria and check the Book with miles button. Then, click the purple Find flights button underneath the search box. Once the search results load, look for tickets operated by Aer Lingus that have open Saver award space; see the screenshot above for a bookable example.
Alternatively, you could use ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to search for Aer Lingus award space.
You can then book this ticket online with United MileagePlus, or take note of the flight number and call British Airways at 800-452-1201 to process the booking.
With so much open business-class award space, now may be a great time to book tickets to Dublin for the end of the year. Aer Lingus offers a solid business-class product that many TPG team members have flown over the years, and since the airline doesn’t impose fuel surcharges, it’s one of the most economical ways to cross the Atlantic. Plus, since you’ll already be in Europe, it’s easy to turn your trip to Dublin into a mini-Irish adventure by checking out another Irish town or two.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, though, while we’re assuming travel will start its return to normalcy by the end of the year, there’s no guarantee. If you’re comfortable with these risks though, there’s never been a better time to book award travel for the future. Just make sure you know your airline’s cancellation policy and keep up-to-date with the latest coronavirus news.
Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin
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