Amex Avios 40% Bonus Sweet Spot: How to Fly to Ireland for Just 10,000 Points
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Last week, we saw the return of an excellent transfer bonus: Now through October 1, you’ll get a 40% bonus when transferring American Express Membership Rewards to any form of Avios — Aer Lingus, British Airways or Iberia.
This transfer bonus amplifies all kinds of sweet spots in the Avios award chart — especially with partner airlines — and this week we are going to dive into a few of these. We started on Sunday by showing you how to fly American Airlines’ best lie-flat seats for just 12,000 Membership Rewards points. Now, let’s focus on how you can fly to Ireland for a surprisingly-low amount of points and fees.
One of the under-appreciated sweet spots in the Avios award chart is the ability to fly from the Northeast/Midwest to Ireland during off-peak dates for just 13,000 Avios one-way on Aer Lingus using either Aer Lingus Avios or British Airways Avios. Even though British Airways recently changed its award chart, the good news is that it didn’t devalue these partner, off-peak prices.
Thanks to the Membership Rewards transfer bonus, you’ll need to transfer just 10,000 Membership Rewards to book a one-way award or 19,000 Membership Rewards to book a round-trip. Here’s where and how you can book this.
Since this transfer bonus only runs for two months, the promotion is going to be best for those who already have Membership Rewards points in the bank. If you don’t have points in your Amex account — or want to resupply after taking advantage of this deal — here are three great credit card welcome bonuses currently available:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 100,000-point welcome bonus for spending $6,000 in the first six months of Card Membership (also check the CardMatch Tool for a targeted 125,000-point bonus; targeted offer subject to change at anytime). Terms Apply.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 125,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
- American Express® Gold Card: 60,000-point welcome bonus for spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership (also check the CardMatch Tool for a targeted for either a 60,000 or 75,000-point bonus; targeted offer subject to change at anytime). Terms Apply.
One of the key limitations of this deal is that you have to fly nonstop between one of Aer Lingus’ US gateways and Ireland. The good news is that Aer Lingus has been expanding its US footprint. Here are the routes with the off-peak Avios rates and the amount of Avios that need to be transferred during the promotion, factoring in the requirement of transferring in 1,000-point increments:
|Departure City||Route||Flight Miles
*Despite the distance falling below 3,000 miles, Aer Lingus prices these routes as though they cover 3,000+ miles
Aer Lingus is owned by IAG, the same company that charged so much for fuel surcharges that it got sued and was forced to settle. So, you’d be right in assuming that there are going to be
fuel surcharges tacked onto these award flights. But, they aren’t as bad as you might think.
I priced out a couple of different award options to see exactly how much you’d need to pay beyond the terrific award rates above. From New York-JFK to Shannon (SNN), awards cost $113 one-way or $258 round-trip when booking with Aer Lingus Avios. From Miami (MIA) to Dublin (DUB), awards cost $125 one-way or $285 round-trip. Those fees are steep enough to ruin this deal for many.
Considering British Airways is infamous for surcharges, one might assume that BA’s fees are even higher. But shockingly, BA actually charges substantially less in taxes/fees while still requiring the same number of Avios. From JFK to Shannon, awards priced at $35.07 one-way and $114.55 round-trip. From Miami to Dublin, the round-trip award cost just $118.83 in taxes/fees.
To confirm that this was actually the case, I booked an award flight — and then cancelled it within 24 hours:
Even better, while the cheapest cash fares won’t include a checked bag, I confirmed that these award flights include one checked bag of up to 23kg (51 lbs). If you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison with cash fares, make sure that you factor in the bag fees.
Peak vs. Off-Peak Dates
The next limitation to these cheap rates is that you’re going to have to fly during off-peak dates. The good news here is that most of the calendar is considered off-peak — including September 9 through December 18, 2019.
Fall can be a great time to visit Europe, with still-mild temperatures and fewer crowds.
Note that Aer Lingus hasn’t published the 2020 off-peak calendar on its website yet. However, it should be fairly similar to what was used in 2019 (warning: PDF link) — January 7 through April 11, then April 29 through June 14.
Search Award Availability
One of the easiest ways to search Aer Lingus availability is to use United’s website. A great thing about United’s website is that it doesn’t require an account to search, and you can use the helpful calendar view and nonstop filter to easily pick out Aer Lingus award availability. That is, as long as United or another United partner doesn’t operate the same route. Otherwise, it’s going to take a little more clicking around to find the availability.
Or, you can search on Aer Lingus’ website. The downside here is that you’re going to have to create an Aer Lingus Avios account (if you don’t have one already). This is the best way of confirming availability and Avios pricing. After logging into your account, browse here to search award availability.
Those are the free methods. But, if you have a premium ExpertFlyer subscription, you can use the award search tool to find which dates are available. As you can see, economy availability is pretty wide open, but business class inventory tends to be tough to find.
Although Aer Lingus is a British Airways Avios partner — and is even owned by the same parent company, IAG — BA won’t show you award availability on its award search engine.
Here’s where your options diverge a little. The easiest way is to use Aer Lingus Avios, as you can book the award online without having to call. However, as British Airways charges substantially less in taxes/fees, it’s worth picking up the phone to book through BA. Either way, don’t transfer your hard-earned Membership Rewards points to Avios without first confirming award availability.
Aer Lingus: Log in to your American Express account, navigate to the point transfer page and select “Transfer Points” under the AerClub tile. Transfer 10,000 Membership Rewards points to get enough Avios for a one-way flight or 19,000 MR points for a round-trip (or two one-ways). The transfer bonus is hard-coded into the Amex site, so you should see it reflected in the Avios box.
In TPG testing, the points transferred immediately. Just note that you’ll have to log out and log back in to see the new account balance.
British Airways: Log in to your American Express account, navigate to the point transfer page and select “Transfer Points” under the British Airways Avios tile. In our experience, Amex MR transfer to British Airways Executive Club instantaneously. You’ll want to transfer 10,000 Membership Rewards points to get enough Avios for a one-way flight or 19,000 MR points for a round-trip (or two one-ways). Again, the transfer bonus should be reflected before you finalize the transfer.
Booking the Award
British Airways: Since award availability doesn’t show up on British Airways’ award search, you’re going to have to call British Airways Executive Club to book this award. The non-elite US phone number is 1-800-452-1201, and the call center is staffed from 7:30am-8:00pm ET.
Either way, remember to use a credit card with trip delay and baggage insurance protection. Top choices are the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 6+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay), Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay) and the Citi Premier® Card (12+ hour delay).
Aer Lingus off-peak award flights between the US and Ireland are one of many great sweet spots of the Avios award chart, which was made even sweeter by the recent 40% transfer bonus. Even better, award availability is pretty open in economy, and available dates are fairly widespread. Make sure to book through British Airways for the cheapest out-of-pocket cost, but it’s also worth checking cash fares to see if this is still a deal for your route and dates after factoring in the surcharges and bag fees.
Featured image by mbbirdy / Getty Images.
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