This is my second installment on challenges of booking 9 award tickets to Europe with the help of Avios program.
Are there good options other than Air Berlin?
Another airline to consider is Aer Lingus. It currently doesn’t add fuel surcharges for award redemptions to/from Europe. This is an option I hope to utilize for our return flights from Dublin to Orlando.
Side note: Dublin is a hub of Ryanair, a discount carrier known for its quirkiness. They charge for everything, but the flights are dirt cheap. You can pretty much connect to all popular destinations through Dublin.
Unfortunately, you can’t search for Aer Lingus flights on BA.com, but there is a way to do it on United.com They are partners with Aer Lingus as well. United will usually display the flights available with a fairly decent accuracy. Most Aer Lingus routes I checked had 4 economy award seats available. Here are the cities with non-stop routes from/to Ireland:
New York (JFK)
Boston-Dublin route had 4 economy and 2 business class seats open on almost all of their flights (2 per day, scheduled daily). It’s the best bargain of Avios program and costs 12,500 miles one-way in economy and 25,000 miles in business class. If you are taking an overnight flight, splurge on business class if you possibly can. Read this post on how I booked it for my in-laws last year.
When calling to book your award flights, you can ask to tack-on a flight from Boston to London on British Airways, which costs only 4,500 Avios one-way and $27 in taxes in economy. BA does not add fuel surcharges within Europe. London is a great destination for family, and less of a culture shock for first time visitors.
Be aware, Aer Lingus has a nasty habit of occasionally pulling all award space out at one time, and then releasing it later on. I’m not quite sure what’s going on there.
Should you use Avios to take your family to Europe next summer?
Possibly, as long as you don’t mind its quirks and limitations, as well as the fact that each award is priced per segment and based on total distance. If you live on the East Coast within driving distance to the airports served by Air Berlin or Aer Lingus, this could be a great opportunity to use Avios.
You can plug in specific airport codes by using Reward Flight Calculator on BA.com after logging into your account and choosing Executive Club option, then clicking on Spending Avios link. You can sign up for a new account at no cost.
- Boston -Dublin (or Shannon) route for 25,000 Avios roundtrip in economy plus about $135 in taxes is a bargain of the century, especially in the summer, when revenue ticket can easily cost $1,000.
Map were provided courtesy of gcmap.com
In fact, I would argue that it makes sense to book flights to Boston from other parts of the country with cash or use Rapid Rewards or Jet Blue points (Membership Rewards transfer partner). Jet Blue has a hub in Boston, so you can book non-stop flights, spend a night or two, then continue on to Europe.
AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus and Delta programs all charge 60,000 miles per roundtrip economy ticket from USA to Europe in the summer.
That’s a difference of 35,000 miles compared to Boston-Dublin route. Plus, other flights would most likely have connections, which are hard on kids.
You would have to call and book Aer Lingus flights over the phone and it will most likely be super FRUSTRATING. BA Executive Club US-based center is what’s keeping several award booking companies afloat, I’m sure of it. Prepare to be disconnected a few times (after a long hold).
Stay calm and keep your eyes on the prize. It’s a game and darn it, you are gonna win it! You might do better by calling their sales line and asking to be connected to the British center. I’m thinking about doing it myself.
What is the easiest way of collecting enough Avios for your family’s trip to Europe?
You can get Chase British Airways Visa in each spouse’s name. It does pay me commission. It comes with 50,000 miles sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 in 3 months and $95 annual fee. So, the total would be $4000 in 3 months, which should be doable for most families.
Be aware, this card occasionally offers 100,000 miles bonus, but the minimum spending is usually $20,000 in 1 year. So, decide if it’s better to hold out for an increased bonus. You can see other card offers that would allow you to transfer points to Avios in my “Best deals” page.
Among them are Amex Premier Rewards Gold card (with a targeted offer of 50,000 points) and Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Both pay commission. As always, you don’t have to use my links.
You would be able to get 4 economy roundtrip tickets to Europe if redeeming for Boston-Dublin route from just 2 Chase British Airways Visa cards. If you have more than 4 in the family, this route is for you.
That’s because you can redeem 4 seats in economy and the rest in business class, and just copay with cash for the missing miles. You may never fly in business seat for 25,000 miles each way, so just splurge and enjoy. You can always sign up for a Chase Southwest card later on and get yourself to Boston on points.
Let’s say you got 2 BA Visa cards and ended up with 105,000 Avios after meeting minimum spend. If you have 6 people in the family, it would cost you 200,000 Avios for 4 economy +2 business class seats, roundtrip.
If you go with an option to copay half the cost, it would run $1,140. Let’s add around $800 in taxes+ $190 in Chase BA Visa annual fees. The total comes up to $2130. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but you are getting 6 roundtrip tickets to Europe in the summer, 2 of them in business class. That’s a conservative value of $8,000. All with a help of just 2 credit cards.
If you decide to fly Air Berlin, you can also redeem the miles at a reduced cost and copay the rest at around 1.14 cents per mile, though their routes start at 20,000 miles one way US-Europe. I should have clarified it in my previous post, but their map includes AA flights, and those would incur fuel surcharges. Here are the airports served directly by Air Berlin:
Chicago – O’Hare
Fort Myers (RSW)
Los Angeles (LAX) [seasonal]
Miami – Miami International Airport
New York City – John F. Kennedy International Airport
If you are planning a trip to Europe next summer and get the cards right now, my advice is to meet the spend as quickly as possible. You can buy Visa gift cards or Amex cards online if needed. That way your bonus will post soon and you should have a good shot at securing award seats for July or August of 2015. Remember, summer is very popular and flexibility is crucial.
Always have a Plan B for your miles.
With some planning and flexibility, it is possible at this time to redeem Avios for up to 4 award tickets to Europe on one flight, 6 if you include business class seats on certain routes. You can even bring your in-laws along. Whether you survive the trip, that I can not guarantee.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.