The other day I saw an interesting piece of news on Frequent Miler blog.Through June 16th, you will get a 30% bonus on transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways Avios program. This is definitely noteworthy because it’s the first time Chase has ever done something like this. Gotta love the heat they are currently feeling form Amex, so yay for competition!
I’ve mentioned many times that Avios currency is the “Jekyll and Hyde” of the miles and points world. It’s great on some routes and terrible on others. I’m actually a fan for the most part, and got a ton of value from my Avios miles over the years. One area where Avios program definitely shines is its Aer Lingus partnership, and that’s what I wanted to focus on in this post.
Why it’s a good deal for Americans
Avios program uses this one-way economy award pricing for Aer Lingus flights:
I won’t be focusing on business class (highlighted in dark grey) in this post because IMO it’s not that great of a deal. You can see peak/off-peak calendar here. Interestingly, the first two weeks of June price as off-peak, so this is a great opportunity to fly for 13,000-16,250 miles one-way in early summer, when the weather is pleasant. As a European who flies across the Pond on a regular basis, I highly recommend this time of year if you want to beat the heat and crowds.
Even in the current era of low fares to Europe, paying 16,250 miles to fly from Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle to Dublin is a pretty darn good deal. The current Chase transfer bonus makes the price even sweeter. A resident of Minneapolis needs to transfer just 10,000 UR points to Avios in order to cover a one-way flight to Dublin.
Why you should burn Avios instead of Aer Lingus currency
This is where it gets confusing. Chase partners with Avios as well as Aer Lingus programs. With the latter, you can just redeem miles on Aer Lingus-operated flights online, without having to pick up the phone. Avios (British Airways program) doesn’t display Aer Lingus flights, but they are accessible to agents when you call.
Oddly, when you burn Avios, the taxes are much lower. I was looking at using some of my points for relatives’ trip to Ireland, so had a chance to get a quote on fees. The total was $119 per person for a roundtrip Orlando-Dublin flight, in line with what other programs like United charge. Except, in this case, you are paying 32,500 instead of 60,000 miles. Of course, I’m assuming you are utilizing off-peak award pricing, but even peak pricing is pretty good.
By comparison, Aer Lingus program wanted around $300 in taxes for the same exact flight. For a family of four, this is a substantial difference. I’m not sure what taxes will run for flights from other US airports, but I imagine they will be similar to Orlando. There was a talk of British Airways raising the fuel surcharges on Aer Lingus flights, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Availability is also pretty good, as long as you book in advance. The Avios rep said that they usually have access to 5 economy seats per Aer Lingus flight when it’s first loaded in the system. It looks like Aer Lingus releases award seats 331 days in advance, so keep that in mind if you are planning to go in the early summer of 2020.
For what it’s worth, we flew on Aer Lingus a few years ago and I enjoyed it. Decent leg room in economy, and food was edible. The flight time from Dublin to US is shorter compared to Paris, Rome etc. You also go through US immigration in Dublin airport, so upon landing you can just pick up your luggage and be on your merry way. What’s not to like?
I actually paid 25,000 Avios for this exact same flight few years ago, and thought it was a pretty good deal. We only spent one night in Ireland, and it’s on my list of places I would like to return to. See this guest post on visiting Ireland, written by one of our readers.
I really hope to utilize the off-peak pricing from Orlando when we go back to Europe to visit my family. Dublin is a hub of Ryanair which will connect you to the continent for peanuts. Give them a try, but don’t expect a whole lot. And really, when you are paying $15 per person to fly from Dublin to Rome, you should not expect anything aside from arriving alive at your destination.
If you have no interest in visiting Ireland, you can simply book an Aer Lingus flight with a connection. For example, to fly from Orlando to Paris (via Dublin) during off-season will cost 20,750 Avios points, which is still a pretty good deal.
How to search for Aer Lingus availability
This is another tricky area. You see, Avios availability doesn’t match 100% what you will find via Aer Lingus frequent flyer program (sign up for free account here). You can also search United.com because it partners with Aer Lingus. But once again, the results may not match what Avios reps see on their end. This is a good way to get a general idea on award availability, but I still recommend you pick up the phone and call British Airways.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Ireland, so if you are looking to go there this year, you are probably out of luck. But it won’t hurt to check, that’s for sure.
Don’t ignore Cash+Avios pricing
This is an excellent option for those who are not swimming in Avios or flexible points. Let me give you an example. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was looking to use some of my points for relatives. I asked Avios rep if Cash+Avios option is still available for Aer Lingus and what is the lowest amount of Avios I can use.
He said that yes, it is available. I could burn as little as 34,200 Avios+$1,109 to cover 3 roundtrip tickets from Orlando to Dublin. By comparison, the full price for those same tickets is 97,500 Avios+$358. So, you would be effectively buying Avios at 1.18 cents apiece. It’s not necessarily a great deal in of itself, but if you are looking to preserve Ultimate Rewards, it certainly can be.
This is one of the better Avios deals, and it probably has survived this long because it requires work. But honestly, calling Avios program isn’t too bad, despite potentially long hold times. Agents are usually friendly and knowledgeable. It’s a downright pleasant experience compared to calling Avianca or as my sister-in-law refers to it, “Ivanka”.
If you are planning to visit Spain, there is an opportunity to save on fuel surcharges by transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios program. Read this post.
If you are looking for ways to get more Avios points, you have several options. You can sign up for cards that earn Ultimate Rewards. You can also look into cards that earn Membership Rewards. A few good ones to consider are Amex Gold and Amex Everyday Preferred. Both flexible currencies transfer to Avios instantly. You have the option to transfer Marriott points to Avios but it could take several weeks, so I personally would be reluctant to go this route.
Readers, who is looking to burn Avios on Aer Lingus?
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.