How to Use Avios to Book Aer Lingus Flights for Low Fees and Low Miles to Europe

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How do you get to or from Europe (preferably in business class) when you have a relatively low number of points and want to avoid paying hundreds of dollars in fees and fuel surcharges?  As I pointed out yesterday when discussing how we got my in-laws to Europe and back, you probably need to find a program that is a partner of the various types of point currencies you may have.  In this case that meant picking British Airways as they are a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, and then instead of getting hit with massive fuel surcharges to fly British Airways operated flights we went for Aer Lingus operated flights as the fuel surcharge was very, very low in comparison.  Aer Lingus is a partner of British Airways, and they can be one of the most economical ways to get across the pond on points, depending on where you live.

While I went through my thought process in finding and selecting this option in yesterday’s post, today I want to share five tips to keep in mind if you are considering using British Airways Avios to fly on Aer Lingus operated flights.

1.  Aer Lingus award availability is not displayed on the British Airways site, so you have to find the award availability elsewhere.

I stumbled across the availability using United.com and then called British Airways at 1-800-452-1201 to verify they saw the same thing.  United is in the Star Alliance whereas British Airways is in the OneWorld Alliance, however Aer Lingus is a partner of both airlines so it wouldn’t surprise me if the availability that United sees often lines up with the same availability made available to partner British Airlines.  However, it wouldn’t hurt to also check award availability in Expert Flyer (if you have a subscription) and/or just call British Airways directly to double check the availability before assuming it is 100% accurate.

Aer Lingus

The availability I checked seemed neither amazing or terrible, though booking as far in advance as possible does seem to up the odds of success.  Looking for just two seats at a time also seems to up the likelihood of success.

2.  The British Airways award chart is distance based, so the deals will be better to/from destinations that are closer to Europe.

In fact, Boston is just 2993 miles which means it rings in at only 12,500 miles one-way in coach or 25,000 round trip in coach.  That is the same price that most airlines charge for a low level round trip economy redemption within the lower 48! That same Boston – Dublin round trip in business class would be double the price at 50,000 Avios.  Let that sink in – 50,000 Avios to fly to Europe and back in (angled lie flat) business class.  Amazing!

Aer Lingus Boston - Dublin

For those not familiar, you can use this calculator to find out how many Avios are required for a particular route.  The Boston – Dublin route is such a great price as it rings in 7 miles in distance under the 3,000 cap on the 12,500 Avios pricing threshold.  Flights that are 3,001 – 4,000 miles in distance are 20,000 Avios each way in coach or 40,000 in business.  The Chicago – Dublin route that my in-laws are flying is an example of that pricing tier.  The Toronto and New York routes would also be in that pricing category.  Flights that are 4,001 – 5,500 miles in distance are 25,000 Avios in coach and 50,000 in business.  The Orlando and San Francisco flights would fall in that category.

Aer Lingus flys to/from Dublin and Toronto, Boston, New York, Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco.  New York and Boston are also served by the Shannon flights.  In my view, the really good values are the flights from Toronto, Boston, New York, and Chicago.  Of course, the deal isn’t limited to only those in those cities as you can add on connecting flights via other British Airways partners.

3.  Remember each segment is charged individually.

As you may already know, British Airways prices the trip based on the distance of each segment individually, so you need to fly in as direct of a route as possible to keep the Avios price down.  My in-laws are flying from Amsterdam – Dublin in coach on Aer Lingus for 4,500 Avios and then Dublin – Chicago for 40,000 Avios in business class.  Ultimately they need to get back to Kansas, so they may book another flight using Avios on partner American Airlines from Chicago to Wichita for 4,500 Avios in coach.  If you just checked the distance from Amsterdam – Wichita you would come up with 4,683 miles, but that won’t help you price out the total price of the award as you have to price it out in segments the way that British Airways does.

4.  Aer Lingus operates flights from Ireland to other points in Europe.

You don’t have to have a final destination of Ireland to use Aer Lingus to fly to Europe (though Ireland is so awesome you should spend some time there!).  Aer Lingus operates flights from Dublin to cities like London Heathrow, Edinburgh, Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona, Zurich, Vienna, Nice, Amsterdam, Rome, and many more.  Again, remember the British Airways chart you are using to book Aer Lingus is distance based so the destinations that are geographically closer will be a lower cost on points.  From what I can tell, Aer Lingus seems to primarily operate economy seats on intra-European flights which is good since business class within Europe usually isn’t worth the additional miles anyway (other than when it helps you cut really long security lines!).

Aer Lingus meal

Ordered a meal on European economy Aer Lingus flight

Just to give you some reference points, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, and Brussels are all under 650 miles in distance from Dublin, so should price out at just 4,500 additional Avios in economy on Aer Lingus.

5.  Booking Aer Lingus Flights With British Airways Avios.

To actually book you will have to call British Airways, which can be a bit of a nightmare due to insanely long hold times.  I personally have had the best luck calling earlier in the day (the call center opens at 7:30AM Eastern) and then selecting option 2 instead of option 1 that says it is for Avios bookings.  Others have reported success calling the Singapore or Hong Kong booking office (using Skype or similar).  Since you cannot book these awards online you should (politely) ask to not be charged the phone booking fee.  You likely have mixed success with this request, but it is certainly worth asking.

British Airways doesn’t hold awards the way some airlines do, so be prepared to book right away if you find what you like.  Chase Ultimate Rewards via cards like the Ink Bold® Business Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and American Express Membership Rewards via cards like Amex EveryDay Credit Card and American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card transfer pretty much instantly, so you can transfer the points as soon as you verify the award availability on the phone with British Airways if you are quick on your keyboard.

Of course if you racked up points via the British Airways Visa Signature® Card then the points will already be in your account and ready to go.

Aer Lingus flights can be an amazing use of your British Airways Avios to get to Europe – especially if you live in the Eastern half of the United States.  I’ve only flown them within Europe so far, but hope to use them to cross the pond perhaps by taking advantage of the often low prices for flights from Houston – Boston and then just using Avios to fly from Boston to Dublin!

If you have used Avios to book Aer Lingus I would love to hear about your tips and experience!

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Comments

  1. Don’t expect United and BA award space to match up. BA has a much smaller pool of seats available on Aer Lingus.

    • Mike, yeah I would certainly verify it, but it could be a decent starting point. On the select dates I checked it did match up, but I certainly wouldn’t take that to mean it always matches up.

  2. This is so valuable – thank you!

    I’ve also heard that you can use Avios with Iberian Airlines to fly low cost from the east coast to destinations in Spain. Do you know much about this? This would make a great post! 🙂

  3. MP – don’t think I have ever met anyone who successfully redeemed for an Aer Lingus European flight! Not sure why it doesn’t work, but it doesn’t AFAIK.

  4. For cheapskates such as myself, it’s interesting to note that folks within a 650 mile oneworld nonstop of BOS can fly (say) JFK-BOS-DUB for fewer avios (17K) than the nonstop from their home airport to DUB, which would be 20K avios. Alternatively, folks in BOS that want to head elsewhere in northern Europe can stop in DUB with the same savings.

  5. Maya,

    Looks like Raffles has you covered! 😉

    Raffles,

    I have never tried just booking an individual Aer Lingus operated European flight by itself, but was certainly not a problem when we booked a week or so ago using Avios. Not sure if having the over-water segment made the difference or not, but certainly works at least in that case pending availability. Thanks for weighing in!

    Grover’s Bathtub, if every Avios counts then that could be a way to knock the total down a bit, though when heading to Europe on Aer Lingus you pretty much have to stop in Dublin or Shannon and then connect from there. Bummber that JFK-Shannon is like 81 miles over the 3k cut off!

  6. I have never NEVER been able to book a short haul Aer Lingus flight on Avios. Don’t know how you did it. I guess because you had a connection???

    • Stvr, my first time doing it and it was no problem. Never tried booking just the short haul segment though.

  7. Has anyone come across a truly EXPERT discussion of using Avios miles for Aer Lingus bookings — or, for that matter, all non-fuel-surcharge transatlantic options (including Air Berlin)?

    There are definitely some “hidden” problems with these redemptions. Getting through to Avios via telephone is a well-documented problem, with some uncertain workarounds (I generally call the non-USA number from the USA contact page!). But the bigger problem is availability. As best I can tell, the maximum number of Aer Lingus award seats BA will load in any cabin is 2 — kind of a problem if you travelling with your family. Interesting this seems to be the same with Avios inventory on Air Berlin. Are there any workarounds, and does Avios ever re-load the inventory when the 2 seats are booked?

    BTW, looking at united.com no longer works for finding Aer Lingus Avios inventory. It USED to work, but UA is apparently willing to pay for more Aer Lingus seats, so they’ll show more than the 2 that Avios will let you book. Again, this calls for some deeper analysis, as the Aer Lingus option is quite good, IF you can make it work for you.

  8. @iahphx, I had no issue getting through to them using the number listed here. I called a few minutes after 7:30AM when they open and was through to an agent within 5 minutes at most. What I did find as you mentioned though is all flights from Chicago to Dublin only had a maximum of 2 seats in economy and 2 in business, and need 4. From Boston to Dublin however, there were 9 seats in economy available. I didn’t ask about business. I ended up booking the flight from Boston to Dublin for the end of June of 2015 from Boston and now I just need to find a flight to Boston or make the 13 hour drive. That being said, 12,500 Avios for a high season booking from the USA to Europe is an absolute steal considering how easy Avios are to get. They waived the phone fees for calling in since there was no way to book this online, and the taxes/fees were $135 for 4 tickets.

    • Well, Scooter, your post was quite helpful to me. I was looking for 5 Aer Lingus award seats to BOS, and in my previous phone call, the agent could only find 2 seats in coach and 2 seats in biz on EVERY flight. But your experience prompted me to call again. UA was showing 4 coach seats, but the BA agent found us 5 coach seats. Sold!

      So I don’t know what any of this means — except that it pays to call again. It’s a shame you can’t check the Aer Lingus inventory on BA.com (and, obviously, the UA inventory isn’t meaningful) — because phoning BA is painful (I “only” waited 20 minutes this time). I wonder if more inventory on those DUB-ORD flights might become available, too (of course, you only get the 12,500 bargain on DUB-BOS).

      Interestingly, the other good Avios no-fee summer option — Air Berlin (which DOES show inventory on BA.com) — still only displays 2 award seats per cabin per flight.

      • @iahphx,

        That is awesome that you found 5 seats. I was checking availability on Qantas and it was showing 4 seats but obviously BA doesn’t seem to have the same access since the three people I talked to all were adamant they only had 2 economy seats. I will keep calling back to see if they have four seats on the Chicago-Dublin route although it will cost be around $200 or so to change them now I think. From Boston it is 12500 Avios and from Chicago it is 20000 but you can always book a flight from Chicago to Boston for the difference on AA/US Air although it adds another flight segment and isn’t ideal.

  9. Thanks for the great advice! Was able to call in and book two roundtrip BOS-DUB flights for next June for 50,000 Avios total and $240 in taxes and fees. BA booking agent was very helpful and was done booking in under 15 min! Used United’s award booking to confirm award availability before I called in and then transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to Avios while I was on the phone with the agent after he confirmed availability.

    Doing this on United would have cost me 120,000 United miles vs 50,000 Avios on BA via Aer Lingus!

    These tickets would have cost $1,840 on their website so I think I got a fantastic value on my Chase Sapphire sign up bonus points.

  10. I’ve been able to get us to 88K avios but having a hard time using. Does the BOS-DUB book up way in advance? We are last minute travelers based on work. Actually really open to destination and travel from MIA, BOS, NY or Chicago to Europe. Which is the wisest way to use points for a Sept trip? Yes next month, I know awful short notice.

    Any help is appreciated.

    If I do book for next year, what is the cancellation policy? Do we get back our points with certain notice?

    Also open to other partner uses for these British Airways points

    • Iris, I don’t look frequently enough to be fluent on patterns…if there even are any. Not sure where you are going exactly but I would look to airberlin or Aer Lingus – esp BOS – DUB if that works for your patterns on Aer Lingus. Official BA cancel policy is $55 I think.

  11. Hi MommyPoints! Looking for help and any suggestions before I jump in the oh-so-long calling queue for British Airways. I booked a one way award from DUB to BOS over the St. Patty’s Day holiday in economy using 12.5k BA avios. I grabbed the last seat, (according to Expert Flyer), and the BA rep was able to book and give me a reference number, avios deducted and credit card charged for taxes/fees. However, I never received an email confirmation or ticket number. I wasn’t too alarmed at the time because in the past, BA award flights have taken a day or so to be ticketed. As of now, according to BA my award flight is listed as CANCELLED. What type of recourse do I have? Any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

    • Meghan, my advice is sadly to call up BA and insist they give you a solution since you were charged. My fingers are crossed for you and keep me posted.

      • Thanks for getting back to me MP! Finally sorted this disaster out- sort of. After playing phone agent roulette, speaking to supervisors and shelling out an additional 7.5K avios I was able to book a flight from SNN to JFK the following day. BA wouldn’t waive the additional avios for the inconvenience or rebook me on BA thru LHR. They were even reluctant to waive the $25 phone booking fee. Luckily there are still award seats during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday and AmEx’s current 40% transfer bonus took the sting out of it! In typing this, I realized how spoiled I’ve become! I am truly blessed to have all of these travel opportunities for little-to-no money. Thanks for your blog and expertise to make this possible!

  12. Hi,
    Very interesting since my last award flight to LHR(Heathrow) cost me around $400 in total airline fees. Any idea if this will work for flights fromYYZ(toronto) to Dublin?
    Thanks

    Karl

  13. I tried to find any Business Class awards in 2015. However, Expert Flyer shows only 2 Economy Seats per flight available. Is there no Business Class any more?

  14. I notice that no one mentions signing up for the Aer Lingus Gold Circle to search for availability of reward seats. Is there are reason for that? Why go all the way to Quantas if you can just search Aer Lingus directly? I haven’t tried either but I thought I’d poll the forum first.

  15. I just booked 2 seats Bos-Dub r/t in business in October. I found the agents very helpful and the wait under 5-7 minutes. Called about 10am eastern time on a weekday. Now just deciding if we want to spend the 10 days in Ireland or use Avios to fly back and forth from London , splitting our time between the two locations.

  16. Hello, i would like to book BOS-DUB and also continue my journey onwards from DUB. Let’s say to LHR. So i need to tell the BA agent, i need BOS-LHR but transiting through DUB? Would it still price out at the same. Or is it better to just book it separate using avios? If booking separate, im afraid if BOS-DUB would be delayed and give me problems on the onward flight.

    Thanks!

    • Robert, for that specific example it should really matter if it is booked together or separately as each segment prices individually anyway based on distance. That said, you might as well book it as one award for the reasons you state. Just feed the agent the segments you wish to book one at a time.

  17. I just booked this exact deal. I wanted to hop on and provide some information to help others, because a lot of the descriptions of this deal on websites were complicated to me. I just could not complete the step where I looked for reward space on other peoples’ websites.

    The answer for me, and it was a simple one, was to just call British airways. The person on the phone was very helpful and told me every day they had reward space in the month I wanted to go. I jotted those dates down and checked against my own calendar. He was very patient with me. Total cost: $232 in taxes. No phone booking fee, which I would have tried to get waived.

    Anyway – thanks for showing me this deal, I’m pumped for my trip to Dublin!

  18. Amazing info! Question: If I’m trying to book a AMS-DUB-BOS one way, does it need to be 2 separate bookings (AMS-DUB) and then (DUB-BOS) to minimize taxes?

  19. How do you know how much the fees will be for the flight? Looking at ORD- DUB this fall using avios to fly aer lingus.

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