I’m soon headed to Israel with my mom, so am just in the process of finalizing my flights. I had already booked EL AL 787 business class from Newark to Tel Aviv, and then EL AL 777 first class from Tel Aviv to London. However, I still needed to get back from London to the US. My goal was to review a new product for the transatlantic flight, and frankly at this point there are a fairly limited number of transatlantic premium cabin products I haven’t tried.
So I decided to book Aer Lingus business class from Dublin to New York, and in this post I wanted to share what that process was like, because one aspect of it surprised me.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the general value of redeeming British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus. Back in the day this was a real sweet spot redemption, as you could fly from Boston to Dublin one-way for 12,500 Avios in economy or 25,000 Avios in business class. However, between an award chart devaluation and Aer Lingus deciding to arbitrarily change the geography of the two cities (they have a distance based award chart, and the two cities are less than 3,000 miles apart, but they’re now charging as if they’re 3,000+ miles apart), the award is now significantly more expensive.
Since I’m traveling in November, Aer Lingus had pretty good award availability to the US east coast, including to Boston, New York, Orlando, and Washington. Here’s what my booking experience was like:
Finding Aer Lingus business class award availability
Rather annoyingly, British Airways doesn’t show Aer Lingus award space on their website, meaning you have to search availability elsewhere and then book by phone.
There are two ways to search availability. The most accurate and direct way to search Aer Lingus business class award availability is through ExpertFlyer. Aer Lingus uses “U” for business class awards, so if you see any of those seats available, they should be bookable with British Airways.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to use ExpertFlyer you can use united.com. They should show the same space. In theory there’s the benefit of being able to use the calendar search feature and to look up availability month-by-month. However, for routes where United and Aer Lingus overlap, you’ll see availability on both airlines, so it’s less useful.
So I found the flight I wanted, and then phoned up British Airways Executive Club.
Booking Aer Lingus business class awards with British Airways Avios
My entire phone call to British Airways to book this seat took six minutes. I was shocked. British Airways is one of the few airlines in the world where I hope to get their outsourced call center. Their Indian call center is phenomenal, and I’ll take them over their “local” call center any day. Let me be clear here — when an airline has a bad outsourced call center, I think it’s entirely their fault for not providing proper training.
However, British Airways did a damn good job training these employees. They’re competent, friendly, and efficient. The agent found the space within a minute, offered to waive the booking fee since it couldn’t be booked online, offered me the Aer Lingus confirmation number proactively, etc.
But there was one other thing that surprised me about the experience. I was expecting to pay 60,000 Avios for my one-way redemption, since I assumed all Executive Club redemptions on Aer Lingus had peak pricing:
- Aer Lingus flights covering a distance of 3,001-4,000 miles cost 20,000 Avios in economy, or 60,000 Avios in business class (Aer Lingus flights to/from Boston, Chicago, Hartford, New York, Toronto, and Washington)
- Aer Lingus flights covering a distance of 4,001-5,500 miles cost 25,000 Avios in economy, or 75,000 Avios in business class (Aer Lingus flights to/from Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, and San Francisco)
However, I was charged 50,000 Avios, which represents the off-peak pricing. I knew Aer Lingus had off-peak pricing, but I thought that only applied when booking through their own program, and not when booking through British Airways. After all, British Airways’ website doesn’t even make reference to off-peak dates on Aer Lingus. Did I just get lucky, or…?
Of course the best part of redemptions on Aer Lingus is the lack of carrier imposed surcharges. If I had made the same booking on British Airways, I would have paid $500+ in cash. The same ticket on Aer Lingus cost a total of $86 in taxes and fees.
I can’t wait to try Aer Lingus’ new business class, especially as I managed to reserve one of the “throne” seats. At 50,000 Avios one-way (36,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, since I transferred them over when there was a 40% bonus), I’d consider that to be an excellent deal as well.
Is the off-peak pricing for Aer Lingus awards when redeeming British Airways Avios normal, or did I just get lucky?
Is it unusual to be unable to make changes to reward tickets, as in above comment on Aer Lingus?
Is it unusual that Aer Lingus no longer allows changes on its reward flights?
I recently booked an Economy ticket and used points to upgrade to business class on a return flight Dublin to Orlando. I needed to date change but they told me I would lose my upgrades if I changed.
This never happened when it was Gold Circle.
Has anyone else encountered this problem?
@Alvin~I knew you are a big fan of OMAAT, but please don't copy the whole style of the blogging from Lucky, you only make me sick, teenager always travel business class with the pocket money, pity on your parents
@Alvin~you better go back home to ask your parents sponsor you another business class travel holiday, this is not your business either, thank you for your response
@ Pacificohk – Who are you to define "behavior" for a blogger on how to run his blog?
@Lucky~you should try your best to reply your reader comments, this is not a good behavior in my opinion to ask your readers leave comments but not reply to them, this is just my warm suggestions
You are not just lucky. A month ago, I booked ORD to DUB round trip. Surprisingly, it cost me only 20800 avios plus $189. There is nowhere I can find such a deal in BA, UA or avios.com
Wow at 40% MR conversion bonus, plus your per USD earnings rate! A measly 1 MR per GBP here, never a conversion bonus, so 1 Avios per GBP!
Why not book on Avios.com? You can see award availability there too. I booked a one way business class ticket from JFK-Dublin back in July and it cost the same in Avios and taxes as when I checked by calling BA, so I just booked it online.
I've talked up Aer Lingus on your blog, and I should mention that they have a DUB lounge after US pre-clearance. In terms of standard, think AC lounges; it's better than the one before pre-clearance. Nice Tarmac views, decent amount of power outlets, good service, decent showers.
Another thing that bugs the heck out of me about tax and charges on avios.com was that it just gives you one number, with no possibility of breaking it down. I got suspicious in my case and went to ITA Matrix for the same flight and got the breakdown that way, which is confirms what others have been saying. In my mind, they're playing with fire if this was not a bug, as it surely would expose them to some lawsuit not fixed.
And my understanding is they do peak and off peak. I brought my daughter along last week on Avios and it cost me 60k plus ~$50.
I do this trip five or six times a month and to be honest, my experience has been great value for money. I prefer the throne seat to the window single on the port side, because (a) the singles are on the port side mean your windows face south on the westbound flight and (b) the ceiling height on an A330 is pretty tight on the true window seats in A. Stick to the throne lucky.
Luke - 'taxes' are not taxes, in general, they are just random additions. Why, after all, does BA charge fuel surcharges on AA transatlantic redemptions when AA has no fuel surcharges?!
BA (for once) is playing fair and charging the actual taxes figure. Avios.com is charging random figures based on what it can get away with - we have already seen Aer Lingus short hall fees fall because in some cases they were higher than cash tickets.
To those asking why not join avios.com, I don't believe those based in the US can get an account directly with avios.com.
Potentially silly question: how are the taxes different when booking on avios.com versus phoning BA? Surely being 'taxes', they should be the same regardless of how you book?
ejg239 - if you book on Avios.com the taxes would be around $300 vs $86. Anecdotally availability is better though.
Head for Points says find the flight on Avios.com then phone in to BA to get the cheapest price dollar amount.
Hi ejg239. Last month, when i priced out a AE on avios.com for MCO-DUB, the tax and charges were twice what i got quoted when calling BA customer service...so there could be a bug in avios.com that will cost you needlessly. Not sure if anyone else ran into that issue when pricing out the award tix on avios.com, which is the same as AerClub as noted.
Silly question, but why didn't you just book with AerClub at avios.com? It's a much better system than BA's archaic IT infrastructure and pricing is much more obvious there. You can move miles back and forth between all 3 avios program with no fees or limits (BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus)
Did you run into any phantom availability for Aer Lingus on United.com? I've had that problem in the past and If I recall you've had similar experience as well...
Yep not a coincidence. BA and aer lingus both use EI's peak/off-peak calendar and price the Irish awards accordingly. Well documented as such on Head for Points
"I thought that only applied when booking through their own program, and not when booking through British Airways."
Remember the Aer Club is entirely on BA's technology, the Aer Lingus folks literally had nothing to do with it. And it seems where any extra programming would have been necessary to support a difference, they didn't bother.
Given that you're travelling with your mom, did you get her one of the throne seats as well? Or is she travelling on a different flight?
I do prefer the single windowside seats, though the throne seats sure are great too.
Yes you can transfer Avios between Aerclub and BAEC like you can with Iberia+, Andrew. The advantage is lower taxes with both of them. Aerclub also has a different On and Off calendar to both BA and Iberia.
@Ben - are you not able to transfer BA Avios to Aer Lingus Avios on avios.com and book online?
@Lucky, is the award chart for AerClub the same as Executive Club? Can you transfer points to AerClub like you can to IB Plus? Would there be any advantages?