One week left to burn those British Midland miles…

As I posted about last week, British Midland announced that they will begin the process of leaving the Star Alliance around April 20 due to their takeover by British Airways.

While British Midland as an airline wasn’t all that exciting, they had a fantastic frequent flyer program. I’d go so far as to say that they have more elite members that have never stepped foot on one of their planes than any other airline. That’s because crediting Star Alliance flights to British Midland was especially lucrative thanks to their very generous and creative award redemption chart.

I have about 100,000 British Midland miles left to burn, and I have to do so in the next week. After April 20 their future is unknown. They could be converted to Avios points at a 1:1 ratio, or they could be converted at a different ratio; it’s anyone’s guess.

With that in mind, I’ll share some of my favorite uses, and also ask you guys for your thoughts on how I should burn mine.

To start, you can find British Midland’s Star Alliance award chart here, and their partner airline award chart here.

Let’s go through the two charts separately.

Star Alliance Award Chart

The Star Alliance award chart can take a few minutes to understand. There are 11 zones, so pricing is based on the zones your origin and destination lie in, as follows:

You may notice that some of the zones are pretty big. For example, the US and Costa Rica are in the same zone, as is Japan and Uzbekistan, just to name a couple.

Part of British Midland’s pricing chart looks as follows:

The prices listed are for coach awards. British Midland charges 1.5x the number of miles for business class and 2.5x the number of miles for first class. Furthermore, there’s a supplement of 10,000 Diamond Club miles for each segment in Lufthansa first class.

Instead of exclusively using miles, you can reduce the number of miles required and pay a cash supplement. That cash supplement increases proportionally for first or business class.

In other words, Germany is in Zone 1 while the US is in Zone 3. Say you want to fly from the US to Germany one-way in business class. The chart lists the cost as being 45,000 miles or 25,000 miles plus £140. That’s the roundtrip cost, so first you’d want to cut the amounts in half to reflect a one-way, bringing it down to 22,500 miles or 12,500 miles plus £70. Then since it’s a business class award you’d multiple that amount x1.5, for a total of 33,750 miles or 18,750 miles plus £105. For a one-way business class award that’s an especially good deal. That’s one of the best values on the award chart, in my opinion.

Another great redemption is for travel between the US (Zone 3) and South America (Zone 4). The one-way cost in business class is either 30,000 miles or 15,000 miles plus £105. That’s an amazing bargain.

The “catch” is that British Midland does impose fuel surcharges when the carrier itself does as well. However, both US Airways and TAM don’t impose fuel surcharges on bookings, so fly them whenever possible.

As I wrote about a few days ago, US Airways does have a great new business class product that’s almost installed on all of their Airbus 330 aircraft. So while I’m tempted to redeem my British Midland miles for travel on US Airways, I have plans to fly them early next year using an off-peak award for only 55,000 miles in business class.

So my next option would be to fly TAM, as I’ve never flown them before and I’d love to discover more of South America. However, they seem to almost never release business or first class award space. Does anyone see space on TAM anymore, either in business or first class? Anyone? Bueller? If anyone can find a first class seat on them anytime in the next year, you have a Diet Coke with lime coming your way.

And the last thing worth mentioning is that British Midland has special access to Singapore Airlines business class award availability. Singapore Airlines almost never releases business class award space to Star Alliance members, though they do to British Midland members, as discussed extensively in this FlyerTalk thread. So if you’re burning Diamond Club miles you’ll have access to almost all the same Singapore Airlines saver award space that KrisFlyer members have access to.

So is it worth redeeming British Midland miles for travel in Singapore business class on the A380, or for travel on the world’s longest or second longest routes (Newark/Los Angeles to Singapore), which are operated by all business class products? I’ve flown Singapore’s new business class, though on the 777, so I’m not sure if it’s worthwhile aiming for the A380 or A340, given that it’s virtually the same product.

Partner Award Chart

British Midland has some interesting airline partners that aren’t in Star Alliance, including Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Jet Airways. The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t make a miles & cash booking on partner airlines.

Virgin Atlantic costs 90,000 miles roundtrip between the East Coast of the US and London, while the same award through ANA would only cost 63,000 miles, so I have a hard time justifying that. Furthermore, the fuel surcharges and UK Air Passenger Duty add another $1,000 or so to the cost of the ticket. Still, I do love Virgin Atlantic, as my last trip on them was spectacular.

Then there’s Qatar Airways, which is an intriguing enough airline. I actually used my British Midland miles for a roundtrip first class ticket between London and Doha last year, and found it to be an interesting experience. While I’d love to explore more of the Middle East, I found Doha to be an absolute $*&^hole, and that’s the first place I’ve ever said that about. Heck, along with Chuck E. Cheese’s, it’s one of only two destinations I have no desire of returning to. So while Qatar Airways was nice enough, and at 80,000 miles roundtrip first class was a great value, it’s not necessarily an experience I have to repeat. Still, for those that have otherwise “done it all,” it might not be a bad option.

And that leaves Jet Airways. I’ve never flown them, though I’d like to. And after my recent trip to India, I’d sure love to return. But based on my experience their award space is near impossible to come by.

So what are you burning your British Midland miles on? If you were in my shoes, what would you redeem your British Midland miles for? You’re going to end up having to read about it, so make the decision for me please. 😉

Filed Under: Advice, bmi
  1. That’s not accurate. You will no longer be able to redeem on LH, but they are still in *A until they can officiate an exit.

    That was according to an e-mail from diamond club on the 11th.

  2. @ colpuck — So they’ve said they’ll stay in Star Alliance beyond April 20? Can you post the content of the email? I know they said their relationship with Lufthansa ends on the 19th, though I saw nothing to suggest that couldn’t be the case with the rest of Star Alliance.

  3. They will begin to exit on the 20th, that is not the date for the exit. Publishing inaccurate information is misleading.

  4. This is the correct quote from bmi
    “It is the intention that bmi will begin to withdraw from Star Alliance at the date of completion of the sale, which we expect to be around 20 April, 2012.

    bmi, Lufthansa and Star Alliance will be working together during the coming weeks to ensure bmi’s smooth exit from Star Alliance.

    We will update you as soon as more information becomes available.”

    Which is way different from what you stated at the top of this post.

    “One week left to burn those British Midland miles…

    As I posted about last week, British Midland announced that they would be leaving the Star Alliance around April 20 due to their takeover by British Airways.”

  5. @ colpuck — I said they’ll leave *around* the 20th. There’s nothing misleading about that, though if it makes you happy I’ll add the word “begin.” The point is that if you want to redeem your miles for Star Alliance travel you should do so by the 19th, at least based on the info we have as of now.

  6. Lucky, you don’t know any of what you just said. If you want to speculate that’s fine. But you are presenting speculation as fact, and that is on face misleading.

  7. Lucky, thanks for the tips. Keep moving on. Who knows what the hell colpuck’s prob is. Point being: burn BMI miles while we still know what they’re worth.

  8. @Jason C,

    My problem is there is accurate and inaccurate information. Presenting information, that is false and expressly contrary to published truth is a breach of ethics.

    Ethics, one either has them or they don’t.

  9. @colpuck: is there a chance BD miles will not be available for use on Star Alliance after 20 April? Yes, and I’d say it’s a good chance.

    That’s reason enough to burn now.

    I really find it insulting that you accuse Lucky of an ethics breach. I also blogged about this topic on Tuesday and am encouraging my readers to burn their miles ASAP as well.

  10. This is not an ethics topic at all. It’s about speculation and being conservative in the ability to use BMI miles for Star Alliance membership.

    Colpuck may have chosen to parse words on the ‘begin to exit Star Alliance’, but maybe should elaborate on how long that is expected to take. A day? Two days? A week? Months?

    I suspect that:
    -Redemptions on Star Alliance will be severely restricted within 1-2 days of April 19th.
    -Full Star Alliance benefits (lounge, bags) will be gone by May 31st as that has been reported in a couple of places.
    -Residual benefits *may* exist for those tickets issued on BMI 236 stock for as long as tickets were issued (call it ~11 months from 4/19).
    -Earning on BMI towards OneWorld status may start as early as April 23rd, if you think BMI’s IT is capable of that fast a switch. June 1st may be a more likely target.

  11. Sorry, but to back up some similar comments, stick to asking the peanut gallery to plan your trips and avoid presenting incorrect information as fact.

    Very little is clear cut at the moment in the world of Diamond Club, with a slow drip feed of information coming through. You appear to be taking a few snippets of information and presenting them as facts. Even approximating the dates, it is still mis-leading. I am sure you wrote this article with the best of intentions, but you are coming out of it looking under-researched at best, or just not very knowledgeable at worst. Don’t give up the day job.

  12. I have never ever been able to find a J or F reward seat on JJ. 🙁 I have checked the whole year on NH, for example, and nothing was available. 🙁 🙁

  13. wow, whilst I criticize Lucky when I think it’s appropriate (shrimp in Spain) I think some guys here have some unnecessary anger…look up the definition of “ethics” before posting some non-sense!

  14. Internet Community: “Lucky, are you afraid to post the trip report?”
    Lucky: “Bawk, bawk, bawk!!!”

  15. Can anyone help a first time US based BMI redeemer with the easiest/best way to contact BMI? Do I have to make an international call or is there a toll free number?

  16. Since I learned last October (from you!) of the special SQ availability, I’ve burned my bmi pile down from 1.30 million to 0.15 million. Included in the resumptions are 6 flights per person (2 people, so 12 flights total) in SQ C on the A 380 or the EWR-SIN flight. Thanks, Ben!

  17. >I’d go so far as to say that they have more elite members that have never stepped foot on one of their planes than any other airline.

    Speak for yourself! I finally flew them last month. It was….. underwhelming. We did LHR-DUB-LHR and I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have rather just swam.

    Nice people in clubs, very strange policies on the plane.

  18. Another good value in the award-chart is their definition of Europe (Zone 2). It includes Marocco, Armenia and Georgia. All three are very interesting countries, definitly worth a visit and with most other ffp they are in an Asia, Middle East or Africa-Zone – much more expensive to book with miles.

    And it´s cool to combine different awards. If you want to fly from SFO to NRT, you can do 2 different awards. First SFO to Europe 2 – with a stopover in Zone 1 – then Europa 2 to Japan, maybe with a stopover in HKG. All together will cost 75000 miles RT in business-class + 510 GBP. Compared with 60000 miles + 405 GBP on the transpacific route I find this a very valuable deal.

  19. @ London Tim — They require you to take the “most direct routing,” which varies based on the agent you get. You’re allowed unlimited stopovers, except in Europe, where they don’t allow stopovers at all.

    @ Mark — You can’t transfer points to Avios yet. The assumption is that it will be possible at some point, though there’s no timeline yet.

    @ Steven — Unfortunately they only have an international call center with very limited hours, so if you’re in the US your best bet is to get on Skype or Google Voice.

    @ Erich — It looks like you’re right, so there would be no YQ with British Midland either. Great find!

    @ hobo13 — Hah, I had the “pleasure” of flying them once as well. Certainly a unique experience, especially with their uniforms.

  20. Z4 – Z4
    take a positioning flight to somewhere in the Caribbean and you could go all the way to Chile or Argentina for 30K miles in Y (45K in J). finding availability and fuel surcharges may be problematic.

  21. @Ben — Are you sure about the unlimited stopovers? From bmi’s website:

    “No stop-overs are permitted within Europe. Outside of Europe one stop-over is permitted.”

  22. @Frank: You are such a loser! As another ex-soldier, you also are a disgrace to the uniform you wore. Grow up.

  23. Forget the points and in-flight experience – will this mean the end of star alliance connections from LHR to the rest of the UK?

    They also provided much needed competition to BA on domestic flights out of Heathrow.

  24. @ Gene — Is it too late for me to claim not to have had my morning coffee yet? I just got up a bit ago. Bleh. And you’re right, my apologies!

    @ Ciaran — Unfortunately that’s ultimately what’s going to happen.

  25. Much animosity for some reason. Lucky, keep doing what you are doing. Great job. Too bad you felt that way about Qatar. I have visited twice and I love it. If you ever consider stopping in Qatar again, let me know and I will make sure you enjoy.

  26. What is wrong with some of these blog readers? They seem unnecessarily critical and quite jealous of you.

    Also, Colpuck is as big of a tool on here as he is on Flyertalk.

  27. Wow, colpuck has some serious personal attachment to BMI. Any astute reader would see Lucky is simply saying burn your miles with their great current before you can’t anymore. No doubt whatever new program is used will devalue current opportunities significantly.

    My comment is actually about TAM. I fly them frequently and wanted to note Lucky that I pay an average of $2,500 for round trip business class JFK-GRU or MIA-GRU. Not worth burning the miles as it is such a long distance and you can earn some serious miles with such a cheap ticket. Their business class is up there in the service department. Hard product isn’t the best but service and food are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoy every time. Bonus that they use the Virgin Atlantic Club in JFK.

  28. @ Chris — You can go to ITA and do a “dummy” booking. When you pull up the fare just click on the flights you want, and click on “View Details.” That will show you the breakdown of the fare, including base fare, taxes, fuel surcharges, etc.

  29. @ mike s
    I don’t know what the prices are right now as I don’t need to go for another 2-3 months and I usually buy my tickets 2 weeks or les before I fly. I can tell you I have exclusively bought my tickets through the Brazilian travel agency Air Projects. They are the TAM ticket sellers in the us selling more tickets than TAM itself. They have always gotten me great deals. I deal with Thiago. Just look up their website and call the Miami office.

  30. I figured I’d copy this over from last week’s post as that one’s probably not attracting much attention anymore. From my interpretation of the bmi Star Alliance chart I a return award trip on a *A airline from Zone 2 (Norway) to Zone 5 is 15,000 miles plus £100 cash. Business would thus be 22,500-which I already have. This would thus in theory allow an award flight from Trondheim-Oslo-Zurich_Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on Swiss for £100. Is this right? If so, I understand why people will miss Diamond Club…

  31. @ Andy — Yep, that’s exactly right! Keep in mind the cash co-pay increases 50% as well, so it’s 22,500 miles, plus a £150 co-pay, plus taxes and fuel surcharges. Sounds like a great redemption!

  32. Wow, what a deal. In the end I’m unlikely to be able to redeem as I can’t find a definite date in my schedule for this trip. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what we get for our miles after the merger. That will go down as a missed opportunity…

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