Can we arbitrage an ‘Aer Lingus Gold Circle miles to Avios’ conversion?

The on / off takeover of Aer Lingus by International Airlines Group, the Iberia and British Airways holding company, is still in the balance.

The Irish Government, with its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus, is yet to be convinced that the precious Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow will not be handed over to British Airways to run more long-haul services.  IAG has offered to guarantee services to Ireland for five years, but as it would take five years in any event for BA to purchase new long-haul planes to utilise the slots, this guarantee is not worth much.  The Irish Government seems to be keen on a ten-year guarantee.

That is politics, though, and this is not a political site.  This is a site about optimising your miles and points earning.  Which means the question we should be asking is:

How can I benefit from the takeover of Aer Lingus and the conversion of Gold Circle Club points into Avios?

Aer Lingus 350

When British Airways bought bmi British Midland, there were some fantastic arbitrage opportunities – especially for BA flyers who had never previously bothered with the bmi credit cards and their big sign-up bonuses.  That will not happen with Aer Lingus under their current scheme:

Gold Circle currently has no car rental partners.

Gold Circle currently has no hotel partners.

Gold Circle has only three airline partners apart from BA and two of those are already partners with British Airways (Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines)

The one exception is United Airlines of the US.   Flights on United will earn you Gold Circle Club points as you can see here.

If you taking a United Airlines flight in the future and do not have an active Star Alliance account, you may want to consider crediting it to Aer Lingus Gold Circle.  Those points are highly likely to be turned into Avios if Aer Lingus is eventually acquired and your points will not expire for three years.

Even if the deal does not happen, a small amount of miles are no worse off in Gold Circle than they would be in United MileagePlus or any other Star Alliance scheme.

However, things may be about to get better!

Later this month, Aer Lingus is going to unveil an all-new loyalty scheme.  We are promised ‘financial partners’ and ‘hospitality partners’.

Effectively, Gold Circle Club will become a stand-alone profit centre for the first time because it will be able to raise revenue from selling points to third parties.

This has the potential to be very interesting if BA does succeed in taking over the airline.  There may be some arbitrage opportunities.  There may also be status match opportunities, since Aer Lingus will be keen for people to stop crediting flights to British Airways.

More on the Gold Circle Club relaunch to come ….

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Comments

  1. I need to book a United flight, for October, is it better to wait?

    • Why wait to book? You can always add a frequent flyer number later, surely…

    • I wouldn’t base buying a flight on whether or not you’ll get some Gold Circle miles for it! Best prices for October probably not available until July-ish I reckon. Still too early for the airlines to know how full (or not) they will be.

      • Thanks Raffles,
        Would that include the last Saturday in October, which is the end of half term?

        • That is a particularly peak day, I admit. If you think the price currently on offer is fair, then book it if the date is important (which in this case it is).

  2. Dylan Tucker says:

    Will this affect booking flights from Ireland to the USA with avios as per your university articles? I was hoping to do this soon.

    • It would if BA bought Aer Lingus, yes. (Although it would take at least 6 months for the takeover to complete.)

      BA has already stated that Aer Lingus flights to the USA would be brought into its ‘joint venture’ (ie price fixing) arrangement with American, Finnair and Iberia. This would mean that BA would start adding fuel surcharges to Aer Lingus redemptions.

      We are a long way from the day at the moment, though.

  3. Think you’re wrong about the politics. The current Irish government is a coalition between Fine Gael (conservatives) and its minority partner Labour (also pretty conservative, but trade union funded).

    FG would have happily done the deal already, but Labour takes its lead from the unions, who were initially broadly opposed but are now split.

    The reason for this is that the deal isn’t about Heathrow slots. If Walsh was really desperate for additional longhaul slots at LHR, he could reallocate BA’s existing DUB-LHR (or indeed BHD-LHR, GLA-LHR etc) slots tomorrow, without having to pay a billion pounds for EI, or tussle with politicians.

    The DUB-LHR routes are profitable for both BA and EI, and aren’t under threat whether the merger goes ahead or not. I imagine the reason he’s reluctant to give a cast iron guarantee is that he doesn’t want to set a precedent for other deals. Something will be worked out though.

    The real issue here is the transatlantic expansion. Walsh has promised to further increase the number of passengers from non-London UK (via BA, and Eddie Stobbart) and continental cities (via BA, EI) using Dublin to get to the US and Canada.

    Extra aircraft are promised for Dublin, with knock on increases in engineering, cabin crew, catering etc jobs. There will however be losses in admin, with work transferring from EI HQ at DUB to Waterside.

    Unions representing the latter categories tend to support the deal, the former generally oppose it. On Friday the politicians are going to try and pin Walsh down on the medium term numbers etc (probably low hundred admin job losses, outweighed by mid-hundred new posts, plus additional job increases at DUB airport handling, security, retail etc).

    This (pretty sensible, I think) deal should therefore eventually go through, and I wonder if privately IAG’s management haven’t given up on planning permission for Heathrow expansion altogether, and instead will now orientate T5 towards eastern destinations, whilst using Madrid and Dublin to expand west.

    As previously suggested, there’s now quite a gap between EI’s excellent, reasonably priced new business product (singe seats, wifi, new aircraft) and BA’s often tired club world.

    Wouldn’t worry about Gold Circle, they’ll make sure arbitrage will be marginal. But anyone planning transatlantic trips with avios via Dublin should lock in the existing redemption rates whilst they can (eg EI’s fab business deal to BOS etc rises with BAEC changes next month).

    If/when the deal does go through and IAG starts pushing more and more people from UK/continent through DUB to the US, they’ll have to make sure the Americans can cope with the increased numbers going through immig/customs pre-clear.

    This is a huge positive flying from DUB/Shannon, and it would be a shame to see expansion erode such a useful and user-friendly service.

    • And of course the above should read

      “Unions representing the former categories tend to support the deal, the latter generally oppose it”

    • The_Real_A says:

      Nice Summary.

  4. Actually, I’m not sure why we’re worrying about the atlantic, when the greatest travel competition in history is now running:

    http://www.visitscotland.com/win/brilliantislandmoments15/

    Go CalMac!

  5. rotundo says:

    I have a flight booked with United but unfortunately I put in my Miles & More number at the time of booking, and united.com doesn’t let me change it. Anyone knows how to change it to a Gold Circle number? For oneworld this kind of manipulation can be done via the Finnair website, hopefully there’s something similar for Aer Lingus.

  6. Flight Risk says:

    I’m flying on a Business Class redemption Manchester – Hong Kong next week do I get access to any business lounges as I am flying business class even thought it’s a redemption? or that just wishful thinking?

    • You paid for the ticket with miles, lounges are part of the product, why would you not get access?

      • Flight Risk says:

        I don’t know, this is my first ever redemption, and its a business class redemption, I wasn’t sure if I would get lounge access as well

        • Enjoy your first redemption! Yes in general you get all the benefits of the class that you have bought, whether that be by cash or miles. The only main exception to this is free limo transfers, for those airlines that offer them as part of the package they often restrict them to cash fares.

  7. danksy says:

    I’ve booked a couple of (short haul) flights with Aer Lingus and have paid cash for fully flexible tickets… it’ll be interesting to see if my BAEC account gets credited with Avios or TP’s !

    They were flexible fairs eligible for golden circle, but didn’t think it was worth joining up as I’m unlikely to fly AL again for a while!

    • If you give your BAEC number you’ll get avios but not tier points, click on aer lingus earning on the ba site for details.

  8. For anyone who’s considering crediting flights to air Lingus gold circle id strongly advise against. It’s hands down the worst loyalty scheme I’m a member of.

    Your technically only an applicant until you earn 2,400 points in a 12 month period. Unless your flying on a high fare, which most people don’t since there’s no real benefit to doing so, you won’t earn any points. Even if you do you’ll probably end up having to hound them to add the points to your account.

    If you do manage to make it to gold level, your benefits will be an extra item of hand luggage, fast track at Dublin airport (which isn’t that much faster) and access to a below average lounge.

    And if you want to use your points to upgrade a flight or redeem for a free one you can forget it. Do your self a favor and credit to BA for the tier points