Avios Redemption University – Lesson 12 – Saving taxes on US redemptions with Aer Lingus

EDIT:  The launch of Aer Lingus AerClub in December 2016 means that some aspects of this article are now out of date.  I recommend you read these two articles here and here once you have read this one.

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them.  Click here to see the other articles.

One of the biggest issues with redeeming Avios for long-haul flights is the level of taxes and surcharges imposed by British Airways.  These usually run to around £500 per person in Club World and £350 in Economy, return.  For Club World, I can live with this – after all, I would be paying a lot, lot more for a cash ticket.  For Economy seats, though, it often makes your Avios close to worthless.

British Airways Executive Club has three partners who offer long-haul flights from Europe without excessive surcharges.  I have looked at Iberia already.  In this article we will look at Aer Lingus.  A later article in this series covers airberlin.

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, is in the process of completing the acquisition of Aer Lingus.  This will lead to major changes in its frequent flyer scheme and in the way it works with Avios.  For now, though, it is business as usual.  Even if major changes are announced, existing bookings will be honoured on the old terms.

Aer Lingus flies to a smaller number of places than airberlin and charges a little more in taxes (but still 80% than BA!). However, there are good reasons to fly it:

  • For a lot of people, getting to Dublin to pick up a flight is easier than Berlin or Dusseldorf
  • airberlin may not have availability for the dates you want
  • Aer Lingus lets you clear US immigration in Ireland, allowing you to land as a domestic passenger and saving a potentially long queue at immigration there

Aer Lingus 350

What routes are available?

Aer Lingus flies the following routes from Ireland long-haul.

  • Dublin to New York
  • Shannon to New York
  • Dublin to Washington
  • Dublin to Orlando
  • Dublin to Chicago
  • Dublin to Boston
  • Shannon to Boston
  • Dublin to San Francisco
  • Dublin to Toronto
  • Dublin to Los Angeles (launches May 2016)
  • Dublin to Hartford (launches September 2016)

What are the taxes?

Low!

Do NOT do a dummy booking on the Aer Lingus website to try to work out the taxes. BA does not use those figures.

Work on the basis that, for a return business class ticket, it should be under £100.

If you know how to use the ITA Matrix website, you can pull up the numbers. This is what Dublin to New York in Business looks like on a cash ticket in €:

  • USDA Aphis Fee 4.47
  • US Immigration Fee 6.25
  • US Customs Fee 4.91
  • Irish Passenger Charge 16.95
  • Fuel Surcharge 21.74
  • Irish Pre-Clearance Charge 7.90
  • US International Arrival Tax 15.80
  • US International Departure Tax 15.80
  • US September 11th Security Fee 5.00
  • US Passenger Facility Charge 4.02

That is a total of Euro 102.84, or around £75.

How many miles?

All routes require the same number of Avios as a peak-date British Airways flight except for Dublin or Shannon to Boston. This flight is just a touch under 3,000 miles, which puts it in a cheaper band than London to Boston or Dublin to New York.

Dublin or Shannon to Boston is just 25,000 Avios return in Economy and 75,000 in Business ClassThis is potentially the best long-haul Avios redemption anywhere, with any airline, given the lack of tax.

Other routes are the same as BA – New York and Chicago are 40,000 Economy / 120,000 Business. Orlando, San Francisco and Toronto are 50,000 Economy / 150,000 Business return.

Remember that all partner airlines are charged Avios ‘peak day’ pricing irrespective of the date you fly.

You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on Aer Lingus or any partner airline.

Checking availability

This is the real downside of booking Avios rewards on Aer Lingus.

First, you can only book Aer Lingus redemptions via British Airways Executive Club. You therefore need to move your Avios from avios.com (if that is where they are) or iberia.com to BAEC.  This is free and instantaneous via ‘Combine My Avios‘ on ba.com (under ‘Manage My Account’ once you are logged in).

Secondly, you should have a look at the Aer Lingus online timetable to see what flights go on what days.

Thirdly, you need to ring British Airways Executive Club and try to book.

You cannot book Aer Lingus online. The BAEC website is very disengenuous – it will say that Aer Lingus is available on a partner route and will encourage you to click through to search availability, even though it isn’t there!

You can look for Aer Lingus availability by signing up for a free United Airlines or Qantas frequent flyer account and searching their website for Aer Lingus seats. However, you cannot trust this availability to be accurate. If United or Qantas can see a seat then BA can probably book it, but BA may also be able to see other available days.

Aer Lingus generally makes two business class seats available per flight for redemption.  I have seen reports of people being able to book four business class seats, especially on Dublin to Boston.

Aer Lingus’s economy seat availability is better than their business class availability.  This is good news since the benefits of lower taxes are most keenly felt on economy redemptions.

The seats

The old Aer Lingus business class seat was very average, to put it politely, and did not even go fully flat.

The good news is that the airline is currently rolling out brand new, fully flat, business class seating.  My last Head for Points article on this is here.

ALL of the A330 aircraft have been refitted with this seat so if your flight shows it is operated by an A330 then you will get it.  The cabin looks like this – note the solo seats by the windows which are fantastic for individual travellers:

Aer Lingus new business class

Some services are currently being run under contract by Air Contractors using a Boeing 757.  The business class seats on the Boeing 757 flights are not fully flat.

Remember the downsides of booking separate tickets for an award

You will, of course, need to book a separate flight ticket to get to Dublin to start your flight. However, this cannot be on the same ticket as your Aer Lingus long-haul or you will be liable to UK Air Passenger Duty at the long-haul rate. Booking a separate flight from the UK to Dublin, even on Aer Lingus, will be cheaper.

However, when you are on separate tickets, Aer Lingus has no liability to you if you miss your connecting flight due to the late arrival of your incoming flight. You may therefore need to travel to Dublin a day earlier, or give yourself a long connection time in Dublin. You need to factor all this in when considering whether this is a better deal than a BA redemption to the US, even if the taxes are lower.

Conclusion

If you are heading to Toronto or the USA, Aer Lingus offers you a great way of saving a substantial amount of money in taxes and charges – around £250 per person in Economy and around £400 per person saved in Business!

40% bonus Avios on transfers from Marriott Rewards and Melia Rewards
Bits: 400 Avios with Rioja, LateRooms.com £5 Amazon voucher extended, Cat 1 Hilton deal in Alexandria
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Comments

  1. IIRC Dublin – Toronto is 40,000 avios economy and they use B757.

  2. I must try one of those Boston redemptions, looks like a great deal… Thanks for updating this!

    I’ve taken a few flights from my local airport to Dublin to avoid APD
    sInce there are 5 flights a day my strategy is to book refundable tickets on a selection of times to manage the risk of delays either way and cancel as necessary.

    I’m looking forward to the acquisition being completed to see if this will result in BA flying from my local airport (Bristol) again!

  3. John Tickner says:

    Is it feasible – and at what cost – to book UuA with Aer Lingus ?

  4. One way Boston to Dublin, any idea of the taxes on this? New York to Berlin on airberlin is only £3, although more avios are needed obviously

    • Very modest, probably £25 at a guess

      • That’s about right. JFK-DUB cost me about 32 euros per person in June for economy award. BOS will have similar taxes.

  5. I know this is an Aer Lingus post, but I’d like to add Berlin to Abu Dhabi on Air Berlin (less taxes than EI) and Doha to Yangon on Qatar Airways (similar taxes to EI) as some of the best value long haul redemptions even at peak cost! They all fall just within the 3000 mile zone!

    • I’ve done DUB-BOS and TXL-AUH in Business, both at 50k avios return, and they are(were) great value. Although the economy price remains the same for these routes, the price increase from 50k to 75k return on the business class price is a pity. Still a great deal at those rates but it really was an amazing avios redemption beforehand.

      *fingers crossed* Aer lingus will adopt the BA peak/off peak pricing structure when IAG takeover is complete and the business avios price will go down again. Of course there is the risk the taxes/surcharges may increase at the same time.

  6. I flew DUB-BOS In July for £52 + 25000 Avios in their New Business product. There’s 2 flights / day. Had free wifi and the service was excellent. Food was very good too. Couldn’t fault any of the service. I would happily book it again even under the new devaluation.

  7. Hello,
    Did anyone else recieve £50 off promo with Aer Lingus in the post courtesy of Amex?

  8. Under the deal with the Irish government which allowed the IAG takeover to go through, two additional transatlantic routes have to start in 2016, with more to follow in 2017.

    LAX was assumed to be one, although Ethiopian now fly that route so perhaps not a priority. Austin? Miami? Seattle?

    When the announcement comes, credit card Avios rich Americans will rush to book, adding on EI or BA flights to UK/Europe to their transatlantic leg.

    Still, anyone looking for multiple (actually really nice) seats next summer should set up a google alert for the announcements whens they come, and consider adding on domestic AA flights if the new US destinations don’t suit.

  9. If anybody is interested – I reviewed the new Aer Lingus Business class earlier this year. It is good!

    http://www.notstayinghome.com/new-aer-lingus-business-class/

  10. “IAG, the parent company of British Airways, is in the process of completing the acquisition of Aer Lingus. This will lead to major changes in its frequent flyer scheme and in the way it works with Avios. For now, though, it is business as usual”

    Do we have a gut-feel for when the changes are likely to come through?

    I need to sort out a MAN-DUB-USA weekend for us, but have a long-established record of procrastination and delay in these matters – if I had a notional deadline in my head, it might encourage me to pull my thumbs out….

    • Deal won’t fully close for a while given my experience of these things. The though of £300 per person fuel surcharge would be spurring me on though.

      • Indeed…

        One other question, whilst I’m on…

        Am I OK booking through to the UK on a single ticket for the return leg, or will they find a way of lumping taxes/charges on that too? i.e. JFK-DUB-MAN or JFK-DUB then DUB-MAN?

        • Should be fine – the only comment I’d make is that the tax they lump on for DUB-MAN may be close to the cash cost of a ticket so it may be worth paying cash for that. You lose your insurance against missing the connection of course.

  11. Is it possible to use the American Express companion voucher to book these flights?

    • The article states “You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on Aer Lingus or any partner airline.” 🙂

  12. Hi Raffles,

    Is there, or do you think you can write a very big article similar, about the best low tax redemption’s possible with Avios or other air miles from the UK or other countries, where the article only separates countries or e.g. Europe, Asia, North America etc etc?

    • ‘Best’ redemptions will be personal/ different for each of us. Can you explain a bit more what you are after?

    • I am planning to add extra articles on Cathay Pacific and Sri Lankan to this series this time around so I may be able to do this. It is complicated by the fact that BA now has peak and off peak pricing – BA may be a better deal off peak but not peak – and also the fact that 241 vouchers mean BA is often the best deal irrespective of tax.