New ‘no tax’ US and Cuba Avios redemptions in big airberlin expansion

I have had a soft spot for airberlin since they joined oneworld three years ago, and I have probably done more than anyone else in the UK to promote them.  This is ironic as the airline does not even fly to the UK!

The reasons you should care about airberlin are:

You can use Avios to fly them long-haul to the US, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Middle East

You do not pay any fuel surcharges so there is very little cash to pay when you book an Avios seat.  A one-way redemption from the US to Germany has just £3 of taxes and charges added.

They offer a fully flat bed product in business class.

My ‘Avios Redemption University’ article on airberlin has all the details.  My review of flying the new flat seats in airberlin business class is here.

20130728-143852.jpg

There are some downsides, of course:

You need to get to Berlin or Dusseldorf to start your trip

The food is not great (I remember getting brussel sprout salad once)

They only release two business class seats per flight

You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on airberlin (or any other partner airline)

All airberlin redemptions are priced at ‘peak’ pricing, irrespective of whether British Airways flights are ‘peak’ or ‘off-peak’ on that day

Here are the new routes announced this week:

Dusseldorf to Dallas (four flights per week from 6th May)

Dusseldorf to San Francisco (three flights per week from 6th May, increasing to five flights from June)

Dusseldorf to Boston (three flights per week from 7th May, increasing to four flights from June)

Dusseldorf to Havana (two flights per week from 28th May)

All four destinations are new to the airberlin route network.

Avios redemptions are already loaded to ba.com.  Here is sample pricing to San Francisco:

Economy – 60,000 Avios + £61 return

Business – 180,000 Avios + £61 return

Compare that to £537 of taxes and charges for a British Airways Club World redemption and £344 for a World Traveller redemption.  The maths is not that simple, of course, because you need to factor in the cost of getting to Germany.  If you are travelling on an off-peak date, you also need to factor in the additional Avios required to fly airberlin over BA.

Overall, this is an excellent new use of your Avios points.  It will be especially welcomed by those who are Avios rich but cash poor as, even after factoring in getting to Germany, a couple should be saving £400 in taxes and charges in Economy and £800 in Business compared with flying BA.

airberlin availability is currently excellent on these new routes.  Unless your are BA Gold, there are no BA World Traveller seats to San Francisco available in July 2015 for example – but airberlin has space on almost every flight.

Similarly, there are no Club World seats outbound between 20th June and 19th September whereas the airberlin cup runneth over – at least for the next week or so until they are snapped up.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

3 hours, 5 lounges (part 1): Review of No 1 Traveller, Heathrow Terminal 3
Heathrow Rewards mega-bonus on electronics, watch and jewellery promo is back
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Well, they do have flights between the continent and the UK ….

  2. The AB long-haul cabin is relatively cramped – I say ‘relatively’ compared to other business class carriers I’ve flown – but the actual product is excellent. Direct aisle access for all seats – plus real coffee, not the dishwater served on BA.

    • We have flown AB twice.
      MIA-DUS a couple of yrs ago and VRA-DUS in September this year.
      Service was excellent both times. Flat beds were nice and the food was comparable to BA CW.
      I’d prefer it over BA CW anytime.
      Returning to MAN its easy to get here from DUS on flybe.
      I think we paid £13.50 plus the Avios each.
      Its a no brainer if you want a one way ticket that would be a waste of a 241 or have a route that BA don’t fly.

  3. OT – but Qatar seem to be doing their 2for1 business deal again.

    • Thanks Rob this is something i will keep an eye on. I am constantly looking for tax free redemptions opportunities! Otherwise i just prefere to pay the cash price and bag the avios for my 241s..

      Brian seems so but what i realy need is an extension of the ex eu deals that ended last week!

  4. 1- Does anyone know what the schedule to Cuba is and how many avios do you need ? Can’t find anything on the airberlin site. Not even for cash tickets..
    2- A bit of unrelated, but can you mix reward cabins with virgin? Was trying that online, but seems to give me an error. Thanks

    • Ian i don’t see why not i made several quotes with Virgin rewards where there was no availability in the same class. Not that i booked but never got an error and was offered prem+eco or upper with a combination of taxes abd different points amounts

    • Book on BA.
      Its not easy to work out the schedule just keep looking on different days, Varadero VRA flights go either from DUS,MUC or TXL.
      On 8/5/16 there are 2 business award seats for 75000 Avios and £46 and 4 economy seats for 25000 Avios and £46 DUS to VRA
      Putting VRA into the search doesn’t show the airport but the search still works.

  5. I flew AB Business earlier in the year DUS-JFK and found the seats cramped and not especially comfortable, the food very sub par compared to other Business Class products, no decent lounge. I would go for BA any day even with the extra charges. You can get an off peak ticket and you don’t need to spend hours getting to Germany making sure to leave plenty of time to make the connection by collecting your baggage, going out through Passport control, checking in again etc. In March thought I would save the extortionate UK exit tax by flying BA from London City to Dusseldorf and then Dusseldorf to Tel Aviv with AB on two separate tickets. The BA flight was 2:45 hours late and I missed my AB connection. Luckily AB didn’t make a fuss and put me on the next flight, but that was via Berlin with an 8 hour layover so instead of arriving late afternoon I got in at 3am. It wasn’t worth it!

    • whiskerxx says:

      Flew business DUS-RSW and return in July. Yes I found the seat a bit cramped – feet are boxed in – but I thought the food was the best I had ever had on a plane. I commented to the crew that the Gnocchi (I eat a lot of Gnocchi) was the best I’d ever eaten in the air, and a contender for the best anywhere ever! Bread that was warm, but with fresh crust, croissants were like they had just been baked in a conventional oven.
      The lounge was very poor at both ends, but the crew were good.
      One thing I thought strange was that standing is “verboten”, so straight to the loo and back, no loitering allowed.
      I used an IHG reward night in Dusseldorf and like most German cities found it to be a pleasant place to spend a day.
      I did only pay 100,000Avios and £60 back then and thought it was great value. Return flight BHX -DUS cost £84 with Germanwings

  6. Time to rebrand to AirDusseldorf?

    • If / when the new Berlin airport opens I think you will see AB putting on a growth spurt there. There is probably more money in Dusseldorf for long-haul premium seat purchases though.

  7. I found an interesting quirk in the booking system which has some relevance here. If you book, say, AMS-LHR-SFO in J longhaul you are only offered J shorthaul. However if you opt for LHR stopover, you can pick the segments individually, even if you choose a “false” stopover (flying on the same day).
    You would think opting for Y shorthaul would just save 4000 avios e/w, but it has a strange effect on taxes. You end up with a 4th option for a LHR traveller:
    LHR-SFO-LHR 125,000 + £537 (this is all based on BA off-peak)
    DUS-SFO-DUS 180,000 + £61
    AMS-LHR-SFO-LHR(-AMS dropped) all J 140,500 + £365: not enough of a saving (just APD)
    AMS-LHR-SFO-LHR(-AMS dropped) Y/J/J/Y 133,000 + £251
    The latter is 47k less than AB, for £190 (buying at 0.4p/avios) and you don’t have to get home from DUS at the end.
    If you are happy to pay the extra £20 APD, you can delay the last leg to a date when you;ll use it rather than discarding (and doesn’t have to be the same as your origin).
    Sadly doesn’t have this effect from JER (would have been a nice 241 trick).

    • Sorry should have said it has a strange effect on YQ specifically:
      LHR-SFO-LHR YQ £309
      AMS-SFO-AMS all J YQ £252
      AMS-SFO-AMS Y/J YQ £138

      • That’s very interesting Paul. Ex eu for award flights !! The advantage being just one positioning flight with return direct to London. Of course not valid for 2-4-1 but if you have the time the savings are substantial.

      • Thanks, Paul – interesting – definitely something I’ll keep in mind (although will be a little less likely to use if all these ex-EU J sale fares keep on appearing!!)

    • I have a daughter at Uni who gets a year in the USA as part of her American Studies course. As someone so used to booking flights far ahead I’m already fretting that I don’t know exactly where she will need to fly to. I think sending her via Amsterdam to reduce the taxes might be adding too much stress to her outbound journey. I suspect she will want to take more than one 23kg bag with her but premium economy redemptions to the east coast in mid August seem few and far between. Of course I could send her in Club World but for a student willing to endure 24 hours on a coach to Uni ski and sports tours it seems a little OTT.
      If anyone has experience of their child doing a year in US I’d love to hear any advice… (Yes I know its way off topic)

      • I have a niece at uni who has just booked herself (!) a ticket to go to a conference in Vancouver. She is going via Dublin (cheapest option by far) and by stopping over the night in Dublin achieves 2 things – takes the stress out of missing a connection (although it’s her father that stresses, not her) and gives her time to go explore Dublin and tick off another city.

        In terms of luggage for your daughter I would look at the option of using one of the freight companies that offer shipping services for students, it seems to have become big business since i went to uni. You will probably need it for all the stuff she collects whilst in the US!

  8. Hi Raffles,

    Would you agree that except for those who are avios rich and cash poor, that these redemptions are probably poor value compared to current avios earning cash prices – whether you value avios at 1p or .7p. Perhaps at short notice this would be a good deal, but I think 90% of the time you would get better value saving your avios and booking a cash J or Y fare ex EU.

    This is much more the case than this time last year, as since then, cash prices have dropped sharply and avios peak and partner rates have conversely increased in price significantly.

    • I do know what you mean re: avios earning rates being low!

      As a BAEC silver holder I’ll be picking up Avios quite cheaply.

      LGW-FCO & Return = 3576 Avios for £150 flying in CW.
      CPH-LHR-LAX & Return = 9354 Avios for £276 flying in Economy – yes I know! :'(

      • Danksy-I’m sure that when flying in Economy, you’re comforted by the fact that when you get back, it will be to a warm, well-lit home :) .

        • The eldest daughter (19) and her boyfriend will be out to spite me for sure… I’ll be burning more fuel than the (cramped) 777 I’ll be flying in… Worzel, you reckoned you could get to Bristol in an hour, I might pay you to be stand in grumpy old man !!!! However I do plan to turn the boiler thermostat down (she hasn’t worked that one out yet!) and maybe turn all the other rads off apart from the one in her room haha!

          • Good News, Danksy- I could probably get there in 30mins or so, and the first visit would be FOC.
            You’ve allowed your eldest to have a boyfriend?? :) .

          • Thanks… happy to reciprocate! BF is 22, nice guy but hopelessly I responsible. .They get on well!

          • All understood.

      • I saw those kind of prices ex Europe to lax recently too. Sub £300 from Dublin is amazing.
        Last leg do AL out of Gatwick and miss it. Make sure the LHR-LAX leg is on AA and then you get access to MCE if you are BA gold/Silver. its as roomy as BA premium eco and fro £300 or less return Plus earned avios. Amazing value

    • It depends how you earn your Avios, to be honest. Someone who travel a lot for work in premium cabins and takes advantage of the BA bonus promos will be racking up serious numbers with no personal effort or expense. That person will have a different view to someone who picks up their points in chunks of 1,000 via Tesco etc. For the latter collector, flying with a companion, it would make far more sense (if they could get availability) to fly BA off-peak and use a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.

    • I completely agree. It’s not worth any more to actively collect Avios. Now, all my efforts are going into hotel points.

      • Tobi I still think avios still offer serious value in some areas, esp RFS and short haul redemptions in the US etc. I just don’t think at the moment they offer nearly as much value long haul in economy or business.

        • +1
          No possibility of long haul for me just yet until we send the kids to university – our place to maintain in Europe plus we like it so we spend most holidays out there.

          5 of us. Which means getting dirt cheap RFS flights is saving us £thousands a year, probably about £2K vs cheapies if you include the luggage.

          • RFS fab for us back and forth to dub too.. Def worth collecting, also for our bi annual 241 in F when we can et them!

  9. Rob Brown says:

    Hi, I’ve never booked a partner redemption flight before, Do you book this on BA.Com or with Airberlin directly?

    I have searched Dusseldorf to Boston and all I am seeing are BA flights changing in LHR? Not sure how to go about even finding out how to do this.

    Thanks

    • You book on ba.com. It’s a case of finding available dates, and unfortunately there is no alternative to searching day by day (the calendar search only shows BA’s available dates). For example if you search 4 Oct to 8 Oct you’ll see thee AB DUS-BOS flights listed before BA’s indirect flights.

      • Rob Brown says:

        I see them now Thank You. Must have just been no availability for all the dates I checked.

  10. Keep in mind that Aer Lingus already cover BOS & SFO, and is probably easier (for positioning, from UK) and cheaper (in Avios) than Air Berlin.

  11. Brussel sprout salad might make for a pongy cabin later on! More west coast options are always appreciated though :)

  12. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of keeping up to date! I diidn’t know that AB no longer served the UK direct. A sample LON-DUS booking uses a BA codeshare to ZRH, thence AB to DUS. :(

    I had previously used AB revenue flights ex-UK to/from DUS, PMI and VIE (Niki) as well as STN-GLA. That last one was effectively a DBA flight just after the AB/DBA merger and IIRC catering included sandwiches and a bar of chocolate.

    AB must be almost the only way of using Avios to get to Cuba. I discount the IB option as being too difficult. I would need to check my travel insurance to make sure it’s not blocked by the US embargo.

    • I am not sure but I think you might struggle to use your Amex there and any U.S. Owned or processed bank card.

      Once tried to pay for a hotel there with Lloyds, they refused as there was an American bank in the chain so I ended up paying with a Nationwide debit card. That was about 5.5 years ago so I don’t know if Obama had changed that.

      • Just recently back from Cuba – Lloyds issued Amex was not welcome at the hotel, never tried elsewhere, MasterCard was fine…

  13. OT: Can anybody confirm if the virgin-ihg transfer for spire is still working? I just got the miles I need from the credit card but if the spire option no longer works I’ll save them for an HKG UC redemption. Thanks.

    • Maybe do a test with the minimum amount first?

    • ….and let us know how you got on!

    • Yes, AFAIK it is still working fine. I am sure we would know if it wasn’t.

      • Yes I transferred last week and my Spire was showing on my account today

        • Thanks everybody, good to hear. I didn’t want to do the trial conversion as I would have found it difficult to make up the 10k shortfall on virgin for the UC redemption if it failed.

          • And what will we get for being Spire ??

          • That’s the 75k ihg point question and the root of my indecision Liz refers to below.

          • Good question – there are mysterious ‘new benefits’ promised for next year. What you definitely get is 25,000 points and knowledge that you are the head of the queue for any upgrades going.

          • Just checked into the IC Asiana Saigon. Paid with points (25,000 per night) and got upgraded to a beautiful corner room. Also paid 45 US dollars for club access for 2 per day which is absolutely a bargain, I think the afternoon tea is worth that alone.

          • I wouldn’t get too excited about “extra” benefits if I were you. I’ve just received my Spire “rewards collection catalogue” through the post….Points really are the Green Shield stamps of the 21st century after all….

          • Hey James67 – you have hummed and hawed for months over going for Spire – I was lucky in that I applied for the credit card earlier in the year and got all those easy qualifying points. I have redeemed for our USA trip next year so we will need to see if Spire has any more additional benefits and whether it is worth chasing again! We are going to start saving Hilton points next year and give that a try out – I like the option of free breakfast included.

          • LOL Liz, you are absolutely right. My problem was I could not quite decide between spire and a UC redemption from HKG. The latter is useful for me no question, but the former could pay off for our Euro rail tour next year, especially if a free breakfast becomes available although I’m not optimistic we will see any further benefits. I passed on several opportunities to get the Virgin miles needed earlier in the year but when the 32k cc and 6k ISA reappeared the temptation finally got me! I have transfere7d the points I need for spire this evening so should get that and 75k ihg points including 25k spire bonus. This leaves me just over 15k FC miles which I hope I can use to upgrade a one way low tax HKG-LHR PE flight to UC if I can find the PE flight at a decent price. So my end game is roughly 1 night in an IC, 1 night in a CP or Indigo, a £650ish ow HKG revenue ticket from HKG upgraded to UC plus spire bonuses, upgrades and hopefully free breakfasts throughout 2016. If it comes together this way then it’ll be an excellent return for a £140 outlay on the cc assuming no losses on ISA.

          • I’ve paid out £900 in total buying IHG points and £99 credit card but have redeemed 300000 points for 12 nights next year – 4 in a HIX in Nashville, 4 in an Indigo in New Orleans and 4 in a CP in Houston – cash price was over £5000 in total! Booked 4 nights cash in Chicago with 2 nights free with hotels.com! Will take out the Hilton card next month and get the free night to use at the Waldorf in Chicago too! All this in my first year of joining HfP and the crazy gang!

  14. Don’t forget IB fly to HAV. I also booked Business with them on the route was around £1200 return…

  15. Hi, re moving Virgin miles to IHG to qualify for Spire, do I have to call Virgin Flying Club to do this?

    Thanks

  16. Why doesn’t BA apply YQ on flights on AB?