You can reduce this to 100,000 Avios if you fly off-peak but, as I wrote the other day, off-peak dates will be impossible to get during school holidays from 2017. You will also be paying around £500 per person in tax from the UK.
There are two ways of reducing this to 75,000 Avios points and as little as £49 tax.
Option 1: airberlin
If you are heading to the United States or the Middle East, airberlin is an excellent option. You will minimise your taxes and, in some cases, the Avios spent.
Since airberlin joined the oneworld airline alliance in March 2012, it has opened up a new range of long-haul routes from Europe that can be booked with Avios. Along with Aer Lingus and Iberia, they offer you the chance to redeem your Avios for long haul flights whilst paying far lower taxes than usual.
airberlin is an odd airline. It markets itself like a low-cost carrier, but is generally well regarded for its seating and service. It serves a number of long-haul routes, whilst easyJet and Ryanair are 100% short-haul. It also has a fully-flat business class product, unlike most low-cost long-haul airlines. Aer Lingus is probably the nearest comparison.
airberlin is still a work in progress. It has lost money for a number of years and has seen frequent changes of management. The good news is that the airline is keeping faith with its long-haul routes.
Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, is a 29% shareholder in the airline. It bought topbonus, airberlin’s frequent flyer scheme, from the airline (see this post) and it is now part of the Etihad Airways Partners pseudo-alliance, as well as oneworld.
airberlin has a lot of routes to the Americas – you can find out more about those in this Avios Redemption University article. Here I want to focus on their Middle East routes. You have four options:
Abu Dhabi from Berlin – 75,000 Avios + £52 return (long-haul plane with flat beds)
Abu Dhabi from Dusseldorf – 120,000 Avios + £53 return (long-haul plane with flat beds)
Abu Dhabi from Stuttgart – 75,000 Avios + £52 return (short-haul A320 plane, ending in May)
Abu Dhabi from Vienna – 75,000 Avios + £49 return (short-haul A320 plane, under the NIKI brand)
Berlin and Dusseldorf include the Etihad chauffeur service to and from Abu Dhabi airport.
The reason that these routes are so cheap, apart from Dusseldorf, is that they are under 3,000 miles. This pushes them into the cheaper Avios pricing band. Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi is, unfortunately, just over 3,000 miles. An Avios redemption on this route is poorer value at 120,000 Avios return in Business and 40,000 return in Economy.
The best option is Abu Dhabi to Berlin if you can find availability. airberlin generally only open up two business class seats per flight so this is not suitable for families unless you pay for a 3rd or 4th seat. There are two flights a day from Berlin but they leave 10 hours apart so splitting the group is not really an option.
Abu Dhabi is a short drive to Dubai (under an hour) and the transfer would be free in Business Class via Etihad’s chauffeur fleet. You would also be collected in Dubai and driven back to Abu Dhabi for your return flight.
If you are considering NIKI, bear in mind that you don’t get a fully flat seat from Vienna as it is a short-haul A320 aircraft. You get the US-style short-haul business class seat:
It doesn’t look uncomfortable but, if you are going to go to the trouble of changing planes to get to the Middle East, I don’t know why you would choose this over the airberlin flat bed seat below which I reviewed here:
Option 2: Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways also benefits from the fact that flights from most of Germany are under 3,000 miles and so fall into the cheaper Avios pricing band.
The upside of using Qatar Airways is that they tend to open four business class seats per flight which makes it a better option for families. You may also get to fly the latest aircraft depending on where you depart.
The downside is higher taxes and the fact that Doha has less to offer than Abu Dhabi or Dubai for a holiday. Connecting from Doha to Abu Dhabi or Dubai requires a short flight which would mean taking three flights to reach your destination – a little excessive I think.
Out of Germany you have the following options:
Doha from Berlin – 75,000 Avios + £270 return, Airbus A330
Doha from Frankfurt – 75,000 Avios + £286 return, Airbus A350 or Boeing 787
Doha from Munich – 75,000 Avios + £275 return, Airbus A350 or Boeing 787
Of course, there are many cities outside Germany which are also served by Qatar Airways and which are under 3,000 miles to Doha. All of these would be just 75,000 Avios in Business Class. I used German examples here to provide a contrast to airberlin.
The ‘sweet spot’ of the Middle East routes, however, is the airberlin Berlin to Abu Dhabi service:
you get a flat bed
you get the free chauffeur service
you save between 25,000 and 45,000 Avios compared to starting in the UK
you save £450 in taxes
you land in Abu Dhabi which is more convenient for most people than Doha
and, for anyone who does not live near Heathrow, a plane change in Berlin is no more trouble than a plane change in London – and most regional airports have flights to Berlin
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