My review of airberlin short-haul from Palma to Innsbruck – my best Avios redemption!

Regular readers may remember that, back in May, I wrote about an Avios redemption I had booked which was – by a large margin – the most lucrative I have ever done.

I thought it only fair that I conclude the story with a review of the flight itself.

Back in Spring, my wife booked us into a family focussed hotel in the Dolomites near Innsbruck for a week.  I am there as I type this and it is genuinely astonishing in terms of how they have combined a luxury hotel with more kids facilities than you can ever imagine – all set in a picture-perfect Italian hillside village.   It has won various awards for the best family hotel in the world.  (The hotel website is here.)

Because she wanted a two week break from the office, she wanted to add a week in Mallorca beforehand.  This meant that we needed to get from Mallorca to Innsbruck on a fixed day in August.  You can imagine, when I typed that request into Expedia, I wasn’t very hopeful.

Amazingly, such a flight exists.  NIKI, the Austrian low cost airline now owned by airberlin, flies it during Summer.  I couldn’t believe it.

I then saw the price.  €331 per person, one way.  Impressive pricing for a low cost airline but it was a peak time flight on a Saturday in August.  And I didn’t have many alternatives.

airberlin, of course, is a oneworld alliance member.  This means that I can books its flights with Avios points on  More out of hope than anything else, I went onto to see what was available.  Amazingly, there were SIX economy seats available for Avios on the flight.

I promptly booked four of them!  I was going to pay (€331 x 4) €1,324 which is £1,134.  I paid 30,000 Avios plus £35. And you can’t argue with that!

airberlin niki review

Check-in and seat reservations

After booking, airberlin was keen to charge me for a seat reservation.  However, I rang their call centre and they were happy to book us into Row 14 for free because of my British Airways status.

Row 14 is the first row they will allocate for elites.  The first 13 rows they try to sell for an additional cost.

This actually worked out well for us.  Rows 12 and 13 were the emergency exits which sell for an even higher premium.  Demand was so low that there was a row of three emergency exit seats empty directly in front of me in Row 13, so I switched after take-off.  Three seats to yourself in an emergency exit row is not bad!

Sadly my wife had to remain in 14 A/B/C with the children as kids cannot sit on exit rows!

airberlin niki review

airberlin is the biggest airline operating out of Palma.  You can imagine the scene at the check-in queue on a Saturday in August – it was horrendous.

Luckily, directly opposite, was a premium check-in desk.  This had a grand total of one person queuing at it, which was at least 199 fewer people than were in the main queue.   A quick wave of my British Airways card via the BA smartphone app and we were allowed in.

We were not charged for our three suitcases.  There are two potential reasons for this:

redemption tickets are booked as ‘Economy Classic’ and not ‘Economy Light’ or

we were let off due to my British Airways status

I’m not sure which applied in our case.  In any event, I was deliriously happy to have skipped a massive queue and not paid for our luggage.  We also got Fast Track security due to our status.

airberlin niki review

The lounge

There are two Priority Pass lounges in Palma but neither was on the C concourse.  We didn’t have too much time so we just took a seat and bought a sandwich.

Onboard service

The crew looked about 16 years of age.  I’m sure they weren’t, but we had a 16-year staying with us recently and he looked just as old as the male crew member ….  His female colleague looked about 19.  Both were wearing jeans.

airberlin is soon to start charging for all on-board food and drink.  At present, you still get (half a) salami or cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee.  The salami ran out on Row 14 – my daughter got the last one.  Alcoholic drinks are available if you pay.

airberlin niki review

There isn’t much more to say.  Seat pitch in Row 14 was officially 30 inches but seemed more generous than the 30 inch pitch on British Airways – the seat (a Recaro slimline one) may have been thinner.  I am 6’2′ but my knees still had a small gap between the seat in front.  Once I moved to the empty emergency row 13 I had lots of space.

airberlin niki review

There is some IFE – a TV programme was played on the overhead screens.  It seems that you had to bring your own headphones and it was almost certainly in German anyway:

airberlin niki review

The flight itself was uneventful, except for the round of applause given by the passengers on landing ….

Innsbruck is a tiny airport.  It was a bit odd to walk straight out of the airport with no passport check!  The luggage belts are literally 10 metres from the entrance to the terminal from the tarmac – it couldn’t be easier.

It is worth taking a look at some of the obscure routes flown by airberlin as there are some interesting options.  Anika needed a flight out of Split on a particuar date next month, for example.  BA wanted over £400 one way (economy) and there was nothing for Avios or On Business points.  The problem was solved with an airberlin flight on Avios from Split to Vienna and then a connection to BA. isn’t very good at throwing up connections like this so you need to do your homework with the route map on the airberlin website.

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

Bits: 2400 Avios with £60 LEGO spend is back!, BA changes rules on 'Plus' short-haul fares
An introduction to Macdonald Hotels 'The Club' - and how to get £15 of vouchers
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  1. Now when someone next argues that they’re getting 3-4p from a BA CW redemption using a 241 (when clearly other – even better – options are available), this is a great go-to example of a specific flight need with limited alternatives which represented a great use of avios.

  2. My best value was Hong Kong to Chongqing (HKG-CKG) on a fixed date just before Chinese New Year. Revenue flights (Dragonair, Air China, Hong Kong Airlines) had obviously sold well in advance, so the remaining fares were around £400 one-way, even in economy. To my amazement, the Dragonair flight still had 3 economy seats left via for just 7,500 Avios + £12 tax. Best value ever!

  3. I flew in and out if Innsbruck at February half term this year. The flight in was fine, the return flight was horrendous as the queues for food and drink were heaving. Don’t think I have ever been in a more crowded departure area.
    Passengers had to find any space available, on the floor to sit down, they did eventually open a gate that led to a second cafe which eased the congestion. All this for approx £750 in economy( package deal)
    This year using avios to Verona 9k avios, and £35 each, cash price was £660 at t-355 :)

  4. Sam wardill says:

    Mrs Raffles should know that it’s only during take off and landing that kids can’t sit in the exit row :)

    • The crew do get very funny about exit rows & kids, officially on BA it’s 12YO and older (you’re probably technically correct about take-off/ landing). I’ve often sat my two boys there, as soon as age permitted, because I like exit rows and it used to be easy to get them foc T-24. But nary the time we have had the inquisition on their ages and a disapproving look. One old maid even got arsy about my eldest – he has got severe autism and I guess it showed when he didn’t reply right to the usual question – she made him move, which made me pretty angry at the time, but I guess she had a smidgeon of right on her side, not that it happens that often (emergency landing). After that I just told him to act foreign & not reply, no further problems.

      • According to exit rows are only for adults. Where did you see a mention of 12yo and older?

        • I was under that impression too. I thought you had to be at least 18 and capable of opening the door. I know for sure during an emergency I wouldn’t want some 12 year old in charge of trying to open the door.

          • nope it’s 12YO and older as that is BA’s definition of ‘adult’

            probably why I got the disapproving looks but I knew the rules

            I think they call them ‘young adults’ these days but a 12YO can still sit in exit row

          • “If you don’t reserve your seats in advance, we’ll do our best to seat your family together a few days before your flight departs. However, the seat selection may be limited at that time and your seats may be split across different rows or the aisle. We will make sure each child under 12 years sits next to an adult from your booking but children over 12 years are booked as an adult in our system and may sit separately.”

            That’s what the BA site says about families sitting together – I can’t see anything about them needing to be 18. I agree that I wouldn’t want my safety in the hands of a 12 year old. But then again at least you’ve a fighting chance that they wouldn’t be drunk.

            • not sure 5 beers/ G&Ts over 2 hours makes anyone drunk lol

              I suppose we should add on the lounge :)

              I think we are moving rapidly towards an ethos where too much booze is heavily disapproved of by certain fellow human beings – probably not a bad thing – I must say as a never-smoked-in-my-life person that I am glad we have already moved to that with smoking, for my kids’ sake – taxed out of existence & made to look a truly disgusting habit

              but booze? some dogs are too old to change their spots, Leo – you have to learn to take in the whole picture, not just the failings

              “’You are drunk Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk. ‘Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs. Braddock are ugly, and disgustingly fat. But, tomorrow morning, I, Winston Churchill will be sober.”

              Quite a UK hero.

            • What has Churchill got to do with being potentially drunk in an emergency exit?

            • would it be because you virtually never need to use an emergency exit?

              in a ‘near’ emergency, people will be civil

              in a real emergency, I think I, like most people, will be fighting for my life, and more importantly for my kids’ lives, punching people in the face etc and scrambling over other people just to get out – fight or flight etc

            • lol @ harry!

              On a more serious note -I was disgusted at the behaviour of folks on the BA flight which caught fire in Vegas BA2276 Sept ’15 and also the Emirates B773 earlier this month where the undercarriage failed at DXB.

              IMHO – Where there’s evidence the passengers who disobeyed the evacuation procedures should have been prosecuted for endangering life.

            • yep well I guess Leo has a pretty good point

              that’s the way it’s going

              and I respect Leo for his logic/ argument/ persuasiveness

            • I think imposing legal consequences on how someone reacts under severe pressure once a fight or flight instinct has been activated and rational thought cannot be relied upon is rather beyond the pale in almost any scenario – no matter how superior you deem yourself to be.

    • Also, aren’t they supposed to have one person in the exit row at take off (to open doors if there is a disaster)? I note you switched after take-off.

  5. Sam wardill says:

    I was very glad of BA gold card extra availability when I took 11 members of my extended family to nice on Avios this July when revenue flights were £300+

  6. A couple of years ago, we flew to Cape Town over Christmas (LHR – CPT direct) on with miles in economy. I’m pretty sure it was 50k miles each and a couple hundred pounds each in tax. But considering the cash fare was £1850 each, I felt it was worth it. Especially since we decided to extend our stay when new seats became available, which we wouldn’t have been able to do with the cash ticket!

  7. andset1191 says:

    Ortisei is my go to Dolomites town for summer and winter breaks. We always stay at the five star next door to Cavalino called Adler Dolomiti. They also have an amazing hotel in Tuscany as well.

    My favourite part of the world.

    • Piancavallo was where I learned my ski legs when I was 18, I went there with a mate from school. At the end of 2 weeks we were bombing around like the best of them – and that was before carvers! My skis were longer than I am at about 210cm lol

      Fond memories of Il Gatto Nero and some sweetheart from Pordenone!

      • I ended up a far better skier than 99% of you, truth be told. I got to a good standard when I was younger. Then when I was working out of Glasgow-ish, I used to go to Cairngorm every weekend in season with a girlfriend – testing conditions!

        Then I came out here to work and ended up skiing ever weekend in Austria. Piancavallo was fun but too easy. Give me black lol

  8. Innsbruck is a wonderful airport, but very limited facilities once through security, so best plan is to use roof terrace after check-in, then once incoming plane is seen arriving, head to departure lounge.

  9. Im going to Menorca next weekend and the flights coming back were horrendous (something like £350 on Easyjet to SEN(!) and £450 on BA to LGW in Y. A quick check of Avios revealed no Y seats but was abke to do a p+p Avios CE redemption for something like 6,000 Avios plus £60. Fantastic value given the circumstances.

    • Didn’t BA just launch a STN route on Sat or Sun? I did STN to PMI which was 7500 and pretty decent flight.

      Failing that, try using AB and connecting via ZRH or DUS – I regularly connect from the Balearic islands through here as the avios availability is much higher, offering good value vs the cash alternatives.

  10. I wish I can do something similar for Koh Samui to HKG in Feb! Only direct flights are Bangkok Airways! :(

    • So it turns out Bangkok Airways is part of Oneworld, but for some reason flights from Ko Samui to HKG isn’t redeemable on Avios…

      • It isn’t – it is a BA codeshare partner but you can’t redeem on it AFAIK

        • Also you don’t get Avios awarded on their flights. At least I’ve never worked out how to – if any other reader has succeeded, please let us know how.

      • Flying in & out of Koh Samui is quite an uplifting experience!

        Should be on your bucket list, along with Kai Tak (too late, suckers! lol! or is it? not sure if it is still in use?) and Madeira, the latter which I have not yet done but I hear is a bit special.

        Any others I should add to my ‘retirement/ send the kids off to university and get my life back’ list?

        • SXM?

        • PBH, Bhutan

        • I’ve been reviewing and evaluating your plan Harry.
          It seems it isn’t working.
          Time for a new approach?

          • can’t please all the people all the time – or you end up anodyne

            best to simply ignore me, then

            • Princess Juliana International Airport is the main airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, located on the Dutch side of the island in the country of Sint Maarten

              Paro Airport is the sole international airport in Bhutan. The airport is 6 km from Paro in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu. With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 m, it is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.


            • easier said than done.
              Unfortunately there are too many occasions when you are like a bad case of tinnitus.

        • I just landed on the beach at Barra using Avios and Flybe. Fortunately someone technical knows when the tide is out. A bit odd stepping off a piece off technology onto a soggy beach. Best not wear high heels…..but then I am from Brighton. I can confirm that Twin Otter engines will put you in line for a hearing aid.

      • Deffo not part of One world.

        But are a partner of BA – i.e Ba fly to Phuket (from Bangkok) using PG flights.

      • You can use Japan airlines from BKK to USM for only 5000 return + a few pound tax SPG transfer at 1 -1 . Plenty Avios options from HKG to BKK or cheap cash flights.

    • You can try call Etihad Guest if you have any points and there is availability.

      • I can only see Asia Miles as redeemable for Bangkok Air. 20k Asia Miles for 1 way from USM to HKG… That would cost me 27k AMEX Points….

  11. AB use Airbus A330-200 on some routes to Palma, eg DUS-PMI, I belive all of them have been refurbished and have the long-haul config with Business Class seats now. The sell them as Business Class as well.

  12. Looks like a very nice hotel with kids! How did you transfer from Innsbruck to the hotel? Seems to be far

    • A review would be handy for those of us with kids

      • Unbranded and in a random location? …. Happy to answer specific queries.

        I am covering Hilton Sa Torre though.

        • Dannyrado says:

          Booo. Give the parents what they want… Review it I say. Fills an article if nothing else.

          • An article which would take three times longer to write than any other article that day, would receive about 1/3rd of the page views of the other two and which would have very little SEO value as not many English speakers are looking for info this property …..

            But apart from that ….!

  13. “Amazingly, such a flight exists. NIKI, the Austrian low cost airline now owned by airberlin, flies it during Summer. I couldn’t believe it.”

    Name one German/Austrian airport that doesn’t at least have seasonal flights to PMI! 😉 You’re absolutely right, economy redemptions on AB/HG are often amazing value. I recently booked JFK-TXL in economy for 4k Avios + €180 per person – especially if you just need a oneway flight, that’s tough to beat.

  14. Concerto says:

    It’s one of the great secrets of the Avios thing, very useful for me here in Germany!

  15. BlueHorizonUK says:

    Rob, is there a particular website you recommend for booking this hotel or did you just go directly?

    No redemption opportunities here?…

    • As with all Euro family run hotels, you need to email your requirements and they make you a written offer which you must accept or decline. This is still how it is done in Europe at indy hotels.

  16. Recently did PMI to ZRH for 4500 avios and $9 in the first week of Aug! Cash alternatives on AB are ludicrously high during the summer, particularly during a Mallorca summer that is seeing 20%+ more tourism than the year before. Those AB routes are a bit of a hidden gem for avios redemptions at PMI. Helpful given my (German) in-laws live on the island.

    That premium desk is very handy! Other queues are insanely long. Typically you get the suitcase included in your avios fare and not because of your status. My wife didn’t retain her status this year but still got her bag checked.

  17. One-way economy bookings are a great use of Avios , but I still save Avios for 2-4-1 long-haul. A few years ago we flew F to SIN returned J from BKK using a 2-4-1. Back then it was 140k avios and £1200. I remember pricing out revenue tickets and it was £12,000! Ok, we could have flown cheaper with another carrier, but it that was terrific value even at half the revenue price… With the devaluation not so much…

  18. Rob

    Interesting read thanks. Do you know a way I can book Fly Pegasus on avios? I believe they operate a codeshare agreement with air Berlin but not part of one world alliance. I doubt it but just wondered if you could think of any ways of trying to book

  19. I’m not sure why you’re astonished by these “obscure” routes? Mallorca is packed full of German speaking tourists and Split and Vienna are also incredibly popular destinations. Why wouldn’t an Austrian airline be flying from Austria to these huge places?

  20. You were lucky you could switch into exit-row. On my flight from DXB to DUS (in June) they had this you-have-to-pay-policy – even after take-off! That was quite disturbing.

  21. Fantastic redemption, Rob and great recognition of elite benefits too – if only the experience on BA was as good in this respect 😉

  22. My pet hate is people clapping when the plane lands

    My minimum expectation of a flight is that it takes off and lands safely. I get that 70 years ago you might have clapped as flying was a dangerous trip, but these days the most dangerous part of the journey is the drive to the airport so why clap


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    Review of airberlin / NIKI short-haul economy