Big airberlin US Winter expansion means LOTS of new low-tax Avios redemptions

We have run a few ‘the end is nigh’ stories about airberlin recently.  All of the short haul routes which do not touch Dusseldorf or Berlin are being transferred to a TUI-controlled joint venture, and there are rumours that the German Government is encouraging a sale of the rump (long haul plus feeder short haul) to Lufthansa.

The Lufthansa deal may or may not happen.  In the meantime, it is business as usual.

airberlin, a British Airways partner in the oneworld alliance, has just announced a big increase in its US flight schedule for Winter 2017.

The airline has just leased three A330-200 aircraft – two of which came from LATAM – to add to its existing fleet of 14 and this is supporting major improvements in its long-haul schedule.  All are being refitted with standard airberlin seating.

This is excellent news for Avios collectors.  The taxes and charges on airberlin flights booked using Avios points are very low.   A one-way from the US has charges of just £4!  A return trip is around £75.  This is a substantial saving on the £500+ charged by British Airways on a redemption.

Anika flew New York to Berlin on airberlin in Business Class last year – here is her review.

You can read more about airberlin redemptions in this ‘Avios Redemption University’ article here.  The only downside, apart from having to get to Germany, is that you cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher and that all flights are priced at ‘peak’ Avios pricing irrespective of day.

Business class redemption seats are capped at 2 per flight although occasionally more open up later.  With a small business class cabin, however, you shouldn’t rely on this.  The seating is fully flat and better than British Airways in terms of space and layout.

airberlin new york berlin airplane

What is new?

The Winter 2017 airberlin schedule will see the number of weekly flights between Berlin and Dusseldorf and the USA increase by 45% compared to Winter 2016.  ‘Winter’ means from late October to late March.

This is a summary of what is changing:

Dusseldorf to Orlando – new for Winter, following its Summer 2017 launch

Dusseldorf to Boston – new for Winter

Dusseldorf to San Francisco – new for Winter

Dusseldorf to New York – frequency increased

Berlin to San Francisco – new for Winter with four weekly flights

airberlin also serves Miami, Fort Myers, Chicago and Los Angeles.  All eight US routes now operate year-round.

Unfortunately, there is a snag with the US West Coast flights when redeeming Avios.

Dusseldorf or Berlin to LA or San Francisco is slightly longer than London to LA or San Francisco.  This goes over the edge of an Avios pricing band and puts the flights into a higher category which requires more points.  A one-way in Business from San Francisco to Berlin or Dusseldorf is 90,000 Avios + £4 rather than (to London) 75,000 Avios + £300ish on BA.

That said, airberlin remains an excellent option for anyone looking for a decent quality long haul flight using Avios with minimal taxes.

(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.)

Some interesting facts about Hilton Honors and what they mean
Important dates for your diary - offers about to close which you shouldn't miss
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. Any further news on airberlin launching to Hong Kong which was mentioned a little while back? Would be a dirt cheap return to Asia if combined with a one way redemption back to the UK

    • Good shout, you thinking of Virgin or BA for the return?

      • Either really, or maybe Cathay Pacific. Will have enough avios for business after I get my points for my cheap Qatar flight to Tokyo later in the year, but I also have enough for premium economy with virgin and no obvious other great value use for them at the minute.

    • Still rumour only.

      • Having said that, Zurich to Hong Kong is only £53 in taxes on Cathay. I think that’s my next trip sorted

  2. Are the taxes & charges this low when using AirBerlin Topbonus points rather than Avios.

    • No, full YQ applies, but the miles values are less. If you can get them, upgrades from any class are 25,000 per direction to anywhere in the US.

  3. Raffles, with all the large Qatar QMiles promotions recently I (and I’m sure some other HFP’ers) have large numbers of QMiles.
    Do you have any ideas or plans to run an article on the best QMiles redemptions, whether they are with Qatar themselves or partners ?

  4. OT: I’ve started watching return flight availability for an Oz trip I want to book in May. We hope to use our 241 to and from SIN. If I put in LHR -SIN the cost is 175k + £559.68 tax – if I put in EDI-SIN it comes in at 175k + £634.64 tax – a difference of £74.96 – I thought the connecting flight was meant to be “free” or at least only pay £35 in taxes?

    • It’s “free” in terms of avios but not eligible for RFS pricing, so it’s full taxes and charges, so sounds about right

      • Possibly due to dodgy BA IT I don’t think it’s quite that clear-cut 😉

        However when I searched for a one-way/off-peak to JFK…

        From the calculator at https://www.britishairways.com/travel/avios-calculator/execclub/_gf/en_gb
        I got:
        LHR 50k + £359.73
        EDI 50k + £391.27

        However when I got through the booking system (right to the last page where it asks for payment), I get:
        LHR 50k + £363.73
        EDI 50k + £366.77 (connecting in LHR)

        So although they’re quoting another £31.54 in taxes/fees in the first instance they don’t seem to necessarily be actually charging them!

        • Ok Alan thanks – will need to see how it goes when I actually try and book it – we need to book the outbound leg when we are in the USA.

          • In case of any use to you when in the USA – if you take a Three UK SIM that gives you Feel At Home coverage when you’re over there – can use your minutes to call UK numbers and receive calls for free (just given the issues folks have raised re. calling the US number re 241s). Of course Skype over WiFi works fine too 😉

          • I was just going to book the outbound leg online then do the return leg 6 wks later when we are home. Hopefully it will work out ok! We have purchased a mobile data SIM gadget thing for our new caravan which we can take and use abroad so going to test it out to give us secure internet access while we are away.

          • Ahh, perfect. I’m just sorting through photos on my computer this afternoon and reliving my Route 66 trip – you’ll have a fab time, I’m sure!! 😀

          • Getting a bit excited now – going to spend the next couple of weeks reading my travel books and notes again!

          • Sorry to say but it won’t be a bug or a system gremlin. The domestic add-on is very far from free. Approx £75 pp sounds about right.

    • Axel Heyst says:

      Liz

      I would do a heads-up first and check this one over the phone. An agent got my BA openjaw edi – sin hgk – edi
      cheaper than anything I could find in the booking system.

      The booking system uses IT fuzzy logic as Alan points out which you can sometimes use to you advantage. For me was about £80 in taxes or 4 overpriced beers in Clarke Quay.

      • I’ve found in the past 2 bookings I’ve done when I’ve added the return leg on the phone afterwards the taxes adjust to something cheaper than I was expecting so here’s hoping it does it again. :)

        • The taxes are dearer for 2 one ways. When you add a return, to the outbound, the system adjusts the taxes as a return rather than 2 one way trips.

          • Yes I know that – I costed up a return flight for accurate costs. Will see how it works out when I actually book. Thanks

  5. So why is a connecting flight from EDI-LHR not eligible for RFS – I thought it would only be £35 extra in tax?

    • Because you’re getting a no extra avios connection instead. If you’d rather pay the extra Avios and less tax you’ll need to book separately.

  6. I’ve just booked my return open jaw at just before midnight last night. Used Skype, phoned a US number, got straight through to a lady in India, bagged the CW seats,. Very pleasant and efficient, done and dusted in 20 mins. So glad I did, as no availability of any redemption seats now showing, although all other earlier days showing plenty.
    I was quite anxious given the massive response to the HFP posting in January regarding midnight calls to overseas BA booking centres.

    good advice Alan re: 3Sim….will investigate for our west coast USA road trip in April.
    Good Lucy Liz, with booking . I still have to phone for a domestic return leg to Inverness. Lost out when booking outbound leg of 241….anxious to get the CW seats and thought I could do the domestic bits all in a ‘oner’. No such luck. CS agents want to charge extortionate amount to get onto one ticket, so will just do a o/w RFS instead. As Silver luggage allowance is covered

    • No prob, Kinkell – also just to say, PAYG is fine as long as you activate the relevant add-on – see http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Phones/Feel_At_Home

    • re. sep RFS booking – although remember that under the new BA rules you’ll have to re-check bags at LHR…

      • the real harry1 says:

        the Board should seriously think about sacking whichever Exec decided that was a good move…not because there are not cost savings to be made on disruption etc – but because huge numbers of people will be leaving BA on that basis, so the medium term outlook is compromised

        • Agree, it’s a major PITA that moves me even further away from using BA for connecting flights!

        • Yes its a stupid situation, it means (for example) if i book a BA onto Qantas or Malaysian then no bags checked though – on oneworld airlines. Yet, i can do Emirates onto Qantas or Malaysian and thanks to the agreements in place a bag will be checked through!

          • Are Qatar still through checking bags onto BA flights? Thinking of the return

          • officially they don’t, but probably unlike BA’s “absolutely not” policy some reported success by asking check-in agents or their supervisors
            I won’t risk it with a short connection (<3hr) though

        • I think that’s somewhat unlikely.

          Every time ba does something like this a bunch of people declare it to be the beginning of the end and that people will stop using the airline, are profits and passenger numbers not still increasing?

          • the real harry1 says:

            these changes are recent so too soon to tell, I guess by medium term I mean 3-5 years

      • Not really a problem as we have to overnight in London as flight is at 0800. Just inconvenient.. Hopefully inbound will go all the way through. Have to wait a few days to book as our flight back from SFO leaves one day, arrives the next, by which time we have already missed the one flight to Inverness, so need that on the following day.

        • Ah OK, that’s a pain although as you say at least it means the checked bags change doesn’t have any impact!

  7. barry Cutters says:

    don’t know if its much of a deal but it seems cheap.
    Ba direct flights to Sydney from heathrow are £587 on a few third party websites.
    Golds earn 27k avoid back on that too.
    By direct i mean the 2h stop in sin.

    Was looking for a friend who is going for 3 weeks.
    Seems cheap.

  8. How do you book these flights? All the searches I’ve done on avios.com show me BA flights with connections. Sorry if I’ve missed something!

  9. The Air Berlin ones, I mean.

  10. OT – We’re using Air Berlin on an Avios (business class) redemption BOS-DUS for the return transatlantic leg of a trip for my wife’s 50th birthday in a few weeks.

    Given that we’ll actually be in the air for her birthday, I dropped an email to Air Berlin to let them know. Not expecting anything really, but I know she’d get a buzz if she was greeted on boarding with “Good afternoon Mrs MIM – happy birthday”.

    This is the reply I got….

    “Thank you for your e-mail.
    Please be informed that for this special case, you can book a special meal/drink.
    As well as offering low priced fares, airberlin offers its guests on all flights free on-board services such as newspapers, magazines, snacks, drinks and the opportunity to purchase items from our onboard shop.
    For flights with a minimum flight time of 60 minutes, you can also pre-order our gourmet meals.
    Gourmet meals can be ordered directly online at: http://www.airberlin.com/site/gourmetmenue.php?LANG=eng (up to 48 hours before departure). Here you will find our delicious pre-order menu selections and further information.”

    A little bit of a Google – http://www.publicnow.com/view/88D8E1FF48D57DE2BC5AE9D4C512997694CB9A0E?2016-10-11-12:02:07+01:00-xxx281 – suggests this ‘airgusto’ service is for passengers in Economy – so I’m not convinced my email was actually read by anyone…

    Oh well…

  11. Gillian Adderley says:

    OT: Is it possible to book rewards flights for Alaska that have a Virgin America leg?
    I know that they don’t show up on BA so its a phone booking.