Why you shouldn’t waste Avios on Club Europe redemptions from London City

If you are a newcomer to the world of Avios, I generally recommend that you try Club Europe business class on short-haul redemptions from Heathrow or Gatwick.

I know that this view is not universally shared!

But, if you aren’t used to premium class travel, it opens your eyes to what you are missing.  For an extra 4,500 Avios – assuming you are flying to a country near the UK like Germany, the Netherlands or France – you would get:

Lounge access (I am very positive about the BA Heathrow lounges, unlike some people, and the new Gatwick lounges opened this year seem to be universally liked)

Dedicated check-in desks if you have luggage

Fast track security

Priority boarding

Seat at the front of the plane – and therefore also the first off, which speeds up immigration

Empty middle seat

Some food (which has got a little better recently, although nowhere near as much as BA would like to think) and premium drinks including all the champagne you can drink

I think that is EASILY worth an extra 4,500 Avios on the outbound flight, especially if you don’t have British Airways status.  Coming back, it might not be such a good deal – you may or may not get fast track security and you may or may not find the lounge is good.  Outbound, though, I definitely recommend it.

Except …. if you are flying from London City.

I originally wrote this article in response to an email from a reader who had spent his Avios on Club Europe from London City on a flight to Granada.  Because Granada is further from London, the Club Europe premium is higher – 30,000 Avios per person return versus 15,000 Avios for Euro Traveller.

British Airways Embraer 190 London City

This is what you DON’T get if you redeem for Club Europe from London City:

A lounge – City Airport has no lounges, unless you pay £35 to use the lounge in the Private Jet Centre

An empty middle seat – the Embraer 190 aircraft, as pictured above, have 2 x 2 seating

Priority check-in

Priority boarding – even when BA does try to do this, the high percentage of status card holders flying out of City means that virtually every passenger qualifies for it anyway

You DO get to sit at the front and you DO get better food.  The food is by far the best part of the London City British Airways experience.  As I wrote in this review, it is substantially better than what you get out of Heathrow, because there is no other point of difference between the two travel classes.

(You also, as pointed out in the comments, get the additional Club Europe baggage allowance.  If you are checking in a lot of luggage, a Club Europe redemption can be better value than paying for additional baggage on a Euro Traveller economy redemption.)

So, in summary – I do recommend that you redeem in Club Europe for short haul redemptions if you can, especially outbound and especially if you don’t have BA status.   Just not from London City …. unless there are no other seats available.

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Comments

  1. I disagree, the improved food (which you agree is better than the LHR offerings, the LCY flights even hand out printed menus on domestics!) is worth the extra Avios and cash premium to me. As a gold member when flying from LHR/LGW I get the lounge and priority boarding anyway so if I’m booking CE I’m doing it for the service on-board not on the ground.

    If you’re on the E190 booking the seats in the C/D site bulkhead offer amazing legroom. The only time I’ve had someone sitting next to me was when I was travelling with them. There’s normally empty seats in CE (on the flights I’ve taken).

    Here’s my CE flight on the once a week LCY-MAN service: http://saveecrewards.co.uk/blog/review-ba-cityflyer-club-europe-ba7310-lcy-man
    I’ve yet to try CE LHR-MAN but I’ve heard that the Heathrow flights run a cut down service to Leeds and Manchester due to the short flight times. There was nothing cut down about the product on LCY-MAN.

    On a Sunday evening GLA-LCY flight I got a hot meal on board, it was much better than the cold meal I got LGW-GLA on the way out.

    That said if I had no status and could only afford the points to travel CE in one direction then it would make sense to upgrade the flight to LCY so you could benefit from the lounge at the outstation.

    So I am a fan of Club Europe on BA CityFlyer. If you’re relatively Avios rich I recommend paying the extra – but be aware what to expect.

    • Tim Millea says:

      Perspective. BA block off the front row – 1AB and 2CD – for Gold BAEC members. If you are not Gold and book Club Europe these seats are simply not available at any price until the regular 24 hours before departure check-in frees them up. And yes, if you are Gold and a solo traveller you will get both seats. I managed to bag 2C&D on the new MAN-AGP route 1 or 2 seconds after online check-in opened. On the return leg, those seats were not available. We took the 2nd best choice of 1A&B. We spoke to the lady occupying 2A&B, assuming that she was BA staff or connected. It transpired that she did not choose her seat but her husband was a Gold BAEC member.

      Even in Club on short haul, there are many classes flying and experiences differ dramatically.

    • Barnaby100 says:

      The Leeds down on the 9.30 is great food, a fruit ,cheese and meat plate. The return at either lunchtime or evening is inedible. Chicken or smoked duck salad.

  2. It is also worth highlighting that you can upgrade using Avios from all but the cheapest (Q, O and G class) tickets – this can sometimes be a better value route that an outright Avios redemption. Also means you can secure the cash ticket and then do the upgrade if CE is currently unavailable but opens up in the future (which might be very last minute)

    Click the flight number on the BA results page to see the class being sold – if it’s O or Q then you’ll need to call in and get at least N – usually just a couple of pounds more.

    • william mackenzie says:

      wow, I didn’t know this was possible.

      • On the “Manage Your Booking” page it will give you the option to upgrade your flight.

        • Unless you have a connecting flight where (in my experience) the website never seems to work properly – Avios upgrade functionality broken, no POUG. Can still do the former over the phone though, at no fee thanks to website being broken.

    • Catalan says:

      I did know that either. So when you call in do you then have to pay a £35 service charge?

      • Catalan says:

        *didn’t

      • the real harry1 says:

        standard answer is that when anything you’re trying to book can’t be booked online (so you have to telephone), booking should be free

        some agents will still ask you to pay a booking fee & you have to insist

        • If you book online not into O Q or G (mainly used for BA holidays) then you can just upgrade yourself in MMB. If you need to call in to get booked into N then in theory there should be a fee – the fee is only waived if you are doing something the website can normally do but had an error. But I’ve never had much resistance getting this waved

        • Callum says:

          Only things you can’t do online because of a website fault are free. Everything else is up to the agents discretion.

    • I would add, make sure you check “more pricing options”, they’re extremely competitive at the moment and often a lot cheaper than “book with money, upgrade using avios”.

      Example – London to Lisbon (CE)
      Full Avios price: 12750 Avios + £25
      Pricing option: 6800 Avios + £80 (saving 5950 Avios by spending an extra £55)

      Book money, UUA: 6250 Avios + £136

      So in this example, you’re paying an extra £56 by using the wrong option on the website!

      • The “More pricing options” has always been a great value, by paying some extra cash in return you get to save a lot of Avios. Well except Club World and First product.

      • Alex W says:

        Worth taking into account though that UUA tickets earn Avios and TP (in the lower class).
        Full redemption tickets earn no Avios or TP. Also if you use more pricing options, I believe the additional cash you pay is non-refundable if you cancel?

  3. Genghis says:

    Not flown from LCY for a bit but I’m sure there’s a dedicated CE check in. And CE often called either before (or at same time) as Golds. Silver and below counts for nothing at LCY

  4. It’s the extra tax you have to pay for a non-business class seat which makes it no go for me.
    Especially having flown business short haul with Qatar, American and other who give you a comfortable seat and the service to go with it, which BA try their best not to.
    If you have status you can get a seat near the front and eat in the lounge or buy a sandwich onboard for much less than the extra taxes

    • You mean for a business seat rather than a non-business?

      On short-haul redemptions BA only charges you £7.50 instead of the extra £13.

  5. Totally agree that CE not worth it from LCY. Flew recently on an Embraer 190 from LCY to Mykonos in economy, using avios, cost £17.50 and 8,500 avios each. Booked early and got the exit row seats, therefore had more legroom than CE. Of course the food was not as good, nor was there champagne but we were fed and watered and very happy with the solution, given the relative low cost.

  6. the real harry1 says:

    The problem I see is that 4500 extra Avios & £7.50 extra fees is not typical for many on slightly longer European flights, if you’re trying to justify CE from LHR.

    Ours is 7500 Avios each way peak – the Mykonos example above is 8500.

    So the real cost differential (@ 1p/ point) = £82.50 – £92.50 each way.

    Simply not worth it for me. I can easily get lounge access @ Priority Pass for under £15 a visit or from other methods £20ish. Raffles didn’t mention 2x 32kgs checked baggage in CE, which could be valuable to some (but not to us). Most of the other benefits he mentions have some value to some people but now we’re trying to justify about £65 in cost and it’s hard to make it stack up on a short European flight, especially if you are handy at getting exit seats for free (which I am! :) )

    • We flew CE LHR-FAO, a couple of weeks ago, and the difference in Avios was 6k each and £15 return. The avios hadn’t cost much, as I had transferred from Tesco( probably made a profit collecting cc points).
      On the way out I wasn’t expecting much food wise, so much so my daughter and I ate the starter, thinking it was the main, then the dessert and cheese and biscuits, much to my surprise the chicken or beef then turned up.
      On the return the food was excellent.
      I then dropped my son off, at EMA yesterday, and queued for a Ryanair flight. I’d rather travel the extra hour to LHR. and fly BA than Ryanair, without even taking the avios saving into consideration!!!! 😉

    • John E says:

      The bags are often the thing that swings it for me. Book CE for one leg and the other economy and you get the 2x32kg allowance for both flights. So it ends up about £25 each way for an extra bag, which is a lot cheaper than adding a second bag to an economy booking.

      • the real harry1 says:

        that’s a little known fact – by me, anyway!

        so 1st leg CE + flight back ET = 2x 32kg on both flights?

        I know you said it above, sounds too good to be true :)

        I guess with 2 of you travelling you could book 1 of you into HBO both ways & still get loads of checked luggage for overall cheapish flights

        • I thought John was meaning one sector in CE when connecting in London, eg economy GLA-LHR then CE LHR-ATH? (and vv) – that I could understand given the usual baggage rules.

        • John E says:

          Yep, the larger allowance carries across the booking. So doesn’t matter whether the outbound or inbound is the CE journey. Obviously, you have to book both flights in the same booking.

          • John E says:

            How BA explain it:
            “If your journey includes flights in more than one travel class, the more generous allowance will apply to your whole journey (unless the flights are on separate bookings – then each travel class’s allowance will apply to the individual flight). For example:

            You fly from Manchester to London in UK Domestic and connect from London to Rome in Club Europe. The Club Europe allowance applies to your entire journey.

            You fly from London to Dubai in World Traveller and return in World Traveller Plus. The World Traveller Plus allowance applies to your entire journey”

          • Ah, nice clarification, thanks John – I knew about highest allowance for multileg but hadn’t realised it applied outbound vs inbound too.

          • the real harry1 says:

            thanks – I get it now

          • Cheers for this John, this is extremely useful. I’m moving to Switzerland and am planning to do a couple of runs carrying stuff over hence the need for CE, if what you say is true then that allows me to save the 4k and tax on the way back.

            Is there any way of verifying this or is it just personal experience?

            Thanks

          • John E says:

            I do it regularly to and from Munich. I assumed it was a mistake on the boarding card first time I saw it, but it definitely works.

          • John E says:
          • Julian says:

            Recently (June 2017) travelled LHR to CDG outbound in Economy and then ORY to LHR on the return in Club on a single Avios.com redemption booking and can confirm that the higher Club luggage allowance is also given on the outbound Economy leg or vica versa, even when the return flight is not from the same airport.

            I was aware of this from the electronic booking paperwork I received, although ironically I was travelling with hand luggage only in the form of a modest sized backpack (very unusual for me to be hand luggage only) because on the day of arrival I was going straight to the Roland Garros ground (where left luggage would potentially be a major hassle and extra cost and I obviously didn’t want to do left luggage at CDG when I was staying in Central Paris that night) and on the day of my return I was getting the 1930 flight out of ORY and wandering Paris for several hours on foot after checking out of my hotel.

            Also I have previously flown a couple of years ago to Helsinki from LHR in Economy outbound and then Club Europe on the return on another single Avios.com redemption and again the two bag 32kg luggage allowance was also permitted on the outbound Economy flight from Heathrow T3, although ironically once again I only needed to check a single 23kg bag in to the hold and the point of the booking was firstly that only Club was available on the return and secondly in order to experience the truly excellent At Home Club lounge at Helsinki airport plus also have Club Europe service on one of the longest possible flights in the Avios Zone 2 area.

      • Agree, for my parents going on a cruise it was cheaper to fly CE than to pay the extra baggage fees in economy (plug they didn’t have status so enjoyed the extra perks). Food and service was dreadful on their NCE-LHR leg though, much better LHR-EDI.

    • Cost differential even higher when flying from the regions, makes it look even worse value!

      I happily take CE when on an ex-EU or when connecting to CW, but otherwise as a GCH it’s not worth it.

  7. Xmenlongshot says:

    Good point raised already – on a recent City flight in CE to Frankfurt they priority boarded CE passengers and Gold/OW equivalent card holders only. The priority boarding sign was printed that way.

    Food (beef cheeks) was the best I’ve had on an intra-European flight in years.

    • I’ve had beef cheeks on a CityFlyer flight back from AMS. You’d never get food like that on a BA short flight out of LHR or LGW.

      • Julian says:

        Oddly when I came back from ORY to LHR in CE a few weeks ago they actually served a three course meal instead of the only two courses you were getting out of Heathrow T5 in Club Europe last year and the year before going down to Spain.

        I found this a bizarre decision as on the short 45 minute flight and sitting in the final row of an A319 Club cabin this meant that from the point of service to removal of not only your tray but also the glass of champagne out of my hand I only had about 12 to 13 minutes to consume everything from the point of service. Also the flight attendant literally rudely pulled the glass of champagne from my hand without any warning and did not let me keep just the glass till touchdown as I have always been allowed to do in Economy (as long my table was folded and the meal tray and other items returned) in the same situation with only a plastic rather than a real sand made glass.

        It would actually have been much better on this flight to have one very high quality course but on a 2 to 3 hour flight to the Med then 3 courses is of course a pretty nice thing to have.

        Anyway ORY lounge is general fairly comfortable (as per this site’s recent review) but choice of food pretty poor with no hot food of any kind and only the usual miserable T5 Apple, banana or orange (reminding me of my school meals in the 1970s) as their token fruit offering.

  8. Cheshire Pete says:

    Just to make comment on Robs suggestion that you can drink as much champagne as you like. Yes more so on the outbound, but limited on the return as the stock is from the same pool. When flying to Larnaca last month from Gatwick that band also uses pour from bottles. We were chatting to the crew and they get 6 bottles per return journey. Sometimes they can only retain 1 bottle for the return! So remember this you greedy people flying outbound! Also you get no where near the 188ml in the small bottles when poured in those tiny CE glasses so harder to maintain a flow constantly asking for a top up! We flew back from Larnaca to Heathrow on the 767 and with that being 2 aisles of 10 rows I can tell u getting a top up of champagne was near to impossible!

    • Not even always so on the outbound. I was in CE LHR-EDI on a 767 evening flight, most people wanted champagne and we ran out! I think the plane was returning in the morning so people probably less concerned about champagne on that leg.

      I’ve yet to run out of champagne on BA CityFlyer, although initially CityFlyer didn’t offer champagne on CE domestics but that has been rectified now.

      • On a recent trip to MCO a year or so ago they ran out of champagne on the outbound leg in CW after 3h – not impressed!

    • I’ve flown back from Larnaca many times last year and usually did 7-8 mini bottles of champagne. I must have been lucky to never have had a boozy preceding flight!

    • Mels1958 says:

      We flew CE back from Ibiza in June and asked for champagne. Crew gave us each one little bottle and them brought us each another even though we hadn’t asked for it, she told us to take it home if we didn’t want to drink it straight away, which we did!

  9. OT- BA HHA

    How do I check balance on my kids’ account?
    I can only see manage my HHA online.
    Kids took a flight recently and just want to check their individual account has been credited with correct number of Avios.

  10. James67 says:

    I have a couple of ET Avios bookings coming up where there is space in CE, will they let me upgrade for the difference in price or will I have to pay a service fee on top?

    • Alex W says:

      I don’t think redemptions are upgradable. So imagine this is equivalent to canceling the ET ticket and rebooking into CE, so would incur a fee, you’d probably forfeit the £17.50 per leg. Worth giving them a call though?

  11. Colin JE says:

    On the upside when there are often no seats available on LHR or LGW there are still business class redemptions on LCY. And if you’re using it as a transfer point it takes only 5 mins to get through passport control and back through security to get to the gates for your onward flight. Yes, it’s expensive in miles for business but I like the little Embraer.

  12. You forget the extra baggage allowance!
    Its the reason to bother with club europe.

  13. Always been lucky and had an empty seat next to me on LCY CE flights….

  14. flyforfun says:

    The big factor missed here is how close or convenient is LCY for you? Being 20 mins away on the dlr/tube compared to an hour+ for LGW/LHR etc, I know what wins for me.

    I’ve used a 2-4-1 in CW when BA had flights to BCN. Perfect timing and an easy journey to/from home. Did I worry that I missed out on the opportunity of lounge access? Not really.

  15. You write about using Avios points to get an upgrade on BA Club class. But how do you do this? I can only see how to book a fare with Avios, not an upgrade.

    • If you have a relevant ticket, you can do it via Manage My Booking if you’ve already booked, or if you haven’t booked use ‘Book and upgrade’ on ba.com.

      However ….

      a) there must be Avios reward availability in the cabin you want to upgrade into
      b) you cannot upgrade from the cheapest Economy tickets. You CAN upgrade from the cheapest World Traveller Plus and Club World tickets (some restrictions may apply if you booked via a travel agent).

  16. kryten22uk says:

    I agree with the ‘dont waste your avios’ conclusion. The business class marginal proposition over economy is extremely slight for LCY flights compared to LGW or LHR, for all the reasons above, as well as the fact that you also get free food and booze in economy. Furthermore, being ‘at the front’ isnt necessarily better either. When you arrive back to LCY, they put steps on both front and rear doors, and the rear is closer to the terminal, hence without fail the rearmost pax are the first into the terminal.

    I do however pay for it with cash as I’m chasing TPs, but most of the time its only a £30 premium.

    Also, as a regular, I avoid the 2CD seats like the plague. They have the visual wow factor, but they’re quite possibly the worst seats on the plane, because:
    1. Storage is a nightmare on the E90, as cases cant fit wheels-first. There is no overhead storage over 2CD (nor 1AB for that matter), which means you need to store over row 3, but then they may well already have filled that, so you’re off further down the plane, which means you’re last off.
    2. The stow-away tables are too small, and they bow at the hinge in the middle. Means you have little room nor a flat surface to set your little champagne bottles.
    3. The legroom is irrelevant. Legroom on any seat on the E90 is very good compared to other short haul fleet. So much so that you cant get in a position where the seat in front is a hindrance. Hence making the empty space in front of the 2CD seats a practical irrelevance.

  17. I disagree.

    I have always liked the CE product and almost always fly CE on cash or Avios bookings in Europe. However, after my experiences of this year’s “upgrades”, culminating in four recent cash bookings in quick succession, I have been incredibly disappointed with the service to/from Heathrow whilst I still really like the CE product from City. I accept no lounge/priority/etc., but City is so easy to fly to/from that I’m willing to trade it off. And I also like 2C/D!

    The service and catering on all bar one of my recent CE flights via LHR was so poor that I would actually now rather fly Eurotraveller from City (foregoing the lounge access I have with my status) than CE from LHR. I don’t know what BA are thinking of. But at least I can still enjoy CE from LCY for now! If that goes down the tubes too, then my revenue to BA will also be going down the tubes along with my status, and then I may as well fly with any no frills airline.