There are two important pieces of Aer Lingus news today which may have an impact on how you use Avios points going forward.
This follows the acquisition of Aer Lingus by IAG, the parent company of British Airways.
Gold Circle Club to be replaced by Aer Club with Avios as its currency
Whilst the article does not mention Avios points specifically, it is quite clear from this line:
“it is expected to provide more redemption opportunities with IAG’s other airlines and partners through a new common currency”
what will happen.
Based on how the Iberia scheme currently works, we can take a guess at a few things:
You will be able to transfer Avios points into Aer Club and use them to book all Aer Lingus flights, both long haul and short haul. We can be 95% certain of this.
Availability will presumably show online which will be a first! This will save time consuming phone calls to BA to check availability.
On the downside, it will make Aer Lingus availability more transparent and thus harder to book for those of us ‘in the know’.
Will business class availability be better than the current ‘two seats per flight’ offered to partners? No idea.
Will fuel surcharges be added to Aer Lingus long haul flights? If the Iberia model is followed, the answer will be a) yes, if booked via a BA account and b) no, if you move your Avios to Aer Club and book via an Aer Club account. IAG could add surcharges regardless but I’m not sure if they want to alienate Aer Lingus customers so soon after buying the airline.
If you currently have any Gold Circle Club points, these will be converted into Avios and you will be able to merge them with your existing collection. If you have any Aer Lingus flights booked, it may be more lucrative to take Gold Circle Club points and wait for the Avios conversion rather than take the pitiful number of Avios offered for crediting to British Airways Executive Club.
If you have status with Aer Lingus, this should be valid across the oneworld alliance and thus get you lounge access with British Airways and the other 18 oneworld airlines.
I will share more details as they are announced.
Three new long haul routes for low tax Avios redemptions
In the short term, this is the more exciting news.
Aer Lingus announced yesterday that it is launching flights to Hartford (Connecticut), Los Angeles and Newark.
Los Angeles with launch first, on 4th May, with five services per week using an Airbus A330. Hartford and Newark will follow in September.
I understand that two brand new A330 aircraft which were originally designated for Iberia will instead now be delivered to Aer Lingus. Hartford will use a (leased?) Boeing 757-200 which is unlikely to feature the new generation lie-flat seats in business class.
Hartford is situated midway between Boston and New York. Whilst Hartford sounds like an odd choice, the city has been offering a very substantial bounty to any European airline willing to open up a route and Aer Lingus has taken the bait.
Los Angeles is an interesting choice, because Ethiopian (a Star Alliance member) is already flying it from Dublin using ‘fifth freedom’ flying rights – and using a brand new Boeing 787.
These routes should be available for redemption bookings using Avios very soon, if not already. Cash tickets for Los Angeles and Newark went on sale yesterday. Hartford opens for booking on 3rd November.
As Aer Lingus is a partner airline, all redemptions are priced at ‘peak day’ rates and you cannot use a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.
This means that Newark and Hartford will be 120,000 Avios per person in Business Class, return, and 40,000 Avios in Economy. Los Angeles will be 150,000 Avios in Business Class and 50,000 Avios in Economy.
In terms of taxes, you should expect to pay around £75 return in Business Class and a little less in Economy. This makes Economy an excellent deal given the modest number of Avios required.
With Business Class, the choice is not as clear cut. By flying British Airways on an off-peak day, you would require fewer Avios. New York, for example, is 100,000 Avioss off-peak so you would save 20,000 points over the Aer Lingus price. You also save the cost of flying to Dublin to start your trip. Between them, these two factors offset part of the £425 tax saving you get with Aer Lingus.
In terms of availability, Aer Lingus generally opens up two business class seats and four or more economy seats per long haul flight.