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New ‘no tax’ US and Cuba Avios redemptions in big airberlin expansion

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I have had a soft spot for airberlin since they joined oneworld three years ago, and I have probably done more than anyone else in the UK to promote them.  This is ironic as the airline does not even fly to the UK!

The reasons you should care about airberlin are:

You can use Avios to fly them long-haul to the US, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Middle East

You do not pay any fuel surcharges so there is very little cash to pay when you book an Avios seat.  A one-way redemption from the US to Germany has just £3 of taxes and charges added.

They offer a fully flat bed product in business class.

My ‘Avios Redemption University’ article on airberlin has all the details.  My review of flying the new flat seats in airberlin business class is here.

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There are some downsides, of course:

You need to get to Berlin or Dusseldorf to start your trip

The food is not great (I remember getting brussel sprout salad once)

They only release two business class seats per flight

You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on airberlin (or any other partner airline)

All airberlin redemptions are priced at ‘peak’ pricing, irrespective of whether British Airways flights are ‘peak’ or ‘off-peak’ on that day

Here are the new routes announced this week:

Dusseldorf to Dallas (four flights per week from 6th May)

Dusseldorf to San Francisco (three flights per week from 6th May, increasing to five flights from June)

Dusseldorf to Boston (three flights per week from 7th May, increasing to four flights from June)

Dusseldorf to Havana (two flights per week from 28th May)

All four destinations are new to the airberlin route network.

Avios redemptions are already loaded to ba.com.  Here is sample pricing to San Francisco:

Economy – 60,000 Avios + £61 return

Business – 180,000 Avios + £61 return

Compare that to £537 of taxes and charges for a British Airways Club World redemption and £344 for a World Traveller redemption.  The maths is not that simple, of course, because you need to factor in the cost of getting to Germany.  If you are travelling on an off-peak date, you also need to factor in the additional Avios required to fly airberlin over BA.

Overall, this is an excellent new use of your Avios points.  It will be especially welcomed by those who are Avios rich but cash poor as, even after factoring in getting to Germany, a couple should be saving £400 in taxes and charges in Economy and £800 in Business compared with flying BA.

airberlin availability is currently excellent on these new routes.  Unless your are BA Gold, there are no BA World Traveller seats to San Francisco available in July 2015 for example – but airberlin has space on almost every flight.

Similarly, there are no Club World seats outbound between 20th June and 19th September whereas the airberlin cup runneth over – at least for the next week or so until they are snapped up.

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

Comments (61)

  • DUS says:

    Well, they do have flights between the continent and the UK ….

  • Brian says:

    The AB long-haul cabin is relatively cramped – I say ‘relatively’ compared to other business class carriers I’ve flown – but the actual product is excellent. Direct aisle access for all seats – plus real coffee, not the dishwater served on BA.

    • Gill says:

      We have flown AB twice.
      MIA-DUS a couple of yrs ago and VRA-DUS in September this year.
      Service was excellent both times. Flat beds were nice and the food was comparable to BA CW.
      I’d prefer it over BA CW anytime.
      Returning to MAN its easy to get here from DUS on flybe.
      I think we paid £13.50 plus the Avios each.
      Its a no brainer if you want a one way ticket that would be a waste of a 241 or have a route that BA don’t fly.

  • Brian says:

    OT – but Qatar seem to be doing their 2for1 business deal again.

    • Idrive says:

      Thanks Rob this is something i will keep an eye on. I am constantly looking for tax free redemptions opportunities! Otherwise i just prefere to pay the cash price and bag the avios for my 241s..

      Brian seems so but what i realy need is an extension of the ex eu deals that ended last week!

  • Ian says:

    1- Does anyone know what the schedule to Cuba is and how many avios do you need ? Can’t find anything on the airberlin site. Not even for cash tickets..
    2- A bit of unrelated, but can you mix reward cabins with virgin? Was trying that online, but seems to give me an error. Thanks

    • Idrive says:

      Ian i don’t see why not i made several quotes with Virgin rewards where there was no availability in the same class. Not that i booked but never got an error and was offered prem+eco or upper with a combination of taxes abd different points amounts

    • Gill says:

      Book on BA.
      Its not easy to work out the schedule just keep looking on different days, Varadero VRA flights go either from DUS,MUC or TXL.
      On 8/5/16 there are 2 business award seats for 75000 Avios and £46 and 4 economy seats for 25000 Avios and £46 DUS to VRA
      Putting VRA into the search doesn’t show the airport but the search still works.

  • Harry says:

    I flew AB Business earlier in the year DUS-JFK and found the seats cramped and not especially comfortable, the food very sub par compared to other Business Class products, no decent lounge. I would go for BA any day even with the extra charges. You can get an off peak ticket and you don’t need to spend hours getting to Germany making sure to leave plenty of time to make the connection by collecting your baggage, going out through Passport control, checking in again etc. In March thought I would save the extortionate UK exit tax by flying BA from London City to Dusseldorf and then Dusseldorf to Tel Aviv with AB on two separate tickets. The BA flight was 2:45 hours late and I missed my AB connection. Luckily AB didn’t make a fuss and put me on the next flight, but that was via Berlin with an 8 hour layover so instead of arriving late afternoon I got in at 3am. It wasn’t worth it!

    • whiskerxx says:

      Flew business DUS-RSW and return in July. Yes I found the seat a bit cramped – feet are boxed in – but I thought the food was the best I had ever had on a plane. I commented to the crew that the Gnocchi (I eat a lot of Gnocchi) was the best I’d ever eaten in the air, and a contender for the best anywhere ever! Bread that was warm, but with fresh crust, croissants were like they had just been baked in a conventional oven.
      The lounge was very poor at both ends, but the crew were good.
      One thing I thought strange was that standing is “verboten”, so straight to the loo and back, no loitering allowed.
      I used an IHG reward night in Dusseldorf and like most German cities found it to be a pleasant place to spend a day.
      I did only pay 100,000Avios and £60 back then and thought it was great value. Return flight BHX -DUS cost £84 with Germanwings

  • Adam W says:

    Time to rebrand to AirDusseldorf?

    • Rob says:

      If / when the new Berlin airport opens I think you will see AB putting on a growth spurt there. There is probably more money in Dusseldorf for long-haul premium seat purchases though.

  • pauldb says:

    I found an interesting quirk in the booking system which has some relevance here. If you book, say, AMS-LHR-SFO in J longhaul you are only offered J shorthaul. However if you opt for LHR stopover, you can pick the segments individually, even if you choose a “false” stopover (flying on the same day).
    You would think opting for Y shorthaul would just save 4000 avios e/w, but it has a strange effect on taxes. You end up with a 4th option for a LHR traveller:
    LHR-SFO-LHR 125,000 + £537 (this is all based on BA off-peak)
    DUS-SFO-DUS 180,000 + £61
    AMS-LHR-SFO-LHR(-AMS dropped) all J 140,500 + £365: not enough of a saving (just APD)
    AMS-LHR-SFO-LHR(-AMS dropped) Y/J/J/Y 133,000 + £251
    The latter is 47k less than AB, for £190 (buying at 0.4p/avios) and you don’t have to get home from DUS at the end.
    If you are happy to pay the extra £20 APD, you can delay the last leg to a date when you;ll use it rather than discarding (and doesn’t have to be the same as your origin).
    Sadly doesn’t have this effect from JER (would have been a nice 241 trick).

    • pauldb says:

      Sorry should have said it has a strange effect on YQ specifically:
      LHR-SFO-LHR YQ £309
      AMS-SFO-AMS all J YQ £252
      AMS-SFO-AMS Y/J YQ £138

      • VP says:

        That’s very interesting Paul. Ex eu for award flights !! The advantage being just one positioning flight with return direct to London. Of course not valid for 2-4-1 but if you have the time the savings are substantial.

      • Alan says:

        Thanks, Paul – interesting – definitely something I’ll keep in mind (although will be a little less likely to use if all these ex-EU J sale fares keep on appearing!!)

    • Zoe says:

      I have a daughter at Uni who gets a year in the USA as part of her American Studies course. As someone so used to booking flights far ahead I’m already fretting that I don’t know exactly where she will need to fly to. I think sending her via Amsterdam to reduce the taxes might be adding too much stress to her outbound journey. I suspect she will want to take more than one 23kg bag with her but premium economy redemptions to the east coast in mid August seem few and far between. Of course I could send her in Club World but for a student willing to endure 24 hours on a coach to Uni ski and sports tours it seems a little OTT.
      If anyone has experience of their child doing a year in US I’d love to hear any advice… (Yes I know its way off topic)

      • ynot says:

        I have a niece at uni who has just booked herself (!) a ticket to go to a conference in Vancouver. She is going via Dublin (cheapest option by far) and by stopping over the night in Dublin achieves 2 things – takes the stress out of missing a connection (although it’s her father that stresses, not her) and gives her time to go explore Dublin and tick off another city.

        In terms of luggage for your daughter I would look at the option of using one of the freight companies that offer shipping services for students, it seems to have become big business since i went to uni. You will probably need it for all the stuff she collects whilst in the US!

  • TM says:

    Hi Raffles,

    Would you agree that except for those who are avios rich and cash poor, that these redemptions are probably poor value compared to current avios earning cash prices – whether you value avios at 1p or .7p. Perhaps at short notice this would be a good deal, but I think 90% of the time you would get better value saving your avios and booking a cash J or Y fare ex EU.

    This is much more the case than this time last year, as since then, cash prices have dropped sharply and avios peak and partner rates have conversely increased in price significantly.

    • Danksy says:

      I do know what you mean re: avios earning rates being low!

      As a BAEC silver holder I’ll be picking up Avios quite cheaply.

      LGW-FCO & Return = 3576 Avios for £150 flying in CW.
      CPH-LHR-LAX & Return = 9354 Avios for £276 flying in Economy – yes I know! :'(

      • Worzel says:

        Danksy-I’m sure that when flying in Economy, you’re comforted by the fact that when you get back, it will be to a warm, well-lit home 🙂 .

        • Danksy says:

          The eldest daughter (19) and her boyfriend will be out to spite me for sure… I’ll be burning more fuel than the (cramped) 777 I’ll be flying in… Worzel, you reckoned you could get to Bristol in an hour, I might pay you to be stand in grumpy old man !!!! However I do plan to turn the boiler thermostat down (she hasn’t worked that one out yet!) and maybe turn all the other rads off apart from the one in her room haha!

          • Worzel says:

            Good News, Danksy- I could probably get there in 30mins or so, and the first visit would be FOC.
            You’ve allowed your eldest to have a boyfriend?? 🙂 .

          • Danksy says:

            Thanks… happy to reciprocate! BF is 22, nice guy but hopelessly I responsible. .They get on well!

          • Worzel says:

            All understood.

      • richard says:

        I saw those kind of prices ex Europe to lax recently too. Sub £300 from Dublin is amazing.
        Last leg do AL out of Gatwick and miss it. Make sure the LHR-LAX leg is on AA and then you get access to MCE if you are BA gold/Silver. its as roomy as BA premium eco and fro £300 or less return Plus earned avios. Amazing value

    • Rob says:

      It depends how you earn your Avios, to be honest. Someone who travel a lot for work in premium cabins and takes advantage of the BA bonus promos will be racking up serious numbers with no personal effort or expense. That person will have a different view to someone who picks up their points in chunks of 1,000 via Tesco etc. For the latter collector, flying with a companion, it would make far more sense (if they could get availability) to fly BA off-peak and use a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.

    • Tobi says:

      I completely agree. It’s not worth any more to actively collect Avios. Now, all my efforts are going into hotel points.

      • TM says:

        Tobi I still think avios still offer serious value in some areas, esp RFS and short haul redemptions in the US etc. I just don’t think at the moment they offer nearly as much value long haul in economy or business.

        • harry says:

          +1
          No possibility of long haul for me just yet until we send the kids to university – our place to maintain in Europe plus we like it so we spend most holidays out there.

          5 of us. Which means getting dirt cheap RFS flights is saving us £thousands a year, probably about £2K vs cheapies if you include the luggage.

          • Polly says:

            RFS fab for us back and forth to dub too.. Def worth collecting, also for our bi annual 241 in F when we can et them!