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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)

  • Rob Brown says:

    Hi, I’ve never booked a partner redemption flight before, Do you book this on BA.Com or with Airberlin directly?

    I have searched Dusseldorf to Boston and all I am seeing are BA flights changing in LHR? Not sure how to go about even finding out how to do this.

    Thanks

    • pauldb says:

      You book on ba.com. It’s a case of finding available dates, and unfortunately there is no alternative to searching day by day (the calendar search only shows BA’s available dates). For example if you search 4 Oct to 8 Oct you’ll see thee AB DUS-BOS flights listed before BA’s indirect flights.

      • Rob Brown says:

        I see them now Thank You. Must have just been no availability for all the dates I checked.

  • Faz says:

    Keep in mind that Aer Lingus already cover BOS & SFO, and is probably easier (for positioning, from UK) and cheaper (in Avios) than Air Berlin.

  • Gavin says:

    Brussel sprout salad might make for a pongy cabin later on! More west coast options are always appreciated though 🙂

  • Roger says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the importance of keeping up to date! I diidn’t know that AB no longer served the UK direct. A sample LON-DUS booking uses a BA codeshare to ZRH, thence AB to DUS. 🙁

    I had previously used AB revenue flights ex-UK to/from DUS, PMI and VIE (Niki) as well as STN-GLA. That last one was effectively a DBA flight just after the AB/DBA merger and IIRC catering included sandwiches and a bar of chocolate.

    AB must be almost the only way of using Avios to get to Cuba. I discount the IB option as being too difficult. I would need to check my travel insurance to make sure it’s not blocked by the US embargo.

    • Pr99 says:

      I am not sure but I think you might struggle to use your Amex there and any U.S. Owned or processed bank card.

      Once tried to pay for a hotel there with Lloyds, they refused as there was an American bank in the chain so I ended up paying with a Nationwide debit card. That was about 5.5 years ago so I don’t know if Obama had changed that.

      • GraemeC says:

        Just recently back from Cuba – Lloyds issued Amex was not welcome at the hotel, never tried elsewhere, MasterCard was fine…

  • James67 says:

    OT: Can anybody confirm if the virgin-ihg transfer for spire is still working? I just got the miles I need from the credit card but if the spire option no longer works I’ll save them for an HKG UC redemption. Thanks.

    • Danksy says:

      Maybe do a test with the minimum amount first?

    • Danksy says:

      ….and let us know how you got on!

    • Rob says:

      Yes, AFAIK it is still working fine. I am sure we would know if it wasn’t.

      • Danny says:

        Yes I transferred last week and my Spire was showing on my account today

        • James67 says:

          Thanks everybody, good to hear. I didn’t want to do the trial conversion as I would have found it difficult to make up the 10k shortfall on virgin for the UC redemption if it failed.

          • Kipto says:

            And what will we get for being Spire ??

          • James67 says:

            That’s the 75k ihg point question and the root of my indecision Liz refers to below.

          • Rob says:

            Good question – there are mysterious ‘new benefits’ promised for next year. What you definitely get is 25,000 points and knowledge that you are the head of the queue for any upgrades going.

          • Danny says:

            Just checked into the IC Asiana Saigon. Paid with points (25,000 per night) and got upgraded to a beautiful corner room. Also paid 45 US dollars for club access for 2 per day which is absolutely a bargain, I think the afternoon tea is worth that alone.

          • Leo says:

            I wouldn’t get too excited about “extra” benefits if I were you. I’ve just received my Spire “rewards collection catalogue” through the post….Points really are the Green Shield stamps of the 21st century after all….

          • Liz says:

            Hey James67 – you have hummed and hawed for months over going for Spire – I was lucky in that I applied for the credit card earlier in the year and got all those easy qualifying points. I have redeemed for our USA trip next year so we will need to see if Spire has any more additional benefits and whether it is worth chasing again! We are going to start saving Hilton points next year and give that a try out – I like the option of free breakfast included.

          • James67 says:

            LOL Liz, you are absolutely right. My problem was I could not quite decide between spire and a UC redemption from HKG. The latter is useful for me no question, but the former could pay off for our Euro rail tour next year, especially if a free breakfast becomes available although I’m not optimistic we will see any further benefits. I passed on several opportunities to get the Virgin miles needed earlier in the year but when the 32k cc and 6k ISA reappeared the temptation finally got me! I have transfere7d the points I need for spire this evening so should get that and 75k ihg points including 25k spire bonus. This leaves me just over 15k FC miles which I hope I can use to upgrade a one way low tax HKG-LHR PE flight to UC if I can find the PE flight at a decent price. So my end game is roughly 1 night in an IC, 1 night in a CP or Indigo, a £650ish ow HKG revenue ticket from HKG upgraded to UC plus spire bonuses, upgrades and hopefully free breakfasts throughout 2016. If it comes together this way then it’ll be an excellent return for a £140 outlay on the cc assuming no losses on ISA.

          • Liz says:

            I’ve paid out £900 in total buying IHG points and £99 credit card but have redeemed 300000 points for 12 nights next year – 4 in a HIX in Nashville, 4 in an Indigo in New Orleans and 4 in a CP in Houston – cash price was over £5000 in total! Booked 4 nights cash in Chicago with 2 nights free with hotels.com! Will take out the Hilton card next month and get the free night to use at the Waldorf in Chicago too! All this in my first year of joining HfP and the crazy gang!

  • our_kid says:

    Don’t forget IB fly to HAV. I also booked Business with them on the route was around £1200 return…

  • Mycity68 says:

    Hi, re moving Virgin miles to IHG to qualify for Spire, do I have to call Virgin Flying Club to do this?

    Thanks

  • Ian says:

    Why doesn’t BA apply YQ on flights on AB?