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How to fly to the Middle East in Business Class for 75,000 Avios and £49 tax

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Since the Avios devaluation last year, flights from the UK to the Middle East have cost 120,000 Avios in Business Class on either Qatar Airways or British Airways.

You can reduce this to 100,000 Avios if you fly off-peak but, as I wrote the other day, off-peak dates will be impossible to get during school holidays from 2017.  You will also be paying around £500 per person in tax from the UK.

There are two ways of reducing this to 75,000 Avios points and as little as £49 tax.

Option 1:  airberlin

If you are heading to the United States or the Middle East, airberlin is an excellent option.  You will minimise your taxes and, in some cases, the Avios spent.

Since airberlin joined the oneworld airline alliance in March 2012, it has opened up a new range of long-haul routes from Europe that can be booked with Avios.  Along with Aer Lingus and Iberia, they offer you the chance to redeem your Avios for long haul flights whilst paying far lower taxes than usual.

airberlin is an odd airline. It markets itself like a low-cost carrier, but is generally well regarded for its seating and service. It serves a number of long-haul routes, whilst easyJet and Ryanair are 100% short-haul. It also has a fully-flat business class product, unlike most low-cost long-haul airlines.  Aer Lingus is probably the nearest comparison.

airberlin abu dhabi

airberlin is still a work in progress. It has lost money for a number of years and has seen frequent changes of management. The good news is that the airline is keeping faith with its long-haul routes.

Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, is a 29% shareholder in the airline. It bought topbonus, airberlin’s frequent flyer scheme, from the airline (see this article) and it is now part of the Etihad Airways Partners pseudo-alliance, as well as oneworld.

airberlin has a lot of routes to the Americas – you can find out more about those in this Avios Redemption University article.  Here I want to focus on their Middle East routes.  You have four options:

Abu Dhabi from Berlin – 75,000 Avios + £52 return (long-haul plane with flat beds)

Abu Dhabi from Dusseldorf – 120,000 Avios + £53 return (long-haul plane with flat beds)

Abu Dhabi from Stuttgart – 75,000 Avios + £52 return (short-haul A320 plane, ending in May)

Abu Dhabi from Vienna – 75,000 Avios + £49 return (short-haul A320 plane, under the NIKI brand)

Berlin and Dusseldorf include the Etihad chauffeur service to and from Abu Dhabi airport.

The reason that these routes are so cheap, apart from Dusseldorf, is that they are under 3,000 miles.  This pushes them into the cheaper Avios pricing band.  Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi is, unfortunately, just over 3,000 miles.  An Avios redemption on this route is poorer value at 120,000 Avios return in Business and 40,000 return in Economy.

The best option is Abu Dhabi to Berlin if you can find availability.  airberlin generally only open up two business class seats per flight so this is not suitable for families unless you pay for a 3rd or 4th seat.  There are two flights a day from Berlin but they leave 10 hours apart so splitting the group is not really an option.

Abu Dhabi is a short drive to Dubai (under an hour) and the transfer would be free in Business Class via Etihad’s chauffeur fleet.  You would also be collected in Dubai and driven back to Abu Dhabi for your return flight.

If you are considering NIKI, bear in mind that you don’t get a fully flat seat from Vienna as it is a short-haul A320 aircraft.  You get the US-style short-haul business class seat:

Niki business class seat

It doesn’t look uncomfortable but, if you are going to go to the trouble of changing planes to get to the Middle East, I don’t know why you would choose this over the airberlin flat bed seat which I reviewed here:

Option 2:  Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways also benefits from the fact that flights from most of Germany are under 3,000 miles and so fall into the cheaper Avios pricing band.

The upside of using Qatar Airways is that they tend to open four business class seats per flight which makes it a better option for families.  You may also get to fly the latest aircraft depending on where you depart.

The downside is higher taxes and the fact that Doha has less to offer than Abu Dhabi or Dubai for a holiday.  Connecting from Doha to Abu Dhabi or Dubai requires a short flight which would mean taking three flights to reach your destination – a little excessive I think.

Out of Germany you have the following options:

Doha from Berlin – 75,000 Avios + £270 return, Airbus A330

Doha from Frankfurt – 75,000 Avios + £286 return, Airbus A350 or Boeing 787

Doha from Munich – 75,000 Avios + £275 return, Airbus A350 or Boeing 787

Of course, there are many cities outside Germany which are also served by Qatar Airways and which are under 3,000 miles to Doha.  All of these would be just 75,000 Avios in Business Class.  I used German examples here to provide a contrast to airberlin.

The ‘sweet spot’ of the Middle East routes, however, is the airberlin Berlin to Abu Dhabi service:

you get a flat bed

you get the free chauffeur service

you save between 25,000 and 45,000 Avios compared to starting in the UK

you save £450 in taxes

you land in Abu Dhabi which is more convenient for most people than Doha

and, for anyone who does not live near Heathrow, a plane change in Berlin is no more trouble than a plane change in London – and most regional airports have flights to Berlin

how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (July 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (43)

  • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    I know that we are all striving to turn left on boarding, but Etihad economy passengers can use the Etihad “Luxury Coach” free of charge to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.
    I don’t know if this is also an option for Air Berlin flights?

    • pauldb says:

      It’s ok, they drive on the right (and most coaches have door on the right anyway): so everyone gets to turn left at the top of the steps.

    • Jason says:

      T&Cs say Air Berlin economy flights are eligible.

  • Raj says:

    Hi Raffles

    Apologises for the novice questions! I collect British Airways avios points and reading your article I am interested in the Berlin to Abu Dhabi, however, a little bit confused on how to actually redeem it? All my avios are current in my BA executive accounts?

    Thanks for the help


    • Rob says:

      Book on in the same way you would redeem for BA, easy. If you do a dummy booking for, say, November (so seats should be available) you will see them.

  • Simmo says:

    How do you go about booking the Etihad chauffeur service?

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Call the number on the airberlin website. It’s a German number but the agents speak excellent English.

  • S says:

    Great Article Raffles – thanks!

    Have been fishing about for somewhere to get rid of those Avios, and a big fan of Air Berlin.

    Did you get chance to try the Etihad Arrivals lounge at AUH whilst waiting for the chauffeur? It’s a nice touch 🙂

    Cheers as always for your hard work and wonderful news, always a big help!

  • LEE says:


    I have amex plat card , Its says about Delta sky club lounge access but i wanted to know for this do you have to be flying delta airlines as im looking to use it in there lounge in San Diego ,Priority pass dont have a lounge at this airport

  • LEE says:

    I just got the amex plat card and was referred by a friend , so I should be receiving 35,000 points if i reach the spend limit , but in my account is showing as 30,000 is this normal for it show this way for now ? My friend received there bonus of 18,000 points already

    any info greatly appreciated

  • harry says:

    Anybody tempted to think of Qatar as a holiday destination: please do yourself a favour and think again.

    It’s probably second in the list of worst possible holiday destinations (after North Korea).

    Not even worth a stopover day if you are using Doha as a hub to somewhere better.

    • Rob says:

      It’s perfectly fine for 48 hours if you pick the right hotel by a beach. These fares are unlikely to allow stopovers anyway based on precedent.

      • harry says:

        Using Doha typically means you’re on your way to somewhere in SE Asia/ Australasia – that end destination will be far better & you’ll look back thinking you wish you’d had 2 nights more in the good place and 2 nights fewer in Doha.

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