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My review of airberlin short-haul from Palma to Innsbruck – my best Avios redemption

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Regular readers may remember that, back in May, I wrote about an Avios redemption I had booked which was – by a large margin – the most lucrative I have ever done.

I thought it only fair that I conclude the story with a review of the flight itself.

Back in Spring, my wife booked us into a family focussed hotel in the Dolomites near Innsbruck for a week.  I am there as I type this and it is genuinely astonishing in terms of how they have combined a luxury hotel with more kids facilities than you can ever imagine – all set in a picture-perfect Italian hillside village.   It has won various awards for the best family hotel in the world.  (The hotel website is here.)

Because she wanted a two week break from the office, she wanted to add a week in Mallorca beforehand.  This meant that we needed to get from Mallorca to Innsbruck on a fixed day in August.  You can imagine, when I typed that request into Expedia, I wasn’t very hopeful.

Amazingly, such a flight exists.  NIKI, the Austrian low cost airline now owned by airberlin, flies it during Summer.  I couldn’t believe it.

I then saw the price.  €331 per person, one way.  Impressive pricing for a low cost airline but it was a peak time flight on a Saturday in August.  And I didn’t have many alternatives.

airberlin, of course, is a oneworld alliance member.  This means that I can books its flights with Avios points on  More out of hope than anything else, I went onto to see what was available.  Amazingly, there were SIX economy seats available for Avios on the flight.

I promptly booked four of them.  I was going to pay (€331 x 4) €1,324 which is £1,134.  I paid 30,000 Avios plus £35.  You can’t argue with that.

Check-in and seat reservations

After booking, airberlin was keen to charge me for a seat reservation.  However, I rang their call centre and they were happy to book us into Row 14 for free because of my British Airways status.

Row 14 is the first row they will allocate for elites.  The first 13 rows they try to sell for an additional cost.

This actually worked out well for us.  Rows 12 and 13 were the emergency exits which sell for an even higher premium.  Demand was so low that there was a row of three emergency exit seats empty directly in front of me in Row 13, so I switched after take-off.  Three seats to yourself in an emergency exit row is not bad!

Sadly my wife had to remain in 14 A/B/C with the children as kids cannot sit on exit rows!

airberlin niki review

airberlin is the biggest airline operating out of Palma.  You can imagine the scene at the check-in queue on a Saturday in August – it was horrendous.

Luckily, directly opposite, was a premium check-in desk.  This had a grand total of one person queuing at it, which was at least 199 fewer people than were in the main queue.   A quick wave of my British Airways card via the BA smartphone app and we were allowed in.

We were not charged for our three suitcases.  There are two potential reasons for this:

redemption tickets are booked as ‘Economy Classic’ and not ‘Economy Light’ or

we were let off due to my British Airways status

I’m not sure which applied in our case.  In any event, I was deliriously happy to have skipped a massive queue and not paid for our luggage.  We also got Fast Track security due to our status.

airberlin niki review

The lounge

There are two Priority Pass lounges in Palma but neither was on the C concourse.  We didn’t have too much time so we just took a seat and bought a sandwich.

Onboard service

The crew looked about 16 years of age.  I’m sure they weren’t, but we had a 16-year staying with us recently and he looked just as old as the male crew member ….  His female colleague looked about 19.  Both were wearing jeans.

airberlin is soon to start charging for all on-board food and drink.  At present, you still get (half a) salami or cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee.  The salami ran out on Row 14 – my daughter got the last one.  Alcoholic drinks are available if you pay.

airberlin niki review

There isn’t much more to say.  Seat pitch in Row 14 was officially 30 inches but seemed more generous than the 30 inch pitch on British Airways – the seat (a Recaro slimline one) may have been thinner.  I am 6’2′ but my knees still had a small gap between the seat in front.  Once I moved to the empty emergency row 13 I had lots of space.

airberlin niki review

There is some IFE – a TV programme was played on the overhead screens.  It seems that you had to bring your own headphones and it was almost certainly in German anyway:

airberlin niki review

The flight itself was uneventful, except for the round of applause given by the passengers on landing ….

Innsbruck is a tiny airport.  It was a bit odd to walk straight out of the airport with no passport check!  The luggage belts are literally 10 metres from the entrance to the terminal from the tarmac – it couldn’t be easier.

It is worth taking a look at some of the obscure routes flown by airberlin as there are some interesting options.  Anika needed a flight out of Split on a particuar date next month, for example.  BA wanted over £400 one way (economy) and there was nothing for Avios or On Business points.  The problem was solved with an airberlin flight on Avios from Split to Vienna and then a connection to BA. isn’t very good at throwing up connections like this so you need to do your homework with the route map on the airberlin website.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

Comments (62)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Genghis says:

    Now when someone next argues that they’re getting 3-4p from a BA CW redemption using a 241 (when clearly other – even better – options are available), this is a great go-to example of a specific flight need with limited alternatives which represented a great use of avios.

  • David says:

    My best value was Hong Kong to Chongqing (HKG-CKG) on a fixed date just before Chinese New Year. Revenue flights (Dragonair, Air China, Hong Kong Airlines) had obviously sold well in advance, so the remaining fares were around £400 one-way, even in economy. To my amazement, the Dragonair flight still had 3 economy seats left via for just 7,500 Avios + £12 tax. Best value ever!

  • Yuff says:

    I flew in and out if Innsbruck at February half term this year. The flight in was fine, the return flight was horrendous as the queues for food and drink were heaving. Don’t think I have ever been in a more crowded departure area.
    Passengers had to find any space available, on the floor to sit down, they did eventually open a gate that led to a second cafe which eased the congestion. All this for approx £750 in economy( package deal)
    This year using avios to Verona 9k avios, and £35 each, cash price was £660 at t-355 🙂

  • Sam wardill says:

    Mrs Raffles should know that it’s only during take off and landing that kids can’t sit in the exit row 🙂

    • harry says:

      The crew do get very funny about exit rows & kids, officially on BA it’s 12YO and older (you’re probably technically correct about take-off/ landing). I’ve often sat my two boys there, as soon as age permitted, because I like exit rows and it used to be easy to get them foc T-24. But nary the time we have had the inquisition on their ages and a disapproving look. One old maid even got arsy about my eldest – he has got severe autism and I guess it showed when he didn’t reply right to the usual question – she made him move, which made me pretty angry at the time, but I guess she had a smidgeon of right on her side, not that it happens that often (emergency landing). After that I just told him to act foreign & not reply, no further problems.

      • rotundo says:

        According to exit rows are only for adults. Where did you see a mention of 12yo and older?

        • Red says:

          I was under that impression too. I thought you had to be at least 18 and capable of opening the door. I know for sure during an emergency I wouldn’t want some 12 year old in charge of trying to open the door.

          • harry says:

            nope it’s 12YO and older as that is BA’s definition of ‘adult’

            probably why I got the disapproving looks but I knew the rules

            I think they call them ‘young adults’ these days but a 12YO can still sit in exit row

          • Leo says:

            “If you don’t reserve your seats in advance, we’ll do our best to seat your family together a few days before your flight departs. However, the seat selection may be limited at that time and your seats may be split across different rows or the aisle. We will make sure each child under 12 years sits next to an adult from your booking but children over 12 years are booked as an adult in our system and may sit separately.”

            That’s what the BA site says about families sitting together – I can’t see anything about them needing to be 18. I agree that I wouldn’t want my safety in the hands of a 12 year old. But then again at least you’ve a fighting chance that they wouldn’t be drunk.

          • harry says:

            not sure 5 beers/ G&Ts over 2 hours makes anyone drunk lol

            I suppose we should add on the lounge 🙂

            I think we are moving rapidly towards an ethos where too much booze is heavily disapproved of by certain fellow human beings – probably not a bad thing – I must say as a never-smoked-in-my-life person that I am glad we have already moved to that with smoking, for my kids’ sake – taxed out of existence & made to look a truly disgusting habit

            but booze? some dogs are too old to change their spots, Leo – you have to learn to take in the whole picture, not just the failings

            “’You are drunk Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk. ‘Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs. Braddock are ugly, and disgustingly fat. But, tomorrow morning, I, Winston Churchill will be sober.”

            Quite a UK hero.

          • Leo says:

            What has Churchill got to do with being potentially drunk in an emergency exit?

          • harry says:

            would it be because you virtually never need to use an emergency exit?

            in a ‘near’ emergency, people will be civil

            in a real emergency, I think I, like most people, will be fighting for my life, and more importantly for my kids’ lives, punching people in the face etc and scrambling over other people just to get out – fight or flight etc

          • danksy says:

            lol @ harry!

            On a more serious note -I was disgusted at the behaviour of folks on the BA flight which caught fire in Vegas BA2276 Sept ’15 and also the Emirates B773 earlier this month where the undercarriage failed at DXB.

            IMHO – Where there’s evidence the passengers who disobeyed the evacuation procedures should have been prosecuted for endangering life.

          • harry says:

            yep well I guess Leo has a pretty good point

            that’s the way it’s going

            and I respect Leo for his logic/ argument/ persuasiveness

          • Callum says:

            I think imposing legal consequences on how someone reacts under severe pressure once a fight or flight instinct has been activated and rational thought cannot be relied upon is rather beyond the pale in almost any scenario – no matter how superior you deem yourself to be.

    • Ross Parker says:

      Also, aren’t they supposed to have one person in the exit row at take off (to open doors if there is a disaster)? I note you switched after take-off.

  • Sam wardill says:

    I was very glad of BA gold card extra availability when I took 11 members of my extended family to nice on Avios this July when revenue flights were £300+

  • NickS says:

    A couple of years ago, we flew to Cape Town over Christmas (LHR – CPT direct) on with miles in economy. I’m pretty sure it was 50k miles each and a couple hundred pounds each in tax. But considering the cash fare was £1850 each, I felt it was worth it. Especially since we decided to extend our stay when new seats became available, which we wouldn’t have been able to do with the cash ticket!

  • andset1191 says:

    Ortisei is my go to Dolomites town for summer and winter breaks. We always stay at the five star next door to Cavalino called Adler Dolomiti. They also have an amazing hotel in Tuscany as well.

    My favourite part of the world.

    • harry says:

      Piancavallo was where I learned my ski legs when I was 18, I went there with a mate from school. At the end of 2 weeks we were bombing around like the best of them – and that was before carvers! My skis were longer than I am at about 210cm lol

      Fond memories of Il Gatto Nero and some sweetheart from Pordenone!

      • harry says:

        I ended up a far better skier than 99% of you, truth be told. I got to a good standard when I was younger. Then when I was working out of Glasgow-ish, I used to go to Cairngorm every weekend in season with a girlfriend – testing conditions!

        Then I came out here to work and ended up skiing ever weekend in Austria. Piancavallo was fun but too easy. Give me black lol

  • Tim says:

    Innsbruck is a wonderful airport, but very limited facilities once through security, so best plan is to use roof terrace after check-in, then once incoming plane is seen arriving, head to departure lounge.

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