Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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 ba.com.  More out of hope than anything else, I went onto ba.com 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.  ba.com 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.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (November 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel 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 £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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.

  • Ben says:

    Im going to Menorca next weekend and the flights coming back were horrendous (something like £350 on Easyjet to SEN(!) and £450 on BA to LGW in Y. A quick check of Avios revealed no Y seats but was abke to do a p+p Avios CE redemption for something like 6,000 Avios plus £60. Fantastic value given the circumstances.

    • Canuck says:

      Didn’t BA just launch a STN route on Sat or Sun? I did STN to PMI which was 7500 and pretty decent flight.

      Failing that, try using AB and connecting via ZRH or DUS – I regularly connect from the Balearic islands through here as the avios availability is much higher, offering good value vs the cash alternatives.

      • Rob says:

        Yes. Iberia Express does an 11pm on Fri or Sat from LHR T5, but with 2 little kids ….

  • RTS says:

    I wish I can do something similar for Koh Samui to HKG in Feb! Only direct flights are Bangkok Airways! 🙁

    • RTS says:

      So it turns out Bangkok Airways is part of Oneworld, but for some reason flights from Ko Samui to HKG isn’t redeemable on Avios…

      • Rob says:

        It isn’t – it is a BA codeshare partner but you can’t redeem on it AFAIK

        • Ian says:

          Also you don’t get Avios awarded on their flights. At least I’ve never worked out how to – if any other reader has succeeded, please let us know how.

      • harry says:

        Flying in & out of Koh Samui is quite an uplifting experience!

        Should be on your bucket list, along with Kai Tak (too late, suckers! lol! or is it? not sure if it is still in use?) and Madeira, the latter which I have not yet done but I hear is a bit special.

        Any others I should add to my ‘retirement/ send the kids off to university and get my life back’ list?

        • Genghis says:

          SXM?

        • Yan says:

          PBH, Bhutan

        • james says:

          I’ve been reviewing and evaluating your plan Harry.
          It seems it isn’t working.
          Time for a new approach?

          • harry says:

            can’t please all the people all the time – or you end up anodyne

            best to simply ignore me, then

          • harry says:

            Princess Juliana International Airport is the main airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, located on the Dutch side of the island in the country of Sint Maarten

            Paro Airport is the sole international airport in Bhutan. The airport is 6 km from Paro in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu. With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 m, it is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.

            aha

          • James says:

            easier said than done.
            Unfortunately there are too many occasions when you are like a bad case of tinnitus.

        • Olivula says:

          I just landed on the beach at Barra using Avios and Flybe. Fortunately someone technical knows when the tide is out. A bit odd stepping off a piece off technology onto a soggy beach. Best not wear high heels…..but then I am from Brighton. I can confirm that Twin Otter engines will put you in line for a hearing aid.

      • Simmo says:

        Deffo not part of One world.

        But are a partner of BA – i.e Ba fly to Phuket (from Bangkok) using PG flights.

      • xcalx says:

        Flying PG metal.

    • Rimas says:

      You can try call Etihad Guest if you have any points and there is availability.

      • RTS says:

        I can only see Asia Miles as redeemable for Bangkok Air. 20k Asia Miles for 1 way from USM to HKG… That would cost me 27k AMEX Points….

  • DS says:

    AB use Airbus A330-200 on some routes to Palma, eg DUS-PMI, I belive all of them have been refurbished and have the long-haul config with Business Class seats now. The sell them as Business Class as well.

  • Oli says:

    Looks like a very nice hotel with kids! How did you transfer from Innsbruck to the hotel? Seems to be far

    • Ed says:

      A review would be handy for those of us with kids

      • Rob says:

        Unbranded and in a random location? …. Happy to answer specific queries.

        I am covering Hilton Sa Torre though.

        • Dannyrado says:

          Booo. Give the parents what they want… Review it I say. Fills an article if nothing else.

          • Rob says:

            An article which would take three times longer to write than any other article that day, would receive about 1/3rd of the page views of the other two and which would have very little SEO value as not many English speakers are looking for info this property …..

            But apart from that ….!

  • Paul says:

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

    Name one German/Austrian airport that doesn’t at least have seasonal flights to PMI! 😉 You’re absolutely right, economy redemptions on AB/HG are often amazing value. I recently booked JFK-TXL in economy for 4k Avios + €180 per person – especially if you just need a oneway flight, that’s tough to beat.

  • Concerto says:

    It’s one of the great secrets of the Avios thing, very useful for me here in Germany!

  • BlueHorizonUK says:

    Rob, is there a particular website you recommend for booking this hotel or did you just go directly?

    No redemption opportunities here?…..lol

    • Rob says:

      As with all Euro family run hotels, you need to email your requirements and they make you a written offer which you must accept or decline. This is still how it is done in Europe at indy hotels.

  • Canuck says:

    Recently did PMI to ZRH for 4500 avios and $9 in the first week of Aug! Cash alternatives on AB are ludicrously high during the summer, particularly during a Mallorca summer that is seeing 20%+ more tourism than the year before. Those AB routes are a bit of a hidden gem for avios redemptions at PMI. Helpful given my (German) in-laws live on the island.

    That premium desk is very handy! Other queues are insanely long. Typically you get the suitcase included in your avios fare and not because of your status. My wife didn’t retain her status this year but still got her bag checked.

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