In one of her tougher Head for Points assignments, Anika spent a few days in Boston recently as the guest of Aer Lingus. With the bankruptcy of airberlin, Aer Lingus is now the clear choice if you want to redeem Avios points for long-haul business class tickets to North America without paying a fortune in taxes.
The even better news is that Aer Lingus has an excellent business class seat which is now available on all of its aircraft. It offers, in probably every respect, a better experience than British Airways Club World. It is ironic that IAG, which owns BA and Aer Lingus, is actually trying to position Aer Lingus as a lower cost option from Europe to North America when it actually has the superior product.
We will be running a series of articles over the next couple of weeks covering:
- the Aer Lingus lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2
- the immigration pre-clearance experience, and the new pre-clearance airport lounge, in Dublin
- the Aer Lingus long-haul business class experience
Aer Lingus gave us a return business class ticket free of charge. As per usual HFP policy, we paid all of our other expenses, except for the hotel in Boston which Hilton gave us in return for a review.
Where does Aer Lingus fly long haul?
The Aer Lingus long haul network has expanded sharply in the last couple of years as new aircraft have been delivered.
They fly almost exclusively to the US – Toronto is the exception – to benefit from the US customs and immigration facilities in Dublin and Shannon. What this means is that Aer Lingus services land in the US on domestic gates. If you have no checked baggage, you will be in a taxi within minutes of touching down.
If you live outside London, changing planes in Dublin on the way to the US is no more difficult – and probably smoother – than changing in Heathrow. Even if you live in the South East, the trade off between changing planes in Dublin but avoiding the queue for US immigration on arrival means that Aer Lingus is still a serious option. For Avios redemptions, the incentive of a huge taxes and charges saving is also a big incentive!
Aer Lingus will be running the following long-haul services next Summer (ie from March 2018) from Dublin:
- Miami (3 per week)
- New York (21 per week)
- Boston (14 per week)
- Chicago (14 per week)
- San Francisco (7 per week)
- Orlando (4 per week)
- Philadelphia (4 per week)
- Toronto (7 per week)
- Washington (7 per week)
- Los Angeles (7 per week)
- Hartford (7 per week)
How to redeem Avios for Aer Lingus
As a bit of background before we start the reviews, I wanted to briefly run though how you can redeem Avios for Aer Lingus services.
It used to be the case that Aer Lingus seats could only be booked with Avios via a telephone call to British Airways Executive Club, with no way of checking availability online.
This changed in December 2016, when Aer Lingus reward availability was loaded into avios.com.
At the same time, Aer Lingus introduced peak and off-peak pricing. The list of peak dates does NOT match the British Airways list of peak dates. You can see the Aer Lingus 2018 peak and off-peak calendar here (the BA and Iberia calendars are here).
Taxes are very low when redeeming Avios for Aer Lingus long-haul flights. Avios has still found a way to make it confusing, however.
There are now TWO ways of booking a redemption on Aer Lingus:
Option 1 is to use avios.com. You can book online and you get the widest choice of dates. You will pay around £200 in taxes and charges for a long-haul flight from Dublin to North America.
Option 2 is to use ba.com. You cannot book online, only by telephone. Anecdotally, there is less availability than you see via avios.com, and you cannot check availability online before you ring. However, you will only pay around £75 in taxes and charges for a long-haul flight from Dublin to North America.
Remember that these taxes figures assume you start your trip from Dublin. If you add in a connection from the UK on the same ticket then you will be hit for long-haul Air Passenger Duty of over £100. You will probably want to buy or redeem for a separate connecting ticket to Dublin although you should try to stick with Aer Lingus as they will be more inclined to help if your inbound flight is delayed.
But what is it like flying Aer Lingus?
Glad you asked. Keep an eye on HFP over the next few days!
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)