How to redeem Avios for long-haul business class flights on Air Italy

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Over the last few months, a new way of redeeming for Avios for long-haul business class flights has been taking shape – with Air Italy.

In late 2017, Qatar Airways acquired a 49% stake in Italian airline Meridiana.  Meridiana was a slightly bizarre airline, to put it mildly, being part-owned by the Aga Khan and having a weird route network primarily flown by old McDonnell-Douglas aircraft.  To add to the oddness, Meridiana used Avios as its reward programme but refused to take part in ‘Combine My Avios’, meaning that you couldn’t move points into or out of their scheme.

Qatar Airways rebranded Meridiana as Air Italy, using the typical Qatar Airways colour scheme, and moved its hub from Palermo to the more practical choice of Milan.

The Air Italy website is here.

Air Italy bookings with Avios

Air Italy’s long-haul route network

Using a number of A330 aircraft leased from Qatar Airways, until newly ordered Boeing 787 planes are delivered, Air Italy has expanded its long-haul route network in recent months.

It now offers flights from Milan Malpensa to:

  • New York
  • Chicago (starts May 2019)
  • Los Angeles (starts April 2019)
  • Miami
  • San Francisco (starts April 2019)
  • Toronto (starts May 2019)
  • Bangkok
  • Accra
  • Lagos
  • Delhi
  • Mumbai
  • Dakar

The Air Italy Business Class cabin

On Air Italy’s A330 you will find the old Qatar Airways seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. These aren’t the best business class seats in the world, to put it mildly, as they angle downwards towards the floor.

(For the benefit of younger readers, these seats were very common until just a few years ago.  They allowed airlines to fit in more business class seats per cabin than a fully flat bed allowed, and also created a point of difference with First Class.  The majority of leading airlines have now abandoned this model, luckily.  They weren’t known as ‘wedgie’ seats for nothing.)

Air Italy business seat

You can read a full review on One Mile At A Time here which is far more positive than I would have expected.

How to book Air Italy with Avios

The good news is that Air Italy business class seats can be booked on ba.com with Avios.

The other bit of good news is that Air Italy appears to be following the Qatar Airways pattern of opening up FOUR redemption seats in Business Class.

Here is the bad news:

Flights come with BA’s crazy surcharges attached.  A business class return redemption from Milan to San Francisco comes with £588 of taxes and charges, for example.

Because Milan to North America is further than London to North America, some routes require more Avios.  San Francisco is 180,000 Avios in Business Class vs 150,000 Avios on BA from London on a peak date.  New York is 150,00 Avios vs 120,000 Avios on a peak date from London with BA.

Flights to India price up at 120,000 Avios – the same as BA charges – but of course you need to factor in the cost of getting to Milan.

The one minor upside I can see is that one-way taxes TO North America are not bad.  A one-way business class redemption to New York from Milan requires £210 of taxes on top of 75,000 Avios.  This compares to £446 + 60,000 Avios for a one-way peak date Club World redemption direct from London on BA.  The cash saving is wiped out by the extra Avios needed and the cost of a one-way flight to Milan, however.

Conclusion

Air Italy seems, unfortunately, to be a bit of lost cause for UK residents looking to spend their Avios.

The combination of:

requiring more Avios on many routes compared to flying direct from London

having to position yourself in Milan to connect to your Air Italy long-haul flight, and

the stupidly high taxes and charges being added by BA

…. come together to mean that it is unlikely that you would ever look at booking such a redemption unless you specifically had to be in Italy beforehand.  Realistically I can only see it being useful if you are travelling at short notice and this is the only availability you can find.

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Comments

  1. How does one find out the fees and taxes amounts other than by telephone?
    Having selected flights and (Business) class I keep getting “Sorry there is a problem with booking this journey online.” whether I try one-way or return.

    • North America flights price up OK but, I agree, other routes are screwed – hence the lack of numbers in the article.

  2. Joseph Heenan says:

    OT but no bits: does anyone have any advice on best routing / use of Avios & a 241 & BA silver status to do a trip to do Glasgow -> Vietnam (Da Nang) -> Tokyo -> Glasgow around August 2019? (or Tokyo then Vietnam). Also have some KLM miles / flying blue gold & some amex MR if they help.

    The BA avios booking tool seems reluctant to admit that there’s any avios route from London to Da Nang with BA or any partners, which I’m not sure I believe. Many thanks!

    • Matthew says:

      BA flies to Hong Kong, and from there Cathay Dragon flies to Da Nang.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        Thanks Matthew, I’ll check out that option. It looks like Bangkok is also an option – is Hong Kong better / worse / indifferent?

        • BA uses much better planes to HK than Bangkok and the BKK-LHR flight is at a bad time.

      • You can also fly from Kuala Lumpur to Da Nang once a week. I did this exact route a few years ago.

    • Joseph
      You must fly ba using a 241. Plus ba dont fly to danang! . Qr do sgn or han l think, bit cant use 241. Qr ex eu, then internal flights in nam to danang. Or ay, cx, loads of options.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        Thanks Polly! I view not using the 241 as one possible option, though I suspect using the 241 to get to somewhere in Asia and doing the flights to Tokyo / Da Nang on separate bookings may be the best option.

    • the_real_a says:

      If you have AMEX points, you can fly on vietnam airlines from Europe for 80k DELTA miles in Business one way + £200 fees. Bookable online.

      • the_real_a says:

        LON – DAD (£206.77) Business availability wide open. Then ANA using virgin miles to Japan (HCMC/Hanoi) , or if you are cash poor, Korean air via Seoul for next to no taxes – via Delta miles.

      • the_real_a says:

        Sorry – i missed OP needed to use the 2-4-1

        • Joseph Heenan says:

          Thanks the_real_a!

          I don’t /need/ to use the 241 as such, though I have it and it looks like it may make sense to use it. The taxes are certainly good on that LON – DAD flight. I think I’d struggle to get 2 x 80k MR in time though.

        • the_real_a says:

          You can also do a one way, and then come back from HND / HKG on virgin or BA miles for little in Tax! I also do Air Asia from wherever i am in Asia to HKG and then take the low tax redemption from there.

        • the_real_a says:

          You can also do a one way, and then come back from HND / HKG on virgin or BA miles for little in Tax! I usually do Air Asia from wherever i am in Asia to HKG and then take the low tax redemption from there.

      • Lady London says:

        wondering would that imply Virgin miles could also be used on these Delta flights.

    • Nate1309 says:

      Glasgow-London-Hong Kong/Bangkok then Tokyo-London-Glasgow open jaw on your 241
      Then either cash or points for single redemptions to Da Nang and to Tokyo.

      Thats how I did my California and Hawaii trip anyway. LHR-SFO LAX-LHR on 241 and then SAN-HNL-KOA-LAX cash (should have used avios)….

      • Genghis says:

        Cash flights into and out of Japan can be super expensive, hence the value of using points here.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        Wow – thanks Nate1309. For some recent I’d missed that Open Jaw was a possibility. That is definitely a good looking option.

    • I’ve literally just booked a flight from DAD to HKG – I ended up (after a lot of deliberation and research as to reliabilty) booking Jetstar. We paid £100 o/w with extra baggage and legroom seats. There was no avios availabilty on the Dragonair flights (and there appears to not have been any for months). Using a 241 into KUL and back out of HKG in F and basically flying around area on Vietnam Airlines which is cheap even in J (save for the above route back to HKG).

  3. I see Qatar now owns 5% of China southern airlines aswell….they really don’t sit still for long…

  4. This article should have been compared to Iberia taxes and avios prices as the majority of us are UK based and positioning to Milan would be the same as positing to Madrid in my opinion. Still a great article and I definitely learn’t something new today – Cheers Rob

    • Meadowlark says:

      A comparison with Iberia would not have been particularly helpful since, as Rob mentions at the start of his piece, you cannot move avios in and out of the Air Italy scheme – unlike Iberia – so the only option is to book through BA and take the big hit on “taxes”.

      • Lady London says:

        yes but if and when Air Italy would join “Combine my Avios…” could be worth another look to see if taxes are still the same ripoff as British Airways.

  5. OT: BA First, night flight, 777-200, seat options 2A & 3A or 2A & 2E?

    Thanks

    • Genghis says:

      I’d do 2A and 3A. In F we always sit one behind the other.

      • Thanks for the prompt reply Genghis.

      • Is that just on the 777 Genghis?

        We had 2E/F on our recent flight on the 787-9. Easy to talk over dinner with the divider down. Good privacy with the divider up.

        A couple on their honeymoon in 1A and 2A kept getting up to talk to each other.

        • Genghis says:

          On all aircraft – buddy dining (eg 388) or not (eg 789). We’ve done the middle seats and fans. Love 1A 388 privacy. I can survive not speaking to my wife all the time.

  6. Re above I am also looking at flights from Bangkok to Danang in August but the best option I can find is Bangkok Airways for £141 return I can’t find any airlines who fly that route that I can use Avios with unless someone knows different.
    Also looking to fly to Koh Samui from Bangkok and the prices new are coming in at £250 return approx is that normal or should I wait and see if the price comes down. We are a family of 4 so seems expensive !!! Any thoughts?

    • Are you just searching from BKK or are you trying from DMK too?

    • ankomonkey says:

      Bangkok Airways are a good airline in my experience. I found their prices cheaper on Expedia than on their own website.

  7. OT but I’ve booked the outbound half of a BA Amex 241 redemption. Which is the best overseas BA office to call to book the return leg at midnight (UK). I assumed New York but is there a better office to call? Thanks.

  8. Is it only me but the Air Italy livery colour palette looks more like Eurowings than Qatar…

  9. I believe the original hub of Meridiana was Olbia, not Palermo.

  10. Presumably some of the easterly destinations will be cheaper. E.g. Delhi looks like should be 60k each way instead of 75k (peak).

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