If you are a newcomer to the world of Avios (and this is an article aimed at newcomers), I generally recommend that you try Club Europe business class on short-haul redemptions from Heathrow or Gatwick.
I know that this view is not universally shared.
But, if you aren’t used to premium class travel, it opens your eyes to what you are missing. For a relatively modest extra number of Avios – assuming you are flying to a country near the UK like Germany, the Netherlands or France on an off-peak date – you would get:
- Lounge access (I am generally positive about the BA Heathrow lounges, which are getting a little quieter now, and the Gatwick lounges are universally liked)
- Dedicated check-in desks if you have luggage
- Fast track security
- Priority boarding
- Seat at the front of the plane – and therefore also the first off, which speeds up immigration
- Empty middle seat
- Extra baggage allowance
- A meal (and they are pretty good these days in the evenings) and premium drinks including all the champagne you can drink
I think that is EASILY worth an extra few Avios – usually £30-£50 worth, although the exact number depends on route and which ‘Avios and cash’ combination you choose. It is an especially good deal if you don’t have British Airways status.
Coming back, it might not be such a good deal – you may or may not get fast track security and you may or may not find the lounge is good. A handful of short haul airports don’t even have a lounge, or BA won’t pay for it. Outbound, though, I definitely recommend it.
Except …. if you are flying from London City Airport
I originally wrote this article in response to an email from a reader who had spent his Avios on Club Europe from London City on a flight to Spain. Because Spain is further from London, the Club Europe premium for Avios is higher than it would be to, say, Amsterdam.
This is what you DON’T get if you redeem for Club Europe from London City:
- A lounge – City Airport has no lounges, and the ‘be driven to your plane’ pay-to-use lounge in the Private Jet Centre did not reopen post-covid
- An empty middle seat – the Embraer 190 fleet, as pictured above, has 2 x 2 seating
- Priority boarding – it exists in theory, but the high percentage of status card holders flying out of City means that virtually every passenger on peak business routes qualifies for it anyway
You DO get to sit at the front and you DO get better food. Historically the food served from London City was substantially better than that served from Heathrow of Gatwick – because there is no other point of difference between the two travel classes – but I honestly feel that Heathrow and Gatwick have now closed the gap.
On the other hand, Economy passengers still get free snacks and free drinks out of London City.
The potential reason to redeem for Club Europe, if you don’t have unlimited Avios to spend, is if you need the additional Club Europe baggage allowance. If you’re flying into an airport which is known for bad post-Brexit passport delays for UK passport holders, you may also value sitting at the front and being first off.
So, in summary – I do recommend that you redeem Avios in Club Europe for short haul redemptions if you can, especially outbound from London and especially if you don’t have British Airways status.
Just don’t do it from London City …. unless there are no other seats available or you have a lot of luggage.