Back in August, in an unexpected move, Finnair announced it will be adopting Avios as its loyalty currency from early 2024.
It joins British Airways, Qatar Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus in adopting Avios.
The first benefit of this partnership will go live on Wednesday. Finnair will open up its promised level of guaranteed Avios availability on virtually ALL flights from 1st February.
This offers a rare opportunity to book key cities in Asia, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Bangkok, for virtually the date of your choice.
Wednesday edit: flights are starting to appear and I have updated the article with some ‘taxes and charges’ examples for Osaka. Edinburgh to Helsinki flights are not, and never have been, bookable online because they are operated by the Norra joint venture but these can be booked if you call BA.
With ‘just’ 4 million members, Finnair Plus is a minnow compared to British Airways Executive Club and Qatar Privilege Club, adding just 10% to the total member base. However, it brings new options to earn and redeem Avios on non-airline partners, as well as letting BA members use Avios to upgrade Finnair flights.
Let’s get on to the important news.
Finnair will guarantee between four and eight award seats
As we told you back in August, Finnair will guarantee a minimum number of seats for Avios redemption on almost all flights from 1st February. This should make it significantly easier to redeem Avios for Finnair flights.
Finnair is promising:
- 4-6 award seats on shorthaul European flights (two in Business where it exists, four in Economy)
- eight award seats on long haul flights (two in Business, two in Premium Economy and four in Economy)
NEW: These seats will be bookable on Wednesday
Finnair has quietly dropped the following announcement onto the Avios page of its website:
We will increase the number of Classic award seats and guarantee at least 4 award seats on Finnair flights within Europe and 8 on Finnair long-haul flights*, so you will have better possibilities to use your Avios for award flights.
The increased number of award seats will be available for booking from 1 November 2023 onwards for flights departing on or after 1 February 2024.
So, Wednesday is the day. Finnair will unleash Avios seats across its entire network.
Will seats be available on all flights?
There is one thing we don’t know. Where Finnair has already made Avios seats available on a flight from 1st February 2024 onwards, which have been booked, will these be deducted from the seats released tomorrow?
For example, if two Business Class seats have already been released and booked for the Tokyo flight on 1st March 2024, will more be released as part of the ‘guaranteed’ availability?
We don’t know. However, Finnair has historically been quite tight with Business Class reward availability on long haul, so I would expect a LOT of seats to open up.
Where does Finnair fly long haul?
As a member of the British Airways / American Airlines / Iberia / Aer Lingus transatlantic
cartel joint venture, Finnair’s network is strong on the United States.
Frankly, this isn’t a lot of use to HfP readers in the UK. Business Class availablility to the US from London on BA isn’t bad and it’s a long detour to go via Helsinki.
Asia is a different matter.
Finnair has a strong Asian network, whilst British Airways currently has an exceptionally poor one. Avios availability on BA is also very poor in Business Class.
It is less of a detour to go via Helsinki to Asia than it is to the USA, although the closure of Russian airspace has impacted flight times.
Here are, I think, the current Finnair long haul destinations from Helsinki:
- Hong Kong
- Phuket (seasonal)
- Tokyo Haneda / Narita
- Chicago (seasonal)
- Los Angeles
- Miami (seasonal)
- New York
Middle East and India
- Mumbai (resumes March 2024)
- Finnair flights which do not touch Helsinki will NOT have guaranteed Avios availability
- flights to Doha are excluded, even those from Helsinki (flights from Stockholm and Copenhagen to Doha would be excluded anyway under the above rule)
How can you book these flights?
From February 2024, when Finnair adopts Avios, you will have the choice of booking Finnair flights via ba.com or via finnair.com, using ‘Combine My Avios’ to move your points across.
Until then, you have to book via ba.com.
Remember that you cannot use an American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher or Barclaycard Upgrade Voucher on Finnair.
Here is the Finnair redemption chart:
You need to remember that pricing is leg by leg, so you will pay the Avios price for your long haul flight plus the cost of the London / Manchester / Edinburgh / Dublin to Helsinki connecting flight.
If you book each leg separately on the outbound, you won’t need to pay long haul Air Passenger Duty which will bring down your costs considerably.
Let’s talk about taxes and charges
The exceptionally good news is that Finnair does not add surcharges to its redemptions.
There is one big exception though. Booking through ba.com, as you will be, surcharges ARE added when you book a route where Finnair is part of a joint venture deal with British Airways.
You will NOT find mega-cheap taxes and charges deals on Finnair flights to:
- North America
For the other routes, you’re laughing.
Here is an example redemption using Business Class from Helsinki to Seoul.
A return flight (Helsinki to Seoul) costs 154,500 Avios + £58 in taxes and charges. This is what you’d expect from the chart above, ie 77,250 Avios each way for a flight in the 4,001 to 5,500 miles band.
Here is an example to Osaka where you DO have to pay surcharges due to the joint venture agreement. The number is modest though at £390:
Adding a London connection would cost 18,000 Avios in Economy or 33,000 Avios in Business, plus taxes.
If you book both flights on the same booking, the taxes figure will jump sharply due to UK long haul premium level Air Passenger Duty.
Here is the same Osaka flight but booked with a Business Class connection from Heathrow. Note the sharp jump in charges, mainly from long haul premium cabin Air Passenger Duty:
Finnair long haul redemptions have always offered great value on those routes with no surcharges. The problem has been availability. Even when ba.com does levy surcharges, the total is manageable if you go to Helsinki on a separate ticket to avoid APD.
From Wednesday, this problem should be gone. With two Business Class seats available per flight, and with virtually all flights from 1st February 2024 being opened up, this is a great time to jump in.
Helsinki is also a lovely city. Do think about breaking your stay outbound or inbound for 24 hours to take a look.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable 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 10,500 Avios.
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.
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.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.