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Perhaps one of the best known ‘secrets’ among avid Avios collectors is that it is possible to fly one-way between Dublin (or Shannon) and Boston in Business Class with Aer Lingus for just 37,500 Avios (12,500 in Economy!) and a handful of taxes.
When you compare that to 50,000-60,000 Avios (offpeak/peak) + ~£350.00 in taxes/surcharges flying BA from London, you can see why it’s such a popular tip.
Aer Lingus Business Class is actually really good these days too (definitely superior to BA Club World in my view), and given how cheap and easy it is to fly to Dublin from all parts of the UK, for most Avios collectors outside London who want to fly to Boston, avoiding BA is a no-brainer.
So Aer Lingus Business Class to Boston is definitely a great use of Avios – but there’s actually an even better option that is often overlooked.
Sweeter than Aer Lingus?
There are two major downsides to using Avios on Aer Lingus: having to ring BA to book (which I hate!) because there’s no way to do it online; flying to anywhere in the USA apart from Boston will require a lot more Avios – 60,000 to most places and 90,000 to the West Coast.
The solution is to fly with Iberia from Madrid instead.
The first thing to say is that you need to book through Iberia Plus rather than British Airways Executive Club or Avios.com. If you try to book through British Airways Executive Club you’ll get a hit by a double whammy of substantially higher taxes/fees and a higher Avios requirement – so don’t do that!
It’s easy to transfer your Avios across though, so long as your Iberia Plus account is at least 90 days old and has at least some activity (minimum transfer from Amex Membership Rewards is probably easiest for most readers).
The next thing you need to know is that Iberia Plus has Peak and Off-Peak prices for awards, just like BA Executive Club. Confusingly, the dates are different to what BA deems Peak/Off-Peak, so here’s the Iberia Plus calendar (red is Peak):
I can’t find the 2017 dates yet for the other months, but imagine they will be the same or very similar to this year.
As a rule of thumb, anything around school holidays is probably Peak and any other time is probably Off-Peak.
The last thing you need to know is how many Avios you’ll need! The full award chart is below, but it’s Off-Peak Bands 5 and 6 we’re interested in.
As regards the US, Off-Peak one-way Business Class to anywhere Iberia flies (Boston, New York, Chicago, San Juan) requires just 34,000 Avios, apart from Los Angeles and Miami which cost 42,500. Note that even the Peak prices (50,000 and 62,500) are still considerably less than redeeming on Aer Lingus to anywhere apart from Boston.
Taxes/surcharges are usually ~ £100.00 flying from Madrid (which is only a bit more expensive than Aer Lingus) and closer to £70.00 from the US (which is, admittedly, substantially more than Aer Lingus).
It’s also worth pointing out that Iberia’s Caribbean/Central American/South American destinations (Buenos Aires, Havana, Santo Domingo, Asuncion, Caracas, Bogota, Cali, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Lima, Medellin, Mexico City, Montevideo, Panama City, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, San Jose Costa Rica, San Salvador, Santiago, Sao Paulo), also benefit from the great prices – although many are Band 7 so require 51,000 Avios Off-Peak and 75,000 Peak.
Madrid is almost as easy and cheap to get to as Dublin these days from most parts of the UK thanks to Ryanair and Iberia Express (which you can use Avios on if prices are high for some reason), and Iberia Business Class is also pretty good these days.
Being able to get as far as Chicago in Business Class for 34,000 is an absolute bargain, and 42,500 to LA is only a little over half what BA charge on a Peak date (+ £350 tax/surcharges!!!).
The Iberia Plus award chart is seriously underrated – have you spotted any other gems recently?