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Ireland’s government announced its approval for IAG–the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling–to purchase Aer Lingus, the flag carrier of Ireland. The Irish government owns a 25% stake in Aer Lingus.

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Other shareholders, including Ryanair which owns a 30% stake in Aer Lingus, have not weighed in, but if the deal goes through it will have a big effect on your miles.

Right now Aer Lingus is not a member of any airline alliance. It does, however, have one-off partnerships with United and British Airways, so you can redeem United miles and Avios for Aer Lingus flights.

If IAG buys Aer Lingus, it would join oneworld, and you would be able to redeem American Airlines, British Airways, and any other oneworld miles for Aer Lingus flights. You would, however, almost certainly lose the ability to redeem United miles on Aer Lingus.

Current Redemption Options

British Airways Avios awards use a distance-based formula. Flights from Boston to Ireland are 12,500 Avios one way in economy. Flights from New York, Chicago, and Washington to Ireland are 20,000 Avios one way. San Francisco to Ireland is 25,000 Avios one way.

Unfortunately, since Avios devalued last month, Business Class awards are now triple the economy price on those routes. This is especially unfortunate because Aer Lingus now has flat beds on some of its American routes.

Avios redemptions on Aer Lingus have very small fuel surcharges, in the tens of dollars.

Connections beyond Ireland add to the price of an Avios award, since all flights add to the price of Avios awards.

You cannot book Aer Lingus awards on ba.com. Search Expert Flyer for award space and call British Airways at 800-AIRWAYS to book.

Alternatively, you can use United miles to redeem Aer Lingus flights. United charges 30,000 miles one way in economy to Europe and 70,000 miles in Business Class. You can search and book on united.com.

Future Redemption Options

If Aer Lingus is bought by IAG and joins oneworld, the United option would probably be discontinued. The British Airways option would remain since British Airways is a member of oneworld.

We would also gain the ability to redeem American Airlines miles for Aer Lingus flights. That would be great since American Airlines charges only 50,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe and 20,000 in economy for the majority of the year. Unfortunately I do expect these prices to go up, possibly before you’d have the chance to redeem American Airlines miles for Aer Lingus flights.

We’d also gain the ability to redeem every other type of oneworld miles for Aer Lingus flights, but most of those programs are terrible.

I’d consider this mainly a wash–losing United redemptions and gaining American redemptions. I’d call it a slight win though because United has a ton of great partner options to Europe, and American has fewer.

Bottom Line

Aer Lingus to IAG and oneworld is not a done deal, but the second biggest shareholder approves. If it happens, redemption options to Ireland and Europe will change, and probably get slightly better.

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I’m intrigued by flights and awards that don’t involve America. If there’s a cool award to get from Australia to SE Asia, that can be integral to a longer, better, and cheaper trip.

My two favorite continents to explore are South America and Europe. Although I’ve never flown directly between the two continents, there are some intriguing options (all of which are fuel surcharge-free):

  • Singapore First Class for only 59,000 miles one way
  • Avianca Dreamliner direct from second-tier cities
  • Swiss Business Class
  • British Airways First Class, super-duper cheap on the US Airways award chart
  • Economy class for only 20,000 miles one way

Obviously you won’t be very interested in flights like these for a weeklong vacation, but if you have a month free or a year when you’re traveling around the world, there are great reasons to fly from South America to Europe or vice versa.

The Brazil Effect

It is illegal to add fuel surcharges to flights in Brazil. In practice, this means that international airlines don’t add fuel surcharges to their flights out of Brazil but do add fuel surcharges on their flights to Brazil.

(Weirdly the only exception I know is that British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Avios awards out of Brazil. American Airlines does NOT collect fuel surcharges on the same British Airways flights out of Brazil as I’ll show below.)

That means that, while it is the same number of miles in either direction between Europe and South America, it will often be hundreds of dollars cheaper to fly from South America to Europe instead of vice versa.

Several of the deals in this post have fuel surcharges unless you fly from South America to Europe via Brazil.

Avianca Dreamliner from Second Tier Cities

I wrote about Avianca’s brand new Dreamliner the other day. I didn’t mention the European routes:

  • Bogota to London starting July 2, 2015
  • Bogota to Madrid starting July 31
  • Cali to Madrid starting October 20
  • Medellin to Madrid starting December 19

I’m most intrigued by the Cali and Medellin flights. How often to you get to fly 10 hours from a country’s second-tier cities without having to connect through the big hub airport? (This is a reason to love the 787 Dreamliner; theoretically it should make more of these routes possible.)

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Avianca Dreamliner Bed

Award space is sparse on the Medellin and Cali flights to Madrid for one person in Business Class once they appear on the schedule partly because neither is a daily flight. But the space does exist, and I will assume if you are flying from South America to Europe that you have a pretty flexible schedule.


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Bogota-to-Madrid space, by contrast is wide open. Note that not all flights are operated by the fully flat beds of the 787. Some are on the pretty comfortable, but not fully flat, beds of the A330.Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.39.51 PM

United charges 80,000 miles one way from Northern South America to Europe in Business Class on the Avianca Dreamliner, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Swiss Business Class

I wrote about Swiss Business Class today because it looks fantastic and United is discounting it through Saturday from the United States to Europe.

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Swiss flies from Sao Paulo to Zurich with Business Class award space that will initially look familiar to anyone who read today’s post on Swiss’ award space from the United States. There is good award space for the next month.

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What might surprise, though, is that there is also good award space in July and August. From the United States, Swiss is very stingy with award space more than a few weeks out.

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United charges 87,500 miles one way from Southern South America to Europe in Business Class, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Singapore First Class

Singapore Airlines flies a route from Sao Paulo to Barcelona to Singapore and vice versa. Just like its New York to Frankfurt to Singapore leg, you can book any single part as an award.

And Sao Paulo to Barcelona is way underpriced at 58,225 Singapore miles + $37 one way for 10.5 hours in Singapore First Class–one of the nicest in the world.

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The only way this could be better is if the route were operated by an A380 instead of a 777-300ER, but the service and food will still be the same. I flew the Singapore 777-300ER in First Class, and the bed is very comfortable.

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New Singapore First Class


British Airways First Class

British Airways flies from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to London. You normally can’t get onto British Airways award flights without fuel surcharges, but because of the Brazil departure, American Airlines just collects miles and taxes.

American charges a rather pricey 70k miles each way in Business and 90k miles each way in First Class.

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On the bright side, taxes are only $37.

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You can get on these flights much more cheaply as part of a roundtrip US Airways award.

  • 70k US Airways miles roundtrip in economy from South America to Europe
  • 100k miles roundtrip in Business Class
  • 130k miles roundtrip in First Class

It is harder to think of reasons an American would want to book a roundtrip award from South America to Europe, but you can always return from Europe to South America via North America and simply not fly the North America to South America leg(s.)

I actually once booked myself a roundtrip Business Class award from South America to Europe with US Airways miles and did exactly that–I skipped my Chicago to Buenos Aires flights.

You could book:

  • Rio de Janeiro to London (British Airways First Class)
  • open jaw
  • Berlin to London to Los Angeles (American Airlines First Class on its best plane)
  • Los Angeles to Dallas to Rio de Janeiro (within 24 hours of landing in Los Angeles, in any cabin, collect bags in LA and go home without flying)

This would cost only 130,000 US Airways miles.

Flying Blue Promo Awards

You know those posts I write every month about Flying Blue Promo awards? Promo awards allow you to fly from the United States to Europe or Israel for as little as 12,500 miles one way. The fuel surcharges in economy are bearable, and the fuel surcharges out of Brazil are even better: zero as usual.

Here’s a full post on Promo awards out of Brazil.

Promo awards can cost as little as 20,000 miles one way in economy and 40,000 in Premium economy between Brazil and anywhere in Europe.

Here are the current Promo awards.

Bottom Line

There are some cheap, interesting, and luxurious award possibilities between South America and Europe. Flying from South America to Europe will often be cheaper because award flights out of Brazil do not have fuel surcharges in almost all programs.

Check out Singapore First Class, an underpriced US Airways award, or an economy flight for only 20,000 miles. as part of your big trip around the world.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Your miles are as valuable as you are creative. For instance, you can combine two luxurious A380 First Classes onto one American Airlines award.

British Airways flies an A380 daily between Los Angeles and London. Qantas flies an A380 daily from London to Dubai (it continues to Sydney.)

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from gcmap.com

Although American Airlines has strict rules on transiting one region to get to another, it is ALLOWED to transit Europe on your way to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region.

Combined the award costs 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

The drawback is really high taxes and fees, but even here I see a silver lining.

The Products

First Class on the Qantas A380 taunted me with its near emptiness when I flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class last year.

Qantas A380 Seat

I saw the British Airways First Class Suites on the A380 up close last year on a trip from Frankfurt to London as British Airways used the short hops to get the crew familiar with the plane.

British Airways A380 First Class Suite

Just Los Angeles to London

Los Angeles to London one way has $480 in taxes and fees, including $452 in fuel surcharges. (American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights.) That totally stinks, but it is tempting for a 10.5 hour flight in First Class on an A380 for only 62,500 miles.

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Just Los Angeles to Dubai

Departing London in a premium cabin has massive taxes. London to Dubai has $288 in taxes. That’s why if you only want to go one way for 40,000 American Airlines miles in an awesome First Class between the Middle East and Europe, I recommend flying west into London to avoid those departure taxes.

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The Silver Lining

Combine these two flights onto one awards, and you save big on miles and taxes. Instead of 62,500 + 40,000 miles (both of which are a steal), the one way First Class award is 90,000 miles.

Instead of $480 + $288 ($768) in taxes and fees, you pay $530 total. The big savings is because the less-than-24-hour layover in London means you are not considered to originate in the UK, which triggers the nasty taxes we saw from London to Dubai.

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That’s 17.5 hours in luxury for 90,000 miles and $530. Delta miles can’t even be used for International First Class. United would charge at least 140,000 miles for the same award. When you look at it that way, it starts to get tempting.

Other Options

Scrap the British Airways First Class and save $452. You could fly American Airlines First Class instead, but the product isn’t as nice and award space is harder to find.

From London, you can fly Etihad First Class on its A380 to Abu Dhabi (and beyond) or Qatar Business Class on its A380 to Doha and beyond. I haven’t seen Qatar release First Class award space on the route.

You can continue to anywhere in the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives for no extra miles if the airline that connects you from the United States to Europe publishes a fare from your starting city to your final destination. That’s a big “if.” (See Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards for more info on this rule and how to figure out if you comply.)

You can start anywhere in North America and connect to Los Angeles on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights, subject to the same “published fare rule.”

I’m Talking Myself Into This Award

I need to get from the United States to Europe in April. I might fly an award like this and spend a few days somewhere in the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region before returning to Europe. I could sample three A380 First Class products on such a trip–two as outlined in this post and Etihad First Class on the A380 on the return, stay tuned tomorrow–see a region I’ve never seen, and have a few interesting reviews for this blog.

Ninety thousand American Airlines miles is a lot, and $530 is more than I’ve ever laid out for an award, but it’s so tempting.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

Getting both cards now and meeting both spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

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The cat is out of the bag. Expect this deal to end any moment now because it’s likely a mistake:

US Airways is not collecting fuel surcharges on British Airways award flights like British Airways’ other main partners do.

This is huge news because:

  • British Airways flies to more American cities than any other foreign airlines.
  • British Airways has the best route network throughout Europe and Africa.
  • British Airways has gold mine availability on a lot of routes in economy.
  • British Airways has a fantastic Club World (business class product) I’ve flown three times.
  • British Airways looks to have a fantastic First Class product I haven’t yet had the pleasure to fly.

I expect this deal could die within hours or days or weeks because I do think this is a mistake. I am only sharing it because two other major blogs covered it today, and if they’re killing it, I want MileValue readers to have a shot at it first.

  • How much are US Airways awards that include British Airways flights?
  • How do you search for British Airways award space?
  • How do you book it with US Airways miles?


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Update: D’oh! Dewey Defeats Truman. This offer is dead (and was dead at the time of publication!)

The British Airways card from Chase is back with a new 100k Avios sign up bonus. Like the other recent 100k Avios offers, you need to spend $20,000 in the first year on the card to get the full 100k Avios bonus.

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  • You will get 50,000 bonus Avios after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 25,000 bonus Avios after $10,000 in purchases within the first year of account opening.
  • Plus an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first year of account opening.
  • Together that’s 100,000 bonus Avios, which is enough for a round-trip business class award flight. Taxes, fees, and carrier charges are approximately $1,250 per adult in business class based on travel from Seattle to London.
  • Lots of other terms and conditions apply. See Pricing & Terms for more details.

The British Airways card is divisive. For some people, it is one of the absolute best cards, and for other its rewards are nearly worthless.

Who should get this card? Who should not?


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While other airlines search engines regress in functionality (looking in your direction, Delta), British Airways’ award tool continues to improve. While researching for another article, I came across the slightly modified ba.com and noted a subtle consumer-friendly change.

Though the change is minor, British Airways has exhibited a recent history of positive improvements to their search tool. With these steps in the right direction, we can safely anoint BA.com as the go-to site for comprehensive oneworld partner availability.

Simple Tool
This simple search engine packs a punch relative to its peers.

Scott wrote up a detailed guide on how to use BA.com to search for oneworld partner award space. Make sure to check out his post, Free First Class Next Month: Searching BA.com to Find oneworld Award Availability. We’ve also detailed British Airways recent and noticeable improvements to their site here and here.

What’s the newest change to the BA.com engine? When should you search ba.com versus aa.com versus qantas.com? (Hint: it has nothing to do with what type of miles you want to book your award with.)

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I recently had a chance to relax and refuel in the British Airways Galleries Lounge North at Heathrow Terminal 5 before my Dreamliner flight to Stockholm.

The lounge features incredible food, a wide selection of booze, some cool aircraft views, and a variety of seating areas. It is very crowded, but overall I’d give the lounge very high marks.

Just after passing security, the lounge was on my left.

Upon presenting a business class ticket, I was admitted by an agent who I later saw was surfing the BA FlyerTalk forum from her desk. After she checked me in to the lounge, I asked if she could change my seat because it was a middle seat, and I hadn’t been able to change it on my phone.

She quickly printed me out a new boarding pass, and I went to grab a seat. I favor the room on the far right with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of 747s.

Check out this buffet.

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Last week, British Airways announced a new, and surprising, route to be served by its Dreamliner 787: Austin, Texas <-> London-Heathrow, starting March 3, 2014.

Image from gcmap.com

The Austin route is the third Dreamliner route announced. The plane is already flying to Toronto and starts service to Newark on October 1, 2013.

I had a chance to speak to Simon Brooks, BA’s Head of Sales for North America about the new route, for which tickets are already on sale. He filled in some of the details of the new route for me.

I’ll be following this route and all future British Airways 787 routes with great interest because my recent taste of the plane has me excited to fly it on a longer flight. See Trip Report of the Brand New British Airways 787 with Tons of Pictures.

I’ve checked into the award space on the flight, and for the moment it’s excellent for next summer. I’ve priced out several awards to find the best way to stretch your miles and get on to the route.

Why Austin? How is the award space? How many miles, taxes, and fuel surcharges to get onto the Dreamliner’s newest route?

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I recently had a chance to fly both a British Airways A380 and a British Airways 787 on intra-European flights in fully-flat business class beds for peanuts. The circumstances of the flights and some photos of the A380 are here.

I booked myself a business class bed on the 787 from London-Heathrow to Stockholm for 7,500 Avios and $140. The full price was 15,000 Avios and $40, but I chose the Cash & Avios option.

The flight was enjoyable, and I wasn’t the only one in business class who had purposely booked a seat on the 787 in business class. The plane is beautiful and will be an excellent addition to the British Airways fleet.

How did the business class cabin look? Which seats should solo travelers and groups select?

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Update: British Airways 787 Business Class Full Trip Report

Last month I saw this thread about British Airways taking delivery of its new A380 and 787 and training the crews on intra-European routes. The A380 is flying for most of August between London and Frankfurt, and the 787 is flying between London and Stockholm.

Just by chance, I would be in Munich in August and had some friends I wanted to visit in London and Stockholm.

I booked myself a business class seat (Club World, though in this case Club Europe) on the A380 for 9,000 Avios and $40 from Frankfurt to London. I would have jumped at a First Class seat, but those seats were not for sale.

And I booked myself a business class seat on the 787 for 7,500 Avios and $140. The full price was 15,000 Avios and $40, but I chose the Cash & Avios option.

I flew the A380 Thursday, and I’m about to board the 787. I’ll give full trip reports on both, but I wanted to share of a few images of all cabins of the British Airways A380 in advance because it’s so beautiful.

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Yesterday’s post about the Coolest Thing to Do with 130k and 280k American Airlines Miles got me to look at the American Airlines’ chart again for value. I found what I think are the Five Best Values in premium cabins.

These values combine low miles, low taxes and fees, and the very best products from among American’s partners. How does First Class on Etihad or British Airways for 40k miles sound?

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