UPDATED: I’ve thoroughly revised/rewritten this post because of the new American Express 40% Transfer Bonus and other changes.
American Express is offering a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia frequent flyer programs.
I’ll refrain from covering the British Airways Avios because the BA Executive Club program has been covered ad nauseum in the blogosphere. The only thing I will say is that it can be a fantastic value. The British Airways Avios award flights start at 4,000 Avios Off-Peak, while the most expensive Peak flight stretching for over 7,000 miles costs 50,000 Avios. It’s not too hard to calculate that American Express 40% Transfer Bonus brings these values to 3,000 and 36,000 Avios respectively. To put things in prospective, British Executive Club is never competitive for ultra-long-haul flights, but this bonus makes it competitive against other programs — the American Airlines award to Australia (with the distance over 7,000 miles from Los Angeles) costs 40,000 miles.
Is the American Express 40% transfer bonus to Aer Lingus worth considering?
I was never interested in the Aer Lingus program, even less in transferring currency as valuable as Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. For one thing, I live on the East Coast and it’s kind of affordable to fly to Ireland on British Airways Avios, so I thought why bother?
Well, I might’ve been wrong, because Aer Lingus has some very nice redemption values if you’re OK with an economy seat or even a Business Class seat with the new American Express 40% Transfer Bonus.
Where does Aer Lingus fly?
Aer Lingus connects Ireland with the following U.S. destinations (from East to West):
- New York (JFK and Newark)
- Washington (Dulles)
- Minneapolis (begins 08.07.19)
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Do you see what I see?
Yep, the distance between Boston and Dublin is less than 3,000 miles, yet AerClub still puts it in Zone 5. Not cool! And do you know what else is uncool? Fuel scamcharges, ranging from $90 to $120 for flights between Ireland and North America.
Aer Lingus “fuel” scamcharges
This is a good reason to take a pause before you use this terrific bonus. The Aer Lingus fuel scamcharge has increased since the original publication of this article in November 2017. Compare this:
And this (please enlarge):
The cheapest fuel scamcharges now are $105 and $155 for coach and Business Class respectively, while the highest are $135 and $183. That’s a lot for one-way travel, although still much better than charges added by other abusive European airlines like British Airways or Lufthansa.
Here is the AerClub Peak and off-peak calendar (peak’s in red).
If you booked your Ireland trip with British Avios, it would cost you 33,000 to 50,000 Avios for a flight from the East Coast (except from Boston, which is slightly cheaper). So AerClub Avios is a better deal in most cases.
Business Class is a totally different matter, IMHO. Not worth it! No way I would waste 3X-4X miles on a 6-7 hour flight just so I can stretch out, but that’s just me.
The American Express 40% Transfer Bonus, though, makes it better, or, at least, more tolerable (please enlarge).
Let’s see what we’re getting here.
- You can fly to Ireland from the East Coast and Chicago for 10,000 AMEX points in Economy and for 36,000 AMEX points in Business Class.
- From the West Coast, Miami, and Orlando the cost in Economy is 12,000 AMEX points and in Business 45,000 AMEX points.
The above prices are for Off-Peak travel. They might not be as good for Peak travel, but it’s our job to choose the best currency based on the type of trip we’re taking.
The American Express 40% transfer bonus to Aer Lingus makes sense beyond Ireland, too
Don’t want to go to Ireland? Want to go somewhere else in addition to Ireland? Knock yourself out: even with adding an additional segment, you’re still getting a better value than if you use any of the major U.S. airlines (typically 30,000 miles one way, although there are deals to be had too).
It only costs 5,000 AMEX points more to fly from Dublin to Vienna, Lisbon, or Venice (among dozens of other cities) and only 6,100 AMEX points to get to Athens, Dubrovnik or as far away as the Canary Islands. Aer Lingus doesn’t add a fuel surcharge to its Intra-Europe flights.
Using the American Express 40% transfer bonus to Aer Lingus would be well worth it if:
- You fly to Ireland and/or the rest of Europe in Economy Off-Peak (January 5 to April 6, April 24 to June 16, or September 11 to December 15).
- You fly to Ireland in Business Class Off-Peak, especially from the East Coast and Chicago.
Using the American Express 40% transfer bonus to Aer Lingus would still be worth it if:
- You fly in coach to one destination in Ireland from the West Coast and Florida at any time.
Keep in mind that there are fuel surcharges, and they have increased compared to 2017.