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.
UPDATE: A Unicorn Quality Sweet Spot Redemption on Aer Lingus with British Airways Avios
There is a new amazing value I missed. Aer Lingus launches a new flight between Montreal and Dublin on 08.08.2019. I didn’t care much about the Montreal route since I presumed that they would do the same thing they did with Boston and New York — artificially inflate the redemption level despite the shorter distance. The Aer Lingus chart already reflects the same trend having put ALL North American destinations, including Montreal into its Zone 5 band (click to enlarge).
However, according to these sources (HT to InsideFlyer via Head for Points), Executive Club has yet to gouge its Montreal — Dublin redemptions level to bring it on par with their colleagues from Aer Club. I don’t know how to explain that — perhaps someone who was responsible for plugging that hole just went for a cup of tea, but the fact is that for now you can fly between Montreal and Dublin for the correct, Zone 4 redemption, which is:
- Economy: 10,000 Avios Off-Peak; 12,500 Avios Peak
- Business: 31,250 Avios Off-Peak; 37,500 Avios Peak
Or, with the 40% American Express transfer bonus:
- Economy: 8,000 AMEX points Off-Peak; 9,000 AMEX points Peak
- Business: 23,000 AMEX points Off-Peak; 27,000 AMEX points Peak
These are unbelievable values, but there is more. British Airways has always added much lower fuel surcharges to Aer Lingus flights, so you will be saving more than a few bucks in the process.
Positioning to Montreal from almost anywhere in the East Coast can be very cheap on cash or miles. It will cost you 7,500 Avios (6,000 AMEX points) from New York or Philadelphia on American.
Even with a positioning flight, your total cost from New York or Philadelphia will be from 29,000 to 33,000 AMEX points. And you can have a self-made stopover in Canada.
Award Space? So far so good. Below is availability for 2 passengers that I’ve found on United. I expect it to be better on Aer Lingus own metal, but I’m too lazy to search. Keep in mind that August 2019 is the end of schedule for United.
You know they will kill it, right? Move fast!
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.
THIS SECTION HAS BEEN UPDATED
Here is the AerClub 2018 Peak and Off-Peak calendar (peak’s in green). For the 2019 Calendar, check this Head for Points post.
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.
I’ve never used Avios, but I have a BA Avios account in case I use them in the future. Since you said your accounts have to be open for 90 days to transfer between BA and IB, I thought it’d be a good idea to open an account with Iberia Plus Avios today. Do they really want my passport number for that? And secondly, after I put in my passport number, I got an error in registration related to the passport number. Is there a simple way to become a member? Thank you very much for any advice you can… Read more »
Thanks for your comment, Marianne. I joined Iberia Plus a while ago and don’t remember whether it wanted me to put in the passport number, but I know the site is very buggy. Try to leave it empty or use different browsers or Incognito mode and see if something resolves the issue.
Hey Andy, excellent post but what is the difference between transferring to BA Avios and Aer Lingus? Can’t you book Aer Lingus with through BA website and Avios? And if you can why the need to transfer to Aer Lingus or Iberia?
I already answered to John in the email, but basically, all three programs: British, Aer Lingus and Iberia have very different award charts, so you need to make sure that you use the program that works best for the flight you have in mind.
Hey Andy, it looks like you cannot even see what an award might cost or if a flight is available unless you are a member of the AerLingus Avios club. and it is different from Avios memberhip? IOW, BA Avios Iberia Avios Aerlingus Avios Avios (“generic”)? Yikes. Also, the peak date chart is from 2017. I guess the 2019 requires login? Anyway, I will check all that out. Im wondering how the prices will be coming back from Europe, especiallyt if there is no direct flight. I think Aer Lingus will use the stupid “per leg” routing that the other… Read more »
My comment got a symbol automatically stripped. I meant to write BA Avios “is not equal to” Iberia Avios….etc…
I’ve added a major update. Regarding your questions, yes, every segment counts but anything between Dublin and Europe is very cheap. As I mentioned, even the longest flight is 6,100 AMEX points, so no big deal. But again, check the update!
Can people really plan 11 months out!? PLUS, you need to get to Montreal first (added expense).
Sure, people plan 11 months ahead. I’m planning 12 months ahead right now. As to getting to Montreal first, well, unicorn awards rarely work for everyone. 🙂