Wednesday, July 21, 2021

How to score flights to Ireland for as little as $120 plus taxes and fees

With news that Ireland reopened to vaccinated Canadians with no quarantine or testing requirements as of July 19 (Source Canadian Travel News) I thought it would be the perfect time to bring one of the easiest, most achievable transatlantic economy class redemptions back to the forefront. We discussed this redemption quite a few years ago and frequently bring attention to it but figured it would be best to update it for 2021.

That redemption option is using British Airways Executive Club to redeem for flights on Aer Lingus between Toronto and Dublin. Back in 2017 the redemption option (well any redemption on Aer Lingus) became part of BA Executive Club's off peak award pricing. With off-peak In the off season, which is actually the majority of the year, you can fly round trip on Aer Lingus' Toronto-Dublin flight for only 26,000 Avios (13,000 one way) which is a steal in the points and miles world!
 

Toronto to Dublin is 3,279 miles which falls into BA's Category 5 redemption which is 20,000 each way during peak season and 13,000 in off peak for Economy Class. Business class is 50,000 off peak and 60,000 peak each way. Compare this to other Economy class redemptions Aeroplan which needs 35,000 to 60,000 points one way, American Express' Fixed Points for travel which requires 60,000 points (round trip) and RBC Avion which needs 65,000 points (round trip). 

Already you can see where there is huge difference here - 26,000 to 40,000 Avios for a round trip Economy Class ticket versus the next closest at 60,000. The reason why we listed Aeroplan, Amex and RBC is that credit card earn rates, redemptions and conversion options are similar across those three - in fact with Amex and RBC you can even convert to British Airways which makes this redemption option much more handsome than using their proprietary programs if you want to fly between Toronto and Dublin (and hopefully Montreal to Dublin soon as was planned prior to the pandemic)

You can easily earn enough Avios for this redemption option simply by signing up for one more or more Canadian credit cards. You have Hybrid credit cards (our favourite type of card, learn why here in this Podcast episode)  in that they earn points in their respective proprietary reward programs but can be converted to British Airways Executive Club, hotel cards that you can convert hotel points to BA and finally you have an actual British Airways Visa from RBC. Here are all the options and their equivalent earn rates:

American Express Cobalt Card (C$1 = 1.2 to 6 Marriott Points = 0.4 to 2.5 Avios) after August 16 it will be C$1 = 1 to 5 Avios as the card will have direct conversion.
American Express Gold Rewards Card (C$1 = 1 to 2 Avios)
Choice Card from American Express 
(C$1 = 1.2 Marriott Points = 0.4 Avios) after August 16 it will be C$1 = 1 Avios as the card will have direct conversion.
Diners Club Club Rewards Mastercard (C$1 = 0.80 Avios)
HSBC World Elite Mastercard (C$1 = 1.2 to 2.4 Avios)
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (C$1 = 1.2 to 2.4 Avios)
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card (C$1 = 0.67 to 2.08 Avios)
mbna Best Western Rewards Mastercard (C$1= 0.20 to 1 Avios)
RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card (C$1 = 1 to 2 Avios)
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege (C$1 = 1.25 Avios)
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card (C$1 = 1 to 1.25 Avios)
RBC Visa Platinum Avion Card (C$1 = 1 Avios)
The Platinum Card from American Express (C$1 = 1 to 3 Avios)

Then during certain times of the year you can earn even more Avios from the hybrid cards as American Express, RBC and HSBC all offer up bonuses for converting points to BAEC. In fact at the time of posting this HSBC is offering a 40% bonus until July 31, 2021 We don't take those bonuses into account in post but just know it can be there to earn you more Avios. All of the above cards have welcome bonuses that can help achieve this redemption super quick - so let's see how you can score these flights really cheap with some of the welcome bonuses:

  • The Platinum Card® - New Platinum® Cardmembers can earn 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $6,000 in net purchases within the first 6 months of Cardmembership. Then there are additional bonuses that can net you up to 150,000 points. This offer is available until August 3, 2021. If we simply take the $6,000 in spending coupled with the initial 70,000 point bonus you will, at a minimum, have 76,000 Membership Rewards points. Those points can be converted 1:1 to British Airways for 76,000 Avios thereby nearly netting you three round trip tickets on this route.  Honestly you'll probably have over 78,000 given the Platinum Card earns 3x points on dining and 2x points travel. This card does cost $699 (Thanks to amazing benefits like airline lounge access, hotel elite status and more) and comes with a $200 annual travel credit that essentially makes the card cost $499.  So if we only look at the points earned and the annual fee you are looking at 3 tickets for $499 to $699 ($166 to $233 each) plus taxes and fees. Earn those additional bonuses the card affords (when you apply by August 3, 2021) and you'd have well over 150,000 points giving you nearly six round trip tickets on this route.

  • RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card - Get 35,000 Welcome Points upon Approval when you apply by November 15, 21. Those 35,000 points which are awarded right away can be converted 1:1 to British Airways so you would come out with one round trip flight in Economy Class and have points left over. The card costs $120 so you essentially get that one flight for $120 plus taxes and fees. Out of all the cards the RBC Avion card provides the fastest route to getting one ticket since the bonus is awarded upon approval.

  • Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card - New Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Cardmembers, earn 65,000 welcome bonus points after you charge $3,000 in net purchases to your Card in your first 6 months of Cardmembership. Then there are additional bonuses that can net you up to 105,000 points. This offer is available until August 3, 2021. If we simply take the $3,000 in spending coupled with the initial 65,000 point bonus you will, at a minimum, have 71,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Those points can be converted 3:1 to British Airways for 23,667 Avios but then Marriott kicks in an additional 5,000 Avios when you convert 60,000 or more points so you would have 28,667 Avios which covers one round trip ticket. Technically you'd only have to convert 63,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to get the 26,000 Avios required.  The card costs $120 so you essentially get that one flight for $120 plus taxes and fees.

Once you have earned those Avios (Either directly or converted from one of the cards above) you can move onto actually booking these award flights.

Aer Lingus award flights cannot be booked online via BA Executive Club but you can check availability on the Avios or Aer Lingus websites or via United MileagePlus then call up British Airways to book. Do not book via the Avios.com  as the taxes/fees are higher then booking via British Airways call center.

Here is a calendar of the Off Peak pricing for Aer Lingus for the remainder of this  year:


As you can see there is a good portion of late summer and fall time periods that have the lower redemption rate!

An example of availability this October with off peak rates showing at least 5 seats in Economy class each way:




These screenshots are taken from avios.com -  and as we already mentioned you don't actually want to book on that site as they charge higher fees than British Airways does. You could expect to pay about 1/3 to 1/2 of the fees shown above when you call in to British Airways and book these flights.

If you want to get even more tickets to get to Ireland you can jump on more credit cards or have your significant other or spouse also sign up for any of the cards listed above.

Wrapping it up

This post is a follow up to one we made back in 2017 where you could actually get one flight for free (plus taxes and fees) thanks to the American Express Gold Rewards Card being first year free at that time. That's no longer the case and there are no cards that are currently first year free whose welcome bonus is big enough to cover one of these flights. The HSBC World Elite Mastercard is close but only comes in at around 22,000 Avios with the welcome bonus and required spend. You could spend more on the card and hit that 26,000 level pretty easily however.  But if we take cards whose bonus will definitely make it to 26,000 Avios or more you are going to need to spend at least $120 on a card's annual fee. Add in taxes and fees of say $130-$150 and you are probably looking at $250 to $270 for one round trip ticket. That's compared to Aer Lingus selling those flights from as cheap as the high $500s to well over $1,000 per ticket. So you are definitely in for some significant savings going the of getting a card where you can convert points to British Airways Executive Club 

Title image via Aer Lingus

Still have to give TPG a tip of the hat for detailing this redemption some four years ago.

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