I’ve been meaning to write about one of my favorite travel hacks: the Double Lingus. The Double Lingus takes advantage of British Airways’s partnership with Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus, Boston’s geographic proximity to Ireland, and British Airways’s zone-based redemption scheme for its Avios (pronounced the same as Aviato). The way it worked is that BA’s Zone 4 (requiring 12,500 miles one-way, plus fees) for award flights cut off at 3,000 miles of flight distance. Because Boston to Dublin is 2,993 miles as the Airbus flies, this transatlantic flight required only 25,000 miles round-trip, the same as a domestic round-trip award ticket (though the fees were significantly more: about $116.64 for BOS-DUB-BOS vs. $11.20 for a domestic round-trip). In contrast, buying a ticket on Aer Lingus using United miles would cost you 60,000 miles plus another $48.76 in fees.
So you can imagine my chagrin last Thursday when The Points Guy observed that Aer Lingus had specifically bumped Boston to Dublin or Shannon up to Zone 5 despite those flights’ sub-3,000 mile distance. So that’s it, RIP Double Lingus, right?
Not So Fast, My Friend!
To explain why this change isn’t actually that bad, you need to understand a little about the background of the Double Lingus. Historically, Aer Lingus had its only limited use frequent flier currency called Gold Circle points. However, Aer Lingus was also a partner airline of British Airways meaning that you could use British Airways Avios (themselves transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Member Rewards) to book flights on Aer Lingus. In 2015, IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling) acquired Aer Lingus. Since then IAG has gradually been bringing Aer Lingus’s frequent flier program in line with its sister airlines. Most recently, this has taken the form of Aer Lingus adopting Avios as its frequent flier currency and adopting the same zone-based redemption plan as British Airways.
One additional award redemption feature that Aer Lingus has adopted is peak/off-peak redemptions. Before, when Aer Lingus was simply a British Airways partner airline, all redemptions of Avios on Aer Lingus were automatically on-peak. Now, Aer Lingus has its own peak/off-peak calendar. For 2017, Aer Lingus’s peak dates run January 1-4, April 7-23 (anyone know why?), June 17-September 10, and December 16-31. The rest of the year is off-peak.
So Who Wins and Who Loses?
Winners: Off-Peak Zone 5 and 6 Travelers. If you’re flying in spring, winter, or fall to/from Chicago, DC, New York, Newark, Hartford, or Toronto, you just saw your miles cost of flights to Ireland drop from 20,000 to 13,000. If you’re flying off-peak to/from Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, those same flights cost you 16,250 Avios instead of 25,000.
Neutral: Off-Peak Boston Travelers. Off-peak flights from Boston to Shannon or Dublin just went from 12,500 Avios to 13,000 Avios, so off-peak Boston travelers are marginally worse off for this change.
Losers: Peak Boston Travelers and Rule-Followers. If you fly Boston to Ireland during peak times (summer, Christmas/New Year’s, and mid-April apparently), your flights just went from 12,500 Avios to 20,000 Avios. Ouch. I would say that you’re not losing much, but using United to preview Aer Lingus award availability shows decent options for Summer 2017 (see below). On top of Aer Lingus’s rising redemption fees post-IAG takeover and your travel to the Emerald Isle has only gotten more expensive. This is also a disappointing move for those of us who like consistently enforced rules and are sad to see Aer Lingus resort to a ham-fisted exception to close an apparent loophole in their award flight rules.
Reports of the Double Lingus’s demise may have been premature. Aer Lingus’s changes to its program definitely hurt travelers to/from Boston who fly during peak season, but the addition of an off-peak calendar is a boon to other Ireland-US travelers who could potentially save thousands of Avios now. Not to mention using Avios on Aer Lingus is still probably the best value redemption if you flying between Boston and Ireland, just know that the value proposition got a little worse. In a subsequent post, I’ll describe the Double Lingus in more detail, including mechanics, fees, and maximizing tips!