Aer Lingus Now Limiting Economy Award Seats for British Airways Customers?

So I spent several hours this weekend working on an award booking for family members for a two week trip to Europe this fall. Given that we’re located in New England, a trip across the pond makes the most sense with British Airways Avios as it’s only 12,500 miles each way from Boston to Dublin/Shannon per person. It’s quite easy to then transit to many cities around Europe from Dublin. To put this redemption in perspective, that’s how much it costs with most US airlines to go anywhere in the continental US. By comparison, the big three (American Airlines, United, and Delta) charge 30,000 each way to Europe. So, you can get a roundtrip to Europe from Boston to Ireland for less than what most programs charge one way.

Anyway, I’ve booked many of these trips as part of my award booking service in addition to booking these trips for myself and my family. In fact, next month we have a family trip to Europe, there are eight of us on the same flight, and all of us used Avios to get there. So, imagine my surprise when I called to make a reservation for four, only to find out that there were only two seats per flight, in coach! It has been well over a year now since only two seats have been available in business class after there were initially nine seats released, but two in coach class is new to me.

I did a little experimentation as British Airways allows free cancellations within 24 hours of an award booking. So, I checked award availability before I made a booking on Expertflyer (a paid service). Expertflyer showed nine seats in coach on each of the two flights daily between Boston and Dublin. I then booked two seats on the later flight in coach and then checked Expertflyer again. What I found was fascinating. After taking two seats in coach on the later flight, all nine seats disappeared from Experflyer for both that flight and the earlier flight! I then called British Airways to check award availability on both flights to see what was available in case Expertflyer was wrong. There was no availability on the later flight, but there were still two seats on the earlier flight despite Expertflyer showing none available.

I also checked availability on United.com as they are partners with Aer Lingus. You can book 4 award seats on United.com if you book them at the same time. But once I took the two seats on the later flight, all availability disappeared from United.com as well. If you have Avios, I wouldn’t recommend booking with United anyway, but if you have a lot of United miles, it isn’t a terrible redemption.

Now, granted, this is far from a comprehensive study on Aer Lingus availability using Avios. But my limited search in October resulted in only two seats in each cabin per flight. If this is, in fact, the new trend with Avios on Aer Lingus, it’s going to put a huge damper on my family travel and I imagine many of my clients as well!

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