More fun with the United devaluation

Last week on the train to New York for a family weekend I posted a quick-and-dirty analysis of how what formerly seemed like insane "fuel" surcharges on British Airways award redemptions can actually be cheaper than flights purchased through United's new, devalued partner award chart. It was a stylized example (you had to earn a British Airways companion pass – and have a companion – for starters), but I've spent the week thinking about it and have a few more fun examples to share.

Let's start with the assumption that you're flush with flexible Ultimate Rewards points earned through one of Chase's premium credit cards. You might have planned to redeem 125,000 of them for a Lufthansa first class ticket booked through United. Starting in February you know that award will cost 220,000 miles, so you're looking for an alternative.

The good news is, tickets booked on Aer Lingus and air berlin (their punctuation, not mine) using British Airways Avios still don't have the absurd fuel surcharges that make most British Airways redemptions such a terrible value. That means getting to Europe in business class is still affordable using Ultimate Rewards points.

Aer Lingus

From Dublin, Aer Lingus flies to and from Boston Logan, New York JFK, Chicago O'Hare, and Orlando  International Airport. From Shannon, they only serve New York and Boston. Those flights will cost (each way):

  • JFK: 20,000 economy; 40,000 business
  • BOS: 12,500 economy; 25,000 business
  • ORD:  20,000 economy; 40,000 business
  • MCO:  25,000 economy; 50,000 business*

*there are conflicting reports regarding the cost of this award. The flight is technically (72 miles) over 4,000 miles each way, so should price at the levels I give here, but some reports put the cost at 20,000 economy and 40,000 business. I haven't made a test booking yet to find out for sure.

You will pay some taxes and fees for these awards:

  • The Points Guy paid $30.57 in fees for a one-way business class redemption JFK-DUB;
  • One of his commenters paid $157 in taxes for a round-trip business class redemption BOS-DUB, which puts the ex-Dublin part of the cost at around $125;

From Dublin you can use Avios to fly anywhere Aer Lingus flies, or choose a low-cost European carrier. Be aware that if you purchase your connecting flight on a different itinerary, you won't be protected if your Aer Lingus flight is delayed or cancelled.

air berlin

air berlin flies between Dusseldorf and Fort Myers, Chicago O'Hare, Miami International Airport, Los Angeles International, and New York JFK; and between Berlin and Chicago O'Hare, Miami, and New York JFK.

The flights to Chicago, Miami, and Fort Myers will all cost 25,000 Avios in economy and 50,000 in business class, each way. The flight between JFK and Dusseldorf comes in just under 4,000 miles, so costs just 20,000 Avios in economy and 40,000 in business. The flight between Dusseldorf and Los Angeles is over 5,500 miles, so it costs 30,000 Avios each way in economy and 60,000 in business.

It's hard to believe, but that 20,000 Avios economy class redemption from JFK to DUS has a grand total of taxes and fees of...$2.50:

You think that's something? Let me show you the rest of that dialog box:

That's right: you can redeem just 6,000 Avios and pay $162.50 to "buy up" to the rest of the redemption. That values 14,000 flexible Ultimate Reward points at just $160. But those points are already worth $175 when used for a ticket purchased through the Ultimate Rewards travel tool!

It's worth taking a look at the business class redemption as well. The fees are the same $2.50 when using 40,000 Avios one-way, but unfortunately the "Avios and cash" rate is much more expensive. Instead of "buying" 14,000 Ultimate Rewards points for $160 (1.1 cent each), can pay $560 for 20,000 points (2.8 cents each):


Taxes and fees on the DUS-JFK flight are somewhat higher, at $103.30:

But you again have the opportunity to "buy" 14,000 Ultimate Rewards points for $160 – an amazing deal.

Roundtrip to Europe for 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $425.80 is an unbelievable deal. Roundtrip to Europe in business class for 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $105.80 only looks like a ripoff in comparison.