What Did You Book? – Aer Lingus Avios and Qatar Flexi Awards

by Sash & Mohammad
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a collage of an airplane

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Welcome to our second instalment of What Did You Book, brought to you by us: Sash and Mohammad. Each month, we feature a travel booking each of us made, its reasoning, and valuable tips and tricks.

This month will showcase Aer Lingus Avios and Qatar Airways Flexi Avios booking strategies.

What did Sash Book?

After wrapping up our summer trip to Iceland and Norway, I began planning our Summer 2024 travels. My wife, Linda, wants to go to Ireland, so this would be the first destination we fly to from Canada.

a map of ireland with various symbols

Map of Ireland, source: Pinterest

I greatly advocate booking trips 10-12 months out. If travel demand to Europe in Summer 2024 will be anything we have seen this summer, booking early is of utmost importance, especially if you are looking to fly in a premium cabin and not pay an excessive amount (e.g. Air Canada).

To get to Ireland, flying to Dublin made the most sense. I wanted to get to Dublin from Ottawa with minimal connections. One solution was to drive to Montreal and fly the direct route on Air Canada, priced reasonably in economy and premium economy. However, business class is ridiculous in typical Aeroplan dynamic pricing fashion.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

There was the option of booking an economy latitude ticket and applying e-upgrades, with enough “R” class space to confirm the upgrades for all 3 of us immediately. However, given their recent shenanigans with flight cancellations, delays, and bag losses, I did not feel inclined to fly with Air Canada. Plus, a change would be nice.

The other option was on Aer Lingus from Toronto. I’ve never flown the product, but it looks decent, the hard product, anyway.

the inside of an airplane

source: executivetraveller.com

However, I would have to position to Toronto from Ottawa to catch this 5:50 p.m. flight, but I’m sure this would be pretty inexpensive.

a map of the world

Nonetheless, I decided to pursue booking it. It’s worth noting that taxes significantly differ when booking through British Airways Avios versus Air Lingus AerClub Avios. Take a look at the difference in taxes, it’s pretty mind-blowing:

a screenshot of a website

British Airways Avios Cost (YYZ-DUB)

a screenshot of a computer screen

Aer Lingus Avios Cost (YYZ-DUB)

After spending an hour trying to figure it out through research on FlyerTalk, there seemed to be some conflict because I have an existing account with Vueling Club. A suggestion was made to log in using my Vueling Club account, which I have not used in ages. When trying to reset my password, I got a nice error:

a screenshot of a computer

For background, Vueling is a budget Spanish airline that is part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), including British Airways and Iberia Airlines. Avios points can redeemed for hotel stays, car rentals, and experiences via avios.com using a Vueling Club membership. I know that I had an account with Vueling.

Given that I could not retrieve my Vueling Club login credentials, I would have to contact support to either reset it or request them to delete my account. Since I had no patience to endure this ordeal, I created a brand new AerClub for a family member.

Once the account was successfully created, I then went to avios.com to transfer the necessary BA Avios miles over to Aer Club:

a screenshot of a website

Once logged in, I went under Manage my Account and selected “Combine my Avios.”

a screenshot of a computer

Then I logged into my British Airways Avios account:

a screenshot of a login form

Once logged in, I selected to transfer “British Airways to Avios Partners” and the number of Avios to transfer:

a screenshot of a transfer

After receiving the transfer confirmation, I logged into my AerClub Account and saw my updated Avios Points Balance.

Since I was booking the ticket for myself, my daughter, and my wife, I had to add them as travel companions before booking a ticket. Under the AerClub account, I went into “My Travel Companions” and added them.

a screenshot of a travel companion

Once this was completed, it was time to book the flights, but they must be booked through Avios.com, not the Air Lingus website. Confusing right? I went to https://www.avios.com/ca/en/spend under “Reward Flights” and clicked “Book Now.”

a screenshot of a website

I then searched for the flight I was looking to book. The Avios website is excruciatingly slow, so I had to be patient. The result will look something like this after selecting business class:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

The price for Toronto-Dublin fluctuates between 50,000 and 60,000 depending on whether it’s peak or off-peak season. For 2024, here is the peak and off-peak calendar, courtesy of headforpoints.com:

a calendar with red squares

I was satisfied with the quoted price of 60,001 Avios and $223.06 in taxes. Why the extra one Avios point? I have no idea. I then continued through to book the flight, at which point I immediately got an error:

a screenshot of a email

Avios does not make it easy to book flights! When I tried calling the toll-free number, I was informed that their office closed at 6 p.m. EST. The following day, I tried calling back and got the message that no agents were available. At this point, I was pretty fed up and would revert to booking Air Canada when I decided to try the website one last time. And magically, the error did not come up, and I could continue with the booking. A miracle!

a screenshot of a computer

Like BA Avios booking, I could lower my tax by increasing my Avios spending. This is never a good idea, so I stuck with the highest taxes and lowest Avios points. I then followed through the subsequent screens to confirm my booking!


Air Lingus reward flights using Avios points is a sweet spot we all know about, but I rarely hear people booking it, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps folks are facing the same hurdles to overcome that I did. And if that’s the case, hopefully, what I presented will help.

The Air Lingus sweet spot is real and with good award availability; don’t discount it and let it pass you by. I promise that taking the time and patience to book it using Avios.com will be greatly rewarding.

What did Mohammad Book?

August was another busy month of booking where I felt I was endlessly booking flights, hotels, Airbnb’s and car rentals for family and friends who had left bookings till the last minute – another reminder to heed Sash’s pearls of wisdom upthread and book summer travel many months in advance if you can. You’re asking for trouble if you wait until the last minute to book for the summer months – especially if the travelling party will be particular about direct flights and travel on specific dates.

One particularly challenging travel plan was for a friend and her partner who wanted to travel from Shanghai (PVG) to Toronto in a business-class cabin around mid-September. As most people probably know, flights from premium cabin space in China have been pretty challenging lately, so this was a proper mind-bending exercise over a couple of weeks.

We had Aeroplan and Avios points to play around with, and if it made enough sense, the option to buy airline miles was also on the table. Additionally, there were a couple of restrictions for stopover cities, with most European hubs not an option, except for Paris/Amsterdam – and even then for just an airport transit. Middle East and South East Asia would have been OK.

With these parameters defined and countless searches later, I had narrowed down to a couple of options. In the end, nothing with Aeroplan was worth considering, and using any other program to position in a different part of Asia was introducing too many stopovers. I figured I’d share the options below to explain how I approached the search and decision-making process.

KLM/Air France Flying Blue
Route: Beijing (PEK) – Amsterdam (AMS) – Toronto (YYZ)
Cost: First leg: 70,000 miles (Flying Blue) + USD $204 (taxes) per person // Second leg: 55,000 miles (Flying Blue) + USD $284 per person // Total cost person of 125,000 Flying Blue miles + US $488 per person

a screenshot of a computer a screenshot of a website

At first glance, this was a good option as the dates seemingly worked, and the overall cost was reasonable in terms of points and the additional taxes involved. SeatSpy was a massive time saver here as it quickly allowed me to search for updates on the Air France/KLM routes and show me dates where a potential trip could be pieced together. For the dates that worked, there appeared to be two problems that could have been managed, but introduced some uncertainty into this booking.

a screenshot of a calendar

SeatSpy award search view

First was the problem with the stopover. Due to the flight timings, the stopover would have been in the region of 18-24 hours, requiring a lengthy stopover at the airport. Entering Amsterdam was not an option as they would not have a visa. Amsterdam does have an airside hotel in any case, which could have been an option.

It was the second problem that had me more concerned. Both the individual legs were priced more favourably if bought individually than if bought together (resulting in the total price increasing from 125,000 miles required to over 190,000 miles). If purchasing the legs separately, they’d need to be assured that the airline would allow them to check their bags across both tickets and through to YYZ without exiting and collecting them in AMS. I was sure that KLM would have been able to do this as both flights would have been with them – but it still needed to be confirmed beforehand.

Emirates Skywards
Route: Shanghai (PVG) – Dubai (DXB) – Toronto (YYZ)
Cost: 151,250 miles (Skywards miles) + $1245 (taxes) per person

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Availability was plentiful across Emirates Airlines, which surprised me as I had heard that award space into and out of China was still limited, given the demand and the fact that many airlines have not fully restored flight frequencies. Unfortunately, the reasonable amount of miles required comes with a big hit on the taxes and fuel surcharges front… uhhhh Emirates! This would have been one of the currencies that needed to be purchased (an excellent potential situation where ASmallWorld membership may have made sense) and would have been a good choice had it not been for the additional hit of the cash surcharges.

Etihad Guest Miles
Route: Shanghai (PVG) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Toronto (YYZ)
Cost: 185,008 miles (Etihad Guest miles) + $700 (taxes) per person

While the taxes were slightly more palatable on these options, the number of miles that would have needed to be purchased put this firmly in the Plan C category. Availability was there – though not as plentiful as Emirates Skywards.

Qatar Airways Avios
Route: Hangzhou(HGH) – Doha (DOH) – Montreal (YUL)
Cost: 200,000 miles (Avios) + $226 (taxes) per person

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Example of the itinerary I booked for mid-Sept 2023

The most attractive option ended up being Qatar Airways. Finding space was not easy, like in the case of Emirates, but there was enough of a sprinkling of available space under their ‘flexi’ awards. Qatar Airway’s ‘flexi’ awards cost twice the amount of the ‘saver space’ made available, though, of course, saver awards will be more scarce. In this instance, given how often we see 30%+ transfer bonuses on one of the Avios currencies (and considering you can transfer between different Avios currencies as Sash covered above), I thought the overall cost of a ticket to be closer to ~154,000 points (if transferred from a transferable currency like the recently expired Amex 30% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios).

We had to be flexible on the departure city to make the flight work on the desired dates. I had been primarily looking at Beijing and Shanghai but then noticed on flightconnections.com that Qatar also flies to Hangzhou. When searching for the ideal dates, that’s precisely where I found a pair of Flexi awards available.

Ultimately, deciding to go with the Qatar Airways route made the most sense, especially once we stumbled across space for both legs (finding award space from Doha to North America has been difficult in the summer months, even at the Flexi award level). This route offered a very comfortable stopover, avoiding any potential issues with checking through luggage, cash surcharges were not too obscene, and my friend’s ~15 hours on Q-suites for the first time would not be the wrong way to return home.

The booking process was straightforward once I transferred Avios from the British Airways account. There was one peculiar nuance to the booking process that I had not been aware of, and that relates to making a mixed “saver” and “Flexi” award. In the screenshot above, imagine one leg had ‘flexi’ space and the other had ‘saver’ space. If you selected that mixed award, it would price out more than had you just selected both as ‘flexi,’ which is pretty counterintuitive. So always remember to check the multiple combinations of awards if they are available on your selected dates.

No one in this hobby wants to pay the “Flexi” rate awards, but it’s unavoidable sometimes. When I can’t make award redemptions work, I’m happy to consider revenue fare alternatives -but with the situation as it is for travel to/from China (expensive!), something had to give. I’m pretty satisfied with this redemption overall, though and happy that we could finally find a straightforward way back to Canada, all while helping someone book one of the finest business class cabins in the sky in what will be their first experience on Q-suites!

Final Word

Our second instalment of “What Did You Book?” presented two booking strategies: Aer Lingus Avios and Qatar Airways Flexi awards. Sash presented how to book an Aer Lingus Avios sweet spot and overcome common hurdles that people may face when booking. Meanwhile, Mohammad took you along his thought process when booking awards with relatively short notice for popular travel times of the year and why/when it makes sense for him to bite the bullet and pay a premium quantity of miles for award redemption.

See you again next month!


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