As I posted about last week, British Midland announced that they will begin the process of leaving the Star Alliance around April 20 due to their takeover by British Airways.
While British Midland as an airline wasn’t all that exciting, they had a fantastic frequent flyer program. I’d go so far as to say that they have more elite members that have never stepped foot on one of their planes than any other airline. That’s because crediting Star Alliance flights to British Midland was especially lucrative thanks to their very generous and creative award redemption chart.
I have about 100,000 British Midland miles left to burn, and I have to do so in the next week. After April 20 their future is unknown. They could be converted to Avios points at a 1:1 ratio, or they could be converted at a different ratio; it’s anyone’s guess.
With that in mind, I’ll share some of my favorite uses, and also ask you guys for your thoughts on how I should burn mine.
Let’s go through the two charts separately.
The Star Alliance award chart can take a few minutes to understand. There are 11 zones, so pricing is based on the zones your origin and destination lie in, as follows:
You may notice that some of the zones are pretty big. For example, the US and Costa Rica are in the same zone, as is Japan and Uzbekistan, just to name a couple.
Part of British Midland’s pricing chart looks as follows:
The prices listed are for coach awards. British Midland charges 1.5x the number of miles for business class and 2.5x the number of miles for first class. Furthermore, there’s a supplement of 10,000 Diamond Club miles for each segment in Lufthansa first class.
Instead of exclusively using miles, you can reduce the number of miles required and pay a cash supplement. That cash supplement increases proportionally for first or business class.
In other words, Germany is in Zone 1 while the US is in Zone 3. Say you want to fly from the US to Germany one-way in business class. The chart lists the cost as being 45,000 miles or 25,000 miles plus £140. That’s the roundtrip cost, so first you’d want to cut the amounts in half to reflect a one-way, bringing it down to 22,500 miles or 12,500 miles plus £70. Then since it’s a business class award you’d multiple that amount x1.5, for a total of 33,750 miles or 18,750 miles plus £105. For a one-way business class award that’s an especially good deal. That’s one of the best values on the award chart, in my opinion.
Another great redemption is for travel between the US (Zone 3) and South America (Zone 4). The one-way cost in business class is either 30,000 miles or 15,000 miles plus £105. That’s an amazing bargain.
The “catch” is that British Midland does impose fuel surcharges when the carrier itself does as well. However, both US Airways and TAM don’t impose fuel surcharges on bookings, so fly them whenever possible.
As I wrote about a few days ago, US Airways does have a great new business class product that’s almost installed on all of their Airbus 330 aircraft. So while I’m tempted to redeem my British Midland miles for travel on US Airways, I have plans to fly them early next year using an off-peak award for only 55,000 miles in business class.
So my next option would be to fly TAM, as I’ve never flown them before and I’d love to discover more of South America. However, they seem to almost never release business or first class award space. Does anyone see space on TAM anymore, either in business or first class? Anyone? Bueller? If anyone can find a first class seat on them anytime in the next year, you have a Diet Coke with lime coming your way.
And the last thing worth mentioning is that British Midland has special access to Singapore Airlines business class award availability. Singapore Airlines almost never releases business class award space to Star Alliance members, though they do to British Midland members, as discussed extensively in this FlyerTalk thread. So if you’re burning Diamond Club miles you’ll have access to almost all the same Singapore Airlines saver award space that KrisFlyer members have access to.
So is it worth redeeming British Midland miles for travel in Singapore business class on the A380, or for travel on the world’s longest or second longest routes (Newark/Los Angeles to Singapore), which are operated by all business class products? I’ve flown Singapore’s new business class, though on the 777, so I’m not sure if it’s worthwhile aiming for the A380 or A340, given that it’s virtually the same product.
British Midland has some interesting airline partners that aren’t in Star Alliance, including Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Jet Airways. The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t make a miles & cash booking on partner airlines.
Virgin Atlantic costs 90,000 miles roundtrip between the East Coast of the US and London, while the same award through ANA would only cost 63,000 miles, so I have a hard time justifying that. Furthermore, the fuel surcharges and UK Air Passenger Duty add another $1,000 or so to the cost of the ticket. Still, I do love Virgin Atlantic, as my last trip on them was spectacular.
Then there’s Qatar Airways, which is an intriguing enough airline. I actually used my British Midland miles for a roundtrip first class ticket between London and Doha last year, and found it to be an interesting experience. While I’d love to explore more of the Middle East, I found Doha to be an absolute $*&^hole, and that’s the first place I’ve ever said that about. Heck, along with Chuck E. Cheese’s, it’s one of only two destinations I have no desire of returning to. So while Qatar Airways was nice enough, and at 80,000 miles roundtrip first class was a great value, it’s not necessarily an experience I have to repeat. Still, for those that have otherwise “done it all,” it might not be a bad option.
And that leaves Jet Airways. I’ve never flown them, though I’d like to. And after my recent trip to India, I’d sure love to return. But based on my experience their award space is near impossible to come by.
So what are you burning your British Midland miles on? If you were in my shoes, what would you redeem your British Midland miles for? You’re going to end up having to read about it, so make the decision for me please.