Aer Lingus launched their new frequent flyer programme AerClub on 1 December 2016. The new programme replaces the former Gold Circle Club and promises a much more inclusive experience for Aer Lingus passengers. Let’s have a look at the AerClub in detail.
Tiers and Tier Credits
There are four tiers in the new programme, which are Green, Silver, Platinum and Concierge. Tier credits are earned when flying Aer Lingus and not when flying with partner airlines. Members will require 301 tier credits to move from Green to Silver. Platinum requires 601 tier credits and Concierge requires 1,050 tier credits.
European flights are offered in three fare types called Saver, Plus and Advantage. These earn 15, 25 and 50 tier credits per flight respectively. Deeply discounted fares in A, Z, W and T class earn 7.5 tier credits per flight.
Transatlantic flights offer four fare types called Low, Flex, Business and Business Flex. These earn 50, 75, 125 and 175 tier credits per flight respectively. A single return flight in Business Class is enough to get a Green level flyer to Silver in one trip.
Interestingly there is no accounting for distance. A short 6 hour hop across to Boston will earn the same level of tier credits as a 12 hour flight to San Francisco. Anyone chasing status would be advised to fly the shortest and cheapest flight possible.
Membership Tier Benefits
Benefits are awarded as you progress to a higher tier. In a hangover from the previous Gold Circle Club, lounge access is available once you reach Silver level, though access for a person travelling with you is not available until you reach Platinum.
Looking at the chart you virtually have everything you need once you reach Silver. There aren’t many tangible benefits to reaching Platinum or Concierge apart from the flight upgrade vouchers. You receive one upgrade from Economy to Business Class as Platinum and a hefty four as a Concierge. Aer Lingus do not have a European Business Class product so these are only available on Transatlantic flights.
Collecting Avios Points on Aer Lingus
Avios can be earned on all flights with Aer Lingus and points are earned based on your spend. There are different levels of earning depending on the currency your flight was paid in. Customers at the higher Aer Lingus tiers will earn a 25%, 50% and 75% bonus depending on which level you are at.
What is not clear is whether the Avios are earned just on the air fare or if it is based on the total cost of the ticket. On certain fares, you pay extra for baggage and seating so I would expect these to count towards earning.
Collecting Avios Points on the Ground
A number of partners are available for earning outside of flying. Agoda, Rocketmiles and Kaligo are partners for earning on hotel stays. The latter two can offer outstanding amounts of Avios for hotel stays and I use them regularly.
Members can also earn with Aer Lingus Holidays, Appleby Jewellers and Kildare Village shopping. It is expected that more partnerships will be announced in due course with the large Irish supermarket chain SuperValu as one of these.
The Avios eStore is available for online earning. Retailers such as Eason, Argos, Apple, Debenhams, PC World and more are featured here. Keep these in mind when shopping as the Avios earning for AerClub is pretty decent.
Collecting Avios Points on Partner Airlines
This is the most important part to take into account, especially if you are a member of the British Airways Executive Club. There are some instances where earning with AerClub will net you more Avios than earning with the Executive Club and vice versa. AerClub members can earn with British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and United Airlines and the charts are below.
These are similar to earning with the Executive Club, but there are notable differences. I have compared these two programmes in particular as many Irish frequent flyers are members of both programmes.
Collecting Avios Points on British Airways
Flying British Airways will earn you exactly the same number of Avios in each programme. This means that if you are British Airways Blue or AerClub Green you will earn the same amount of Avios regardless of which programme you choose.
People in the Executive Club who are Bronze, Silver or Gold will earn bonus Avios in their programme at 25%, 50% and 100% respectively. This means flights for these people should be credited to the Executive Club.
Collecting Avios Points with Cathay Pacific
With Cathay Pacific the tables are also virtually identical with a number of key differences. Premium Economy fares in W class earn 110% Avios in the Executive Club versus 100% with AerClub. H class full fare Economy Class tickets earn 100% Avios in the Executive Club but just 50% in AerClub.
L,K,M,V fares earn 50% Avios in AerClub and yet are only worth 25% of flown miles in the Executive Club. N,Q,S don’t earn any Avios in AerClub but do earn 25% in the Executive Club. Seasoned collectors of Avios should pay attention to their booking class when deciding where to credit flights.
Collecting Avios Points with Qantas
Similar to Cathay Pacific, collecting with Qantas is similar in both programmes with a number of differences. Premium Economy tickets in all fare classes earn 110% of miles flown with AerClub and 100% in the Executive Club.
K,L,M,V,S fares in Economy Class will earn 50% in AerClub and just 25% in the Executive Club. N,O,Q,G earn the same 25% in both programmes. Once again, attention should be paid to the fare class when deciding where to credit your points. A small note to Aer Lingus – the Qantas logo you’re using on the AerClub site is two iterations in the past – might want to update that!
Collecting Avios Points with United
British Airways does not have any relationship with United Airlines so any flights on that carrier should be credited to AerClub.
Spending Avios Points
Once you have a nice pile of Avios you will want to spend them. It is possible to book reward flights on Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia using a portal on the Avios web site. The spending zones and amount of Avios required for peak and off peak flights are identical to that offered at British Airways.
The one major difference is the caveat regarding flights from Dublin and Shannon to Boston. These flights are under 3,000 miles in distance meaning they are in Zone 4 and you can book reward flights at this level in the Executive Club. AerClub have moved Boston further away and stipulated Zone 5, so you are best redeeming for these flights directly by calling British Airways if you are a member of the Executive Club.
The other thing to note is that British Airways offer Reward Flight Saver where taxes and fees are capped for shorter flights. Doing a dummy booking for January from Dublin to London Heathrow and return shows this. Flying either carrier costs 8,000 Avios return however Aer Lingus flights attract €152.24 in taxes and fees whereas British Airways flights attract €56.67 total.
Interestingly, the AerClub has no other options to use Avios except on reward flights. The glaring omission is the fact you can’t use your Avios to upgrade on Aer Lingus flights.
Simplicity… In Some Ways
Online, the portal is quite a simple layout. Your tier points and Avios balance is provided for you along with your card a membership number. My Trips lists all your previous flights. Interestingly my account contains all my flights with Aer Lingus over the previous year even though I booked them all through British Airways and credited the flights there too. Information sharing at its best.
For a programme with over 100,000 members, it is inexplicable to me as to why membership numbers comprise of 16 digits. There is no way anyone is ever going to remember their number and I think this is going to be a pain point for customers in the future. I remember numbers very easily but sixteen digits is a stretch.
AerClub is an excellent enhancement over the previous Gold Circle Club. My major beef with that programme was the inability to earn anything on cheap fares. The year I flew Aer Lingus 24 times and received nothing for my loyalty prompted my switch to the British Airways Executive Club. I will now once again consider them a viable option when planning travel.
Downsides of the new programme are the fact that green members are not issued with a membership card. Virtually all loyalty programmes in retail, food and drink and even many airlines provide you with a tangible card at the base level. Considering the excruciatingly long membership number, I think Aer Lingus have really missed a trick here.
Being prevented from upgrading Aer Lingus flights with Avios is another miss for me, but only a minor one. The ability to move your Avios between Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways far outweighs this missing benefit. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the new programme and hats off to all the people at Aer Lingus for the blood, sweat and tears involved getting this off the ground.
Thank you for reading and I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any comments, questions or corrections, please leave them in the comments below.