In the world of points and miles, Aer Lingus is an oddity, like neighbor British airline Virgin Atlantic. It’s a major player with key partnerships with other major players, but it’s not a part of any of the big alliances, though it was formerly with oneworld.
The nearly 80-year-old Aer Lingus was a low-cost carrier and then morphed into the global entity it is today, with a level of class marked by partnerships with airlines like KLM and Etihad. Now, rather than compete on price like its national competitor Ryanair, Aer Lingus aims to distinguish itself by service and value.
A potential takeover by British Airways owner company IAG would catapult this new imperative even further, providing increased connections to London and new funding to freshen up the customer experience both on the ground and in the air.
Many Aer Lingus flyers are curious to see the changes such a merger might bring to the loyalty program, Gold Circle Club. Currently, a member’s ability to redeem points for flights and other awards is restricted by their elite status. That limits the program’s usefulness for travelers who don’t fly a lot with the airline every year.
- Dublin Airport
Gold Circle Club has gotten a lot of flak because there are so many barriers to actually using Gold Circle points. Before you can redeem for Aer Lingus flights, you must earn 2,400 points, which is the same as the entrance requirements for the Gold level of the airlines elite program. To redeem points for awards on partner airlines, however, you need to accumulate 4,800 Gold Circle Points in one year, the same as reaching the Prestige elite tier.
Points do not accrue according to either a distance- or a price-based formula. Instead, Aer Lingus awards members a fixed number of points depending on the destination and the cabin. You’ll earn from 100 points for economy flights within the British Isles to 1,200 points for business class flights between Ireland and the United States.
Award flights on Aer Lingus are priced on a similar chart. Flights within the British Isles, to Europe, or to the U.S. each cost a set number of points, plus an amount in dollars or euros for the airline surcharge for that zone. Award prices for partner airlines are not published, and members can only book them by phone after achieving Prestige-level elite status.
- Award flights between the U.S. and Ireland begin at 6,000 points roundtrip
- Customers must earn 2,400 points within a 12-month period before being able to redeem points
- Points that do not qualify for the 2,400 minimum will not accrue until the member achieves Gold level status
- Members must be at least 12 years old
- Gold Circle points are valid for 36 months after they are earned
- No cash + points awards available
- Partner awards can only be booked by phone
- One-way awards cost the same number of points as a round-trip flight
Aer Lingus has recently upgraded its business class, and its now one of the best ways to get across the pond to the British Isles. The staggered seat arrangement gives 90 percent of the cabin direct aisle access and features lie-flat seats, complimentary Wi-Fi and on-demand dining.
Aer Lingus charges high surcharges on award seats, but not on upgrades, so upgrade awards are the best way to use your miles to get into these stellar cabins. There is also quite a lot of award inventory available, giving you a good chance of getting a confirmed upgrade.
The worst way to use Aer Lingus awards is on its most popular route: East Coast U.S. to Ireland. On its own flights, Aer Lingus charges very high surcharges, from $170 each way within the British Isles to $450 across the pond. If you book these same flights with British Airways Avios, you pay low double-digits, something very uncharacteristic for British Airways.
Upgrades are only available on transatlantic flights, as business class is not offered on intra-British Isles or intra-European flights. There are two rates for upgrades, one to all Aer Lingus destinations except San Francisco, and another for flights to San Francisco.
The lowest Gold Circle Club elite level corresponds with the minimum threshold for initially activating your Gold Circle Club awards, so in some ways, it is like the introductory membership tier on other European airlines.
Each subsequent level includes the perks of the previous level, unless stated otherwise.
- Gold: Access to Aer Lingus Gold Circle Club lounges when traveling on Aer Lingus-marketed flights, ability to redeem points for reward flights, access to mileage upgrades, priority check-in, priority boarding, priority luggage handling, personalized luggage tags
- Prestige: Access to the British Airways lounge at Heathrow when traveling on a partner flight with BA
- Elite: Dedicated customer service phone lines, increased checked baggage allowance, four complimentary one-way upgrades, ability to nominate another member to status, one complimentary award ticket for a spouse or partner traveling with you, ability to reserve a seat on a fully booked Aer Lingus flight
Aer Lingus previously offered a co-branded Mastercard in the U.S. that is no longer available. With no benefits besides a low, 5,000-point sign-up bonus and double earning on Aer Lingus flights, it was a less than ideal product, but there is currently no way to earn Aer Lingus points through credit card spending.