Posted by: neilh10 | April 2, 2011

How to get a free (ish) business class flight to Iceland!

This is something I did last year, and you can do the same. You need to live in the UK, be a bit of a geek and have a lot of time on your hands. But if you are, you can get a FREE BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHT TO ICELAND*
Delicious Business Class Deserts Taste Better on Lufthansa

(*excluding taxes and certain other mysterious charges).

Let me explain how it works. There are two airlines that fly to Iceland. Icelandair, and Iceland express. For whatever reason, these airlines effectively have a monopoly over the routes in and out of Iceland. The only year round competitor is scandinavian airlines, who fly from Oslo once a day.

Scandinavian airlines quite usefully also have connecting flights to Oslo, from places like Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh. So, it is possible to fly from Reykjavik to the UK directly on Scandinavian airlines. You can see the flights by trying out their booking system. Typically they cost from about £150 each way, so they offer reasonable value anyway.

Anyway, there is a way to go on one of these flights on Scandinavian Airlines, in business class, for free. It is protracted and complicated, but could ultimately be quite fun.

First, you need to apply to join the British Midland International ‘Diamond Club’. Look for an introductory points offer on the BMI website, typically you can get up to 5000 miles for free. Take a note of your membership number.

Secondly, you need to apply for exactly this credit card. Be careful to apply for the standard card, and not the ‘plus’ card, which carries an £85 annual fee. This is an american express credit card, with a partnership deal with British Midland airways. Quote your Diamond club account number in the application.

Once you have the credit card, you need to spend £250 in the first 90 days to get 20,000 free points in the British Midland Airways diamond club. This can be spent anywhere where Amex is accepted, so this is ok for most supermarkets. It isn’t costing you anything, as you would have spent this money anyway. As the APR is 16.9%, it is probably best to pay off and immediately cancel the card once you have banked the 20,000 points.

By the third stage, you will have amassed 25,000 miles for free. This is enough for a free return flight, in business class, to any destination in Europe on the Star Alliance network. Beware though, this does not include taxes. Further information is available on the BMI website.

Iceland still counts as part of Europe for these purposes, and SAS are part of star alliance, as I found out when I called the call centre. So, you can use the points to fly to Iceland.

I used it to fly to Keflavik from London via Oslo. The total points required were 12,375. It took a lot of negotiation with the Indian call centre to make the flights actually happen, and to recognise Iceland on the computer system, but we got there in the end. However, because I was flying from London Heathrow in Business class, the taxes were very high – almost £100 if I recall correctly. The other way around, flying back from Iceland to the UK, via Norway, the taxes are lower.

As for the journey itself, business class on SAS was a bit of a disappointment. It was kind of like economy class, ten years ago. The seats were exactly the same as economy class, you were just at the very front of the plane and the middle seat was free.

You can go to the business class lounge at the airports. This is okay, but struck me as only really useful as a free bar.

The best thing about the whole experience was that you get a really good meal on the plane. You also get a decent and unlimited supply of wine, and beer. To get service, you just ring the bell!

Basically, the overall verdict was that the only people who should fly business class are genuine businessmen who cannot face the horror of having to sit with everyone else, and accidental drunk people who have found loopholes in introductory credit card offers.

Obviously, you can guess which category I fell in to. But I had another motivation for using the service, and that was the 64 kilogram baggage allowance. I was able to take two crates of stuff for the house without paying a fortune in either postage or excess baggage fees.

So, it all worked out quite well. It might do for you as well.

(photo stolen from flickr
)

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