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I’ve got a stack of Airmiles – the ones that you can exchange for free flights (inc. taxes etc) on British Airways. they have piled up over the past year and I now have enough to

a) take a trip on my own to Buenos Aires

b) take a trip with my wife to St. Petersburg (the Russian one, not the one in Florida)

c) take the whole family to anywhere as far as Madeira

Now we know Buenos Aires is out of the question. I may have saved enough Airmiles to get there, but I haven’t accumulated the requisite number of marital Brownie Points to go gallivanting off on a solo trip to South America. That’s just not going to happen. Moreover I’d really like to take the whole family to Europe and show them the places I spent my youth in.

The problems however are three-fold.

1. Flights originate in London but we originate in Belfast, which means a connecting flight. Now we do have an airport in Belfast, two in fact, but the cheap flights go to Gatwick, Luton or Stansted whereas many of the flights I want to take with Airmiles leave from Heathrow. That ups the price before we even get as far as our “free” flight.

2. Many “free” flights from London, either Heathrow or Gatwick (BA doesn’t really operate out of Luton or Stansted) depart from London earlier than a connecting flight from Belfast would get there – not all mind you, but most of the destinations I would be interested in. That means an overnight in London to catch an early flight to wherever, and bang goes our spending money before we’ve even left London. Most flights than are catchable don’t arrive till late at the other end and I couldn’t stand arriving somewhere exotic and going straight to bed.

3. Many return flights arrive back in London at a ridiculously late hour, thus necessitating yet another overnight in an expensive hotel near the airport.

So here I sit with thousands of Airmiles saved up but difficulty in using them. Even worse, my research has shown that it is probably cheaper and certainly more convenient to get on a bus for Dublin and buy a regular ticket from there to wherever. So much for “free” travel.

I will say in BA’s defence however that there is one flight leaving London and arriving back there which is excellent as far as a connecting flights from and back to Belfast are concerned, and it is one of the few European destinations that might appeal to me for a variety of reasons – Verona.

Maybe we’ll just keep on saving those Airmiles for a trip to Buenos Aires to celebrate our 90th wedding anniversary.


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