The introduction of the Reward Flight Saver in November 2011 made redeeming for flights short haul economy class on British Airways a financially viable option. At 4500/7500/10000 Avios (depending on flight distance) plus £17.50 fee for a one-way redemption this is a fantastic way to avoid those last-minute expensive tickets. I use this type of redemption the most out of any.
But redeeming for Club Europe (CE) still divides me. It costs 9000/15000/20000 Avios plus £25 for a similar seat to economy class. The middle seat is blocked out as a comfort seat, but my stature has never caused any real problems in leg nor shoulder room, even when sat in the middle of economy class seats.
I do find myself asking whether it's worth using my Avios for CE every time I fly within Europe. I must say I've always struggled to be able to answer this fully. So writing this post is making me tackle it head on, and I fully welcome any readers' (constructive) criticisms or additions to this post. I've tried to condense it down to the issues that matter to me:
- (sometimes) priority boarding
Boarding sequence seems pretty well managed at Heathrow in my experience, but I'm never so lucky elsewhere. I've flown Club Europe quite a few times now and I always seem to run into priority boarding management problems on the inbound to London.
- Priority disembarkation
Being at the front of the plane, I've never had a problem disembarking, and even from a remote stand I've always had a separate bus for the CE passengers whilst the economy class passengers get crammed like sardines into their own two buses. I have heard of instances where they've had to disembark from the back though, leaving the CE passengers to the very end to get off!
If you have a tight or risky connection, don't underestimate the value of this one!
- Lounge access if no elite status
I actually value this highly because it takes me over an hour to get to the airport usually, and arriving after a long trek leaves me hungry and thirsty. I really don't want to pay over-inflated airport outlet prices out of principle.
- It's probably the only times I ever get to use CE
I did wonder whether this would have any substance. I decided it wouldn't. Unless I need an upgrade for a mileage or tier point run (which you can check how to do cheaply in this article) I'm unlikely to ever pay for an upgrade. Whilst I do love luxury travel, frankly I can live with 2-3 hours in a middle seat.
- Similar seat to economy class
The seats aren't actually that great. I've taken the above image from Business Traveller which seems to suggest you'll get loads of legroom but I can't think of a single layout on any of their planes (A319, A320, A321, B767) that have an emergency exit CE seat, whereas I can usually reserve an exit seat if travelling in Euro Traveller due to my frequent flier status. The pictures below should give an idea of what I'm talking about.
- For short haul intra-Europe trips, I get better usage of two Euro Traveller tickets more than one Club Europe
This is where the major difference for me lies. Despite costing exactly the same amount in Avios points (though the cash component is different) I prefer to spend my time travelling with my other half more than just the one CE seat to myself. And I certainly don't rate CE highly enough to redeem Avios for two seats. This is a classic case of “Your Miles May Vary” (YMMV). I prefer to save my Avios for longhaul redemptions, especially the likes of Cathay Pacific whose fuel surcharges aren't really that high.
Ultimately for me, it usually comes down to whether I'm flying the sector by myself, and more importantly, if I have a connecting flight. Since I usually break my longhaul tickets to avoid UK Air Passenger Duty, those extra few minutes disembarking from 2C rather than 10A (my usual emergency exit seat) have saved me in the past!
So that's about all I can think of for now, but if there's anything else you can add to the argument, for or against, please do leave a comment below and share your perspectives. Thanks for reading!