With bmi poised to leave Star Alliance next week, those sitting on a mountain of Diamond Club miles would be wise to burn as many possible before 18 April. Even if British Airways transfers Diamond Club miles into Executive Club Avios points at a 1:1 rate and even conceding that the new BA Avios chart does have a few good deals, bmi currently has one of the most generous redemption charts in the industry. The chances that such a consumer-friendly award chart will survive the merger are slim–so burn now.
Here’s some of the best ways to use your bmi Diamond Club points:
1. Intra-Europe non-stop awards
Having lived in Germany last year, this is my favorite redemption. For as little as 4,500 miles + £40 r/t (or just 9,000 miles r/t) you can fly on two direct flights between or within the UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, or Switzerland. Business class is only 1.5x the price, so a r/t intra-Europe trip in business class is only 13,500 miles or 6,750 miles + £60. A connecting flight in economy class, however, adds an extra 7,500 miles to the price–so fly direct when possible. Flights to the rest of Europe, from Iceland to Georgia are 12,000 miles in economy class r/t or 6,000 miles and £70.
2. Puerto Rico to Africa or South America
Puerto Rico is placed in the Caribbean/South America zone, meaning an economy class round-trip from San Juan to anywhere in southern Africa is 80K miles rather than 100K from the mainland, even if you connect via the mainland. Thanks to bmi’s generous routing rules, you can also route through cities like Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo and have a stopover there. Even better, going from San Juan to anywhere in South America via the USA is only 30K miles r/t in economy class or 45K in business class. Even less if you choose cash + points.
3. 67.5K miles for r/t Business Class from North America to Europe
Although bmi does levy fuel surcharges, prices to Europe Zone 1 are very good–especially when starting from the west coast. Choose cash + points and you are only looking at 37,500 miles + £210 per ticket to Zone 1 or 37,500 miles + £255 to the rest of Europe. Even first class is not a bad deal, though by no means as competitive as business class at 112,500 miles per r/t ticket or 75K miles + £350 to Europe Zone 1. Keep in mind that a 10,000 mile/sector levy is charged for Lufthansa first class flights (not that they are ever available anymore).
4. Enhanced Singapore Airlines Award Availability
For whatever reason, bmi seems to have more access to Singapore Airlines flights than other Star Alliance carriers. Singapore had pledged to open up more award space to Star Alliance partners, but I have not seen it yet, even on the New York-Frankfurt route.
5. North/Central American Business Class Awards for 45K miles or 22.5K miles + £150
With Air Canada and now United coding “domestic first class” into “I” class (business class), you can enjoy fuel-surcharge-free travel through much of North and Central America (even as far as Greenland and Panama) for a reasonable price. Adventurers can even book travel to Cuba (on Air Canada from Toronto) using bmi miles.
It might well turn out that the Diamond Club program doesn’t change right away, but I wouldn’t take that chance. I am actively planning out right now how I am going to use every last mile if I can. It would not surprise me if miles will transfer to BA at a 2:1 ratio–all the more reason to burn now.
Also remember that bmi offers one-way awards at half the round trip price–a great deal. Booking bmi awards is not always easy. Diamond Club’s Indian call center leaves much to be desired and Diamond Club imposes an unreasonable (in my estimation) 7-day advance booking requirement for awards (3 days for top-tier Diamond Club Gold members). If you are just starting to think about your travel plans for this summer or next year, remember that with 27 carriers in the group, Star Alliance redemptions tend to be easier than OneWorld redemption, unless you are specifically looking for first class.
If you require an award consultant to help you effectively use your bmi Diamond Club points, we have experts standing by who are more than willing to provide their professional assistance.
Just got this email from bmi…
We’d like to advise you of some forthcoming changes to the bmi Diamond Club programme.
From 19 April 2012, the ability for Diamond Club members to earn Status and Destinations miles and to redeem miles will cease on the Lufthansa Group airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines).
Any redemption tickets issued prior to this date for travel will be honoured.
All Star Alliance status benefits will remain unaffected by this change.
We are working with British Airways to offer Diamond Club customers the ability to earn and redeem miles on British Airways and its oneworld partners following completion of the sale. We will do everything we can to communicate more detail as soon as possible.
As a warning, the DC agents are strictly enforcing MPM. I tried to book a reward last week where the MPM was over by 100 miles and they refused to issue it. I’m not sure what the MPM on the ex-SJU runs is, but it may not work too well. 🙁
Also, be forewarned that the taxes and fuel surcharge are astronomical. My charges for a US-Africa flight came out $1,125.
Not sure if you know and/or are permitted to comment, but does Star Alliance have a notice period for an airline to withdraw? When Continental Airlines withdrew from Skyteam, they announced that roughly a year in advance. Then, after a short gap (3-4 days?) they joined Star Alliance. How quickly could BMI be allowed to withdraw, and how quickly can they get agreements (and IT) in place to join OneWorld?