How To Use The Little-Known Finnair Frequent Flyer Program To Book The Best Awards

Finnair, based in Helsinki, is a member of the oneworld alliance. It is even part of the transatlantic joint venture between American Airlines and British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus. But until recently its frequent flyer program wasn’t very useful.

The airline has linked up with British Airways and other partners to use Avios as its currency, now guarantees award availability for at least two business class seats on its own flights when schedules are first released if you’re redeeming Avios, and has revised its award chart to offer some fantastic values.

You can move points around between several programs, including Finnair, to get the best deal.

  • Finnair Plus is a transfer partner of Capital One
  • But that doesn’t matter. You can transfer points between Avios programs, including British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus as well as Qatar Airways.
  • Chase, Amex, Capital One and Bilt transfer to British Airways. Chase, Amex and Bilt transfer to Iberia. Amex and Citi transfer to Qatar.

And each program has its own sweet spots. For instance, Iberia charges as little as 34,000 miles each way for its own flights between the U.S. and Madrid in business class without the onerous fuel surcharges that British Airways imposes. On the other hand, booking partners like American Airlines means roundtrip awards only with no changes.

So the ability to transfer to one program, and move to another means you have access to the award options of all programs. And differences in the programs mean you can get the best deal regardless of the points you’re starting with.

  • North America to Asia on Cathay Pacific is just 75,000 Avios each way in business class, which is about 30% cheaper than booking through British Airways (also 30% fewer points than booking through Cathay directly, but the AsiaMiles program offers better availability).

  • US to Helsinki and Northern Europe in Finnair’s business class is 62,500 Avios, which is just 5,000 points more than you’d pay through American AAdvantage but with better availability, and surcharges are modest at 100 euros.

It’s 50 euros to cancel and redeposit your miles at least 24 hours prior to departure, which isn’t bad either, though not as favorable as the new U.S. program standard of free cancel and redeposit. Points expire with 18 months of inactivity.

To transfer points between Finnair and British Airways make sure that two-factor identification is set up on both accounts and that the names on each match exactly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Recently saw a Delta TATL non-stop flight in economy class where DL wanted over 180,000 DL SkyPesos but VS only wanted 30,000 VS miles for the very same DL flight. I was completely shocked to see how badly DL rips off its own loyalty program members. [There was no material difference between the DL and VS programs in the cash due for taxes or whatever on the US-Europe route operated by DL.]

    Oneworld doesn’t have the delta between the programs being that crazy for the miles portions of award travel, but there are some great sweet spots in using partner programs for award travel on a different Oneworld carrier. For example, using AS miles can better than half the cost in miles over what AA wants on some AA-operated flights.

  2. @GUWonder

    That is why I am so happy that I finally burned all my SkyPesos this year! I only have 20k miles left. At one time, I had a 7 figures of miles total in the major US programs. I am nearly a free agent.

  3. I have a huge balance of BA points in large part because my ability to use them for AA flights got crippled by AA years ago. Between that and limited desire to do award travel via LHR or put up with AA and BA’s customer-unfriendly rules with checked bags on separately ticketed itineraries, my BA balances haven’t run down fast enough. The ability to transfer them to Iberia, Aer Lingus, Qatar and now Finnair do provide an outlet for me to use them despite not using them as originally intended when I initially hoarded 6-7 figure balances in the BA account to take advantage of transfer bonuses,

  4. for dfw->blq (bologna)…..

    if i take 100k avios from ba and 100k miles from aa and move both to finnair, can i still book aa and ba metal from inside finnair, and if i end up booking iberia instead, move the miles back to ba as the “bank”…?

  5. Thanks Gary,

    Looks like finnair isn’t on pointsyeah yet–will have to make a point to check that separately for likely candidate flights.

  6. Objectively, paying 62,500 Avios miles to fly to Europe one-way — and then giving them an extra 100 Euros — seems like a bad deal. But if you’re the type of person who feels like they couldn’t possibly fly in coach, I suppose it can beat the alternatives.

  7. Has anyone actually seen 2 award seats available on Finnair? I’ve read about their 2 seat guarantee, but I’ve never actually seen more than 1 seat when booking from my home airport (Ord), even when looking when the calendar opens up

  8. @ Gary — The real issue here is that 1) you will rarely find Finnair business class awards available from US-HEL and 2) you will rarely find Cathay business class awards available from NA-Asia. The true improvemnet is that you can now transfer your points OUT OF Finnair to a more useful place, like BA or Iberia. BA bookings suck, too, but at least you can have more options when booking online. I’ll take easier over cheapest and impossible to find.

  9. @Hagbard; AA currency in not Avios, so there’s your answer.
    You may find a partner award on Finnair on AAdvantage where you can use some AA miles.

  10. I just transfered 346 k Avios out of Finnair to BA, Finnair is useless for awards with Oneworld and their own awards are segment based with individual taxes and fees on each segment which makes it expensive and pointless to book. AA and Cathay both better awards and Qatar also, Cathay uses AsiAmiles but their program is superior to Finnair. Honestly could not transfer out fast enough, have been Lumo for years and only used the points for upgrades as no award options.

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