How to get to Portugal using points and miles this summer

May 13, 2021

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Last Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the long-awaited traffic light system for leisure travel from 17 May. The first classification of countries into green, amber and red was on the disappointing side because the vast majority of foreign destinations were squarely on the amber and red lists, meaning quarantine is currently required on your return to the U.K.

More specifically, only 12 counties and territories made it to the green list — and many of them still either have their borders completely shut down or are untypical holiday destinations.

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There was one shining light on the green list that I was very excited to see: Portugal. While not as instantly popular as heavyweights like Spain and Greece, Portugal is a fantastic summer holiday destination. It combines perfect sunny weather, beautiful beaches, a very low cost of living and visiting, delicious seafood and welcoming locals. I visited last summer mid-pandemic as the traffic corridors were announced and thoroughly enjoyed it. With the great weather, it was easy to spend lots of time outdoors, and mask usage and social distancing were very well adhered to by locals and the small number of tourists there.

If you have paused your long-haul travels the past year and perhaps cancelled some award bookings, you may be sitting on a good balance of points and miles that you are keen to redeem. Here is how to redeem points and miles to travel from the U.K. to Portugal.

Related: Tips for Exploring Portugal’s Algarve Region With Kids

For this guide, I’m focusing on nonstop flights between the two countries only, given the constantly changing and often confusing rules regarding transiting other countries.

Note that while the U.K. ban on foreign leisure travel will end on 17 May 2021, note that as of the time of publication, Portugal is not allowing entry to tourists arriving on flights from the U.K. The Telegraph reports the Portuguese government is meeting on 13 May to discuss reopening the country to foreign tourists such as those from the U.K., so you may want to give yourself a buffer when looking at flights.

Porto, Portugal (Photo by Patrik Bergström / Getty Images)

British Airways Avios

British Airways has already added additional flights and even launched brand new routes to Portugal in anticipation of Portugal being a popular quarantine-free destination for British travellers this summer.

The airline currently plans to operate the following routes to Portugal this summer:

  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Faro (FAO), Lisbon (LIS), Madeira (FNC) and Porto (OPO);
  • London City (LCY) to Faro (FAO);
  • Edinburgh (EDI) to Faro (FAO);
  • Manchester (MAN) to Faro (FAO);
  • Newcastle (NCL) to Faro (FAO); and
  • Southhampton (SOU) to Faro (FAO).

Flight times and frequencies are likely to change depending on the level of demand to Portugal this summer and whether other European countries are added to the green list.

Related: 11 best hotels for a beach holiday in Portugal

All of these flights are part of British Airways’ good-value Reward Flight Saver offer. This means you’ll pay a fixed amount of fees, taxes and surcharges of £17.50 per person in Euro Traveller or £25 per person in Club Europe regardless of the date or destination. What does differ slightly is the number of Avios required, which is based on the distance of the flight.

You’ll be charged:

  • 7,250 (off-peak) / 8,500 (peak) in Euro Traveller or 13,500 (off-peak) / 15,750 (peak) in Club Europe each way for the following routes:
    • London Heathrow (LHR) to Faro (FAO), Lisbon (LIS), and Porto (OPO);
    • London City (LCY) to Faro (FAO); and
    • Southhampton (SOU) to (Faro).
  • 9,250 (off-peak) / 10,750 (peak) in Euro Traveller or 17,750 (off-peak) / 20,750 (peak) in Club Europe each way for the following routes:
    • London Heathrow (LHR) to Madeira (FNC);
    • Edinburgh (EDI) to Faro (FAO);
    • Manchester (MAN) to Faro (FAO); and
    • Newcastle (NCL) to Faro (FAO).

It’s a good idea to check cash prices on the same flights, so you can be sure you’re getting value from your Avios.

These flights can be booked online at BritishAirways.com. However, to quickly search if there is award availability on a wide range of dates, we recommend using SeatSpy, which quickly lets you see BA award availability on a month-by-month basis without having to individually search for specific dates each time.

Related: The easiest and quickest way to find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic award seats just got even better

Star Alliance points and miles

The only other nonstop flights between the U.K. and Portugal that can be booked with points and miles are on TAP Portugal, which offers the following routes:

  • London Heathrow (LHR) to (LIS);
  • London Gatwick (LGW) to Lisbon (LIS), and Porto (OPO); and
  • Manchester (MAN) to Lisbon (LIS).

Related: Good value, but not much more: A review of TAP Air Portugal’s A321LR in business class, Porto to Newark

There are plenty of Star Alliance programmes for which you could redeem points and miles on TAP Portugal flights. I’m focusing on the most popular Star Alliance programmes for British travellers, being those we feature in our monthly points and miles valuations list.

You’ll need the following for these TAP Portugal flights from the U.K.:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 7,500 miles per person each way in economy, 15,000 miles in business class;
  • Lufthansa Miles & More: 17,500 miles per person each way in economy, 25,000 miles in business class;
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 12,500 miles per person each way in economy, 30,500 miles in business class; and
  • United MileagePlus: 8,800 miles per person each way in economy, 27,500 miles in business class.

Unfortunately, only one of these programmes is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards: KrisFlyer. Given the transfer rate is 3:2 rather than the 1:1 rate you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Avios, it would be a better use of points to use Avios, rather than KrisFlyer miles.

These flights should be able to be booked online through the respective programme websites, though try calling in if no flights are showing.

The lighthouse Farol de Santa Marta in Cascais near Lisbon. (Photo by Benoit BACOU/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Cash fares on low-cost airlines are currently low for summer travel to Portugal, but this may change as more travellers book a getaway given the very limited alternatives. Keep in mind, too, that you can also redeem American Express Membership Rewards points for EasyJet flights via Emirates Skywards, but you’re generally getting terrible value out of your points by doing that. However, if you want to avoid paying cash at all costs, it could be an option.

Avios remains a great way to book flights to Europe thanks to its Reward Flight Saver with low fixed fees, taxes and surcharges. If you are lucky enough to have Air Canada Aeroplan miles, they are the cheapest Star Alliance option when flying TAP Portugal.

Featured image by Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images.

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