BA Avios & American Airlines: Best Domestic Redemptions

BA Avios & American Airlines: Best Domestic Redemptions
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Image courtesy: American Airlines
 

A few weeks ago, we took a look at the great values that can be booked on US Air using British Airways Avios through the lens of a reader trip. We’ll do the same today for American Airlines!

Trip Information

Reader Deb wants to travel from Jacksonville to Dallas in late July. She’s new to the miles and points game, but her trip provides us with a great opportunity to dive into the great award flights available using British Airways Avios on American thanks to their shared membership in the Oneworld alliance.

A Quick Review Of Avios

Let’s take a quick moment to remember when Avios are best used, and what makes them so great. Avios are a tremendous tool for certain flights. While most programs base award flight costs on your origin and destination regions or on the cash cost of a ticket, Avios redemption costs are based on distance. That means short flights – or flights that are just under one of the program’s higher distance thresholds – can often be a very good value using Avios.

Here’s a look at the Avios award chart:

As you can see, flights under 650 miles are a particularly outstanding value using Avios, at just 4,500 Avios each way in Economy.

Flights up to 1,151 miles in length are also a good value in many circumstances at 7,500 Avios each way in Economy. This is still well below the 12,500 miles that American would require for the exact same seat in its own AAdvantage frequent flyer program.

Avios redemptions are calculated on a per segment basis, which means that flights with connections cost double or more versus non-stop routes on these short trips.

For example, a direct flight from Washington, DC to Toronto is 359 miles, or well within the distance limits for a 4,500 Avios redemption. However, if this flight had to connect in New York, we’d be looking at a total of 9,000 Avios each way: 4,500 from Washington to New York and 4,500 from New York to Toronto.

Avios Possibilities On American

As we mentioned earlier, Deb’s looking to travel from Jacksonville to Dallas. American offers direct service from JAX to DFW since it’s one of their closer hubs. The flight distance is about 918 miles so this particular trip would require 7,500 Avios.

Sure enough, if we check on the British Airways Avios Calculator, it confirms the rate for this trip:

Where else might we be able to go using Avios on American? While 7,500 Avios from JAX to DFW is a good deal, I prefer to focus on the great deals, flights that require just 4,500 Avios each way. These roundtrips end up taking less Avios than American would charge in its miles for a one-way trip in the same seat, making them a truly great value. Here’s a look, hub by hub, at some of the best values possible on American using Avios:

Miami

Miami is one of the richest hubs for both 4,500 Avios and 7,500 Avios redemptions, due to its location:

A large number of popular Caribbean destinations fall within the 4,500 Avios range, including all of the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands and many other small islands to which American offers service. Flights to Jacksonville fall well into range, as do flights to Atlanta. Unfortunately, Charlotte is just a few miles out of range for a 4,500 Avios award, which is unfortunate given US Air has a hub there American flyers could take advantage of otherwise.

I’ve also used Avios to book award flights from Miami to Orlando before as a positioning flight towards a larger award trip. Award space for the international flight wasn’t available out of Orlando but was out of Miami, so using a dirt-cheap Avios booking to cover the short hop was well worthwhile.

At the 7,500 Avios range, a wide swath of additional locations come available from Miami, including several Mexican cities, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and much more of the Caribbean.

Dallas-Fort Worth

A substantial swath of the country is available for just 4,500 Avios from American’s hub in Dallas:

As you can see, destinations as far-flung as Albuquerque, Kansas City, St. Louis and Nashville all make the cut. Denver also edges in less than 10 miles from exceeding the maximum for the cheapest Avios redemption.

Perhaps most intriguing from DFW are the number of small, rural markets serviced. Small towns and out-of-the-way locations that can be awfully expensive to get to regularly can be valuable redemptions from DFW. Smaller towns like Abilene, TX and Joplin, MO can offer some substantial value versus cash rates that are often quite high (at least a few hundred bucks) when booked last minute.

Finally, a number of destinations in Mexico are also possible from DFW at the 4,500 level, and the reach from DFW at the 7,500 level is exceptional, reaching as far east as Jacksonville and as far west as Las Vegas.

New York – JFK

Here’s a look at what’s within the 4,500 Avios range from American’s hub at New York JFK:

Destinations up and down the eastern seaboard are obviously possible, including many of the smaller airports in New England and destinations as far down the coast as South Carolina. Indianapolis misses the cut by a mere 15 miles, but Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Knoxville and other inland cities are options.

Most importantly, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec all fall within the 4,500 Avios range from New York. These tickets can come at a substantial cost for large portions of the year, making these some of the better values possible on American with Avios.

Chicago – O’Hare

Here’s a look at the 4,500 Avios range from American’s hub at Chicago O’Hare:

Even more of the midwest makes the cut here than from DFW. Happily, US Air’s hub in Charlotte is in range, though Philadelphia is left just outside. Atlanta’s another good connecting option if you’re working your way to an award flight on Delta or Southwest. For Canadian jaunts, Toronto makes the cut, but Ottawa is left just outside.

Chicago’s most useful from a 7,500 Avios perspective for most flyers, when most of the country falls into range. That’s still a good value, if not as tremendous as some of the appealing 4,500 Avios flights possible from other hubs.

Los Angeles

American’s hub in Los Angeles brings all of California, Nevada and Arizona into range:

This is very useful for short hops to and from San Francisco or Sacramento in particular, and Avios are the perfect way to avoid an arduous drive through the desert on your way to Las Vegas. Salt Lake City is also in range if you’re trying to connect to an Alaska or Delta flight, while San Francisco obviously has much to offer from that perspective, as well.

Finding The Avios

Of course, these rates are only relevant if you can find the Avios to book them with, and if flights are available. Addressing availability first, I prefer to actually search for award flights on AA.com, as I find their award availability calendar to be the easiest to read of American, US Air and British Airways. If a nonstop flight is available at the Saver Economy level, either on American or US Air, it’ll be bookable using Avios, too.

Both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points can be converted into Avios with British Airways at a 1:1 rate. From time to time, Membership Rewards transfer bonuses of up to 40% are offered for a limited time, sweetening the deal even further.

That means a wide variety of cards, including the Sapphire Preferred from Chase and the new Amex Everyday card, come with sign-up bonuses that can be quickly converted to Avios.

You can also earn BA Avios when paying for flights on American Airlines, US Airways or other Oneworld carriers. Simply provide a British Airways Executive Club number instead of your AAdvantage or DividendMiles number, and you can earn Avios while flying.

Finally, one can simply purchase Avios. I wouldn’t recommend doing so in most cases – including for Deb’s flight. Even though it’s expensive, it would cost about $438 to purchase 15,000 Avios, making the cash price a slightly better deal. If she can earn the Avios, though, using them is definitely the way to go for this trip or similar ones in the future.

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4 Comments
  1. Chance

    The only crappy part (for me living in Vegas) is that it seems that there are no direct flights using BA from LV to LA and vice versa…. Any suggestions?

    • PointsAway

      That’s odd. Try looking again, I’d say; American offers direct service between LAX and LAS!

  2. Stephen

    What tool did you use to conveniently see what cities are in a certain radius of another city?

    • Casey Ayers

      I like gcmap.com. It’s a great visualization tool and will provide a distance in line with BA’s official distances most of the time. Each airline makes their own list of official distances so some edge cases can go one way or the other, but you can always double-check with BA’s Avios Calculator in those cases: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/avios-calculator/public/en_gb

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Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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