Redeeming Flights Using Avios

Redeeming Flights Using  Avios
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Image courtesy: John T Howard
 

Understanding Avios

Many times in the past, we’ve praised British Airways Avios as a great points program for certain types of travel. While most programs determine the amount of points required for any award trip based on what region you’re in geographically and where you’re heading, Avios are based on distance traveled. That means that relatively short – but expensive – flights are ripe for the picking using Avios.

Perhaps the best part of all is that Avios can be redeemed for flights on many of BA’s Oneworld alliance partners, importantly including American Airlines. When redeeming with American, it’s also possible to avoid the prohibitive fuel surcharges that BA levies on its own flights.

The one downside to the Avios program is that distances are calculated on a per segment basis. That means a flight from Point A to Point C with a connection in Point B won’t require the number of Avios commensurate to the distance between A and C. Rather, it’s best to think of them as separate award flights for Avios purposes, one between points A and B and one between points B and C. That means two awards’ worth of points will be required for travelers who must fly through an AA hub on a connecting flight.

Here’s a chart showing the number of Avios it takes per segment of travel:

Distance in Miles Economy Class Business Class First Class
1-650 4,500 9,000 13,500
651-1151 7,500 15,000 22,500
1152-2000 10,000 20,000 30,000
2001-3000 12,500 25,000 37,500
3001-4000 20,000 40,000 60,000
4001-5500 25,000 50,000 75,000
5501-6500 30,000 60,000 90,000
6501-7000 35,000 70,000 105,000
7001-10000 50,000 100,000 150,000

As you can see, Business Class tickets require twice as many Avios as Economy tickets, while First Class tickets require triple the Avios of Economy.

There’s a calculator on BA.com that can tell you which distance category any particular itinerary falls within. Understand that the calculator can only determine the number of Avios required for direct flights, so inputting two points that require a connection will return an error.

An Example of Good Avios Use

One of the best uses of Avios is, unfortunately, not searchable online. That’s flights on BA partner Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin for a mere 12,500 Avios! Similarly, flights from West Coast cities like Los Angeles to Honolulu also cost only 12,500 Avios each way! That’s because each of these itineraries comes in just below the mileage threshold at which Avios redemption jump to the 20,000 level. To book Aer Lingus award flights, you’ll have to call British Airways at 800.452.1201.

Travel on BA partners like American using Avios is generally searchable and bookable online, and is possible when Saver Economy space is available through that airline’s own program. For example, domestic AA flights that show availability at the Saver Economy level of 17,500 AAdvantage miles on AA.com will be bookable using Avios, though the number required will vary based on distance.

For example, a flight from Miami to Grand Cayman will require only 4,500 Avios each way even though it would cost 17,500 AAdvantage Miles for the same seat and retails regularly for roughly $380!

Booking with Avios

To book a flight using Avios, simply go to BA’s Executive Club website and select Spending Avios. If you don’t already have an Executive Club frequent flyer account with BA, it’s free to sign up on their website.

In order to see if flights on American are available for booking with Avios, it’s best to go to AA.com and use American’s own search tool. Using a flight from Miami to Grand Cayman in May 2014 as an example, we see the following availability on American’s website:

Heading back to BA’s website, it looks like we should have no problems finding the same flights. Let’s shoot for May 16th.

Simply input the departure and arrival airports, date, number of passengers and class of travel and search away.

A number of options appear for us to choose from on the next page:

In this case, 2,500 Avios + $42.50 is a pretty unbelievable bargain given this flight typically retails for $380 or more when purchased using cash.

That works out to a value of 13.5 cents per Avio, which is pretty incredible.

Whatever your choice may be, the booking process is self-explanatory from this point.

It’s possible to book multi-segment itineraries using Avios as one ticket, even though the handy Avios calculator is unable to process these directly. For example, here’s a look at Orlando to Grand Cayman:

As you can see, the trip now requires 9,000 Avios: 4,500 from Orlando to Miami and 4,500 more from Miami to Grand Cayman, since each of these flights are short distance. This is still better than the 17,500 AAdvantage miles that would be required, but the benefit continues to depreciate the farther away the journey begins.

Acquiring Avios

I love how easy it is to acquire British Airways Avios. BA partners with both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, making it super easy to instantly transfer these points into Avios for use toward award flights.

If you’re starting from scratch, I’d recommend considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 40,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases in your first three months with the card. Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel expenses and 1 point per $1 on all other expenses.

Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, so if you were to eventually move all of your Ultimate Rewards points, you’d have a minimum of 43,000 Avios to work with given the lowest number of points you’d earn meeting the minimum spend requirement. That’s nearly enough for ten one-way flights like the one we looked at going from Miami to Grand Cayman!

On long flights, your best bet will remain booking an award using a region or revenue-based chart, such as American’s or Southwest’s. On certain journeys, though, you can see how Avios can be of extraordinary benefit.

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7 Comments
  1. Steve Markman

    Looking forward to reading your news letter weekly.

  2. Helen

    I have a question about a different topic. A while back I found an address for a website that tells you what card/or shopping portal to use to get the best points, etc. I thought it was rv rewards. but I cannot find it. Hope you know what I am looking for.
    Thank you

  3. leah

    what is the best way to use points to travel nyc to budapest, then prague to tel aviv and then tel aviv to nyc. i have ba, amex and american miles

    • PointsAway

      Hi Leah,

      Do me a favor and use our Submit A Trip function and I’ll be happy to look into this as the focus of a future feature :)

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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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