Is the British Airways 50% Off Awards Promotion Worth It?

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Last week, British Airways announced a 50% off “sale” on award tickets. However, there were two main caveats – only on British Airways flights and excluding international business and first class. The exclusion of premium cabins killed the deal for me, however there are a lot of people who redeem for coach awards so I thought I’d do some analysis on whether this deal makes sense since British Airways imposes substantial surcharges and fees on award tickets.

I’ve never flown Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) on British Airways, but per britishairways.com it gets you 2 free checked bags of 23kg each and two carry-ons. In-flight you can expect more legroom, an adjustable headrest, amenity kit, enhanced 3-course dining and power-outlets at every seat. Doesn’t sound too bad and I’d like to hear your thoughts if you’ve ever flown it.

As far as my analysis goes, I understand there are many factors to weigh in, especially when comparing award tickets versus paid tickets. Firstly, you don’t earn miles or elite status on award tickets so factor that in if Oneworld elite status is important to you. Secondly, paid fares vary drastically by the day and most of my examples are for itineraries booked in advance – understand that the value of your itinerary depends on the price of the flight you’d actually would have paid for (whether on British Airways or another carrier).

My examples (to calculate value of each mile used I took the revenue ticket price and subtracted the cash needed for an award ticket and then divided that amount by the number of miles used):
1) Los Angeles to London in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy). Leaving November 27 and returning December 5.
Award ticket: 37,500 and $627
Paid ticket: $2,059
Each mile used equates to 3.8 cents – a solid value.

LAX-LHR Award ticket
LAX-LHR Paid ticket

2) A last minute, economy roundtrip JFK-London Heathrow. Leaving August 8 and returning August 10 (itinerary priced on August 7).
Award ticket: 25,000 miles and $529
Paid ticket: $2,778
Each mile used equates to 9 cents – an amazing value.

JFK-LHR Last minute award
JFK-LHR Paid ticket

3) A Miami to Maldives roundtrip with a stopover in London on the return in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)
Award ticket: 135,000 + $1,126
Paid ticket: $4,797
Each mile used equates to 2.7 cents – a decent value.

Miami to Maldives Award
Miami to Maldives paid ticket

4) A New York to Mumbai rountrip in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)
Award ticket: 67,500 and $808
Paid ticket: $2,682
Each mile used equates to 2.8 cents – a decent value.

JFK-BOM award
JFK-BOM Paid ticket

5) A Chicago to Nairobi, Kenya roundtrip in Economy
Award ticket: 45,000 miles and $796
Paid ticket: $1,515
Each mile used equates to 1.6 cents – a nothing-to-brag-about value.

Chicago to Nairobi award
Chicago to Nairobi paid ticket

6) A Boston to Stockholm roundtrip in Economy
Award ticket: 30,000 miles and $529
Paid ticket: $886
Each mile used equates to 1.1 cents – not a good deal at all.

BOS-ARN Award
BOS-ARN Paid

So what is a good deal? It’s different for each person. Personally, I wouldn’t use my BA miles if I wasn’t getting at least 3 cents a mile in value. That’s easy to do when redeeming for premium cabin awards, but much harder for coach – especially from the East coast to Europe. It’s also pretty incredible to think that the 100,000 miles earned from this year’s Chase 100k British Airways Visa sign-up bonus can easily get you $2,000+ in value. If you are getting 3 cents a mile, that means the 50,000 points earned from the Sapphire Preferred card ($95 fee waived the first year), could easily be worth well over $1,500 if you transfer them to British Airways and redeem them smartly.

I think this 50% off promo is best for a) last minute travelers who are faced with sky-high fares b) people who are flying from the West coast to Europe and are faced with high fares c) people who value the World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) product – especially those going to far off destinations like India and the Maldives.

That being said, do the math on your own and compare it against paid fares on other airlines and award redemption using other miles. I still believe that the best overall value with BA miles is with roundtrip awards to South America (40k coach/80k business) and Asia (50k coach, 100k business, 150k first) with a bunch of stopovers built-in.

However, if you do want to get in on this 50% off deal you need to book by August 12, 2011 so do you research now! Britishairways.com has been very buggy lately, however do not use their normal search tool- use their flexible BA tool.
Britishairways.com -> Login -> Executive Club -> Spending BA Miles -> Check reward flight availability (to book partner awards you usually click Book Using BA Miles, but that tool has been giving a lot of errors lately).

So, any TPG readers out there get in on the 50% off awards? If so, what route did you use them for and roughly how many cents per mile in value did you get?

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