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My Positive Experience Using Avios for Intra-European Flights

by on July 19, 2012 · 13 comments

in British Airways

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I recently wrote about using miles for intra-European awards and I came to the conclusion that it can make sense – even in business class – since intra-European fares can be expensive even on the low cost carriers. This weekend I’m off to Europe on an AA award to London using 62,500 miles and $353 one way in British Airways First Class. Not bad, for a ticket that sells for $10,234 (and believe it or not, there are people who actually pay those prices). However, after spending a couple days in London, I’m off to meet friends in Copenhagen and AA does not allow stopovers on one-way awards, so I was on the hook for the 2-hour flight to Denmark.

No big deal – I have a boatload of Avios and Chase Ultimate Rewards (which can be instantly transferred into United miles) and both programs allow one-way awards and have low fees on intra-European awards. Or I figured I’d just buy a ticket, even on a low-cost carrier, since it’s only a short flight.

However, the low-cost carriers weren’t really cheap and the departures at less than ideal times – out of London Stansted and really early in the morning. Easyjet was coming in at $241. No thanks, since there are tons of other fees and a cattle-call-like experience (I did fly them on a Madrid-Marrakech flight a few years ago and had a perfectly fine experience).
I then pulled up United.com and lo and behold several SAS options opened up at great times: 12,500 miles for economy or 20,000 miles for business class and $78.50 in fees per person (my itinerary consisted of two people, hence the 40,000 miles).
I then decided to price out awards using Avios and to my delight, I found several options that provided huge value. Economy tickets weren’t available on my date, but business class was readily available at only 9,000 Avios and $26 per ticket. To extract even more value, I opted to go for the Cash & Avios option of 4,500 Avios and $91 per ticket, essentially buying Avios at 1.4 cents a piece. This same exact flight was retailing on Britishairways.com for $1,031 in business or $444 in economy. Even if you peg the value to the economy ticket, I got 7.8 cents per Avios in value from this redemption, and an astounding 21 cents per Avios if you peg it to the business class fare. Either way, a great deal and much better than blowing 20,000 United miles or huffing it to Stansted in the wee hours of the morning to fly Easyjet.
Another thing to consider is that British Airways does not charge late redemption fees on Avios awards, while United charges $75 for tickets booked within 21 days of travel. Though it is still expensive to redeem Avios on transatlantic flights between the US and Europe, Avios can provide extreme value elsewhere and Chase is ow offering a 50,000 Avios bonus on the British Airways Visa. British Airways is also an instant 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so there are lots of options out there, and you shouldn’t discount this program if you need to get around Europe on the cheap!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • edbyu

    Your BA credit card link above is pointing to a 50k bonus (25k/25k). Either you have the wrong link or they just changed the bonus!

  • FEV7

    Thank you for the tip! Great info for getting around Europe with points. I know this will be helpful to me in my travels.

  • PedanticMan

    I don’t think you know what a cattle call is. You use the idiom when describing low cost carriers’ boarding process and I think you think it’s like when cattle are crammed into a railroad car. A “cattle call” refers to an audition where lots of actors with little experience try out for a role. I don’t think it applies to easyJet or Ryanair

  • Bexho2000

    For the 100k you have to go directly to Chase/bA website as stated in the blog. I believe the link here is his referral/affiliate one.

  • Mambo # 5

    I agree, I was also confused by the term in this context.

  • Jason74

    We used 9000 Avios per person, plus $26 for business class from Zurich to London. Using the extra 4500 Avios per person made a huge difference since we were each checking two bags. The bag fees are killer. Avios well spent, in my opinion. Great way to get around Europe.

  • Scuta

    I know that you know this so it is for newbies like me. AA does allow stopovers on one way awards.. at US AA gateways on International tickets.

  • thepointsguy

    Actually my affiliate link is gone and the one in the post is direct to Chase, but it looks like it is now back down to 50k unfortunately.

    You may want to try booking a flight on BA to see if you are offered a 100k version during checkout.

  • Pingback: Avios news from other blogs | Head for Points()

  • PJ

    Avios rock as well in intra -america ( on AA and Alaska) – check out non stops on AS to Cabo San Lucas !! , intra- South America ( on Lan) , Intra-Asia ( on Cathay) . AMex 50 % transfer bonus and Chase 100K sign on bonus last year did make me feel “what a wonderful world” it is !!

  • PJ

    does the trick still work to reel in 60K singon bonus on BA united ? anybody can confirm pls

  • mike

    I’ll agree that Avios can come in handy for short flights. They were a lifesaver this past month when I needed to fly FRU-OVB (6.5k avios) and OVB-PEK-NRT (14k avios). When comparing prices, avios saved me well over 600$ for the dates I needed em =D

  • CK Kuo

    Hi, I have a question regarding BA’s Avios. How many Avios will I need to for a round trip business class ticket from JFK to Taipei,Taiwan? I know for sure it will be 100,000 miles by the old system( Math: 50,000 (coash)*2=100,000). That’s the only reason I signed up for the BA Visa Card last year. How about the new Avios? I know they will be some changes but can’t figure it out. I tried to go on BA and use its calculator but no result showed, even on the partner airline column. Please advice. Thanks.

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