October 21st, 2012

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A reader from Italy named Terry writes in this week asking:

“I am based in Rome and now have 335,000 Avios in my British Airways Executive Club account. I already know that it is not a very good idea to route anything through London due to fees. I found some interesting deals to other destinations and on other carriers – Cathay Pacific business class from Rome to Hong Kong direct for 120,000 Avios plus $300 per person for example. Are there any other routes I should explore?”

Just to clarify, you can route through London and not have to pay onerous fuel surcharges and taxes as long as you are you staying within Europe. It’s on the international flights that these extra charges get to be heinously expensive, so don’t rule out using Avios on short-haul flights within Europe since these can be a great value.

If international travel is your goal, you have a few options to avoid BA’s high fees. You can redeem your Avios on Aer Lingus instead and route through Dublin, as I explain in this post. Another great option is to link your British Airways and Iberia Avios accounts and redeem the Avios through Iberia instead (either on Iberia or another partner airline). These awards can be a lot cheaper – but always price it out first to be sure – and Iberia sometimes shows a lot more availability than British Airways. Just be sure to link your two accounts so you can transfer Avios between them freely and so you’re able to leverage them both to the utmost.

Also, don’t be afraid to pull in other partner airlines since tickets on them can involve much lower fees and taxes. To see an example of this at work, let’s take the same itinerary on LAN – a Oneworld partner of BA and Iberia  from Santiago to Madrid.

Using Avios on Iberia would cost 30,000 Avios plus a whopping $345 in taxes one-way in coach. The same itinerary on LAN, meanwhile…

Would cost the same 30,000 Avios, but only $30 in taxes and fees. You’ve just saved yourself $315 each way!

You did right to find a flight on Cathay that doesn’t route through London – and though those taxes were $300, for a business class ticket, they’re pretty standard. They’d be much higher through London since it is transiting or ending an itinerary in London that incurs those enormous taxes and fees.

Remember, too, that British Airways doesn’t charge fuel fees on American and LAN flights that don’t go through Europe, so use your Avios to fly to South America, or use them on short-haul flights on American in North America, where the fuel fees are minimal and you can really get the most bang for your Avios on expensive short-hauls.

Bottom line, Avios are by no means useless for Europeans- you just need to know how to avoid huge fees.

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