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Travel Tuesday Top 10: Most Valuable Ways To Redeem British Airways Avios

by on December 4, 2012 · 39 comments

in British Airways, Top 10

Update: The current offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

The Chase British Airways Visa 100,000 Avios offer is back, offering 50,000 Avios after after $1,000 spent, an additional 25,000 after $10,000 spent and another 25,000 after a total of $20,000 spent within the first year of cardmembership. When you factor in the 1.25 Avios for every dollar spent, you’re looking at a minimum haul of 125,000 Avios if you hit the $20,000 spend requirement for the full bonus.

Up to 100,00 Avios Bonus with $20,000 in spend

While huge credit card sign-up bonuses are great, what good are they if you don’t know how to use them! Here are my top 10 favorite Avios redemptions. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

1) Short Haul Flights. The Avios program uses the distance of the flight to calculate how many points are needed. Flights 650 miles or under are only 4,500 Avios each way in economy! This includes flights on partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and LAN. Another great aspect of the Avios program is that there are no last minute booking fees, like the $75 fee on American for awards within 21 days of departure. So if you want to fly a last minute one-way  trip Chicago to Toronto you can use 4,500 Avios and $2.50.

4,500 Avios and $2.50 for a last minute Chicago to Toronto flight

To purchase that exact flight on AA.com, you’d need to spend $383.29.
So those 4,500 Avios save $380.79, or nearly 8.5 cents apiece! Pretty incredible for a domestic coach redemption. The same exact flight would cost 12,500 AA miles and $77.50 (the $75 fee is waived for AAdvantage elites).

To see how many Avios your flight will cost, you can use the Avios calculator (note you need to calculate segment by segment).

2) Travel Together Ticket Redemptions in Business or First Class. If you spend $30,000 within a calendar year on your British Airways Visa, you get a Travel Together Ticket, which gets you two award redemptions on British Airways flights for the amount of Avios of one roundtrip plus taxes and fees on both. So while taxes and fees are steep, this redemption can still be lucrative if you value or pay out of pocket for business or first class flights. For example, a New York-London round trip in business class  next June for 2 people is 80,000 Avios plus the Travel Together Ticket and a total of $2,300 in taxes and fees.

80,000 Avios and $2,300 for two business class roundtrip tickets NYC to London

The same itinerary is currently priced at $12,846 (it is possible to get cheaper, but this was the first random date I selected where the a Travel Together Ticket was available).

$12,846 for two business class tickets- international premium flights are not cheap!

So the 80,000 Avios save $10,546 or 13 cents per Avios. Clearly if you would never spend that much to purchase business class this redemption isn’t as valuable, but you are still looking at extremely discounted pricing for confirmed business or first class flights. Check out this post for more details on the Travel Together Ticket.

3) Upgrading Paid Tickets from Premium Economy to Business Class. British Airways has four classes of service on most international flights: economy, premium economy, business and first and they allow upgrades from one class to another for a relatively small amount of Avios. To calculate how many you need to go up one class, you take the amount of Avios needed for an economy award on that route and halve it. NYC to London is 20,000 Avios each way for coach awards, so an upgrade from Premium Economy to Business would only cost 10,000 Avios each way.

British Airways Upgrade Chart

Britishairways.com will let you search for upgradeable fares using their Cash & Upgrade search function (though at the time of writing this post, that feature was down). For instructions on how to use that functionality, check out this post.

You do need to buy certain fare classes (remember, when you pay with your Chase BA Visa card you get 10% off and 2.5 Avios per dollar spent), and you can use Avios to upgrade American and Iberia flights, but those fare classes are generally more expensive than upgrading on British Airways operated flights:

Upgrades are available from the following booking classes:
- British Airways: J, C, D, R, I, W, E, T, Y, B, H
- American Airlines and Iberia: J, C, D, Y, B

4) Intra European Flights. British Airways doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on flights within Europe and when leveraged with their competitive short/mid-haul flight pricing, these awards can provide huge value-especially on expensive routes not serviced by low cost carriers. London to Budapest is 15,000 Avios and $45.
5) Transatlantic Flights on Aer Lingus. British Airways doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on Aer Lingus flights and one great redemption is Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus, which is only 25,000 Avios roundtrip in coach or 50,000 Avios for business class. Aer Lingus availability does show on Britishairways.com, but you have to call to book Aer Lingus awards. They can also be found on Expertflyer (coach availbaility), Qantas‘ site or United.com.

This flight Boston-Dublin on Aer Lingus would cost 60,000 United miles, but only 25,000 Avios roundtrip!

6) Transatlantic flights on Air Berlin. New Oneworld carrier Air Berlin is yet another carrier who you can fly across the Atlantic to avoid huge taxes and fees and awards can be booked on Britishairways.com, so no need to call and get hit with phone booking fees. I pulled up a sample Miami to Dusseldorf flight that came to 25,000 Avios and $2.50 one-way in economy.

25,000 Avios and $2.50 for Miami-Dusseldorf

7) Avios and Cash Redemptions. When booking flights, you’ll often be given a sliding scale to use a combination of Avios and a cash copay. The price of the copay is cheapest when redeeming for economy awards- for example on that Chicago to Toronto American Airlines example I used in #1, instead of using 4,500 Avios, I was given the option to use 2,250 Avios and $37.50. So $35 out of pocket would save me 2,250 Avios, essentially “buying” them at just under 1.6 cents each. That $383 flight only costs 2,250 Avios and $37.50, so each Avios is worth over 15 cents apiece!

Cash and Avios option is not one to be overlooked- especially with economy awards

8) American and Alaskan Airlines Economy Flights to Hawaii. Los Angeles to Honolulu using AA miles costs between 17,500 miles (off-peak economy one way) to 22,500 (peak MileSAAver economy one way) vs just 12,500 Avios – plus you avoid last minute booking fees with Avios.

I priced out a sample Los Angeles – Lihue (Kauai) flights for next June: just 25,000 Avios and $5 roundtrip with British Airways:

LAX-LIH for 25,000 Avios and $5 roundtrip

The same exact flight using AA miles was 45,000 miles and $5. Nearly double!

LAX-LIH on AA for 45,000 miles and $5

9) Intra-Australia flights on Qantas. While British Airways adds on approximately $780 on Qantas awards from the US to Australia, flights within Australia has very low fees (and are often very expensive to purchase). A business class Sydney-Darwin flight costs only 40,000 Avios and $66.96 vs. purchasing for $1,979! Qantas codes all of their domestic premium flights as business class so it only costs twice the price of economy redemptions, whereas in the US, AA classifies many 2-cabin flights as “first” class so it costs 3x the price of Avios (I wrote about this issue here).

Sydney-Darwin in business class for 40,000 Avios and $66.96 roundtrip

10) Transferring Miles to Iberia’s Avios Program to Avoid Fees. British Airways bought Iberia, but never 100% folded the IberiaPlus program into the British Airways Executive Club program. Iberia still has Iberia Plus, which has a different search engine and often taxes and fees are much cheaper to redeem through Iberia than British Airways. The great thing is you can transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios instantly for free, which can save bundles of cash.

You can sign up for an Iberia Plus account here. Then on BA.com, you simply log into your Executive Club account, go to the Manage My Account tab on the lefthand side of the page and it pulls up a screen with your options, the last of which is to “Combine My Avios.”
Check out this post for full details about leveraging Iberia to save on fees.

Related reading: How to Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge Fees, Highlight on Taxes and Fees on Multiple Avios Redemption Options.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/RPdaTrader Rahul Prakash

    In comparing LAX-LIH prices, where do I search on AA & BA so that it shows trip cost in miles? As you can tell, I am new to this miles game…

  • Econ101

    When upgrading from Premium Economy to Business on BA, are you responsible for the difference in taxes and fees?

  • Jblaze9

    In your example 1), the value per Avios is $380.79 /4500 or $0.0846, not $0.12 per Avios.

  • Guy

    Wonderful post, TPG. This is why I click your affiliate links. Keep the good stuff coming, man!

  • Jerry

    I just flew YKF-ORD in November using Avios on AA, and it was 9000 r.t. + $52 CAD in tax and etc.. @@
    This should be the same for Toronto-Chicago r.t.

    I think Canadians always pay more leaving Canada :( <- departure tax?
    I believe from what I read, leaving US, Avios for domestic (or even Canada as you showed) is dirt cheap in fees

  • phil

    BA DOES charge a fuel surcharge on some flights w/in Europe. I just checked LHR>CDG and here is a breakdown:

    Charges applied to your flight

    There are certain taxes, fees and charges that are applied to your booking by British Airways, airport operators, governments or other authorities. Here you will find a full breakdown and explanation of the taxes, fees and surcharges applied to your booking.
    Government, authority and airport charges Per adult
    Passenger Service Charge – United Kingdom
    USD
    39.34
    Air Passenger Duty – United Kingdom
    USD
    20.83
    Total government, authority and airport charges*
    USD
    60.17
    More information
    British Airways fees and surcharges Per adult
    Fuel Surcharge**
    USD
    29.65
    Total British Airways fees and surcharges
    USD
    29.65
    More information
    Total taxes, fees and surcharges per person
    USD
    89.82

  • dhammer

    We used 9000 Avios Points per person to fly roundtrip in Peru on LAN (Lima/Cusco). In Argentina we flew EZE/Mendoza for 9000 points RT each. Both of those flights are expensive if you were to buy them. All flights were in coach, where decent snacks are served.

  • SuburbanRover

    Brian-

    I live in Columbus, OH, which of course is not a Oneworld hub. My problem is that when I try to book a flight to London using Avios from Columbus in first class or business class, it rarely shows any kind of availability. But when I try to do it from NYC or Chicago, lots of options come up. But the thing that confuses me is that when I want to book a flight to NYC or Chicago, I have several options on those same days I wanted to fly to London. So my question is that if the connecting flight and the London flight are both available separately on the same day, then how come they aren’t available together on that same day? Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/fv.ille.16 Fv Ille

    Is it still possible to combine your BA Avios in to your Iberia Avios? Per the comments in the link you posted a couple people said that it was no longer an option.

  • The Points Guy

    On BA.com, log into your Executive Club account and it will take you to your account page where you can search for flights. Under the Payment Type tab, select Book with Avios.

    On AA.com’s homepage you can search for flights, just check the box “Redeem with AAdvantage Miles.”

  • The Points Guy

    It’s still possible – just follow the instructions above and it should go through instantly.

  • The Points Guy

    Nice – that is another great-value redemption since those flights tend to be expensive.

  • The Points Guy

    Thanks for pointing that out – my math skills slow down as it gets later in the night!

  • The Points Guy

    You do pay a small amount, but not the full difference in taxes/fees on the new class.

  • Guest43

    Does anyone have any experience or advice for booking reward Avios tickets over the phone? There are many dates where AA shows MileSAAver availability but BA’s site won’t turn up those days as award-eligible? Or am I stuck flying days I may not want to even though AA has availability if I were to use American points?

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.sokolow Leslie Nitikman Sokolow

    We are going to the Yucatan in a few months. It only cost us 9000 Avios points for our round-trip ATL-CUN tickets. Frugal use of points, eh?

  • phil

    TPG,

    You forgot to add the caveat that you must have earned some miles in your BAEC acct. w/in the past 12 months or you will be charged YQ & other taxes. See: “Reward Flight Saver gives you a better deal on shorter flights. It’s available on all British Airways and Iberia routes within zones 1-3, as long as you’ve collected at least one Avios within the last 12 months.”

    For full disclosure I think it would be nice if you mentioned this “little” fact in your OP.

    thanks

  • Heather

    I love the short haul Avios options and have taken advantage of transferring membership rewards several times. I am concerned that the potential merger with US Airways will alter British Airways’ relationship with American Airlines. Any thoughts?

  • vortix

    I believe you need to book each segment separately when redeeming Avios. Avios is distance-based (per segment…not per trip).

  • vortix

    Can you transfer in a small amount of BA miles from AmEx or Ultimate Rewards to meet this requirement just prior to booking?

  • http://twitter.com/jeffreycoleman Jeff Coleman

    Anyone have any luck finding a business seat on BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus? I can’t find any using United or Qantas.

  • Hitesh

    Hey TPG,

    Thanks to your earlier post we got this card and are on our way towards the $30,000 spend. I wanted to confirm the “calendar year” requirement.

    Does it mean we have to reach the spend goal of $30,000 by 31 Dec 2012, even though we got our card sometime in April 2012?
    Or do we have till April 2013?

    Thanks again for your insights!

  • Alohastephen

    Can Avios points somehow be used for Hawaiian Inter-Island flights?

  • Griffin

    If you received a BA Chase card earlier this year that doesn’t have quite as good of a deal with the second 50,000 miles received would Chase allow you to be under this new terms to get the 2nd 50,000 miles if you message them and ask?

  • Margarita Druker

    Trying to book a trip with avios from ny to male and having trouble with avios booking any help please

  • Explore

    Great post!

    Drilling down a bit, I could use BA, IB (transferred from BA), or AA miles for a roundtrip from San Francisco to London just after the New Year. Obviously the BA nonstops are the most convenient. I assume you can’t use IB miles to book those and save on YQ?

    If not, does IB still save you over 80% in YQ vs. BA, as in your June example? And can IB miles still be used for AA flights for less YQ than AA charges?

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  • PJ

    You feed them the availability they waive fees. I booked LAX to Maui with agents – no fees.

  • AZ

    Any way to use Avios to get from New York to Marrakesh or Tel Aviv? Itching to get my hands on this 100K offer, but not sure it will help me meet my travel goals.

  • Brucem

    Don’t use AA miles on BA, it is not worth the fees.
    My current trip to the UK, BA refused to do anything about availability showing on AA.com and told me to go book with them…not very helpful.

  • Jblaze9

    No problem, you’re still the man. I sound like a travel guru to my friends thanks to your site…

  • Shield

    I love the BA short haul flight redemptions. However, note that Canada charges a fair amount of tax so it’s no longer 4,500 points + $2.50 – it’s more like 4,500 points + $57.00. Still a great deal but not the price of a latte anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kalboz Kalil Daoud

    I’d like to fly LAX or SNA to YVR or SEA, what is the best way to use Avios? Thank you!

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  • skg

    I just looked up miami to dusseldorf for june and I got
    50,000 avios + $102.

    how did you get 25,000 avios?

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