Video SRQ: What Are British Airways Avios Worth?

by on March 10, 2013 · 24 comments

in British Airways, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Dani has racked up some British Airways Avios and tweeted me with a question about how much they’re worth:

“What would you say is the dollar value of British Airways Avios points (for less frequent flyers than yourself)?”

As with all things points- and miles-related, the value of Avios depends on what you redeem them for. The good news for Dani is that you don’t have to be a frequent flyer like me in order to be able to get a ton of value out of them.

Though it can be confusing for some folks because British Airways are distance-based, meaning the number of miles you need to redeem for an award is based on the distance you will be traveling. While that means you’ll be using more Avios for longer flights or itineraries, it also means that you can get tremendous value out of expensive short-haul flights.

I value British Airways Avios conservatively at about 1.5 cents each, so strictly in monetary terms, if you’re getting a better rate than that, you’re doing well.

For example, the route from New York to Miami roundtrip on British Airways’ Oneworld partner, American, can be very expensive depending on the time of year and how close in you book your ticket, but because BA doesn’t charge last-minute award booking fees, and the distance is just about 1,000 miles, you only need 15,000 Avios and $5 roundtrip for an award ticket next week.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 2.49.23 PMThat same itinerary would cost you $604 on American.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 2.51.58 PMThat yields a value of just about 4 cents per Avios – not bad!

Another great example is flights from the west coast of the US to Hawaii. While most other airlines charge around 35,000-40,000 miles roundtrip, British Airways requires just 25,000 Avios for a roundtrip award ticket like this one from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Los Angeles-Honolulu on American for 25,000 Avios and $5 in taxes roundtrip.That saves you having to spend $447 on the same ticket!

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 2.54.38 PM

Another way to get great value from your Avios is to use them to upgrade a paid fare. To calculate base Avios for a flight you can use the handy Avios Calculator, and you put in the itinerary you want to fly and then the cost of upgrading from one class of service to the next is half the number of Avios you need for an economy redemption. (Just note: these upgrades are only  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.)

So for example, it costs 20,000 Avios each way for an economy award ticket on British Airways, meaning you’d only need 10,000 Avios each way to upgrade a paid ticket. Where this might make sense is if you could shell out the cash for a Premium Economy ticket and then use Avios to upgrade since that cabin jump is usually worth thousands of dollars.

In this example, you’re paying a whopping $2,465 for Premium Economy and then 20,000 Avios to upgrade (ah, summer travel!).

20,000 Avios and $2,465 for a roundtrip business class ticket from JFK to LondonBut if you were to pay for Business Class, those same flights would be $5,847.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 3.06.12 PMSo those 20,000 Avios would be worth $3,382, or 16.9 cents each! Granted, we’re still talking about a lot of money here, but if this is in your wheelhouse, an upgrade is a great way to stretch the value of your Avios.

If you’ve been diligent and have been racking up a lot of Avios and a super-premium redemption is within your reach, another great redemption option is First Class on Cathay Pacific for 210,000 Avios roundtrip from the west coast of the US and Canada to Hong Kong.

Los Angeles-Hong Kong First Class Award on Cathay Pacific for 210,000 AviosYou’re using 210,000 Avios and paying $321 in taxes, but that same ticket would cost you $15,685!

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 3.12.31 PM

That seems pretty inflated to me, but still, that’s the price it’s going for right now, which means even though you’d be redeeming 210,000 Avios, each one of those would be worth 7.3 cents each. Another great value.

So there are plenty of ways to pull a lot of value from Avios, whether you’re a frequent flyer or not, especially if you’re been racking up a lot of Avios thanks to recent lucrative credit card offers and Amex transfer bonuses.

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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  • BobChi

    You can get great value from Avios without comparing them to the outlandish cash prices for premium cabin travel. Several months ago I needed to make a domestic flight on very short notice due to a death in the family. The best cash price I could find was about $600 round-trip on American, or space was available for 25,000 AAdvantage miles plus a close-in booking fee. However, I made the same trip with 9,000 Avios and no booking fee. Since I would have made the trip no matter the cost, this is a clear value of close to 7 cents per Avios. I always like to have a certain number of Avios on hand for emergencies.

  • Nyt1

    The excessive fees and surcharges though on British and even Iberia make Avios almost useless for European travel, at least in economy.

  • AJ

    Do you suggest using award from west coast to India using avios? How many miles will be required if I choose Cathay and will the taxes be high?

  • The Miles Professor

    I actually rank British Airways as my top way to fly to the Caribbean with miles. It’s 10,000 miles each way to Cancun from NYC on American, which flies directly. We’ve already redeemed 3 tickets just this winter! These regularly run $600-$800 so it’s a really nice value for 20,000 Avios roundtrip.

  • Krloach10

    Also when using Avios on AA your ticket is a Priority Access pass therefore you also get to board before most plus you take the shorter security line as well.

  • Jason

    Great article. My wife and I have quite a few Avios built up now, and I am looking for smart ways to use them. One question: What are the “rules” for being able to upgrade a ticket using Avios? In the example of upgrading from premium economy to business, can you upgrade as long as there is a free business seat? Or before booking do you need to search for award availability to make sure there is an “award” business seat available?

  • Samuel Gozlan

    Not when using them for intra Europe travel :)

  • Boggart

    can you use avios to upgrade on AA on domestic routes too? like jfk-mia?

  • Josh

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems like that even after all the fees you can get tremendous value out of Avios for premium U.S. to Europe travel. You can book a round-trip first class ticket JFK to LHR for 120,000 Avios and a little under $1000 cash. This ticket is almost $12,000 on BA’s website. Even after the fees that leaves you with a value of over 9 cents per Avio. If you happen to have a Travel Together cert you can double this value to over 18 cents per Avio! Granted, may people might not ever buy a First ticket on BA so you can argue that there is greater value for short-haul domestics, but strictly on paper this seems to be the greatest redemption value.

  • Joel

    Can you get elite seating on AA when booking with Avios points? Or could you call in after booking with points and change seating with the AAgent?

  • thepointsguy

    You are correct- Avios can still let you fly in premium cabins at a fraction of the price

  • thepointsguy

    Yes- call AA after and add your AAdvanage number and select a premium seat

  • thepointsguy

    Upgrade availability is different- you can go online and check to see if there is availability or call. Unfortunately you cannot wait list

  • thepointsguy

    This is a glitch that doesn’t work all the time… But many people do get Priority Access which is a nice little perk!

  • Budgetingmom

    Is it true that you can book on Alaska Airlines with Avios?

  • Rob Hall

    I am in Columbus, OH and am looking to fly out west to either LA or Salt Lake this summer with my family. I’ve been trying to see if I could use my Avios to do so, but have had no luck finding availability. Is this because CMH is not an American or BA hub? I fly American out of CMH almost exclusively and there is availability on the AA website, but how do I go about booking this with Avios?

  • Trey

    you’re not finding any because there are no direct flights from CMH to LAX or SLC. you can get to LAX by booking 2 (segment) awards each way or you may have to call to book, costing about 12,500 avios each way. avios are a better value for direct flights from CMH to places like JFK/LGA/MIA.

  • Krloach10

    Guess Im lucky its happened everytime for me (over 20 times)

  • Jamba

    Dude…get a wind filter for your mic.

  • Guest

    Can you use avios to fly non US based, say Australia to Singapore?

  • thepointsguy


  • nate

    I finally booked a flight with my avios within the country and have fell in love with the Avios program. Sadly when I looked at the same flight maybe 3 weeks out it is not available on BA but I see it on AA through economy mile saver. Is it ok to call BA to try and book this flight. Can I assume if its available on AA that its also available on BA.

  • David Hong

    Hey Brian, I book a lot of AA flights using Avios. Could I get credit from AA (AAdvantage Points) for flying those miles?

  • Maneesh Sethi

    or fly on a partner, like aer lingus or air berlin.

    im flying nyc-> dusseldorf for 10,000 miles + $132.50 in taxes/fees…

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