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Today marks the first day that US Airways is part of the Oneworld alliance, and one of the more interesting results is that US Airways flights are now bookable using British Airways Avios. That’s good news because British Airways is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards (and there are sometimes transfer bonuses) if you have a card like the Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold, but also a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest and Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus. Right now the British Airways Visa Signature Card is offering 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, which is a nice balance to start off with, meaning it’s easier to rack up Avios or top up your account if you strategize with the right credit cards.
It’s also interesting because British Airways has a distance-based award chart where shorter flights require you to redeem fewer Avios, so it can be a great bargain on expensive short-hauls – in some cases you’ll be using a lot less miles by opting for BA Avios instead of US Dividend Miles. Not only that, but BA permits one-way awards, which US Airways does not, adding another level of flexibility.
In terms of flights to/from London, British Airways charges very high fuel surcharges on both paid and award tickets that range well over $1,000 in some cases. However, as US Airways doesn’t levy these charges on its own flights, you won’t get hit with them if you use US Airways miles on US Airways flights to London and the rest of Europe, or if you use Avios to book US Airways flights to Europe. The BA search engine seems to be having trouble pulling up flights on US specifically from the US to Europe – it tends to default to BA flights in this case – but there should not be enormous fuel surcharges or taxes on US Airways awards booked using BA Avios.
Where To Fly
US Airways has four major hubs in Charlotte, DC , Phoenix and Philly, which allows for multiple options for booking flights at low redemption levels. Another plus from booking with Avios is that that you can book one-way awards on BA.com, however when you are using the standard US Airways rewards booking, you will need to book roundtrip.
Just keep in mind, that if you are able to find availability, you can also take advantage of US Airways off-peak award travel chart. From February 3-13 and March 17-April 3 you can fly from North America to Hawaii or South America for 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach or 60,000 miles in first. You can also snag off-peak low level awards from North America to Hawaii or Europe from January 15 – February 28 for 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy, so it’s worth checking into off-peak availability and comparing to the cost in Avios before booking.
Here are some great deals that I found using Avios.
Philadelphia – Tel Aviv
Flying from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv in economy using US Airways miles would cost 80,000 miles and $172 roundtrip.
I pulled up the same itinerary on BA.com and saw that it would only cost me 60,000 Avios and $46 for a round trip economy ticket.
One-way in business from PHL- TLV booked on BA.com came up at 60,000 Avios and $2 in taxes on the outbound.
Charlotte – Rio De Janeiro
On US Airways an economy roundtrip award ticket from Charlotte to Rio De Janeiro would cost you 60,000 miles and $105.
For the same flight on BA.com you would need 70,000 Avios but only $54 per ticket. Though you’re paying 10,000 more Avios and only saving $51, it might still be worth it given how much easier is to rack up Avios than US Airways miles.
Philadelphia – London
Although I was having trouble pulling up US Airways flights to London on BA.com, you should be able to call British Airways and have a representative tell you how much the taxes and fees amount to when you find low-level flights on either US Airways’ website or AA.com, which is pretty good at displaying US Airways award availability.
US Airways shows a roundtrip ticket in economy would be 60,000 miles and $325. A low-level business class ticket would also be $325 in taxes and fees and the miles needed would increase to 100,000 miles roundtrip. However, if you were to use Avios, you’d only be paying 40,000 Avios roundtrip in economy and 80,000 in business class since the flight falls just under 4,000 miles each way.
Given US Airways’ extensive domestic route map, 0ne of the great opportunities is going to be using Avios on short-haul flights (or even mid- and longer-range flights) within the US where you will end up using fewer Avios on saver awards than the standard 25,000 US Airways miles in economy and 50,000 in business.
When looking at awards charts, the option for short-haul flights can also be a great deal. It costs 4,500 Avios to fly one-way for any distance of less than 650 miles, and 7,500 for flights in the next distance tier of 651-1,151 miles.
Washington DC – Boston
A roundtrip flight from Washington DC to Boston in first class on US Airways using US miles would cost 50,000 miles and $106 or 25,000 miles and $106 if you can find roundtrip availability in economy.
The same itinerary on BA.com shows that roundtrip in first class will run you 27,000 Avios and $5 – a savings of 23,000 miles or 46%! Note, that’s because it’s first and not business class – so beware US Airway’s two-class flights where you’ll end up paying a premium for “first” class instead of “business.
If you wanted to just book a one-way award instead it would cost you 4,500 Avios and $2 for an economy ticket or 13,500 Avious and $2 for first class.
Charlotte to Grand Cayman (GCM)
Where this is also a big boon is on flights from the east coast to the Caribbean, where many destinations lie within the 651- and 1,151-mile ranges of BA’s award chart. For instance this roundtrip ticket on US from Charlotte to Grand Cayman would cost you 35,000 miles and $120 using US miles.
Philadelphia to Los Angeles
Even on some of the longer-haul transcon flights where you’re paying the same amount in terms of Avios and US miles, there are still some good reasons to opt for Avios instead.
A roundtrip economy flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles would be 25,000 miles and $106 on USAirways.com
On BA.com the same itinerary will also cost 25,000 Avios but the taxes and fees are about $100 lower at just $5 per ticket.
So all in all, there are some bargains to be had here and in the coming days and weeks as US Airways becomes more closely integrated with its new Oneworld partners, I’ll continue exploring this relationship and the best ways to maximize it. In the meantime, feel free to comment with questions you have and what you are interested in particularly about this new partnership.