How Can I Get The Best Value From NY to India Using Avios and the BA Companion Pass or United Miles?
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TPG reader Henry wants to book a trip from NY to India using his Avios, United or ANA miles:
"I have 250,000 Avios and the British Airways companion pass and also have Star Alliance points (280,000 United and 85,000 ANA). I would like to book a trip to India in January 2014 for 2 in business/first class from New York. Any idea how I can get the best value?"
As a quick recap, you will earn the British Airways Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year on the British Airways Visa Signature Card. Both tickets must be award seats and you use Avios for the first one and then just pay the taxes and fees on both, and all flights must be on British Airways planes.
I actually have two of these passes that are kind of burning a hole in my pocket at the moment. This week I started looking at using these passes for a trip to the Maldives that I'm planning for this fall. British Airways does fly from London to Male, the airport in the Maldives, however award availability is scarce at best.
My plan is to fly into India instead. Flights to Bombay and Delhi are hard to come by as well, but I found there's a ton of availability (almost every day) in business and first class to Bangalore which is in southern India, not too far from Goa. For me, there's a non stop Air India flight that links up pretty well with the British Airways flights to Male in the morning so you can maximize your time there.
So for this itinerary, you're looking at 180,000 and $3,012 in taxes and fees for both tickets. When you look at the actual cost to purchase those tickets you're still getting a decent value since they can go for $6,000 in business class and well into the five figures for first class. Still, that is a lot of money to spend - especially considering you are getting the second ticket for no miles, so let's look at your other options.
Using your United miles will be much cheaper than using Avios when flying to India. With United you're looking at 120,000 miles and $80-$90 in taxes and fees roundtrip per ticket. You can fly United non-stop to India (if you can find the space) or fly Lufthansa or another European carrier through Europe in business class. First class is only 140,000 miles roundtrip, which is much lower than the 90,000 Avios premium that British Airways charges to get First over Business.
It really all depends what your preference is but that’s why I value United miles much higher than Avios since Avios awards come along with those huge fees, even when you're using the companion pass. Instead of going with First class, you can book two business class tickets using the British Airways companion pass for 180,000 avios and the same $3,000 in fees so youre still looking at 90,000 avios per ticket instead of 135,000 per ticket for first. I would recommend going the business route if you can swing it unless you really value British Airways first class, but I'm not quite sure it's worth the premium in Avios.
If you're willing to liquidate your Avios account and you don’t mind spending the $3,000 in cash, the companion pass can be a pretty decent value but you're going to be spending a lot less cash out of pocket if you redeem United miles instead.