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Redeem Avios to Book These Sweet Spot Premium Awards Now

Nov. 03, 2018
9 min read
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While there are undeniably good values to be found in British Airways' distance based award chart, they are few and far between. Many flights, both on BA metal and on Oneworld partners, are just unreasonably expensive. This is especially disappointing as British Airways Avios are incredibly easy to earn by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points to the Executive Club program. However, some awards that you might have previously avoided are currently pricing at much more reasonable rates thanks to the current transfer 40% transfer bonus from Amex that runs through Nov. 15, opening up some new sweet spots in the program.

It's worth noting that this bonus is one of the best we've seen from American Express to Avios, and from a purely mathematical standpoint, this is actually a way to boost the value of your Amex points based on TPG's most recent valuations. He pegs Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents apiece and Avios at 1.5 cents apiece. However, since you're getting 1.4 Avios for every 1 Amex point you transfer, you're effectively converting each point you transfer into 2.1 cents.

That being said, we generally recommend against transferring without a specific redemption in mind, but that's what we're here for! TPG Writer JT Genter has already covered a number of ways to maximize this transfer bonus:

These flights can offer some terrific value both with and without a transfer bonus, but there are several others in premium classes that only make sense with this Amex transfer bonus. What may have been a mediocre value before has become a terrific value now, and remember that you don't necessarily need to book by Nov. 15; you only need to transfer by then.

Let's take a closer look.

Long-Haul British Airways First Class

British Airways first class is a questionable redemption to begin with. With service that may leave you dissatisfied along with horrendous fuel surcharges on many award flights, you're often better off looking for other options to fly to and from Europe. There are two notable exceptions within the British Airways fleet: the A380 and the 787. While these might not be the most luxurious first class products in the world, they're certainly a leg up over some of the tired 777s and 747s BA still flies.

View across the 787-9 First class cabin
British Airways 787-9 first class. Photo courtesy of Mike Lowe

British Airways flies its 787s to destinations all over the world, including Tokyo-Narita (NRT). This ~6,000-mile flight falls into Zone 7 on BA's award chart, and would normally cost 120,000 Avios in first class during peak season:

With the current bonus, you would only need to transfer 86,000 Membership Rewards points (worth ~$1,634) to book this flight instead of 120,000 points (worth $2,280). Note that this flight also incurs relatively minor taxes and fees.

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If you prefer the comfort and size of the Airbus A380, you might want to look at flying it from Hong Kong (HKG) to London-Heathrow (LHR). This flight also covers about ~6,000 miles and would cost the same as the above flight from Tokyo (120,000 Avios during peak season). However, if you can snag an award on an off-peak date, the price drops to just 102,000 Avios:

The 40% transfer bonus drops the cost to ~73,000 Membership Rewards, making this a great deal for a 12-hour flight. Just be careful about which direction you fly, as departing from London (instead of flying to London) could add several hundred dollars in taxes to your award. Even without the transfer bonus, you can book both of these Europe-Asia routes for 90,000 AA miles.

If you're looking to fly one of these planes on a long-haul route to/from the US, you can find the 787 flying select frequencies between London and Los Angeles (LAX) and the A380 flying to both LAX and San Francisco (SFO). These flights should price out a bit cheaper, at 100,000 Avios during peak season (~72,000 Membership Rewards points with the transfer bonus) and 85,000 during off-peak season (~61,000 Membership Rewards points with the transfer bonus), but these are two of BA's most premium routes and it is incredibly hard to find first class award space. It's also important to remember that British Airways awards out of the US will incur heavy taxes and fees.

Transcontinental AA Business and First Class

The premium transcontinental market in the US, mainly encompassing flights between the New York City area and Los Angeles & San Francisco is one of the most competitive out there. It's the perfect combination of consistent leisure and business demand, and the flights are just long enough that airlines are forced to (marginally) improve their "domestic first class" offerings. While JetBlue Mint is generally regarded as tops in the market, American is by far the most creative airline in this market, operating a fleet of specially configured A321s (dubbed the "A321T") with lie-flat business and first class cabins.

First class aboard AA's A321T

If you redeem Avios on these one-way flights without the bonus, awards cost 37,500 Avios in business class and 50,000 in first, which is a lot to pay for a domestic flight, even with a flat bed. However, with the current transfer bonus, these flights would only cost ~27,000 Membership Rewards points in business class or ~36,000 in first.

Business class passengers will enjoy access to AA's recently revamped Flagship Lounges, while first class passengers will get an invitation to a sit-down meal in the private Flagship First Dining space. Unfortunately even if you have enough Avios for this redemption, award space is not easy to come by. You could use ExpertFlyer to set an alert, and remember too that booking through British Airways is a terrific option to avoid last-minute award ticketing fees that American charges when you redeem your miles for flights within 21 days.

Miami (MIA) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to South America

From its hubs in Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth, American Airlines offers one of the best route networks to South America. Flights to several of the biggest South American cities, including Sao Paulo (GRU) and Buenos Aires (EZE) clock in at almost ten hours and are operated by some of the best aircraft in AA's long-haul fleet (787s and 777s) with comfortable reverse herringbone seats.

Image from

British Airways is still not great at showing AA business class availability on their website, but all four of the routes mentioned above should cost 62,500 Avios in business class. With the transfer bonus, you'd only be paying ~45,000 Membership Rewards points. For flights to the southern half of South American (which the AAdvantage program terms "South America 2"), AA would charge you 57,500 miles.

Chicago to Tokyo

I have a love-hate relationship with Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), which was my home airport for the last four years. While I love how many international carriers fly there (many with their best products, no less), it's almost impossible to score a deal with distance-based award charts like BA. Take this Japan Airlines first class ticket from Chicago-O'Hare to Tokyo-Narita, which normally costs 120,000 Avios. That's more than the highest welcome bonus we've ever seen on The Platinum Card® from American Express, and you'd be spending it all on a single flight!

However, what was previously an obscene number points is much more manageable now. With the 40% transfer bonus, you'll only need ~86,000 Membership Rewards points.

That's over 13 hours of first class bliss for a relatively small number of points.

Keep in mind that there are other great options to or from Asia, like flying from Chicago to Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific first class or from New York-JFK to Tokyo-Narita in JAL first class. Both of these routings would set you back 140,000 Avios (100,000 Membership Rewards points with the bonus). Those wouldn't be my first choice redemptions, but they're certainly worth considering depending on what points you have at your disposal. Without the transfer bonus though I wouldn't bother with them.

Bottom Line

This is not the first time we've seen a solid Avios transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards. Even if you don't have any upcoming travel planned at the moment, it's worth taking note of the redemption options that this bonus brings into play. The common theme among all these short-term sweet spots is that they encompass long-haul, premium cabin travel, which has historically been the weakest element of BA's award chart. Of course, depending on where you're trying to travel and when, there might be better ways to redeem your Amex Membership Rewards points on Oneworld airlines.

Featured image by Nick Morrish