Using Avios For Short-Haul Flights From Oneworld Hubs

Jun 4, 2019

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British Airways has been in the news a lot lately, between being the target of Chase’s first transfer bonus (get 30% more when you transfer your points to British Airways by June 16th) and a slight devaluation to partner award rates. If you’ve followed along with any of our coverage about the program, including how to maximize British Airways’ distance-based award chart or why this new British Airways transfer bonus is best for partner awards, you’ll notice two common threads emerge:

  1. It’s almost always better to use British Airways Avios for partner flights than for flights on British Airways metal.
  2. Because British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, you’ll get the best value redemptions on the shortest flights

If we follow this logic to the next step, we can see that the absolute best Avios redemptions come from short flights to or from Oneworld hub cities around the world. Places like Sydney (SYD), Tokyo (NRT or HND), Hong Kong (HKG), Madrid (MAD) and more. Today we’ll explore a few options for maximizing these short flights to save you money in some otherwise pricey markets.

In This Post

British Airways Award Pricing

For starters, here’s the new award chart for flights on most partners, including the increases that took effect on May 30:

Economy and Premium Economy Award Chart

Zone Distance in Miles Economy Premium Economy
Old Price New Price % Increase Old Price New Price % Increase
Zone 1** 1 – 650 4,500 6,000 33% 6,750 9,000 33%
Zone 2 651 – 1,151 7,500 9,000 20% 11,250 12,500 11%
Zone 3 1,152 – 2,000 10,000 11,000 10% 15,000 16,500 10%
Zone 4 2,001 – 3,000 12,500 13,000 4% 25,000 25,250 3%
Zone 5 3,001 – 4,000 20,000 20,750 4% 40,000 41,250 3%
Zone 6 4,001 – 5,500 25,000 25,750 3% 50,000 51,500 3%
Zone 7 5,501 – 6,500 30,000 31,000 3% 60,000 62,000 3%
Zone 8 6,501 – 7,000 35,000 36,250 4% 70,000 72,250 3%
Zone 9 7,000+ 50,000 51,500 3% 100,000 103,000 3%

** These Zone 1 economy awards are 7,500 Avios for flights to, from or within the US.

Business and First Award Chart

Zone Distance in Miles Business First
Old Price New Price % Increase Old Price New Price % Increase
Zone 1** 1 – 650 9,000 12,500 39% 18,000 24,000 33%
Zone 2 651 – 1,151 15,000 16,500 10% 30,000 33,000 10%
Zone 3 1,152 – 2,000 20,000 22,000 10% 40,000 44,000 10%
Zone 4 2,001 – 3,000 37,500 38,750 3% 50,000 51,500 3%
Zone 5 3,001 – 4,000 60,000 62,000 3% 80,000 82,500 3%
Zone 6 4,001 – 5,500 75,000 77,250 3% 100,000 103,000 3%
Zone 7 5,501 – 6,500 90,000 92,750 3% 120,000 123,750 3%
Zone 8 6,501 – 7,000 105,000 108,250 3% 140,000 144,250 3%
Zone 9 7,000+ 150,000 154,500 3% 200,000 206,000 3%

** These Zone 1 business-class awards are 15,000 for flights to, from or within the US.

You can really score a deal booking any of the first three pricing tiers. Note that for this post I’m assuming you’re flying on a Oneworld partner airline outside of North America unless stated otherwise, so I’m using the following pricing:

  • Zone 1: 0-650 miles, 6,000 Avios each way
  • Zone 2: 651-1,151 miles, 9,000 Avios each way
  • Zone 3: 1,152-2,000 miles, 11,000 Avios each way

Maximizing Flights From Oneworld Hubs

Each airline alliance has its own strengths and weaknesses, but Oneworld hub cities tend to be located in some of the most expensive markets. Let’s take a look at some of these extreme cases, starting with Cathay Pacific and its hub of Hong Kong (HKG). While Cathay Pacific does offer an incredible experience for its premium cabin passengers, its economy prices for short flights around Asia are astronomical.

Route Distance Average Economy Price Avios Required (average redemption value) Average Business Class Price Avios Required (average redemption value)
Hong Kong to Taipei 501 miles $743 6,000 Avios

(12.38 cpp)

$1,404 12,500 Avios

(11.23 cpp)

Hong Kong to Da Nang 570 miles $882 6,000 Avios

(14.70 cpp)

$1,790 12,500 Avios

(14.32 cpp)

Hong Kong to Hanoi 526 miles $851 6,000 Avios

(14.18 cpp)

$1,790 12,500 Avios

(14.32 cpp)

Hong Kong to Phnom Penh 952 miles $1,003 9,000 Avios

(11.14 cpp)

$2,342 16,500 Avios

(14.19 cpp)

Hong Kong to Chiang Mai 999 miles $943 9,000 Avios

(10.48 cpp)

$1,969 16,500 Avios

(11.93 cpp)

Some of these flights are as short as 90 minutes, yet the redemption values exceed what you can often get from long-haul international first class. At rates this low, it might even be worth splurging for business class — while the flights are too short to enjoy the experience (and many of these flights are operated by Cathay Dragon which doesn’t have the best business class seats on much of its narrowbody fleet), you can think of the extra miles as your entrance fee to Cathay’s business class lounges. Or, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can just enjoy my favorite Centurion lounge in the collection at no extra charge.

While the numbers aren’t as extreme for most other partner airlines (especially since JAL and Qantas have lowered their domestic pricing in recent years), you can still find a nearly endless sea of redemptions well above TPG’s valuation of Avios at 1.5 cents each. The following five domestic routes within Japan (and many more) all cover less than 650 miles, meaning they fall into the Zone 1 pricing of only 6,000 Avios each way in economy:

  • Fukuoka (FUK)
  • Nagasaki (NGS)
  • Aomori (AOJ)
  • Sapporo (CTS)
  • Ozora (MMB)

Even with the $5 in taxes that come with most of these awards you’re getting a very respectable redemption value.

Route Distance Average Economy Price Avios Required (average redemption value)
Tokyo to Fukuoka 549 miles $175 6,000 Avios

(2.91 cpp)

Tokyo to Nagasaki 593 miles $190 6,000 Avios

(3.17 cpp)

Tokyo to Aomori 361 miles $175 6,000 Avios

(2.91 cpp)

Tokyo to Sapporo 509 miles $185 6,000 Avios

(3.08 cpp)

Tokyo to Ozora 620 miles $200 6,000 Avios

(3.33 cpp)

I’m not kidding when I say that you can find these deals in almost every corner of the globe, be it from Madrid (MAD) to Nice (NCE) or Paris (CDG) on Iberia, Sydney (SYD) to Adelaide (ADL) on Qantas, Colombo (CMB) to Male (MLE) on Sri Lankan or more. Of course, you have to remember that many of these routes are also served by low cost carriers so while your astronomical redemption values beat paying cash, they might not be the best option available to you on any given day. Returning to our Hong Kong example for a minute, you can fly non-stop from Hong Kong to Hanoi for well under $200 if you choose to stay away from Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon.

Finally, don’t forget that using British Airways Avios can be a fantastic option for nonstop American Airlines flights, though as noted above, Zone 1 flights will price at 7,500 Avios each way in economy or 15,000 Avios in domestic first class. (Zone 2 and above follow the same award rates from the above tables). However, you’ll need to find saver-level award space on American, which can be a bit challenging.

For more information, check out JT Genter’s post on 11 Times to Book American Flights Using British Airways Avios.

Bottom Line

While British Airways isn’t the only carrier to use a distance-based award chart for its frequent flyer program, it offers one of the most rewarding options for short-haul Oneworld flights in addition to having some of the easiest miles to earn. If you find yourself traveling through a Oneworld hub soon and you plan to take some short trips around the area, make sure to check if you can get a better deal using British Airways Avios than if you paid cash.

Featured photo by Image by Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia

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