The New British Airways Frequent Flyer Program (Avios) is Fantastic for Some Families!

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Have you ever been the last kid picked at dodge ball, just standing there against the wall looking at your feet, far away from the rest of the “cool kids”?  Well, I am pretty sure that is me today in the miles and points blogging world.  You see, unlike most miles and points bloggers (such as Lucky and Gleff), I actually like the new British Airways miles program, Avios.  I don’t like that they have increased the number of miles required for some routes by almost 100%.  I don’t like that they didn’t release their new award chart ahead of time (though they did give fair warning that changes were coming).  But, for families who use most of their miles for domestic and/or short-haul travel, these changes are actually pretty great.

Before I go any further into the reasons why I like the new program, I want to first explain that just because you are earning miles in the British Airways programs, doesn’t mean you actually have to fly on British Airways flights.  They partner with a number of airlines including Alaska and American.  For my purposes, I will redeeming the vast majority of my miles earned with British Airways on American Airlines flights.  I also won’t be earning British Airway miles (aka Avios) by flying BA flights, I will be earning them with credit card sign-up bonus and daily spending on my Chase Sapphire® Preferred Card.

What British Airways has done is essentially gone to a distance-based model for award redemptions.  So, if you are looking to fly from the US to somewhere in Asia, that is clearly a pretty long distance flight, and in a distance based chart, that will cost you a large chunk of miles (especially to sit in First Class).  However, if you are looking to fly from Florida to New York, that is a relatively short distance, and it will be priced as such.  For example, let’s say you want to fly from Miami to JFK in economy class on miles.  In most frequent flyer programs, that round-trip flight would cost you 25,000 miles if you can find it at the “saver” level.  However, with the new Avios program it will only cost you 15,000 miles round-trip to sit in coach.

Let’s try another one.  Say you want to fly take a very short flight round-trip flight from Houston to Dallas.  Previously that would cost you between 20,000 – 25,000 miles at the lower levels on most airlines.  With Avios it will now cost you 9,000 miles.  As another example, flying from Dallas to Seattle is now 20,000 round-trip, so even on that longer domestic flight you are still saving 5,000 miles over the previous mileage cost.  Keep in mind that other countries near the US will also have dropped in the numbers of miles required to redeem for a free flight.  Think about the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, etc… they may all now be fewer miles than they were previously.  I can now go from Houston to Montego Bay round-trip for 24,000 miles.  Not bad!

For those of you who want to use your miles for trips similar to the ones I listed, British Airways may now be your #1 frequent flyer program to focus on.  Just today I re-booked flights for Little C’s grandparents that previously cost us 25,000 miles each.  The trip now requires only 18,000 miles each, so I was able to get a 14,000 mile “rebate” for re-booking the flights.

When I called today, technically British Airways told me that there is a $60 fee online for changing or cancelling each of the tickets.  However, I trusted many online sources that stated the only thing that will happen if you cancel online is that you will lose the amount you paid in taxes.  In my case, I had paid $20 in taxes and indeed I did “lose” those $20.  There were no other fees imposed.  I will trade $20 for 14,000 Avios points any day of the week.  So, fair warning if you want to re-book a British Airways ticket that is now a lower mileage cost – technically this is going against what BA is saying over the phone in regards to fees, but it worked for me and many others.  If you want to go this route, I would do it sooner rather than later – just make sure your desired itinerary is available to re-book before cancelling your original one.

Just to show you a quick snapshot of the cancellation/rebook process:

1.  I verified that the flights I wanted for Little C’s grandparents had plenty of reward availability and I verified that the mileage cost had gone down by 7,000 miles per ticket (14,000 total).  A side-note is that American Airlines (the carrier you will most often be using domestically with BA/Avios points, has the best domestic reward availability in the US).

2.  I cancelled the existing reservation for a refund of all 50,000 Avios points.  I did lose the $20.00 previously paid in taxes.

3.  Within a few minutes I saw the 50,000 Avios points credited back into my account.

4.  I re-booked the trip for 14,000 less points than I had previously paid.  I did have to pay an additional $20.00 in taxes.

Again, I know I am probably not in the “popular kid” chair by liking the Avios program changes.  However, I don’t usually fly first class, I don’t usually have the time or money on trips to build in several free stopovers, and I am not usually traveling to far away locations.  I hope to do more of all of those things in 10-15 years, but that just isn’t my traveling reality these days.  It also is not the traveling reality of most young families.  I totally get why many travelers will be unhappy with these recent Avios changes, but I hope that families who use their miles similar to the way that I do will take a close look at the new British Airways points system and see if it might be the best program to fit their reward travel needs.  I know I will be focusing on it much more than I had previously!

One last great thing about British Airways is that they are a transfer partner of both Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards.  So, you get the best of both worlds.  Membership Rewards sometimes runs great transfer bonuses to British Airways, and Ultimate Rewards has a phenomenal shopping portal that has some awesome one-day points deals coming up.  If you think that the new British Airways points system might be a good fit for your family, strongly consider getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Bold card to get the 50,000 point sign-up bonus and use of the Ultimate Rewards portal.  Or, look into getting an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card or The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN Card to take advantage of those respective sign-up bonuses and the periodic Membership Rewards transfer bonuses.

I promise to share more info about the benefits of the British Airways system for traveling families in upcoming posts.  What do you think of the new system?  Will it help your family or has it destroyed your favorite ways to redeem miles?

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Comments

  1. Wow, mommypoints, that is a totally new take compared to other bloggers but my needs are similar to yours — domestic flights for my family — so I’m going to take a closer look at this program! Thanks for the head’s up!

  2. Still not seeing the value, even on short haul. Using 14,000 miles/points for a $150 ticket does not see like the greatest value. Most of those short haul “deals” give you sub 1.5 cent/point values. Of course everyone likes to say that the real value is in expensive short haul routes close to the travel date, but have fun trying to find award availability when you need it.

    You might as well use those chase points on gift cards at retail outlets.

  3. It is nice to have a mix with Southwest and now BA based on distances for short trips. Especially to the Carribean and Mexico. BA members in Miami must be estatic.

    Downside tho is non-direct flights are charged much more miles. And east coast to Hawaii goes from 35K RT to at least 50K RT (if you can find a direct flight).

    Gives us with many programs choices to get lower redemptions.

  4. This is also a disaster for people who have limited AA service and HAVE to do connections. The flight to the hub will add at least 9000 miles to the rt redemption cost. .

  5. Agree with tassojunior. It’s great for non-stop trips to or from hubs. I live in PHX. I therefore am limited to LAX, DFW, ORD or MIA for AA non-stops. If they get AS working on the booking engine that may open up some viable options though.

  6. i cant even figure out how to see the miles needed. i get a message saying “british airways nor our partners service these locations” when I know they do. does anyone have a link for where I am supposed to be able to book on partners? thanks

  7. I understand that BA needed to change their carts in the wake of so many miles being printed by Chase but this is really unforgivable. I don’t want stopovers, but AA doesnt have non-stops to anywhere apart from ORD from my home-town. Is that my fault? Why is BA penalizing us for connections?

  8. LAX-Hawaii (all islands) are now only 25,000 miles! That’s amazing, especially since AA charges 45,000 miles for the exact same seat in peak season. They do charge $21.60 in fees now, rather than $5.00.
    We will have to sign up my wife for the Sapphire now, and watch out for an Ink Bold business offer.

    And thank you for covering the family-travel side of FF miles, Mommy Points. I’d rather take my baby with me in Coach than travel alone in First to be waited on like a baby.

  9. My take. If you don’t want to feel as guilty about sub-optimal redemption you’ll welcome the new program. It doesn’t change the reality that redemption for domestic travel is still sub-optimal (by a long shot) relative to what you could have done with the miles before the changes.

  10. You may not be the “popular kid,” but you are the most sensible one ;). While I will miss the stopover rule (going on a S America trip thanks to Chase), Avios points fill in a void in my mileage game plan.

  11. MP — do you know how to find no of miles when the partner is alaska? so far their zonal chart/map won’t load for me, and when I type in the cities, it says it can’t be booked online. That is fine, but I’d at least like to figure out no of miles on line. Is this zonal chart the way and I just need to wait for it to work? Thanks. M

  12. People normally would not shell out 25K points for a flight from Dallas to Houston, so your example is very unfair and somewhat unrealistic. Even at 9000K points, you can get a fare for ~$100, so your cpm is still low at 1.1cpm.

    What you really lose big on is on most of the long haul flights. Even more so if there are no direct flights, as you have to shell out miles for each segment. This is where the huge devaulation comes from.

    I still don’t see how you can spin the Avios program as a good thing, since for short hauls, it usually makes sense just to pay for the ticket…

  13. I definitely see the benefits for the domestic travel. I always did. When I got my BA 100k card this year, I knew I was only using the miles for U.S. travel because of the huge fees internationally. I think you can make these miles work for you depending on the trip and your locations. Unfortunately, these airlines & programs are always changing and you never know when the next change will happen. Just have to roll with it!

  14. I agree that there is definitely good and bad in the program change. I got value from both – booked a trip to Easter Island on the old chart, then booked a side-trip Lima-Cusco on the new chart (4500 band is great for that!). But for people like me on the far coast, going PDX-JFK with one connection on AA is now 20,000 instead of 12,500 for domestic flights.
    Thanks for your cheery outlook though! A little balance among bloggers is a very good thing.

  15. I think you add a unique voice to the Boarding Area team, and your writing style and different take on the BA award changes shows that. I’ve enjoyed your blog very much in the last few months!

  16. The important caveat you’re forgetting is that you must be originating from a oneworld hub for this to make sense. Otherwise that extra positioning flight totally wipes out your domestic savings (what good is DFW-SEA for 20k, when say IAH-DFW will cost you 9k – that IAH-SEA is now 29k instead of 25k with every other program).

  17. ” Keep in mind that other counties near the US will also have dropped in the numbers of miles required”

    I think you meant countRies.

  18. I did see the potential when looking at the awards chart on domestic but the timing is horrible. We just started accumulating points with the hopes to offset the cost of a family of five flying to Singapore for our annual trip to see the in-laws. Maybe need to focus on upgrades or shift the priority to united for *alliance instead.

  19. Like you I’m just trying to book my family of 4 to see grandparents, or to fly grandparents in. When the kids are older (and will remember them) we can do the exotic trips as a family. So I really appreciate your blog, which really fits my travel patterns. Thanks!

    1) I’ll now be using the BA Household account. My mother-in-law lives in Miami, so I’ll be using our points to fly her on AA to visit us in Maryland (20K BA vs 25K AA) and to see family in South America on AA (20K BA w/minimal fees vs 25-30K AA). When we join her on trips to South America, we’ll just redeem our AA miles for BWI-MIA-BOG at 30K AA each
    2) I need to learn more about Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards. Do I need a specific credit card for these or will any AMEX work?

  20. If BA charged you on total distance traveled and not per segment, the award chart changes would have some redeeming qualities. But for people in a non-AA hub city (like myself), there really aren’t too many good redemption opportunities – as you are heavily penalized for having to make a connecting flight.

  21. I just booked 4 RT from JFK to MCO for 60K+$20 instead of 100K+$20, so this now becomes my go to airline when visiting my Disney Timeshare especially since AA has pretty good award seat allocation. Backup now being Southwest. I really hated trying to find JFK to HKG available seats in the past for my parents, so I just see BA now working mainly as a domestic carrier for me now and at least the west coast is still about the same. Not much interest in having premium seats or either foreign or domestic flights when it would burn way too many miles…I usually opt for fancy hotels as my preference.

  22. I would think the harsh penalty for people who HAVE to make connections is the one point people should complain about and probably get changed.

    Avios obviously did not think about USA markets where most people have to make connections.

    Mileage should be based on origin to destination period.

  23. I agree with you MP! I posted a couple of items elsewhere with the exact same thoughts. I live in NYC, which obviously helps, naturally. But I like that to go from NYC to say Turks & Caicos I can do it for 20K miles in economy / coach class (vs. 35K on AA milesaver). Plus BA does not charge you additional fees for booking withing 21 days of flying like AA does

  24. @CU, what fun would it be if we were all saying the same thing about the new program? There really are some great redemption options in this new program that will work out well for some families. 🙂

    @DGF, sounds good to me!

    @eds1830, everyone’s travel and redemption needs are different. If I could find the flight I need for $150 I would probably buy it, but even $150 times four or five starts to add up when you are traveling with a family. Some families collect miles because they cannot afford to purchase multiple seats even at $150. I understand what you are saying about cents per mile, but gift cards aren’t going to get you to see Grandma, but your (“poor” cent per mile) mileage redemption can. It all just depends on what you need your miles for.

    @tassojunior, I agree that it is nice to have different plans/carriers to pick from. I also wish they didn’t charge more for forced connections.

    @jim a, sorry to hear you are so disappointed. I know these changes were horrible for some people’s travel patterns. You should definitely share your feelings with BA by tweeting @BritishAirways or shoot them an email/letter.

    @ArizonaGuy, you are totally right. It currently great for all routes, but there are some winners.

    @patricia, what routes are you searching? You may indeed be searching a route that they or their partners don’t serve. Or, I know there have been some glitches today so you may have been searching during a glitch. Some partner availability (like Alaska) will not show online. Let us know the route and maybe someone can offer more guidance.

    @Asen, I don’t like that part either. Let BA know what you think by Twitter or email regarding having to pay more miles for forced connections.

    @Tim, that is a great value! I agree in getting your wife a Sapphire Preferred and looking into the Ink Bold Business card. I have links to both in this post and both are for 50K sign-ups with first year fee waived. Not too bad!

    @HikerT, from a certain point of view you are absolutely right, but it is all relative depending on individual circumstances, and “sub-optimal” all depends on your travel needs and goals.

    @AK, sensible is rarely popular….and maybe not as much fun, but it is my reality. The stopovers were a phenomenal value, but you are right that there are some new values to be found.

    @minda, great question. I have not yet found the answer anywhere. I read where someone called BA yesterday to ask that and they and that rep didn’t yet have an answer either. If anyone knows, feel free to chime in.

    @Allen Sun, it is true that not everyone would redeem 20-25K for a IAH – DFW trip, but that doesn’t mean that no one would. In fact, I have done a very similar redemption to go to a funeral. I was 8 months pregnant and didn’t want to do that drive, but sitting for 30-40 minutes in a plane was easy. Last minute fares that route are often around $300, and a lot of family budgets don’t always have an extra $300. It all just depends on circumstance. Either way, 9,000 is much better than 20-25K.

    @Faith, I agree the only constant is change, so it is best to figure out how to maximize the current programs. I am sure in a couple years, they will all be very different than they are today. 🙂

    @Nathan good job maximizing both charts! You are right there are winners and losers with these changes. I do wish they wouldn’t penalize people for forced connections.

    @MichaelT, thanks so much! What fun would it be if 30+ BoardingArea bloggers were all saying the same thing? 😉

    @oleg, in some cases you are absolutely correct. However, the flight I re-booked for fewer miles yesterday was from a non-hub to a non-hub with a connection and it was still fewer miles than it used to be. However, I do wish they would stop penalizing for forced connections.

    @Dan, thanks. I will get it fixed. 🙂

    @Singapore flyer, so sorry to hear about the bad timing for your family visit. That is frustrating.

    @BunMama, so glad this blog matches your travel patterns. I’ll be right along side you with the longer haul travels in a few years. 🙂 I will be happy to share more about Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards. Any Membership Rewards earning Amex is eligible – but they don’t all earn MR. Which Amex do you have? I will do a more detailed post on each in the near future, so keep an eye out or shoot me some more questions directly before then.

    @JTI, I wish they wouldn’t penalize non-hub locations as well, but there are some good values still – just depending on where you want to go. 🙂

    @andrew, good job! I agree with you assessment completely – I like nice hotels (when possible) as well. 🙂

    @tassojunior, I hope you are are right. We should all let BA know our thoughts on that issue.

    @ukinny, you are a big winner with many routes in NYC! Good job finding the bright spots of this new chart!

  25. I get the points people are saying about buying short-haul tickets with points not being a “good” value, but sometimes it’s the difference between taking a trip and not taking a trip. I got into the miles/points game specifically to get as much free/low cost travel as possible. If it’s looking at say $300 round trip per person (so $600 for my husband and I) right out of the gate, plus hotels, rental card, food, etc, a lot of times that is a non-starter. Now if I can get the airfare for free, I have that extra $600 to put towards the rest of the trip and I can probably take the trip now when I couldn’t before.

    I think there are two kind of subgroups in the miles/points community in a way, the people who have biz travel, bigger budgets, etc, and want to use points to gain first class redemptions, etc, and then those who are more like me that don’t have biz travel and are more looking to get whatever points they can to fund a trip that might otherwise not happen. It’s two totally different viewpoints.

    That said, I would have liked to have gotten one of those Easter Island trips, but didn’t have the ability to plan it right now with time and family factors. I’m sorry that has gone away, but I can see myself using these points now for more domestic travel that I couldn’t bring myself to use my AA miles on. After kind of processing this for 24 hrs now I think I will probably keep on using my BA card and earning Avios points, because they could be pretty useful. My in-laws live in Fort Worth and it looks like we can get ORD-DFW-ORD for 15,000 round trip per person, so all in 30,000 instead of 50,000. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the 50k, but I can see doing the 30k.

  26. Why would anyone redeem miles for Dallas to Houston or something similar? I would much rather pay the $59. This is a scam. Why charge by segment when revenue tickets are not priced that way as long as there is no stopover? BA stinks.

  27. I wonder if mommypoints doesn’t realize that the price is not based on the total distance traveled. Each segment is priced individually. This means a 15k trip for someone in a hub can cost double for someone who’s not.

    So sure, Adios points might be good for this if you live in DFW, MIA, LAX, JFK, ORD.

  28. @Lyssa, you are totally right that there are two main different groups of miles and points collectors/users. Some can easily see where the other group is coming from, and others seem to have a harder time believing anything but their way of earning and burning is the right way to go. I think there are programs for everyone and there is no one right or wrong way to use miles. Good job with the ORD-DFW route. 🙂

    @JA, because they have family there they need to visit. Sadly, it isn’t always $59. I don’t like the per segment pricing model either. Hopefully they will adjust that.

    @Nun, I do very much realize that. However, even with that some routes are still cheaper than they used to be. Of course, DFW, MIA, LAX, etc… certainly did make out the best. I also hope that they will rethink the segment pricing.

  29. Great job MommyPoints. I am in your boat as well, family of four with limited opps to travel. You can’t hoard the points forever, sometimes you need to spend even if the “value” is not there. Can now do BOS-MIA for 20,000 each or say BOS-ORD for a long weekend at 15,000.

    I will probably abandon earning on AA and switch over everything to BA because of what I redeem for plus the Chase Sapphire card is a xfer partner. I don’t fly enough of AA to earn status so it does not matter (because they don’t service my main airport, but BOS is do-able).

    Thanks again.

  30. I guess I am lucky in that I’m by ORD so I can get a ton of direct AA flights. I can see the frustration if you have to pay for every connection. It will make me have to look closer at my redemptions as well to make sure I’m not getting a stop anywhere. The charging per stop is probably the sneakiest thing about this new program.

  31. MP, this is actually why I like your blog so much. I read TGP and View from the Wing, but I’m never going to do a mileage run and I don’t have any biz travel, so I like to get this side of things that’s more realistic for me. Thanks!

  32. Is it possible to redeem BA miles for those grandparent’s trips (if not in your Household account)? My husband and I have BA miles pooled in a Household account. When I looked at redeeming them for someone outside our address, it appeared that the only way to do that was to transfer the miles to the grandparent’s BA account first (for a fee).

    I was excited to redeem 7500 miles plus $2.50 (one way)for my son to come home from college for Christmas (Detroit to DFW).

  33. @NYCWahoo, knowing your options is key!

    @Derek, sounds like a good plan to me. BA is a good option, but I might personally focus on the Sapphire unless you are coming for the BA 2 for 1 ticket to use on BA metal. Sapphire will give you flexibility whereas BA you will have all your eggs in one basket.

    @Lyssa sounds like a plan and thanks for your kind words!

    @Linda, you can book tickets using your miles for other people without transferring them to their account. I do it quite frequently. You can even do it online. It will just ask you if you are traveling on the reservation and you will answer no. Let me know if you have problems and I’ll try to help. How exciting to fly your son home for Christmas!

  34. Alaska has a lot of direct flights from Seattle to Hawaii. It seems as though those can be booked for 25,000 roundtrip as well. What’s the process? Find the flight on AK, and then call BA to check availability and fees?

  35. Now that BA was went milage based, I am waiting for them to start charging YQ on AA flights like AF does on DL or ANA seems to do on everyone. They have drasticly lowered the milage requirements for those domestic AA tickets, but the accountant in me says that this loophole will close in time. I would not take on an increased cost/liability without having control of the inventory that I have to pay on. Word to the wise, earn and redeem, don’t bank Avios. Tommorrow they could start chargin YQ, just like AC did.

  36. If you are in a hub (especially mid-US) and looking domestic, these changes may very well work out better.

    WN’s 2.0 changes, making last-minute redemptions almost totally non-cost-effective, put a big hole in possibilities for us WNers. Distance-based BA awards can in some cases fill that gap, with AA/UA awards for the longer domestic trips.

    As Beaubo, Brian, Gary, and Lucky pointed out in Chicago, you need to be aware of all the possible tools at your disposal, and accumulate points/miles all over the place to maximize your returns.

  37. This is also a disaster for people who have limited AA service and HAVE to do connections. The flight to the hub will add at least 9000 miles to the rt redemption cost.

    Totally agree with above. I’ve been saving my points for a midwest – HI trip. Between the connection(s) necessary and the pay-for-mileage aspect of the trip, it’s a bad deal — up to 50K per ticket. Even midwest – California trip increases from 25 k to 29.5k. For a family of 4, ouch.

    My biggest beef is the lack of communication on the whole thing. It’s complete BS that they didn’t know / couldn’t tell us in advance, when the “changes” were announced. Poor, poor, poor management and shabby treatment of their North American customers.

    And don’t tell me just because I got my miles through the Chase cc I shouldn’t complain — I had a cost of acquiring those miles. Making changes effective the day of the announcement is just crappy.

    My biggest beef is the lack of communication

  38. It was better deal for short trips under old program. For 12.5 miles I booked Toronto-Chicago (stopover) -Dallas (stopover)- Seattle. Its easier, however, to do it now.

  39. I’m able to take advantage of the best parts of both programs. Under executive club, I booked LAX-HKG-BKK-SIN-HKG-LAX for 100K in business, which is a dream redemption for me.

    The missing part of my itinerary was getting to LAX from SLC, my home airport. I’ve been stewing over how to do this for a few months. Ticket prices haven’t fluctuated for a while (~240 RT), and I didn’t feel like using 25K DL or AA miles was worth it. With the new Avios pricing, I can now get SLC-LAX RT for 9K Avios, which is a much better deal for me. I just need to top off my account with a MR transfer and then I’m golden. If I wait for a MR transfer bonus, then I’m even better off.

    As long as the few AA flights that service SLC-LAX work out for me, using Avios will be my new strategy to get to LAX for Asia or South Pacific destinations with other award bookings.

  40. As a medical student applying to residency, I too must welcome the short hop redemptions.

    Most of us students are deeply in debt. Spending $120-300+ for tickets all over the country (most people try to interview at about 13-15 in my field) in addition to hotels usually means taking out several thousands of dollars worth of private loans at ~8-11% interest. This is on top of already exorbitant loan burdens.

    As a person with a need (basic, cheap as possible transport from point A to B so that I can get a job) vs a want (first class to Bali), BA points just got a whole lot more attractive.

  41. Thanks for giving us a different perspective. While I am one of those who were “living the dream” with international first class awards and multiple stopovers to Easter Island, the short haul options for families do make the new program worthwhile.

  42. @MommyPoints – Yes, I mean I will credit my odd AA flight(s) to BA now. All my spending will go on my Sapphire or my SPG AMEX. I was thinking of crediting my AA flights to Alaska, but now I am going to go with BA.

  43. Just cancelled 4 AA flight from MSP to Orlando I had booked with 100K BA miles months ago (trip on the 11/22!!!!) and was able tor rebook on the same flight, same seats within 5 minutes for 80k miles and just $20 total….You can imagine the adrenaline rush and my heart racing those 3 minutes it took for the Avios (BA) miles to repost! Yes, I lost the original $20 but got back my 20,000 miles which I can use in the future for 1 ticket within use!!!! Well worth it in my mind – not sure what i was going to tell my kids if this didn’t work!!!! Thank you mommypoints for your post detailing how it worked for you….

  44. WOW, WOW, WOW!! You are 100% absolutely correct.

    I’m working on a trip from the USA to Spain in the fall of 2012. We fly to Madrid, stay at the Westin Palace (Starwood points, of course), and then later fly on to Malaga. My main airline in American, which hopefully will get me to Spain and back using my miles. But AA no longer allows European stopovers, so I was thinking I might have to pay for a flight from Madrid to Malaga. Kayak currently shows a price of $245 per person for a coach seat non-stop from MAD to AGP on Iberia. Spanair is far cheaper at $64 per person but the flight time is way too early for us – no way that I can get my wife moving that early in the morning.

    After reading your comments, I decided to search BA. I’ve got 100K miles left over from a BA credit card signup. Found a perfect flight (non-stop, flight times are good) on Iberia for only 4500 Avios points + $20 per person. So 9000 Avios points + $40 got us 2 coach seats for this short 1 hour flight in lieu of paying $490 + taxes. That just covered my $95 fee for the BA credit card and then some, plus I’ve got lots of BA miles left.

  45. @Lisa, I’m not 100% of the process, but I would check to see if there is availability on American for AS flights (historically a good gauge) and then call BA for pricing. Let me know what they say!

    @eds183, I think that is good advice in general. Miles and points are not a “long term investment”. I am an earn and burn fan myself. No guarantees for the moderate to long term future with these programs.

    @toomanybooks, absolutely. There are pros and cons to every program. Find the ones that can work for you and then work all of them to your advantage.

    @MJL, I think all BA members, regardless of where their miles came from, have a right to voice their opinions about the new program. It sounds like these changes have hit your situation especially hard. Let them know!

    @al613, the stopovers did take a hit for sure.

    @thrashsoundly, way to take the best of both. I’m glad you were able to get your dream redemption. I’m looking forward to the next MR bonus as well!

    @kaz, I understand completely. I am many years removed from grad school, but my pesky NYU student loans will be in my life for many years to come. Even a few hundred dollars for a ticket is sometimes too much for my budget, too.

    @Carl, good for you for “living the dream”. Double plus for being able to see the other side of things, too. 😉

    @Derek, sounds like a good plan to me.

    @garipi, I had those same few moments of terror when I did it. So glad that it worked out – your family will have a blast on the trip and now you even have some miles left over. Good job!

    @Ed, way to maximize the program. Sounds like a great trip!

  46. The kids picked last at dodge ball are usually picked last for a reason.

    How could you seriously even consider that losing US-Bali or US-Easter Island is for the better? I am so appalled by this post I don’t think I can read your opinions anymore. So did becoming a mom make you just completely practical and joyless?

    The routes you are talking about go on sale all of the time, and as someone on FT pointed out, what absolute joyless, practical redemptions you suggest. You would still go to the boring cities you recommend without BA miles, but how many of us would ever get to fly a multi-stop Asian tour on CX F or go to IPC without the BA miles??

  47. @Jon, I am certainly not glad that those type of redemptions you reference went away. It is never a good thing when any route gets more expensive. My point is that there are still good uses for Avios points for some travelers – those good uses just might be very different than they were before. You may be dead on with the practical comment, but as far the joyless comment, I can assure you becoming a parent has increases true joy for me many times over whether I am in Dallas or on a multi-stop Asian tour.

  48. Thank you for posting this! I couldn’t agree with you more! I also wrote on my blog about how I was happy with the changes. I am traveling with my husband and 2 kids. We are not going to take first class trips overseas. I have a lot of family that lives in NC that I would like to visit more. With the changes, the cost of the tickets has gone from 25,000 miles to 9,000 miles round-trip! I am fortunate to live close to an American hub. The changes may not be as lucrative for people who don’t.

    I can appreciate that this is not what everyone wants. But for many of us, especially families, these changes can be quite good. And as my kids get older and leave the house, my travel preferences will most likely change. But, even if I want to travel to tropical islands, I can do that more cheaply now too! The cost of trips to Bermuda or the Caribbean have dropped too.

    Keep up the good work! I appreciate a family point of view.

  49. Live near Orlando Florida, I been doing Frequent Flyer Miles since the 80’s, only do domestic travel, lately only fly from MCO to LAS, RNO, LAX, SFO. Just checked on using BA miles to Vegas, what was 75,000 Executive miles for roundtrip first class is now 90,000 Avios points. If I lived in Miami things would be better, but not for the Orlando area.

  50. Update to my post 36 about using miles in a Household account for non-Household members: Cannot be done. I could dissolve the Household account and then use my miles for anyone. Any changes or additions to a HA can only be made once every 6 months, so be careful if you make changes. The Household Account allows pooling of miles between members at the same address. It allows you to create a frequent flyer account for minors under 18 and allows them to earn miles. Without a Household account, minors cannot earn miles. By the way, I love your blog…just discovered it recently through Frugal Travel Guy’s recommendation.

    • @Linda, thanks for the info. Since I don’t utilize the household account option that is news to me. On the one hand household accounts do have obvious benefits, but that is a stinky trade-off if you like booking awards for others who aren’t in your household. Learn something every day! Thanks for reading and for sharing!

  51. @MJL, while I agree that BA should have made the new calculator/chart available earlier, they at least gave plenty of notice that change was coming. Unfortunately, by waiting to book your desired itinerary, you gambled and lost.

  52. Mommy Points – I’m considering canceling a flight due to lessor points required. How do you find out how much you paid in taxes? I paid in points and cash. Would the entire cash be taxes or a portion of it?

    • @Shelia, I am not sure if this method would work with a cash and points cancellation. I would be especially careful since even the way I described is somewhat “outside the lines” of how it is supposed to work. You may want to check out the British Airways section of Flyertalk to get a bit more info before going forward with cancelling your ticket. Let me know what you decide to do!

  53. Hi, I guess I arrived late. What prompted me to write here was Daraius mention of the somewhat unkind responses (Mmm I didn’t read all the responses).

    I want to say that I do support this point of view. I would like to redeem my miles for first class international tickets to exotic locations but I don’t have the time and money to splurge into that kind of trips. And since I live in Venezuela with almost no options to accrue miles, I would not consider burn my hard earned miles in one or two trips unless it would be really a fantastic trip. Again, catch 22, right now I don’t have the time, nor the hotel miles, let alone the money, to plan such a big trip.

    Furthermore, I will move to Canada (Montreal) soon and I have read that tickets to and from Canada are much more expensive than those to and from the US. So Avios miles would become valuable since my wife has family in NY. It seems that it makes sense to exchange, for example, 9000 Avios miles from Montreal to NY that to pay 300+ dollars. Or, to spend 15000 to Chicago, than to burn 20000 or 25000 AA miles (or 500+ dollars). So, it makes sense to me to redeem my saved AA miles for long trips if I find the time and money to stay in exotic and faraway locations and to start accumulating Avios for such short but expensive trips.

    The point is, not everybody has the same goals and this point of view analyses the case from broader perspective, so to speak.

  54. Hi there,

    I agreed with your take on domestic vs int’l, but have not had good luck finding availability on British Airways’ website. They generally show zero availability on common domestic routes (SFO-JFK???), including on partner airlines. Is this done on purpose and I can easily redeem by calling them? Or is their website an accurate representation of partner availability?

    Thank you!

    Will

  55. Just another way Avios can be a great value (HT to Lucky) – I just booked two roundtrips from LAX to Kona (Big Island of Hawai’i) for 50,000 Avios points (and $43.60).

    And since I transferred from AMEX MR (30% bonus), I only needed 39,000 MR points for two roundtrips to Hawai’i!

    Try beating that – American wants 90,000 AAdvantage miles for the very same flights, on the very same days (and it’s a MileSAAver rate)!

    • @KateFromCA, that is a great value! I know people were disappointed about the loss some of the long haul premium redemptions, but there are still some great redemptions to be had!

  56. YVR to NCE in First on BA in 2002: 100,000 + $100
    YVR to NCE in First on BA in 2005: 150,000 + $150
    YVR to NCE in First on BA in 2012: 190,000 + $900 (including an outrageous $720 in fuel surcharge)

    That’s a mile devaluation of close to 100% in 10 years, and a price increase of 900%.

    Additionally, as a former pilot with a major carrier, I can tell you that the fuel surcharge, per passenger and based on the route, covers way more than a full tank of fuel for the aircraft.

    Overall, this could be the worst customer rip off in the history of frequent flyer programs. Our company used to spend over $3M a year on BA flights, and we are so outraged that we are dumping BA altogether. At this point, it is also likely that we will sue BA. Not for the changes in the Avios program, as the terms and conditions allow such changes, but for the “fuel surcharge” that clearly covers more than fuel…

  57. I’ve had around 190,000 miles (AVIOS) to use but they are worth diddle swat. In three years I’ve never been able to use them (No flights available). Let’s look at my last request… PHX to MAD (July) – Out on 14th but no return to August 20th AND… 90,000 plus $500 fees. What a joke. If I go via Travelocity or Expedia = $900. Try using the miles on AA, about 1 seat per flight if you book two month in advance and fly the mid-day flights (when no-one wants to fly). Guess I’ll just waste these AVIOS and switch to Delta. Instead of renaming a crappy program to AVIOS, why not give your customers better support.

  58. Maybe this is a great program for local flights within the US. But this is a big ripoff for international flight especially to the UK. First you can hardly find availability for days. For example, I tried to make areservation using my points to travel to England this July-August. The best I could get are dates that require that I stay almost a month because of non availabilty on the return portion. Besides, I was going to be charged fees and taxes of approximately $900 per person. Similar fees for Delta is about $100 dollars. In addition, the earned companion ticket can only be used on BA and not on Partner airlines. I am definitely going to drop the program once I can figure out a way to use my existing miles.

    • @Kasim, I don’t like it for flights to the UK either. There are some good international uses, but that isn’t one of them for sure.

  59. For Long Distance Flights, BA and its companions in the OneWorld are horrible in comparison to UA and StarAlliance. See below:

    Scenario 1:

    On United Airlines and Star Alliance Partners, BusinessClass Round trip from Vancouver to Taipei:
    120,000 miles
    $117.40 of taxes

    On BA and One World Alliance Partner (CX), Business Class Roundtrip from Vancouver to Taipei:
    138,000 Avios points
    $390.47 of taxes

    So, the mileage requirement is 15% more than UA/Star Alliance, and the taxes are 333% more using BA/One World partners. And if one flew in the Trans-Atlantic direction from YVR to HKG, a roundtrip in business class would be 220,000!

    Moreover, the differences between UA/Star Alliance and BA’s mileage requirements for First class awards is even greater. Please see below:

    Scenarios 2:
    On United Airline and Star Alliance Partners, First Class Roundtrip from JFK to Taipei
    140,000 miles
    $63.40 of taxes

    On BA and One World Alliance Partner (CX), First Class Roundtrip from JFK to Taipei
    237,000 Avios points
    $401.40

    So, an Executive Club reward ticket requires 97,000 points more, which is a difference of 69%! The difference in taxes is $338, which is a 633% difference!

    • Agree that BA’s strength is not long distance flights, in most cases. Use Avios for their strengths and use UA for their strengths.

  60. British Airways frequent flyer program SUCKS. I tried booking a ticket from Chicago to Rome, and they want and extra $650.00 !!! For fuel surcharges they say….BS….Lufthansa does not do this. You might as well pay for a damn ticket and throw your “avios” away, amd I also heard they do this only to American flying out of the USA. SCAM !!!!!

    • @Michael, correct. That is why I advise people to use the program for its strengths – short flights on partner airlines. Fly American or Alaska within the US, or to Canada, the Caribbean, etc and avoid those fees. Using them to fly to London is a very poor return in coach. They are a good value from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus, but again, not on BA. Sorry you had that experience!

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