Unique Benefits to Using Avios For Reward Flights

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I recently wrote about why I used British Airways Avios to book a last minute flight for my aunt to go help out with a family emergency. One of the main reasons I used Avios to book a flight on American Airlines is that there are no last minute booking fees to do so. Many carriers charge you a fee to book an award flight within 21 days or so of departure (including a $75 fee if I had booked her flight on American Airlines using American miles).

However, this is not the only little “secret” of British Airways Avios that makes them a pretty solid tool to have in your miles and points arsenal, even if your travels will never take you on a British Airways flight. You can read about some of my favorite uses for Avios in this previous post, but for now I want to focus on some of the unique qualities of these miles that make them quite handy.

• No close-in booking fees
• No online cancellation fee – just lose the taxes that you paid for the flight which is often $5 – $10 for domestic flights.
• Just a $40 change fee – which is much lower than many other airlines (of course, you could potentially just cancel and rebook for even less)
• Free checked bag, priority access in the airport, and priority boarding on American Airlines (this is not a published benefit anywhere I know, but my family was still getting this “perk” as of last week, though some in the comments report they have not been getting free bags, so YMMV)

Once you book a flight using British Airways Avios on one of their partners such as American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, just take your BA confirmation number and go to www.checkmytrip.com to get the confirmation number that will be recognized by the partner airline. You can then select your seats with that operating airline.  I know some folks like to add their American Airlines frequent flyer number to the reservation as well, which can come with some added benefits for American elite flyers. I have no status with any BA partner, so all I care about is getting a seat assignment in advance.

If some of these extra “perks” sound helpful to you, the easiest way to rack up a respectable Avios balance in a hurry is via one of several credit card sign-up bonuses. British Airways is unique in that it is a transfer partner with both Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) and American Express Membership Rewards (MR). Points can be transferred 1:1 from both MR and UR, but MR occasionally has offered periodic transfer bonuses of up to 50% that can make transferring a pretty lucrative option.  A couple of cards that offer Membership Rewards that can go to British Airways are the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card or the Mercedes Benz Amex Platinum Card.  Some options for Ultimate Reward points that can transfer to British Airways are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card.

Another option right now is to take advantage of the limited time offer for the British Airways Visa Signature (now expired) that offers 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 in the first three months. If you happen to be a heavy user of that card, you can also get 25,000 bonus Avios after you make $10,000 in purchases within the first year of account opening, and an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first year of account opening.  That’s a bunch of Avios, but even if all you do is get the initial 50,000 points, that isn’t too bad for just $1,000 in spending.

Do keep in mind that Avios work differently than some other types of miles as their award chart is distance-based, and using them to fly internationally can result in some very hefty fuel surcharges, depending on where you want to go and on what carrier. Your best uses within the US will be on short- to medium-distance routes where American or Alaska Airlines have direct flights.

Have you taken advantage of some of these unique features of using Avios for some of your travels?

 

Disclosure: Some of the cards mentioned in this post are affiliate links, and I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links.  As always, your support is very much appreciated!

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Comments

  1. Avios can be super amazing value for last minute trips to the Caribbean! They’re actually my favorite way for booking flights to the Caribbean as American Airlines has a good number of direct flights from New York to the islands.

    Last December, I booked two one way flights to Cancun from New York only a few days before the trip. I paid 10,000 Avios miles + $2.50 per ticket (I used JetBlue on the way back, which I needed to get rid of).

    I also try to stash a good amount of Avios in case I end up with a free weekend and want to take a 3-4 hour hop to the beach!

  2. I’m glad Mommy Points is pounding the table on behalf of Avios, I love this program so much. The last-minute no-fee bookings in particular are a great feature and have saved us quite a bit of money in the past.

  3. I just made 3 bookings this weekend and they told me the change fee was $65.

    Then again, I called me 3x to book. First time, the agent said straight up there were no flights that day. Second time, another agent said the return was full. Third time, everything was kosher. I have no idea why this happened.

  4. They are a good program for partner awards, but for BA flight they are horrid. We tried to use our BA miles for two award tickets to Europe in Buseinss, fuel charges were over $1,000. We ended up flying to Hong Kong on Cathay instead at 20% the cost.

  5. I believe you when you say you can get a free checked bag on American, while using Avios. Is that printed somewhere? I never saw it. Folks, another good reason to keep up with what our bloggers are doing!

  6. I’ve been charged bag fees both times I’ve used Avios for American airlines domestic flights. I never realized that they were supposed to be free, maybe I wouldn’t have had to pay for them If I had said something, but the check in Kiosks in Cleveland definitely charge for bags on Avios rewards on American

  7. My aunt flew on Avios on AA last week on a ticket booked last week (she has no status with AA or anyone else) and her bags were free. Same has been true for others I booked for on domestic tickets within the last year, so perhaps it is YMMV, but still working in my neck of the woods.

    It is not a printed benefit that I know of (at least anymore), but has still been working for folks I booked for. Sounds like it doesn’t work for everyone.

  8. Joe, I have much better luck with changing/cancelling these online than having to talk to the BA crew…if that is a possibility for you may be easier next time.

  9. Are you sure that the cancellation fee is $0?

    I recently tried to see if it was better to cancel and rebook again rather than pay to “change” and it turns out that it was the same price and hence easier to just change than cancel and rebook it.

    Can you confirm?

  10. The problem I have had is that AA blocks saver availability on the direct flights I want to take. I wish you could book anytime awards on avois.

  11. @Jeff – That’s right, never use these on BA or even American Airlines flying through Europe. The fuel surcharges eat up the savings you get with miles.

    These are best for short haul flights under 650 miles domestically (4,500 Avios each way), flights to Hawaii from West Coast (12,500 Avios each way), any trips originating in Brazil (no fuel surcharges) and, of course, flights to the Caribbean! From NY, you can get to Grand Cayman for 7,500 Avios on American or to Cancun for 10,000 Avios.

  12. Ideal for flights thru Europe – I just used some on Iberia flights and loved the 2 free bags allowance.
    Try that on an LCC 😉

  13. Thanks for a useful post, indeed redeeming Avios on AA domestic flights can represent excellent value for money. I’d just like to point out:

    “No online cancellation fee – just lose the taxes that you paid for the flight which is often $5 – $10 for domestic flights.”

    Technically there is a cancellation fee – of £25 (or the US $ equivalent, $40 I think) -though if the taxes are less than this amount, as are nearly all AA domestic awards, you just lose the taxes you paid, as you rightly say. Just don’t forget this when you’re booking an award with more expensive taxes!

    Naturally if you’re a BA Gold member (such as certain smart American flyers who were status matched from the old BMI Diamond Club), all cancellation fees are waived. That, and you get to access FlAAgship lounges on domestics too. 🙂

    Regards,

    — Dave.

  14. I currently have both the Citi AA personal amex and visa cards for 16 months and I also have the Citi AA Visa Business card for 9 months now and got the 50k miles bonus.

    I saw another Citi AA business card in mastercard on citi website card called
    CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard with 30k bonus miles offer. Is this a different product than the AA visa business card?
    Can I apply for this one and get the 30k bonus or I won’t get it?
    Should I cancel my AA Visa BIZ first?

  15. I have found Avios miles helpful for last-minute short hop bookings with American. For instance, living in the Midwest, we occasionally will drive to ORD rather than use a regional airport and a connection if the price is right. We had booked a RT flight from ORD last summer because we couldn’t get good redemption value from our closest small, regional airports. At the time, I checked flying in the day before to ORD and out the night after, but it was not available using Avios. At about 3 days out from the trip, I decided to check again. Lo and behold, there was availability for 9,000 miles each to fly in/out of ORD. I waited until the day before to pull the trigger, and the availability was even better with flight options that better suited our needs. This saved us the hassle of parking at ORD in long-term lots, a few hundred dollars in driving costs, and a good 8-10 hours of time, making it feel more “vacation-like”. We had planned to overnight at the Hilton O’Hare anyway on both ends of the trip due to early departure and late return.

  16. Wow! Had no idea about Avios for West Coast to Hawaii. (Which departure cities) (Which cities/islands?) Can you please elaborate on this more? I’m not clear if it is BA metal or award on another carrier. Thanks for providing more details. 🙂

    • You can use BA awards on oneworld carriers, not just BA. I think all BA flights pretty much have to go through London. For example, AA has direct flights from LAX to Honolulu and Maui. You may be able to find others. It’s easiest to just go to AA.com and search for direct flights at SAAver level and then hop over to BA.com and try to book the same award through their search engine.

      I’m sure MommyPoints has a post on this somewhere for booking awards on BA with partners. Maybe she can find it 🙂

  17. Anyone know if I’m Platinum will I be able to get upgraded on an award flight on AA booked with Avios?

  18. I flew on AA using Avios this week and I went 1 for 2 without paying the fee. I was surprised I had PriorityAccess when I checked in and found this post. I don’t have status on BA or AA, or a credit card that waives the fee, so I thought I’d see what happened. On my departure I went to the skycap and he was going to charge me. I said, “Hmmm, I have PriorityAccess on my boarding card right?” He agreed and was perplexed and said he just wouldn’t charge me. $25 saved. I figured I could reason with a human as opposed to a kiosk, especially a human looking for a tip. On my return there was no skycap so I went to the counter and she wanted the $25 again. I was tired and watching a toddler so I didn’t feel like arguing over it so I just paid it. I might have been able to get out of it but oh well.

  19. I’m trying to get six of us to Hawaii next year as cheaply as possible. Hopefully Mommypoints is still monitoring these comments. I have a few questions. First, if I obtain the American Platinum Visa card that allows for the first checked bag free for you and up to four others, and book AA flights using Avios, will I be able to use the American Airlines credit card luggage benefit so that up to five checked bags will be free?
    Second, I’m still confused about how much Avios is needed under a scenario where the routing takes you through one of more cities. For example, SAN-LAX-HNL. Are you still able to get away with only the 12,500 avios each way (assuming supersaaver availablity) or is this only available for nonstop flights?

  20. I am trying to figure out whether or not I should apply the BA Chase card with a reward of 50k pts. I did some search on the date (actually I searched quite a lot of dates and even in different travel classes) I want to fly out, the system shows that no flights are available on my schedule. In this case, if the system shows no results, will there by any difference or extra seats avaialable if I try to call the BA ticketing office (I only use the pts for US domestic travel)

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