Five Great Uses of British Airways Avios

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Note that some of the transfer ratios and mileage costs have changed since this post was published. 

We all have our favorite types of airline miles. They become our favorites because they are pretty easy to earn, they offer a comparatively good value for where we want to go, or maybe we are just used to using them and comfortable with the program. For many years now, one of my personal favorite types of miles has been British Airways Avios. That may come as a surprise to some given that Avios have a bad rap due to the fuel surcharges often associated with using them to cross the Atlantic, but they are also still pretty darn valuable for my family via some strategic uses of their distance based award chart.

50% Transfer Bonus to Membership Rewards Through 10/10/2016

Because the American Express Membership Rewards program and cards like The Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card and The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN are offering a limited time 50% bonus on points transferred from Membership Rewards to the British Airways Avios program through 10/10/2016, I wanted to offer a quick refresher on five of my favorite ways to use Avios, in case one or more of these ways aligns with your travel goals.

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Award Flights up to 1,151 miles in distance for Just 7,500 Avios

Within North America, Avios fueled award flights no longer start at 4,500 Avios each way as they did in the past, but you can still get huge value out of flights up to 1,151 miles in distance for just 7,500 Avios. In and around the US you can fly on British Airways partners like American Airlines and Alaska Airlines on routes such as Miami – St. Thomas or Dallas – Las Vegas for just 7,500 Avios and $5 in taxes/fees. That is a fan-tas-tic deal, especially considering there are no close-in booking fees when using Avios.

Flights Within Europe From 4,000 Avios + $24.50

If you want to hop around Europe using Avios you can do so from just 4,000 Avios + $24.50 for an award flight, which can be a great deal at times, and is pretty much never a bad deal. Below is an example of a flight from London – Dublin, but a longer flights such as London – Rome will price starting at the same amount.

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West Coast – Hawaii for 12,500 Avios

Even though I’ve never used this redemption myself, the ability to fly nonstop from the West Coast (and as far east as Phoenix) to Hawaii for just 12,500 Avios each way on partners American or Alaska, has a special spot in my Hawaii loving heart.

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Most US based programs charge 12,500 miles just to fly within the lower 48, so stretching that all way to Hawaii for flights up to 3,000 miles in distance is pretty incredible in my eyes.

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Flight to London on British Airways From 13,000 Avios + $286

You can fly on off-peak dates to London in economy from just 13,000 Avios + $286 from the closest US cities such as Boston. Since there are no close-in booking fees, you can leave as early as the 10:40PM flight tonight for that same price if you are so inclined and enjoy afternoon tea in London by tomorrow. I think that is a very solid overall deal even if there is a cash component to the cost.

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Fly Aer Lingus Business Class to Europe from 37,500 Avios

To piggyback on the closest US airport to Europe in the Boston example, you can fly from Boston to Dublin in Aer Lingus business class for just 37,500 Avios + a much smaller amount of taxes/fees than actually flying British Airways and paying their fuel surcharges. Economy flights will run you 12,500 Avios + taxes/fees on that same route. You do need to call British Airways to book Aer Lingus operated award flights.

Baby S likes British Airways!

With the limited time 50% transfer bonus from Amex Membership Rewards to the British Airways Avios program, the normal 250 Membership Rewards = 200 British Airways Avios ratio gets bumped up to a 250 Membership Rewards = 300 British Airways Avios ratio. To put it another way, each Membership Reward points becomes roughly 1.2 Avios in the conversion with the 50% transfer bonus factored in. That may not sound amazing, but it isn’t bad if you are making use of one of the five great uses of Avios I mentioned above. It makes flying nonstop from Phoenix – Honolulu or Boston – Dublin just 10,417 Membership Reward points each way + taxes/fees.

Do you plan to take advantage of the 50% transfer bonus? What are your favorite uses of British Airways Avios for your family?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Not sure why all the bloggers continue to push for avios redemption with AA – there are simply very few saver fares these days. In fact a few weeks ago there were saver fares On Alaska from SEA to LIH, but BA did not have access to them. So I am sitting on 100k in BA points, almost a year out on planning a hawaii trip and not a single saver available on AA to use them.

    • Totally agree that AA saver availability has taken a hit over what it was a couple of years ago. It is still there, but agree you need to book out in advance and/or have flexibility. You can use the PHX – HNL flight I put in the post. 😉

  2. In that past, when I’ve booked AA flights with Avios, I get Priority Boarding. Not sure how far this goes with the different options mentioned but this was a nice little perk pre-status.

  3. Thanks for this refresher. I have been sitting on the sidelines on this transfer promo. Interested in your thoughts on my situation.

    I’m based in New Orleans and am generally building MR points for 2017 and 2018 business class seats from here to Europe with spouse, probably. But I often see some of the amazing deals for economy fares from bigger markets to Europe. Wondering if I should move enough MR points to Avios for possible positioning purposes in case I jump on a cheap longhaul fare for a solo adventure.

    American only has a handful of domestic nonstop flights from New Orleans and that are 1,151 miles or less for one segment (ORD, MIA, CLT, PHI, DFW), but those do include some of the airports where the crazy fares originate.

    I have zero Avios at present. Wondering if I should speculatively transfer enough to Avios under this transfer bonus to handle a RT to one of those markets. In my dreams there will be a MR to Skymiles bonus soon, but I could spare a few MR points for now.

    Enjoy your blog.

    • I can’t remember a recent skymiles bonus, though that would be nice. I like having some points in various programs. I think having enough for the 7,500 Avios flights isn’t a bad strategy.

  4. Nope, not one AA Saver PHX-HNL next summer for our family of four The ENTIRE summer. Only one date avail for one ticket — one! — sometime in July, and just on the outbound. We were able to use Avios one time four years ago but we are pretty much done with Avios now. It’s very disappointing.

  5. I do like BA 4500 redemption for under 650 miles outside of the US. Pretty good to connect itineraries and jumping short distances. Has helped me out in South American on LATAM going from Lima to Cuzco and HK to Taiwan on Cathy.

  6. Hi

    I use miles (in any program) in general only for one ways. As i nest many ogher low prices tickets together and sometimes miss a leg. Used avios half year ago on europe to asia route (airberlin and qatar). Especially airberlin had very low tax on their AUH-Berlin route. I only book bizz.

  7. I used to use avios a lot for domestic flights, but have not searched much recently. But I am still finding them useful internationally. We used them in Australia last summer, Chile over spring break, and are using them this winter break in Southeast Asia. We are even using them for the Cathay Pacific flight for business class back to New York returning on precisely the day that works for our high school student. Yes, the later is a crazy amount of miles, but it is worth it for us, because we really wanted a flat bed. We couldn’t take the chance on waiting until the American calendar opened for Cathay Pacific. We will probably be using them this spring break to fly within Europe and from Europe to Morrocco. So thanks for the reminder, we will probably transfer even though my husband and I just earned 100,000 each from the BA Chase card.

  8. We have found Avios to be completely useless this past year–there is never any availability from CVG or CMH to any destination we search…seems very suspicious to me. Avios used to be a great program but thinking of closing our BA cards now.

    • search on AA.com for availability; focus on direct flights. some redemptions (e.g. CMH_LAX for 10k ea.way) may make sense since cash tickets are usually pretty expensive.

  9. I wanted to add my situation as a second data point.

    Called last month and this month to British airways to get a quote ( in Avios ) for a July 2017 Hawaii trip using American or Alaskan airline flights to Maui or Honolulu.

    Was very flexible for starting destination and starting date.

    Was told no Avios seats were available at all and to try each month to see if the situation changes.

    May have to skip the 50% Amex to BA transfer this time around.

    Hope this helps others.
    Looking forward to any input.

  10. We considered the Amex-BA transfer, but it just doesn’t seem worth it. If we ever need BA Avios, we ALWAYS can transfer in Chase URs at 1:1. If you need BA Avios RIGHT NOW, I can see it; but otherwise, I don’t.

    AA availability for saver awards has become so atrocious on most routes as to be unworthy of consideration in most cases. Either you want to use BA Avios for Qatar or Cathay or JAL or Qantas (so hard to redeem), or there is no reason to bother.

  11. Saaver availability is not what it once was, but as a DFW based flyer there can be some screaming deals. As always, diversification of balances is key and I have in the past made some speculative transfers of BA (or Iberia) points when Amex MR has had good bonuses. Just last night I booked non-stop DFW-EGE (Vail) for 15k Avios + $11 round-trip as opposed to a $486 cash fare. That’s ~ $0.032 per Avios or $0.038 per MR point given the current transfer bonus. Not the best redemption in the world, but fit my travel plans and thus was a solid choice in my opinion.

  12. Another great use of Avios, Iberia MIA-MAD on brand new A330 .85k miles roundtrip plus around $165.00 in taxes.Great availability also.Most days had at least 2 open business class seats.I booked this award 5 days ago.

  13. Agree that AA Saver Award availability is almost non-existent – especially on Thursday/Fridays with returns on Sunday/Monday. At least out of ORD. I once had a stash of 150K Avios – used some for short-haul on AA a couple of years ago. Finally, in August I was able to use the rest to book ORD-DUB for my wife and I in economy. It took 3 phone calls and over 3 hours on the phone with BA agents, but we have confirmed tickets for 80K Avios and about $220. Great value, but I am completely done with Avios (and Membership Rewards).

  14. Avios has is moments. Booked 2 R/Ts PHL-CUN with 40,000 Avios and ~$180. The cash option was $960 for the pair at the time of booking. Almost 2c/Avios, not inclusive of the AA miles otherwise earned on a cash flight. Not the best, but not the worst. Too bad WaWa stopped allowing $500 VGC purchases with CCs. Amex everyday preferred was giving 3x. 1,515 MRs for $4.95 + 69c MO. Total of $124 to MS 33.3k MRs. Total outlay of ~$304 for $960….deal.

  15. To echo others on this thread, AA availability has completely gone down the tubes in the past year, particularly biz/first on longer routes.

    For NYC-LAX routes, there used to be 1-2 biz/first tickets on at least half of the days outside of prime holiday or summer times if booking months ahead. Now, you’re lucky to see 1 such ticket on 1 day a month. United availability has similarly fallen off a cliff.

    Not sure why bloggers aren’t talking about this more – makes the miles worth ~1 cent a piece if the best you can do is 12.5k for one-way domestic economy flights that you could otherwise buy for ~$300 or less.

  16. How is the Boston to London one way for $286 plus 13000 avios a “solid overall deal”. A quick google flight search (Bos – LGW) finds round trips on Norwegian (direct flight) to be $491 and WOW round trip to be $530! Both less than the cash portion you quote and you aren’t giving up 26,000 avios for the round trip. Do you even do your homework or just shamelessly put this trash out to push your credit card commissions?

    • No need to be rude. Not all dates are that cheap on wow or Norwegian. (Sone are crazy cheap though). Some will pay more factoring fees. Not everyone wants to connect in Iceland on wow. I do think 13k miles + $286 is a solid deal to London – especially with no close-in penalties. Best ever? Probably not. Still solid though. What are your favorite uses on Avios?

    • BA is a “full service” airline with semi comfortable seats, bags, drinks and food included not a bucket, nickel and dime airline unlike Wow and Norwegian, where you might need a vacation after flying them. Hey Fathiss or Fatass whatever your name is, do you do your homework or just shamelessly troll nice people? (whose work you read for free)

  17. I too have serious concerns about the lack of availability on American. I see my AA balance barely moving, while I spend my MileagePlus miles as quickly as I accumulate them. I have had some success transferring Avios to Iberia, then using them for flights. The surcharges are much less ridiculous than BA has.

  18. Good reminder post. I have had great success this past week booking a family of four to Ireland from Boston for next summer. Will be using Avios for a side trip to London. And last summer we flew to Hawaii from the West Coast on Alaska. (Got the $100 first class upgrade. ). No argument here on the value of Avios!

  19. Your last section really clarified the biggest issue: the “50% bonus” isn’t really that at all, for those of us who are used to a 1:1 transfer. Since MR-BA transfers have been devalued, it’s only a “20% bonus” to many of us. As you say, 1000 MR transfer only as 1200 BA Avios. That’s 20% bonus to us 1:1 purists.

      • You think 1:1 is gone for MR overall or just Avios? I’m starting to question why I’m paying for Amex platinum every year. I hate that they charge you to transfer points too.
        If I close the Amex platinum do I lose all my MR points?

        • So I love the Amex Platinum, but I love it for its built-in travel perks and not for its point earning powers. There are better Amex cards for that like the EveryDay Preferred that just has a $95 annual fee. If you don’t get a bunch of value from the Amex Plat’s travel perks then you may do better with the Amex EveryDay Preferred. If you got that card and then cancelled the Plat your MR points would be safe. There is also a no annual fee version. And I think 1:1 is specifically a thing of the past for Avios, not for all MR partners.

  20. Fathiss should have been more courteous, but he’s got a solid point on the merits of the example. Those high “because we can rip you off” surcharges on “awards” are almost always a subpar use of Avios. You can get Boston/London round trips for $500-$750 most of the year in economy as a cash purchase, usually with such carriers as Delta, American and Virgin Atlantic, as well as the discounters. Norwegian is a fine airline, by the way. I haven’t yet flown Wow, but would love to.

    $572 plus 26,000 Avios rt Boston/London is not a deal unless you really must go on a specific date when seats are super expensive but award seats are available. To get 1.5 cents value out of an Avios (and often you can really do a lot better than that), you’d need to be looking at a cash price of close to $1,000 before it’s worth it. BA across the Atlantic is, in my opinion, almost never a good choice for economy.

    • Well, we used Avios in that way this summer as we were date strapped (and there is no low cost carrier from Houston), so I truly do think it is a solid deal. Boston is unique in that there are low cost carrier to choose from as well, but I was happy with using our Avios in that manner precisely because we were date strapped and their availability is generally very good. I also hope to fly Norwegian and WOW, but their existence doesn’t negate the value that a relatively fixed price award available on a full service airline on a variety of dates provides…though of course others can and should have their own favorite uses. 😉

  21. I have not read all of the comments, but here’s my suggestion. Transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards to BA using the bonus. Then transfer your BA Avios to Iberia. Right now you can on certain flights get a business class seat from New York to Madrid for 34,000 Avios plus $89. That is a great deal especially if you want to get from the US to European continent in business without having the outrageous BA fuel charges. In fact, on those same flights you can fly in the Blue level for 17,000—so 34,000 total Avios for ROUNDTRIP to Europe. I don’t know what the Blue level is but I suspect it is coach without having to get to pick your seat or perhaps a fee for luggage. At any rate, using Avios on Iberia can be a bonus.

  22. I’ve used Avios and American Airlines points to go to South America in business for a family of four during the holidays. I plan to do the same for December 2017. I hope availability is decent though.

  23. i want to get the BA card as my daughter inlaw tells me that is the cheapest points for flying from our home to hers. pdx-boi. i am just starting out on this points journey. please direct or instruct me on where to go to find out if seats are available using the avios points. i need to do a hawaii trip next summer and also have the boise trip everyother month.

    • Good news…that route looks to still have very good availability. Hawaii is a different story in the summer, but PDX – BOI had lots of options when I just checked. The best way to check is to actually use the American Airlines website and search for your dates there. You will want to select the “use miles” button on the American Airlines homepage. Then, look for the Alaska operated nonstops available for 12,500 American miles. You aren’t going to book using American miles, but just look for them on that site as the British Airways site does not display the Alaska operated options. Then….here’s the bad part….you have to call British Airways at 1-800-452-1201 to book over the phone. Give them the dates/flight numbers you found on Alaska via the American site. Ask them to waive the booking fee since you can’t do this on their website.

  24. As per usual, very informative.
    I’m a newbie at this, and wondering if this is a good deal for my situation. You say 12.5K to Hawaii from the wast coast (I’m in SF Bay Area.) We’re looking to go to Hawaii for our anniversary next summer., but would like to fly first class. Can you get first class via the MR->Avios method? We’ve flown Alaska and used their same day upgrade, but we usually miss out on one way or the other (coming or going). We have 100K+ MR and will soon have the Chase Sapphire Reserve 100K. There is also a offer to go with JetBlue I believe which I heard was supposed to give Alaska MVP Gold, but believe that may not be true. Anyway, any advice (by anyone) would be appreciated.

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