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The Complete Guide to British Airways Avios

The Complete Guide to British Airways Avios


Introduction to British Airways Avios

British Airways miles, known as Avios, are some of the easiest frequent flyer miles to earn. British Airways Avios can also be extremely valuable, yet, they are fairly complicated.
 

In this guide we’ll go over:

  • Earning British Airways Avios
  • Avoiding British Airways fuel surcharges
  • Searching for and booking flights as well as the tools that help in this process
  • Tricks to minimize the price in points
  • Tips for the best use of Avios


  • Earning British Airways Avios

    Credit Cards


    As I said, Avios are arguably the easiest frequent flyer miles to earn. You can earn in the following ways…
     

  • The British Airways credit card by Chase.
  • Transfer 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
    via the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold/Ink Plus
  • Transfer 1:1 from American Express Membership Rewards Points
    via the American Express Platinum cards (personal or business)
    or the American Express Gold cards (personal or business)
  • Transfer 1:1 (or 20,000:25,000) from Starwood SPG, via the SPG card
  •  

    The British Airways credit card is usually at a 50,000 Avios bonus, however, once a year for the last 3 years the bonus goes up. Typically the bonus goes to 100,000 Avios but the spend requirement for the second 50,000 Avios goes up a ton. Thus, many people don’t actually get to earn the other 50,000 Avios.
     
    Between the BA card and Amex transfers, you may end up with enough Avios in your account. And many advise against transferring from SPG to BA because SPG is one of the only ways to transfer to many airlines, including AA. Save those SPG points for something harder to get, and likely more valuable.
     

    Flying

     
    Of course, you can always earn miles via paid flights. Most “cheap” flights are discount economy, which often earns less than ordinary economy. But here is a list to help you know which discount economy flights can earn British Airways Avios.
     
    Here are the airlines you can fly with to earn 100% miles for discount economy.
     
    100% miles for discount economy:
     

  • British Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Iberia
  • US Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  •  
    Here are airlines that earn partial credit, listed with the percent earned for discount economy (or the various types of discount economy in some cases):
     

  • JAL = 30%, 50%, 70%
  • TAM = 50%, 75%
  • Malaysian Airlines = 25%, 50%
  • Qatar = 30%, 50%, 75%
  • Sri Lankan = 30%, 50%, 75%
  •  
    Here are airlines that only earn 25% of miles flown:
     

  • Air Berlin
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • LAN
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • Aer Lingus
  •  
    These partial credits describe what you’ll earn when crediting miles flown on these airlines to British Airways Avios. You can still earn 100% credit towards the airline’s own program, and many of their partners.
     


    British Airways Fuel Surcharges

     

    The biggest downside of using British Airways’ Avios (points) are the fuel surcharges that get passed on when redeeming Avios for flights. Ironically, redeeming Avios to fly British Airways (instead of a partner) can accrue some of the highest fuel surcharges.
     
    To avoid high fuel surcharges, consider this. When you redeem BA Avios, you can book on partners who don’t have fuel surcharges to pass on.
     
    Partners that accrue no fuel surcharge:

     

  • Air Berlin
  • American Airlines within North America
  • LAN
  • US Airways
  •  
    Other options:
     

  • Aer Lingus, is a Dublin based airline that has a few flights to the US and little fuel surcharges.
  • Iberia, has now merged with BA and when you transfer to Iberia Plus and then use your miles, you accrue less fuel surcharges.
  •  
    This unfortunately doesn’t cover the entire globe.
     

     
    For getting to Europe, Air Berlin and US Airways have great options. We’ve flown a number of times on Air Berlin using Avios or AA miles, and they never have fuel surcharges.
     

     
    For getting around North America, American Airlines and US Airways provide a ton of options.
     

     
    For getting to South America, LAN, AA and US Airways provide a number of options, all without fuel surcharges.
     

     
    For getting to Asia, Cathay does have fuel surcharges, but they are a lot less than British Airways’ own fuel surcharges.
     
     
    Flights domestically within a region often don’t have fuel surcharges. Like AA does normally have fuel surcharges, but not within the Americas. Similarly, flights on BA within Europe tend not to have fuel surcharges.
     

     
    Flights to Australia (on Qantas) are inevitably expensive. But using Avios for flights within Australia (on Qantas) are without fuel surcharges. Same with Malaysian and Cathay within Asia.
     
    In general, try to book on the airlines listed above in order to avoid fees that are sky high.


    Searching for Flights

     
    BritishAirways.com has one of the most complete search engines in the OneWorld Alliances in terms of the number of airlines it searches.
     
    Every airline in OneWorld can be searched for on BritishAirways.com, except for: Royal Jordanian, and S7.
     
    Finding and booking flights online
     
    1.) Log on to BritishAirways.com

    2.) Once you’ve arrived to the Executive Club page, click on “Spending Avios” and then “Book flights with Avios”.

    3.) There, you’ll be able to plug in your flight details and click “Search”.
     
    The problem with BA’s search engine is that it’s rather limited in the results it shows. It may be possible to book more flights than the website shows and often it will force you to route through London to fly on BA, resulting in fuel surcharges and the LHR airport tax.
     
    The other problem is that British Airways doesn’t really like to properly show connections. For example, I went to book a flight on Cathay from Bangkok to New York via Hong Kong. Now when I searched Bangkok to Hong Kong on its own search, it found award space. When I looked for Hong Kong to New York, on its own search, it also found award space. But when I looked for flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong it showed no results, because for whatever reason, it was unwilling to make the connection for me.
     
    Therefore, don’t count on British Airways to find or show your route with connections and try searching in oneways.
     
    If you’re unsure what routes are flown try looking at the OneWorld Route Map.
     
    Or to get other ideas for route options, or to just search for OneWorld award seats, try using expertflyer or Qantas’ search engine. They may come up with different routes or more availability in general.
     
    Another perfectly fine option is to call and let the booking agents search for you. Although, you’ll likely find it quicker and easier if you know how to do it yourself.
     


    Booking Flights

     
    Flights can be booked online for the airlines that show up on BritishAirways.com’s award search engine. If the flight is not listed, you need to call.

     
    1-800-452-1201
     
    Fees
     

  • Booking online = $0
  • Booking over the phone = $25
  • Date/time changes = $55
  • Cancellation/Avios redeposit = $55
  • Additional Service Centre fee for date/time changes, cancellation and Avios redeposit = $25
  •  

    British Airways Award Prices

     

    Pricing Out Award Tickets

     
    When looking at award prices for your route, know that the business class price will simply be double the economy price and first class will simply be triple the economy price. That part is pretty simple.
     


     
    The pricing system for BA Avios confuses people more than any other rewards program, but it’s actually quite simple.
     
    You pay per segment and it’s priced by distance flown.
     
    This is mostly confusing for two reasons. First, because many other airlines that have distance based programs price their tickets based on total miles flown. But instead of being like the other distance based airlines and adding up the distance of everything you fly, each price is instead calculated by each segment.
     
    Secondly, most people don’t know what the distance of a flight would be, and thus don’t know how to calculate the price.
     

    Tools to help

     
    Here are some tools you need to calculate the price.
     
    1.) GCMap.com

     
    Once you’ve found award seats on Qantas or ExpertFlyer, you’ll need to figure out how far the flight would be to calculate the price in Avios.
     
    Take the route you found availability for, or just speculate a route based on the OneWorld Route Map, then use the GCmap calculator to figure out how many miles would actually be flown. In other words, how many butt-in-the-seat miles would each segment be.
     
    Then take the total amount of flown miles and compare it to the award chart above.
     
    Note that when you’re entering a route into the calculator, you will be using airport codes and dashes.
     
    For example, JFK – LAX (New York to Los Angeles). Based on the calculator’s results that would be 2,475 flown miles and would therefore be 12,500 British Airways Avios for an award ticket.
     

     
    However, this is the long but thorough way of searching. If you want short cuts, there are other tools.
     
    2) Wandr.me’s Avios Calculator
     
    Just type in your airport codes and this tool will tell you what the cheapest connection is. However, it has one major flaw – it only shows one connection. In other words, it will only show two flight segments at a time.
     
    This makes the tool incredibly useless for some flights. For instance out of my hometown of Charlottesville, there are no international flights, and thus, there has to be a connection in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, or Charlotte. But the real question is, what’s the cheapest connection for my international flight, and you’d never know with this tool, because it only will show the domestic connection.
     
    For some flights it’s really useful and for some, it’s not at all.
     
    3) British Airways’ Avios Calculator
     
    This is a painfully incomplete tool and therefore it doesn’t show routes, or often picks the longer of two routes. I would rather use the longer manual methods than trust this tool.
     

    Pricing Loophole

     
    You may notice on the award chart that that half way prices are often less than half. For example a flight that goes 3,000 flown miles would price out at 12,500 Avios, but a flight that is 6,000 flown miles would be 30,000 miles. In other words, you would save Avios if you stopped half way.
     

    Tricks to save Avios


     
    I actually wrote an entire series on this topic, but I’ll sum up a few teaser points here. Follow this link for your own further investigation on tricks to save Avios.
     
    Here’s a taste of what you can learn…
     
    The Hawaiian way to Sydney for 37,500 instead of 50,000.
     

  • LAX – HNL = 12,500
  • HNL – SYD = 25,000
  •  
    Instead of going from Miami to Santiago (or Buenos Aires) direct for 25,000 Avios, try taking a stopover in Equador. Either GYE or OIU (despite the high airport taxes).
     

  • MIA – UIO = 10,000
  • UIO – SCL = 12,500
  •  
    The best deal here has to be Boston to Dublin for 12,500 Avios.
     
    You can actually take advantage of this even if you don’t live in Boston. For example, from Seattle it would normally cost 32,500 Avios to route through NYC but instead:
     

  • SEA – BOS = 12,500
  • BOS – DUB = 12,500
  •  
    This actually continues on in a number of ways as you can then fly Aer Lingus (which is based out of Dublin) to different places in Europe, like Moscow and Helsinki, to save Avios for your final destination.
     
    From Vancouver it’s cheaper to route through Hong Kong to get to India.
     
    Plus I’d rather fly Cathay than JAL, if even to avoid fuel surcharges and sea urchins for lunch.
     

  • YVR – HKG = 30,000
  • HKG – BOM = 12,500
  •  

    Transferring to Iberia

     

     
    Iberia is a Spanish airline that has merged with British Airways, but still maintains its own identity as well. Basically Iberia and British Airways are still essentially two different programs, but they both earn “Avios”, which can be combined, transferred, etc. This can be part of a strategy for avoiding fuel surcharges because Iberia includes generally lower fuel surcharges than British Airways.
     
    For instance if you use British Airways Avios to book an Iberia flight, you may have higher fees than if you transfer those Avios to your Iberia Plus Avios first, and then book the flight with Iberia.
     

     
    The difference can be hundreds of dollars in some cases, for instance flights from the US to Western Europe could be hundreds of dollars more in fuel surcharges if you book on Iberia with British Airways Avios instead of with Iberia Avios.
     
    There are some stipulations for transferring however.
     
    Your Ibeiria account must be at least 90 days old.
    You must have had some kind of activity in your Iberia account. (For instance if you transfer Amex MR points into the account or earn in some other fashion.)
     
    Once these stipulations are satisfied, you can sign onto your British Airways membership account and click on “Combine Avios.” Transfers should be instantaneous, though disparities between the personal information on your two accounts may cause some issues in the transfer process.
     

    Conclusion & Best Uses


    Although I never use my Avios on most OneWorld airlines because of the fuel surcharges that get passed on, BA Avios still end up being some of my most used frequent flyer currencies. For flights to Asia and Australia I use other programs, but they are particularly great for short haul flights.

    In general, most airlines start their awards around 12,500 miles for an award flight, but Avios start at 4,500 for a redemption. This is unbeatable. Plus, many airlines that have fuel surcharges on long-hauls don’t on short regional flights.
     
    This is maybe one of the biggest wins, especially when the other short options are expensive and you can get a flight for 4,500 Avios, like short flights within Europe or the US.
     
    Specifically, here are some of the Best Uses of Avios:
     

  • Boston to Dublin = 12,500 Avios (on Aer Lingus)
  • Miami to Cancun, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Turks & Caicos, etc.. = 4,500 Avios
  • West coast to Hawaii = 12,500
  • LA to Tokyo = 25,000 Avios
  • East coast to many places in Europe = 25,000
  • -like Charlotte to London

    -like New York to Dusseldorf

    -like Philadelphia to Paris

     
    Some of these prices are way better than other airlines, and what’s better is that Avios are easier to earn as there are so many credit cards that transfer to BA Avios. Furthermore, there are no “close-in” fees, meaning that you can book last minute flights for no extra cost.
     
    It’s hard to rank Avios or compare to other airlines, as their pricing and restrictions are very different than any other airlines. The good is very good (a flight to the Caribbean for 4,500 Avios) and the bad is very bad (flights to India sometimes for 50,000+ and a ton of fuel surcharges). But if you know what you’re doing, your British Airways Avios can always be used for the very good.
     

    Related Posts:

    35 Comments

    1. Love these posts. Very informative.

      I’ve never been charged the phone booking fee when using Avios on Alaska Airlines flights. I don’t ask and they never mention it. Presumably, they know I’m calling in because I can’t book online.

      Reply
      • I’ve actually had my change fee not charged. I made it a point to be friendly, maybe that helped. :-p But yea, maybe it’s because you can’t book online.

        Reply
    2. I think Lima – Easter Island is not valid anymore.

      Reply
      • Thanks. Remember reading that now.

        Reply
    3. JAL for domestic Japanese flights have no fuel surcharges and can be great value with Avios. Can only book Y, but you can upgrade (if seats are available) at check in to “business” class to get a bigger seat for only 1000 yen ($10). Many domestic flights to obscure airports like Memanbetsu in Hokkaido are served by wide body 767 or 777 and other routes are served by 737 or even 787 dreamliners. They even flew domestic 747s until recently.

      Reply
      • I’ve never hopped Japan, but what little time I did spent there would make me think any redemption is a good redemption there, based on how expensive everything is. I would use 4,500 avios to get to downtown tokyo from the airports! 😀

        Reply
    4. Yep I think K is right and you can only go from Santiago to Easter island now. Also, US east coast to western europe is 20k not 25k (under 4000 miles).

      It’s also worth pointing out that Boston-Shannon is only 12.5k as well, if people want to go to the west of Ireland or if there isn’t availability to Dublin.

      Reply
      • Thanks Joe. Great comments.
        Drew

        Reply
    5. Very good post. One thing that you did miss is that Alaska is also BA partner and can be very useful. You can get some good deals on shorter routes and to Hawaii out of west coast. My favorite way to use Avios is fly SEA – LAX on 7500 miles one way. Also, the agent will usually waive the booking fee if you tell them you cannot book the flight on the BA site.

      Reply
      • Thanks Rob. I may go back and include Alaska info.
        Drew

        Reply
    6. EXCELLENT post. Please never become a credit card shill and instead continue to actually post content that matters. Thanks for being a blogger that actually cares about the miles/points game and not a credit card blog.

      Reply
      • Well, given on the next post I’m slammed for being a credit card shill, I might as well get the pay for it if I’m blamed for it. :-p
        My goal is to produce content I would read. Unfortunately my instincts aren’t profitable, so I get the appeal of selling out.

        But for real, thanks for the positive feedback. It’s good feedback on these posts that make them worth the time!
        Drew

        Reply
    7. thanks Drew, say hi to Carrie for me.

      Reply
      • Seeing as she saw this comment first… she told me that you told me to tell her hi.

        Reply
    8. Awesome, awesome series. I’d even go as far as printing these out and making a nice binder out of them. Keep up the great work!!

      Reply
      • Thanks! Plan on having more soon.

        Reply
    9. Great post. I think another of the really good redemptions at least for someone like myself who doesn’t live in a major hub (CVG). So I can use 4500 Avios to position myself in places like JFK, ORD or now CLT and PHL

      Reply
      • True. And nowadays even those short flights are expensive. What’s funny is I may have to do the same thing to get to an airport with southwest, as CHO doesn’t have it.

        Reply
    10. Great post and great timing for me since I am about to use Avios to book a Maui trip. Like this minute!

      Re: Cancellations, I have seen elsewhere that if the taxes on a flight are under $40, and you cancel, you forfeit the $2.50 fee you paid and get all your Avios back. It is one of the reasons I will book my Alaska flights to Hawaii using Avios.

      Also, searching for Hawaii flights from the west coast is easiest using the AA website. So I am about to book Alaska flights using BA Avios having first searched on AA and then double-checked on AS. Ah, travel hacking!

      Reply
    11. Just a little more on fees. I just booked a Hawaii trip from the west coast and I paid $2.50 for the outbound nonstop, but $13.00 for the return, which had one connection. Apparently the fees were higher because, as the BA rep said, it was “indirect” and it was “coded differently.” The rep initially warned me about a $25 telephone booking fee, but when I said I could not book it online and was told to call in, she did not charge me.

      I booked two one ways, since that will be easier should I need to change or cancel anything.

      In less than a half hour, I moved UR points to BA, called BA, booked the tickets, and got seats. So I have myself a free flight to Hawaii – my Arrivals points will cover the fees – not too shabby!

      Thanks, Drew!

      Reply
    12. Hi, thanks for this great post! You listed some good deals from the East Coast to Europe. Do you happen to know of any from DCA or IAD or BWI to Europe for 25,000 Avios?
      Also, is it just me or does it seem impossible to find availability on any Aer Lingus award flight to Dublin?

      Reply
    13. Great post. I’ll definitely check back next time I’m using Avios. One minor note, which may be relevant to “W”…. You say all one world availability except S7 and Royal Jordanian shows online, which is true, but this leaves out the fact that many non-alliance partners’ availability does not show online, like Aer Lingus. Perhaps you mentioned this elsewhere, but I went back and re-read and didn’t find it.

      Reply
    14. Hey Drew, I’m very new to all this frequent flyer concept. Myself (from UK) and partner (from US) are flying US Airways GLA -PHI-PHX-GEG Return. And Alaska Airlines GEG -PHX-LAS return whilst in USA and we have just opened our BA Exec/ Avios account…. In the UK it seems the best credit/ debit card to use is Tesco (no annual fee ) BA amex is £150 annually but you do get 18000 miles and companion ticket ( only on BA UK return flights) spending £10k . Although our US airways are economy discount, I think we will get 100% redption. Hopefully after our trip and using our Tesco cards we can start travelling more using Avios. I will keep you posted. This is one of the best threads I’ve read . Any more info on UK ways to earn Avios and get cheap flights would be gratefully appreciated. Happy flying!!!!

      Reply
    15. I love the style of posting! Some of my favorite award redemption that I’ve managed to leverage on BA would have to be SJC-HNL = 12,500 one way on Alaska, SFO-LAX = 4,500 one way, and my personal favorite hidden-gem route. That I just recently found out after visiting family in Santa Rosa, STS-SEA = 4,500 one-way on Alaska Air. Normally, SFO-SEA would take 7,500 one way. It’s only another hour drive away from San Francisco but well worth 3,000 avios as that’s almost good enough for another 1 way trip to LA/Seattle, a round-trip savings would get you there.

      Reply
    16. Just found your site, WOW !! It is great !!
      Just registered on BA, do I need to join the Executive Club also to get # before credit card accnt?

      Reply
      • Thanks, glad you found us!
        It doesn’t matter. You can. But if you don’t BA will assign you a number.

        Reply
    17. I will like to know if this is the way to registered myself to Avios program…tks.,

      Reply
    18. So I get that you have to search other sites for non-BA legs, but then how do you actually go about redeeming Avios for them?
      This skips a lot of steps.

      Reply
    19. Great job! There is an Avios bonus available until March 5 on avios.com. https://www.avios.com/gb/en_gb/my-account/purchase-or-gift-avios?from=collectNav
      Looks like it might be easy to open an account there, then purchase Avios points and transfer them to my BA Executive Club account. Seems a bit odd, though, to have two, separate companies issuing Avios points. Comment?

      Reply
    20. Just informed on chat line that avios.com sign up is limited to UK residents.

      Reply
    21. Hey Drew,

      I’m having trouble with something, hoping you can help. I’m in NY, brother-in-law is having a destination wedding in Punta Cana on 11/25. Which means either I fork up 2.5-3k cash for 5 tix (2 adults, 4 kids with one infant), or it’s time for my first redemption since joining the hobby!

      Read all of your posts on Avios & Cheap Miles to Caribbean, decided to try and use them for this redemption. According to the OneWorld map, AA has direct flights from JFK to PUJ that should price out at 10k one way. In theory, I should be able to book these on the BA site, but when I try it shows zero availability. Nothing direct, nothing with connections. When I look on AA, I only get flights with connections that would price out at 12.5k (and that’s if I could even get the BA site to show them).

      The issue isn’t only about saving 5k Avios per ticket, but also our sanity by minimizing connections with all our kids.

      Could it be because I’d just joined the BA program and still have 0 Avios? Any tips would be appreciated!

      Mark

      Reply
    22. Great post. My suggestion is to mention Vueling and the network they bring. Vueling is part of IAG and a partner of Iberia so it’s all part of the Avios thing. Vueling has hubs in Barcelona and Rome. Oneworld has pretty limited options from within continential Europe. If you redeem, you might have to pay miles/taxes for two legs as it would route through Madrid, Barcelona or London. But with Vueling, Rome gives them a central hub to go a lot of places, direct. I found it helpful to go from Budapest to Rome, spend some time and then go to Greece. You can redeem only through Iberia Plus.

      Reply
    23. Thankyou for such an informative post.Can you please let me know how I can redeem Avios for Royal Jordanian and QAntas

      Reply
    24. Hello Drew,

      I try to follow your advice to use Avois to book Alaska flight, but every time i use AA website to look for Alaska flight i don’t see anything. I try to look for the same day on Alaska website and it appear. So my question is if i see flight on Alaska website which flying with Alaska airplane does British Air­ways willing to book that flight for me even though it not appear on AA website? i try to book from SEA-OGG please let me know thank a lot

      Reply

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