British Airways, for whatever reason, isn’t as glorified as the other major points programs but it is awesome and completely niche. Some redemptions are terrible, most are okay, but there are so many amazing redemptions when using British Airways Avios.
It does need a basic understanding of fuel surcharges that need to be avoided, I suppose. But think of all the things that British Airways Avios does best, in terms of flight redemptions.
1) No last minute fee
Unfortunately, many mileage programs charge a “close-in” fee for booking last minute flights. Generally it’s $75 within 21 days of booking. Especially when just getting around a region, $150 for the two of us is nearly the same price as a discount airliner.
But British Airways is a program that has no close-in fees. This makes it great for last minute getaways, or often we decide where we want to go in a region once we get there. This has come in handy with both trips to Asia and Europe.
“Let’s just go to Salzburg”. Literally, we booked a flight at night for the next morning – Hamburg to Salzurg.
2) Cheapest short haul flights
In the miles and points game, there is basically no better use of miles for a small direct flight than BA Avios. Flights start at 4,500 Avios, which is nothing for us.
Compare Avios to most any other program and it can be half or a third of a direct short haul flight. When a single intra-Europe flight would likely be 12,500 miles, you could get nearly three different 4,500 Avios flights for nearly the same price. Or a 7,500 and 4,500 for even less.
Plus, it’s just easy to justify adding another destination when it’s only 4,500 Avios.
3) Transfers from everyone
Another thing that makes it easy to justify a quick flight is that I can surely find some miles I don’t need to transfer in. If you’re like me, giving up Chase Ultimate Rewards points is really hard, but with British Airways, there are plenty of transfer options.
- Chase UR points 1,000:1,000
- American Express MR points 1,000:1,000
- SPG 1,000:1,000 or 20,000:25,000
Plus there is a British Airways card. See What Credit Cards Transfer to Frequent Flyer Programs to get the details on which cards can earn and how they work.
I guess this could be reason 3b for why I love BA Avios, but American Express MR points have historically had bonuses for transfers to BA Avios. Often I’ve seen bonuses for transferring to BA as high as 50%. Although bonuses seem to be less frequent nowadays, when they do happen, it’s a great way to maximize on Amex MR points.
4) The credit card is undervalued
In terms of large non-category spending, the British Airways card can be a great card. It gives 1.25 Avios per dollar spent and has other large tiers for reaching high spends. When you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on the British Airways Visa card, you get a “Companion Ticket”.
Now the Companion Ticket is a complicated beast of its own. You can also read Comparing Airline Companion Passes. But I personally have never used one because it’s only good on flights from the US on British Airways… which would include a heck of a lot of fuel surcharges, so I don’t bother. But I know some first class flyers that have made great use of it.
Consistently in the past the card has had a promotional 100,000 Avios bonus for a month or two of the year. 2014 was the first I didn’t see that (right?). Still, its regular offer is 50,000 and the 100,000 Avios offer required $20,000 of spending.
But if you got the 50,000 Avios bonus card and put $30,000 on it, you’d get: 50,000 bonus Avios, 37,500 Avios from spending and a Companion Ticket. For the 100,000 bonus, obviously you’d get another 50,000 Avios.
Not personally my daily spender, but in the past I gladly put $20,000 of spend through the card to get 137,500 Avios.
5) Unlimited Stopovers
British Airways is an odd bird when it comes to pricing tickets. It technically prices segment by segment and therefore it practically allows unlimited stopovers.
In other words, if I book a flight from Charlottesville to Seattle via Chicago, I’d price out Charlottesville to Chicago, then separately price out Chicago to Seattle. Then I’d add the price together for the total ticket costs (in Avios) for a flight from Charlottesville to Chicago. Because of that, I can stop in Chicago for as long as I want. It’s the same price if I book the different segments at different times, and it’s the same price for a oneway, or however I book.
The key concept, is again: the award price is calculated by the distance of each segment.
Here’s the award chart.
There are some amazing prices, especially flights just under 3,000 flown miles, as that would cost you 12,500 Avios. One example is Boston to Dublin. But let’s say you want to do Chicago to Vienna via Boston and Dublin. Well, you can spend a week in each place if you so like.
- Chicago to Boston = 7,500 Avios
- Boston to Dublin = 12,500 Avios
- Dublin to Vienna = 7,500 Avios
It doesn’t matter if your layover in Boston or Dublin is 1 hour or 1 month. The price for each segment is the same.
But also think about what a decent price that is, and how much better it is when you consider how you can stopover as much as you want. For this particular route, it would cost 27,500 Avios and you’d get to see Boston, Dublin, and Vienna.
This is one example of the seemingly infinite routes possible.
6) Stopovers to save Avios
To one-up stopovers, I’ve got a trick using stopovers to save Avios.
Notice the award chart above shows that a flight that is 3,000 flown miles will cost 12,500 Avios. But a flight that is 6,000 flown miles is 30,000 Avios. More than twice as much!
There are all these kind of sweet spots with BA Avios where you can create such a routing that will help you save Avios.
I have a series breaking down the concepts and sweet spots – Using Stopovers to Save Avios. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.
LA to Sydney is normally 50,000 Avios for a direct oneway. However, look at combining a flight to Hawaii.
- LA to Honolulu = 12,500 Avios
- Honolulu to Sydney = 25,00 Avios
That means each way you’d be paying 37,500 instead of 50,000 Avios. That’s a savings of 12,500 Avios each way. And what’s crazier is that in exchange for saving Avios… you get a stopover in Hawaii! What a deal.
Read the series Using Stopovers to Save Avios.
I’ve long loved British Airways’ program for specific redemptions. The downside is fuel surcharges. Without a doubt you need to know for which airlines BA will pass on fuel surcharges when using Avios on partners, and for which others they don’t. When using Avios for British Airways itself across the Atlantic you’ll end up paying $600+ in fees and fuel surcharges and even more for business class or first. See Master Chart for Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.
That being said, if you know how to use Avios, they can be an incredible tool to fill in open-jaws or even plan huge trips with multiple stopovers. They are normally good redemptions and when you know the ropes you can find some incredible redemptions.