Avios are likely the easiest frequent flyer miles to earn for free via credit cards, but BA doesn’t make it easy to understand their program.
They have 3 award charts, inconsistent pricing on fuel surcharges, and distance based pricing. In other words, you can pay wildly different prices for the same route.
I show how you can pay $128 for an AA flight from Dallas to Rome… or you can pay $320 for an AA flight from Dallas to Rome. I show you the tools and resources to get lower prices, and to hopefully make sense of it all.
1) There are 3 Award Charts
With British Airways and Iberia there are off-peak and peak prices too. To see the off-peak calendar click here and go down to partners.
Notice a few things:
- British Airways economy is the cheapest in Avios
- But British Airways has huge fuel surcharges
- Iberia business class is the cheapest business in Avios
The better prices on Iberia are because British Airways and Iberia are both owned by the same parent group (IAG).
Found on this FT thread.
Note the following about partner flights:
Redemption rates for travel on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and TAM will start at 7,500 Avios rather than 4,500 Avios, effectively pricing Distance Band 1 flights as Band 2.
Redemption rates for travel on American Airlines within the United States in First Class are calculated at Business Class providing the flight operates as a two class service.
Consider that NYC to Madrid is 17k/34k Avios in off-peak, and a flight on AA is 20k/60k. Business class is nearly double!
Then consider a trip from NYC to Israel. On Iberia the entire trip would be 55,250 Avios. But with a partner like Air Berlin would be 80,000 Avios.
The problem is the fuel surcharges on Iberia… that can be solved with the next tip.
2) Transfer from BA Avios to Iberia Avios
Since BA and Iberia are part of the same group, you can transfer between the two programs. And the two programs are nearly identical. Prices will be mostly the same (except on partners), and both miles are branded as “Avios”.
Thus, you can transfer from BA Avios, to Iberia Avios and book the same JFK-MAD flight for 17,000 Avios, but without the fuel surcharges.
JFK – MAD in Economy:
- BA Avios = 17k + $128
- Iberia Avios = 17k + $70
JFK – MAD Business:
- BA Avios = 34k + $456
- Iberia Avios = 34k + $80
As you can see, it’s a huge savings for business class.
This savings is specific to flying on Iberia using Avios. It’s a great way to get to Europe or any Iberia destination.
It saves Avios to fly Iberia, and if so, it saves cash to transfer to Iberia Avios first.
(Also, here is the peak / off-peak chart for Iberia).
Iberia route map:
Details on transferring:
A bit old, but here is good post showing details: How To Transfer From BA Avios to Iberia Avios. The second half shows how to do the transfer, the first half talks about the rules.
You need two things before you can transfer:
- Your Iberia account needs to be open for 90 days – so create an account now.
- There needs to be activity in your Iberia account – the first half of the post talks about transferring from Amex MR.
3) These airlines have no fuel surcharges when using BA Avios!
First, I’ll give you this helpful chart for understanding which airlines you can use to avoid fuel surcharges, then I’ll give you a tip on flying to Europe for half the fuel surcharges on AA, BA, and IB.
You’ll quickly realize that flights to Europe (and therefore Africa) are the ones with large fuel surcharges. But Asian airlines have some fuel surcharges too.
This will help you find the loop holes… like flying Air Berlin to Europe avoids fuel surcharges, or flying AA to Asia avoids fuel surcharges.
(All prices shown are in economy):
|– AA/USA to Asia||0|
|– AA/USA to Europe||200 – 516|
|Iberia||200 – 496|
|Malaysia||194 (0 within Asia)|
|Sri Lankan||72 (CMB-HKG)|
Ranges to Europe.
Notice that BA, Iberia, and AA to Europe are ranges. That’s because flights from the east coast (from NYC, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, etc… shorter flights to Europe) seem to have $80 – $100 of fuel surcharges (each way), while flights from the rest of the the country have to pay $256 each way in fuel surcharges.
A flight from Dallas (DFW) to Rome (FCO) on AA has $316 in fuel surcharges and fees. Yet, a flight from Chicago (ORD) has $128 in fuel surcharges and fees!
Thus, you could save $188 by booking via Chicago.
And the crazier thing is that sometimes you have to book the tickets separate to get the lower DFW-ORD-FCO.
In other words, booking DFW-ORD-FCO has two different tickets, you’d have fees totaling $5 (DFW-ORD) and $128 (ORD-FCO)… but when the search engine on BA spits out DFW-FCO via ORD, the fee comes out to $320.60.
It makes no sense! But, at least you know. You can check tickets not just on different airlines, but different routes.
4) Use the Avios Calculator (the one by Wandr.me, not BA!)
Bookmark this tool: Avios Calculator.
Avios calculates the price segment by segment, and sometimes direct routes are more expensive and sometimes they are cheaper… and some connections are more expensive than others.
The example I commonly use is LA to Sydney… here’s what the Avios Calculator shows:
The far right column is price, and the third column is connections…
Notice that a direct flight (in the second row) is 50,000 Avios, but a flight via HNL (Honolulu, Hawaii) is way cheaper! Only 37,500 Avios for a oneway.
But the cool thing about the tool is that you can see, that even if there wasn’t the cheaper HNL connection, you could go via Tokyo for the same price as a direct, and via Shanghai for only 5,000 more Avios.
5) Use The Avios Map to see your cheapest direct flights
Arguably the best use of BA Avios is for short direct flights (although there is no 4,500 Avios category anymore in the US).
Therefore, check out the Avios Map. It’s a great way to get ideas for where to go for super cheap.
It’s obivously a great tool to see the direct/cheap flights from your home town, but you can use it anywhere, to possibly fill an open-jaw.
For example, let’s consider Lima, Peru (LIM):
You can see cheap 4,500 flights to places in Peru to places like Arequipa and the very popular Cusco (launching point for Machu Picchu).
But you could use 12,500 Avios to get all the way to Cancun, Havana, Mexico City, Punta Cana, Orlando, or Miami… All of which are Southwest destinations, so you could use Southwest points to get back from there (Miami isn’t really a southwest destination but FLL is).
BA Avios is an overly complicated program… 3 award charts not including the different award charts with Iberia, the off-peak and peak prices, the inconsistent fuel surcharges, and the distance based pricing which also ends up being inconsistent.
But hopefully book-marking this will give quick access to tools, award charges, and the chart for fuel surcharges.