Once upon a time I wrote about breaking British Airways Avios with stopovers and a few years later I figured it’s time to redo the post because all my tips are dated for one reason. Since then a tool was built to help you figure out the best prices, because the “how” to use BA Avios is definitely not intuitive.
This post will not only go over the concepts of British Airways Avios award pricing, and how to get stopovers for free, but it will show you how to easily find multiple routes to have stopovers that would save you Avios.
I’ll take you A-Z through British Airways.
Why British Airways Avios?
They’re freakin’ awesome. Check out Best Use of British Airways Avios. Really, there are so many benefits:
- Flights start at 4,500 Avios, including the Caribbean
- No $75 “close-in” fee for tickets booked last minute (within 21 days of departure)
- Flights to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios
- And so on and so on and so on…
But the best part is that the miles are super easy to earn. British Airways Avios can be earned from:
- Amex MR points
- Chase UR points
- SPG points
- and the 50,000 British Airways Visa
I personally tend to only use Amex MR points for Avios, but I tend not to earn too much with Amex.
Either way, earning Avios is super easy.
How does British Airways Avios price out awards?
British Airways is a distance based program; the more you fly the more you pay.
If you were to fly from New York to Dallas on partner AA, you would need two things to figure out the price.
1) The Award Chart
The first column shows the distance flown, and the others show the price paid in Avios.
2) You need to know the distance flown.
I normally would use GCmap.com to figure out the flight distance. In this case I put in “nyc-dfw” and it spits out a map and the distance below.
Since this route is 1,383 flown miles it would cost us 10,000 Avios to book the flight in economy.
Avios are priced per segment
Other distance based programs add up all the total flights to get the distance and then figure out the price. Not BA. If you’re flying from New York to LA via Dallas, it’s going to price out your NYC to Dallas flight (which is 10,000), and then it’s going to add up your Dallas to LA flight (which is another 10,000 Avios). The total of your oneway flight would be 20,000 Avios.
In this case it’s waaaaay better to try to get a direct flight from New York to LA, which would be 12,500 Avios.
The odd part of the Avios award chart
So this is where things get interesting. (Know that I’ll only list the economy prices, but the same concept applies to any class of service.)
How much are two flights that are each 2,900 flown miles?
25,000 Avios (12,500 Avios x2).
That’s 5,000 Avios less than if you flew the whole 5,800 miles in one leg.
Weird, right? You would think that the more you fly the cheaper it would be, like buying in bulk.
But with Avios, the sweet spot is a flight that is 2,999 flown miles. It’s less than half of a flight that’s 6,000 flown miles.
Therefore, looking for common direct long hauls might not be the best option.
Breaking Avios with Stopovers
Now let’s look at an example that will highlight the concept.
Take a direct oneway flight from Los Angeles to Sydney for example, which will cost 50,000 Avios.
However, combine these two flights:
- LA to Hawaii = 12,500 Avios
- Hawaii to Sydney = 25,000 Avios
That’s a total of 37,500 Avios!
That’s a savings of 12,500 oneway, and you get to stop in Hawaii for as long (or as little) as you want. Just by knowing this you can save 25,000 Avios roundtrip.
Or take Miami to Santiago, which would cost 25,000 Avios.
However, you can combine these two flights:
- Miami to Lima = 12,500 Avios
- Lima to Santiago = 10,000 Avios
That is a total of 22,500 Avios, a small savings of 2,500 Avios each direction but Peru is a wonderful country to stop in (although Lima isn’t my favorite).
Things just got way easier, with the Avios Calculator
This tool isn’t perfect but it’s infinitely better than British Airway’s very own tool. This is a tool by Seth the Wandering Aremean.
Check out the Avios Calculator.
Not only does it show the price of the direct route, it shows all kinds of connections. (My only complaint is that it only shows one connection which is totally not enough for most people, but I’ll talk about that in a bit).
This makes my old post of listing tons of examples nearly useless. Before I showed one example, like stopping in Lima. However, this tool now shows all the single connections that would save Avios.
Look at the top results that the Avios Calculator gave for Miami to Santiago:
Looking at the 3rd column labeled “via” you can see the possible connection options and their prices to the right. Turns out for the same 22,500 Avios price (which is cheaper than the direct) I can stop in Bogota, Guayaquil, or Lima. And for 24,500 Avios I could stopover in Cancun, which is still cheaper than the direct.
The problem with the tool: one connection
Because the Avios Calculator tool only does one connection, for most of us who don’t live in a hub, it isn’t helpful. The one connection shown will be the hub. Like in the Santiago example, it will connect us to Miami and then show us the more expensive direct flight from Miami to Santiago (because it’s out of connections).
So try using the tool from a hub city.
Luckily Wandr.me has another tool to help you get some idea for which hub to start your trip in.
First, you could just use the same calculator to get see where it will connect you. If it connects you through Miami, now try to start from Miami, then see what happens.
Second, check out Avios Map by Award Price.
This tool shows you all the cheapest connections from your city. Let’s try Nashville, because it isn’t a hub with OneWorld.
This shows us a few options for direct 4,500 Avios flights (in green), like Charlotte, Dallas, Chicago, and DC. It also shows a few 7,500 Avios flights (in yellow), like Miami or New York.
There are all kinds of ways to use this, but you could use it as a tool to know where your cheapest positioning flights are going to be. If you live in Nashville, try checking routes starting in Dallas, Miami, or DC when using the Avios Calculator.
Warning: Fuel Surcharges may be ahead
Ironically, the best use of BA Avios is certainly not on British Airways as they have massive fuel surcharges. Instead you should use your Avios/miles on some of their OneWorld partners.
Here is a chart taken from a page on the Master Chart of Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.
|American Airlines (& USA)||0||0||0|
|– AA/USA to Asia||358||0||0|
|– AA/USA to Europe||516||516||0|
And now TAM has 0 fuel surcharges.
However, the chart only includes OneWorld partners and doesn’t show partners like Alaska and Aer Lingus which also do not have fuel surcharges (well, Aer Lingus has like $50 worth).
That leaves you with Aer Lingus, and Air Berlin to get across the Atlantic. But all flights within North and South America, and the Caribbean are fuel surcharge free. The only thing you’ll have to pay is airport taxes, which will still vary a lot. In the US, airport taxes are ~$5.60, and some places in Latin America they can be $80. But still a very minor detail compared to another $600 added from fuel surcharges.
The following tools are pretty much all you need to plan a route nowadays.
- Avios Map
- Avios Calculator
Then to book you need to log into your Executive Club account at BritishAirways.com.
For me, Avios are awesome because there are so many great routes for 12,500 Avios and there are many options for similar prices to stop and see another destination along the way. Like with going to South America there are so many places to stopover that would actually save Avios, and they are interesting places like Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Actually, I would be willing to pay more to stopover in some of those places. But oddly enough, with British Airways Avios, stopovers mean paying less.
Therefore, do not just go to BritishAirways.com and then book; they won’t show you all the cool connections for cheaper. First check out the Calculator from a hub.