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Five Best Ways to Use British Airways Avios (Updated!)

November 16, 2019

This is perhaps my favorite topic to talk about.

 

So - British Airways recently just revealed their new partner airlines award chart, and it's applicable to award flights on Oneworld Alliance excluding those on British Airways' own metal. While it was frustrating for yet another devaluation of a major mileage currency, this one certainly came rather mild, and luckily, British Airways remains a rather competitive option for booking many of the short-haul flights.

 

Without further ado, here is their new partner chart! While long haul remained largely unchanged, we see some mild adjustments on short-haul redemptions.

 (One Mile at a Time)

 

British Airways miles (or Avios, as they call) were previously known for short haul travels, and I am super excited to find that most of the sweet spots survived the devaluation (though they are slightly "less sweet" I suppose). Below I crunched out several of the best redemptions you can make with the new program. 

 

Important Note: For the above award chart, this pricing applies to each flight in an itinerary — the distance isn’t cumulative across the entire trip. Every segment is priced individually, so you’ll want to stick to nonstop routings whenever possible. For example, let’s say you wanted to fly from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Philadelphia (PHL), a flight that covers 992 miles in distance. This requires 9,000 Avios per the chart above. 

 

1. Domestic Flights on American Airlines

It's amazing how American Airlines prices outrageously in some high-demand monopolistic markets. This makes redeeming BA Avios for some AA domestic flight particularly useful. Chicago to DC, for example, sometimes costing more than 350 USD last-minute for a sub-2 hour flight in economy, only requires 7500 Avios when award spaces are available. Avios are great for short routes that don't justify the cost of cash tickets (particularly close to departure). Unfortunately, American Airlines is often stingy about releasing saver award spaces; but when it does release seat on domestic routes, Avios is the best way to go!

 

BUT! Please don't use Avios to redeem when there are 39 dollar tickets available! :)

 

2. Intra-Asia Awards on Cathay Pacific

You are looking at a mere 9000 miles for an Economy ticket and 16500 miles for Business Class from Hong Kong to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific. Cash tickets in coach can easily sell for 300$ and $1000+ for Business on this route. Solid!

Also, Cathay Pacific uses long haul fleet on many of their short haul flights, so in Business Class you would be paying minimal miles to enjoy their award wining lie-flat seat for 3 hours!

Similarly, for approximately the same distance, Hong Kong - Manila/Ho Chi Minh City would cost 16500 miles; longer flights to Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, and Osaka would cost 22000. Still pretty awesome!

 

3. Intra-Asia Awards on JAL

 This is quite self-explanatory. You can book most Intra-Japan flights for around 6000 miles with very minimal taxes and fees. Great for a trip to Okinawa for example! Other routes include Osaka to Tokyo, Sapporo to Tokyo, and many more. Note that only economy class can be booked for intra-Japan flights.

 

4. Cathay Pacific New York - Vancouver

 

(Courtesy of Cathay Pacific)

 

Cathay Pacific operates a very interesting fifth-freedom flight from New York JFK to Vancouver. Blocked at 6 hours westbound, the flight falls just under 2500 miles. That means it will make a great Avios redemption - you can experience Business Class for 38750 miles and the renowned CX First Class on this route for 51500 miles! With plenty of award spaces, it's an opportunity to get a glimpse of what Cathay Pacific has to offer on long-haul routes without physically being on an actual ultra-long-haul flight. In business class, you get amenity kits and the new restaurant style a-la-carte dining experience that Cathay offers. In first class on this flight, you get the same amenities as other long haul flights, including pajamas, amenity kits, and its famous chef-curated dining experience. Truly as good as any transcontinental flight you can ask for!

 

5. Intra-Australia on Qantas

 

Avios are also very useful when it comes to intra-Australia flights. Melbourne to Sydney for example, only requires 6000 miles in economy (highly recommended!), and 12500 miles in business class; Melbourne to Perth, as one of the premium transcontinental flights in Australia, which often sells for 400+ in coach and 1200+ USD in Business Class, only requires 11000 and 22000 miles, respectively. Taxes are also quite minimal compared to some outrageous cash prices during peak seasons! These are great redemption you can make using BA miles.

 

 

Some sources of BA Executive Club Avios:

1. Flying butt-in-seat-miles - no explanation needed :)

2. Credit Card transfer: AMEX/Chase/Citibank historically launched bonuses up to 30% when transferring to the British Airways Executive Club Program; These are great chances to rack up some BA miles cheap!

3. Other purchases? - shopping portals etc.

4. Buy miles - sometimes Groupon offers attractive rates when buying Avios - keep watching out for those offers!

 

Takeaway

Given the direction that frequent flyer programs have been headed, in particular when it comes to introducing dynamic award pricing, I’d say these changes actually aren’t too bad. Since British Airways has a distance based award chart, the sweet spot has long been using Avios for short haul awards that would cost a lot if paying cash. While any devaluation is bad news, I’d say these changes aren’t actually that bad, and I was initially expecting they’d be much worse.

 

 

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