Updated: As of February 2, 2016, British Airways is raising the number of Avios needed for short-haul flights beginning or ending in the United States. Instead of just 4.5k Avios each way, these flights will now require 7.5k Avios each way. Keep reading to see what this means for you!
I recently made use of some of my British Airways miles, a.k.a Avios, by booking award tickets to Montreal for this winter. I bet some of you are wondering why I even have British Airways Avios in the first place, seeing as how I’m a U.S. based flyer! So, I thought it would be helpful to put together a beginners guide to using British Airways Avios.
Before I go on, let me point out that British Airways is not considered a primary miles- earning program. In fact, if you’re just beginning with miles and points, you should begin with more straightforward loyalty programs like American and United.
First, let’s cover some of the basics.
1. British Airways is a member of the OneWorld Alliance and also partners with non-alliance airlines like Alaska and Aer Lingus.
Knowing which airline alliances and partners an airline is connected to allows you to get more from your miles. In this case, you can use BA Avios to fly on any of their OneWorld partners, as well as their non-alliance partners.
TIP: British Airways is notorious for its sky-high fuel surcharges, so it’s important to know which partners to fly and when using BA Avios is a good choice. It’s usually better to use your BA Avios on a partner airline than on British Airways itself!
2. British Airways has a distance-based award chart, which means the number of Avios needed for award tickets is determined by the distance traveled, and of course, the airline class you fly.
This is different from major U.S. carriers like United and American, who have zone-based award charts. A fixed number of miles is needed for award travel, which is determined by the zones you fly to and from. On British Airways, though, the shorter the distance you fly, the fewer Avios you’ll need for an award ticket. The number of Avios needed is calculated for each leg of your trip, so there are no limitations on the number of stopovers or open jaws.
|Miles Flown||Number of Avios Needed|
|1-650 miles||4.5k Avios (changing to 7.5k Avios as of 2/2/16.)|
|651-1,151 miles||7.5k Avios|
|1,152-2,000 miles||10k Avios|
|2,001-3,000 miles||12.5k Avios|
3. British Airways Avios are fairly easy to get.
Chase offers a British Airways credit card. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Starwood points to British Airways. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Ink Plus, and the Starwood American Express are great long term cards for earning valuable travel rewards points that can be transferred to British Airways.
TIP: American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to British Airways, but it’s not a good deal because of the unfavorable transfer ratio.
Here’s an infographic highlighting the basics we’ve just discussed.
Let’s look at a few of the best ways to use BA Avios.
1. Short haul flights within North America are still a great way to use BA Avios. (Bookings made before 2/2/16 still just cost 4.5k Avios!)
Let’s use the route between New York and Montreal as an example. I used just 18k BA Avios for 2 round trip award flights because the distance flown is less than 650 miles. After the changes go into effect on 2/2/16, I would use just 30k BA Avios for 2 round trip award flights. This is still a good deal!
Let’s check United for a New York to Montreal award flight in January.
I would have needed 22.5k miles per person to fly on a United Award ticket, for a total of 45k United miles! Remember, I only used 18k BA Avios! (30k Avios after 2/2/16)
Let’s check American Airlines for a New York to Montreal award flight in January.
I would have needed 25k miles per person to fly on an American Award ticket, for a total of 50k American Airline miles!
Instead, I used my BA Avios and booked award tickets with British Airway’s OneWorld Alliance partner, American Airlines, and got the same flights I checked on American Airlines for 32k less miles! (Or 20k less miles after the changes to short haul flights take effect on after 2/2/16.)
A few other short haul 9k (15k Avios for bookings made after 2/2/16) round trip examples are:
New York – Washington D.C., Montreal, Toronto, or Charlotte
Chicago – Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Atlanta, or Kansas City
San Francisco – Portland, Los Angeles, or Salt Lake City
Miami – Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, Jamaica or the Bahamas
Los Angeles – San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Tucson, or Las Vegas
2. You can fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii for just 25k BA Avios.
A United Airlines award ticket from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii would need 45k miles round trip in economy. American Airlines would charge 35k miles during their off-peak period (January 12 – March 13, August 22 – December 15) and 45k miles round trip at all other times.
TIP: British Airways and Alaska Airlines are non-alliance partners. Alaska Airlines flies to many more of the Hawaiian islands than other BA partners, giving you more flight options. Search on Alaska’s website for award availability and then call British Airways to book it.
3. You can fly from Boston to Dublin for just 25k BA Avios.
This is an incredible deal and it’s possible because of British Airway’s partnership with Aer Lingus. A round trip award flight from North America to Europe would need 60k United miles or 40k American miles during their off-peak period between October 15 – May 15. British Airways charges sky high surcharges to fly from North America to Europe. But, flying on Aer Lingus with BA Avios can’t be beat!
TIP: United and Aer Lingus are partners, so you’ll be able to search for award seats on flights operated by Aer Lingus on United’s website. Then, call British Airways to book it.
It’s also important to note that, even though flying between New York and Dublin falls into a different distance bracket than a Boston departure, it’s just 40k Avios for a round trip economy award flight to Ireland, which matches American’s off-peak mileage cost and is available all year long!
British Airways Avios can be a bit trickier than United or American miles to use, but they are a good compliment to a well-rounded miles and points strategy. Even with the changes to short-haul flights taking effect after 2/2/16, using BA Avios strategically can still return a great value!
How have you used British Airways Avios?
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