Unlocking the Value of British Airways Points

When readers shared their own travel tips and several really stood out as worth highlighting.

Kerry said,

One of the best tips ever is using the British Air avios (frequent flyer points) for short haul US flights. I’ve flown one-way Helena to Seattle and DC to Chicago for 4500 points each — would cost minimum 25K on Delta (since they book one-way ff tix at the r/t fare).

I have had my criticisms of the program. They used to be among my favorite airline currencies. Sure, first class awards were triple the cost of economy, and they added fuel surcharges onto awards where those were present in paid tickets.

But the mileage price of many awards was still reasonable and you could have nearly unlimited stopovers — a stopover at every logical connecting city. That changed in November 2011. T

But even though British Airways no longer offers a compelling value proposition for residents of North America to use for long haul premium cabin awards, there’s still a value proposition — short haul, non-stop flights.

The program now charges separately for each flight segment, so you want non-stop flights. And their pricing is (for the most part) distance-based, with short flights quite inexpensive and long flights exorbitantly priced. So you want short flights.

And since they do add fuel surcharges to awards where paid travel has those, you want to focus on:

  • US Domestic routes, as well as nearby destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean. Hawaii from the West Coast not only has no fuel surcharges, but is just 25,000 miles roundtrip for non-stops.
  • US-South America. South America routes don’t have fuel surcharges, and many can be had for reasonable miles (Miami – Lima is just 50,000 miles roundtrip in business class)

You can avoid fuel surcharges to Europe in a few ways:

  • Air Berlin doesn’t add fuel surcharges to revenue tickets, so redeeming on them doesn’t entail fuel surcharges (but they currently offer a pretty antiquated product).
  • Aer Lingus fuel surcharges are low, and non-stop from Boston you can do 25,000 miles for coach and 50,000 miles in business roundtrip.
  • If you have an Iberia Avios account that’s been open 90 days and has had some activity, you can transfer British Airways Avios over — and Iberia’s program doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Iberia flights.

British Airways offers one of the best international upgrade programs around, upgrades from paid premium economy to business class cost half the miles of an economy award and there are no cash co-pays in addition to miles.

For me, I just like those last minute DC – Chicago flights at 4500 miles each way. And I’m actually looking forward to benefiting quite a bit if the US Airways-American merger closes, as I’ll get a ton of short-distance flight options from Washington National airport with my Avios.

Short distance flights can be relatively pricey, but they are downright cheap in the British Airways program now. Within the U.S. you have American Airlines and Alaska Airlines as partners for this purpose. But it also works with partners like Qantas for intra-Australia flying.

The card lets you earn a companion award ticket to double the value of your miles.

(Note that cards in this post offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. BA’s short-haul awards being so cheap relative to AA’s program are a big reason why I actually started plowing my AA and other OW flights and other mileage-credit-ready activity into BA’s program rather than into AA’s program.

    Given how lousy AA’s TATL award availability has become, can’t say I’ve had any regrets about the move.

    What I am concerned about is BA eliminating the 4.5k-9k awards being applicable to non-BA (and/or non-IB) flights.

  2. I’ve had a pile of Avios sitting around since the 100K offer a couple of years back. Couldn’t stomach the YQ so they sat unused. I even redeemed some for a hotel stay at about 1cpm. . But I’m planning a trip to Machu Picchu and they finally came in handy for the LAN LIM-CUZ return @ 9K RT + about $25 tax. Not a bad deal at around 3.4cpm!

  3. To me it is worth paying the fuel surcharges if you want to experience BA’s First product and use the travel together ticket you earn with the credit card. For a little under $2000 in fuel surcharges you can fly a pair of tickets that normally costs $24,000 on BA’s website!

  4. Regarding the USAIR/AA merger. You seem to intimate that, assuming the merger is consummated, you could then use Avios on USAIR flights(that would be a combined US/AA at the time)?
    If so, that would be a great use for some people served by US’s crappy commuter feeders to CLT/IAD/DCA.

  5. @Geoff – it has already been made clear under the merger plan that AA would be the new company (that’s what a merger is…there is only one company after…) and AAdvantage would be the FF program. So all else held constant (namely, no changes from BA), yes, this would be the case.

  6. Can this card be churned? I had ba chase before it was avoid on the original 100k offer, cancelled just prior to the one year anniversary..
    Also can the chase united mileage plus explorer card be churned?

    Also how long should I wait before trying to churn the personal Alaska credit card? Thank you

  7. If only award availability was good during weekends ThFrSu……
    Sitting on almost 200k Avios points (IB and BA). Have been trying to use them intra EU (IB, AB and BA) and US east coast to MIA and on to WI, but had limited success so far. Biggest problem is that most flights are almost at full capacity and award space is poor or fees are high (intra EU).

  8. As GUWonder puts it,
    “What I am concerned about is BA eliminating the 4.5k-9k awards being applicable to non-BA (and/or non-IB) flights.”

    Also, from the AA side, it is a simple matter to remove availability of saver awards and replace them with only standard awards on the US air shuttle flights.

    If anyone had told me AA would remove TATL saver Biz awards completely, I would not have believed it then.

  9. I have an Iberia plus account. Is this same as Iberia Avios account ? How can I create an Iberia avios account? Please post a link.

  10. There is a thread on Flyertalk about the churnability of this card. Short answer is that, yes, you can churn. Everybody who got the 100K bonus a few years back should now be eligible. I got it, recently applied for a new card, and got the 50K bonus. I think the “waiting period” is either 12 or 18 months.

    It is a no-brainer for any traveler to have an Avios account. There are many, many places in the world — including the USA — where there are fantastic short haul flight deals. And some of the mid-length deals can be very good too, including the now famous (in the frequent flyer world) BOS-DUB 25K roundtrip ticket. To use the points in the USA, take a look at the DansDeals series where he lists all the award possibilities from several major USA cities.

  11. Fly my daughter NYC->YUL->NYC for 5000 points plus $135 ($80 ticket price + $55 fees) vs on AA or DL or AC of $800-$1200 last minute bookings for non-stops.
    This was the complete reason I got the BA credit card and 50,000 Avios points.

  12. Avios is a great secondary program (and also for repositioning).

    NYC-YUL, JFK-YVR, and HKT-KUL are some the routes I benefited using avios.

  13. @iahphx thanks for answering the churn ability question.
    @jerry do not see the 50 dollar statement credit on the ba avoid card, is it with Gary’s link or another place?

  14. I hope to prove your comment about AB’s antiquated product wrong. On Friday I am flying their upgraded business class MIA DUS, using Avios of course.

    Keep in mind that the BA site does not always report surcharges correctly. They were much, much less when I called to reserve.

    Another HUGE benefit of Avios is the almost non-existent change fees. Cancellation can also be very cheap.

  15. Flights between London and near Europe are cheap too with a fixed co-pay of $27. Availability is good and domestic UK segments, AND London stopover, are thrown in for free. I recently flew last-minute VIE-LHR-MAN, and it was still 4500 avios and $27, awesome value.

  16. @Gary – Can you use AVios to book Standard AA flights?

    Trying to get from DEN – PVR with Avios. I have300K!!

    Thanks so much!


  17. Hyatt Visa Website. Go through the reservation process. On the page for booking details, see banner at bottom for $50 credit.The link takes you to the fee waived.

  18. how can i search iberia award space please? is it identical to BA? find in BA & call iberia to redeem?

  19. Can Iberia Avios be used to book non-Iberia (such as BA) flights without fuel surcharges?

Comments are closed.