British Airways is running a promotion on the purchase of its loyalty currency, Avios, and you should consider this opportunity if you sometimes fly on American or Alaska Airlines. At a cost of roughly 1.43 cents per Avios, some awards could cost as little as $140 round-trip including taxes and fees. You must purchase a minimum of 10,000 Avios by 11:59 PM GMT on December 4 in order to qualify for the 40% bonus. Caution: it appears the price may be slightly higher if you buy the minimum.
The headline rate for American customers is roughly 2 cents per Avios. However, One Mile at a Time observed that British Airways is charging different prices based on your country of residence. In Britain, you’ll be charged in pounds and the rate works out to roughly 1.8 cents per Avios. Scott at MileValue figured out the same trick worked in other countries to achieve an even lower price. In the euro zone, you’ll be charged in euros and the rate works out to roughly 1.5 cents per Avios.
To change your address, log into your Executive Club account and click the link for “Manage my account” from the top navigation menu. You’ll then want to select “Update my personal information” from the right navigation menu. Enter an address in the euro zone (it should not be hard to find one with Google Maps) and confirm the change. You can then complete your purchase. Make sure you’re charged in Euros and that your credit card does not impose foreign transaction fees!
How to Buy 294,000 Avios for $4,200
There is a maximum limit of 35,000 purchased Avios per year, and the 40% bonus of 14,000 Avios will not count against that. That means you can buy a total of 49,000 Avios for 661 euros, or about $700 after currency exchange. That’s 1.43 cents per Avios. Europe is getting cheaper every day…
You can even buy more than this if you spread it out among different accounts. Remember that British Airways permits household accounts with up to six people at the same address — so you can buy and use a total of 294,000 Avios. You can then redeem these Avios for any of the household account members as well as an additional five people you specify as “family and friends.”
Which Avios Awards Are Inexpensive?
Normally the best use of frequent flyer miles is for international premium cabin awards because these are expensive tickets if you pay with cash but not very expensive if you pay with miles. The reverse is sometimes true with Avios. The British Airways award chart is based on distance and looks at each segment individually. If you have a short, non-stop flight then your award will be very cheap — as little as 4,500 Avios each way. British Airways also collects fuel surcharges on awards, but there are no fuel surcharges on domestic flights.
|1 - 650||4,500|
|651 - 1,151||7,500|
|1,152 - 2,000||10,000|
|2,001 - 3,000||12,500|
|3,001 - 4,000||20,000|
|4,001 - 5,500||25,000|
|5,501 - 6,500||30,000|
|6,501 - 7,000||35,000|
|7,001 - 100,000||50,000|
The flip side is that if you want to book an international itinerary, most will have fuel surcharges that can be hundreds of dollars each. Connections can quickly multiple the total number of Avios needed. First class can cost four times as much as coach using Avios, whereas most other programs only charge about two or three times more.
I don’t recommend buying Avios to book your honeymoon. I do recommend buying Avios to visit Grandma. My Christmas and Thanksgiving trips to see family were both booked either entirely or partially using Avios to visit small airports that normally have high fares.
Booking Domestic Awards with Avios
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are both British Airways partners. You can search for American’s award space on the BA website and book online. You can’t do this with Alaska. You’ll need to search for Alaska’s award space separately (either look for the cheapest award level on Alaska’s site, or see what’s available on American’s site) and then call British Airways to book. I’ve always had the telephone fee waived because online bookings are not possible for travel on Alaska Airlines.
There are many short, non-stop flights that you can book for 4,500 Avios (flying 1 to 650 miles) or 7,500 Avios (flying 651 to 1,150 miles) from American and Alaska hubs. As a caveat, 4,500 awards will no longer be available in the U.S. after February 2, 2016. At that time you’ll need to pay 7,500 Avios if flying 1 to 1,150 miles. Awards for 4,500 Avios will still exist in other countries.
You’re most likely to find cheap domestic awards for travel to/from these cities:
- Los Angeles
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- New York-JFK
Of course, other cheap awards may also be available to/from other cities. Avios are also a great tool to book award tickets to Hawaii. Any award from the West Coast to Hawaii is just 12,500 Avios each way, cheaper than with most other airline programs.