Scottrick wrote yesterday about using Avios for short domestic flights on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines that otherwise wouldn’t make sense to redeem awards for. While I would rather pay a last-minute $150 fare from LAX to the Bay Area than redeem 10,000 United miles + $75 late-ticketing fee, I would definitely redeem 4,500 Avios + no late-ticketing fee for that same trip on American in a heartbeat, getting me over 3 cents value per point. Since you earn 1.25 Avios per dollar with the Chase British Airways Visa, that’s a 3.75-cent return on top of the current lucrative 100,000-point bonus.
Short domestic flights are still some of the best uses of Avios, but I also love Avios for a host of other reasons, as they help me extend trips in places around the world. If I want to fly to Europe or Asia, I’ll use another award currency like United, American, or US Airways miles. Once there, though, Avios makes it a lot easier to travel within those areas.
As a review, airlines like American, Delta, and United run primarily region-based programs, which charge based on the region of your departure and arrival city. For example, United charges a set price for a trip between mainland USA/Canada and Europe. That means you’ll pay the same number of miles for a trip between Newfoundland and London (a 5-hour flight on a narrow Airbus A319 across the ocean!) as you would a trip from Los Angeles to Istanbul, despite the latter trip being three times the distance.
British Airways Avios is a distance-based program, where you pay for each segment based on on how far the segment is. The program is great for short flights, where as little as 4500 Avios packs the same punch as 12,500 points in another program.
Use Avios for flights that cross between different regions on another airline’s award chart.
Easter Island can only be accessed on LAN Airlines, a member of OneWorld. They serve the island from Santiago and Tahiti, as well as seasonally from Lima. American AAdvantage places Easter Island in the South Pacific region, which means that they’ll charge 40,000 AAdvantage miles for a simple Lima to Easter Island one-way in economy. However, since Avios relies on distance, you can redeem that same seat on the direct flight for 12,500 Avios. Even if you have to fly via Santiago, it would be 22,500 Avios. Granted, this isn’t an everyday award, but the disparity in price shows how Avios has its strategic value.
For reference, South America is a brilliant place to explore with Avios. Once you’re on the continent, you can redeem Avios for seats on LAN via their many national subsidiaries, like LAN Peru. In addition to American and Alaska, LAN doesn’t charge any fuel surcharges at all. Last year, I booked a Lima to Cuzco roundtrip for 9,000 Avios + $13 tax. Four months out, the cheapest flights were $270, and the particular flight I was on was $395. LAN covers much of western South America, and with its integrated airline with Brazilian carrier TAM likely to join OneWorld, Avios is bound to only get stronger in that continent.
Use Avios to fill in an open-jaw on another award.
I recently helped a reader book a Delta award on Korean Air between the US and China. The award is New York to Seoul (stopover), continuing on to Shanghai. The return is Hong Kong to Seoul to New York. As you can see, the award has an open-jaw between Shanghai and Hong Kong, and the reader was wondering whether to pay the $246 one-way fare they found between the two cities. I recommended checking availability on British Airways’ site for Cathay Pacific – an award for this route ended up being only 7500 Avios plus $45 ($31 of which was a fuel surcharge).
This was a great use of Avios since Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific’s hub, so you’re bound to find at least one non-stop flight on Cathay Pacific or Dragonair to nearby destinations. And while there is a fuel surcharge, $31 isn’t too bad considering that other programs would have charged twice the number of miles.
Use Avios to strategically save a free one-way for a longer and/or more expensive flight.
One of the more interesting stopover rules out there is the American AAdvantage North American stopover. It’s somewhat restrictive but can be useful in a pinch. I recently put an award on hold from Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class, with the final leg being Hong Kong to San Francisco. Since SFO is the airport in which I would enter North America, I could call it a stopover and continue a domestic one-way anytime within a year of ticketing. I live in Los Angeles, but a short SFO-LAX flight seems like a waste of a free flight.
However, I really like New York City, and love making trips out there to see my friends. American Airlines runs transcontinental service with enhanced service in First and Business class on their routes to New York JFK from LAX and SFO. A better idea to me would be to book a stopover in San Francisco and continue my one-way on American’s Transcontinental First Class service when I want to make a trip to New York.
To keep that stopover intact, I could use just 9,000 Avios for a roundtrip between San Francisco and Los Angeles — the SFO-LAX leg would occur right after I land from Hong Kong and the LAX-SFO flight would occur right before the flight to New York. That’s basically spending 9,000 Avios to save my stopover for a transcontinental flight in a premium class.
What makes this even better is that American Airlines protects you on two separate OneWorld tickets. (Update: This is no longer the case.)
AA to/from AA or a oneworld® Carrier
If a customer is holding separate tickets on AA or another oneworld carrier, customers holding separate tickets where travel is on oneworld airlines should be treated as through ticketed passengers. In the event of a disruption on the originating ticket, the carrier responsible for the disruption will be required to reroute the customer to their final destination. The ticket stock of the second ticket must be of a oneworld carrier, eligible under the Endorsement Waiver Agreement. You may contact AA Reservations 1-800-433-7300 (U.S. and Canada) or outside the U.S. and Canada, reference Worldwide Reservations Numbers for additional information if the separate ticket is for travel on a oneworld carrier.
Having two tickets means you usually have to build in some time into your itinerary to make sure you don’t miss your connection, since you’re usually not protected from delays. In this case, you could book the flights as if they were one reservation, saving a decent amount of time.
Don’t forget to also sign up for an Iberia Plus frequent-flyer account.
If you do have a British Airways account that stores your Avios, it’s a good idea to sign up for an Iberia account right now. Both programs share the Avios currency. If you ever need to book a flight on Iberia, booking with your Avios through Iberia’s program tends to have lower taxes on some routes than through British Airways’ program, particularly on flights from North America to Spain. The kicker is that you can only transfer Avios between your British Airways and Iberia accounts once they are both at least 3 months old. Preparation is a good trait in the miles game, so it makes sense to sign up for an Iberia account as soon as possible, for that just-in-case moment.
The beauty in Avios relies in their partners, both OneWorld and non-alliance, like Alaska and Aer Lingus. And while other award programs can help achieve more aspirational awards, Avios is a great practical program to have some points in.