Beginners Guide to Redeeming Points – British Airways Avios (and Oneworld Alliance)

Like I did with the United/Star Alliance post, I’m going to make an important distinction for people that are new to redeeming rewards. If you have miles with one Oneworld airline member, you can redeem those points for an award ticket on almost any Oneworld Alliance carrier, subject to availability. That means your British Airways Avios can get you reward tickets on American, Iberia, Royal Jordanian, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas or other members of the Oneworld Alliance. Your British Airways Avios can get you from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, for example.

You can also book awards on these same partners using American Airlines miles, but those miles are very difficult to obtain compared to British Airways miles, which are called Avios. Avios are actually some of the easiest miles to obtain in the loyalty program world because they partner with both American Express AND Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means if you have a card that can transfer points with Amex (like the Premier Rewards Gold, Platinum, etc.) or Chase (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold/Plus), you can transfer those points at a 1:1 ratio into Avios. Even better, American Express frequently runs transfer bonuses that allow you to get even more Avios. The current bonus is 30%, so every 1000 Amex points you transfer will earn 1,300 Avios. It’s been as high as 50% in the past. You can also earn 50K Avios with the current credit card offer (affiliate link via Credit Karma – click “Chase Credit Cards” on the right).

Avios work differently than other types of miles because they use what’s called a distance-based award chart. That means the number of points required depends on how many miles you need to fly. This is is different from programs like American and United airlines that essentially charge a flat rate by region, and it can work to your benefit (or detriment) if you know how. I’ll provide a bunch of examples below.

First things first, the Avios award chart:

The Avios award chart is different from others because it is distance-based. You can use this to your advantage!

The Avios award chart is different from others because it is distance-based. You can use this to your advantage! Ignore the last column until you get to the advanced topics below.

I’ll go through a bunch of examples below, but I first need to make a VERY important point. While the above chart presents a lot of advantages for short-haul flights, there are also massive taxes on certain flights. Knowing which flights will help you decide whether you should look at other point/mileage programs to get to your destination.

 

EXAMPLES (read the captions)

Note that all examples shown are one-way, so double the miles and taxes to get the round trip cost.

A Los Angeles to San Francisco flight is considered short-haul, and is just 4,500 points plus $2.50. This same route on United would cost 10K points. This is HUGE value!

A Los Angeles to San Francisco flight is considered super short-haul, and is just 4,500 points plus $2.50 in Economy. This same route on United would cost 10K points. This is HUGE value!

 

A one-way flight from Los Angeles to Chicago costs only 10k miles and $2.50. You save 2,500 miles each way vs booking with United, American, US Airways, or Delta. Good deal!

A one-way flight from Los Angeles to Chicago in Economy on American Airlines costs only 10k miles and $2.50 with Avios. You save 2,500 miles each way vs booking with United, American, US Airways, or Delta (each charge 12,500 miles, and some don’t allow one-ways at all). Good deal!

 

Flying in Economy from Los Angeles to London seems pretty good at just 25,000 miles, but the taxes are over $250! For a round trip you're paying over $500 PLUS 50,000 miles. This is a TERRIBLE deal since you can simply book a cash ticket for around $900. Save your points!

Flying in Economy from Los Angeles to London seems pretty good at just 25,000 miles, but the taxes are over $250! For a round trip you’re paying over $500 PLUS 50,000 miles. This is a TERRIBLE deal since you can simply book a cash ticket for around $900. Save your points!

 

A flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacifc's famed Business Class will cost you 70,000 Avios plus $150. That's a pretty good deal for a great flight.

A flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacifc’s famed Business Class will cost you 70,000 Avios plus $150. That’s a pretty good deal for a great flight.

 

This flight from Los Angeles to Sydney is a great example of a terrible redemption. You'd pay 100,000 Avios plus $800 for a round trip ticket, but if you bought the ticket it would cost $1,300. Your 100,000 points are worth A LOT more than the extra $500 you'd pay!

This flight from Los Angeles to Sydney is a great example of a terrible redemption. You’d pay 100,000 Avios plus $800 for a round trip ticket, but if you bought the ticket it would cost $1,300. Your 100,000 points are worth A LOT more than the extra $500 you’d pay!

 

A flight from Tokyo to Seoul in Economy on Japan Airlines costs a reasonable 7,500 Avios plus $60 in taxes. This is usually a pretty good deal, but always check how much it would cost to make sure.

A flight from Tokyo to Seoul in Economy on Japan Airlines costs a reasonable 7,500 Avios plus $60 in taxes. This is usually a pretty good deal, but always check how much it would cost to make sure you’re getting good value for your points.

 

 

Let me try to put these examples into words. The Avios program charges hefty taxes and fees for award tickets with certain airlines and on certain routes. If you’re flying from North America to England or Europe in Economy, you’re paying at least $500 round trip on top of the points it takes. Paying cash for the same fare would only be around $1,100, so it’s rarely worth it to redeem to Europe on British Airways itself.  These taxes and fees can actually go up to $1,400 or more if you book a First Class award since they charge extra for premium award tickets. It’s true that $1,400 in taxes is a lot of money for an award ticket but you’re still saving a ton vs buying the ticket outright since they cost between $4,000 and $8,000 a pop, so it may be worth it for you.

Booking domestic flights on American or Alaska Airlines, however, can be extremely valuable. Short-haul flights for just 4,500 Avios is one of the very best award redemptions you can get. If you live on the west coast, flying to Hawaii in Economy costs just 12,500 Avios each way, whereas you’d be paying at least 25K each way with other programs. Intra-Europe and intra-Asia flights can also be very valuable.

In general, the airlines that charge heavy taxes are British Airways, Qantas, JAL, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, and Iberia. The cheaper options are on American (except to London), LAN, and Cathay Pacific, Air Berlin, and Aer Lingus. JAL can also be good value within Asia.

 

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Business Class costs twice the points of Economy, and First Class (on three-cabin flights) is three times the Economy points.
  • Find direct flights. You’ll pay for each segment separately if you have a connection . For example, LAX-ORD-JFK would cost 10,000 points for the LAX-ORD segment, and 7,500 for the ORD-JFK segment. That’s a total of 17,500 miles, when a direct flight would cost only 12,500 miles.
  • Shorter flights are almost always a great deal, even intra-Europe sometimes. Always check!
  • British Airways does not charge last-minute redemption fees. American and United charge $75 if an award is booked within 21 days.
  • You’ll have to call in and talk to unfriendly reps to book complicated itineraries.
  • You can also search on AmericanAirlines.com for Milesaaver award availability – it should theoretically be the same as British Airways offers.
  • Robert Burns of Awardbookingservice.com reminds me that on two-class, domestic American Airlines flights, first class is always three times the price of Economy.

 

HOW TO SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS

Now that we know how the price chart works, let’s learn how to search for availability.

  1. Go to BritishAirways.com and log in to your account.
  2. Click on “Spending Avios” on the left menu.
  3. Click on “Book flights with Avios” on the left menu.
  4. Enter your flight information and click “Get flights.”
  5. Your results will display. You can search +/- 3 days by clicking the tabs at the top.
  6. After you find a flight, click “Continue” at the bottom.
  7. You’ll be taken to a confirmation page (like in all my examples above) where you can review the number of miles and taxes to be paid. If you agree, you can continue on to booking your flight.
Enter your search parameters on this page. I clicked the "one way only" box in this example.

Enter your search parameters on this page. I clicked the “one way only” box in this example.

The search results page will display all the available options and will automatically include partners. You can select other dates using the tabs at the top. After you find your flight, click "Continue" and you're almost done.

The search results page will display all the available options and will automatically include partners. You can select other dates using the tabs at the top. After you find your flight, click “Continue” and you’re almost done.

TRANSFERRING POINTS

If you have most of your points in transferable accounts like Amex and Chase, you’ll need to transfer them to British Airways before booking your flight. I recommend searching for and finding the flights you want before transferring your points. Once you’ve found your flights, here’s how to transfer them into Avios (both should transfer instantly).

AMEX

  1. Log in to American Express and Click on “Rewards” at the top.
  2. At the bottom left, click on “Points Summary.”
  3. Click on “Use Points” and then “…more Travel.”
  4. Click Transfer Points.
  5. Select British Airways and link your account if it isn’t already.
  6. Transfer as many points as you need to.

CHASE

  1. Log in to your Chase account.
  2. Click “Go to Ultimate Rewards” on the right side, then again on the pop-up screen.
  3. Click on “Point Transfer” at the top.
  4. Select British Airways.
  5. Enter how many points you plan to transfer along with your account information.
  6. NOTE: ONLY TRANSFER TO YOURSELF OR SPOUSE WITH THE SAME LAST NAME. THEY WILL SHUT DOWN YOUR ACCOUNT IF YOU TRANSFER TO OTHERS.

 

Congratulations!

You now know the basics of booking Avios award flights. If you need more information or feel like you want more advanced topics, you can click to the articles below.

 

Beginners Guide to Redeeming Points

Part 1: United Airlines (and Star Alliance)

Part 2: British Airways Avios (and Oneworld Alliance)

Part 3: Hyatt Gold Passport

Part 4: Starwood Preferred Guest

Part 5: Hilton Honors

 

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Comments

  1. CardinalTraveler says:

    Great guide. Only question I have is if i’m trying to piece together two or three segments and I want them on one itinerary, do I call BA? I don’t think it’s possible to do it online…

    • Travel Summary says:

      That’s correct, you will have to call in. The website defaults to getting you from your origin to your destination in the shortest time possible, so to add additional/specific flights you’ll have to call. Be patient will call reps as they’re not the most pleasant people!

  2. It’s important that readers know that they can use their Avios points on One World partner airlines. If you’re flying AerLingus or Iberia, taxes are much less than flying BA metal. YMMV.

  3. The two times I have called BA customer service was to book tickets from Seattle to Honolulu. The BA CSR’s were very pleasant and helpful and sounded to be American’s (no accent). One actually stated she was in Florida and wanted to know what the weather was like in Seattle.

    25K Avios for SEA-HNL is tremendous value and why I love Avios.

    • Travel Summary says:

      The west coast-Hawaii tickets are some of the best! And yes customer service can vary widely, but glad you have had pleasant experiences.

  4. Excellent post and a good reminder to every whiner out there who has sworn off BA for good after they changed the program. Bad for them, good for us – more availability.

    One correction. Chase will shut you down if you transfer from one UR program to another, but they probably won’t shut down your account if you transfer your UR points to an authorized user’s FF program. Last name doesn’t matter. At least, they didn’t shut me down when I transfer my cousin’s points to my Mileage Plus. Now think how easy it is to make someone [you trust] an authorized user. YMMV, of course, just like about everything else in life.

  5. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here
    by searching for comic

  6. What would be best way to get from Honolulu to either Australia or New Zealand with avios

    Any help much appreciated

    • Travel Summary says:

      HNL-SYD is flown by Qantas (QF 4), which can be booked using Avios (as can other Qantas flights if you’re going to another city). I just checked and there’s a flight 1/30/13 to SYD if you want to see an example. One way in Economy is only 25K Avios but taxes are a hefty $300. Hope that helps.

  7. I have been trying to redeem BA Avios for 3 business class flights from YVR to London this summer since early January. Availability is nil from YVR, SEA and SFO. I called in mid January and the agent said the flights hadn’t been released yet but to keep trying as they would be “soon”. Any ideas when they usually do release?

    • Travel Summary says:

      I don’t know when the seats would get released, but summer award flights are always the hardest to get. This is one of those instances where an ExpertFlyer subscription would really come in handy so you don’t have to keep checking.

      I would think that space for these seats would be released as you get closer to the date of travel, but you’ll still be hard pressed to get 3 business class seats on the same flight (unless booking very close to the flight date).

      I know that doesn’t answer your question, but perhaps Lucky from One Mile at a Time can help. Check out his “Ask Lucky” page, where he usually responds very quickly: http://boardingarea.com/blogs/onemileatatime/ask-lucky/

  8. I am planning a trip in october Vancouver, Canada to New Delhi, India. What advice can u give when using Avios points?

    • Travel Summary says:

      It can be done, but you’ll probably need to pay lots in taxes. You can go YVR-HKG-DEL in economy on Cathay Pacific for 42.5K Avios one-way, but you’d pay about $320 in taxes also. For a round trip flight that could become prohibitively pricey.

      You could also go YVR-LHR-DEL for 50K Avios plus $600 one-way, so that’s not really a good option.

      You have limited options out of YVR and Avios aren’t always the best for long-distance international flights.

  9. I try to search for a one way flight from KIX – INC on October 1st but I receive the following message:

    •British Airways and its partners do not fly this route. Please consider alternative destinations or call your Executive Club Service Centre.

    I am very new to this. So any insights on this are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Travel Summary says:

      This is a route that isn’t flown by any airline in the oneworld alliance, so you can’t book it with points. You can only book award flights on routes that are operated by airlines in the alliance!

  10. Hi,

    I would like to book an Iberia flight from London to Ibiza using avios but can’t find how I can do this. Does the BA reward flight search bring up flights for all partner airlines? Or do you have do go somewhere else?

    Many thanks for your help.

  11. Hi – I have a quick question. I have a one world account set up with LAN and travel quite extensively (not just with LAN, but also with BA and American). I am now based in London and seeing how I can purchase flights with BA using my one world points I have obtained and which are under my LAN account. I can’t figure out how to transfer the one world points to Avios points – is this possible?

    Thanks for the help.

    • Travel Summary says:

      LAN has a completely different award chart than British Airways, and the points are not transferable. You can redeem your LAN points/miles for travel on all oneworld airlines (including British Airways and American), but the process and award chart is going to be different.

      LAN Oneworld Partner Award chart: http://www.lan.com/en_us/sitio_personas/lanpass/how-many-kms-for-your-trip/oneworld-and-affiliated-airlines/index.html

      The way to search for flights is going to be the same as I described in the post above, but you’ll be subject to the LAN award chart (and note they go on KMs instead of Miles). It’s also distance based so similar rules apply. You’ll have to call LAN to book award flights and I’ve heard it can be challenging if you’re not a spanish-speaker.

      Hope that helps.

  12. I have a question. I am considering quitting my CIBC card (Canada) which allows me to redeem on Aeroplan (Air Canada) because I usually want to redeem business class and it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to do. You can try to book a year in advance, and still you cannot get the week or days you want. so my question is – are Avios points any better in terms of booking business class tickets with points? I often fly to Europe and Asia and would like to get business class on points if there is a way.

    • Travel Summary says:

      In my opinion, Aeroplan is much easier to get Business Class tickets than Avios to both Europe and Asia. There are many more Star Alliance (Aeroplan) Partners than Oneworld (Avios) partners. Also, Avios have the potential to charge very high fuel surcharges, especially to Europe (unless you fly Iberia).

      Availability shouldn’t be has difficult to get as you described. I’ve been able to find many flights going to either continent on Star Alliance. Try searching using the United Airlines website. The flight availability is the same. You can also check out my guide to Star Alliance here: http://travel-summary.com/beginners-guide-to-redeeming-points-united-airlines-and-star-alliance/

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      • Thanks for your note. I will try that next time. But just to show you how bad it is with Air Canada, in Sept. 2012 I called in to Aeroplan to book a trip a whole year later in Sept 2013 (you cannot call any earlier) and was flexible with my dates by 2 days either end. Yet I could not get a business class seat in that date range. I had to take another set of dates, which weren’t the best for me. As well I had to do long stop-overs both ways. This is not great when you book so far in advance. Another time I called about 4 months in advance to book a business class seat Vancouver to Toronto. This is a VERY common route in Canada and they run flights about every hour every day. But still I could not get a business class seat unless I accepted an extreme layover in Ottawa, making a 5 hour trip into 12 hours. So I no longer wish to deal with Aeroplan. Are you saying your experience with United is much better? It won’t help for in-Canada fights though.

        By the way, Aeroplan points also come from VISA.

        • Travel Summary says:

          Where in Europe are you planning to go? I did a search from YYZ-FRA and found Business/First availability almost every single day. It might not be available on the nonstop flights, but there are plenty of routes available. Similarly, there seems to be tons of options from YYZ-SIN next summer. Give me more specifics and I might be able to help.

          • I already took the trip. I went Sept. 2013, but tried to book with aeroplan points way back in Sept. 2012. I had to take unfavourable days and accept long layovers to get anything in BC with points. I also called Aeroplan to see if they could help me find something, but they came up with the same. There are lots of BC seats, but not allocated to points it seems.

  13. I have BA points and recently downloaded the Oneworld app; the choices out of YVR are so limited. I cannot find a partner that flies to Honolulu, LA or SanFransisco on this App which leads me to believe something is not quite right. The only direct flight that is worthwhile is to NY on Cathay which I have done and it is great, with minimal taxes. Do you have any suggestions on getting to LA or the Hawaiian Islands from YVR?

    • Travel Summary says:

      Your options for getting to Hawaii, SF, and LA from YVR are somewhat slim when using Avios. The reason is that no oneworld members fly directly to any of those cities. That pretty much means your only option is to first fly to Seattle on Alaska Airlines, and then fly on to any of your other destinations.

      Unfortunately the Avios website/app will not show Alaska Airlines availability. The easiest way to search for Alaska flights is through the American Airlines website. You would need to fly YVR-SEA-HNL, for example, with both flights on Alaska. This will cost you 4,500 (YVR-SEA) + 12,500 (SEA-HNL) = 17,000 Avios one way. Going to Los Angeles and San Francisco will be a little cheaper at 12,000 Avios.

      • Thanks for your suggestions and details that you provided me – very helpful. After about 4 attempts to book we decided to depart from Seattle and with a connector (Portland) we were able to book a March break get-a-way. I really appreciated your blog!

  14. I’m planning on using my Avios to book a one-way flight for a family member, can I use my Avios on someone else or do I have to create a House Hold Account and put this family member in the account before booking? Does BA ask for credit card used for purchase when check-in? Thanks!

    • Travel Summary says:

      You can absolutely book flights for other people using your account – no need for a family account or anything else. I’ve not encountered any instance where the credit card used to buy the ticket was required at check-in when using Avios, but if you wanted to be overly-cautious then you might want to use the credit card of the person traveling. But again…this has never been an issue for me.

  15. I want to check the following points:

    1) While issuing tickets using AVIOS points, is it possible to book for friends and relatives alone using my points?

    2) Is it possible to use any credit card for payment of taxes while issuing the tickets using AVIOS points?

  16. Thanks for your quick response.

  17. Aazar Khwaja says:

    I was just wondering if there’s any portability of avios to United, Air Canada or Delta? I need to fly from Toronto to Minneapolis direct and these are the only 3 airlines offering direct flights.

  18. I am living in Qatar. I have few queries regarding Avios points:

    a) Supposing if I have to make a date change for the already issued Qatar Airways tickets issued using Avios points, how to make the changes.

    b) I checked with Qatar Airways, they say that they cannot do anything since the tickets have been issued using BA Avios.

    c) I checked with BA local office in Qatar, they say that they are not handling Avios related transactions since it is an agency office and not an office owned by BA.

    d) Please advise me as to how to make the date changes for the already issued tickets and/or for the cancellation of the already issued ticket and for requesting refund of Avios points and taxes.

    • Travel Summary says:

      In your confirmation email should be a link to cancel the booking. It should be very straightforward after you click that link. You will forfeit any taxes/fees you’ve already paid but you will get the points back.

      I believe you can also view existing reservations online through your Executive Club account. There should be an option to cancel the flight there as well.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I discussed in my Beginner’s Guide to Avios (and Oneworld Alliance), shorter distance flights are much more valuable than longer flights on this award chart. Los [...]

  2. [...] you need help with using Avios, I recommend my Beginner’s Guide to Avios and Oneworld – it’s by far my most-read post (so I assume that people have found it [...]

  3. […] British Airways Avios (and Oneworld Alliance) […]

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