And That’s What British Airways Avios Are For (Last Minute Short Haul Domestic)

Goodness knows I’m not a fan of British Airways Avios. I like my mileage redemptions long haul and in premium cabins. There used to be some fantastic values in the British Airways program for that — such as Cathay Pacific from the US to Asia in business class for 100,000 points with stopovers permitted. Sadly, since November 2011, no longer.

But there are great strategic uses for the points and they generally center around shorter flights (since British Airways award tickets are priced based on distance), non-stop (since British Airways charges separately for each flight segment), and coach (since the program charges a full double miles for business class and triple miles for first — and US domestic front cabin is triple miles for “first”).

You can still work the award chart to your advantage for flights like Aer Lingus Boston – Ireland (just 50,000 points roundtrip in business class, and low fees) or South America provided you’re flying non-stop (no more miles than American charges, and no fuel surcharges — and short flights like Miami – Lima are just 50,000 miles roundtrip in business).

The base case for Avios, though, is the short hop when fares are high.

I’ve certainly had much higher domestic fares, of course. A last minute trip to Dallas can price out at ~ $1500 roundtrip for non-stops from the DC area.

Even a simple Chicago one-way can make good sense. Here was the pricing on a recent day:

And here’s the cost in British Airways Avios:

It’s domestic. It’s coach. And it’s still getting better than 7 cents per miles. That’s what British Airways Avios are for.

Now, I happened to have plenty (more than I’d like) in my BA account. But if I didn’t, transfers from both American Express Membership Rewards and from Chase Ultimate Rewards are instantaneous.


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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. The few times I’ve looked for svailability on BA (lax-sfo) it’s been terrible, even when AA is showing flights. Have you found it to be decent?

  2. @Beachfan I have found British Airways availability to match AA availability even if I have to call (if BA.com isn’t giving me the flights I want)

  3. I regularly use BA in Europe [LHR-ZRH; LHR-KBP; LHR-PRG] where I find the availability and value in Economy is outstanding. It is also often worth looking at Business [Club Europe] on the odd times when there is no availability in Economy and sometimes it makes great sense to do so. I flew Kiev to Manchester UK recently and had a three hour layover in Heathrow T5. The extra miles, of which I have plenty, were well worth spending to give me the lounge in Kiev, excellent service on the KBP-LHR flight and most importantly the lounge in Heathrow, where I was able to relax with a decent meal and do some work as well. Unfortunately when I arrived in Manchester the handles of my bag were torn away. I believe the fact that I had a Club Europe ticket both expedited the attention I got and smoothed the way to a replacement with minimum hassle.

  4. Being based in Australia, I find MEL-SYD QF redemptions pretty useful, though they’d cost about $30 taxes and fees.

  5. Being based out of DCA, use of Avios on the new American is one of the things I really look forward to if the merger goes through. There are so many short-hop routes that US flies out of DCA which would be great for 4500 Avios OW (assuming they are reasonable with availability).

  6. As CW notes, everyone who lives in a US Airways hub and has access to Avios miles would benefit considerably from an AA-US merger. PHL and CLT travelers in particular would get a sweet deal. Right now, it’s almost impossible to justify a short haul leisure flight (say 500 or 600 miles) from those markets. Avios would make those trips cheap.

  7. Even though I’m DC-based, I regularly use Avios as a means to position for flights — or as a backup.

    I am somewhat more skeptical than others that the avios scheme would be as glorious post US merger. Seems too useful — availability might dry, or rates go up.

  8. As a WAS flyer, I think the availability will dry up; but even then there should be some shuttle flights left.
    I can’t imagine that BA will change it just for a few DC flyers, unless the blogs keep hyping what a great deal it is ….

  9. Completely agree. Perhaps understandably, a lot of people (understandbly) focus on saving awards for red-letters trips in premium cabins.

    But I’ve always maintained that the best value I get for miles is saving me £££ on last-minute short-haul and domestic trips. LHR-EDI can easily top £350/$500 at weekends. Prices start from £89/$110, so using Avios is can save me enough money to afford a trip in paid business class.

  10. When using avios on an AA flight with only coach and first ( that really should be called business) is it still tripple miles up front when the product is so bad? I wish AA would reclassify these as business instead.

  11. As Gabbai says, intra-Europe is where Avios really shine – £35 plus 9,000+ Avios for a return in economy with domestic connections in the UK is amazing vfm. Also with BAEC Gold the availability is staggering. Add to that the earning potential through credit cards (albeit not as generous a sign up bonus as in the US) and the ease of earning through everyday spend in Tesco and it’s a pretty good scheme for British customers. Sadly as you correctly say it’s severely punitive for F rewards, especially compared to the amazing deals from US/AA/UA.

  12. I mostly use BA points for short-haul flights. The 4,500-7,500 point awards have been a huge money saver for me, and it is to the point that buying the points for redemption purposes may even make sense.

    For those AA passengers without elite status, the value of BA redemptions may even be higher given how frequently they come with some PA benefits and how the redemptions don’t involve ridiculous award ticket fees for booking flights with less than 21 days advance purchase.

  13. Ed —

    I really don’t think there will be much of a problem with Avios demand for AA award seats if US becomes AA. I doubt that Avios redemptions are huge in the USA; other than the folks who read blogs like this, how many Americans collect Avios miles? It’s got to be very few.

    A bigger problem is that, in the past year, AA has gotten Delta-stingy when if comes to making domestic award seats available. Maybe DisAAdvantage miles will join Skypesos in the frequent flyer lingo. If that becomes the case, and there’s little to no availability in the saver bucket, Avios will be less useful than US fliers hope.

  14. @Quinny – you need to call BA to book these flights, they’re not available online. Availability is generally good though, taxes are lower given starting in DUB (therefore no APD) and you preclear US immigration in DUB too!

  15. @Quinny – what Alan said, except that you can generally use united.com to get a feel for availability on Aer Lingus.

  16. @VV – sorry I’m Gold so don’t get charged one anyway! I believe they may do so but depending on the agent I think folk have had a bit of luck in getting it waived given it’s not an option to book online. Given the lower taxes (and lower Avios for DUB-BOS vs from LHR) it’s still worth doing even if you can’t get them to waive it.

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