Great Deals Using British Airways Points for Short Flights All Over the World

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

The great short-distance award redemption values that British Airways offers don’t just apply to flights on American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines inside the United States.

Jerry R. writes about the great value he’s gotten from his British Airways Visa Signature® Card which is currently offering 50,000 points after $2000 in purchases within 3 months.

I’m going with my wife to Shanghai and Hong Kong in a few months with my business class fare paid for by my organization so I’m using the Amex Platinum 2-1 on Air Canada which, despite the high business class fares the program generally charges, will allow her to fly for virtually nothing without my charging the organization inappropriately.

I did however, have to book a separate Shanghai-Hong Kong ticket (the business is in Hong Kong) and was about to fork over $650 each to fly Cathay Pacific business class when I remembered your discussion of the value of Avios points for short hauls and, lo and behold, 15,000 miles each and $78 for the two of us bought us the seats.

Thank goodness those valuable short-haul redemptions seem to be sticking around!

British Airways points are highly useful for short distance non-stop flights. And they even useful for premium cabin travel, not just coach, when — outside of US domestic travel — the forward cabin is called business class rather than first.

That’s because British Airways charges double the economy price for business class, but triple for first. And US domestic first class is ‘first’ in this scheme making it 3x the cost of economy.

But where it’s business class — and that includes transborder flights (between the US and Canada or Mexico) — then you pay double the points price. For short trips, that can be a value.

  • It’s not just a more comfortable seat, cocktails, and maybe a meal.
  • It’s priority checkin and free checked bags.
  • And for travel beyond North America generally includes lounge access

In this case the difference between economy (7500 points per person one-way) and business class (15,000 points per person one-way) may be worthwhile.

I recently booked a similarly-priced trip between Tokyo and Shanghai using British Airways’ oneworld partner Japan Airlines.

British Airways even lets you book Japanese domestic awards far in advance which American believes is illegal for them to do (and some Japanese domestic awards have no taxes or fees at all).

The nice thing about Hong Kong flights — aside from the fact that British Airways is partners with Hong Kong mega-carrier Cathay Pacific and its sister regional airline Dragonair — is that Hong Kong is a low fuel surcharge market so flights tend not to be especially costly to book as awards, either, in terms of taxes and fees.

You can also transfer points to British Airways from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Ink Plus Business Credit Card, and the Amex Everyday Preferred Card (as well as other American Express Membership Rewards-earning cards).

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

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, 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. What are you talking about regarding the cryptic reference about AA thinking it’s illegal to book Japanese awards?!? Link?

  2. Thanks for the pointer. That’s really weird. The language is cryptic but sort of sounds like it’s 90 days out for one-way but 60 days for the back half of a round trip, which doesn’t really make any sense.

  3. ffi —

    Domestic LAN Peru flights are my favorite Avios redemption because the airline is trying to screw over foreigners by charging them fares several times what locals get to pay (resulting in truly egregious fares). Voila — use our “first world” credit card points to turn the tables on them and pay them “nothing.”

  4. @gary AAdvantage will only book Japan domestic awards 60 days in advance of travel

    This isn’t true for domestic awards booked with an int’l connection.

  5. TAM flights in Brazil between Sao Paulo and Rio can often be very expensive, depending on day of week and time, because it’s one of the busiest business commute routes in the world. Good points value.

  6. We booked 2 R/T flights in South America for 9000 points per R/T. The cost would have been $200 R/T per tix for one flight, and slightly over $400 for the other. Avios came in handy.

    HKG/ICN is 10,000 points 1 way in coach. Not bad!

  7. Gary,

    I agree with Tom on this one. I took a quick skim, and everything seemed to be stuff you’ve covered before. If there’s new content in your post, you certainly buried the lede, and I never saw it.

  8. The Japan thing is weird. I booked a 1W Explorer award (RIP) with domestic segments way in advance. I booked my dad tickets using Avios on single-segment wholly-domestic itineraries at about the same time. I had no ideal AA would have told me I was SOL if I wanted to use AA miles for that.

    The other thing that AA claims is Japanese law is that they won’t permit you to use miles to sit in business class on a domestic segment. On the aforementioned trip, I had J booked on everything except HND-ITM, where they would *only* let me have Y.

  9. @Dan I almost always talk about short haul domestic awards in the US. I rarely talk about using the awards for international, and since i got an email on this I thought i’d share the example of Hong Kong – China and Japan-China. Very minor point to be sure, just a different emphasis.

  10. @ Gary Never, ever, repeat a single word you’ve posted before, because of course, every single person reading this blog has been reading it daily since Day One. And we all have perfect memories, and we always get the full significance of everything you post the minute we read it.


    Gary gets new readers regularly, most of whom do not go back and read everything he has ever posted.

    Sometimes, Gary posts things that don’t seem relevant to me at the time, so I really don’t pay any attention. Yet later my travel and/or miles and points habits change, and when I read it again it is now relevant.

    And sometimes I read things, which are currently relevant to me, and the usefulness of them doesn’t sink in at the time. But the second, third, or even fourth time I read them, I suddenly get it.

    So yes, posting useful information, even when Gary has posted something similar in the past, is totally useful for new readers, frequently useful for short-term readers, and even occasionally useful for long term readers.

    Not to mention that the post titles usually make clear what the post covers. So if someone already knows all about that, they can either quickly skim thru, or just move on.

  11. @robert Hanson

    While I generally share your sentiment, its not always so easy. If one objects to credit card posts, its easy to skip them.

    But Gary is a bit wordy with his writing, so its sometimes hard to “quickly” skim through his posts. Sometimes he leads up to new content by covering the basics, and other times he doesn’t.

    In this case, I’d be fine with an intro that says “long time readers won’t find anything truly new or highly nuanced, but read on if you never used avios for overseas travel.”

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