Reader Question: Booking Europe With Low Fuel Surcharges or Domestic US Flights With British Airways Points

Reader M.K. asks,

Dear Gary,

I have 161,878 BA Avios miles, built up almost entirely by getting the BA credit card, which we have since relinquished. The miles expire … this year.

[We] are simply not going to be able to go to England this year (and anyway, we are repelled by the gasoline surcharges). But I think we can use the points on American Airlines. I have gone to the site and punched in Vancouver from any WAS airport, anytime in July. The BA web site never shows any availability.

I cannot believe there is NO availability. Is there any way to check this out?

First, there are ways to get to Europe without exorbitant fuel surcharges.

  • flights on British Airways’ oneworld partner Air Berlin have no fuel surcharges
  • Aer Lingus is a British Airways partner and while they have fuel surcharges, tose are under $50 (Boston-Ireland is just 25k miles apiece in coach, 50k in business roundtrip)
  • If you open an Iberia Avios account, once it has been open 90 days you can transfer your British Airways points there. Iberia Avios adds no fuel surcharges when redeeming for Iberia flights.

But yes you can use your British Airways points on other partners including American Airlines and Alaska Airlines as well.

My suggestion is that you go to the American Airlines website and search for awards there.

Any seats that have ‘saver’ (lowest mileage level) award space — and American shows both space on their own flights and also on- Alaska Airlines — can be booked with British Airways Avios.

If you want an itinerary that includes Alaska Airlines (Alaska Airlines award space isn’t available on the BA website at all), or if you find seats that you aren’t seeing on the British Airways website, then you’ll have to call.

Unfortunately the British Airways call center in the U.S. has limited hours (they close at 8pm weeknights) and their agents can be grumpy or incompetent, so it’s sometimes necessary to ring back and try a second agent that might be more helpful.

The very best uses of British Airways points, because their award chart is distance-based and gets expensive for long flights and because they charge separately for each flight segment, is short non-stop flights.

US domestic flights, as well as flights from the US to South America, have no fuel surcharges. So short flights on those routes represent an especially good value with British Airways Avios.

Best of luck!

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. why does this person believe that their Avios “expire” this year? I thought that miles were valid as long as the account was active and that any activity will reset the clock for another year. buying avios, transferring amex MR, a car rental with credit to BAEC will all work, no?

  2. They haven’t had account activity, which of course is another easy solve. I didn’t go there because the rest of the context of the note, they clearly wanted to travel now and that was a bit of a throwaway line.

  3. Any reason why you can redeem cash and points for Malaysia flights to/from the US but not JAL flights?

  4. I’ve had a lot of poor luck with saver AA space showing PIT-JFK and PIT-MIA on the AA site that’s not bootable via Avios per BA site and agents.

  5. For all i have always heard about “grumpy or incompetent” BA call center employees, i must say that i had an absolutely excellent experience working with a BA call center rep last week booking AA flights with Avios. I realize i must have gotten very lucky. Should have asked if i could have her direct number for the future…

  6. Transfer chase ultimate rewards to BA, buy something from through the BA shopping portal, and so on. There’s no reason to pressure yourself into burning miles.

  7. What do people think about the value of Redeeming avios miles for hotels? I just saw an offer for 55k miles for 2 nights at a mandarin oriental where rates were nearly $500usd per night.

  8. One of the very best uses of Avios is in fact the “Reward Flight Saver” flights. These are the intra-Europe redemptions which start at 4500 Avios + £15, which give the biggest bang for your buck…easily over 2 cents per mile.

    If your reader can get to Europe using other means, then he/she will definitely enjoy burning those Avios there!

  9. Hello Gary,

    Sorry to digress a bit…I live in Honolulu and would like to fly me, wife and three kids to Quito next summer, and I want a clear point strategy. I have 50k ba avios, 70k alaska air, 110k chase ur, 85k amex mr points, 30k us airways, 60k starpoints. What shld I do?

    I’m burning 270k ua miles doing an all points family trip to china and japan this summer, staying ritz bj and ph tokyo- all thanks to you. BIG Mahalo.

  10. Thanks for a very helpful post! I’m trying to figure out what to do with my 236,000 Avios (and counting), so I’ve bookmarked and saved this page. Very helpful advice as always; thanks, Gary.

  11. Gary, to use Avios for American saver Awards, can you do this on American’s website, British Airways website, or do you have to call British Airways? thanks

  12. Hi Gary, I never figure out how to book a business/first AA short-haul flight on BA avios. I can pull up AA saver economy on BA, but not able to pull business seats. Could you advice? Thanks!

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