British Airways Avios Program Introduction and Overview

The biggest decision you’ll need to make when collecting miles and points is which program is best for your travel needs.  In order to do that, I’ve been putting together a series of articles that highlight the different program features.

Here’s a list of the other US based airlines that I’ve posted about:

Delta SkyMiles

American AAdvantage

United MileagePlus

Southwest Rapid Rewards

US Airways Dividend Miles 

Even though British Airways is not a US based airline, I decided to include it in the series because I know a lot of people have collected or considered collecting Avois because of the different credit card sign up bonuses that British Airways has had in the past.  Also, more than any other airline, you must understand where the gems are within the program.

British Airways Avois Program Details and Introduction

Published October 2012.  Changes after this date may not be accurate in this summary.

British Airways Partnerships

British Airways is part of the One World Alliance.

One World Partners

  • LAN
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • JAL
  • Mexicana
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordinian
  • S7 Airlines
This means that you can use your Avios to book flights on any of the above airlines.  The two best ways to check Avois availability is on their website (ba.com) or on the Qantas website.

British Airways Award Booking Chart and Program Highlights:

Unlike most other airlines, British Airways does not have a zone-based award chart, but a distance-based one.  As such, there isn’t a link I can give you to their award chart.  Instead, what you’ll need to do is visit their Avios calculator to see how many Avois it takes based on your destination.  The further it is between point A and point B, the more Avois you’ll need to use for a booking.

Per segment Avois:

Another thing that is unique about Avois is that you always need to redeem Avois for each leg.

For example, with American Airlines you could book a ticket from Denver – Toronto for 12,500 miles each way.  You could fly via Chicago or Dallas and it would still cost 12,500 AAdvantage points.  However, that is not the case with British Airways.  A flight from Denver – Dallas is 4,500 Avios, and the flight from Dallas to Toronto is 10,000 miles.  Thus, the total is 14,500 Avois for a one-way.  However, Denver to Chicago costs 7,500 miles, and Chicago to Toronto another 4,500.  Thus, flying through Chicago only requires 12,000.

When booking your trips, you’ll always want to find the shortest possible routing for the best Avois rate.

While the per segment aspect of Avois might seem like a negative benefit, it can actually be positive.

I see it this way. Since the other programs are more similar, having Avois opens up the door for some possible mileage savings.  Diversification and variety are always good things.

If I’m in New York and trying to get to Montreal, I can do that 4,500 Avios each way.  Most other airlines will cost me 12,500.  If I’m in Miami and trying to get to Quito, Ecuador, I can do that for 10,000 Avois each way.  Most other airlines would cost about 20,000 miles each way.

For the right flights, Avios can be very valuable.

Award Booking Policies, Facts, and Possible Fees

The biggest drawback of the Avois program is the excessive fuel surcharges.

Flights on British Airways metal (plane that says British Airways on the side) will always have a huge fuel surcharge.  A person booking award flights between North America and Europe can easily expect to pay $500+ per ticket in fuel surcharges.

For example, economy class flights from Chicago – London (LHR) = 40,000 Avois plus $625.71.  Flight operated by American Airlines.

Not all airlines and routes will have a fuel surcharges with British Airways.  It all depends on the airline and the routing.  As an example, you can book US domestic flights using Avois without a fuel surcharge.  You can book LAN flights in South America without a fuel surcharge.  Flights within the US on American don’t have fuel surcharges.

If you book with Iberia, Air Berlin, or Air Lingus, there is a way around the fuel surcharge.

Before you start collecting too many Avios, you’ll want to be sure that your preferred destination is one that does not have a huge fee.  The best way to check it is to go through the process as if you were booking tickets.  Once you’ve found availability, British Airways will tell you how many Avois it requires, plus the taxes and fees.

Flight cancellations cost $40.  Compared to most airlines, that’s actually pretty good.  In fact, if you book online and your taxes and fees come to less than $40, there’s a good chance you won’t even pay that.  Last year, I cancelled tickets from Denver to Dallas.  I cancelled the ticket (online) without a fee, but I didn’t get back the $2.50 I’d paid in taxes and fees.

When it comes to flight changes, the Avios program is less generous than most.  Any changes (even just dates) will cost $40.  The exception, of course, is if you can cancel it without a fee and then simply rebook the new flights.

One Way and Open-Jaw Policy

You can book one way flights.  In fact, you could stop at every destination along the way.  Remember, your Avios price is per segment so you could buy four different city pairs and make a stop in each city.  Similarly, they allow open jaw flights.

Stop Over Policy

Yes, you can stop over at any destination.  Again, this is because of their per segment charge for flights.

Hold Award Ticket Policy

You cannot put an award ticket on hold.

Fuel Surcharge Policy

Yes, tons.  We’ve already covered their massive fuel surcharges for certain routes.

British Airways Earning Opportunities

British Airways is the king of the hill when it comes to earning possiblities.

For the last few years, they’ve had a promotion once a year where you can get up to 100,000 Avios for one credit card application.  You could get the card today with a 50,000 Avois sign up bonus.  You’ll get the bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

Ultimate Rewards points can be transfered to Avois.  My first preference is to keep my Ultimate Rewards points for United flights, but if I needed Avois for an upcoming flight, I wouldn’t have any issues transferring points over to Avois if it was a flight where I could maximize my per dollar value.

Ultimate Rewards earning cards include - Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus.

American Express Membership Rewards points can also be transfered to Avios.  In fact, every quarter or so, there is a transfer bonus to Avios.  We’ve seen 50% transfer bonuses and 40% transfer bonuses this year.  Personally, I think this is a great use of American Express Rewards points.

Membership Rewards cards include – American Express Gold Card®, The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card®, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN.

Overall Rating Range : Poor – below average – average – above average – strong

Rating = Above Average

I’ve given Avois an above average rating because, for the right person, the program can be amazing.  Personally, I’ve already redeemed a flight between Denver and Dallas for a mere 4,500 Avois.  I’ve redeemed flights between Chicago and Toronto for 4,500 Avois.  Those mileage rates are hard to beat.

What are your thoughts about the Avios program?

Comments

  1. Jon says

    BA Avios can also be redeemed on Alaska Airlines. Bookings must be made by phone, but using Avios can be a tremendous value for those along the West Coast and in Alaska.

  2. Heather says

    Any tips for using BA’s search engine for awards flights? It seems quite buggy and rarely do I find availability, no matter how far out the date is.

    • Jon says

      You can use aa.com for flights on AA. If you see MileSAAver availability, it should be viewable and bookable on ba.com, or via phone with BA.

      You can use alaskaair.com for flights on AS. If you see Super Saver availability, it should be bookable via phone with BA.

      The “Award Calendars” on AA and AS are pretty good and a fast way to see availability.

      One other note, BA loads award seats at 355 days prior to departure. AA is at 330 days prior for AAdvantage members. Thus, one can use BA Avios to book AA flights before AAdvantage members can. I did exactly that for a trip for four to Hawaii in 2011, and it’s a huge benefit in terms of finding seats if you can commit to plans that far in advance.

      • says

        Jon,
        Thanks for your comment. Great stuff.
        The only think I would add is that while you should be able to book with Avois anything you see on AA MileSAAer that is not always the case. I’ve had several times when I see availability and the agent at BA can’t see it.
        Also, if you can find availability on ba.com that is best because you’ll avoid the phone booking fee. You may also be able to ask them to waive the phone booking fee if you can’t book it online.
        The other tip I would have is to use Qantas.com to check for availability too.

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