Category

British Airways

Always Double Check The British Airways Award Engine

Earlier this week my Friend asked if I would be interested in going down to Florida next Tuesday.

Given that it isn’t exactly Summer yet in Chicago, I was more than willing to escape to some warm weather.

As usual, the first thing I did was to look for Award Flights. Since it is less than 21 days to Departure, Award Tickets on American Airlines and United were out of the question because of their RIDICULOUS $75 Close-in Ticketing Fee.

That basically left me with either Southwest or British Airways.

Given that Southwest is my favorite Domestic Airline since they let you cancel tickets for free, I decided to check them first.

Southwest Award Tickets are based on the actual cost of the corresponding Revenue Ticket. While that sounds bad for Consumers, it is actually pretty great for short flights and in the past I have found some amazing steals.

Unfortunately in this case, the exact opposite happened. The cheapest flight going down to Fort Myers was 21,900 Points!

The flight back to Chicago was much more reasonable with the cheapest flight costing only 7,260 Points!

All in, a Roundtrip Flight on Southwest would have been around 29,000 Points.

Since Domestic Awards on United or American typically cost a flat 25,000 Miles, Southwest charging an extra 4,000 Points isn’t a huge deal.

However given that my Cousin and I both traveled to Austin for 30,000 Points total, 29,000 Points for 1 person on Southwest does seem expensive…

Since the Flight down to Fort Myers was going to cost 21,000 Points on Southwest, I figured that I might as well search British Airways and see if there was anything available.

At a minimum, I’d happily pay 25,000 Avios for a One Way Business Class Award down to Florida instead of spending 21,000 Points to fly Economy on Southwest.

Since Southwest and British Airways both allow for One Way Awards, I could fly British Airways in Economy or Business Class down to Florida and then do a Southwest One Way for 7,000 Points back to Chicago.

I headed over to BritishAirways.com to search and first looked up a Roundtrip Award to Fort Myers.

Surprisingly there was no availability for either days…

I am not sure why I did this since the British Airways Search Engine was clearly showing no availability in either direction, but I decided to search for the Flights as One Ways.

From no availability 2 seconds earlier, MAGICALLY 3 different flight options appeared…

I don’t know if this a widespread glitch or not but it is kind of frustrating because if I hadn’t have searched for the flights as a One Way, I would have just assumed that there were no Awards available when clearly there were!

While I was extremely happy to find an Award, the silver lining is that since British Airways Awards are distance based, the Flight down to Florida on American Airlines using British Airways Points was only 7,500 Avios!

Not only is that 3x less than the 21,000 Point Southwest Ticket down to Florida, but had I booked the same exact seat on the same exact flight using American Airline Miles, it would have cost me 12,500 AA Miles + $77.50!!

It is for this exact reason that if you don’t have a British Airways Credit Card, you should really think about getting one!

Although British Airways Avios are fairly useless for traveling abroad, they are absolutely spectacular for Domestic Flights on American Airlines!

Not only are British Airway Awards on American Airlines substantially cheaper BUT you also avoid the non-sense $75 Close-in Ticketing Fee that American Airlines charges!

Recap

Of the many things I have learned over the past few years dealing with Frequent Flyer Miles, one is that Airline Award Engines are pretty goofy. The second is that it is always good to have your Miles in multiple programs.

If I only had United or American Miles, I would have been stuck paying 25,000 Miles + $75 in fees to get down to Florida.

However since I have Miles & Points in Southwest, British Airways, US Airways, Delta, United, and American Airlines, I have extreme flexibility in booking Awards!

In this specific example, by doing 2 One Ways on Southwest and British Airways, I was able to avoid United & American’s non-sense $75 fee and get a Roundtrip Ticket for only 14,000 Points instead of 25,000 Miles on UA or AA!

As for the British Airways Award Engine, I have no idea what caused it to only show the Awards flights when I searched for One Ways or if this is a widespread issue.

The only advice I have is that if you are searching British Airways and you are finding no availability, try searching only as One Ways and see what happens!

-Parag

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Using Avios To Get To Europe On Iberia Without Fuel Surcharges

Last week I talked about the British Airways Card and how Avios are awesome if you use them for domestic flights on American Airlines.

Link To British Airways Card

Not only is the British Airways Award Chart distance based, it is also CHEAPER than if you used American Airline Miles for the same domestic flights.

That being said, not everyone wants to fly exclusively in North America and perhaps would like to use their Avios to go to Europe.

For anyone that has tried to use their Avios on British Airways to go to Europe, they know first hand what a TERRIBLE deal it is because of British Airways fuel surcharges and London airport taxes. Those 2 things can make a British Airways “Award Ticket” more expensive than just buying a Revenue Ticket.

Well with merger of British Airways and Iberia last year, and the subsequent creation of the “Avios” point, some interesting “loopholes” have formed.

The primary one that is the most fascinating is the ability to transfer your British Airways Avios over to Iberia, and avoid any silly British Airways fuel surcharges.

Transferring Miles To Iberia

Before transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios, you first need to have an Iberia Plus Account. If you do not have one, the link to create one is below.

Link To Iberia Plus Account

IMPORTANT: Before you can transfer Avios between Iberia and British Airways, your Iberia account has to be open for 3 months!

So even if you don’t have any immediate plans to book Iberia flights, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND opening an Iberia Plus Account now, so as to start the clock on the 3 months! Also don’t forget to add your new Iberia account to AwardWallet!

Once you have created your Iberia Plus Account and the 3 months have passed, if you want to move Avios from British Airways to Iberia, simply log into your British Airways Account and click on “Manage My Account”. There you will see an option to “Combine My Avios”.

Clicking on “Combine My Avios” will take you to the site below.

When I was trying to combine my Avios, I was having issues using the Firefox Browser, so I switched to Chrome and it worked without issue.

To combine your Avios, simply enter in your Iberia Plus information and follow the prompts.

Why Iberia > British Airways

Given that British Airways and Iberia merged last year, to most normal people, you would think that booking an Award Flight with Avios on British Airways would be the exact same as booking an Award Flight with Iberia.

That is not the case!

To showcase this difference, I randomly picked some dates for a flight to Madrid from Chicago. Of course you can use your Iberia Avios to go anywhere OneWorld flies, so don’t think you have to limit yourself to Spain or only Iberia planes.

British Airways

I first searched BritishAirways.com and found availability for a direct flight on Iberia from Chicago to Madrid.

This flight doesn’t stop in London, so you avoid the high London airport tax which is good!

While it is only 40,000 Avios for the flight (which is a great deal), there is also a whopping $590.02 in taxes, fees, and carrier charges!

If you expand the taxes part and look into it deeper, you find out that British Airways has tacked on a $496 fuel surcharge!

This is basically free money for British Airways since Iberia is the one flying the plane!

Iberia

Since most people don’t know about the Iberia & British Airways merger, I am sure there are people that will pay $590.02 & 40,000 Avios for the above “Award Ticket” because they don’t know any better.

However if you go to Iberia.com and search, you can find the same exact flight for 40,000 Avios & $172.30 in taxes and fees!

That is a difference of $417.72!

So simply by running 2 searches (one on BritishAirways.com and one on Iberia.com) and transferring 40,000 British Airways Avios to Iberia, you can book the EXACT SAME FLIGHT on Iberia.com and save $417.72!

While this example was just for Madrid and solely on an Iberia plane, if you use Iberia’s Award Search engine, you can find flights to Europe on AA, OpenSkies, etc that DO NOT have any fuel surcharges.

Different Award Inventories

Another interesting thing I noticed, and also a great reason why you should make an Iberia Plus Account NOW, is that although AA, British Airways, and Iberia are all OneWorld Alliance Partners, they all have different Award Inventory.

This isn’t exactly breaking news since Star Alliance does the exact same thing for some of the Premium Cabins on Lufthansa and Asian Airlines.

What is shocking is that Iberia and British Airways have different Award inventory, even though they are owned by the same company!

Just like how if you move Avios from British Airways to Iberia, you can save $417.72 on fuel surcharges, similarly by using Iberia over British Airways to search for Awards, you get access to different inventory.

For example, when Alitalia screwed up my ticket to Madrid last month, I was scrambling to find a new Award Ticket.

The Award Availability was terrible, so I ended up trying to find flights thru London on either Iberia or AA (to avoid the British Airways fuel surcharge), and then planned to take an onward flight to Madrid.

On AA, I could find an Award Ticket to London but then no Economy space going onward to Madrid on Sunday, February 10.

No Economy availability seemed really odd since there was so much Business availability open!

I did a quick search on British Airways to double check and the same thing happened!

There was absolutely no availability to Madrid on Sunday, February 10!

Out of curiosity, I also checked Iberia.com and to my surprise, there was full availability for Economy tickets from London to Madrid!

I don’t know why British Airways and Iberia do this but as a Customer it is good to know that when British Airways says there is no availability, that might not be the entire truth…

At a minimum, hopefully this convinces everyone to at least open an Iberia account because apparently Avios are valued completely differently when they are in one Airline’s account instead of the other!

Recap

The British Airways Avios frequent flyer program can basically be summed up like this: British Airways Avios can be an AMAZING VALUE, as long as you aren’t redeeming your Avios on British Airways!

As silly as that sounds, when you look at how expensive British Airways fuel surcharges are, it is almost as if they are purposely doing that so as to deter their Customers from redeeming their Avios on British Airways.

What makes this situation worse, is that outside of the fuel surcharge, the Avios distance based formula is actually pretty lucrative.

As you saw above, you can get from Chicago to Madrid for only 40,000 Avios (compared to 60,000 on United or American) + $172, which is a great deal!

 -Parag

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British Airways 50,000 Point Offer / Why Using BA Miles On AA Is Awesome

British Airways 50,000 Point Offer

Last week, I talked about the Southwest Card & the Companion Pass and what an amazing offer it can be if done correctly.

Well I got a few emails from Readers saying Southwest doesn’t fly into their home Airport, so are there any other good offers.

The best one I could find, and one I actually forgot was still around, is the British Airways 50,000 Point Offer.

Now if you aren’t familiar with the British Airways offer, I have written extensively about it before, so feel free to check out some of the old posts.

The current offer is 50,000 Avios after you spend $1,000 in 3 months.

You can get 25,000 bonus Avios after you make $10,000 in purchases within the first 12 months of account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first 12 months of account opening.

Basically if you can spend $20,000 on this Card in 12 months, the total bonus you can get is over 100,000 Avios!

While most people might not be able to do that (or want to spend their $20,000 on a different Card), the 50,000 Avios for spending $1,000 in 3 months is still a great deal! 

The reason why Avios Points are so valuable is because you can use them for free Award Flights on AMERICAN AIRLINES!

As you will see below, for Domestic Flights, 9/10 times it is cheaper to use Avios for AA Flights rather than using AA Miles for AA Flights…

Getting The Bonus Twice

Typically with Chase Cards, you are supposed to only get the Sign On Bonus once.

My Friend and I both got in on the British Airways 100,000 Mile offer back in 2009 when it first came out. After earning our 100,000 Miles, we closed the Cards before the Annual Fee came due.

When the current offer of 50,000 Avios came back this year, my friend decided to try his luck and sign up for it again. To both of our surprises, he was awarded the Sign Up Bonus again!

This is a situation where Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) but there are lots of reports on FlyerTalk and Twitter about people getting the Sign Up Bonus again after closing the same Card 2 years.

If I wasn’t gunning for the Southwest Companion Pass, then I’d definitely get this Card again for the 50,000 Avios bonus because the Points are so useful on AA.

Using Avios For Award Tickets On AA

Using your Avios Points to book Domestic Award flights on American Airlines is fairly easy!

A full step by step tutorial that I did can be found here.

The reason why Avios Points are valuable for use on Domestic American Airline flights is because British Airways operates a distance based Award Chart.

So instead of a fixed 25,000 Mile Domestic Award like on United or American Airlines, the cost of a British Airways Award depends on the distance between the 2 cities.

British Airways has a calculator which can tell you how many Avios you need for an Award, but a more practical example is below.

Assuming you are based out of New York City, using Avios for roundtrip flights on American Airlines, it would cost you the following amount of Avios:

  • Boston – 9,000 Avios
  • Washington, D.C – 9,000 Avios
  • Miami – 15,000 Avios
  • Chicago -15,000 Avios
  • Dallas – 20,000 Avios
  • Las Vegas – 25,000 Avios
  • Seattle – 25,000 Avios
  • Vancouver – 25,000 Avios
  • Los Angeles – 25,000 Avios

As you can see, for the short haul flights, like NYC-BOS or NYC-WAS, it is only 9,000 Avios roundtrip!

If you logged into AA.com and used American Airline Miles, those same flights would be 25,000 AA Miles, instead of 9,000 Avios!

Real Life Example

For my Brother’s birthday next weekend, he wanted to go to NYC to visit my Niece and Nephew.

My Parents couldn’t take him, so I volunteered.

The first place I checked for tickets was Southwest. The price (in points) for 2 Award Tickets was reasonable but given how valuable Southwest Points can be, I decided to save them and check if there was anything available using British Airways Avios.

I had my Parents get the British Airways Card last year and we have a Family Account which allows us to merge all of our BA Accounts together, so we have over 100,000 Avios.

Using Avios, I was able to find 2 Award Tickets on American Airlines for only 30,000 Avios + $10 TOTAL, or 15,000 Avios per a person, which is a steal!

As I talked about above, for Domestic Flights, even though you are flying on American Airlines, using Avios can be far cheaper than using American Airline Miles.

Just how much it will save you is fairly astonishing…

I searched for the SAME EXACT AWARD FLIGHT on AA.com, and for 2 tickets, AA wanted a whopping 50,000 Miles AND $160 in taxes ($5 each) and “close-in ticketing” fees ($75 each).

Luckily British Airways doesn’t charge any Close-In Ticketing Fees!

So not only did I save $150 in non-sense fees BUT I also saved 20,000 Miles since I got the same exact flight for only 30,000 Avios instead of 50,000 AA Miles.

To put that in perspective, with those extra 20,000 AA Miles I am saving, I could spend another 15,000 Avios AND GET ANOTHER FREE FLIGHT!

So for 45,000 Avios I could get 3 Award Tickets on AA OR for 50,000 AA Miles & $160 I could get 2 Award Tickets on AA…

Not a hard decision!

As always, I did a quick search on Kayak.com for my flight to see how much it is retailing for.

For our flights next week, they are going for $600 each.

Basically for 30,000 Avios & $10, we got $1,200 in free flights!

Recap

Although most people only think to use British Airways Avios for trips to Europe (absolutely terrible deal by the way), the real value of Avios Points lie in the ability to use them for Domestic Flights on American Airlines.

By using Avios Points, not only do you pay substantially less for an AA Award than if you had used AA Miles, but you also avoid all of AA’s ridiculous close-in ticketing fees!

Talk about a win-win!

-Parag

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