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Why British Airways Avios Are Awesome For Domestic Flights

By October 16, 2012 December 10th, 2013 No Comments

How To Avoid BA Fuel Surcharges

A few Readers who got in on the British Airways 100,000 Avios offer in June (currently is 50,000 at BA.com), have emailed me with their frustration of getting hit with a massive fuel surcharge when they go to book an Award Ticket to Europe.

Although the fuel surcharge is extremely annoying, there are ways to avoid it.

All these articles and more are in the FAA Archive, but the easiest ways to avoid any large fuel surcharges on BA is to fly Aer Lingus, Iberia, start your trip in Brazil, or use it for other destinations like South America, etc.

When the British Airways 100,000 Avios offer was available, I pointed out that for me, the offer was amazing because you can use British Airways Avios for flights on American Airlines.

With any other Airlines (besides Delta), 100,000 Miles would be enough for 4 Roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the Continental United States, however because British Airways Avios is a Distance Based Rewards Program, you could really stretch your Avios.

Well lo and behold, Avios came to the rescue today!

After attending the Chicago Seminars this past weekend, the main thing I took away from it is that I need to start traveling more!

That being said, yesterday I spontaneously decided to go to New York with my friend in 2 weeks and also go to Frequent Traveler University at the end of November!

New York

To most people’s surprise, Chicago to New York is only 731 miles!

Unfortunately, because it is such a busy route, Airlines love to charge $300+ for it.

Similarly for Award Tickets, it will cost a cool 25,000 Miles for a Saver Ticket.

I wasn’t in the mood to pay $300+, so I decided to use miles.

My de-facto Mileage Program is United because they almost always have availability, but in recent months I have realized how valuable their miles are for International Premium Cabin travel, so I have tried to avoid using their miles domestically.

Additionally United and American Airlines, both have $75 close-in ticketing fees on Award Tickets if they are booked 21 days to departure! Annoying!

So using United or American Miles, it would have cost me 25,000 Miles + $75.

In recent months, as I have unequivocally declared, I have become a Southwest convert. I have no problem flying them, but because the amount of Points needed for an Award Ticket is directly correlated to price, I still would have needed 16,000 – 20,000 SW Points for an Award Ticket.

Since I don’t have any Southwest Points, I would have had to transfer them from Ultimate Rewards, which as you know are even more valuable than United Miles!

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do because I thought I had exhausted all my options until I remembered that I had a ton of Avios laying around!

After logging into BritishAirways.com, I searched for my flights.

Although the flights on Friday and returning Sunday departed at 6AM, there was some decent availability on Thursday and returning Monday.

I can work from anywhere, so I decided to just take those options.

As I stated earlier because British Airways has a Distance Based Rewards Chart, the number of Avios needed is determined by the distance between the 2 cities.

While this can be bad for flying around the world, it is amazing for flying short hops like Chicago to New York!

So instead of 25,000 Miles & $75 on United or American, I got a free non-stop flight on American Airlines using British Airways Avios for the rock-bottom price of 15,000 Avios and $5!

If that is not amazing, I quickly ran the flight numbers on Kayak and the absolute cheapest fare to get to NYC was $232 on Spirit.

While the exact AA flight I am going to be on was a whopping $382.

Los Angeles

Since I am based out of Chicago, I only had to pay $85 to attend the Chicago Seminars.

I didn’t have to fly in or stay at a hotel, so I had no idea how expensive these types of events can be for people coming in from out of town!

The ticket for Frequent Traveler University is $99, which isn’t too bad, but then the hotel is $100 a night if you don’t split it, and then you still have to add in the cost of your flight.

So you can very easily spend $600+ to attend the 2 1/2 day FTU seminar.

When I did a search for flights, the cheapest price I could find was $287

Even with splitting the Hotel with someone, that is still almost $472!

I figured if I could cut out the cost of the flight, it would be far more reasonable.

Identical to how I searched for my New York flight, I first went to United.com, then American, then Southwest and ran into the same issues.

Did I really want to spend Ultimate Rewards Points or United Miles for this trip when I could save them for something more valuable?

The answer led me right back to British Airways Avios.

Luckily for me, I have never had any issues finding ORD – LAX flights on AA using BA Avios, and this time was no exception.

Basically everything was wide open, so I picked a flight that left early Friday from Chicago and then a red-eye from LA that gets into Chicago early Monday morning.

While on United or American this would cost 25,000 Miles for an Economy Saver, because of the British Airways Distance Based Award Chart, it was only 20,000 Avios + $5.

The same exact flight on Kayak costs $349!

Recap

While saving 5,000 Miles here and 10,000 Miles there, doesn’t sound like a lot, in my case these 2 flights only cost 35,000 Avios instead of 50,000 Miles on United or American.

When the average Credit Card Sign On Bonus is only 30,000 – 50,000 Miles, a savings of 15,000 is extremely substantial.

When you think about it in terms of trips, it is even more impactful.

With that 15,000 Avios I saved, I potentially could take another free trip to New York if I wanted!

3 free trips or 2 free trips is quite a large difference.

All in all, for 35,000 Avios, I saved around $731 in airfare.

When people say they spent 100,000 Miles and got a Business Class ticket worth $10,000, you would obviously never pay $10,000 out of pocket.

In my example, if I didn’t have any miles, I actually would have had to pay around $500 – $731 for the flights because that was the cheapest fare.

So if there are 2 things to take away from this, they are:

  • Try and have as diverse of a bank of miles as possible, so in the event there is no availability, you can use a different program.
  • If you are transferring Points from Ultimate Rewards or Starwood AMEX, always try and think about which program will give you the most bang for you mile. It can be the difference between 2 free trips and 3!

-Parag

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