Beginners Post: Basics of British Airways Avios

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This is the tenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

We’re in the section on redeeming miles. Once you understand how to redeem miles, you’ll understand which miles are right to earn for your travel goals. This post will focus on British Airways Avios, which are useful for a number of awards especially now that one way awards are allowed and award space has improved in 2015.

Why Collect British Airways Avios?

British Airways Avios are very often the best miles to book short, direct, economy flights.

I like international First Class as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii or Hong Kong to Tokyo or Chicago to Dallas.

British Airways Avios are completely different than the other major types of miles like United and American miles.

While most major airline miles are region-based, Avios are distance-based.

Different equals more valuable when it comes to miles because it opens up different types of high value awards.

  • What airlines can you fly with British Airways miles?
  • What are the routing rules for British Airways awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the Avios program?
  • How can you book a British Airways award?

Mileage Price

British Airways charges a price for each segment of your award. The number of Avios–BA’s silly name for its miles–is determined by only two things: the distance of the segment and the cabin of the segment.

British Airways increased the number of Avios needed for Business and First Class awards yesterday. Here is the new award chart:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.00.40 PM

If your award is more than one segment, figure out the price of each segment from the chart above and sum the prices of each flight.

The prices for the shortest flights in economy are unbeatable.

Partners

British Airways is a member of oneworld. That means you can use Avios on all these airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • airberlin
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia (Spain)
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN (Chile and Peru)
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas (Australia)
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines (Russia)
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • TAM Airlines (Brazil)

British Airways also has two partners that are not a part of oneworld. You can also redeem miles to fly these airlines:

  • Aer Lingus (Ireland)
  • Alaska Airlines (Western US, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico)

Routing Rules? What Routing Rules?

You pay a price for each flight depending on its cabin and distance.

Since you are paying for each flight, you can think of each flight as its own award. That means you can combine the individual flights however you want.

Stopovers & Open Jaws

You can stopover after every city on an Avios award if you’d like. You just pay for each segment based on distance and cabin regardless of the length of your stopover.

When each flight has its own price, you can have as many open jaws as you’d like.

Free One Ways

Free one ways are impossible on British Airways awards. There is no way to get a free segment. You pay for each segment based on distance and cabin.

Special Features of the Avios Program

Cash & Avios awards allow you to use fewer Avios by paying more cash for your award. Different awards offer different Cash & Avios prices.

Check out my full Cash & Avios analysis here because sometimes these awards are a phenomenal value.

Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Taxes

British Airways awards require you to pay the government taxes associated with the itinerary.

These start at $5.60 each direction for domestic awards and go up to $300 if you fly to a high tax country. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.

Fees

Phone Fee: There is a fee of $25 per passenger to make a phone booking. Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines flights have to be booked by phone, and I have had success getting phone agents to waive this fee when I have to book by phone.

Changes: There is a $55 date/time change fee per ticket.

Cancellation: There is a $55 cancellation fee per person to get your Avios redeposited. However, in my experience, if your award had taxes/fuel surcharges of less than $55, British Airways will just keep what you paid out of pocket and give you your miles back. That means that the cancellation fee is effectively $5.60 for a domestic one way award since $5.60 is the total out of pocket on those awards.

Full details on British Airways’ award fees can be found here.

Fuel Surcharges

British Airways collects massive fuel surcharges on almost all partners. Notable exceptions include American Airlines flights within the Western Hemisphere, Alaska Airlines flights, Aer Lingus flights, Niki flights, and airberlin flights.

For full details, check out When Does British Airways Add Fuel Surcharges to Avios Awards?

How to Book British Airways Awards

All partners except Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines are bookable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines can be booked by calling British Airways at 800-AIRWAYS. Alaska Airlines space can be searched on aa.com before calling. Aer Lingus space can be searched on Expert Flyer before calling.

If you can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book your British Airways awards, probably as part of a larger trip with other awards using other miles. We have the expertise to search every British Airways partner to maximize convenience and luxury while minimizing out-of-pocket cost.

Bottom Line

British Airways are unbeatable for:

  • short
  • direct
  • economy flights
  • on partners with no fuel surcharges

British Airways Avios complement the other big types of miles, which tend to be better for international premium cabins.

Any questions? What did I leave out?

 


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. […] Avios are ideal for short, direct, economy flights, especially between regions on award charts. I just wrote a post a couple days ago about how you can combine Avios redemptions with your preferred region-based miles to spend less miles overall and see more places all at the same time. So just because this post is about all the nasty fuel surcharges British Airways collects, don’t get too down on them as Avios help compliment a diversified mile collection that. […]

  2. […] British Airways Avios are perfect for short, direct, economy flights on British Airways partners that do not levy fuel surcharges like these partners. For instance, the west coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights for 12,500 Avios or only 4,500 Avios between Cuzco and Lima, Peru are two of the sweet spots. Read more about how to maximize Avios in the Basics of British Airways Avios. […]

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