Avios

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I’m on record saying that I don’t think the British Airways devaluation from last month is a big deal. Only Business and First Class awards went up in price, and the vast majority of good Avios redemptions are short, direct, economy awards.

Well there’s another good part of the “devaluation” that I haven’t covered yet: the introduction of cheaper off peak awards on British Airways and Iberia flights. Here’s the new award chart that shows off peak award prices next to peak award prices.

New Award Chart

Off peak awards are only possible on British Airways and Iberia flights. Other partner flights always price at peak level.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.49.32 PM

As a reminder, each British Airways flight on an award has its own price determined by three things: distance, cabin, and whether it is an off peak or peak date.

For distance, the zones are broken down like this:

  1. Up to 650 miles flown
  2. 651 to 1,151 miles flown
  3. 1,152 to 2,000 miles flown
  4. 2,001 to 3,000 miles flown
  5. 3,001 to 4,000 miles flown
  6. 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
  7. 5,501 to 6,500 miles flown
  8. 6,501 to 7,000 miles flown
  9. 7,001+ miles flown

For a one segment award, read its price off the new award chart above. For an award of two or more segments, read the price of each segment off the above chart and add them up to get the whole award’s price.

What Dates Are Off Peak

British Airways promises that for British Airways flights: “Two thirds of the year is off-peak, including every Tuesday and Wednesday.” Here are the exact dates through April 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.44.54 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.20 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.41 PM

You can find the most up-to-date off peak calendar for British Airways and the separate Iberia off peak calendar here.

Good Deals?

Longhaul

There definitely are some good deals at off peak prices, but not every off peak flight is a good deal.

Longhaul flights have the problem of huge fuel surcharges. For instance, a British Airways flight this summer from New York to London costs 50,000 Avios + $442 in Business Class. Over $400 of that is a fuel surcharge.

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Considering this award cost only 40,000 Avios one way before the devaluation, and you can book transatlantic Business Class on United flights with various types of Star Alliance miles for 40,000 to 58,000 miles without fuel surcharges, I’d say this isn’t a very good deal.

Better off peak deals are offered on longhaul economy and Premium Economy flights. That same New York to London flight costs only 13,000 Avios + $257 on off peak dates even during the summer. Or you can use Cash & Avios options to pay only 4,550 Avios and $342.

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British Airways’ Premium Economy, which reminds me of domestic First Class, from New York to London on off peak dates is 26,000 Avios + $257 or 10,400 Avios + $411.

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The value of longhaul off peak awards is severely hampered by the devaluation of Business and First Class awards last month and by the huge fuel surcharges on longhaul British Airways flights. If you find a longhaul off peak award you love, share it in the comments.

Shorthaul

Shorthaul off peak awards are almost all going to be Reward Flight Saver awards too, offering a better deal on fuel surcharges. Reward Flight Saver flights are Zone 1-4 awards to or from London on British Airways. Instead of paying taxes and fuel surcharges, you pay one flat fee.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.54.42 PM

Notice the fee is cheaper in euros, so you may want to set your Executive Club address to one in continental Europe. I set mine to continental Europe during a recent sale of Avios that was cheapest is euros.

I found award space in economy and Business Class (intra-Europe this is just an economy seat with the seat next to you empty) from London to Istanbul on an off peak date this summer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.29 PM

The Business Class redemption would cost 17,000 Avios + $34.

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The economy redemption would cost 8,500 Avios + $24 or 3,400 Avios + $81.

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I value Avios at 1.7 cents each, so spending 3,400 Avios + $81 is like expending $139 of value for me. That seems like a very good deal from London to Istanbul, which is an almost four hour international flight.

But a quick search shows a low cost carrier offering even cheaper flights near the date I found award space.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.55.12 PMI think there is more potential for value on shorthaul Avios off peak awards because shorthaul awards are a better value with Avios normally, and Reward Flight Saver awards avoid big fuel surcharges. But the value of shorthaul off peak awards is muted, since so many low cost carriers fly from London to Europe so cheaply.

BA Availability Calendar

Normally searching award space on ba.com is very slow, but when searching for British Airways award space, as you will be doing when hunting for off peak awards, searching is much faster. Click the blue button on your results that says “View calendar of BA availability” instead of clicking day by day to search.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.05.56 PM The calendar shows award space that you can cross-reference with the off peak calendars above.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.06 PM

Iberia Off Peak

Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company, and both use Avios as their rewards currency, so it makes sense that Iberia flights can also be booked off peak with British Airways Avios.

The off peak dates for Iberia flights are different. Not every Tuesday and Wednesday is off peak for instance. Selected Iberia off peak dates:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.55.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.09 PM

Another difference with Iberia flights is that they do not qualify for the Reward Flight Saver reduction in fees.

I searched Paris to Madird to see how Iberia off peak flights price out.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.57 PM

Oddly, ba.com didn’t give the off peak discount at all even though the words “OFF-PEAK” appeared next to the space I selected. Economy was 7,500 Avios and Business 15,000 Avios instead of the off peak prices on British Airways’ chart: 6,500 and 12,750 Avios for a zone 2 redemption. (Another side note: ORY-MAD is 639 miles, so it should be zone 1. Maybe it prices as zone 2 because CDG-MAD is 660 miles, and the whole city is geographically located at CDG for the purposes of Avios zones. But that’s just a guess.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.54 PMCan you get Iberia flights to price at the correct off peak prices? Leave the date, route, and cabin in the comments.

Bottom Line

British Airways’ “devaluation” last month is mostly no big deal. The bad values–longhaul Business and First Class–got worse. The good values–short, direct, economy awards–were untouched.

Simultaneously British Airways introduced off peak awards for Iberia and British Airways flights that lower the cost of an award in each cabin to any destination for eight months out of the year and every single Tuesday and Wednesday. (That’s the off peak calendar for British Airways flights. The Iberia off peak calendar differs substantially.)

These off peak awards will offer some value in some cases though many off peak awards will still be a poor value because of a high Avios price or big fuel surcharges.

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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 Delta miles, 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?

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British Airways Avios has gutted its award chart for longhaul Business and First Class awards booked after 7 PM Eastern Time Monday April 27, 2015. (The changes go into effect at midnight on the 28th in Britain, which is 7 PM on the east coast of the US on the 27th.)

Only a few good deals are affected by the devaluation, and you can lock these in today for travel through March 2016.

Most of the best deals with Avios are untouched, and already bad deals were made worse. In my mind, the devaluation is no big deal and possibly good news.

  • Why is the devaluation no big deal and possibly good news?
  • Which high value awards do you need to book today?

Here’s the first sentence of my beginners’ post on Avios:

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

That remains 100% true as no economy awards go up in price tomorrow. Here is the new Avios award chart that goes into effect tomorrow:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.00.40 PM

 

Economy award prices are unchanged. First Class awards went from triple the economy price to quadruple. Business Class awards used to always be double the economy award price. Now for flights 2,001+ miles in distance, they are triple the economy price.

I have never, to my knowledge, booked one of the awards that is increasing in price. Here are the awards I book:

Domestic and Hawaii Awards for 4,500 to 12,500 Avios

I just booked Tampa to Charlotte for 4,500 Avios. It would have cost 12,500 American Airlines miles. The award still costs 4,500 Avios under the new Avios chart.

(I booked the award speculatively because the cancellation fee is only $5.60.)

In the last year I’ve booked several 12,500 Avios awards between Los Angeles and Hawaii. Other airlines charge 15,000 to 22,500 miles for the same award.

(There are 10 cities with 12,500 Avios awards to four islands of Hawaii.)

Intra-Australia, Intra-South America, Intra-South Africa, Intra-Asia, Intra-Europe

I’ve booked myself awards on the other five inhabited continents with Avios:

None of these awards are going up in price either. Some were in Business Class, but they were all less than 2,000 miles flown–the part of the Business Class award chart that stays the same.

The kew is to book Avios awards with no fuel surcharges. Here’s a primer on beating Avios fuel surcharges.

Am I Overstating my Case?

Am I being too flippant by saying this devaluation is barely news? I don’t think so.

There are really only a very few routes that are good deals that are going up in price. Routes like:

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 1.49.08 PM
source: gcmap.com

 

  • Boston to Dublin in Aer Lingus Business Class, going from 25,000 to 37,500 Avios one way
  • New York to Dusseldorf in airberlin Business Class, going from 40,000 to 60,000 Avios one way
  • Miami to Lima in American Airlines or LAN Business Class, going from 25,000 to 37,500 Avios one way

If you have had your eye on these routes, book before 7 PM tomorrow.

Then there are Business and First Class awards you might have considered, but were already better deals with American Airlines miles. Awards like:

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 2.42.12 PM

  • New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco in American Airlines flat bed Business Class, going from 25,000 to 37,500 Avios one way (still 25,000 AA miles one way)
  • New York to Vancouver in Cathay Pacific First Class going from 37,500 to 50,000 Avios one way (still 32,500 AA miles one way)

There just aren’t that many mid- and longhaul Business Class routes that are currently good deals with Avios. And when you factor in that every flight adds to the price of an Avios award, these devaluations really only affect people in Boston, New York, and Miami because connecting to those cities from somewhere else would already make the above trips a poor value with Avios.

Travel Together Companion Pass

People who have the British Airways Travel Together companion pass from spending $30,000 a year on a British Airways Visa card are seeing the value of that pass go down as longhaul Business and First Class prices go up. That stinks for companion pass holders, and they should book their trips today.

However, I hope you don’t have a companion pass. I already argued against getting that British Airways companion pass before this devaluation. The fuel surcharges on British Airways flights make it worth so little that there are many better ways to spend $30,000 across other credit cards for better rewards.

Bottom Line

Tomorrow, April 27, at 7 PM ET will be the first time British Airways has touched its chart in three years. Today, you can book at current Avios award prices for travel through March 2016.

Airlines don’t like to constantly devalue their charts (except Delta with back-to-back devaluations last year) because it upsets customers. That means this devaluation might buy us a few years until the next one from British Airways. If this devaluation buys us another three years of current economy award prices, that changes today’s devaluation from “mostly no news” to “fantastic news.”

I always say that we are better off because of Avios. It’s nice that different programs have different strengths. Collect American Airlines miles for international First Class; Avios for short, direct, economy awards; and Arrival miles for low-cost carriers and super-cheap cash flights. The fact that each program has very different strengths means we can use our miles in each program for the best awards and maximize the value of our hobby.

The best awards with Avios do not change tomorrow, so the “devaluation” is tiny or non-existent for most folks.

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British Airways Avios accounts have been hacked.

Apparently in some cases, points have been used. In others, British Airways drained an account to zero to prevent points from being used.

I tried to log in to my account and my correct password is being rejected.

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Folks are contacting British Airways on twitter and being told to DM information.

Folks who are calling British Airways are reporting interminable holds.

I predict British Airways sorts all this out in a few days or weeks and all points are restored. My account had under 1,000 Avios, so I will not be doing anything. If you try to contact British Airways, report your success or failure in getting your points or making a booking in the comments.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals via JB

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British Airways Avios are, counter-intuitively, way better for domestic travel within the United States than for trips to Europe.

That’s because the highest value uses of Avios are short, direct, economy flights on partners without fuel surcharges. Within the United States, there are no fuel surcharges on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights, all of which are bookable with Avios.

Read: British Airways Avios Basics

This year, for the second straight year, I’ll be following my basketball team through March Madness. One of my favorite hobbies is following college basketball, and this is a fun way to see the team and explore new cities I wouldn’t otherwise visit.

Following a team during March Madness involves a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know where your team will play until 2-5 days before their first game. At that point, you know all the places they’ll play if they win, but not how far they’ll advance. Miles that are good for last-minute bookings and for cheap or free cancellations are ideal. Avios are extremely well suited for the job.

Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, this post should illuminate the many advantages of booking domestic Avios awards.

Award #1: Tampa to Charlotte

Through a stroke of luck, my team plays up to two games in Charlotte the first weekend. Charlotte is a US Airways hub, so there are direct flights from all over the country to Charlotte that are bookable with Avios.

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Direct flights from Charlotte on US Airways, according to Wikipedia

My first task was to get from Tampa to Charlotte for the first weekend. Award space on the direct US Airways flight can be excellent a month or two in advance.

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Award Space from Tampa to Charlotte on Direct Flights is Available on all the Green Days

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t 100% know where I needed to be for the first weekend until this week, but I wanted to book award space farther in advance.

Advantage #1: The cancellation fee on Avios awards is $55 or the taxes paid on the award, whichever is less. Most award cancellations cost $150+.

I went right ahead and booked Tampa to Charlotte last month for 4,500 Avios + $5.60, which are always the taxes on a one way award within the United States. I knew if I had to cancel the award to go to a different city, I could get back my 4,500 Avios just by canceling the award. I’d pay no additional fee, and I’d just forfeit the $5.60 I paid in taxes. This is very unusual. Delta, American, United, and US Airways all charge $150+ to cancel an award and get your miles and taxes back.

I did end up canceling my award.

I learned that if I stayed in Tampa a few hours longer, I could have lunch with distant cousins I haven’t seen in 25 years. Award space was open on a later direct flight on US Airways, so I canceled my first award and booked the later flight. The net cost of the switch was $5.60.

Advantage #2: No late booking fee. American, United, and US Airways charge $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure.

I made my new booking just four days before departure. I still paid just $5.60 out of pocket, the unavoidable government taxes.

Advantage #3: Domestic awards start at 4,500 Avios. Southwest would have charged 8,100 points. United and American would have charged 12,500 miles.

Because Tampa to Charlotte is under 650 miles flown, the direct flight costs just 4,500 Avios. American charges 12,500 miles for the same flight.

If I hadn’t used Avios, I would have booked my trip with cash instead on Southwest. Southwest’s charges around $150 or 8,100 points for the trip, and the routing is not nonstop.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 2.06.04 PM

Domestic Avios awards are often way cheaper than other options.

Advantage #4: I’m going to get a free checked bag on my trip. Some airlines charge $25 for a checked bag.

When I fly US Airways domestically, I get a free checked bag because of my US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, which many of us have, and which everyone should get in the next month. These are the terms and conditions of the free checked bag.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.54.40 PM

You are not required to book the ticket with your US Airways card, but you do need to add your US Airways number to your reservation, so that the computer knows to give you a free bag. Avios awards will automatically have your British Airways number attached to them. You need to call US Airways at 800-428-4322 to add your US Airways number to the booking.

(By the way, I prefer to travel with no checked bags ever–even on monthlong world trips–but I have been carrying my tennis bag on this trip.)

Award #2 Charlotte to Atlanta

During March Madness, your team plays either Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday, and then you have mid-week off. I spend those mid-weeks visiting friends and family on the East Coast. Next stop Atlanta.

I didn’t want to book a flight. I wanted to rent a car in Charlotte and drop it off in Atlanta because it is only a 3.5 hour drive. Sometimes one way rentals are just as cheap as normal rentals, but this time the cost was prohibitive.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 2.45.57 PM

Luckily, I could book the nonstop US Airways flight for 4,500 Avios.

This award has all the same advantages as the last award in terms of super cheap cancellation, no late booking fee, costing so few miles, and allowing a free checked bag in conjunction with my US Airways credit card.

Award #3: Atlanta to Syracuse

If we win two games in Charlotte, we head to Syracuse for up to two more.

Delta has direct flights on the route, and the ideal flight was priced at 12,500 SkyMiles for weeks as I watched it. But I never booked because I didn’t know for sure whether we’d be playing Syracuse, and I still don’t. Now the award costs 25,000 SkyMiles one way because Delta jacks up the price of most awards in the last few weeks. Note how the price drops from 32.5k to 25k to 20k to 12.5k farther out.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 2.56.04 PM

Because of price and cancel-ability, I was back to looking at Avios. Wandering Aramean has an awesome tool that shows how many Avios your award will be if you connect in different cities. These are the results for Atlanta to Syracuse.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.11.47 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.11.59 PM

Note that routing via Chicago is way more miles flown than via Charlotte or Philadelphia, but because both Atlanta to Chicago and Chicago to Syracuse are just under 650 miles flown, the total award is the cheapest possible 9,000 Avios price.

There was only award space on my preferred date via Chicago on aa.com at the MileSAAver price. It did not appear on ba.com, so I called British Airways at 800-AIRWAYS to book the space because Avios can book all American Airlines MileSAAver space.

Advantage #1: The cancellation fee on Avios award is $55 or the taxes paid on the award, whichever is less. Most award cancellations cost $150+.

I paid $5.60 in taxes, so in the event we don’t advance to Syracuse, I cancel and get back my Avios.

Advantage #2: No late booking fee. American, United, and US Airways charge $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure.

I booked only two weeks in advance.

Advantage #3: Domestic awards with a connection start at 9,000 Avios. Delta would charge 25,000 miles for the direct flight.

Advantage #4: I’m going to get a free checked bag on my trip. Some airlines charge $25 for a checked bag.

These flights are on American Airlines, so my US Airways card’s benefits don’t help. I also have the Citi Executive American Airlines card though, and its free bag benefit is equivalent to the free bag benefit on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

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If you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® you get a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, no matter how you booked them, as long as you add your American Airlines number to your itinerary at least a week in advance. You can do this by direct messaging @AmericanAir on twitter or by phone.

One other note on this award, I hate the timing of it. I’d have to get up at an extremely early hour. The day before my flight, I’ll attempt to pay $75 to switch to a better flight. I value a good night sleep at more than $75.

Bottom Line

Avios domestic awards have four major advantages:

  1. The cancellation fee on Avios awards is $55 or the taxes paid on the award, whichever is less. The taxes on a one way domestic award are $5.60, making that the cancellation fee.
  2. No late booking fee. American, United, and US Airways charge $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure.
  3. Domestic awards start at 4,500 Avios. Other nonstop awards are 7,500 or 10,000 Avios. Connecting awards start at 9,000 Avios.
  4. I’m going to get a free checked bag on all three trips because I have the right credit cards, and I added the right frequent flyer number to my reservations. Some airlines charge $25 for a checked bag.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Wandering Aramean writes a Boarding Area blog and also has created a suite of tools that can be used for free by anyone. One I just saw (thanks Million Mile Secrets) is his Avios Map.

The Avios Map works like this:

  1. Type in any airport in the world.
  2. The map shows all the airports you can fly to directly for 4.5k, 7.5k, 10k, and 12.5k Avios in economy.

You can use the map to see where you can go from your home airport for what price. You can use the map to figure out when two awards will be cheaper than one (example below.) You can probably use the map for other creative uses I haven’t uncovered.

Before continuing, make sure you understand how British Airways Avios work. They are an essential currency for any American to understand.

How the Map Works

Along the top of the Avios Map, you type in the city or airport code and hit Go!

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.29 PM

If you choose an American Airlines hub like Dallas/Fort Worth, you get a crowded map like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.45 PMThose icons are all the places you can go for 12,500 Avios or less one way.

  • Green is 4,500 Avios
  • Yellow is 7,500 Avios
  • Blue is 10,000 Avios
  • Red is 12,500 Avios

If you hold a cursor over any icon, you will see the airport name, city, code, and price.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.50.19 PM

The DFW map is so crowded, the only useful information I’d pull from it are all my foreign options.

Here’s a less crowded map when I search Buenos Aires (AEP) on the Wandering Aramean Avios Map. This shows all your options to explore Argentina once you’re down there. You can use the Avios Map to search any airport in the world.
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.04 PM

The map includes all Avios partners, even the ones not on ba.com like Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines. (You call British Airways to book flights on these partners.) For instance, here is the map from Boston. You can see that Dublin and Shannon, Ireland are both just 12,500 Avios away. Plus there are some options to the Caribbean operated by US Airways.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.50.40 PM

And here’s a map of all the 12,500 Avios flights to Maui, most of which are on Alaska Airlines.
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.51.02 PM

When Two Awards Are Cheaper Than One

Avios is distance based, but many programs are region based. Sometimes you can use a region-based award plus a distance-based award for big savings over just a single region-based award. An easy example:

  • North America to Israel is 45,000 American Airlines miles in economy
  • North America to Europe is 20,000 or 30,000 American Airlines miles in economy depending on the season
  • Europe to Israel is as little as 10,000 Avios one way

You can save up to 15,000 miles by booking the United States to Europe and Europe to Israel as two separate awards (plus you can then stopover in Europe as long as you’d like.)

I have a full post about this example, and there are other examples you can surely come up with when a region-based award plus an Avios award would be cheaper than a single region-based award.

This tool helps you find and plan those examples.

For instance, here is the map from Tel Aviv. You can see the airports in Germany with direct flights on airberlin for 10,000 Avios, plus Madrid and London to Tel Aviv for 12,500 Avios.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 1.01.25 PM

From this map, you’d know that an off peak American Airlines economy award to Europe for 20,000 miles plus any of these flights for 10,000 or 12,500 Avios would be cheaper than a 45,000 American Airlines miles award to Tel Aviv. Plus you could stop in a European city on the way to Israel for zero extra miles for as long as you want. By contrast, on a single American Airlines award, no connections longer than 24 hours are allowed.

Bottom Line

Check out Wandering Aramean’s super easy and awesome Avios Map. You’ll instantly visualize all the direct flights you can take with Avios that cost 12,500 Avios or fewer in economy. Plus you can use it to hack situations where two awards are cheaper than one.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

10

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Through 11:59 PM tomorrow February 25, 2015, British Airways is offering a 50% bonus on the purchase of Avios. This is the biggest bonus ever offered on the purchase of Avios.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.59.41 AM

The maximum Avios you can purchase in a year is 35,000. With a 50% bonus, that means you can add 52,500 Avios to your account. Americans are being offered those Avios for 1.88 cents each, but with one simple trick, you can drop the price to 1.43 cents per Avios!

The Trick

If you set your British Airways account address to a country that uses the euro, say France, you will be sold Avios in euros instead of dollars. The euro price on this sale is way cheaper! (Hat tip this Flyertalk thread and user Lefly)

The cost to purchase 52,500 Avios for people with an American address is $988 or 1.88 cents per Avios.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.28.44 PM

To change your address, click “Manage my account under Executive Club on any page.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.35.52 PM

Click “Update my personal information” on the left side of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.36.16 PM

Give an address in a euro-using country.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.38.40 PM

Hit Continue about three times. The first time I tried to make the change, I stopped a screen short. You’ll know if you succeeded because when you go back to the Purchase Miles screen, you will be offered the Avios in euros.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.41.04 PM

The price of 52,500 euros is 661 euros or $749.30 after the dramatic slide in the euro. That’s under 1.43 cents per Avios.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.42.27 PM If you purchase in euros–actually any purchase from BA.com–make sure you use a card that charges no foreign transaction fees. If I purchase my Avios–and I’m on the fence, it’s really close for me–I’ll use the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card because it has no foreign transaction fees, and I am working on my 30,000 point bonus for spending $3,000 in the first three months of the second year of having the card.

Does Putting Your Account in France Mess It Up?

There was an interesting question in the FlyerTalk thread: if I set my British Airways account to France, will I mess up my ability to transfer in Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards?

After setting my account to France, I initiated a 1,000 Ultimate Rewards transfer to my British Airways account that was already stored on chase.com. The transfer went through instantly as usual, so changing your address doesn’t appear to mess this up.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.46.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.46.53 PM

Eventually you can change your address back to your home address, but British Airways makes you wait six months between address changes.

Is This a Good Deal?

The best uses of Avios are short, direct, economy flights on partners without fuel surcharges. This is doubly so in view of the impending devaluation of Business and First Class awards that is coming in April.

At 1.43 cents per Avios, domestic (including Hawaii) one way awards that cost XXX Avios plus $5.60 in taxes one way would cost:

  • 4,500 Avios (like Tampa to Charlotte): $69.8 all in
  • 7,500 Avios (like Dallas to Chicago): $112.9
  • 10,000 Avios (like Dallas to New York): $148.6
  • 12,500 Avios (like Seattle to Honolulu): $184.4

Those are pretty good deals. I’ve seen cheaper with cash on every route, and I’ve also seen a lot more expensive.

The bottom line with all miles sales is that they are a good deal if you have an immediate, high value use for the miles, and a poor deal otherwise. As I said, I’m on the fence, though I do think I can burn about 50,000 Avios by the end of the summer.

Bottom Line

The biggest ever bonus on purchasing Avios ends tomorrow. Ignore the 1.88 cent price for Americans. Anyone with a euro-zone address on file with British Airways and a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card can get the Avios for 1.43 cents each. The sales are consummated by points.com, so there is no bonus for an airline or travel purchase on your credit card.

The best deals with Avios are short, direct, economy flights on routes/airlines without fuel surcharges. That includes all domestic flights and all these flights.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

4

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We’ve been getting bad news in the miles world lately, so let me state unequivocally: miles still offer unmatched value to travel the world more, better, and cheaper.

Here’s a round-the-world (RTW) trip you can take with miles that took me me about 10 minutes to find the award space for.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.54.14 AM

There’s nothing particularly important about the cities or even the regions where this trip stops. It just shows an easy RTW award using one way awards. (This is the way to construct RTW awards now that American and Delta eliminated their true RTW awards in 2014.)

The Award

  • Virgin Australia flat bed Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney: 80,000 Delta miles
  • Etihad First Class on its A380 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi: 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • airberlin flat bed Business Class from Abu Dhabi to Berlin: 25,000 British Airways Avios
  • airberlin and US Airways economy from Berlin to Los Angeles: 20,000 American Airlines miles

That’s 185,000 miles for an award that features mostly flat beds.  One person could get the necessary miles from four credit cards.

There’s nothing crucial about choosing the three cities I chose for stops. You can choose other cities–or see many cities in each region.

The Search

The searching took me about 10 minutes. I chose a November/December time frame for the search to maximize the weather in Sydney and Abu Dhabi and because many people get some free vacation days around Thanksgiving.

I did not search sequentially. I started my search by looking for Etihad First Class award space, which is the second part of the trip. This follows the basic principle to always search the hardest leg of a trip first. Not that Etihad First Class award space on its A380 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi is hard to find, but it is harder to find than the other awards on this trip, which are all gimmes.

Sydney to Abu Dhabi Search
Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM
A seat plus a couch/bed in First on the Etihad A380

First Class award space from Sydney to Abu Dhabi is excellent in November. All those days below that say “Miles 121597″ have award space you can book for 60,000 American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.37.40 AM

But note that there are two daily flights, and only the evening one is on the A380.

For full details on searching etihad.com, the A380 First Class Service, and award space on the route, see Amazing Award Space for 2 on Nicest First Class in the World? 14 Hours in Etihad A380 First Class for 60,000 Miles.

Los Angeles to Sydney Search

After picking November 22 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, I circled back to the beginning and searched from Los Angeles to Sydney. There is award space nearly every day in Business Class on Virgin Australia on the route. It costs 80,000 Delta miles per person and is searchable on delta.com.Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.38.14 AM

I picked November 12 for the Los Angeles-to-Sydney leg. Look at the award space that day:Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.39.32 AM

  • Delta’s nonstop bed is 175,000 miles.
  • Connecting in Korea is 80,000 miles but adds 10 hours.
  • Virgin Australia’s nonstop bed is 80,000 miles.

Easy choice with the Virgin Australia bed.

For more info on the search, product, and award space, see Award Space for 12 to Australia over Christmas and New Year.

Abu Dhabi to Berlin Search

airberlin, the oneworld member, has daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Berlin. airblerin flights do not have fuel surcharges, so they are a great way to use Avios.

Award space is exellent on the flights in economy and flat bed Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.42.04 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.42.13 AM

The award costs 12,500 Avios in economy and 25,000 Avios in Business Class plus nominal taxes.Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.43.20 AM

This award will go up to 37,500 Avios in Business Class with the April 28, 2015 devaluation of Avios.

Here’s how to search on ba.com.

Berlin to Los Angeles Flight

For the last award, I wanted to book economy. Early December is part of American Airlines’ off peak season for economy awards between the United States and Europe (October 15 to May 15 every year.) These awards cost only 20,000 American Airlines miles.

Since we’re looking at daytime flights, economy seems bearable.

I found the following award for 20,000 AA miles + taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.52.04 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.52.08 AMairberlin space is excellent to the United States this winter.

The full trip looks like this.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.54.14 AM

 

  • November 12: Los Angeles to Sydney in Virgin Australia Business Class
  • November 22: Sydney to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class
  • November 25: Abu Dhabi to Berlin in airberlin Business Class
  • December 2: Berlin to Chicago to Phoenix to Los Angeles in airberlin/US Airways economy

The total cost is 80,000 Delta miles, 80,000 American miles, and 25,000 British Airways Avios plus about $190 in taxes, no fees or fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards, and that would earn more than the 80,000 American Airlines miles needed.

The third card you’d want is the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-BenzThe Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

The last card is the next Membership Rewards or Delta co-branded card that offers a 50,000 point/mile bonus. These offers are frequent, but I don’t know of any others right now besides the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card above.

With these four cards, you’d have 106,000 American Airlines miles and either 100,000+ Membership Rewards or 50,000+ Delta miles and 50,000+ Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Delta miles and British Airways Avios, so you can spread them around to have 80,000 Delta miles and 25,000 Avios.

Bottom Line

It’s really easy to put together a dream RTW trip with miles because miles still offer an incredible value. There’s nothing special about living in Los Angeles or visiting Sydney, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin as in my example. No matter where you live and want to go, these great deals exist. (I felt sad not including this flight in my example.)

What is your favorite string of one way awards that creates a RTW award?

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Well, it’s January 31. So today is your last chance to transfer. Since I posted this initially, I have two other posts on Avios:

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to British Airways Avios will come with an automatic 40% transfer bonus from now through January 31, 2015.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 3.57.36 AM

Is this British Airways transfer bonus a good deal? Should you take advantage of the 40% transfer bonus?

Until January 31, 2015, you can transfer increments of 1,000 AMEX points to 1,400 Avios automatically at membershiprewards.com.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 3.57.17 AM

 

If you have a use for Avios, this is a fantastic deal.

Avios are great for short, direct, economy tickets on airlines and routes without fuel surcharges.

For more information on Avios partners (all 18 of them), searches, award rules, fees, and how to avoid fuel surcharges, see: FREE FIRST CLASS 2014: BRITISH AIRWAYS AVIOS BASICS

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11

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British Airways Avios are fantastic for short, direct, economy flights on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines because the number of Avios needed for an award is determined only by the distance and cabin of each flight.

One sweet spot with Avios that I’ve noted over and over is that flights from the west coast to Hawaii are 12,500 Avios + $5.60 in taxes each way.

  • From where do American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines fly to Hawaii?
  • How can you book these flights with Avios?
  • How much do the flights cost in First Class?
  • How can you get Avios?

American, US Airways, and Alaska all fly to the four major Hawaiian islands: Oahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai.

Flights to Honolulu, Oahu

Alaska flights in red. American flight in blue. US Airways flight in black.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.40.40 PM

Flights to Kahului, Maui

Alaska flights in red. American flight in blue. US Airways flight in black.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.43.59 PM

Flights to Lihue, Kauai

Alaska flights in red. American flight in blue. US Airways flight in black.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.45.44 PM

Flights to Kona, Big Island

Alaska flights in red. American flight in blue. US Airways flight in black.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.47.02 PM

Chart of Flights

  • AA = American Airlines
  • US = US Airways
  • AS = Alaska Airlines

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.11.09 PM

Footnotes:

  • 1: Seasonal flight
  • 2: Begins March 5, 2015

Searching and Booking

All these flights can be searched on aa.com.

  • If a US Airways or Alaska Airlines flight shows up on aa.com, it can be booked with Avios.
  • If an American Airlines flight shows up on aa.com labeled MileSAAver, it can be booked with Avios. If the flight is labeled AAnytime, it cannot be booked with Avios.

American Airlines and US Airways flights can be booked on ba.com. Alaska Airlines flights can only be booked with Avios by calling British Airways at 800-AIRWAYS.

First Class

One drawback of Avios is that Business Class awards cost double the price of economy awards, and First Class awards cost triple the price of economy awards.

All three airlines market their forward cabin on these routes as First Class, and British Airways charges triple the economy price, so all of the routes in this post cost 37,500 Avios one way in First Class. I think that’s a terrible deal, since all these routes merely feature recliner seats in First Class.

Canceling Avios Awards

Feel free to book your Avios awards to Hawaii speculatively. The cancellation fee for Avios awards is supposed to be $40, but in practice, you are charged $40 or the taxes you paid on the award, whichever is less.

That means you can cancel Avios awards to Hawaii and get back your Avios for only the cost of losing the $5.60 per person per direction in taxes.

Full info: Another Reason Miles Are Better than Cash: Free Cancellations

Getting Avios

The British Airways card offers 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months and WAIVES its $95 annual fee for the first year. The card earns 1.25 Avios on all purchases.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Avios with occasional transfer bonuses like the current 40% bonus through January 31, 2015.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to Avios.

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Avios. Every 20,000 points transferred earns a 5,000 Avios bonus.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

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35

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The other day, I booked myself a direct flight from Tampa to Charlotte with 4,500 British Airways Avios and $5.60. Avios are the best miles when American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines has a short, direct flight where you want to go.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.09.06 PM
Because the flight is under 651 miles flow, it costs only 4,500 Avios (from gcmap.com)

 

The same flight costs $481 cash.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 6.18.08 PMI could pat myself on the back and say I got more than 10 cents per mile of value, but those outlandish valuations are one of my big pet peeves.

I would never pay $481 for the one-and-a-half-hour flight. I would book a one stop flight for $166 or use hidden-city ticketing to get the Tampa-to-Charlotte leg as part of a cheaper, larger ticket.

I basically got a $166 ticket for 4,500 Avios in my mind, which is less than 4 cents per mile of value–still awesome!

Interestingly, though, if I were rich, I could definitely say I got 10 cents of value from my Avios. If I had millions of dollars, I wouldn’t flinch at paying $481 for the most convenient, direct flight. If I were willing to pay that for the flight, then redeeming 4,500 Avios would really have saved me $481, meaning I really would have gotten 10 cents of value from each mile.

That’s why, in some senses, the richer you are, the more your miles are worth.

The Other, Big Application of This Idea

The main time I see outlandish valuations of awards is on international First Class tickets. Someone will say something like: “I spent 67,500 American Airlines miles and $40 on a one way First Class ticket in Cathay Pacific First Class that costs $10,000, so I got 15 cents of vlaue per mile.”

I would suggest you only got that much value if you would have spent the $10,000 on the ticket in the absence of miles. That is, if you were really, really rich. If you’d only be willing to pay $1,500 for the ticket, adjust your valuation of your award accordingly.

Of course, none of this is new. I expounded on this exact point in the first ever post on this blog.

Back to My Avios Award

I’m hoping I need the flight I booked from Tampa to Charlotte, but I actually might need to fly to Louisville or Seattle or Pittsburgh that day. In that case, I can cancel my Avios award. I’ll get back my 4,500 Avios and lose only the $5.60 in taxes I paid. I have no qualms booking awards speculatively with these miles because of free or cheap cancellations.

Your Take

Am I right to call people out who would describe my award as 10 cents of value per mile? Are miles worth more in the frequent flyer accounts of rich people?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

3

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Aer Lingus, a partner of United MileagePlus and British Airways Avios, debuts a Washington-Dulles to Dublin route on May 1, 2015. It has 4 economy seats and 4 business class seats available for awards on nearly every flight through October 2015 at the moment.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 8.17.49 PM

This is in addition to the gold mine award routes to Europe for next summer that I discussed Tuesday.

  • What days will Aer Lingus operate Washington to Dublin?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • What is the cheapest way to book the flight with miles?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Qantas is refurbishing its A330s with “fully flat beds in business class.” Right now the A330s serve the following routes.

  • Sydney-Melbourne
  • Sydney-Brisbane
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Perth
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Singapore
  • Melbourne/Brisbane to Hong Kong
  • Sydney-Bangkok
  • Sydney-Jakarta
  • Sydney-Manila
  • Sydney-Honolulu
  • Sydney-Shanghai

I have medium hopes for the new beds, which will roll out starting in December 2014. The reason I am not more excited is that the picture accompanying the press release looks to me like an angled lie flat beds, not fully flat beds.

A330-Business-Suite-Fully-Flat-1024x756This jives with my experience in business class on the Qantas A380. I was expecting fully flat, but I got a small and uncomfortable angle.

Still these new beds can be great news for anyone flying between Hawaii and Australia, Asia and Australia, or within Australia.

  • More info about the new beds
  • Which miles to book the new beds
  • The award space picture

8

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Sunday I read a post on Gary Leff’s blog that said that Iberia Avios had massively devalued its award chart for flights on oneworld airlines.

I looked up the Iberia award chart for oneworld flights and came to the same conclusion as Gary–that Iberia had put out a new, worse award chart. I wrote a post Sunday and another yesterday about the changes and how to beat them.

It turns out my posts were mistaken. Iberia hasn’t touched its award chart since November 2011.

The reason I was wrong is that I had misunderstood Iberia’s program. I had thought it was identical to British Airways’ program (except that Iberia charges lower fuel surcharges on its own flights.) In fact, it had always had a far worse award chart for most flights than British Airways offers.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.47.16 PM
Iberia’s Terrible Award Chart (Then & Now)

My goal is to know everything about every frequent flyer program to wring out the best deals for myself and pass them along to my readers. I came up short of that goal in my posts about an Avios devaluation that never happened. I’ll keep working towards my goal though, (and tomorrow I expect to make a very valuable contribution to the milesphere.)

  • Who gets credit for figuring out my mistake about Iberia Avios?
  • Why do I now think that we won’t see a no-notice British Airways Avios devaluation?
  • What will I do not to repeat my mistake?

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