British Airways

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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 blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

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Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

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You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

You will get a lot of errors trying to book free one ways on united.com because united.com’s multi-city search tool is broken. Don’t despair. Find all the space you need with one way searches, then call in to book.

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

While American, US Airways (by ending its mileage program), and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United and Alaska miles.

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I’m intrigued by flights and awards that don’t involve America. If there’s a cool award to get from Australia to SE Asia, that can be integral to a longer, better, and cheaper trip.

My two favorite continents to explore are South America and Europe. Although I’ve never flown directly between the two continents, there are some intriguing options (all of which are fuel surcharge-free):

  • Singapore First Class for only 59,000 miles one way
  • Avianca Dreamliner direct from second-tier cities
  • Swiss Business Class
  • British Airways First Class, super-duper cheap on the US Airways award chart
  • Economy class for only 20,000 miles one way

Obviously you won’t be very interested in flights like these for a weeklong vacation, but if you have a month free or a year when you’re traveling around the world, there are great reasons to fly from South America to Europe or vice versa.

The Brazil Effect

It is illegal to add fuel surcharges to flights in Brazil. In practice, this means that international airlines don’t add fuel surcharges to their flights out of Brazil but do add fuel surcharges on their flights to Brazil.

(Weirdly the only exception I know is that British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Avios awards out of Brazil. American Airlines does NOT collect fuel surcharges on the same British Airways flights out of Brazil as I’ll show below.)

That means that, while it is the same number of miles in either direction between Europe and South America, it will often be hundreds of dollars cheaper to fly from South America to Europe instead of vice versa.

Several of the deals in this post have fuel surcharges unless you fly from South America to Europe via Brazil.

Avianca Dreamliner from Second Tier Cities

I wrote about Avianca’s brand new Dreamliner the other day. I didn’t mention the European routes:

  • Bogota to London starting July 2, 2015
  • Bogota to Madrid starting July 31
  • Cali to Madrid starting October 20
  • Medellin to Madrid starting December 19

I’m most intrigued by the Cali and Medellin flights. How often to you get to fly 10 hours from a country’s second-tier cities without having to connect through the big hub airport? (This is a reason to love the 787 Dreamliner; theoretically it should make more of these routes possible.)

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Avianca Dreamliner Bed

Award space is sparse on the Medellin and Cali flights to Madrid for one person in Business Class once they appear on the schedule partly because neither is a daily flight. But the space does exist, and I will assume if you are flying from South America to Europe that you have a pretty flexible schedule.

Medellin

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CaliScreen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.41.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.58 PM

Bogota

Bogota-to-Madrid space, by contrast is wide open. Note that not all flights are operated by the fully flat beds of the 787. Some are on the pretty comfortable, but not fully flat, beds of the A330.Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.39.51 PM

United charges 80,000 miles one way from Northern South America to Europe in Business Class on the Avianca Dreamliner, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Swiss Business Class

I wrote about Swiss Business Class today because it looks fantastic and United is discounting it through Saturday from the United States to Europe.

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Swiss flies from Sao Paulo to Zurich with Business Class award space that will initially look familiar to anyone who read today’s post on Swiss’ award space from the United States. There is good award space for the next month.

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What might surprise, though, is that there is also good award space in July and August. From the United States, Swiss is very stingy with award space more than a few weeks out.

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United charges 87,500 miles one way from Southern South America to Europe in Business Class, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Singapore First Class

Singapore Airlines flies a route from Sao Paulo to Barcelona to Singapore and vice versa. Just like its New York to Frankfurt to Singapore leg, you can book any single part as an award.

And Sao Paulo to Barcelona is way underpriced at 58,225 Singapore miles + $37 one way for 10.5 hours in Singapore First Class–one of the nicest in the world.

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The only way this could be better is if the route were operated by an A380 instead of a 777-300ER, but the service and food will still be the same. I flew the Singapore 777-300ER in First Class, and the bed is very comfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.02.39 PM
New Singapore First Class

 

British Airways First Class

British Airways flies from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to London. You normally can’t get onto British Airways award flights without fuel surcharges, but because of the Brazil departure, American Airlines just collects miles and taxes.

American charges a rather pricey 70k miles each way in Business and 90k miles each way in First Class.

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On the bright side, taxes are only $37.

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You can get on these flights much more cheaply as part of a roundtrip US Airways award.

  • 70k US Airways miles roundtrip in economy from South America to Europe
  • 100k miles roundtrip in Business Class
  • 130k miles roundtrip in First Class

It is harder to think of reasons an American would want to book a roundtrip award from South America to Europe, but you can always return from Europe to South America via North America and simply not fly the North America to South America leg(s.)

I actually once booked myself a roundtrip Business Class award from South America to Europe with US Airways miles and did exactly that–I skipped my Chicago to Buenos Aires flights.

You could book:

  • Rio de Janeiro to London (British Airways First Class)
  • open jaw
  • Berlin to London to Los Angeles (American Airlines First Class on its best plane)
  • Los Angeles to Dallas to Rio de Janeiro (within 24 hours of landing in Los Angeles, in any cabin, collect bags in LA and go home without flying)

This would cost only 130,000 US Airways miles.

Flying Blue Promo Awards

You know those posts I write every month about Flying Blue Promo awards? Promo awards allow you to fly from the United States to Europe or Israel for as little as 12,500 miles one way. The fuel surcharges in economy are bearable, and the fuel surcharges out of Brazil are even better: zero as usual.

Here’s a full post on Promo awards out of Brazil.

Promo awards can cost as little as 20,000 miles one way in economy and 40,000 in Premium economy between Brazil and anywhere in Europe.

Here are the current Promo awards.

Bottom Line

There are some cheap, interesting, and luxurious award possibilities between South America and Europe. Flying from South America to Europe will often be cheaper because award flights out of Brazil do not have fuel surcharges in almost all programs.

Check out Singapore First Class, an underpriced US Airways award, or an economy flight for only 20,000 miles. as part of your big trip around the world.

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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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Aer Lingus has decided to accept IAG’s takeover bid, which would mean that one company would own the flag carriers of the United Kingdom, Spain, and Ireland, since IAG already owns British Airways and Iberia.

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The deal is far from done because the Irish government owns a 25% stake in Aer Lingus and governments always seem to fear losing control of their home airline. Ryanair even owns 30%, though presumably they’d be happy to sell for the right price.

The BBC has some trenchant analysis of the deal:

For Ryanair, any takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG is about the money, for BA it is about the landing slots at Heathrow airport, and for the Irish government it is all about jeopardising the main transport link into an island economy.

From a purely business point of view it makes sense for the deal to proceed once a decent price has been agreed.

But it will really struggle to get political blessing in Dublin – especially a year out from a general election.

If the deal happens, what will it mean for you?

There are two things that could possibly happen that would have a big impact on your miles.

  1. Aer Lingus could join oneworld. This would be good. You’d have another option with your American Airlines miles. This would probably be offset by losing United as a partner.
  2. IAG could add much larger fuel surcharges to Aer Lingus flights to match British Airways’. This is terrible because it would take the value out of booking Aer Lingus flights.

Aer Lingus to oneworld

If Aer Lingus is part of the same company as British Airways and Iberia, it would make sense to join their oneworld alliance (again since it actually was a member until 2007.)

Currently Aer Lingus is not a member of any alliance and has one-off partnerships with British Airways, United, and more. You can use British Airways and United miles to book Aer Lingus award flights.

The big deal about joining oneworld is that it would give another option with American Airlines miles to and within Europe.

This would be nice, but it would most likely be offset by Aer Lingus needing to cut ties with United, a member of the Star Alliance.

So overall, for me, Aer Lingus joinging oneworld would be a wash.

Bigger Fuel Surcharges on Aer Lingus

Right now Aer Lingus adds tiny fuel surcharges to award flights between the United States and Ireland–under $100 per roundtrip.

That’s fantastic because it means there is another cost-effective way to redeem Avios to Europe. (The only other Avios partner without huge fuel surcharges to Europe is airberlin, which has none.) Famously, Boston to Dublin is 12,500 Avios one way in economy and 25,000 in Business Class plus these tiny fuel surcharges.

But British Airways charges over $800 roundtrip in fuel surcharges between the United States and Europe.

While fuel surcharges do not matter for paid flights–because the base fare can be lowered to get the total fare where the airline wants it–they matter a ton for awards on which you have to pay them. If IAG decided that the smartest way to run an airline was to have $800 fuel surcharges to Europe, and it added them to Aer Lingus flights, there would no longer be good value redemptions on Aer Lingus flights.

This would sting doubly if Aer Lingus cut ties with United, which never collects fuel surcharges on award tickets.

Bottom Line

I’m sure consolidation makes sense in the European airline industry. I’m not sure IAG will be allowed to buy Aer Lingus because governments are always very nationalistic with their airlines. I don’t want IAG to buy Aer Lingus, purely because I think my miles will get less valuable.

I don’t think Aer Lingus being bought by IAG would add useful partners on net. Aer Lingus would probably join oneworld, meaning it added American Airlines but lost United as a partner.

Aer Lingus would probably jack up fuel surcharges, meaning that it became much less valuable to redeem Avios on the airline.

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Using miles to book trips instead of using cash has tons of advantages:

  • Easier access to First Class and flat beds: An international First Class ticket can cost $10k or the amount of miles you can get from opening a pair of credit cards.
  • Better open jaw and stopover rules: Few revenue tickets allow you to stopover without increasing in price. Many mileage awards allow free stopovers and open jaws for no extra miles.
  • Some mileage awards can be cancelled for free or close to it.

This last advantage–free or very cheap cancellations–is an oft-overlooked benefit of certain mileage programs.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
  • Which program allows completely free cancellations?
  • Which programs allow cheap cancellations, as cheap as $2.50?

Southwest Rapid Rewards Awards

As commenter UAPhil has pointed out numerous times on this blog, Southwest Rapid Rewards are the gold-standard when it comes to cancellations. Here’s his take:

Rapid Rewards points bookings are fully refundable, with no cancellation fees or penalties, and no availability hassles. (Southwest revenue bookings have no change fees, but they are non-refundable with some fairly strict rules on when they must be re-used, so points are actually a more valuable currency than dollars for making Southwest bookings.)

It’s true that if you book a Southwest award for 10k points + $5.60, and you later cancel it, you will get your 10k points back and the $5.60 will even be returned to you as a credit toward a future booking. (I think I’ve even succeeded in having Southwest refund the $5.60 to my credit card, but I can’t find a record of it.)

Since Southwest awards are fully refundable, you can speculatively book with impunity.

British Airways Avios Awards

Last year I booked two friends tickets to visit me in Hawaii from Los Angeles. For each friend, I booked two awards:

  • Los Angeles to Oahu for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person. (Domestic airfare taxes have since increased to $5.60 one way.)
  • Maui to Los Angeles for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person.

One friend had to cancel.

I called British Airways to cancel his awards. I got back my 12,500 Avios on each award and lost my $2.50 on each award. That’s an effective cancellation fee of $2.50 on each award!

The fee is “supposed to be” $40.

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If your taxes and fees are greater than $40 and you cancel, British Airways will refund your Avios and taxes and fees less the $40 fee. But if your taxes and fees are less than $40, you just forfeit whatever your taxes and fees were and get your Avios back.

Since I pretty much exclusively use Avios for direct domestic flights with $5.60 in tax per segment, my Avios cancellation fee is routinely $5.60.

Lufthansa Miles & More Awards

Miles & More awards have a $60 cancellation fee. That’s $140 cheaper than the cancellation fee on a United award with the same flights.

And it’s certainly much better than trying to cancel a non-refundable cash ticket.

Singapore KrisFlyer Awards

Singapore Airlines awards have a $20 change or cancellation fee. My friend booked one of those super cheap awards between South America and the United States with Singapore miles, and when he decided to change the dates of his stopover in Cancun, he paid just $20 to do so.

Try doing that with a cash ticket!

Recap

The main reason I use miles is to enter into otherwise inaccessible First Class cabins and stretch my travel further. I also love the lax routing rules on many awards that have let me see seven cities on one trip (although that loophole has now been closed.)

Beyond those big things, though, don’t forget to take advantage of the free or cheap cancellations that some types of miles offer. Speculative bookings have a lot of value when your plans aren’t fixed and great award space (or a cheap fare in the case of Southwest awards) is available.

As cash tickets have ever worse change and cancellation rules, award tickets hold extra value for their lax rules on the matter.

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Your miles are as valuable as you are creative. For instance, you can combine two luxurious A380 First Classes onto one American Airlines award.

British Airways flies an A380 daily between Los Angeles and London. Qantas flies an A380 daily from London to Dubai (it continues to Sydney.)

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from gcmap.com

Although American Airlines has strict rules on transiting one region to get to another, it is ALLOWED to transit Europe on your way to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region.

Combined the award costs 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

The drawback is really high taxes and fees, but even here I see a silver lining.

The Products

First Class on the Qantas A380 taunted me with its near emptiness when I flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class last year.

Qantas A380 Seat

I saw the British Airways First Class Suites on the A380 up close last year on a trip from Frankfurt to London as British Airways used the short hops to get the crew familiar with the plane.

British Airways A380 First Class Suite

Just Los Angeles to London

Los Angeles to London one way has $480 in taxes and fees, including $452 in fuel surcharges. (American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights.) That totally stinks, but it is tempting for a 10.5 hour flight in First Class on an A380 for only 62,500 miles.

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Just Los Angeles to Dubai

Departing London in a premium cabin has massive taxes. London to Dubai has $288 in taxes. That’s why if you only want to go one way for 40,000 American Airlines miles in an awesome First Class between the Middle East and Europe, I recommend flying west into London to avoid those departure taxes.

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The Silver Lining

Combine these two flights onto one awards, and you save big on miles and taxes. Instead of 62,500 + 40,000 miles (both of which are a steal), the one way First Class award is 90,000 miles.

Instead of $480 + $288 ($768) in taxes and fees, you pay $530 total. The big savings is because the less-than-24-hour layover in London means you are not considered to originate in the UK, which triggers the nasty taxes we saw from London to Dubai.

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That’s 17.5 hours in luxury for 90,000 miles and $530. Delta miles can’t even be used for International First Class. United would charge at least 140,000 miles for the same award. When you look at it that way, it starts to get tempting.

Other Options

Scrap the British Airways First Class and save $452. You could fly American Airlines First Class instead, but the product isn’t as nice and award space is harder to find.

From London, you can fly Etihad First Class on its A380 to Abu Dhabi (and beyond) or Qatar Business Class on its A380 to Doha and beyond. I haven’t seen Qatar release First Class award space on the route.

You can continue to anywhere in the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives for no extra miles if the airline that connects you from the United States to Europe publishes a fare from your starting city to your final destination. That’s a big “if.” (See Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards for more info on this rule and how to figure out if you comply.)

You can start anywhere in North America and connect to Los Angeles on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights, subject to the same “published fare rule.”

I’m Talking Myself Into This Award

I need to get from the United States to Europe in April. I might fly an award like this and spend a few days somewhere in the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region before returning to Europe. I could sample three A380 First Class products on such a trip–two as outlined in this post and Etihad First Class on the A380 on the return, stay tuned tomorrow–see a region I’ve never seen, and have a few interesting reviews for this blog.

Ninety thousand American Airlines miles is a lot, and $530 is more than I’ve ever laid out for an award, but it’s so tempting.

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.

Getting both cards now and meeting both spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

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Are you better off using Avios or American Airlines miles for a trip to South America?

I’m at the beginning of probably nine months of travel, with almost no flights booked and only the vaguest sense of where I’ll head and how I’ll get there. I’m having an absolute blast in Bogota, Colombia, so I think I want to go to Cali or Medellin, Colombia after a quick trip back to the United States.

I am looking at flying from Philadelphia to Colombia in about two weeks, and my most convenient options–one stop in Miami versus 2+ stops–are on oneworld flights. I can book those flights with American Airlines miles, British Airways Avios, or cash.

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Things are complicated further by close-in ticketing fees, Cash & Avios awards, my point valuations, and my mileage balances, so I thought what better way to tease out the best value than a little early-morning math!

Even if you never want to go to Colombia (big mistake!) or you mainly focus on miles other than American and British Airways, this post should illuminate how to decide which miles to use for a certain trip and whether to use miles at all or just to pay cash.

  • Which is the best value to Colombia: AA miles, BA miles, or cash?

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Sometimes you can go really far for not very miles by finding underpriced countries on your favorite award chart.

Award charts, by their nature, group several countries together for a single price. The countries at the extremes of each group are often underpriced relative to the rest of the group, leaving you the chance to get a great deal with your miles.

Here are five examples of underpriced countries on the American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, and British Airways award charts.

1. Peru, by American, United, and Delta

Peru is the farthest south country in Northern South America on the American Airlines, United, and Delta charts. I’ve previously called Peru the Best Destination for Lie Flat Seats because it is the only country in its region with lie flat seats offered by United, Delta, and American’s partner LAN.

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The most distant country in Northern South America is Peru

You can book a one way award from the United States to Peru for as little as 15,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy on these dates: between January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14. That’s only 2,500 miles more than a one way award within the continental United States and cheaper than an award to Hawaii despite Peru being farther award from the continental United States than Hawaii.

You can fly flat beds to Peru for:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles each way (LAN)
  • 35,000 United miles each way (United)
  • 90,000 Delta miles roundtrip (Delta) [45,000 miles each way starting 1/1/15]

That’s cheaper than flat beds to Hawaii, despite Peru being farther away from the continental United States. Those prices are also a huge discount on the prices to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina which are just a few hours more of flying.

Peru also happens to be my favorite country to visit. Here’s my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru.

  • What are the other four underpriced countries?

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US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways are all members of the oneworld alliance who should be equally sharing award space on their own flights with their partners.

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For the first time, I’ve found a case where US Airways “Low” (their name for “Saver”) price award space is not bookable with American Airlines or British Airways miles.

Either the US Airways space is phantom, or it isn’t being shared with American Airlines and British Airways, which would be a huge problem because American Airlines and British Airways awards are often cheaper than US Airways awards.

Refresher on Partners Sharing Space

As a refresher, airlines usually share all their capacity-controlled Saver award space–whatever that’s called like “MileSAAver” or “Low”–equally with their own members and their partners. There are a few exceptions, but US Airways economy Low space has never been an exception, so I would expect US Airways miles, American Airlines miles, and British Airways Avios to be able to book it equally.

Airlines never share their less capacity controlled seats with partners–award space with names like Medium, High, AAnytime, and Standard.

That means that any Low award space at usairways.com, any MileSAAver award space at aa.com, and any British Airways award space at ba.com should be available equally to all three types of miles. (British Airways doesn’t have tiers of seat availability.)

Why This Matters

US Airways flies from Sarasota, FL to Charlotte, NC, which is a distance of 547 miles.

  • US Airways would charge 25,000 miles and $36 for the one way flight at the Low level.
  • American would charge 12,500 miles and $6.
  • British Airways would charge 4,500 Avios and $6.

I’d much rather book the flight with Avios than with US Airways miles. Or if I needed the segment as part of an international award to Asia, I’d want to book it with American Airlines miles.

If US Airways isn’t sharing the space, that makes American Airlines and British Airways miles less valuable.

  • On what routes is US Airways space not bookable with AA and BA miles?
  • What is the root cause of the problem? Glitch or purposeful blocking?

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This is the seventeenth 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.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the British Airways Avios program.

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?

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Aer Lingus will upgrade its Business Class seats to fully flat beds in 2015. Aer Lingus flights can be booked with United or British Airways miles.

Boston to Dublin in a fully flat bed will cost only 25,000 British Airways Avios each way!

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The refurbishment of Aer Lingus’ A330s will be a big improvement of the angled lie flat seats that the airline currently features in Business Class.

The new beds will be in a staggered pattern that will offer aisle access to all Business Class passengers except those with a window seat in the first row.

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In addition, Aer Lingus claims to be improving the food and service onboard.

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Business Class will enjoy on-demand dining instead of a designated time, and passengers departing New York and Boston can even pre-dine at the airport lounge to maximize sleep on those very short flights.

Business Class passengers will get free on-board wifi, which is very rare. Most airlines make Business Class passengers pay for wifi.

  • How big is the seat?
  • Which US airline has the same Business Class seat?
  • How can you book Aer Lingus Business Class?
  • What is the award availability in Aer Lingus Business Class on the new beds?

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American Airlines releases a ton of award space on its routes to Hawaii at the last minute.

On almost all of American Airlines’ routes from Los Angeles to the four major Hawaiian islands and Dallas/Fort Worth to Oahu and Maui, there is award space for 4+ people in the next few weeks.

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If you live in Southern California or North Texas, this is a great chance to use as few as 12,500 Avios per person per direction to get to Hawaii during high season when the weather is a perfect 85 degrees and sunny.

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If you live somewhere else, this is a great chance to use 17,000+ Avios or 22,500 American Airlines per person per direction to take advantage of the last-second award space.

If you’d rather fly a different time of year when American Airlines has released no MileSAAver award space, this is a great reminder to look again within a few weeks of departure because American Airlines has been routinely releasing award space a few weeks out on its routes to Hawaii.

  • What is the award space for four people from the continental United States to Hawaii on American Airlines flights?
  • How can you book that space for 12,500 Avios each way?
  • Why might you want to book the space with Avios even if it costs fewer American Airlines miles?

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British Airways has a unique, distance-based award chart that can provide fantastic value for short-haul flights.

Both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

imagesBritish Airways has access to all American Airlines “MileSAAver” award space. Furthermore, on some routes British Airways actually charges fewer miles for the same flight than American Airlines.

Unfortunately, using ba.com is not as straightforward as using aa.com. BA.com is perfect for searching direct flights, but it often misses connecting itineraries, even simple ones with only one layover.

The other day, a reader emailed me saying that he had found MileSAAver award space from New York to Lima on American Airlines, but ba.com wouldn’t find it,. I looked into the problem and found a classic case of ba.com missing an obvious connecting itinerary.

  • What is the simple trick to finding award space on ba.com?
  • How can you book American Airlines flights using British Airways Avios?
  • When should you use British Airways Avios instead of American Airlines miles?
  • How can you fly a one way award flight for only 4,500 miles?

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This was the oldest unwritten “Draft” post in my folder. I wrote the title more than two years ago, but none of the post until today. Let me get something off my chest I’ve been holding in for, apparently, a long time.

Two-and-a-half years ago, British Airways went from a traditional region-to-region award chart to their unique distance based chart on which every flight adds to the total cost.

I know of no other program–other than LAN, and raise your hand if you’ve booked an award with LAN kilometers–where each flight segment adds to the price of the award.

Cleveland to New York to London costs the price of the Cleveland-to-New York leg plus the New York-to-London leg whether you stop in New York an hour or a month.

Each segment’s price is based only on the distance flown and the cabin of the flight. Here is the British Airways award chart for one way economy flights:

  • Up to 650 miles flown: 4,500 Avios
  • 651 to 1,151 miles flown: 7,500 Avios
  • 1,152 to 2,000 miles flown: 10,000 Avios
  • 2,001 to 3,000 miles flown: 12,500 Avios
  • 3,001 to 4,000 miles flown: 20,000 Avios
  • 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown: 25,000 Avios
  • 5,501 to 6,500 miles flown: 30,000 Avios
  • 6,501 to 7,000 miles flown: 35,000 Avios
  • 7,001+ miles flown: 50,000 Avios

The program has a lot of drawbacks:

  • Fuel surcharges on most partners but not these ones
  • Charging double the economy price for business class
  • Charging triple the economy price for first class
  • Treating domestic “First Class” on two-cabin American Airlines and US Airways planes as first class
  • Connecting awards get prohibitively expensive quickly

But British Airways offers extremely high value awards too. Most high value awards are:

  • Direct flights
  • short-to-medium haul
  • economy class
  • flown on partners with no fuel surcharges

What do you notice about those two lists?

I notice that the low value awards with Avios are almost exactly the high value awards with traditional programs like American Airlines or United.

I also notice that the high value awards with Avios are almost exactly the low value awards with traditional programs.

The fact that British Airways has a unique program enhances the overall value of our miles portfolio greatly. Before Avios, there wasn’t a super high value way to use miles from Phoenix to Kauai or Miami to Manaus, Brazil.

Any savvy miles collector will have a lot of different types of miles and points: United miles, American miles, British Airways Avios, Ultimate Rewards, Arrival miles, etc.

Logically when considering how to book a specific trip, you’ll book it with the miles that give you the best value.

If all your miles are good for the same trips, some trips you want to take will probably have no economical way to book them. If your miles are all good for different things, then you’ll have more potential trips covered.

Since I’m so glad British Airways “devalued,” do I want all airlines to copy the Avios program?

Heck no! Part of the value of Avios is the great awards that can be booked with Avios, and part of the value is that those awards are different from other programs.

If all programs were like British Airways’, the second source of value would be gone.

I’m ecstatic that British Airways “devalued” its award chart even if at the time everyone hated it. I’ll continue to diversify my miles and points across the Six Types of Frequent Flyer Miles and laugh all the way to the bank my next destination.

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Qantas will operate its daily flight from Dallas to Sydney with an A380 starting October 1, 2014. This is a large increase in capacity from the current 747 on the route.

The Dallas to Sydney flight will be the longest A380 flight in the world at 16hr55min, so it’s not one I’d be eager to fly in coach.

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The route is in addition to the A380 flights Qantas operates from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne. I flew Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class on the A380 last year.

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Business Class on the A380
  • How is award space from Dallas to Sydney in Economy, Business, and First Classes?
  • Is it better to book the flights with American Airlines, US Airways, or British Airways miles?

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