Avios Program Overview – What is Avios?
Avios points are the frequent flyer award currency used by British Airways (UK), Iberia (Spain), Aer Lingus (Ireland), Meridiana (Italy) and Flybe (Low Cost UK Airline). They are also a currency that can also be used to book travel with any airline in the Oneworld Alliance.
The purpose of this article is to focus on acquiring and using British Airways Avios for redemptions on Oneworld partners, with a special focus on using them for North American Short Haul flights on American or Alaska Airlines. This is a sweet spot that can save you alot of miles if you understand how it works.
Avios and The Oneworld Alliance
The first thing you will need to understand is how airline alliances work. There are three global airline alliances – Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. British Airways is part of the OneWorld Alliance.
The Oneworld alliance consists of the following 14 airlines:
- Air Berlin,
- American Airlines,
- British Airways,
- Cathay Pacific,
- Japan Airlines,
- LATAM Airlines,
- Malaysia Airlines,
- Qatar Airways,
- Royal Jordanian,
- S7 Airlines and
- SriLankan Airlines
Together, these airlines operate more than 14,000 daily flights to some 1,000 destinations across the globe.
The beauty of the alliance is that by joining any Oneworld member’s frequent flyer program you can earn and redeem miles across the entire network of airlines. So you can use your British Airways Avios points to book flights on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Quantas, etc…
How to earn Avios
There are a variety of ways you can earn Avios including flying, staying in hotels, renting a car with Avis, shopping in their shopping portal, buying them, and of course, earning via credit cards. They do expire from inactivity, but British Airways has a very liberal 36 month inactivity period before you risk losing them.
Earning Avois Points by flying on British Airways and Oneworld Alliance Partners
Naturally, you can earn Avios by flying British Airways, as well as any Oneworld alliance partner, plus Aer Lingus, Meridiana and Alaska Airlines. Check out the Avios Flight Calculator to see exactly how many Avios you will earn on your flight.
However, as a North American traveler the real benefit is the multiple ways you can earn Avios via transferable Credit Card points.
Credit Cards that provide Avios points and Avios transfer options
Below are the primary Avios transfer partners and ratio’s for transferring to Avios:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (transfer ratio 1:1)
- American Express Membership Rewards(transfer ratio 10:8)
- Starwood Preferred Guest (transfer ratio 1:1, with 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred)
- Chase British Airways Credit Card (there is no need to transfer with this option, the Avios are deposited directly into your BA account)
Earning Avios while Flying
You will earn between .25 and 3 Avios per mile flown on purchased tickets, with the minimum ranging from 125 to 1,500 Avios, depending on the ticket type you purchase
Earning Avios with Travel Partners
You can earn Avois with several Avios travel partners. Here are the partners and links to their offers:
- Accor Hotels
- British Airways
- Chic Outlet Shopping
- Direct Ferries
- Fiesta Rewards
- Heathrow Express
- Love Theatre
- Marriott Rewards
- Small Luxury Hotels
British Airways Family Sharing Feature – Executive Club Household Accounts
One of my favorite features of the British Airways Avios program is the British Airways Executive Club Household Account. This program allows you and your family to share Avios points across all of your programs (it applies for up to 6 people that live with you).
With most airlines, if you have 15,000 miles and your wife has 15,000 mile – you are pretty much out of luck because individually neither person has enough for a round trip ticket. With a British Airways Household Account you can share smaller (or larger) balances to create one point balance to pull from. Its a great feature!
Booking Flights with Avios Points
The main difference between British Airways Avios and other airline frequent flyer programs is that British Airways uses a distance based award chart, while other airlines use a zone based award chart. This means that the number of points required is based on the mileage between your departing airport and arriving airport. Zone based award are based on the region (or zone) you depart from and the region (or zone) you arrive in – i.e. North America to Europe.
Avios Distance based Redemption Chart
The table below shows the current award redemption requirements for British Airways. The two variables that determine Avios requirements are distance flown and if it is Peak or Off Peak. The Off Peak awards apply if you are using Avios to fly on either British Airways or Iberia aircraft – other Oneworld partners require peak pricing.
The other important thing to note, is that British Airways no longer allows the use of Zone 1 point requirements in North America. They changed this in February 2015. Prior to that the value of using BA Avios for North American shot haul flights (i.e Detroit to New York) was huge – you could get a round trip flight for 9,000 points!
Off Peak and Zone 1 awards are essentially only for flights within Europe on British Airways or Iberia planes. If you are using Avios for other Oneworld partners, you will be focused on Peak pricing.
Using Avois to Book North American Domestic Flights
In North America the sweet spots for booking with Avios are flights that are less than 1,150 miles flying direct on American Airlines.
American operates out of ten hubs – These are the aiports you will want to fly into or out of to get a low point Avios redemption
- Dallas/Fort Worth,
- Washington, DC-National,
- Los Angeles,
- New York-JFK, and
- New York-LaGuardia.
For example, if you are based out of Detroit and you want to go to New York City, your first thought may be to fly Delta, since Delta is the primary carrier in Detroit. However, American offers a direct flight into Laguardia, so using Avios on American is something to consider. (The idea of flying Spirit may have briefly crossed your mind, but that is the airline of last resort – only if all else fails, so we will take that out of this scenario).
Flying Delta from Detroit to Laguardia will cost you somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 Skymiles round trip. Typically if you are flying with less than 2 weeks notice you will be paying 50,000 Skymiles and if you book further in advance you can get a flight for 30,000 Skymiles.
However, if you use Avios to fly that same route will cost you 15,000 Avios points for a roundtrip ticket. In this case, all you have to do is sign up to be a member of the British Airways Executive Club program (it is free and takes about 5 minutes to sign up). You will now have the ability to use Avios for American Airlines Flights.
If you have any Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards Points instantly to your BA Executive Club program where you can now use the Avois points. Go to the ba.com website, select the option to “book with avios” and you will be able to book an American Airlines flight using Avios on the British Airways website.
American Airlines recently reduced the miles required for flights under 500 flights miles to 7,500 miles each way, so you could book this same flight on American for 15,000 American Miles round trip in economy. However, if your flight is within 21 days of booking, American will charge you an extra $75. Also, with the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer option, Avios are much easier to earn than American Airlines miles.
Avoiding British Airways Fuel Surcharges
Some routes have fuel surcharges that can add huge cost to your award booking, the worst of which is British Airlines flights into or connecting through London. So while it would seem to make perfect sense, the one place you definitely don’t want to use your Avios is for flights from the US to London on British Airways. You basically want to avoid using Avois to fly from North America to Europe unless you are flying on Aer Lingus, Iberia, or Air Berlin, as they do not pass on the fuel surcharge. Most British Airways flights will route you through London, incurring the fuel surcharge.
Some of the Best Avios Redemptions
Short Haul North American Domestic Flights
- Any flight under 1,150 flight miles will be 15,000 Avios round trip in economy. These include direct flights into or out of the American Hub Airports mentioned earlier
East Coast to Europe Flights
- Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus – 25,000 Avios round trip in economy
- New York to Berlin on Air Berlin – 40,000 Avios round trip in economy
West Coast to Hawaii
- West Coast Cities (LA, Portland, Seattle, Oakland) to Hawaii direct – 25,000 Avios round trip in economy
Miami to Caribbean
- Direct flights from Miami to various Caribbean islands – 15,000 Avios round trip in economy