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Guide to Booking British Airways Avios

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British Airways has a frequent flyer program called the Executive Club that offers some solid redemptions across the board, both with its own metal and with partner airlines. There are a lot of different and unique features to the Executive Club and quite frankly the system is a bit complicated at times. However, I’m going to provide some of the basics about this program to help you get a good grasp of its rules and policies.

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Avios

Avios is the award currency for British Airways, Iberia and a few other partners. This article will focus on earning British Airways Avios via the Executive Club program and will provide an introduction overview of the program.

Oneworld Alliance

British Airways is part of the Oneworld Alliance. If you’re unfamiliar with airline alliances, they allow you to use miles of one airline’s program to book flights on a partner airline’s program. For example, this means that you can use British Airways Avios to book flights on Oneworld partners like American Airlines, Air Berlin, etc. 

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Other codeshare services and partners include:

  •  Aer Lingus, airBaltic, Bangkok Airways, Flybe, Loganair, Meridiana fly, Vueling Airlines and WestJet

How to get British Airways Avios?

One reason why I love British Airways Avios so much is that you can rack them up in a lot of different ways and it’s really easy to get your Avios account into the triple digits with just two cards.

Here are the different transfer partners and ways to accumulate Avios: 

  • American Express Membership Rewards (10:8) (transfer bonuses offered)
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1)
  • Chase British Airways Visa
  • Starwood Preferred Guests (1:1)

British Airways Distance-Based Award Chart

The big difference between British Airways and other frequent flyer programs is that British Airways operates on a distance-based award chart. This means that the mileage is determined based on the distance between your point of departure and your destination, as opposed to being determined by the regions you are traveling to and from.

In addition to the zones, British Airways redemptions also depend on whether or not you book them as “Off-Peak” or “Peak.” This applies to Iberia as well but not to the other Oneworld partners — if you want to book an award with any partner other than Iberia, it will cost you the peak award price.

Take a look at the chart I created below to how it works. All rates are based on one-way award flights. 

British Airways Distance-Based Award Chart
British Airways Distance-Based Award Chart

You need to follow a couple of steps to figure out the milage requirements for your trip. 

First, you find out how many miles your flight is (I use Great Circle Mapper) and then you find which zone that flight falls into based on the distance of the trip. For example, a 2,500 mile flight would fall into “Zone 3.” You then look at the British Airways calendar for off-peak or peak days to see which rate you would redeem for. 

Alternatively, you can use the British Airways flight calculator. The flight calculator doesn’t always show you all available routes with all partners, however, and sometimes a message pops up that it’s “not available in your region.” Thus, often, I’m left with the only option of entering in a specific route into the British Airways search engine, which means that searching for exact mileage requirements can be time-consuming. 

Recent North America devaluation

Devaluations hit British Airways last year and they changed the redemption rate for short-haul flights in North America. This made a lot of frequent flyers upset, because one of the best ways to redeem Avios (or miles of any kind) was to book domestic American Airlines flights in North America with Avios. The devaluation basically did away with the first zone and made it so that the cheapest short-haul flight in economy would require 7,500 miles, and business and first class were changed to Zone 2’s requirements as well.

So if you’re planning on booking North American short-haul flights with British Airways Avios, then go by what you see in the requirements for Zone 2 and not Zone 1.   

Reward Flight Saver

On certain flights British Airways offers “Reward Flight Saver” (“RFS”) awards which are awards where you pay Avios plus a low flat fee instead of the taxes, fees and carrier charges. They are offered on short-haul flights of 2,000 miles or fewer but you must fly on British Airways on both legs in order for the fare to qualify.

They are currently only offered for British Airways flights in Europe and Comair flights in South Africa. I recently booked one in South Africa without even realizing I had found one, but it was a nice way to save a few bucks on fees.

Avios & Money

Avios and Money allows you to redeem flights by using your points topped off with cash. It’s an option available with most flights, including partner airlines. You’ll simply find your award flight and then when it’s time to purchase it, you’ll select the option to pay with points plus cash. You should see something similar to the image below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 1.45.10 PM

This is usually a good option if you’re in a situation where you’re just short on Avios and the math works out where it’s cheaper or the same to redeem with Avios and Money than it is to purchase Avios outright, which will be rare for small quantities of Avios.

For example, when you purchase a small number of Avios (1,000), you may have to pay as much as 5 cents per Avios (unless you happen to catch a promo). With the example above, you ‘d be paying 1.5 cents per point for the Avios with the first Avios and Money option. Thus, it would be wayyy cheaper to go with the Avios and Money option.

You’ll always have to do the math when booking these to see if: 1) there’s a better deal to just purchase the Avios (not likely) and 2) the rate at which your purchasing Avios is a good deal for you.

It should be noted that you can’t make modifications to awards booked with Avios and Money. 

Part Payment

Another way to redeem Avios is often to use their part pay. This is similar to Avios and Money, except you’re paying primarily cash and topping off with British Airways Avios in exchange for a savings. Savings typically range from £10 to £200 per person, though they can be higher depending on the fare. However, Part Payment is only available on British Airways and American Airlines direct flights to and from the UK and North America.

This option allows you to earn elite qualifying miles since it is a paid fare and it’s a good way to get rid of Avios you have just sitting around collecting dust. However, I’m not sure I’d want to take advantage of this. 

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Part Payment offers differ depending on the route

If you used 7,500 Avios for Part Payment, you’d get an equivalent of a £50 ($72) discount, which comes out to .96 cents per point. That’s not terrible to some people, but instead of eating up 7,500 Avios to save $72, you could use those 7,500 Avios toward one leg of a more expensive short-haul flight.

Upgrading Using Avios

When you book an award with British Airways, you have the option to Upgrade Using Avios. This means you purchase a fare with cash and then upgrade the class using Avios. The catch to this is that only certain class fares in economy can be upgraded, meaning that you have to purchase the more expensive fares in order to upgrade. 

Sometimes it is worth it to book an upgrade while other times it’s much more costly — it usually depends on the class you’re trying to upgrade from. Check out this article to find out more about when it makes sense to Upgrade Using Avios.

Surcharges

One of the big knocks against British Airways is the massive fees and surcharges that you have to pay when you fly with them. These can be especially bad when you go through London or on long-haul flights. The good news is that when you book Oneworld and other partner awards you can often avoid these hefty surcharges. 

Stopover and open jaw rules 

Since British Airways operates on a distance-based chart, you are free to book stopovers as you like because the stopovers will just be factored into the overall distance of the trip. Utilizing stopovers on British Airways is a great way to maximize the value of Avios on long-haul flights and I discuss more of that in my sweet spots article. British Airways also allows one-way awards so you can always open jaw however you would like.

Cancellations

British Airways has different policies for cancelling bookings depending on where you were schedule to depart from. To make changes you will have to pay $55 for date/time changes and or to have Avios redeposited into your account, plus a $25 service fee if you cancel over the phone. The $55 fee is not bad compared to many other major airlines. 

Put reservations on hold 

British Airways does not allow you to put reservations on hold.

Household accounts and Family and Friends List

British Airways is pretty flexible when it comes to booking award flights for other people. There are two ways to book Avios flight for others.

A) Household accounts

British Airways allows you to create what is called “household accounts” where you can share Avios among one another. They allow you to add up to six individuals, even kids, who live in the same household. To create a household account, you only one “head of household” to be an Avios member. When any Avios are spent, British Airways will deduct a proportional amount from each Member’s balance in the Household Account.

Here are a couple of additional rules to remember:

  • Members of a Household Account cannot redeem their Avios for anyone outside of the Household Account
  • Changes to the registered Household Account address can only be made once every six months
  • Executive Club Members must be 18 years or older before they can spend their Avios

B) Family and Friends List

In addition to creating a household account, you can create a family and friends list. This allows Household Account members to redeem for up to five nominated individuals who do not live at the same address. In other words, you can use your Avios on your friends. The major difference between the household account and this is that the points are not pooled together.

There’s also the Travel Companion List but that is just a streamlined way of storing travel information for other who will travel with you when you are purchasing tickets and it doesn’t affect award booking.

Final Word

That’s it for the introduction to British Airways Avios. Now check out my article on the sweet spots for redeeming Avios

Photo by BriYYZ via Flickr

 

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