The hardest and easiest long-haul routes on which you can typically find Avios availability

Oct 26, 2019

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Using Avios can be a great way to maximise your travel. You can redeem them for seats on flights operated by British Airways or its partner airlines in order to get nearly free travel.

A common frustration we hear here at TPG UK is that some Executive Club members cannot find any seats when they go to use their Avios. There are millions of members all vying for a limited number of seats, so there’s generally more demand than supply, particularly for popular routes. But which mid- and long-haul routes are harder than others on which to find reward availability?

Regardless of destination, here are some general tips regarding availability using Avios:

  • It will be harder to find award seats during school holidays, bank holidays and other special occasions such as religious holidays where demand is significantly higher.
  • For seasonal destinations, there are likely to be far fewer seats available in peak season than low season. For example, U.S. cities like New York, Boston and Chicago are much more popular during summer than winter. On the other hand, the Middle East is scorching hot in summer, while being very pleasant in winter so it may be easier to use Avios in summer than winter when there’s less leisure demand.
  • While this article focuses on long-haul routes, in my hundreds of searches I’ve consistently noticed more Club Europe (business) availability than Euro Traveller (economy) availability using Avios. I’ve found the opposite for mid- and long-haul routes — there’s more World Traveller and World Traveller Plus (where operated) availability for Avios redemptions than Club World or first (where operated).
  • For destinations with multiple short-haul frequencies each day operated by British Airways, I’ve found the least desirable flights of the day have the best availability. For example, for popular European weekend city breaks there may be no seats available on the convenient 6 p.m. Sunday flight back to the UK, while the undesirable 6 a.m. Sunday flight may have plenty of Avios seats available.

Now onto some of the easiest and most difficult destinations. While not scientific, I search dozens of destinations on BA.com every week both for personal and TPG travel, and these are my experiences. I did a number of additional searches for the purpose of this article to double check.

This is my personal experience and yours may differ depending on the number of seats, dates, class of service and how far in advance you are searching. I’ve kept this to flights operated by British Airways as there are thousands of routes operated by partner airlines that would be nearly impossible to search every single one.

Hardest

Sydney (SYD): I would argue this is the single-hardest destination to use Avios on, especially for premium seats. One of the reasons is that it is a very popular destination to use a 2-4-1 Companion Voucher on is because it is the longest route BA operates, so it’s also the best value for a Companion Voucher. Premium seats are booked up within seconds of being released a full year in advance.

Seychelles (SEZ), Mauritius (MRU) and Maldives (MLE): Honeymoons are often planned well in advance, so award seats are snapped up quickly. These luxury island destinations are true once-in-a-lifetime trips, so can be very hard to find reward seats for a pair to travel on Avios.

Cape Town (CPT): Johannesburg is also fairly difficult to use Avios on, but I’ve found Cape Town to be even more difficult — especially during the peak southern summer period.

Los Angeles (LAX), San Fransisco (SFO), Tokyo (NRT and HND) and Singapore (SIN): These are cities I would describe as being both premium business and leisure destinations. This means there is healthy demand for cash fares, so less incentive to release seats for Avios redemptions — especially at the last minute. In my dozens of searches, I’ve rarely seen premium seats available to these cities.

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Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Danielle Vito/The Points Guy)

Easiest

New York (JFK and EWR): I am consistently surprised how good the availability to NYC is in every class. There are more than a dozen flights per day between London and New York, which is a huge amount of capacity. I’ve often seen eight or more Club World seats on the same flight a week in advance. Plus, now that BA is flying its Club Suite on the route, you could luck out.

Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and Bangkok (BKK): These cities are popular for tourists but less popular for business travellers — especially when compared with Singapore. When looking to use my Companion Voucher I searched long and hard for Asian cities next year for two Club World seats for a wedding in Bali over a wide range of days. There were plenty of seats to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok with almost none to Singapore.

Doha (DOH), Abu Dhabi (AUH), Bahrain (BAH) and Kuwait (KWI): These Middle Eastern cities might not be as well known as neighbouring Dubai. And especially outside of the peak northern winter period, I’ve consistently seen excellent availability even in premium classes to these cities. Doha is particularly good for British Airways flights, given Qatar Airways operate on the same route with its world-leading Qsuite product.

Wat Phra Kaew Ancient temple in bangkok Thailand
Photo by Getty Images.

Featured photo courtesy of Gettys Images.

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