The ultimate guide to British Airways Avios

Aug 15, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Avios is the points currency of British Airways and some of its partner airlines. There are a huge number of ways to both earn and redeem Avios in the United Kingdom, even if you are not travelling. You don’t even need to leave the house.

Here’s what you need to know about earning and redeeming British Airways Avios points.

In This Post

What are Avios?

Avios are the points currency used by the following loyalty programmes:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Vueling Club

Avios can be transferred between these programmes at a rate of 1 to 1, so each Avios is theoretically worth the same in each programme.

Related: How to transfer your Avios between British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus accounts

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

What is the difference between Avios and Tier Points

Many airline frequent flyer programmes distinguish between miles that count toward elite status and miles that essentially are a currency that can be used to redeem for flights. Part of the reason for doing so is that airlines award multiples of actual miles flown for passengers in premium cabins or those with elite status for ‘spending’ but only award progress toward status based on actual miles flown.

Avios

In short, Avios are the miles earned for flying, and thus the currency that customers can use for reward flights, upgrades or other things. They can be earned and redeemed on any Oneworld flights, and are based on the actual miles flown.

For heavily discounted economy-class tickets, passengers earn 25% of miles flown (always a minimum of 125), and in premium cabins, BA awards flyers a cabin bonus as well as a tier bonus (based on status in the Executive Club).

A flight from London to New York City for a Blue Member earns 865 Avios in heavily discounted economy class, which is 25% of the miles flown. A Gold member would earn 4,325 Avios for the same one-way flight. At the other end of the spectrum, a Gold member flying on an expensive (and flexible) first-class ticket would earn 13,832 Avios for the flight from London to New York, which includes miles flown, a cabin bonus and a tier bonus.

Tier Points

British Airways awards Tier Points for all flights taken on British Airways or any of its Oneworld partners, and these count toward status in the Executive Club. The number of Tier Points awarded depends on the length of the flight and the class flown.

Short economy-class flights can earn, 5, 10, 15 or 20 Tier Points, and this depends on the fare class booked, and essentially the price — the more expensive the ticket, the more likely you are to earn more Tier Points.

Short-haul business-class flights of less than 2,000 miles typically earn 40 Tier Points for each sector, though there are some short-haul plus routes (such as Helsinki, Athens and Malta) that earn 80 Tier Points.

Long-haul economy-class fares earn between 20 and 120 Tier Points — again, depending on the fare class. Club World long-haul business-class flights earn between 140 and 160 Tier Points, while first class earns a minimum of 210 on long-haul flights, 240 on longer flights and as many as 360 Tier Points for a one-way flight to Sydney.

Related: Is a Tier Point run worth it for British Airways Silver status?

Once a year, Tier Points balances are reset to zero and earning for the next year starts from anew. BA does not use calendar years, but instead, each membership year is based on when someone joined the British Airways Executive Club (it always comes on the 8th of the month).

So, in short, Tier Points are awarded for Oneworld flights based on class and length of flight, and those Tier Points count toward status.

You can read more about different Executive Club status levels here.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: A British Airways plane lands at Heathrow Airport on March 19, 2010 in London, England. The planned three day strike by BA cabin crew this weekend will now go ahead as talks between the airline and the union Unite collapsed earlier today. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
London Heathrow Airport (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

How do you earn Avios?

Avios can be earned by flying any Oneworld alliance airline as well as other partner airlines (and non-airline partner). In other words, not just by flying with the three airlines that use Avios as their points currency. There are different Avios earned for different fare classes, status levels and partner airlines. You can find more information about that here.

You can also earn BA Avios through credit card spend, through either one of the following British Airways cobranded credit cards:

British Airways American Express cards can earn a valuable Companion Voucher that can be used on British Airways each year; read all about this fantastic travel perk here.

Or, if you are earning Membership Rewards points through an American Express card you can also transfer these points to Avios at a rate of 1:1.

You can also combine Avios in a Household Account. The Household Account with British Airways is the system for sharing your British Airways Avios as a family and booking tickets for one another. Plus, it’s the only way to accrue Avios for your children.

There are various other non-airline earning partners of Executive Club, including (but not limited to):

You can also simply purchase Avios, which are often on sale.

Iberia business class. (Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)

How much are Avios worth?

One of the questions we are asked most often here at TPG is, “How much is a point or mile worth?” The answer varies from person to person, and depends on how well you can maximise a particular loyalty currency.

We publish a monthly valuation of Avios and other major points currencies here and, at the time of publication, we value Avios at 1.1 pence.

On which airlines can I use Avios?

British Airways is a founding member of Oneworld, which is a global alliance comprising 13 airlines.

Assuming there’s award availability, you can use your Avios from your British Airways or Iberia accounts for flights on any Oneworld airlines. They are:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia including Iberia Express and Air Nostrum
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas including QantasLink and Jetconnect
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

With the exception of S7 Airlines, all of these airlines fly to the U.K., so you have plenty of choice. In addition to the Oneworld partners listed above, you can also use Avios from British Airways Executive Club to redeem for flights on:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Comair, a BA franchise partner in South Africa
  • Sun-Air, a BA franchise partner in Scandinavia

Avios in Iberia Plus can be redeemed for Avianca, LEVEL, Royal Air Maroc and Vueling flights in addition to the Oneworld partners listed above.

Avios in your Aer Lingus Aer Club can be redeemed for flights on British Airways, Iberia, Flybe and low-cost European airline Vueling.

LATAM 767 Business Class. Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy
LATAM 767 Business Class. (Photo by Brendan Dorsey / The Points Guy)

How many Avios will I need?

British Airways Executive Club uses the following award chart for redemptions:

Zone #

(distance in miles)

Economy Premium Economy Business First
Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak Off-Peak Peak
Zone 1**

(1-650)

4,000 4,500 5,750 6,750 7,750 9,000 15,500 18,000
Zone 2

(651-1,151)

6,500 7,500 9,500 11,250 12,750 15,000 25,500 30,000
Zone 3

(1,152-2,000)

8,500 10,000 12,750 15,000 17,000 20,000 34,000 40,000
Zone 4

(2,001-3,000)

10,000 12,500 20,000 25,000 31,250 37,500 42,500 50,000
Zone 5

(3,001-4,000)

13,000 20,000 26,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 68,000 80,000
Zone 6

(4,001-5,500)

16,250 25,000 32,500 50,000 62,500 75,000 85,000 100,000
Zone 7

(5,501-6,500)

19,500 30,000 39,000 60,000 75,000 90,000 102,000 120,000
Zone 8

(6,501-7,000)

22,750 35,000 45,500 70,000 87,500 105,000 119,000 140,000
Zone 9

(7,001+)

32,500 50,000 65,000 100,000 125,000 150,000 170,000 200,000

** These Zone 1 Avios awards are not available for flights to, from or within the U.S.

Redemptions are charged one-way, on a per flight basis according to the distances above. So, two short flights or 250 miles each would be charged as 2 x 4,000/4,500 Avios. Similarly, a return is charged at twice the cost of a one-way. You can use a resource like Great Circle Mapper to calculate the distance of each flight you wish to take, to determine the zone it would fall into.

There are separate award charts for:

Note that if you’re doing a mixed-cabin redemption, the number of miles payable will also be the highest fare class amount.

Note that redemptions for long-haul economy flights will usually be poor value, as British Airways adds significant fees, taxes and fuel surcharges to its redemptions. Long-haul premium cabin redemptions (i.e. business and first class) are usually better value, although as you’ll see from the table above, require a huge number of Avios — a return Zone 8 first-class redemption would cost a massive 280,000 Avios. Note that it doesn’t always make sense to redeem Avios when there is a redemption available.

There can also be substantial fees and taxes levied on redemptions, especially for those flights operated by British Airways. You can read about how to avoid these taxes here.

Related: The complete Avios pricing guide

Cathay Pacific First Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

What are some of the best uses of Avios?

There is a complete guide to the best uses of Avios here. But to summarise:

1. Reward Flight Savers

Arguably the best use of Avios in your British Airways Executive Club are for Reward Flight Savers, especially if you don’t have a huge balance of Avios.

These are where you can redeem Avios for short-haul flights of less than 2,000 miles in distance operated by British Airways — for example, its substantial route network from the U.K. to Europe for few Avios and a fixed amount of fees and taxes.

Distance flown, per flight Off-peak economy class Peak economy class Off-peak business class Peak business class
0 – 650 miles 4,750 Avios 5,250 Avios 8,500 Avios 9,700 Avios
651 – 1,150 miles 7,250 Avios 8,250 Avios 13,500 Avios 15,750 Avios
1,151 – 2,000 miles 9,250 Avios 10,750 Avios 17,750 Avios 20,750 Avios

From London, flights of less than 650 miles include destinations like Glasgow, Aberdeen, Berlin, Copenhagen and Milan. Flights 651 to 1,150 miles include Lisbon, Alicante, Dubrovnik and Stockholm. Flights in the third band up to 2,000 miles are as far away as Marrakech, Athens, Moscow and Helsinki.

As well as the huge European route map, Reward Flight Savers are also available on fifth freedom routes operated by British Airways in the Caribbean and Comair flights in Southern Africa, though Comair flights are subject to higher fees and taxes.

Even better, the fees and taxes payable are fixed — £17.50 or €21 for economy class (peak or off-peak) and £25 or €30. The pound prices are for those departing the U.K., while the euro prices are for those departing Europe.

British Airways Embraer. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Reward Flight Savers are priced per flight, not per journey. So if you are flying from Edinburgh to Geneva via London on British Airways, you will have to pay 2 x 4,750 or 5,250 Avios (depending on the peak or off-peak date) and 2 x the £17.50 fees and taxes. In this case, it may be better value and more convenient to consider a paid ticket on another airline where it operates a direct flight for a decent price.

As well as having the Avios available in your Executive Club account, you must have also earned at least one Avios in the past 12 months prior to making your Reward Flight Saver booking in order to take advantage of the low Avios pricing and fixed fees and taxes.

Related: Why it makes sense to earn at least 1 British Airways Avios every year

For last-minute flights especially, Reward Flight Savers can be enormously valuable.

British Airways Concorde Room Lounge / Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
British Airways Concorde Room Lounge. (Photo by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy)

2. Upgrades

Another great use of Avios is to upgrade your next flight operated by British Airways, Iberia or American Airlines, subject to availability. These flights need to have the flight number of the operating carrier, so it can’t be a codeshare.

You can only upgrade one class, so economy to premium economy, business/Club World to first class, etc. If the carrier does not offer premium economy on your flight, it is possible to upgrade from economy to business class. Currently, upgrades from economy to premium economy on American Airlines-operated flights are not possible.

The cheapest economy fares cannot be upgraded — these are the G, O and Q fare classes. To understand what fare code your ticket is, read TPG’s guide here.

The ticket must be issued by British Airways, or a British Airways-registered travel agent, regardless of the operating carrier. There is the ability to upgrade British Airways flights booked through third-party travel agents, but there are many more terms and conditions applicable.

You will still earn Avios and Tier Points for the cash fare you originally purchased (that you are then upgrading).

Working out the cost of your upgrade is where it gets a bit tricky. Unfortunately, there’s no simple upgrade pricing chart published by British Airways. Instead, looking at the chart for a straight redemption, the cost to upgrade is the full redemption cost (of the upgraded class), less the Avios for the lower class you have already paid for.

As with redemptions, upgrades are charged on a per-flight basis, so if you chose to upgrade both legs of a return ticket you would be charged two separate Avios amounts to upgrade.

Now, where your upgraded class has higher fees and taxes, you will have to pay this at the time of upgrading, as well as the Avios. This is important to note because for flights in premium classes, the luxury Air Passenger Duty is payable, and this can significantly increase the cost of the redemption.

Image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

How Do I Book flights With British Airways Avios?

First, in order to transfer points or search award availability, you’re going to need a British Airways Executive Club account. Click here to sign up if you don’t already have an account. British Airways’ website is one of the best options for searching Oneworld award availability.

Then you’ll have to log in to your British Airways Executive Club account. Once you’re in, there are two main ways to start searching for award availability. For simplicity, immediately after logging in, I usually use the left-hand sidebar “Book with Avios or money” to begin my search.

To do this, select “Book with Avios” from the drop-down menu, enter your search terms and click “Find Flights” to begin your search.

If you haven’t already confirmed availability on Qantas’ website or ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures), hopefully you’ll luck out and there will be award availability for the date you search. If not, BA lets you easily search plus or minus three days at the top of the results page, helpfully noting which dates that you’ve searched have availability.

Also, if you’re still not sure where you want to go, then the Reward Flight Finder tool is useful, as you can compare availability between up to three different destinations.

If you’re having trouble finding availability on your preferred dates and you hadn’t already checked with the Reward Flight Finder tool, you can select ‘Find availability with British Airways on other dates’. This is a great tool, as it opens up a calendar with a month-by-month view. The downside is that it doesn’t show availability with any other Oneworld airlines. If you want to search partner awards, you have to search day-by-day on the main results page.

Once you know where you’d like to go and when you want to travel, the first step is to fill in the information required in the ‘Book flights with Avios’ section.

Can I Use a Combination of Avios and Cash?

There are two different ways of doing this:

  • Part paying with Avios where you use Avios to reduce the cost of a cash ticket. This is not dependent on award availability and you will earn Avios and Tier Points as normal; or
  • Reducing the number of Avios needed for a redemption by paying additional cash (beyond just the fees and taxes).

Regarding this second option, you will often get great value by doing a straight redemption, where you pay for the ticket using Avios and just pay for the fees and taxes and any surcharges in cash.

However, you may not have sufficient Avios in your account to cover the cost of the entire flight, or you may not wish to use so many Avios for one redemption. So, British Airways gives you the option to pay with a combination of Avios and money for redemption on British Airways or its partners, with the exception of Oneworld members Japan Airlines and S7 Airlines.

Note this is not also classed as a redemption, so is dependent on the limited award availability, even though you may still be paying a large amount of the fare in cash.

As an example, here is a redemption search for a World Traveller Plus (premium economy) flight from London to Boston. The search shows a flight available for the redemption cost of 26,000 Avios plus £345.35.

Image by British Airways
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

By clicking the ‘more pricing options’ button you’ll be given the option of reducing the Avios cost by increasing the cash component of your fare.

Image by British Airways
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

Note this is not also classed as a redemption, so is dependent on the limited award availability, even though you may still be paying a large amount of the fare in cash.

This is different to ‘part pay with Avios,’ where you reduce the cost of a standard cash fare by receiving a small discount in exchange for using some Avios.

So is this a good deal, and how much cash should you pay? Perhaps the best way to think about this is not that you are saving Avios, but instead, you are buying more, as you are handing over slightly more money in order not to use as many Avios. You would have used the full 26,000 Avios for a standard redemption, but you are buying some of them back by paying more money.

So, if you think of it as buying Avios, what is a good price to buy them for? Looking at the two ends of the scale of the pricing options, the smallest amount of additional cash you can pay is £45 in order to save 5,200 Avios. This would mean the cost to buy these Avios is 0.86p each.

The other end of the scale is to pay an additional £120 in order to save the largest 15,600 Avios. This would mean the cost to buy these Avios is 0.76p each.

So, is this a good deal? In short, yes, it’s a great deal.

You can regularly buy Avios through various sale offers via places like Groupon for around 1.1 to 1.3p each, so this is a much cheaper price. TPG U.K. values Avios at around 1.2p each in our monthly valuations, so being able to pick them up for as little as 0.76p each is an excellent value, assuming you can obtain (at least) 1.1p in value from each.

Note that as this is a redemption, you are unable to change the route or airline after making an Avios and Money booking, although you can cancel the booking up to 24 hours in advance to receive a refund of both the Avios and cash that you have paid, which is a great flexibility option.

Also note you do not earn full Avios and tier points for the booking, as per a standard redemption.

Other ways to use your Avios

You can also redeem Avios for hotel stays, car hire, gift vouchers wine and other experiences, though we do not think these provide as much value as redeeming for flights. You are likely to get far less than 1p value per Avios from redemptions this way.

Related: The best uses of 100,000 British Airways Avios

Bottom line

The beauty of the Avios programme is that if you live in the U.K. there are so many ways to earn Avios every day, even if you aren’t flying much right now.

From credit card purchases to online shopping, everyday banking and groceries, it’s easy to earn Avios. If you are flying British Airways or their partner airlines regularly, your Avios balance will grow just by adding your Executive Club number each time you fly.

There’s plenty of great ways to redeem your Avios too — you’ll generally get the best value from short-haul economy redemptions, long-haul premium cabin redemptions and upgrades.

You can redeem them for non-travel options too, though you are likely to get less value from your Avios that way.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.