How to get the most value redeeming British Airways Avios
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As many of us are now resuming our travel routines, it’s important to get reacquainted with our various frequent flyer programmes. Given the travel restrictions over the past two years, it stands to reason some of us may have forgotten how many points we have accumulated in our accounts. For this story, we’re going to take a look at Avios and figure out how to get maximum value for the balance.
For the most part, the best uses of Avios are connected to the value you’ll get from them. There’s a rationale angle to this, as well as an aspirational angle. On the rationale front, Avios can help you save money you would have otherwise spent on a flight and that’s almost always a great use. And on the aspirational front, Avios can help you land first-class travel on a ticket that would have otherwise been unattainable.
Whether you’re hoping to redeem for rationale reasons or aspirational ones, let’s take a look at the best uses you can get from those hard-earned Avios.
How to Value Avios
When it comes to aspirational travel, the value of Avios can be less black and white if you weren’t actually going to spend a few thousand pounds on a particular premium flight. In other words, it’s still a great use and great value can be extracted from a first-class redemption, but it’s less of a money-saving redemption and more of an aspirational premium use of Avios.
As outlined in our monthly valuations, we value Avios at around 1.1p each, so you should try to extract value in excess of that. Broadly speaking, that means 1,000 Avios are worth £11, and therefore 10,000 Avios are worth £110. As a general rule, if you are looking to book a flight for 10,000 Avios (ignoring taxes and fees for the sake of a simple calculation) that is also available for less than £110 in cash, you are better off paying cash for it.
Taking taxes into account, it’s the same calculation. A flight that costs 9,000 Avios and £35 in taxes should be considered as £99 worth of Avios (9,000 x 1.1p) plus £35 = £134. If the cash fare is less than that, cash might be the better option.
Value is, of course, subjective. Some people think £200 on a pair of big brand designer jeans is worth it, but would never pay £1,000 or more on a business-class flight when economy gets you to the same destination. For others — myself included — it’s the other way around.
Best Uses of Avios
1. Reward Flight Savers
In my book, Reward Flight Savers (RFS) can be the best use of Avios. BA caps taxes and fees on these at £35 return for economy flights and £50 for Club Europe flights. RFS are only available for flights of less than 2,000 miles, so largely only to European destinations.
The reason why I love RFS is that they can help save some serious money, which is always welcome but especially so at the moment, with airfares being so expensive. Shorter one-way flights across Europe are 4,500 or 4,750 Avios each, depending on peak or off-peak, and £17.50.
Of course, it may not always be in your best interest to book with Avios. You have to do your due diligence and dig around for the best values, and right now with travel demand surging and prices rising to meet it, it’s harder than ever to find those sweet deals.
Let’s take an actual example — a three-day trip to Berlin just two months away. The cheapest option available on the BA website comes to £168.86 return.
The same flights with Avios availability can be booked for 19,000 Avios and £1.00 return. You can see other options for using 10,000 Avios + £35 in taxes/fees.
Using our 1.1p valuation of Avios, you would be spending £209 of Avios, plus £1 in fees if you take the first option. Not an amazing deal, versus the £168.86 cash fare but not terrible if you’re Avios rich and simply want to reduce the amount of cash spent. A better deal in terms of value though would be to redeem 10,000 Avios (worth £110), plus the £35 in fees, taxes and surcharges. The total value here is £145, giving you a £24 saving on the original £169 cash fare. Not bad at all!
One thing to note is that RFS do become available again a day or two before travel. It’s worth checking for weekends away even if nothing was available further out.
RFS redemptions also allow checking in of bags. Meanwhile, the above cash fare is the cheapest possible and therefore doesn’t include bags. Plus, there is flexibility to change the ticket provided there’s Avios availability, which can often open up a day or two before the date of travel.
I am still a big fan of RFS and tell friends that flights to Europe are almost free. With a bit of planning (or flexibility to be last-minute about destinations), RFS allow you to explore Europe at a very low cost and can give you a great return on your Avios from a value point of view.
2. Partner redemptions
Partner redemptions with Avios are especially lucrative on international routes where flights are usually expensive. A good example is trans-Tasman flights between Australia and New Zealand. Sydney to Wellington with Qantas often costs £300+, whilst on Avios, it can be had for 20,000 Avios and £101 in taxes. Whilst that might only just meet the Avios value of 1.1p, paying £300 for an economy flight just feels expensive, so I’d be happy to buy that flight with Avios.
The same applies to other partners across the Oneworld alliance and beyond. Though there are some changes in the works for partner redemptions, domestic American Airlines flights booked with Avios can also be a very good money saver. Because of that, it’s generally worth looking at Avios redemptions whenever you’re looking at a flight and thinking it’s a bit pricey.
3. Aspirational trips you’ve always dreamt about
Who doesn’t dream of flying first class to a far-flung destination — whether that’s Los Angeles, Cape Town, Sydney, Singapore or even New York. With the exception of New York, first-class seats to these destinations are like gold dust, but they are available if you can be flexible on your dates of travel. Or even better, if you can be flexible on where you are going. For example, consider San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Jose and Vancouver as alternatives to Los Angeles and then make a holiday of the journey — or, find a good connecting flight.
British Airways has been introducing a new Club Suite product into its fleet over the past few years, but it may still be tricky to book the Club Suite product using Avios.
4. Flying the best products
As aspirational as British Airways first-class or Club World might be, there are some great first class and business class products out there that trump the BA offering any day. And a fair few of them are available for booking via Avios.
Cathay Pacific First Class is a great product, and it’s available to book via ba.com. You will likely need to plan in advance, and redemptions don’t come cheap — 261,000 Avios and £650.10 ($790.30) in taxes return for a first-class ticket — but that’s one of the best ways of travelling long-haul. Here’s a screenshot of an example of a Cathay Pacific itinerary.
Those same flights price anywhere from £2,052.96 for business class, to over £8,000 for a first-class ticket if you were to pay cash. Keep in mind that while Hong Kong has allowed non-residents to enter the city from 1 May, testing and quarantine requirements remain in place.
Redeeming 261,000 Avios to save more than £7,000 on a return first class ticket is an excellent value way of redeeming Avios.
Qatar Qsuite is arguably the best business class product out there. And now that Qatar Airways has implemented Avios as its frequent flyer program, it’s easier than ever to book seats with Avios on the BA website. In addition, BA has lowered the award price for Qsuite redemptions.
Unlike redemptions on BA flights, there is no off-peak pricing for partner redemptions, but 86,000 Avios and £390.99 is great value for a relatively short long-haul flight to Doha, especially since you get to try out Qatar Airway’s award-winning Qsuite which is largely regarded as the world’s best business class product.
5. Part pay with Avios
Back to the rationale use of Avios, there can be times when reducing the amount of cash you are paying for a flight by using Avios can make sense. Such use of Avios is unlikely to give you greater value than our 1.1p valuation of Avios, but for those with a stack of Avios looking at an expensive cash ticket when there is no redemption availability, it might just make sense to convert some of those Avios into a cash saving. Ben explains how to do so and when it makes most sense here.
Typically Bad Uses of Avios
Based on our valuations, you should try to extract in excess of 1.1p value per Avios. Hotel bookings with Avios generally don’t come near those numbers. You are almost always getting very poor value with Avios hotel bookings, which is why I’d never recommend using Avios for hotels (unless you are very Avios rich and very cash poor).
BA offers various promotions to buy wine via the Executive Club website. Though it depends on what wines you’d get, the current offers range from 9,500 Avios to 14,800 Avios for six bottles. At our valuations and those rates, you’re effectively paying £114 to £177 for six bottles. To some extent, whatever the quality, there are bound to be better deals not using Avios.
There are a number of other poor uses of Avios, such as buying food and drink on board from BA’s buy-on-board menu in European economy. Though not coming close to our 1.1p valuation, for such small amounts, this can make sense (and/or makes little difference), and I have been known to be an Avios buyer for that needed coffee on board.
There are some great uses for Avios. Whether it’s flying to Europe for almost free via great Reward Flight Savers or that aspirational trip in a premium class, you can likely get some lucrative value from Avios.
By using our valuations and following our ultimate Avios guide, you can extract great value out of those hard-earned Avios and are set to maximise your travel.
Additional reporting by Mike Avila
Featured Image Tobiasjo / Getty Images
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