How to Redeem Avios for Travel as a Family
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Since I started at TPG UK, close and distant friends have been confessing to me their deep secret about air miles — that they’ve been hoarding Avios. Some of them have 200,000, some have up to a million. Sure, it’s easy enough to book one seat, but what about three to five? And during a school holiday? Where do you even begin to spend your Avios with British Airways?
Maybe you’ve read the Ultimate Guide to Avios but are still wondering how it applies to families. While the below information assumes you’re a family looking for more than two seats, I’m also a huge proponent for taking your kids on solo parent/carer trips, which also makes finding award availability easier. Read on to find out where to begin.
The Basics for Redeeming Avios as a Family
Open a Household Account
This is the most popular way to book seats for your children and the only way to accrue miles for the little. You can read details on how to do this here but in a nutshell, it’s a family pool of miles.
Learn to Book Awards, Including on Other Airlines
If you haven’t read up on TPG UK’s guide to booking award seats, you may not have realised that you can fly your family on a variety of airlines using your Avios. If you can’t find availability on a direct flight from London (LHR) to Hong Kong (HKG), as there are only two BA-operated flights per day, you might find availability direct with Cathay Pacific or via Doha (DOH) with Qatar Airways. That Cathay Pacific- or Qatar-operated itinerary would also be available to book with Avios on BA.com.
Reward Flight Savers to Europe
Reward Flight Savers (RFS) are a great use of Avios. BA caps taxes and fees on flights of less than 2,000 miles (mostly Europe) at £35 return for economy flights and £50 for Club Europe flights. Shorter one-way flights across Europe are either 4,000 or 4,500 Avios each, depending on peak or off-peak travel dates.
On my mum and son trip to Portugal for spring half term I paid £160 plus 6,800 Avios for two seats in Club Europe rather than £900 cash price. You may notice than I paid more tax than the capped amount because I used Avios and Money. You can read the TPG UK guide to Reward Flight Savers here.
If you have The British Airways American Express Credit Card or The British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card you may be sitting on a Companion Voucher, which is perfect for families. While you still pay the taxes and fees for two, you only pay Avios for one. Your Avios can go much further to make sure your whole family comes along for the ride. Read our guide to Companion Vouchers here.
Using Avios to Upgrade
Maybe you’ve already bought tickets but want to try and upgrade your family to get a bit more room? You can use Avios to upgrade one class (i.e. economy to premium economy or premium economy to business). However, it still requires award seat availability, so you will face the same issues of limited stock when searching for four upgrades as you would when booking four seats. Read here for tips on how to use Avios to upgrade your tickets.
More Advanced Tips for Redeeming Avios as a Family
Learn the release dates for seats
British Airways releases award seats 355 days before the date of departure, so you can book your outbound journey online as a one-way and then ring British Airways to add the return destination when your return journey seats open up. Two Club World tickets (business) and four World Traveller (economy) seats become available on release day. As they are released at midnight GMT and do not appear online for a few hours, TPG UK staff have had luck calling the British Airways number in the US to secure the seats over the phone before they hit BA.com.
Learn about Expert Flyer
Expert Flyer is a subscription-based service that alerts you when award seats become available. You can read the TPG guide to Expert Flyer here. If you have a specific destination and time in mind (say a wedding) this is a great resource to getting those seats with your Avios.
Although we are all about maximising your travel, sometimes the best trip is just the one on which you can find award seats. Hoarding points is arguably a bad investment. So study up and start making those family memories that will last a lifetime — or at least look good on your Instagram.
Featured photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen