Work has gotten me antsy with the travel bug recently, so I decided to book some American Airlines flights with friends using my British Airway Avios (BA’s name for miles) and I must state that they are now my second favorite airline currency after United miles. British Airways and American are OneWorld alliance partners, so the mileage programs are mostly reciprocal, meaning that I can use AA miles on BA flights and BA Avios on AA flights. With Avios, at least, the close-in availability, website clarity for North American flights and mileage cost for short distance just rock. For long-distance flights, especially through London, Avios are as helpful as a kidney stone and almost as expensive as having it removed, but for short term flights, especially ones on the East Coast that are semi-expensive to expensive, Avios are awesome.
New York – Toronto:
To wit, last night I got roped into going to Toronto next weekend and the entire cost was 9,000 miles and $56 per person for me and two friends. Repeat, the total is just 27,000 miles and $170 for three people. I think that’s a crazy good redemption, especially the cheapest I could find flights for next weekend, by using Kayak, were $355 and up!
I don’t want to make any cent per Avios valuation, but would like to state that 27,000 miles saved each person $300, which is fabulous. Considering most redemptions for intra-North American flights start at 25,000 miles, the fact I spent only 2,000 more miles and got three flights instead of one is great value. The flight itself is only 1.5 hours, basically a triangle flight (go up, go down), so we will be in T-Dot before we realize it. I’m extremely excited to see my study-abroad mecs and have Drake buy my boys and me shots. Ok, so at least the first part is true. . .
New York – Montreal
The flight distance for New York-Montreal in economy/coach is the same as New York-Toronto, so the cost is the same as well – 4,500 one way and 9,000 roundtrip. This is because the oneway flight is less than 650 miles, as per the BA Avios award chart.
This chart makes flying New York-Shanghai, for instance, ridiculously expensive – 210,000 miles in first-class. BA also adds fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees, so in reality the final cost of New-York-Shanghai is now 210,000 miles and
$1000-plus. Considering a coach ticket is probably $1200-$1400, flying first long distance is not really a free flight, but more a three-class upgrade from economy to premimum economy to business to first. Since I’d rather pocket the $1000, I won’t be using BA for long distance flights.
However, New-York Montreal is normally an expensive, short-distance
flight, so it’s perfect for Avios. Per Kayak again
, the actual flight for the dates I want costs at least $337 roundtrip. I paid only $57 in taxes and fees, so I “saved” $280 by spending 9,000 Avios, instead. For some reason, there are no fuel surcharges on American Airlines North American flights when using Avios.
Again, this is a crazy deal. While my friends and I are only going for one night, the $57 cost wouldn’t change if the return flight was two days or two weeks later. I consider paying $57 a great value for the opportunity to spend time in Paris-lite with mes amis.
New York – Chicago
Chicago is a bit farther away from New York than Montreal or Toronto, as I found out by using the Webflyer Mileage Calculator
. Chicago is 731 miles away, bumping the flight cost from 4,500 miles each way to 7,500 each way, as per the BA chart
. 15,000 Avios is still an amazing deal since most redemptions start at 25,000 miles and the taxes and fees are just $2.50 each way. Additionally, New York-Chicago is a direct flight, so there are only 2 legs – the outbound and return – that price. With Avios, each leg prices, so multi-leg trips where there is no direct flight availability can quickly balloon in cost, leaving short-distance, direct flights the best and cheapest value. I’ve attached a picture below of a Kayak
search showing the cost of a New York-Chicago roundtrip flight for the dates I wanted.
Remember, I’m paying only $5 (and 15,000 Avios) to fly to Chicago for a weekend to see some friends I met on Taglit
, which was also a free trip, so clearly good things come in pairs! I’m not saving as much money as I would with the Canadian flights, but I’m also not spending as much either, so that’s fine with me! Hopefully, by then the winter Chicago wind has decided to hibernate and the weather is as clement as the city is beautiful and clean, the latter especially when compared to New York garbage pick up days.
How to get Avios:
Besides flying American Airlines and crediting your flights to British Airways, or actually flying British Airways, the two ways I know is to get the Chase British Airways Visa or any American Express card with Membership Rewards, as these points can transfer to the Avios program. Million Mile Secrets has a link
for the Chase BA Visa, which offers 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. So, if you can spend $333 every 30 days, then you will be the proud owner of 50,000 Avios. View from the Wing also has a link
for the American Express Gold Card, which also offers 50,000 Membership Rewards transferrable to Avios, after spending 1,000 within the first three months of card membership, as well. The Chase BA card has an annual fee of $95 every year and the American Express Gold Card has an annual fee of $175, but that’s waived the first year. This means that you could pay $95 for 100,000 Avios, which is an absolute steal. American Express also has run transfer bonuses of 25-50% in the past, so those 50,000 Membership Rewards could turn into as many as 75,000 Avios!
Why is this a steal? 50,000 Avios translates to five, roundtrip New York-Montreal or New York to Washington, D.C. (Reagan!) or San Francisco-Portland flights, for example. That many Avios will also buy you three Dallas-Miami flights. That still leaves at least 50,000 more Avios! Pull up the Avios chart in one web browser window and the Webflyer Mileage Calculator in another and play around a bit to see how far your Avios can take you.
Post any questions or your best Avios redemption below and thanks for reading!