A Direct Flight from Charlottesville to New York for $5?

If you have ever flown from Charlottesville to New York, or vice-versa, you know that flights can be expensive, often running above $400 like during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. It seems unfair that such a quick flight could cost so much, but when Delta and USAir are the only two airlines competing on the route, it’s tough for the consumer to win.

However, USAirways merged with American Airlines (AA), giving it membership in the oneworld alliance and THIS IS HUGE NEWS. Potentially saving you a ton of money and miles news or, in my opinion, the best kind of news.

British Airways (BA) is also in the oneworld airline alliance, which means you can use Avios (BA’s term for miles) to book AA flights. BA uses an award chart that is both distance-based – meaning that the further you travel, the more the flight costs – and class-based – meaning the higher the fare class, the more Avios the flight costs, too. This differs from most other airlines where the award price is based on region to region travel, like an award ticket from the US to North Asia, or Southern Africa to Europe, for instance, and makes Avios prohibitively expensive for long distance travel, especially long-distance first-class travel. On the flip side, Avios are amazing for short-haul award tickets in coach class; tickets like Charlottesville to New York, for example!

An award roundtrip ticket at the MileSAAver, or cheapest, level on AA from Charlottesville to New York normally costs 25,000 American Airlines miles. Booking this exact same flight using British Airways? It’s only 9,000 Avios to LaGuardia or JFK! This is possible because each leg of the trip is under 650 miles (it’s actually 299 miles) and that’s the lowest tier on BA’s award chart, which I put below (I used the Great Circle Mapper, a website that shows flight distances, to get the exact mileage). Each number represents the cost of one leg of a flight.

award chart

Another way to find out is to use the Avios calculator on BA’s website. Since BA does not fly from CHO-NYC/NYC-CHO, the calculator will automatically realize your potential travel is on a partner airline and spit out the correct number of Avios needed.

Think of this great deal another way; a first-class roundtrip ticket is 27,000 Avios, as per the chart above, and the cost for a coach ticket is 25,000 if you use AA miles. By instead using Avios, you can have 3 separate roundtrip award tickets or 1 first-class ticket for basically the same price as one coach roundtrip redemption using AA miles. 3-for-1? I’m in. And the $5 mentioned in the title?

The $5 mentioned in the title comes from the $2.50 fee surcharge BA collects on each leg of the ticket. It won’t show on the actual booking until you come to the payment screen, but I consider it a small price to pay, anyway, considering the value you can receive, since you are saving $395 (the original ticket cost minus the fees) each time you fly. That’s real coin, right there.

Here’s how to get Avios:

  1. Fly British Airways or any other oneworld airline, including American or USAirways, and credit your miles to your BA Executive Club (frequent-flier) account. If you don’t have an Executive Club account, make one now!
  2. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus cards, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points directly to your Executive Club account at a 1:1 ratio. Since the signup bonuses on these cards range from 40,000-55,000 UR points, you could end up with a lot of potential flights.
  3. Get the Chase British Airways credit card, which earns you 1.25 Avios per every dollar you spend (2.5 on every BA purchase) and, at the end of the billing cycle, transfers the Avios earned directly into your Executive Club Account for you.
  4. Shop Gate 365, the BA online mall, and earn varying amounts of Avios for every dollar – pound, too! – you spend.

ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT I FIBBED. I’M SORRY. It’s not $5 to get from Charlottesville to New York; it’s 9,000 Avios and $5. And not every day will be available when you want to fly – that’s the price you pay for award tickets. Still, when you can save that many miles and that much money, it seems fair.

If you have any questions about this post or know of other ways to earn Avios, let me know in the comment section. New York is really fun in the spring, so maybe I’ll see you sooner, rather than later!

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