While many believe that the end goal of miles and points enthusiasts like myself is something along the lines of the Etihad Apartment, or Qatar Q-suite. And to a certain extent, yes, that is absolutely true. Just look it up!
But there is also a ton of value in the not-so-glamorous redemptions.
Finding your value
It all comes down to the fact that everyone gets value out of their points in different ways. Maybe you spend money on shorter domestic flights all year to save up for that fancy business class redemption overseas. Or maybe, you just don’t need that (I mean do any of us, really) — so redeeming miles for short, domestic flights makes the most sense for you. Or maybe you don’t fly, so you book hotels.
However you decide to use your points, though, you’d obviously want to get the most value out of your points wherever possible. When redeeming points for domestic flights, there is one option that I think far surpasses the rest –which is what I want to cover here.
British Airways Avios
British Airways Avios has one of the best award charts when it comes to US domestic awards. As a fellow member of the Oneworld Alliance, BA takes advantage of their partnership with American to offer some incredibly valuable awards, but there are some things to be aware of.
Looking at the chart above, BA has a distance based award chart. So pretty obviously, the farther the flight, the more points it will cost you. But another thing to be aware of is that BA awards are priced per segment. So each segment of a flight is priced based on the award chart above.
For example, I was recently looking at flights for my mom to come visit from the South Florida area. One of the benefits of living in such a large metro area is that there are really 3 options for departure and 3 options for arrival. But for the sake of everyone involved, we looked out of either FLL or PBI and arriving in DCA. DCA being what I call a “mini-hub” for American, there is relatively good availability.
So first, a direct flight from PBI-DCA on American, when booked through American will cost you 7,500 Avios plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. While the distance based award chart would actually have this flight at 6,500 miles, BA makes any flight within the US to cost a minimum of 7,500 miles. And even though this flight falls into an accurate pricing, this increase will come into affect later.
Looking at a different option, I don’t think many people would choose a connecting flight over a direct flight, but maybe there are timing constraints or something else in effect and the only option is a connecting flight. So let’s look at a flight between the same cities, PBI-DCA, but connecting through CLT.
Double the price!
You can’t see on the picture above, but this flight is PBI-CLT then CLT-DCA. Which is priced based on the above notion that any short-haul flights within US, are a minimum of 7,500 miles. Both of these flights actually fall under the Zone 1 threshold, but you can obviously see that each segment is priced at 7,500 miles, giving you a total of 15,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees.
There are definitely some intricacies to keep track of when booking a BA award, but I wanted to specifically point out this segment-based award scenario. This idea of segments is extremely important to remember and potentially a huge points saver.
Booking made easy
In comparison to other award programs, I find British Airways to be a pretty easy award program to use. When booking on Oneworld airlines, British Airways or American are the go-to sites when trying to find availability. With my recent experiences trying to maneuver the Iberia website, I can tell you that the BA website is amazing in comparison.
Of course, this assumes the BA website isn’t going through one of its fits and failing to show American award availability.
But let’s go through the process. I think there are probably multiple ways to get awards to show, but this is the most consistent process for me.
From the main British Airways screen select ‘Executive Club’ then choose ‘Spending Avios.’
That screen will take you to this page where you will select the button ‘Book a reward flight.’ Which allows you to search for the flight that you want. It is relatively straightforward and there is nothing extra for you to do to get American awards to show.
From there the interface is pretty user-friendly in searching not only the dates you want, but also dates around the date originally searched.
As you can see above, there are no direct flights available, but if there were you’d see those first, and then the flights on British Airways, and finally flights on partner airlines (i.e. American in this scenario).
Once I scrolled through and selected both outbound and inbound flights, the combined prices of flights shows as well as any taxes and fees. It is pretty easy to pop down the journey summary and start the process again.
So as you can see the process is relatively straightforward, and I find the award pricing to be pretty easy to search overall.
Points are relatively accessible
The other reason I love using British Airways awards is because of the ease in earning Avios miles. Outside of simply flying, you can earn Avios from transfers with points earned on American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. Whichever card program you prefer, you’ll have plenty of options to earn what can be transferred to tons of Avios.
As I’ve discussed extensively on this blog, Ultimate Rewards are some of the best flexible rewards currencies on the market, and there are plenty of options to earn them. If you are yet to earn Ultimate Rewards, consider one of these options that allow transfers to British Airways, then add on more cards to complement.
Once these cards are added to your wallet, add one (or both) of the Freedom cards and you’ll be well on your way to many great domestic awards!
And AMEX Rewards are just about as valuable. I am working on making my way into that market, but it is fully understood that there are a myriad of cards to get your Membership Rewards balance to skyrocket.
- Platinum Card from American Express
- American Express EveryDay Preferred Card
- Gold Rewards Card from American Express
Similarly, pair one of these cards with the numerous other AMEX cards and you’ll be well on your way.
Let’s hear where everyone is headed with Avios?