I love Avios and have used them often when I travelled the world in 2018 to reduce the cost of expensive cash tickets in Economy, Business and First Class. Avios can easily be purchased from British Airways, or indirectly through other partner programs, and can be used on oneworld airlines like Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
This guide highlights a few ‘wins’ from my trip – even though international travel from Australia isn’t an option right now, these options could be useful for people living overseas who can fly abroad, or for Australians to keep in mind for when our borders do open up again.
Editor’s note: This article was originally written in 2019 and has been updated now as a companion to our dedicated guide on using Avios for discounted Qantas Business Class flights.
My savings with Avios
This guide takes a look at five flights that I took using Avios over 2018/2019. I paid an average of just 25% of the cash price by buying Avios at a discount instead. Here is where I flew using Avios – note many of these flights are bookable now by residents of those countries.
The figures below assume that you buy Avios with a 50% bonus and include the taxes that you need to pay on top of each redemption. All figures are for one-way travel. I probably shouldn’t have used my Avios for the LATAM flight as I only saved so little, but you live and you learn.
|Route||Product||Cash price||Price with Avios||Saving|
|New York - Vancouver||Cathay Pacific First Class||$6000||$1333||78%|
|Hong Kong - Kaohsiung||Cathay Dragon Business Class||$1137||$295||74%|
|Tampa - Charlotte||American Airlines Economy Class||$794||$204||74%|
|Melbourne - Sydney||Qantas Business Class||$903||$255||72%|
|Buenos Aires - Lima||LATAM Business Class||$1624||$1280||21%|
Admittedly, the table does not take into account the points you would earn on a cash ticket, which help to offset the high price. For example, you’d earn 1,400 Qantas Points on your Business Class flight from Melbourne to Sydney, but that’s only worth $25.20 at our current points valuation — buying through Avios is still far more cheaper.
The best redemption: Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Vancouver
Cathay Pacific First Class has been my favourite flight to date. I really enjoyed the wide bed and excellent customer service. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific no longer fly between Vancouver and New York JFK, but we’re keeping this example to show how Avios can be really versatile while traversing the globe.
Given you can pick Avios up for 1.84 US cents a piece when there is a 50% bonus promotion, that means I got a redemption value of 8.4 US cents each, which is more than four times the value of one Avios! I also flew this product again from Hong Kong to San Francisco later that month using 70,000 Alaska miles.
It works for Economy Class too
Have you noticed that domestic flights within the US can be surprisingly expensive? I needed to fly nonstop from Tampa to Charlotte in 2018. Given Charlotte is an American Airlines hub (actually, its second-largest), they can charge a premium—almost AU$800 for a 90-minute Economy Class flight, in fact!
Instead of forking that much money out on a pretty ‘ordinary’ product, I used 7,500 Avios + US$5.60 in taxes instead. That gave me a redemption value of 7.4 US cents, which made me very happy! (Note that flights of this distance are now 9,000 Avios in Economy, after partner pricing was increased).
Avios redemptions usually include a checked baggage allowance, which the lowest level Economy Class cash tickets on US carriers often don’t. That’s another plus for Avios.
A common redemption for travellers in Australia
Say you want to fly between Melbourne and Sydney, which is the world’s third-busiest route. With Avios, you’re able to fly on oneworld partner Qantas. Book Business Class and you’ll be able to check out the excellent Qantas Domestic Business Lounge at Melbourne as well!
The only problem is that Qantas Business Class tickets on this route start at A$716 one-way! That’s where Avios can come in very handy, dropping that price to $255 and giving you a redemption value of 6.9 US cents each — more than triple the value of an Avios bought during a 50% bonus promotion.
What are the best Avios sweet spots?
My top recommendations for using Avios are:
- 6,000 Avios for short hops in Qantas, Japan Airlines and British Airways or Iberia Economy around Australia, Japan and Europe
- 9,000 Avios for short hops in American Airlines Economy around the US
- 12,500-22,000 Avios for Qantas Business Class throughout most of Australia and New Zealand
- 24,000 Avios for Cathay Pacific First Class between Hong Kong and Taipei (33,000-44,000 Avios for other Asian destinations)
- 22,000 Avios for Cathay Pacific Business Class throughout most of Asia
- 22,000 Avios for Japan Airlines Business Class throughout North Asia
Avios are not earned through any credit card in Australia. Given that, buying them during their infrequent buy Avios promotions is a great opportunity to stock up, especially when they’re on sale at a good price. Note that you will need to earn at least one Avios before you can purchase them, so consider:
- crediting your next Qantas or oneworld flight to British Airways
- buying something through the Avios online shopping portal
- earning Avios through a car rental
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points over to Avios, with an attractive 3:1 transfer rate and a 5,000 Avios bonus whenever you convert over 20,000 Avios – that’s what Brandon did to kick-start his Avios booking when there weren’t any other promotions at the time.
An important piece of advice is to check that there is award availability on the flights you want to book before you splash the cash on buying Avios. If you’re an advanced points collector and know that you will be able to get value from the points in the future, then you may be more comfortable with this risk.
Updates to this guide by Brandon Loo.