Until 24 February, British Airways is offering a 50% bonus on buying Avios, which is the best price we’ve seen in over a year.
I love Avios and have used them often throughout my year travelling the world to reduce the cost of expensive cash tickets in Economy, Business and First Class. They can be used on oneworld airlines like Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
Note that since this guide was published, British Airways devalued their partner award chart. That means that the redemptions mentioned here are now more expensive.
I looked at five flights that I took using Avios over the past 12 months. It seems that I paid an average of a quarter of the cash price by buying Avios instead. Here is where I flew using Avios:
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.
|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%|
I probably shouldn’t have used my Avios for the LATAM flight as I only saved so little, but you live and you learn.
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 1400 Qantas Points on your flight from Melbourne to Sydney, but they’re only worth $28, reducing the effective cash price to $875—still more expensive than $255 through Avios.
Note that LATAM is leaving the oneworld alliance, probably in 2020.
The best redemption: Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Vancouver
This has been my favourite flight to date. I really enjoyed the wide bed and excellent customer service.
Given you can pick Avios up for 1.84 US cents a piece in the current 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!
Note that the Vancouver – New York JFK service ends on 28 March 2020.
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 last year. 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 crappy 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 Avios redemptions usually include a checked baggage allowance, which the lowest level Economy Class cash tickets 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. You don’t want to fly Jetstar or Tiger (understandably).
You’ll need to fly Business Class then, but the tickets start at $900 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 this promotion.
Avios sweet spots
My top recommendations for using Avios are:
- 4,500 Avios for short hops in Qantas, Japan Airlines and British Airways or Iberia Economy around Australia, Japan and Europe
- 7,500 Avios for short hops in American Airlines Economy around the US
- 15,000-20,000 Avios for Qantas Business Class throughout most of Australia and New Zealand
- 18,000 Avios for Cathay Pacific First Class between Hong Kong and Taipei (30,000-40,000 for other Asian destinations)
- 20,000 Avios for Cathay Pacific Business Class throughout most of Asia
- 20,000 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 Rewards points over to Avios, but not a whole lot of travellers have access to those points. And there are occasional Groupon offers for buying Avios with Iberia, but it requires quite a lot of work.
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.
How have you gotten outsized value from buying British Airways Avios?