First things first. Starting tomorrow you will no longer be able to book short routes within North America that currently cost 4,500 Avios. If you need to do it and have been procrastinating, leave my blog immediately and get it taken care of. All set?
OK, so Avios program will be gutted tomorrow, the sky is falling etc. Right? Wrong. It’s still a fantastic product and offers many opportunities in USA and beyond. For one thing, 4,500-mile pricing is not going away in other parts of the world. I wrote a post on how we were able to book flights from Munich to Naples for only 18,000 Avios total for 4 people with no fuel surcharges, and this particular deal will still be around.
So, if you are planning to visit Europe, definitely check and see if you can leverage Avios currency on your specific route. While there are many discount carriers in the Old World, sometimes they don’t fly where you need to go, and that’s where your miles will come in handy.
Why Avios are a sweet deal for Americans
Of course, majority of my readers are probably interested in flights within North America, specifically those on Alaska Air and American Airlines (British Airways partners). Fortunately, there will be plenty of value left. Probably the most extensive Avios guide is written by Kenny from Miles4More (click only after you are done reading my post!)
That particular article deals with sweet spots from Dallas and Chicago, but you can check out guides from the West Coast, the East Coast and Florida. It’s probably not for beginners and will take you some time to digest, but it really is an excellent guide for visual learners. Everything except 4,500-mile pricing on flights starting or ending in North America will still apply as of tomorrow. And remember, there are no fuel surcharges within the Americas.
You might also want to check out this tool on Wandering Aramean. It has a color-coded map of non-stop Avios routes where you click on your desired airport and voila, it gives you various options. Right now it’s still showing 4,500 Avios pricing, but I’m sure it will get updated soon. Here is an example of flights available from Miami (American Airlines hub).
Avios are a sweet deal for Belorussians too!
Recently, I was able to utilize Avios for my mom’s flight from Miami to Philadelphia. I’ve mentioned that she will be coming in November and that we’ll be taking her to Florida Keys. Afterwards, she is planning on visiting a friend in Pennsylvania and fly back to Europe from Phily. So, we needed a one-way flight form South Florida. The problem is, she was set to leave on Thanksgiving day. Statistically, it’s not as busy as days before and after the holiday. Still, award seats can be hard to come by.
First, I turned to Spirit program. I’m really hoping to use up the miles before canceling the card. I wrote about Spirit program here and here I do consider it a good deal, but it’s very much a niche product and requires flexibility, something my family doesn’t have due to school schedule. As expected, there was nothing available around that time period.
And I do mean nothing. The flights in the week before and after Thanksgiving were available but as you can see, they cost a ridiculous amount in miles for one-way ticket. As I said, I still think Spirit program is terrific in certain circumstances, but there are many caveats.
On to the next one. Southwest schedule has’t opened up yet, so I can’t do much about that. What about paid flights? The ones that leave from Miami or Fort Lauderdale (at a reasonable time) were running between $125-$135. Not bad, considering it’s a holiday period. But there is a better way.
I checked AAdvantage program and the flight that runs at $135 was available for 12,500 miles+$5.60. Hmm, I value AAdvantage at 1 cent so it’s actually not bad at all.
But there is even a better way to get that same flight. My mother-in-law had about 24,000 Avios miles and no specific plan to use them. I asked her if I can “borrow” 7,500 Avios and she was fine with it. As I’ve mentioned earlier, American Airlines partners with British Airways and this specific route runs at 7,500 miles. I wrote about doing something similar for my friend in the past and you can read more on it here
Here is what it ended up costing us via Avios program:
The best part is: if you cancel the ticket, you will get the entire 7,500 miles back and will only lose $5.6o. I can live with that. So, when Southwest schedule finally opens up I’ll check the pricing and decide if it’s worth it to switch my booking.
Avios is an excellent program for so many reasons but it does have its quirks. You will usually do well on routes that are non-stop because pricing is per flight. So, the more connections you tack on, the more Avios it will cost you. Some AAdvantage award seats don’t show up in their search engine so you will have to call and deal with an agent.
Alaska Air availability isn’t loaded, period, so you will definitely have to call on that one. I recommend you start your search via respective award program and when you find “low” or “sAAver”availability, then contact British Airways center and give them the specifics of your desired flight if it’s not showing up in the online search. Oh, and ask them to waive a booking fee.
As always, I recommend you check revenue options first before your resort to using miles. If you happen to have Citi Prestige (read more on it here), you’ll get 1.6 cents per point toward AA flights. In this instance, going with Avios was preferable, but it won’t always be the case. For example, you can use 7,500 Citi Thank You points via Prestige to get a $126 flight on American ( 7,500+$5.60 fee) and it will even earn miles. One caveat: Avios redemption will give you more flexibility because you can cancel and re-deposit your miles for only $5.60.
How you can get Avios
There are various ways to do it. The easiest one is via sign-up bonus on Chase British Airways Signature Visa. I do recommend you go this route only if you are fairly certain that you’ll end up redeeming Avios on your specific route. Otherwise, you might want to consider Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Premier Rewards Gold offers (last one is targeted). You get flexible points that transfer to Avios. Note that Membership Rewards ratio is 800 : 1,000 MR points. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1. All three cards pay me commission and you can read more on them in this page.
Another possible candidate is Amex Starwood Preferred Guest credit card (read about it here). Right now the official bonus is down to 25,000 points (pays me referral), but some report that they were able to open a new SPG account and get an offer of 30,000 points. It definitely won’t hurt to check. If you recently got approved for Amex SPG, contact them and see if they can match it. At some point this card will probably be discontinued due to Marriott takeover of SPG, but I think it will be at least a year till it happens.
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