The British Airways Avios program has become synonymous with outrageous fuel surcharges, but the program can be extremely valuable when used for North America only or North America to Central/South America travel on certain partners. The reason being that some airline do not assess fuel surcharges on certain routes, but more importantly there are no fuel surcharges on domestic US routes. In fact, the Avios program is now mileage based, and you can get some extremely generous deals for short haul awards for domestic US travel.
Most recently I booked an Avios award from Washington Reagan (DCA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) on AA for only 4,500 miles + 2.50 in taxes. The distance between the two cities is 610 miles, which fell into their shortest award tier. You can access their award price calculator here. Considering that the cheapest fare for that flight was $170, I got a respectable 3.8 cents/mile in redemption value. Not bad considering that most people believe 2 cents/mile is favorable redemption value. In fact, most tend to value Avios miles at less than 1.5 cents per mile. Here’s an example of my redemption.
I earned the British Airways miles through a 100,000 mile sign up bonus for the Chase British Airways Visa, however there are several ways (besides flying BA) to earn these miles. Let’s take a look at a few ways:
First, I could have earned these miles using a Chase British Airways Visa, (which is offering a 50,000 mile sign up bonus) I would have had to spend $3,600 to get this fare (you earn 1.25 Avios miles per dollar spent on the British Airways Visa). However, Amex was recently offering a 50% bonus on Membership Rewards miles transferred to British Airways, which would have brought my credit card spend down to $3,000 for this award. If I were really to minimize my credit card spend outlay to get this award, I could have done so by using the Chase Ink Bold card, which offers 5x Ultimate Rewards points for purchases at Office Stores. I would have spent $900 using the card at Staples, which would have earned me 4,500 Ultimate Rewards miles. I could have then transferred the points to British Airways at a ratio of 1:1. Finally, in March BA ran an e-store promotion where they awarded 36 miles per dollar for purchases at Nordstrom. I was lucky enough to get in on this deal, which lasted for about a week, but if you keep an eye on their e-store promotions, you could easily earn a ton of Avios miles using this method.
Regardless, the British Airways Avios program is very controversial due to their high fuel surcharges, but when used correctly, they can be an extremely favorable redemption option.