British Airways Avios is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs due to the distance-based award chart and ability to book short-haul award tickets on the cheap. British Airways is part of the oneWorld alliance meaning you can use Avios to fly on airlines like American Airlines, Iberia, and Qatar Airways. Here is how you can redeem your Avios for free flights.
1. Estimate cost
British Airways separates award cost into nine different zones. For flights 1-650 miles in distance, the cost is only 4,500 Avios one-way everywhere except North America, which costs 7,500 Avios one-way.
The best way to determine the cost of the flight you want is to head to British Airways’ online calculator. NOTE: You will have to change the website country to United Kingdom for this feature to work:
2. Finding flight timetables
If you’re an American Airlines flyer, using BA’s website (or Qantas) to find award space is going to be your bread and butter. I’d argue Qantas is the most comprehensive, but BA is pretty good, too.
For this example, let’s say you want to book a flight from Miami to Bali. Your first stop should be Google Flights to get an idea of flight schedules and who actually flies to Bali from Miami.
Since you have Avios and BA is a part of the oneWorld alliance, you’re going to want to select oneWorld in the Airlines drop down on Google Flights.
Here you can see Qatar Airways operates an itinerary from Miami to Denpasar (DPS) via Doha. Qatar Airways is a oneWorld carrier and its award space is able to be searched on BA’s website. Perfect.
3. Head to British Airways’ website
Your next step is to go to BA’s home page and log in to your Executive Club account (if you don’t have one, make one. It’s quick and easy!) and navigate to the award redemption page:
Next, select Book a reward flight:
Enter your origin and destination and dates.
This is where flexibility comes into play. There was no availability for the outbound date I originally entered, but you can click around on the search tool to find open availability. Once you find it, select the itinerary and scroll to the bottom to get the amount:
Yes, you’re seeing that correctly. 150,000 Avios PLUS $600 in surcharges and fees. No thank you. Now is a good time to remind you that British Airways has a distance award chart so it makes sense that flying Miami to Bali will cost you an arm and a leg.
Let’s use a better example. Say you are on a tour of Asia and your first stop is Hong Kong. After spending a few days exploring the city, you want to take the four hour journey to Tokyo. What are your options?
Searching Google Flights will return you results for Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific direct to Tokyo. Both of these airlines are obviously British Airways partners so your Avios can be used.
After a quick search you see the power of short-haul flights with Avios. Just 10,000 Avios for a one-way ticket to Tokyo on Cathay Pacific. Not half bad.
4. Transfer to Avios
If you don’t have enough points for your trip or are just looking to top up your account, you have a few options for transferring to Avios:
All of these have a 1:1 transfer ratio, but keep in mind SPG has a 5,000 Avios bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer so this could be a potentially lucrative path for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is transfer timing. Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer instantly, but Starpoints can take up to five business days.
Avios are great to have on hand. I especially like the fact that BA’s website shows availability across a number of different oneWorld partners, much more than American.
If you signed up for the AMEX Platinum card like me, you can get 60,000 Membership Rewards which, as mentioned, will transfer 1:1 to Avios.
Where is your next vacation?