British Airways Avios is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. The bargains that you can get with Avios are incredible if you use them to fly short hops as directly as possible.
Avios is a distance-based reward program. While other major frequent flyer programs typically charge you 25,000 miles for a North American roundtrip no matter what the city pairs are, it will cost as little as 9,000 on a route like New York to Montreal as the redemption rate is based on miles flown. It could run you more if you have any connecting fights as that may bump the award into the next range. Use this Avios calculator when searching for award travel to help you estimate cost.
There are plenty of carriers to use your Avios currency on. Here are the British Airways partners:
- Aer Lingus (non oneworld partner)
- Air Berlin
- Alaska Airlines (non oneworld partner)
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- LAN Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
- TAM Airlines
- US Airways
There are a few things to keep in mind. You don’t want to redeem Avios on two or more oneworld partners because it will cost more. The best use of Avios in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean would be redeeming them on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines for flights along the West Coast, and from the West Coast to Hawaii. If you are looking for flights outside of North America and the Caribbean, there is a world of opportunities.
Use Avios in South America
Peru is served by Latin American giant LAN. Many people who go to Peru visit Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Short flights between Lima and these cities are notoriously expensive with LAN, up to $300 one way. But with Avios it’s only 4,500 miles between Lima and Cuzco (gateway to Machu Picchu) and Cuzco to Puno (Lake Titicaca), which is a lot less miles that you would need to fly those routes on LAN or American.
Few people know that there is a direct flight between Lima and Iguassu Falls in Brazil. The availability is not great, but it only costs 20,000 Avios roundtrip if you can find award seats
You can use Avios to visit Easter Island. Easter Island is a Chilean territory, even though its located in Polynesia. The roundtrip between Santiago and Easter Island would only cost you 25,000 Avios.
Since Brazil’s flagship airline, TAM, joined the oneworld alliance, the options to use Avios for flights inside Brazil have become abundant. Forget Brazil Airpass. You might not need it anymore. Here are some examples of the miles needed for one-way travel.
Sao Paulo – Rio De Janeiro: 4,500 Avios
Rio – Salvador: 7,500 Avios
Sao Paulo – Fortaleza: 10,000 Avios
Rio – Manaus: 10,000 Avios
Use Avios in Europe
You can use any British Airways partner for short flights in Europe, and you can even use carrier itself, as it doesn’t tack on fuel surcharges for its European flights. Or you can fly Iberia or Air Berlin. This is what it will cost in Avis each way on these routes:
London – Paris: 4,500 Avios on British Airways
Madrid – Amsterdam: 7,500 Avios on Iberia
Berlin – Prague (not a direct flight): 9,000 Avios on Air Berlin
Use Avios in Asia
There are three Asia-based carriers that are the members of oneworld: Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and the newest member SriLankan Airlines. Here are the mileage redemptions you can expect with Avios. The carrier does tack on fuel surcharges for Cathay Pacific, but they are modest. There are no fuel surcharges for Air Japan domestic flights.
Hong Kong – Bangkok: 7,500 Avios on Cathay Pacific
Tokyo – Osaka: 4,500 Avios on Japan Airlines
Colombo – Male (the Maldives): 4,500 Avios on SriLankan Airlines.
There are more great ways to use your Avios with Quantas for intra-Australian flights, or Russian carrier S7 for traveling in Russia. Any time you can book relatively short and preferably direct flights on one of the oneworld airlines, Avios might be your best bet.