03
Apr

How to BA Avios Points On USAirways and Why Their Value Has Skyrocketed

Posted By Trav

British Airways

Since March 31, 2014, you’ve been able to use any Oneworld airline partner’s points to book on USAirways.

This is a nice perk for using AA miles, but an absolutely major score for anyone using British Airways Avios points.

In today’s post, I’ll hit on a few main points:

  • Why the Value of BA Avios Points Has Skyrocketed
  • Who Benefits the Most (hello, Philadelphians!)
  • How to Book USAirways Flights on BA.com
  • Why This Makes American Express Points Much More Valuable.

Why the Value of BA Avios Points Has Skyrocketed

Since their devaluation a couple years back, BA Avios points have been a conundrum for most people.

They can have offer great value, but overall, they are very confusing to use.

[bluebox]In fact, they are so confusing that two of EPoP’s top posts are about BA Avios points.  These should help clear up the confusion:

To sum up why USAirways joining Oneworld is so important, there are two things that you need to know.

1.  On MOST flights, using BA Avios points will incur a massive fuel surcharge.  

[bluebox] If you have no clue what a fuel surcharge is, make sure to check out my series on fuel surcharges.  It’s one of the major keys to using frequent flyer miles effectively [/bluebox]

When I say massive, think between $400-600 per person.

That’s insane, considering that you can sometimes purchase a ticket for almost the same amount!

So in order to use BA Avios points in a way that makes sense, you have to find flights that you can take that don’t hit you with a fuel surcharge.

One of these flights is flying domestically in the US (and here are the other 4 options that won’t hit you with a fuel surcharge).

2.  British Airways award chart is distance-based, meaning you pay for how many miles you fly.

BA-Avios-chart

Check out the Avios award chart above.  If you fly 0-649 miles, you’ll only pay 4,500 BA Avios points for an economy ticket.

This is huge, because you’d pay 12,500 for a one-way domestic ticket with other carriers.

So if you’re taking short to medium haul domestic US flights, BA Avios are the way to go!

The downside is that you have to pay for each segment separately.

For example, if you fly Philadelphia to Columbus with a layover in La Guardia, you have to pay for two separate flights.

Philadelphia to La Guardia is a distance of 95 miles, which would cost 4,500 Avios points.

La Guardia to Columbus is a distance of 479 miles, which would cost 4,500 Avios points.

With the layover at La Guardia, you’ll pay 9,000 Avios points total to go one-way from Philadelphia to Columbus.

Ugh!

However, a direct flight from Philadelphia to Columbus is a distance of 406 miles.

With a direct flight from Philadelphia to Columbus, you’ll pay 4,500 Avios points to go one-way.

Obviously, you are MUCH better off finding direct flights.

This is easier said than done, since before the merger, your only option was to look for AA flights.

Not only did direct flights get scooped up quickly, but you also needed to live near an AA hub to get direct flights to most places.

Now, however, you can book any USAirways flight with your BA Avios points.

This opens up a world of options, and many, many more direct flights.

More options and more direct flights = many more chances to book good flights with no fuel surcharges!

Who Benefits the Most?

Anyone who travels domestically is going to benefit, since USAirways operates 3,031 flights a day, with a majority of them being domestic within the US.

But the big winners?  

People who live near USAirways hub cities!

The current USAirways hub cities are:

  • Charlotte (613 flights per day)
  • Philadelphia (429 flights per day)
  • Phoenix (255 flights per day)
  • Washington DC National Airport (222 flights per day)

Under the merger agreement, USAirways is required to continue to use Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Phoenix as a hub for at least a period of 5 years.

If you’re someone who uses these airports regularly, you should be jumping for joy right now!

[bluebox]To check out all the routes you can fly with Oneworld, use the Oneworld interactive map.  This shows you all the flights you can take.  Just be careful: you can get lost for hours planning dream trips![/bluebox]

A Real-Life Example of Why This Rocks

As someone who has his home base in Philadelphia, I’m ecstatic.

Here’s a real-life example of why this rocks:

The Philadelphia to Columbus example I gave above was one that I actually just booked for my parents.

Previously, if AA was my only option, I’d need to do the following route:

PHL-DFW-CMH

Philadelphia-Dallas/Fort Worth-Columbus

Ummmm….no thanks!

On top of being way out of the way, I’d also have to pay a whopping 17,500 Avios points for a one-way trip (10k to go PHL-DFW, 7.5k for DFW-CMH).

Looks like I’d be staying home or making the 8 hour drive.

Now that USAirways is a Oneworld partner, I can do the following route:

PHL-CMH

Philadelphia-Columbus direct.

The flight is 1 hour, and it costs only 4,500 Avios points one-way.

Score!

How to Book USAirways Flights on BA.com in 6 Easy Steps

Ok, so you get why this all sounds great in theory.

But anyone who has tried to use frequent flyer miles knows that theory is one thing, and actually booking tickets is another.

The two major hang-ups with booking tickets with miles are:

  • Finding availability
  • Not being able to book the tickets online

Thankfully, using BA Avios points on USAirways has neither of these two problems!

There is TONS of availability on USAirways flights to almost any destination I checked.

And you can EASILY book USAirways flights on BA.com!

Here’s how:

1.  Go to BA.com to Book Online

Head to BA.com—>click on Executive Club tab—>Spending Avios—>Book Flights with Avios

BA Click here

2.  Enter your preferred itinerary and dates

BA Enter Info3.  Select the Flight You Want

Two cool things to note:

  • You can easily toggle between the dates at the top to check for availability.
  • It shows exactly how many seats are left on that flight, an awesome function.

Flight options

 

As you can see, there is plenty of availability on all the USAirways flights operated that day!

4.  Decide How Many Points and Dollars You Want to Spend

BA allows you to do a neat thing where you can choose to use less points and pay more cash if you want.

Normally, using more points and less cash is the best way to go, but it’s nice to have the option.

Price Quote

5.  Pay for the Ticket

Payment

18,000 Avios points and $10 for 2 roundtrip tickets?  Amazing!

6.  Receive Your Confirmation

Confirmation

Just in case you forgot how little you paid…yep, it’s still only 18k Avios and $10 for 2 roundtrip tickets!

Why This Makes American Express Points Much More Valuable

When ranking the best frequent flyer miles and points, I gave American Express points a 5 out of 10 and ranked them #7.

I still consider them worse than Chase Ultimate Rewards and some others, but they are now substantially more valuable.

Why?

Because British Airways is a transfer partner of American Express, and so it stands to reason that if BA Avios points increase in value, so would American Express points.

The problem with American Express points is that while they have a lot of transfer partners, they don’t have a lot of quality partners, and there is no real “best” partner.

Who you should transfer your Amex points to depends on what type of trip you take.

BA Avios has always been one of the better transfer partners, and now that they are are so many more options for direct flight domestic U.S. travel, they have become even better.

Also, Amex usually runs a few bonus promotions for transferring to BA each year, sometimes offering up to 50% (100k Amex would net you 150k BA Avios).

If you’re sitting on a stash of Amex points and plan on doing some domestic traveling in the future, especially if you live near an AA or USAirways hub, then transferring to BA will probably be your best bet.

You could have lots of free travel in your future!

Final Word(s)

Since Philadelphia is my home airport, I’m super excited.  I’m also really pleased with how easy it is to book USAirways flights with BA points.

Overall, this opens up a lot of good options for domestic travel, regardless of where you live, because there are so many more flights with the combined AA/USAirways network.

And we finally have some good news for Amex points, which are now more valuable thanks to the strengthening of BA as a transfer partner!

What trips are you planning to use your BA Avios points on?  What new routes are you most excited about?  And what are your favorite Amex transfer partners?  Let me know in the comments below!

26 comments

  1. Ken says:

    Sucks for Denver, there’s only 3 flights to PHX, PHL, and CLT. I checked as soon as I heard about the merger. Luckily DEN is a focus city for WN so we’re not completely left out in the cold.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- It’s not as great for everyone as me, obviously, since I’m from Philly, but it does open up a lot of options.

  2. Ven says:

    So a couple points as a DCA based flyer who just booked my first avios ticket on US Air.

    1) Finding flexible availability on ba.com is horrible, you are much better off looking for low level awards on usairways.com and then going to ba.com to book them.

    2) Not every flight with availability shows up on ba.com, DCA-LGA runs every hour on the hour from 6 AM to 8 PM and then 10 PM but ba.com only showed my available flights from 6 AM to 3 PM even though usairways showed availability until 8 PM. I had to call BA to book the 8 PM segment (they waived the $25 fee for me but I still had to sit on hold for an hour).

    3) This is killer for anyone on the east coast or near Phoenix, everyone else probably doesn’t care. Even though Boston isn’t a hub, I believe they still run a lot of US Air flights so the entire east coast is covered.

    4) I’m tots excited about this being a DCA based flyer!

    1. Trav says:

      @Ven- Good points, but BA.com was fine for me from PHL in this instance. But you’re right, USAirways.com isn’t bad.

      Weird that not all show up. Wonder if that will ever be remedied.

      Yeah, it is killer for East Coasters and transplanted East Coasters (Phoenix). Still holds value for others though, especially if they can route through one of those hubs easier than an AA hub.

      I’m pumped!

      1. Ven says:

        It’s not that it was particularly bad. It’s that BA only shows availability 1 day at a time while US (and AA) will show availability one month at a time. It makes a lot easier to search if your dates are not fixed.

        1. Trav says:

          @Ven- Agreed. I always just use AA myself. But was surprised that BA’s actually showed some decent stuff.

  3. Rich says:

    Travis, thanks for the excellent guidance on this. I have a nice bank of a variety of points and I plan to leverage the heck out of BA points. I have flown AA and US for my last few business flights even though home airport is ATL, and I see myself using US Airways much more frequently in the future. Written from IAD while waiting on a US Airways flight back to ATL via CLT.

    1. Trav says:

      @Rich- Yeah, this opens up TONS of options for people. Really great stuff….BA Avios can be super valuable now!

  4. Truthiness says:

    Weird, no availability for EWR to PHX for 5/23 return 5/26. Does the BA award tool have issues showing US Airways availability or is just this route and dates?

    1. Trav says:

      @Truthiness- I didn’t see any issues with BA showing USAirways availability. I’d cross-check it by looking at AA.com and seeing if USAirways flights show up there. If not, then it’s just the dates the route. If AA.com does show it, then I guess the issue is with BA.com itself, and you may have to call in.

  5. Chuck Dashkowitz says:

    Hey Travis, I didn’t know where to leave the note about what to do in Paris, but there is a Roman Colosseum that is near the Latin Quarter that is left over from when Rome extended to there. It’s not something that everyone knows about and I’m sure if you Google it you’ll see where it’s at. You should check out the Rick Steeves site, he has a lot of information and some free walking tour for the ipod. Have a blast and keep up the great work!

    1. Trav says:

      @Chuck- Awesome, thanks for the tip. Rick Steves’ is definitely my go-to guidebook when in Europe…great, hidden stuff in there!

  6. Askmrlee says:

    I did a similar CMH to JFK flight for a family member on AA a few months ago and this included PriorityAAccess meaning one checkin bag was free and preferred seating was available. Fare was $300 plus $25 or so for the bag and I think $7 for the priority seat. Value of $364 including RT bag and seat fees.

    Does the same free bag and preferred seating apply to US coded flights booked with Avios?

    The other great benefit of Avios is that they allow household accounts for free so you can combine miles among family member accounts. And family does not mean same household or address!

    1. Trav says:

      Askmrlee- I’m not sure about the free bag and preferred seating, actually. Did you get that simply by using BA Avios points on AA?

      Agreed that the family account is a HUGE perk. Really nice to be able to pool miles together amongst everyone!

      1. Askmrlee says:

        hi Trav. Have you booked and flown a BA award on AA and not received these extrAAs?

        It’s a well known secret and has been reported on FT and other blog sites. YMMV of course but this happened on a AA flight booked with Avios in February. Some say it’s an AA glitch but it’s been in place for some time. And Priority AAccess may also also mean elite security line. I did not travel so I cannot confirm this benefit.

        And no you won’t find these perks published on AA or BA and don’t both to ask the agent because they will likely not know.

        1. Trav says:

          @Askmrlee- I actually haven’t flown on AA yet using BA points, so not sure. I will be soon though, so I’ll check it out.

  7. Jason says:

    Insanely useful post for me as I am sitting on a little heaping pile of AMEX points and have family in Philly. Thank you for sharing this. HUGE!

    1. Trav says:

      @Jason- Us Philly boys are loving it!

  8. James says:

    As a Brit I’ve been loving BA Avios (Airmiles) for over a decade, had many cracking business class flights all over the world for free. Then they introduced having to pay the tax&charges on long haul flights and the value of the airmiles (now avios) absolutely plummeted.
    I’m just gutted we don’t get anywhere near the credit card signup deals you guys get. 35,000 is the most I’ve ever got (usual is just 9,000 – 15,000) whereas I’m constantly bombarded with 100,000 mile sign-up email deals but have to live in the States to qualify. We can get all over Europe for tiny numbers of miles and just £35 (or £50 for club class !). Serious bargain on a decent airline flying out of Heathrow / Gatwick when a club class flight to somewhere like Rome would be £600 full price return !!
    I need to figure out how to best make use of the Brazil route and these domestic US deals & Caribbean routes from USAirways (soon to become American Airlines isn’t it ?).

    1. Trav says:

      @James- Even though you don’t get the same deals, you seem to be doing pretty well for yourself. Keep it up!

      And yeah, the BA Avios points are super, super great when you head to this side of the pond because you avoid the fuel surcharge. Get over this area, and start really maximizing those BA points!

  9. mike says:

    Travis,
    Thank you for pointing this out! I had 16,000 avios miles that were just sitting around, hoping to use for a hotel room sometime. Just booked a 1 way trip from Boston to Syr for only 4500 points. (and $ 2.50), for which I was going to have to spend $300 or more.
    My avios points have just been made useful and valuable!!
    Until too many of us start using them and they change it……

    1. Trav says:

      @Mike- Awesome, really glad you found a good use for them. Yeah, let’s hope they keep these rules in affect for a while!

  10. Hey Travis,

    Great Post! I’m such a huge fan of Avios, and they only became more valuable with US Airways rolling in, especially with no fuel surcharges on European flights!!

    So not only are these incredibly easy to earn (Chase UR, BA Visa, Amex MR), but you now can fly the entire network of AA and US Air flights in the US mostly for much less than the standard 25k redemptions, and for those lucky enough to live near Philly or Charlotte, you can get round-trip flights to Europe in economy for only 40,000 Avios with no surcharges!

    To me Charlotte has to be the best airport to live near in America for the European options and the Caribbean flights you can get for significantly reduced redemptions since the distance isn’t that far. Throw in 600+ flights a day and that’s unbeatable! Philly is probably a close second…

    Just this year alone we’re taking advantage of two amazing redemption ‘sweet spot’ options: JFK to Bermuda for 15,000 Avios RT, and Richmond to LGA for 9,000 Avios for a flight that normally costs around $400.

    1. Trav says:

      @Brad- Are you sure that you don’t pay a fuel surcharge when using BA Avios points to fly on USAirways to Europe? If that’s the case, wow, it just got even better!

      I know that you don’t pay a fuel surcharge using Avios when you fly USAirways domestically or to the Caribbean, but I haven’t yet heard about going to Europe. If you can confirm this, that’d be huge!

      And I agree, Philly and Charlotte definitely benefit the most by USAirways joining, which means I’m a happy man.

      Sounds like you’ve really started to maximize your BA Avios with those trips…well done!

      1. @ Trav – I read it on a few other travel blogs and I mocked up a few flights myself within my BA Executive Club account to Europe from both Philly and CLT and it showed up with no surcharges!

        From CLT to either LHR or CDG (can’t remember precisely) was 20k Avios one-way + $20. Amazing stuff…

        So I’m about 99% sure that there are no fuel surcharges on any US Airways flight. And to me that means Avios just jumped to being the single most valuable currency if you live on the eastern half of the US (or certainly within 650 miles of PHL or CLT with direct AA or US Air flights to one or both).

        1. Trav says:

          @Brad- Wow…that’s absolutely amazing. Thanks for this…man, things have just gotten even better!

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