4 Things You Should Know About British Airways Avios Points

Posted By Trav

When British Airways totally revamped their frequent flyer program last year, rebranding it as Avios and calling their new currency Avios points, many people bemoaned the changes, and rightfully so.

Overall, the program is worse than it was before, with British Airways Avios points much less valuable now than they were a year ago.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should write BA off completely.  Earning miles in many different programs is always a good idea, as it gives you great flexibility when trying to book flights and travel for free.

And BA is one of the easiest airlines to earn miles with.

They currently have a Chase BA Visa that can earn you some nice miles as a sign up (see all the details on the Airline Credit Cards page) and they oftentimes run big promotions as a transfer partner of American Express.

Before jumping in, there are 4 basic things you should know about the BA Avios program and how to use your points.

(If you want to know the best ways to redeem Avios points, check out the Top 5 Ways to Use Avios Points after reading this post)

4 Things You Should Know About British Airways Avios Points

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1.  The award chart is distance based

Most airlines have a zone-based award chart, meaning that it will cost you a set amount of miles to fly from one zone to another.

For example, with American Airlines, it would cost you the same to fly from New York to London (North America zone to Europe zone) as it would to fly from Los Angeles to Budapest (again, North America zone to Europe zone).

With BA Avios there are no zones and the amount of Avios points you pay is based on the distance that you fly.

Anything that falls under 3,000 miles will cost you 12,500 Avios points, regardless of whether you cross oceans or continental lines.  Boston to Dublin will cost you 12,500, same as New York to Los Angeles, because both routes fall in category 4.

You can find out how many Avios points you’ll need for a trip 1 of 3 ways (warning: it isn’t always easy).

For easy itineraries:

1.  Use the Avios Points Calculator on BA’s website.  This is an incredibly non-intuitive system and will only work if you are plugging in really easy routes (such as direct flights or sometimes routes with only one connection).

2.  Use milez.biz.  Enter the two cities you are flying between and select the British Airways program.  If the itinerary isn’t too complex, this should spit you out the number of points it will cost.

For more complex itineraries:

3.  Find out the amount of miles each leg of your trip will cost by using Milecalc.com.  Once you have the mileage for each leg, use the Avios award chart to tell you how many Avios points each leg will be.  Then, add them all together to get your final amount.

2.  You pay for each leg of the trip separately, even if you are just laying over.

This is by far one of the most annoying aspects of the Avios program for people who don’t live near a hub city (which are New York-JFK, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles in the USA).

Let’s look at an example.  If you want to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu, you’ll have to first stop over in Los Angeles as there are no direct flights.  For each leg, you’d have to figure out the mileage and pay accordingly.

  • San Francisco to Los Angeles is 500 miles and so it would fall under category 1 and cost you 4,500 Avios points.
  • Los Angeles to Honolulu is 2556 miles and so it would fall under category 4 and cost you 12,500 Avios points.

You’d then add these two legs together to get your total, which would be 17,000 Avios points one-way or 34,000 Avios points roundtrip.

If you live near a hub then this won’t bother you much, since you’ll never be paying for that extra leg, but for many unfortunate souls, this Avios rule can really add points on to your trip fast, especially if you have more than one layover before arriving at your destination!

3.  BA charges huge fuel surcharges on MOST of their flights, but not all.

One of the major, major downsides to Avios points if you use them on most partners (or BA itself) is that you’ll get crushed with a huge fuel surcharge.

Most of the time, the fuel surcharge is so large ($400-600) that it makes no sense at all to even use your Avios points since you could buy a paid ticket for almost the same price.

There are a few exceptions, and it is these exceptions that you should take advantage of and use your Avios points on.  I absolutely hate paying fuel surcharges, and basically refuse to do it, so you better believe that I’ll be using my stash of BA Avios points in the following ways:

No fuel surcharges

  • Flying American Airlines domestically in the North America region (and including Hawaii)
  • Flying LAN to Central or South America and the Caribbean

Smaller fuel surcharge (about $150)

  • Flying Aer Lingus from North America to Ireland (Dublin or Shannon)

4.  You won’t ever get charged a close-in booking fee 

While #1 could be either a good thing or bad thing depending on where you are flying, #2 and #3 are big time negatives of Avios program.  But now let’s turn to a positive and end on a good note!

Almost all airlines will charge a booking fee when you book an award ticket within 21 days of flying. Usually, this fee hovers around $75.

Thankfully, BA has decided to waive this fee, so even if you decide to book an award ticket with Avios points and fly out THAT SAME DAY you won’t get nicked the extra $75.  A

fter all the changes they made to their program for the worse, I guess this is the least they can do!

Getting BA Avios Points

The best way to currently get a large number of BA Avios points quickly is to sign up for the Chase British Airways Visa (see the Airline Credit Cards page for all details).
You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio.

Final Word(s)

While BA’s once awesome awards program has definitely taken a tumble with the rebranding of Avios and all the new rules they’ve instituted over the past year, its not all doom and gloom.

Take advantage of opportunities to get Avios points easily, such as the through a credit card signup or American Express transfer bonus.

There is still some value to be had from Avios points, so before you go burning them like Hungarians burn the forint, make sure to check out The Top 5 Ways to Use BA Avios Points!

Want to vent about the Avios program or maybe even defend it?  Did I miss any key points?  Have a go at it in the comments below!

(photos courtesy of kennymatic and steve_rinker)


  1. pianodude says:

    Am I correct that Avios can also be used on Alaska Airlines, opening up the possibility of a nonstop roundtrip between Oakland or Seattle and Honolulu for 25,000 Avios?

    1. Trav says:

      @planodude- Yes, Avios points can be used to book on Alaska Airlines as long as you can find saver awards. It will still follow the same basic principle of distance-based awards, so since OAK and SEA are less than 3,000 miles from HNL, you would get it for 12,500 each way, or 25k roundtrip. The difficult part may be finding availability, but it is possible. Great idea!

  2. pianodude says:

    One other thing, is the BA card churnable? I originally got the card in December 2009, cancelled in January 2011. Do you think I could get the bonus again?

    1. Trav says:

      @planodude- Basically all Chase cards are not churnable. I’ve never heard of anyone successfully getting the BA card again, so I’d say the odds would be very, very slim.

      1. pianodude says:

        I received the BA card in the mail today after applying via the dummy ticket method; called to activate and confirmed 50K Avios after first spend, 50K Avios on anniversary — $75 annual fee.

        1. benjamincahn says:

          whoa whoa whoa WHAT??? is this offer still available? also, what the hell is the dummy ticket method?

          1. Trav says:

            @benjamincahn- No, this offer isn’t still available. The dummy method is currently dead (but let’s hope it comes back)!

  3. Ben Krull says:

    Seattle is also a great hub for Avios. I’ve used them on Alaska Air/Horizon, AA and BA flights.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ben Krull- Thanks for the heads up. Just checked the map and seems like AA has alot of non-stop coverage from SEA to other places out West. Good to know!

  4. Shayna says:

    Great post, thanks! Don’t forget about the dummy-booking trick, which will allow you to score those same 100k BA miles from the Chase card without the massive spend.

    1. Trav says:

      @Shayna- Yeah, I’ve mentioned it in other posts, but it is definitely a good option for people who don’t want to make the minimum spend and don’t mind paying the extra annual fee (and waiting a year for other second half of the miles). Thanks for mentioning it!

      1. jamesv says:

        can you provide a link where you posted about dummy=booking trick ? would it work if i already have the BA credit card
        thanks in advance

        1. Trav says:

          @jamesv- There is a link in this post to the Slickdeals thread that explains exactly how to do it. If you already have the BA card, there is a very good chance you would not be able to get the bonus again. Usually, you can only get the bonus once for a Chase product.

  5. Nguyen says:

    Thanks Travis for the Alaska. I just check and there are flights from Sacramento to Seattle almost daily. Should this be between 4500 to 7500 Avios points?

    1. Trav says:

      @Nguyen- It’s 605 miles according to milecalc.com so if you find availability on Alaska Airlines, it should price out as 4500 Avios points since it is below the first threshold of 650 miles in the award chart.

  6. Kerry Krebill says:

    Trav, this is amazing information — a cheap ticket out of Montana!!! –via Alaska Airlines to Seattle. (And the photos, on both posts, are AWESOME.) Many thanks.

    1. Trav says:

      @Kerry Krebill- Thanks, glad you liked it! Montana isn’t an easy place to fly in and out of (as I’m sure you know) so its great to take advantage of Alaska Airlines. Also, I’m thrilled you liked the pictures. They took alot longer to find than I’m willing to admit!

  7. Jason says:

    I am finding it extremely difficult to book travel on the BA website using points when other airlines are involved in the route. I find a lot of my searches end up void because it says BA doesn’t fly this route, even though i know they do but through an affiliate. LA- Hawaii, LA- Boston for example. Do you have to talk to a live person to book these kind of flights? By the way I think the BA website for bookings is one of the most unfriendly sites I’ve ever used. Anyone have any tips?

    1. Trav says:

      @Jason- Unfortunately, yes, the website is clunky and can definitely be a pain in the butt. If that is happening, the only suggestion is to just call them up and talk to someone. That’d be your best bet!

  8. Ernest says:

    From 28 April 2015, you’ll notice a difference to the way you earn and spend Avios with us. We’re making these changes to be able to offer more reward seats to you, and to ensure that the Executive Club continues to evolve and deliver a competitive and rewarding loyalty programm in the future.

  9. Mickey says:

    Is it possible to earn Avios points when purchasing two tickets? I can’t find out if it is just for the cardholder or both tickets. Also, do I earn points on the return flight as well?

    1. Trav says:

      @Mickey- You can earn Avios points for anyone who flies, whether that’s you or someone else. So whoever flies, get them an Avios account number and tie it to their reservation. Yes, you’ll get points for all legs that you fly.

  10. I need to fly from Minneapolis MSP to Dublin DUB in June and back home again in December. I’ll be there 6 months. I want my son and husband to visit so I want to accumulate some miles so I can get a free flight or two. I’m thinking getting the British Airways Visa card with the 50,000 bonus Avios and then redeeming on Aer Lingus. Does anyone see a problem with that plan? How many miles do I need to redeem a flight in economy? I read that it would be less Avios to book from Boston to DUB because that trip wold be just under 3,000 miles. Is that still the case? Can I transfer United points to Avios (I have around 15,000)? Help please!

  11. Lachlan says:

    excellent blog I’m a huge flying nerd from India

  12. Bill says:

    I planned a trip to London this spring. I called British Airways to inquire about flights and using American Express Reward points. I called and spoke to a few different Reps form BA on separate days this May and each one told me that the process was to transfer Amex pts. over to BA’s Executive Club (Avios Points) and then I could use the Avios pts. to book a flight. The Reps from BA told me it would be 40,000 Avios points for a round trip ticket (JFK to London). I asked repeatedly: “so for 40,000 Avios pts., I will get a round trip ticket to London and back?” – answer from each BA Rep.: “yes”. So I called Amex and transferred 80,000 Amex Rewards Pts. (2 tickets, 1 for me and 1 for my girlfriend). I selected one of very limited flights that were available and called BA to book the flight. It was at this point that I was hit with a bombshell: the Rep asked me how I would like to pay for the “taxes, fees and carrier charges”?. I was floored! They totaled ($1,387.00). I obviously declined and asked to speak to a Supervisor. I asked the Supervisor: “If I asked you (and I asked a few Reps, not just once, numerous times) how many pts. does it take to book 2 roundtrip tickets to London from the US and you tell me: 80,000 pts.; and I ask you if I get 2 tickets for 80,000 pts. and the Rep says: “yes” – and, nothing else; what would you think it takes to book 2 roundtrip tickets to London from the US?” The Supervisor told me there was nothing he could do. I told him that not ONCE, did any of the Reps from BA ever even mention the obnoxious charges attached to the purchasing of the 2 tickets: “taxes, fees and carrier charges” to me even after I repeatedly asked about the amount of points to obtain the 2 tickets. I told him to transfer my Avis pt’s. back to my Amex Account. He refused. I called Amex and my case is being investigated. This is obviously a “SCAM” by BA to get you to transfer your Amex pt’s. to BA and then upon purchasing your tickets, hit you up with these so-called “taxes, fees and carrier charges”.


    1. Trav says:

      @Bill- Yep, the fuel surcharges are INSANE! One of the most important things to be aware of when using your points is these fuel surcharges, and BA is one of the worst culprits. Here’s an article that breaks down fuel surcharges and will help you out.

      1. gino samson says:

        Seems the answer is always”yes it’s bad but most other airlines do the same”…

    2. Jordan says:

      BA’s fuel charges are horrendous. However you can use Avios elsewhere. Aer Lingus & Aer Berlin have low fees. Short Flights. I booked DCA to MVY for 10K avios and $5! This ticket sells for $650 to $800 at peak Summer prices.

  13. Howard b says:

    I tried to use avios to bring my daughter in from Ottawa Canada, for the month of August I tried every day in the month and could not book a flight on American. WHAT IS GOING ON? What am I doing wrong? Please help!!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Howard b- No idea, honestly. Maybe just sold out availability since August is prime travel season for everyone. Very hard to find dates.

  14. Alli says:

    HI Trav! Is there a way to ‘export’ Avios to another program that’s more flexible? Those fuel surcharges are RIDICULES!!!

    1. Trav says:

      @alli- Unfortunately, no. You just have to make sure to fly on flights that don’t have the fuel surcharge attached. Here are the best ways: http://www.extrapackofpeanuts.com/the-top-5-ways-to-use-british-airways-avios-points/

  15. Marco Biagini says:

    Can someone tell me when I can use my over 400’000 Avios point to get to Europe in Business Class. The BA calendar shows 0 availability, literally all year round. Maybe if you are Gold or Platinum they have availability, I don’t know. I just know that I am frustrated beyond believe (3 of my companion tickets have already expired because they would give us no seats. Now I’m not a snob but disabled and can only fly Business or First on long haul flights. Eco Tickets are no problem. There is this pointsguy that claims all of next years Business class Avios are wide open, what a load of ****. Ihave tried every singe day of the year and got 1 return flight, am I supposed to swim there??? The worst Airline in the world.

    1. Trav says:

      @Marco Biagini- Yeah, BA.com can be really, really weird at times. I’d try a few things:

      1) Change the airport you are flying in to.
      2) Change the airport you are flying out of.

      See if either of those work, maybe something is getting messed up with that. If you still see no availability, I’d definitely call up BA. It stinks, their hold times are awful, but that might be the only way to book it because sometimes their systems are down.

  16. dan says:

    I’m new to the Avios awards. I was trying to get a feel as to how many points I want to transfer into BA to get flights. When I put in an example flight, I get my fare and Tax, fee and carrier charge. Then the next step it says as a member, you could save $150 using avios points. I thought I could get the full price of the fare off using avios points. Could someone clarify for me so I don’t move too many points into my account? Thanks

    1. Trav says:

      @Dan – to see how many miles you’ll need using Avios, here’s the way to do it:

      1) Find all the legs of the trip. For example, let’s say you are flying Philadelphia to San Diego and laying over in Chicago.
      2) Put that in to gcmap.com (PHL-ORD-SAN)
      3) See how many miles each leg is.
      4) Use the Avios award chart and see how much each leg costs (because they charge you per leg). Here’s a link to the Avios award chart.

      That will help you figure out the exact amount!

  17. Rose says:

    In your example you used Category 1 as 4500 points instead of the 7500 it now costs. That change was a huge bummer!

    1. Trav says:

      @Rose – Yes, some have gone up to 7,500 which is a bummer. Not all though. I just booked Philly to Toronto for 4,500. I’m not sure how they determined which ones went up and which didn’t, but some routes are still 4,500.

  18. Docntx says:

    Just booked Biz Class MEL-SYD in Nov. for 9k avios and $12

    1. Trav says:

      @Docntx- YES! Awesome job…that’s a great score.

  19. Tony Di says:

    We just booked a RT flt fron SAN to Frankfurt
    via Heathrow. Everything looked fine until I went to make my seat selections. BA will not assign the seat postion until gate time!! The seats are assigned by the terminal gate agent.. Otherwise, if want them assigned during ticket purchase you will need to pay ~60 bucks for each leg. For us that will be a RT cost of 4 X $60.. I tried going through the AA affiliate (partner) but they won’t and can’t address the seat assignments.Anyone have similar experience?

    1. Trav says:

      @Tony Di – Yeah, it’s ludicrous, but that’s the way most airlines are doing it now. You can’t book your seats ahead of time if you are flying on partner airlines. It stinks, but no way around it (as far as I know).

  20. Richard Cascarino says:

    I’m afraid AVIOS are worthless for flying BA if you are based in South Africa. Seats are only available if you can book 6months in advance and return flights mean you typically have to stay over 3 months. I have 3/4 million Avios accumulated in Business Class (they are the most convenient flights for me) but whenever I want to spend them they say “no seats available” the South African Consumer Protection Act states that any loyalty program can be exchanged for any benefit where cash could be used but British Airways ignore this and deny access regardless.

  21. John says:

    hi trav
    i want to book a return flight from mumbai india to heathrow uk in business class
    i have 300000 avios
    can i get rid of taxes by any means?

    1. Trav says:

      @John- no, you’ll have to pay the taxes unfortunately.

  22. Bill says:

    I am trying to investigate using Avios for domestic US American Airlines travel, but cannot figure out how to do it directly on the BA website. Do you know if that is possible — or does one have to go through a phone call process….?
    AND, is it still a relatively good deal to use Avios on American for domestic trips?
    (OK, update: frustrated with the BA site, i just called BA to get a ballpark estimate on Avios needed for a Fresno – DCA ticket. Seats available for reasonable quantity of Avios, but the “fees” are $560! Its cheaper to buy the ticket! Is American domestic travel still a good use of Avios??)

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