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Avios is a reward currency used by British Airways and one of its sibling airlines, Iberia. Through membership in the Executive Club program, Avios can be redeemed for a number of things, from hotels to car rentals to flight upgrades, and, of course, flight award tickets on both British Airways and partner airlines’ flights.
It’s through the latter where the true power of Avios begins to unfold. Partner airlines provide excellent opportunities to redeem Avios at maximum value. Here's how to get the most out of your Avios.
» Learn more: The guide to earning British Airways Avios
Understand taxes and fees, plus the unofficial award chart
British Airways charges notoriously high taxes and fees for reward tickets through fuel surcharges, especially on its own flights. These taxes and fees are particularly egregious when flying business class. For example, a round-trip reward ticket between Miami and London in business class currently costs 125,000 Avios plus $1,780.31. This type of pricing makes it rarely useful to use Avios directly on British Airways.
On the flip side, British Airways often charges fewer taxes and fees on reward flights through many of its Oneworld alliance partners. You can use your Avios to fly on airlines like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and Royal Jordanian.
In general, British Airways bases the price of Avios reward tickets on a distance-based award chart rather than a region-based award chart (like American Airlines) or a dynamic pricing model (like United Airlines).
Altogether, this means that you can often find reward tickets on shorter routes on partner airlines to redeem Avios for max value. British Airways' prices can be far cheaper than flying via the actual partners’ award programs.
Travel hackers have decoded the award chart based on previous charts (plus trial and error), and it goes as follows:
Cost for one-way flight
» Learn more: Award sweet spots using British Airways Avios
Book shorter distance flights in business class
British Airways’ distance-based chart presents numerous opportunities for scoring phenomenal value on shorter distance flights, particularly in business class.
Take, for example, a round-trip flight between Miami and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, on American Airlines. Booking a business class reward ticket through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program costs 50,000 miles plus $92.55. Yet when booking the same trip using Avios, it costs only 30,000 plus $92.55.
Within Asia, there are also attractive opportunities to redeem Avios on partner airline Cathay Pacific. For example, a one-way business class mileage ticket between Hong Kong and Shanghai costs 16,500 Avios plus $42.58. By comparison, the same flight through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program costs 22,500 miles + $42.58.
Fly between regions in close proximity
Take further advantage of Avios by crossing neighboring geographic regions, which can cost major miles with other programs.
For example, a flight between Tunis, Tunisia, and Amman, Jordan, would be classified as an Africa to Middle East flight with American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. A round-trip ticket between these destinations costs 60,000 miles plus $98.20 in economy or 110,000 miles plus $98.20 in business.
However, when cross-checking this flight on British Airways' website, the same ticket will cost you just 22,000 Avios plus $293.33 in economy and 44,000 Avios plus $293.33 in business.
While the taxes are higher using Avios, the mileage savings compared to booking through AAdvantage are significant. On British Airways, you’re using 63% less in economy and 60% less in business. Results will vary by individual flight, but it is always smart to at least check the Avios cost compared to the partner award cost when crossing regions.
Compare pricing between British Airways and Iberia, and transfer if needed
British Airways and Iberia might have the same parent company and frequent flyer reward currency, Avios, but their reward flight opportunities are unique in terms of mileage and taxes. To that end, it’s worth checking award ticket pricing on both websites to compare and calculate which flight can give you the most value.
Thankfully, transferring Avios between British Airways and Iberia is easy. You first need to set up Avios accounts with each airline directly. Be sure that your name, address and email match exactly in the personal profile of each account. Once you have greater than a zero balance in each account, you can link them and initiate immediate transfers between the two.
Log in to your British Airways Executive Club account and click “Manage My Account” on the left-hand side. Then navigate to “Combine my Avios” in the dropdown menu. Click “Combine,” enter the account number of your Iberia Plus account and enter the number of Avios you’d like to transfer. You can then book with ease and redeem Avios on either website.
The bottom line
Avios are a powerful award currency and can go far — if used right. In general, don't bother using Avios for long-haul flights or for flights directly on British Airways.
Redeem Avios for short- or medium-distance flights in business class on partner airlines and between proximate geographic regions, if you can. Always do a second search on the award booking engine of its sibling airline, Iberia, to see if you are getting the best deal within the Avios family.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
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Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card