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Avios are not just for the big things in life…
Many people who collect miles and points will understandably have been drawn into it by the prospect of the big ticket items – like flying First Class from London to New York on British Airways, starting with a delicious 3 course meal in the Concorde Room, followed by a massage in the spa before boarding an iconic Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet and flying across the Atlantic in a luxurious cocoon.
That was what got me hooked, and my first First Class flight two years ago is still my most memorable. So, a First Class redemption is always in the back of my mind, and I like to build up my Avios balance just in case there is something “big ticket” that appeals. That said, I think that there is an even better, although less talked about, use of Avios that I am happy to spend them on: last minute short haul flights.
I recently came back from a 2 week trip to California – it was an ex-EU trip starting in Copenhagen in Business Class on British Airways. I had to go back to Copenhagen on the return to finish off the trip but didn’t fancy doing it just after stepping off a transatlantic flight, so I booked for the following day, but less than 24 hours after my San Francisco – London journey so I had an overnight at home without being charged a stop-over fee. As I was on the first flight out to Copenhagen, I decided to have a day out in the city and so booked the last flight of the day back to London as a Reward Flight Saver – 4,500 Avios and £17.50.
However, when I reached London, I decided I was too tired to spend the next full day wandering around Copenhagen, so looked at my options:
1) Not take the London – Copenhagen flight, missing out on 40 BA Tier Points and 1,782 Avios, as well as running the risk of not completing an ex-EU ticket (which some say could lead to issues with the British Airways Executive Club further down the line).
2) Change my ticket home.
I didn’t want to do option 1 as my Tier Point tally for the year, including those 40 from LHR-CPH, should see me reach Gold. I also didn’t want to take the risk of dropping the last leg. This left me with option 2, and one of the best uses of Avios in my mind.
Firstly, I went into ‘Manage My Booking’ to find out the cost of changing or cancelling my ticket. Changing it this way would have cost me a £35 change fee but no additional Avios, whereas cancelling it would have given me no cash refund of the £17.50 RFS fees already paid, but all my Avios would be refunded.
I then checked online for flights using Avios, and was pleased to see availability all day, including the lunchtime flight that I wanted in both business and economy. The one way in Economy was 4,500 Avios + £17.50 and Business Class was 9,000 Avios + £20.50. I looked at the seat maps on ExpertFlyer and saw that there were no exit row seats available in Economy so I booked Business and got a whole row to myself. Booking a new ticket and then cancelling the old one is the best way to do this as the change fee is twice that of the new taxes. As a comparison point, a one way cash ticket would have been £280 in Economy and £466 in Business had I bought at the same time as booking my flight with Avios.
You’re taking advantage of i) fixed Avios pricing even at a late stage and ii) the Reward Flight Saver fixed fee here, as opposed to the potentially punitive last minute cash rates (which are clear from the above).
Whilst it is not glamorous in the same way as flying First Class long-haul, using Avios like this is fantastic. I was able to complete my ex-EU journey and get home 5 hours earlier whilst still earning all the Tier Points. It is worth pointing out that whilst you can book a flight less than 24 hours in advance, you have to cancel at least 24 hours ahead of the flight if you want to get any Avios back.
So next time you need to change your plans at a moments notice, or need some flexibility in your flying schedule, think about using your Avios to help you out!
My name is Mister Airmiles and I am an infrequent frequent flier! In truth, I'm James and I am a London-based Geography teacher with a love for travel.
For the past three years, I have been actively collecting miles and points and using them to travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise have been, to fly at the front of the plane and to stay in some of the top hotels, all at a fraction of the cost.