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Apologies (of sorts) for the click-bait style headline, but
you’ll never guess what happened next I wanted to get your attention to highlight just what sort of value is available from Avios, and how good availability can be if you put in a little work, and can be flexible.
Last November I had pooled sufficient Avios from Tesco Clubcard and American Express cards held by me and my wife (who of course referred each other) along with my “Golden Ticket”, aka the BA American Express Premium Plus Companion (or “2-4-1”) voucher, to get our family of 3 to Boston for a family holiday. Of course, being savvy InsideFlyers, we don’t like to travel “down the back” of the plane, so I put in the time to seek out some Club World availability for redemption. Contrary to popular belief, Transatlantic Club World redemption seats are not, in my experience, like the proverbial rocking horse poop. I found 3 for a Saturday in August, with a return 3 weeks later when booking 9 months ahead. Sure, I had to make some compromises on exact timings compared to my ideal itinerary, but if you want full flexibility go ahead and buy a fully flexible cash ticket, otherwise carry on reading, because it got even better!
The booking process was just as simple as any other Avios redemption booking to use the 2-4-1 voucher, and easily completed on BA.com, using any* American Express to pay the taxes and fees.
*This is important, as I had downgraded to the free card once I had triggered the voucher and received a pro-rata refund of the annual fee.
Total Avios for 3 passengers was:
240,000 (2 @ 60,000 Avios each way, 1 @ 0 Avios due to 2-4-1 voucher)
Taxes/Fees/BA Staff Christmas party fund:
£1464.15 (£488.05 each)
Looking at similar flights now for next year, the cash cost would be just under £6,800 for 3, earning 9,802 Avios, so that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling having returned around 2.3p per Avios. But I promised almost 10p/Avios didn’t I? Well, bear with me and keep reading it will (possibly) be worthwhile.
A few weeks passed and there we were, smugly sat at home thinking ahead to our Business Class flights, perfectly content with ourselves.
Well, not quite…….
In the time that had passed I’d been on a business trip to the US, the wife had been shopping, and we’d probably got a new Amex or two, so we had a few more Avios at our disposal. Enough it seems to upgrade the outbound leg to First. ‘Surely you won’t find 3 First redemption seats available 6 or 7 months before departure?’, I hear you say. Well, I did! At the same time I also noticed that a better return flight time was available.
It then got a bit more complicated, as I couldn’t make the changes required online, so I placed a call into BA and they happily changed the outbound leg to First with a slightly earlier departure from Heathrow, and at the same time changed the inbound to the Sunday night, giving us an extra day in Boston, arriving into Heathrow early morning of the Bank Holiday. All of this cost 40,000 further Avios (20,000 each is the difference between Club and First, remembering the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher on the booking) a few pounds each to re-issue tickets, plus maybe some additional fees. I’m hazy on all those details that far back, but I have a figure in my head that total real money expenditure on the round trip was £1,800.
So now we are at 280,000 Avios, but we need to re-price the cash equivalent for our valuation. Luckily I did this just a few days before departing:
Alright then, it’s a fair cop. I wouldn’t book a 3 week trip to the US a few days before departure, and it’s EXTREMELY unlikely that there would have been Avios availability at that notice, but let’s do the maths for fun anyway.
Avios cost = (280,000) + (13,069 Avios that would be earned flying on cash) = 293,069
Cash cost = £24,883.65 – (£1,451 Taxes/Fees to be paid either way) = £23,237.65
2323765 ÷ 293069 = 7.9p which is almost 10p which is what I promised at the start.
The flights were actually pricing at over £26,500 a few days earlier, but I didn’t capture that, and I think you’ll see that wasn’t the entire point of this article, though. What I’d like you to take away is this;
- You can genuinely get good value from your hard earned airline mileage (although probably not 10p very often)
- Availability on some routes is better than you might think
- Availability changes, and can actually get better (this isn’t guaranteed and you are taking a chance that it might not, but keep looking)
- The BA Premium Plus American Express 2-4-1 voucher is awesome! As highlighted here, while you’ll only get one seat free, you are not limited to booking only 2 seats with it (i.e. you can book 3 seats, paying for only 2 of them), a point that maybe not everyone is aware of
I hope this helps someone, but please don’t book up all the award seats to Boston next August will you? Availability looks good at the moment though:
Looking at a specific date, availability is fantastic for Club World and First:
7 Left on the 18:20? There are only 14 seats in the First cabin, at least half of them are available for Avios redemption. Probably more on the 19:55 departure, as there is no restriction shown.
I will be reviewing the two flights from this article, First on the 747, and Club World on the 777 (Grrr, BA, really wanted to fly home “upstairs” but plane was swapped from 747 a few months out). Look out for these soon.