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One of the first things you’ll read when you start looking into Avios and other airline miles is that using them for long haul Economy tickets is usually a bad idea. Between taxes and surcharges you could potentially end up paying more in cash on top of your Avios than it would cost to simply buy a ticket! Using Avios/miles for Business and First Class usually results in better value, but as with most things, there are exceptions. Sometimes using Avios for Economy can lead to massive savings, as I rediscovered recently…
A good friend of mine mentioned over Christmas that she was going to be in the US for a conference and really wanted to fly home on a particular flight from New Orleans, as her husband was already booked on that one. He was meeting her in America, so had simply booked a return flight with BA from London for a semi-reasonable price. She already had her outbound sorted, but had been waiting to see if her husband would be able to make the trip before confirming her flight home.
Like most (non-travel hacking) people would in the same situation, she went to BA.com and priced up a one way from New Orleans back to London on the same flight as her husband’s return, only to be shocked that BA wanted £2,500! She then rang BA and they suggested pricing a return starting in the US (throwing away the leg back to the US or using it in future), which was cheaper but still going to be more than £1,300. The conclusion she reached (as a highly intelligent and extremely well-educated scientist…) was that “flight pricing is all very silly!”. I can’t say I disagree.
Avios to the rescue
Although my friend doesn’t really know anything about Avios/points/miles herself, she does know that they exist and that I have “something to do with air miles and, err, that sort of thing”, so asked if I might be able to help somehow.
I quickly fired up the BA website and found award space for the flight. 5 minutes of my time, 5,700 Avios and £213.40 was all it took to sort out. I value Avios at about 1p each, so the one way flight effectively cost ~£270, which is rather more reasonable than the other options!
My own schedule is usually quite flexible and I’m happy to fly odd routes to try different airlines or see new cities etc, so it’s very rare for me to have to be on a specific flight (or even want to be really). For many travellers though, being on a particular flight is important and I think it’s in those situations that using Avios for Economy really shines. Also, given the legacy carriers’ reluctance to embrace sensible one way pricing, Avios can be a lifesaver (or bank balance saver anyway!) if you don’t want a return.
The other thing about using Avios for Economy redemptions is that you only actually need a very modest amount of Avios. The redemption rates are quite low to begin with, but the real kicker is that the Avios + Money offers are very good – effectively allowing you to indirectly buy most of the Avios required for considerably less than 1p each.
Avios can still be extremely useful (even though I tend to focus on collecting other types of points and miles these days) and using Avios for Economy redemptions can sometimes make a lot of sense.
I think this was a nice reminder too of why it’s prudent to have a range of different Points/Miles currencies at your disposal, so that you can use the best one for each particular situation.
What’s your best (or worst!) Avios Economy redemption?