Frequent flyer tip: buying British Airways Avios

By Angus Mordant, September 4 2013

Every airline’s frequent flyer mileage program comes with its own unique set of benefits and right now the stars are aligned on British Airways’ Executive Club program.

Not only does BA employ a generous distance-based award redemption chart which allows for very cheap redemptions on relatively short-distance partner flights, but for the next two weeks you can collect up to a 30% bonus when you buy Avios, which are the award currency of British Airways (similar to Qantas Frequent Flyer points).

This promotion ends on September 19th – for more details, and to buy your Avios online, click to BA's Purchase Avios page.

BA’s distance-based awards chart works very similarly to the Qantas redemption chart.

But while the bottom end of the awards chart is not very low when it comes to flight distance, it's much lower on the number of points required.

For example, any economy class oneworld or British Airways partner airline flight under 650 miles in distance will cost you only 4,500 Avios, while a business class redemption will set you back just 9,000 Avios.

The lowest redemption level using Qantas Frequent Flyer points is 8,000 points for an economy flight under 600 miles and 16,000 for the equivalent in business class.

While it's difficult to make a direct comparison between the two reward currencies, Qantas points can't be earned or bought at a rate anywhere near as good as the current Avios promotion.

Buying Avios

British Airways sells Avios online with the maximum purchase of 24,000 Avios – which earns you an additional 7,200 Avios under the 30% bonus promotion – costing US$685.

That gets you to 31,200 Avios, which is just 300 Avios short of earning you seven free short-distance economy flights

You can easily close that 300 Avios gap by crediting activity with a British Airways partner airline to your BA Executive Club account.

For example, a single night stay in a Hilton property or a one Sydney-Melbourne flight on Qantas will earn you 500 Avios.

Once those Avios are sitting in your Executive Club account you’ll able to tap into some great value on selected short-range flights which would usually cost hundreds of dollars each.

Here are some examples:

London to Berlin – a 590 mile flight on British Airways which regularly sells for more than $200.

New York to Detroit – a 502 mile flight on American Airlines which you’ll rarely see for less than $500.

New York to Toronto – a 366 mile flight on American Airlines which usually sells for over $200.

You can even plan ahead for next year’s ski season – Qantas’ season flights from Sydney to Mount Hotham are 304 miles and will set you back $190 each way.

If you want to splurge and fly business class on some short-leg flights you’ll be looking at redeeming US$195.70 worth of Avios – a very attractive rate given that most of those flights will cost you far more than that if you’re paying with cash.

(Put your Qantas Frequent Flyer number on the booking during checkin to ensure you get the appropriate level of lounge access, baggage allowance and priority boarding that your status entitles you to, although as an Avios award flight you won’t earn status credits or frequent flier points.) 

Joining BA’s Executive Club

There’s one small catch to this: BA doesn’t allow residents of Australia (or other countries in the south-west Pacific) to join its Executive Club frequent flyer program.

But all’s not lost. The only reason BA needs your address is to send out your Executive Club membership card.

If you’ve got a friend, family member or colleague in almost any other country, now’s the timer to call in a favour – the use of their mailbox!

Alternatively you could go ahead with a fake address, or use the address of a hotel or even a post office – they’ll simply away the letter containing your membership card. But you don’t really need that because you’ll be advised of your Executive Club membership number once you sign up online.

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AngusM

A freelance photographer from Sydney currently living in New York City, Angus' passion for scuba diving and traveling means he's most often found 30 metres underwater or 30,000 feet above sea level.

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

One problem with BA redemptions is the hefty surcharges they drop on you.

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 5

The high surcharges are only on flights actually operated by BA.

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

True, but the issue is that trying to get a partner award is difficult (esp when you are not a Gold BAEC member).

I guess domestically in the USA you will find availability with AA as there is a lot of capacity, but in Australia it willl be a lot harder to get QF availability if you have no status in either BAEC or QF FF schemes. 

When in Europe your options not flying BA would be AB, AY and IB and their coverage is not great when you want to fly from e.g. LHR to MXP, as you would always have to transfe (not sure if the award will be also based on the distance of the two lefgs in that case - can you shed a light on this?). I guess because of the low cost of redeeming a flight on Avios ponts it might be worth it if the cost to outright get a ticket is exorbitant (only really the case last minute in which case redemptions are generally not available), but I would normally always try to redeem points for longhaul F class to get the most value out of them.

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 5

I hold no status on BA and haven't had any problems finding availability on QF or AA using Avios. Last minute or careful forward planning doesn't seem to make a huge difference when redeeming for such short flights. Most people use their points for long haul flights so the award inventory on the short flights tends to last a long time.

Connecting flights can be a little troublesome as I believe they price out for each sector not the total trip however 9000 avios for up to 1300 miles of economy travel over 2 flights isn't bad value either!

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Thanks for the feedback! Short haul is indeed easier in terms of inventory, so in theory a good option for US or Australia short haul flights (not so much when based in Europe). Too bad about the connecting flights (but no surprise really) and still decent value as you stated.

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Many thanks, Angus, for the tips and alerting readers to the buy Avios points deal!

It seems one of the features of the Avios system is a sliding scale - thus a SYD-BNE can be had for 9,000 Avios points plus GPB7.70 sliding to 5,000 Avios points plus GBP52.70.

I have looked at cost comparison between points buys through BA, AA and QF for business travel in Australia. There seems to be no problem with availability despite having no status in BA or AA.

The costings calcuate the cost of points required plus surcharges. The paid fares on QF include a rebate for the points earned at Platinum level at the equivalent value of buying points from QF. I have taken the mnimum possible cost in dollar terms from the BA sliding scale. 

Note that AA redemtpions are of a fixed rate within Austraia/NZ.

 

Net cost of one hour flight: BNE-SYD in business

Paid AUD665; QF AUD392; BA AUD200; AA AUD400

Net cost of two hour flight: BNE-MEL in business 

Paid AUD713; QF AUD716; BA AUD300; AA AUD400

Net cost of 3 hour flight: SYD-CNS in business 

Paid AUD842; QF AUD1054; BA AUD400; AA AUD400

Net cost of 5 hour flight: SYD-PER in business 

Paid AUD1149; QF AUD1046; BA AUD565; AA AUD400

Net cost of multi-sector flight: PER-SYD-CNS in business 

Paid AUD1477; QF AUD1701; BA AUD965; AA AUD400

and for good measure an "extreme" example:

Net cost of long distance international flight: SYD-LHR in FIRST 

Paid AUD5590; QF AUD5879; BA AUD3923; AA AUD1914

 

Conclusion:

If you are in the market for buying points the sweet spots for business/first travel are as follows:

  • Use BA Avios for short sectors of one or two hours
  • Use BA Avios of AA points for sectors of 3 hours and above
  • Use AA points for multi-sector bookings 
  • Use AA points for international travel

 

Note that the limits of buying BA and QF points makes the comparison academic for long distance, but since you can buy up to 60,000 or even 90,000 (when on bonus offer) points from AA per year the SYD-LHR is very interesting: basically AA stomps over QF! 

 

  • AA - 80,000 points plus AUD 82
  • BA - 150,000 points plus AUD615
  • QF - 192,000 points plus AUD527
On the flipside the use of AnySeat Awards (if they don't get "ehanced" into oblivion by QF!) to gain status credits can be a plus for many QF FF, not factored into the above analysis.

 

These sorts of anaylses are making me question my loyalty to QF, especially as Lifetime Gold already. AA status can be achieved relatively easily by their Platinum Challenge. OneWorld sapphire can be "bought" for <$1,000 and an 80,000 point bonus through the American Express Platinum card....

 

...any thoughts folks???

 

 

 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

PS On 3 hour plus flights, should read use AA

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Jolly good number crunching there PLATY, a great contribution :-)

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Anyone in the market for points purchases might like to check out the current offer for United Mileage. Currenly a 45% bonus, but could rise 60% if sufficient uptake (it's based on a sliding scale according to number of purchasers). The potential to purchase close to or enough points for a return first Australia-Europe on StarAlliance for around $4,000.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 37

Thanks PLATY. Just before I join the Executive Club or Mileage Plus, do you by any chance know whether I can redeem a ticket for a non-family member? (Qantas FF can't do). Also, do you know whether the points ever expire? 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Hi Enojet - good questions - I'm still getting to grips with the detail myself, so please check the respective airline web sites to satisfy yourself of that the plans meet your individual requirements. Might be worth doing some dummy award bookings also to confirm favoured routes and availability.

There's also lots of info on the various frequent flyer schemes on the Flyertalk website, if you haven't found that already.

Just found out that Alaska Airines has a points buy promo until Sept 30. You can redeem for AA and some QF, EK, AF, flights, etc., and earn points on QF and Emirates, etc. Their redemption rates are similar to AA (20,000 for Austraia business flight vs 17,500 on AA: 55,000 transpacific, etc).

It all comes down to your individual travel plans!

Just to update, now that the QF/BA JSA has been wound up, prospective members are now free to join Executive Club with an Australian address.

12 Apr 2011

Total posts 71

Sorry to dredge this up again, but on the BA website for Australia, it still says that you can't join up with an Australian address. Has this changed again?

Hi autvlr, the comment above was posted two years ago, so if BA isn't allowing you to join with an Australian address, we have tips above on how to sign up.


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