One common misconception surrounding airline miles is that it always costs a gazillion points to redeem them for a flight. While that may be true for first class or business class awards or long, international flights, it couldn’t be further from the truth for certain award seats with specific airlines.
Take the British Airways Avios program, for example. For just 7,500 miles plus taxes, you can fly on a flight that is less than 1,150 miles long. My husband and I just took advantage of one of these redemptions when flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. For just 15,000 miles total and $11.20 in taxes ($5.60 each), we made our way to California without paying an arm and a leg.
British Airways Executive Club: A Distance-Based Rewards Program
Unlike some of the other airline loyalty programs, the British Airways program is distance-based. So, instead of basing fares on a regular fare chart or the cost of the ticket you hope to book, they use an award structure based on the number of miles flown.
Because of this, short-haul flights are cheap – so cheap, in fact, that you can fly around the U.S. and even to the Caribbean or Hawaii for a lot fewer miles than one would guess.
As someone who loves the Caribbean, that component of their plan is of particular interest to me. But since certain flights go further than 1,150, it’s important to know that the cost (in miles) for many flights climbs up incrementally the further you go.
Here are a few different examples of how many miles it would take to score a one-way economy seat to certain destinations in the Caribbean and Hawaii:
- Miami to Grand Cayman – a 453-mile flight – would cost 7,500 miles.
- Charlotte to Grand Cayman – a 1,093-mile flight – would cost 7,500 miles.
- New York City to St. Maarten – a 1,693-mile flight – would cost 10,000 miles.
- Los Angeles to Maui would cost 12,500 miles.
What You Should Know About British Airways
Since British Airways award charts are almost nonexistent these days, they offer a tool on their website that lets you figure out how many Avios – or miles – you’ll need for a specific redemption. You can find that page here.
However, miles earned through this program aren’t always the easiest to redeem. Here are a few pointers that can help you navigate the program:
You can use British Airways miles on partner airlines.
With the British Airways program, you can redeem Avios miles with British Airways, Iberia, American Airlines, and their Oneworld® and other airline partners.
You might need to search for availability on the American Airlines website.
Although British Airways offers award availability with partner airlines, they don’t always show it on their website. To find availability, you can try searching American’s website for the flights you need before trying to book them with British Airways.
Taxes and fees can be horrendous.
Although British Airways flies to Europe, few people would ever use their miles to go there. Because of unreasonable taxes and fees on certain international routes (namely, the London layovers that are a mainstay of BA’s international flights), most BA enthusiasts save their miles for domestic flights in the U.S. or certain, reasonable fares on partner airlines.
You need to pay for each leg of your trip separately.
Even if you’re flying two separate flights to get to one destination, you’ll need to pay for each leg separately. Because of the distance-based redemptions, this is important. If you’re flying way out of your way to pick up your final flight, those extra miles will cost you.
How to Earn British Airways Avios
It’s true that you can earn Avios by flying with the airline, but the easiest way to start building a stash of miles is by signing up for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. Not only will you earn a huge sign-up bonus, but you’ll also enjoy chip-and-pin technology.
Need more miles? As part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you to transfer your points to a slew of popular loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. In addition to British Airways, other transfer partners include Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, and Southwest. Here are the details:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card in addition to the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a great way to maximize the number of miles you can earn in any given year. And with more miles to burn, you’ll be in the position to score a lot more free travel.
- Related: Best Travel Credit Card for 2017
Although British Airways Avios can be difficult to redeem at times, they truly offer the best bang for your buck when it comes to domestic travel. Even better, they often have plenty of award availability if you’re able to plan far enough ahead. And if you want to rack up as many miles as possible, the best way to do it is through credit card sign-up bonuses.
What is your favorite frequent flyer program? Have you ever flown an award flight that cost only 4,500 miles before?
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