Four Secret Advantages of British Airways Avios Awards

On Monday, I wrote about British Airways Avios awards. With US Airways and TAM joining British Airways’ alliance, you can now book some incredibly cheap awards like the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50 or Phoenix to Hawaii for the same price.

You can book a lot of 4,000 Avios awards with the British Airways Visa Signature Card or by transferring Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points 1:1 to Avios.

Everyone knows that British Airways awards are an unbeatable value on short, non-stop awards. But did you know these four less well-known advantages of British Airways awards?

  1. You can get unlimited free stopovers on British Airways awards.
  2. There are no extra fees for booking an Avios award at the last second. Other loyalty programs like American, United, and US Airways do collect a $75 close in ticketing fee.
  3. You get Priority AAccess–priority security and boarding–on American Airlines flights booked with Avios.
  4. You get extremely cheap cancellations with Avios award, as low as $2.50, meaning that you can speculatively book Avios awards without much of a penalty.

#1 Unlimited Free Stopovers

British Airways’ method of pricing its awards is unique. Each individual flight on the award has its own price and the total price of the award is the sum of the price of each flight.

As an example, San Francisco to Los Angeles on an American Airlines plane is 4,500 Avios one way. Los Angeles to Honolulu on an American Airlines plane is 12,500 Avios one way. So if you book San Francisco to Los Angeles to Honolulu as an Avios award, it would cost 17,000 Avios.

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It costs 17,000 whether you lay over in Los Angeles for one hour or you stopover for one week. The only thing that affects the price of an Avios award is the individual flights, not the amount of time between them.

By contrast, on American Airlines awards, stopover policy, you can only take one free stopover per direction and it has to be at your North American International Gateway.

Imagine you wanted to fly from Washington DC to Miami to Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina for a South American adventure. With American Airlines miles, you could only take a free stopover in Miami.

With British Airways Avios, you could stop in each city as long as you like. The total award would be 34,500 Avios one way, which is the sum of the price of each segment.

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#2 No Close In Ticketing Fee

I tend to use my Avios for last-minute weekend getaways (like my spontaneous trip to Tokyo, random cruise booking, and girls getaway to Toronto), so it’s really nice that Avios charges no close in ticketing fee. You can book the day of travel and still just pay the miles plus taxes.

By contrast, cash tickets tend to go way up in price at the last-minute, and American Airlines adds a $75 fee for award tickets booked within 21 days of travel.

Let’s look at an example of how valuable this benefit is. Look at what a one way flight from New York to Chicago this Friday costs: $184 on scary Spirit and $304 on the big boys.

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American Airlines is offering Saver award space on its morning flights, but there is a $75 close in ticketing fee, so the total price is 12,500 American Airlines miles and $77.50.

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British Airways Avios can book the same flight for only 7,500 Avios and $2.50!

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An Avios award saves 5,000 miles because it’s a short flight and $75 because there are no close in ticketing fees with British Airways awards.

#3 Priority Boarding and Security on American Airlines flights

MileValue and Mommy Points have written that when they’ve booked American Airlines flights with Avios, the words Priority AAccess prints out on their boarding passes. I’ve also had similar experiences, and it has always made my day (especially since I was even able to do a free same-day flight change too at the gate somehow).

Priority AAccess entitles you to the priority line at security, which can be a big time saver in crowded airports. It also entitles you to priority boarding, which means you can get your bag in an overhead bin and get comfortable before the mad scramble of everyone else.

It’s not clear that Priority AAccess should be a perk of Avios awards, so it might disappear. But for the moment, enjoy the free benefit.

#4 Cancel Your Avios Award for a Full Refund of the Miles and as Little as $2.50 out of Pocket

Awards booked with Avios are supposed to have a $55 cancellation fee.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 9.12.21 PMI say “supposed to” because in practice, if your award has taxes lower than $55, British Airways will return your Avios but not your taxes on an award cancellation without charging you extra money. See Deals We Like for her experience.

So say I booked that New York to Chicago award for 7,500 Avios and $2.50 for this Friday and then got sick. I could cancel it and get back the 7,500 Avios for no extra fee. I’d only be out-of-pocket the $2.50 I had paid in taxes.

That means domestic Avios awards basically have a cancellation fee of only $2.50 per segment, which is unbeatable. It’s this low cancellation fee that makes Avios so good for speculative bookings you’re not sure if you’ll take.

This–like Priority AAccess–is a potentially unintended benefit, so it may disappear at any time.

Avios awards are easy to book, and they’re the absolute best value for short, non-stop flights. With US Airways and TAM flights now bookable with Avios, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with Avios awards and their little known advantages.

I always make sure I have a hefty stash of Avios to fuel my impulsive nature (even though being spontaneous is a lot harder with my new sidekick, Baby Points Traveler).

So how do you get Avios?

Right now the British Airways Visa Signature Card comes with a 50,000 Avios sign-up bonus after you spend $2,000 on the card within your first 3 months.

Like I mentioned above, British Airways is a transfer partner in both the American Express Membership Rewards program and the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.

Some other Chase cards that allow you to get Avios with 1:1 transfers are the Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Sapphire Preferred. All of them earn Ultimate Rewards, which can transfer instantly to British Airways Avios online.

What are some exciting trips you have booked thanks to Avios? Any other Avios secrets you’d like to share? I’d especially love to hear about more sweet-spot redemptions (speaking of, Easter Island is a sweet-spot redemption that’s high on my list!).


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  1. says

    I appreciate this because I typically try to use my close to 200,000 avios on international trips without success. Never any seats available and the taxes just to go to London cost as much as a ticket I can buy outright.
    Any suggestions? Maybe I’m doing something wrong here since you seem to have such great success, even at the last minute.

  2. Nic says

    Haha Nice spin on number 1. The thing is you can also do segments with AA, therefore you get a stopover in each city. You are comparing apples to oranges.

  3. Mike says

    If you book a flight costing you avios+cash+2.5tax and cancel it, will you get both avios and cash refund? Thanks.

  4. Jerry Mandel says

    1. AA has stopped stopovers in gateway cities.
    2. Go to London or onward on Aer Lingus using Avios. BOS-DUB-LHR/LGW or BOS-DUB-a number of cities Stopover in BOS and DUB if desired. If you like, you can go to Shannon instead of DUB to tour Ireland.
    3. Examples: DFW-MEX and DFW-LAX cost fewer Avios than AA miles.
    4. It doesn’t matter which member number you use. All flights using Avios get priority access (boarding) on the boarding pass. I would use AA number on AA flights.
    5. NEVER fly on BA—Ripoff fuel surcharges.

  5. Nid says

    Last month I tried to book a flight from FAT to CUN the space was available on AA website. I tried to use Avios miles for this trip but BA website shows nothing so I called and talked to CSR at BA and they said nothing was available on their screen. I don’t know how to overcome the problem of seats available on AA but was not offer to British Airline as a partner of One World. I have turned around and booked the same flight itinary on AA (American Eagles). What else I can do.
    Thanks for any suggestion.


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