British Airways Executive Club is an excellent airline loyalty scheme, with plenty of opportunities for good value earning and redeeming of Avios (its mileage currency). In this article, we highlight some of the best ways to spend Avios, whether on flights or elsewhere. BA operates its Avios scheme slightly differently from many other airlines – we’ll help you understand this so you can maximize the value of those hard earned points!
Spending Avios on British Airways flights
Redeeming Avios for a flight with British Airways is an obvious choice, but not always the best value use!
BA operate a system where flight redemption is priced per segment rather than for an overall route or ‘zone’. So a flight for example from Paris to London and onto New York would price as two flights.
In summary, the price you pay depends on the following:
- Pricing is based on distance, with 9 ‘zones’ ranging from 4,500 Avios up to 50,000 Avios in World Traveller (economy). Premium economy, business and first class tickets are offered at multiples to this (for long haul flights this is 2, 3 and 4 times economy).
- There are lower rates offered on off-peak dates. Peak dates generally line up with UK holiday periods – these can be checked on the BA website. For example, flights to Hong Kong in economy are priced at 30,000 Avios on peak dates, reduced to 19,500 on off-peak dates.
- BA adds a ‘carrier surcharge’ for its own flights. This can be up to £200 on a one way flight and can hugely affect the value of redemptions!
- In addition to BA’s surcharge, there are taxes and UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) to pay. These are among the highest in the world, and are especially loaded for premium cabins.
What does all this mean?
Well, as you can see the price can vary. Generally you will get better value from Avios awards when traveling on off-peak dates and when redeeming in premium cabins. Despite the higher tax / APD charged for these tickets, they will often offer better value. The taxes and charges for long haul economy redemption on BA often make cash tickets more appealing.
Make use of BA ‘Reward Flight Saver’
For flights under 2,000 miles BA operates a scheme called ‘Reward Flight Saver’. This reduces the fees, taxes and surcharges to a single fixed payment of £17.50 per one way flight. This is only available to members who have earned Avios within the past 12 months.
For flights within Europe this can make economy Avios awards much more attractive. Short haul European flights (including. for example, London to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Prague) are just 4,000 Avios off peak (4,500 peak) plus £17.50 each way.
Such reduced taxes for flights may become more common going forward. BA is currently trialing a scheme to pay taxes with Avios.
Spending Avios with partner airlines
In our opinion, Avios awards with partner airlines offer some of the best value available. Avios can be used for tickets on all Oneworld airlines.
Redeeming Avios for an award with any of the Oneworld partners is similar to redeeming for BA flights. The rate is based on the distance flown, and each flight is charged separately. As with BA flight awards, the best way to check mileage rate for the distance and cabin is to check on the BA Avios booking site.
The shortest flights (up to 650 miles) are 4,500 Avios in economy and 9,000 in business. Note that this category does not apply to flights within the US; these are priced at the next level up (7,500 Avios).
This rises up to the longest flights at over 7,000 miles pricing at 50,000 in economy and 150,000 in business.
Taxes and charges here are generally lower as carrier surcharges do not apply, but these do vary between airlines. There are no off-peak or peak pricing for partners.
This can work out great value for some shorter international flights. Some of our favorite possibilities include:
- Short international flights in Asia: These can be expensive, but with Avios flights from Hong Kong to many locations (including Taipei, Hanoi and many cities in Southern China) are only 4,500 Avios. Most other airline mileage schemes would price these much higher.
- Flights in South America with LATAM: Likewise, these can be excellent value. Short international flights there can often be very expensive.
Book a multi-carrier award
One of the disadvantages of Avios awards, as we have discussed, is that these are priced per flight segment. There is a way around this, however.
BA Executive Club operate a different redemption rate option for multiple carriers. These awards can be used when two or more airlines are flown in the same itinerary, and are priced based on total distance flown. In our experience these often work out less value, but there are cases, especially when many segments are in premium cabins, where this can work out.
Upgrading with Avios
Another great use of Avios is to upgrade flights. This is possible on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines. The value you can get here, compared to the cash price for higher cabins, can be excellent.
There are, of course, some restrictions – mostly to do with which tickets can be upgraded. Flights with British Airways are the most flexible, and all but the lowest (Q, O and G revenue booking classes) can be upgraded. Discount premium economy tickets upgraded to Club World are particularly good value. Avios rates for upgrades are based on the difference between the Avios purchase price for the route and cabins.
Upgrading with Iberia and American Airlines is more restrictive. The ticket needs to be booked through BA and only full fare tickets (in economy Y and B for Iberia and only Y for American, in premium economy only W, and in Business J, C and D) can be upgraded. This certainly limits use, but can still represent good value compared to cash prices.
Use Avios for part payment of tickets
Avios can be used to part pay for a cash ticket. Of course, this means you can choose from any flight or cabin with revenue seats for sale, not just those that have Avios availability. As any frequent BA flier knows, there are often long periods on key routes with no Avios availability.
As part of the booking process, an Executive Club member will be shown the pricing options for this. Rates and value vary on routes and tickets, but it is worth checking. In our experience, you will not get as good value here as with straight Avios redemption – but if you want the better availability of revenue tickets, and perhaps have a large supply of Avios, this is a great option! Plus of course, such tickets with still earn Avios!
Use Avios for hotels or car hire
This is a popular option and BA offers plenty of choice here. In general though, the value you get will not be as good as redeeming for flight or upgrades.
Executive Club allows use of Avios (or part Avios and cash) for hotels and car hire globally. These are booked through a portal on the website, which offers a range of Avios and cash prices. Cars are booked in partnership with Avis and Budget, and BA offer an additional free driver as a benefit with Avis.
Other uses of Avios
There are a few more creative ways you can spend Avios. While it’s unlikely that these will offer great value, it’s still good to have options!
Avios can now be spent in flight for food and drink. BA provide a buy on board paid menu for economy European and UK flights, and items can be paid for in Avios. The rate is £1 for 125 Avios, not terrible, but you can do better!
And for something a bit different, Executive Club also offers Avios redemption for wine purchases and for some interesting ‘experiences’. Options include activities in many cities. In London, for example, offers include attraction tickets and tours, some quite unusual.