In Part 1, we looked at the mechanics of the Avios program and how it compared to the AAdvantage program (another oneworld program.) In Part 2, we’ll build on the rules of the Avios program to discover what awards they imply are the best values. In Part 3, we’ll value specific Avios awards. In Part 4, I’ll put one number on the value of an Avios. And in posts later in the week, I’ll list every possible redemption from NYC and LA with Avios.
Because of the rules of the program, the following types of awards are the best value with Avios:
1) Short distances- Flights under 650 miles cost 4,500 Avios. Flights 651-1151 miles cost 7,500 Avios. No other program can match those redemptions for low mileage cost. Example: Charlottesville, VA to Chicago (CHO-ORD) is 567 miles each way. Instead of costing $296 r/t on American. It costs 9,000 Avios plus $5.
2) One ways- One ways can be obtained for half the cost of r/t in the Avios program. With cash, a one way sometimes costs more than a r/t. Example: CHO-ORD one way costs $376 on American. More than the r/t above! It costs 4,500 Avios plus $2.50.
3) Stopovers- Every flight costs miles with an Avios redemption, so a connecting flight costs the same amount as two direct flights with a stopover. With cash, the stopover will probably cost you a ton more than a normal connecting flight. Example: CHO-ORD on Friday, ORD-DFW on Sunday. It costs $766 on American. Or it costs 12,000 (4,500 CHO-ORD + 7,500 ORD-DFW) Avios plus $5.
4) Coach flights and really nice business class flights- As we learned in post 1, Avios has a bad multiplier for premium classes. Business class cost 2x a coach Avios ticket. First class cost 3x a coach Avios ticket. In other programs, the multipliers are smaller. This means, relatively, Avios is a better redemption for coach tickets, and other programs are relatively better deals for first class on three-cabin planes. If you decide to book a business class ticket with Avios, make sure it is a premium business class that offers fully flat seats like LAN airlines, which doesn’t have first class. As we learned in post 1, Avios annoyingly decides whether a class is business or first based on what the airline calls it! So LAX-HNL on a two-cabin plane that has “first class” seats with 38″ of pitch costs three times the coach price. For this reason, Avios is a bad redemption for domestic “first class” on American. Example: ORD-DFW r/t in economy class vs. first class. In economy it costs 15,000 Avios and $5. In first class, it costs 45,000 Avios and $5.
5) Close in tickets- Flight prices go through the roof just a day or two from travel. But Avios prices don’t change. Avios doesn’t even add a close in ticketing fee like some programs. Example: There is space today 3/20/12 on CHO-ORD for 4,500 Avios and $2.50. That flight is $376 on AA.com.
6) Flights from the closest edge of one region to the closest edge of another region- Since Avios is now distance based and not region based, flights that were once not fantastic deals because they were on the closest edges of their respective regions, may now be fantastic deals. Example: Miami to Quito on American. This flight is $1601 on AA.com or 10,000 Avios plus $2.50.
7) Routes that are monopolies of a oneworld airline- These shorthaul routes are often extremely expensive because of lack of competition. Avios makes them cheap. Example: intra-Australia Sydney-Cairns and Cairns-Melbourne. On Qantas, the itinerary I wanted in January 2013 cost $482. It cost me 20,000 Avios plus $56.
eight) If you have to connect, go business long, coach short- Under Avios, each flight has a cost in Avios and the total cost of the award is the sum of the segments’ cost. Take advantage of this to mix and match cabins. For instance, you can fly JFK-LIM in LAN’s business class with fully flat seats and then connect to Cuzco (CUZ) in coach. LIM-CUZ is a one hour flight, why waste the extra miles to fly that in business class. Total cost: 44,500 Avios plus taxes and fees. 4,500 Avios saved by taking LIM-CUZ in coach.
9) Routes without fuel surcharges- I saved the biggest for last. Fuel surcharges kill the value of Avios for redemptions to Europe and Africa. They hurt Avios’ value to Asia, but don’t kill it. The best areas for redemptions, then, are the areas where you won’t get hit with surcharges. These areas are intra-US, intra-Australia, US-South America, and US-Central America. Focus on redeeming in these areas.
Continue to Part 3.