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This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

My brother and I are going to Australia in January 2013 for the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. He’s got about ten days, and we decided to see Sydney, The Great Barrier Reef via Cairns, and Melbourne. In a future post I’ll detail how we’re getting to Sydney, and how we’re returning from Melbourne. This post is about traveling within Australia.

The first thing I did was check what it would cost to buy the airfare to go Sydney to Cairns and Cairns to Melbourne (SYD-CNS, CNS-MEL). For the pair of 3 hour flights, it would be $480 per person. Time to look at miles options.

The best airline for domestic routes in Australia is Qantas, which is a member of the oneworld alliance. From that I knew I could use American AAdvantage miles or BA Avios. I checked both charts. AA charges 10k miles per intra-Australia flight, so it would be 20k AA miles plus taxes and fees plus $25 to book over the phone.

BA has a distance based chart, and both flights fall within the 10k Avios band, so it would be 20k Avios plus taxes and fees to book with Avios.

I decided to book with Avios for several reasons:

  1. Avios are worth less than AA miles. On the Mile Value Leaderboard, you can see I value one AA mile at 1.77 cents, and one Avios at 1.70 cents. If the taxes and fees and miles price are the same using two or more currencies, use the currency you value the least. Don’t forget this lesson when trying to decide whether to use US Air or United miles for an award.
  2. The fees on the Avios award were $25 less. You can book a Qantas award on, so there is no phone fee. You can’t book a Qantas award on, so there is a $25 phone fee per person.
  3. There is a 50% transfer bonus from AMEX Membership Rewards points to Avios, so Avios are easy to come by at the moment.
  4. These short hops are what Avios are designed for with their current chart. AAdvantage miles are designed for international premium cabin travel with their current chart.


Having decided to book with Avios, it was a matter of finding award space. I logged into, clicked on Spending Avios, and clicked on Book flights with Avios. It’s best with this multicity itinerary to book one leg at a time. So I filled the screen that appeared like this (see left image):

When the next screen alerted me that BA doesn’t fly that route, I clicked the red button that says Include Partners, which brought up the Qantas results I wanted (see right image).






There were two great direct options as well as tons of connecting options. I selected a direct option, and paid for the ticket.

I then repeated the exact same process for the CNS-MEL leg for the two of us, again scoring a great direct flight.

All told we scored two direct flights for two people on Qantas during peak Australian summer season with BA Avios. We’re going to be able to have the perfect itinerary: a few days in Sydney, a few days snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, and a few days soaking in the most fun tennis major of the year in Melbourne.

Here is some info about the booking:

SYD-CNS-MEL cost in coach per person: $481

My subjective value of the itinerary: at least $481

BA Avios needed per person: 20,000

Total taxes and fees per person: $56

Miles foregone by not purchasing itinerary: 2,654

Cents per point as booked: 1.88! according to the milevalue calculator. (I plugged 481; 56; 20000; 2654 into the calculator. Do you see why?)

I’m pretty happy because 1.88 cents is above my valuation of Avios (1.70 cents). Not bad for a supposedly devalued currency. Also I saved $425, which I plan to spend on sign making materials to root for Rafael Nadal!

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