Long time reader Ken just blew my mind:

“No one in mentioning whether this looming merger will affect redemptions via BA. It seems this may be a great time to focus on Avios. With US Airways switching alliances, there should be more availibility for BA awards?

Any thoughts?”

It took me a bit to catch on, but then I understood: US Airways will join oneworld as part of its merger with American Airlines, but before the merger is completed. The current best guess is that US Airways joins oneworld on November 1, 2013.

And here’s my bold prediction (not guarantee):

When US Airways joins oneworld, we will be able to use British Airways Avios to fly all US Airways flights–including to Europe–with no fuel surcharges.

Why do I predict that? What does it mean for you?

We know that US Airways will join oneworld as the stand-alone carrier US Airways before it completely merges with American Airlines. During that time, Avios will have access to US Airways award space, since US Airways and British Airways will then be partners.

We know how many Avios every US Airways flight will cost because the Avios cost is determined by the distance of a flight.

What we don’t know is whether Avios awards on US Airways flights incur fuel surcharges. Fuel surcharges on international flights are one the scourges of British Airways’ loyalty program.

British Airways collects fuel surcharges on its own flights to Europe as well as flights operated by American, Iberia, and Finnair. For instance one way in business class on American Airlines from Chicago to London booked with Avios costs 40k Avios and $438.

The same flight booked with American Airlines miles would be 50,000 miles and $2.50.

Avios saves you 10k miles, but adds $436 in fuel surcharges.

Because Avios saves miles on direct flights from the Eastern US to Western Europe compared to using American Airlines miles, any partners without fuel surcharges are awesome.

The good news is that British Airways doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on redemptions on airberlin. Airberlin has awesome award space too, so this would be perfect except airberlin’s business class seat is a recliner, which is the worst imaginable business class option to Europe.

On the other hand if Avios could be used to book US Airways flights to Europe, we’d be in heaven since US Airways operates flights from Philadelphia all over Europe and from Charlotte to a few cities. And US Airways’ business class beds are highly-reviewed fully flat beds.

Here’s why I predict that we’ll be able to use Avios without fuel surcharges on US Airways flights:

Many of US Airways’ Star Alliance partners collect massive fuel surcharges on awards just like British Airways does. Among the Star Alliance offenders: Lufthansa Miles & More, Singapore KrisFlyer, Aeroplan, and ANA to name a few.

One thing all those carriers have in common is that they don’t collect fuel surcharges on US Airways flights! That makes sense since US Airways doesn’t include fuel surcharges as part of their ticket prices.

Just the fare and a few international taxes, no fuel surcharges.

So my bold prediction is that US Airways awards to Europe will just cost Avios plus taxes. Taxes will be $2.50 for the eastbound flight and substantially more for the westbound, such that roundtrip taxes will be $50-$300 depending on whether you fly out of a low-tax or high-tax country (UK, France, Germany). You can estimate the taxes by searching for the US Airways award space now on united.com.

How many Avios will the awards cost?

Remember that Avios charges per segment and based on distance. For the direct Philly to Europe flights, the Avios required will be less than a comparable ticket using American Airlines miles.

All the cities pictured below are less than 3,000 miles from Philadelphia meaning a one way ticket on these routes will be 20k/40k Avios in economy/business class. Flights farther east will cost 25k/50k Avios in economy/business.

Image from gcmap.com

Connecting to Philadelphia or from your landing spot in Europe will add to the Avios price. Here’s the Philadelphia Airport wiki page to see everywhere US Airways flies from there.

How Long Will This Deal Last?

If I’m right that US Airways flights will be bookable with Avios without fuel surcharges, it will only last from US Airways entering oneworld to its merger with American Airlines presumably.

That’s because British Airways does collect fuel surcharges on American flights, and I don’t see any reason that would change.

Recap

That’s my bold prediction: US Airways flights will be bookable with Avios with no fuel surcharges from the date US Airways joins oneworld until it merges with American Airlines.

Let’s see whether I’m more Nostradamus or Harold Camping.

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