Welcome to Trip Essentials!

How to maximize the British Airways distance-based award chart


Looking for business-class flights to Europe from just 50,000 points each way?

British Airways is the largest full-service airline in the United Kingdom and flies to more destinations in the United States than any other European carrier.

The airline’s loyalty program is called the Executive Club, and the program’s currency is called Avios. With a huge route network and a loyalty currency that is easy to earn and redeem, it is a program that should be on your radar, even if you aren’t traveling to the U.K.

Rather than dynamic pricing with 300,000+ point flight redemptions, British Airways retains a distance-based award chart that lets you fly for next to nothing in some of the world’s most expensive markets. Knowing how to use it can go a long way toward getting maximum value for your Avios.

In this guide, we’ll look closely at how this works so you can redeem British Airways Avios for your next trip.

Earning Avios

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

There are many ways to earn Avios for your next trip, even if you aren’t planning any British Airways (or other Oneworld carrier) flights in the near future.

Credit cards

The easiest way to earn a meaningful number of Avios for everyday spending is by applying for the British Airways Visa Signature Card.

This card — issued by Chase and, therefore, subject to the 5/24 rule — is currently offering new applicants 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. TPG values Avios at 1.5 cents each, making the full bonus worth $1,125.

The British Airways Visa Signature has a $95 annual fee and earns 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Level. Plus, you can earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. All other purchases earn 1 Avios per $1 spent.

Daily Newsletter

Rewarding reading in less than 5 minutes

Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts

Transferable rewards cards

Savvy TPG readers know that we usually recommend sticking with cards that earn transferable points because of the added flexibility they offer. This strategy still applies if you’re trying to accrue Avios. British Airways is a transfer partner of Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making Avios one of the easiest currencies to earn.

Points transfer from Capital One, Chase, Bilt and Amex at a 1:1 ratio (in addition to occasional transfer bonuses of up to 40%), while Marriott points transfer to Avios at a 3:1 ratio. Plus, you’ll get a 5,000-Avios bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

The following cards all currently offer strong welcome bonuses that you could easily convert to Avios:

You can also purchase Avios, which are often on sale.

The basics

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

As noted above, British Airways uses a distance-based formula for calculating how many Avios you need for a given flight. To maximize value with this chart type, you need to take a different approach than you would with zone-based charts or dynamic pricing.

British Airways Avios are typically most valuable on short, nonstop routes where cash fares are expensive. You can use a resource like Great Circle Mapper to calculate the distance of each flight segment to determine the zone it would fall into.

British Airways’ sweet spots are different compared to other programs. Instead of focusing on specific countries or even entire continents, distance-based sweet spots tend to be individual city pairs that are close enough to avoid bumping into the next pricing tier — especially if paid tickets are usually pricey on those routes.

Related: Sweet Spot Sunday: US to Ireland from 13,000 Avios each way

Award charts

With this in mind, let’s dive into specific award charts. We’ll start with the one used for flights on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, though significant fuel surcharges often complicate these redemptions. Each price is in Avios and applies to one-way flights.

Zone (distance in miles) Economy (off-peak) Economy (peak) Premium economy (off-peak) Premium economy (peak) Business class (off-peak) Business class (peak) First class (off-peak) First class (peak)
Zone 1 (1 to 650) 4,750 5,250 8,500 9,750
Zone 2 (651 to 1,151) 7,250 8,250 13,000 15,750
Zone 3 (1,152 to 2,000) 10,000 12,500 17,750 20,750
Zone 4 (2,001 to 3,000) 10,000 12,500 20,000 25,000 31,250 37,500 42,500 50,000
Zone 5 (3,001 to 4,000) 13,000 20,000 26,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 68,000 80,000
Zone 6 (4,001 to 5,500) 16,250 25,000 32,500 50,000 62,500 75,000 85,000 100,000
Zone 7 (5,501 to 6,500) 19,500 30,000 39,000 60,000 75,000 90,000 102,000 120,000
Zone 8 (6,501 to 7,000) 22,750 35,000 45,500 70,000 87,500 105,000 119,000 140,000
Zone 9 (7,001 and up) 32,500 50,000 65,000 100,000 125,000 150,000 170,000 200,000

Note that there are different prices for peak and off-peak dates. Generally speaking, you’ll find peak dates during the summer and school holidays. Off-peak pricing usually applies during the fall and winter months.

You will also be given the option to redeem more Avios towards fees, taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges thanks to the Reward Flight Saver offer.

Next, look at the award chart for flights operated by a single partner airline (other than Aer Lingus and Iberia, who use the chart above). This used to be the same as the above chart (with only peak pricing applied). But in 2019, British Airways implemented a new chart with slightly higher rates. Rates vary a bit by airline now, but here’s what the single partner award chart generally looks like now:

Zone (distance in miles) Economy Premium economy Business First
Zone 1 (1 to 650) 6,000 / 7,500** 9,000 12,500 24,000
Zone 2 (651 to 1,151) 9,000 12,500 16,500 33,000
Zone 3 (1,152 to 2,000) 11,000 16,500 22,000 44,000
Zone 4 (2,001 to 3,000) 13,000 25,250 38,750 51,500
Zone 5 (3,001 to 4,000) 20,750 41,250 62,000 82,500
Zone 6 (4,001 to 5,500) 25,750 51,500 77,250 103,000
Zone 7 (5,501 to 6,500) 31,000 62,000. 92,750 123,750
Zone 8 (6,501 to 7,000) 36,250 72,250 108,250 144,250
Zone 9 (7,001 and up) 51,500 103,000 154,500 206,000

** Zone 1 award flights to, from or within North America cost 7,500 Avios.

For both of the above award charts, pricing applies to each flight in an itinerary. The distance isn’t cumulative across the entire trip. British Airways prices every segment individually, so you’ll want to stick to nonstop routings whenever possible.

Related: 4 versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Qatar Airways, Iberia and British Airways

For example, say you wanted to fly from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). This flight covers 992 miles and would require 9,000 Avios per the chart above. However, suppose you could only find award availability on a connecting flight through Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). In that case, you’d fly 89 more miles but pay over 65% more Avios for your trip.

Here’s how the pricing works:

  • Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte: Covers 632 miles (7,500 Avios)
  • Charlotte to Philadelphia: Covers 449 miles (7,500 Avios)
  • Total cost: 15,000 Avios

As such, the best value tends to come from nonstop flights.

Redeeming inside the US

MARKUS MAINKA/SHUTTERSTOCK

As mentioned above, British Airways prices flights in North America slightly differently than in the rest of the world. Zone 1 flights — those that cover 650 miles or less — typically require 4,750 to 5,250 Avios for economy on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus or 6,000 Avios on most other partners.

However, British Airways prices nonstop economy Zone 1 flights within North America at 7,500 Avios. Then, Zone 2 flights and higher use the same pricing as other partner airlines. Despite this restriction, you can still get solid value if you can find saver-level award space with American Airlines.

Short flights

With Zone 1 economy flights in the U.S. pricing at 7,500 Avios and Zone 2 pricing at 9,000 Avios, you should be able to fly out of virtually any American Airlines hub to dozens of destinations.

This opens up some cool options, including any New York airport to Miami International Airport (MIA) or Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for only 9,000 Avios in economy class.

This also applies to short-haul international flights. For example, TPG’s Nick Ewen frequently uses just 7,500 Avios for American Airlines flights to the Caribbean. In the past few years, he’s booked award flights from Miami to the following destinations:

  • Providenciales International Aiport (PLS) in the Turks and Caicos
  • Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) in St. Croix
  • Cozumel Airport (CZM) in Mexico

Read more: Why Avios are my favorite type of rewards as a South Florida resident

Domestic lie-flat business class

In 2016, AA made a minor change to its fare classes that had practically no effect on the AAdvantage program but was great news for British Airways fans.

Specifically, the airline changed how its domestic first-class seats are coded, from F (first class) to J (business class). Add in the fact that American routinely flies internationally-configured, wide-body jets on domestic routes and some interesting options start to appear.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

For instance, some daily frequencies between New York and Miami are often operated by a 777-200. This plane features one of American’s best international business-class products. You can book that flight in business class for only 16,500 Avios (yes, you read that correctly).

West Coast to Hawaii

Just because we’re talking about flights within the U.S., that doesn’t mean you can’t have a tropical vacation. Hawaii is close to several West Coast cities (less than 3,000 miles) and you can book economy awards for only 13,000 Avios each way.

American Airlines serves several Hawaiian destinations from its Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Phoenix Sky Harbour (PHX) hubs. In addition to Los Angeles, Alaska Airlines also flies nonstop to multiple Hawaiian airports from San Diego International Airport (SAN), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Portland International Airport (PDX) — among others.

Redeeming outside the US

JIMMOYHT/SHUTTERSTOCK

British Airways’ international partners span the globe, so some of the best British Airways redemptions are bound to come from international travel.

4,500-Avios awards

These low-priced awards are especially useful in pricey markets, such as travel within Europe or Asia. Generally, you want to look for a Oneworld hub airport like Iberia’s home in Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) or Japan Airlines’ hubs in Tokyo.

Air Lingus sweet spots

The British Airways award chart has peak and off-peak pricing, which also applies to flights on Iberia and Aer Lingus. As a result, nonstop flights between the East Coast and Chicago to Ireland have become incredibly attractive, with transatlantic economy awards starting at just 13,000 Avios each way on off-peak dates.

Booking a round-trip, nonstop flight from multiple U.S. cities to Ireland starting at 26,000 Avios is phenomenal. Just note that you must call to redeem British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus-operated flights.

Multi-city trips

As highlighted above, British Airways charges separately for every segment. More stops require more Avios, even if your origin and final destination are the same. However, this pricing approach allows you to book unlimited stopovers or open jaws on your award tickets.

Multicarrier awards exception

It’s important to note that British Airways has yet another award chart that only applies to award tickets with two or more Oneworld airlines. Unlike the standard award prices above, these multicarrier reward flights use cumulative distance to determine how many Avios you need.

While this typically offers a poor value proposition, there are times when you should use it — like if you’re booking a round-the-world ticket. Check out TPG’s full guide to the British Airways multicarrier award chart for more information.

Bottom line

When people think of British Airways’ loyalty program, many assume you’d want to use Avios for transatlantic trips to Europe. But that’s not necessarily the best way to use them.

Long-haul flights cost increasingly more under the distance-based Avios chart. Plus, British Airways tacks on large surcharges to those transatlantic flights.

By employing the above tips, you can maximize your Avios and the British Airways chart without spending a lot of cash.

Additional reporting by Ben Smithson

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Tripessentials
Logo
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0
Shopping cart