Avios Redemption University – Lesson 15 – Using Avios for non-stop flights from the UK regions

EDIT:  This article has NOT been updated to reflect the Avios changes which took place on 28th April 2015.  A revised version of the article will be published on Head for Points in late May.

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from themClick here to see the other articles.

When British Airways sold its regional operations to Flybe a few years ago, it became an airline with NO flights which do begin or end in London.  Reward Flight Saver redemptions were designed so that you would not lose out (in terms of Avios) if you lived in the regions – Manchester to London to Nice costs the same as London to Nice – but connecting still adds 2 hours to your travel time.

Luckily, there are some options available.  This article summarises direct flights from the UK regions which can be booked with Avios points.  If you click through the links you will be taken to older Head for Points articles which cover each topic in more depth.

Short haul options

British Airways is, for Summer 2014, running one very obscure regional flight – from Edinburgh to Ibiza!  You can read more about it here.

Vueling offers flights from Cardiff and Edinburgh which can be booked via Iberia Plus, if you transfer your Avios points across using ‘Combine My Avios’.  The current regional routes are:

  • Edinburgh to Barcelona
  • Cardiff to Barcelona, Majorca, Alicante, Malaga

Sun-Air

Sun-Air runs a couple of services to Scandinavia from Manchester.  (The photo above is a Sun-Air flight, operated as a BA franchise in BA colours.)  This can be booked via ba.com.

Finnair runs a Manchester-Helsinki service.  This can be booked via ba.com.

Air Malta (operates Manchester to Malta), Aurigny (the Channel Islands airline, flies from Bristol, Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands and Southampton), Monarch and Flybe are avios.com partners.  You can book flights on these airlines by using ‘Combine My Avios’ to move your points across to avios.com.  This earlier Avios Redemption University article explains more.

Whilst Aer Lingus is a British Airways partner, it does NOT seem possible to book short-haul Aer Lingus seats with Avios.  However, if you live in the regions and want to fly to the US, you should consider an Aer Lingus redemption from Dublin and paying for the connection in cash.

Be wary when redeeming for non-BA European flights.  They are not eligible for Reward Flight Saver (except Sun-Air) and so you need to pay full taxes and charges.  This may mean that you are getting poor value for your Avios.

Long haul options

The continued expansion of the oneworld alliance has opened up some interesting long haul redemption options from the regions.

Qatar Airways joined oneworld in 2013.  They fly from Manchester and will also fly from Edinburgh from May 2014, allowing you to connect in Doha to destinations worldwide.

US Airways joins oneworld in April 2014.  This will allow you to redeem your Avios on these regional departures (full story here):

  • Manchester to Charlotte (starts May 2014)
  • Manchester to Philadelphia
  • Edinburgh to Philadelphia (starts May 2014)
  • Glasgow to Philadelphia
  • Dublin (I know its not UK!) to Philadelphia
  • Dublin (ditto) to Charlotte (seasonal)
  • Shannon (ditto) to Philadelphia (seasonal)

American Airlines has a service from Manchester to New York and Manchester to Chicago.

If I have missed out any long-haul flights from the UK regions flown by other oneworld partners, please let me know and I will update the list.

It is also worth remembering that most oneworld partners fly to other European capitals.  Instead of flying from Manchester to London to pick up a Malaysian Airlines redemption flight to Kuala Lumpur, why not fly Manchester to Amsterdam instead and connect there?  If you separate your tickets, you would make a substantial saving on Air Passenger Duty.

The only thing to check is the type of plane used.  Airlines generally send their newest aircraft to Heathrow because demand and competition is higher.  Routes like Amsterdam often get older equipment with older-style seats – this often means no flat beds in business class, for example.

Amex bans MR transfers to friends from March .... so they must be OK now!
An email from a villa at the Conrad Koh Samui (or, why the Hilton credit card is great)
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Comments

  1. AA fly out of DUB to JFK (again, with the I know it’s not UK caveat…)

  2. American also fly Manchester to Chicago

  3. Raffles, I believe I read somewhere that Jet fly to Mumbai from Birmingham
    and Heathrow and avios can be used with them. ?

  4. To add, Aurigny also fly from Manchester.

  5. Was so excited about QR until I did the maths. For far east at lwast they don’t work. 80k avios ow business class to many destinations compared to 60k on BA. Tax and fees are a bit lower but not enough to cancel out the extra 20k avios.

    • This is because you need to change in Doha and it is priced as 2 flights. Think about starting in Frankfurt. No Air Passenger Duty and it is only 50k Business to Doha compared to 80k from London!

      • Thanks Rob, I was getting somewhat tired of position flights, mostly out of AMS, which were saving me about £100-120 all in. However, It’s different if you want to make a break of it in your European starting city otherwise it’s just prolonged travel and it becomes a bit of a chore with extra uncertainties. Still, I will look at various options starting in FRA and see how they price up. I have never been to Berlin so the AB flight to HKT via AUH may work well for me sometime. The other problem with QR is that most of the DOH- south east Asia connections just trickle over into a higher band too.

  6. Why is it not possible to book, let’s say, GLA-LHR-FRA in BA’s CE (on the 2nd leg) on avios.com? LHR-FRA on its own is no problem in CE nor is booking the whole route on ba.com. I have never been able to book an international BA flight from the regions in CE (on the international leg) on avios.com. Am I doing anything wrong?

    • Avios.com has issues with connections. Do it on ba.com which should be able to cope.

      • That seems like simplest solution and most of the time it may work. However I suspect the reason Volker is trying to use avios.com is probably because for some odd reason (to me at least!) they often have better GLA-LHR availability that BA where it is often attrocious. I have been trying for weeks to change a GLA-LHR-DOH-BKK flight to about a week earlier and I’m flexiblble but only one flight a day GLA-LHR available for the entire two weeks and it doesn’t make the connection. Might be worth calling avios to see if they can help.

        • You are right there, James, that’s one of my reasons. What you can also try when booking Avios redemptions on ba.com: Use the stopover option (stopover in LHR). I have just booked GLA-LHR-TXL (@Raffles: no, I don’t do that 5 times a year 😉 ) and initially (without stopover) the system offered me 1 or 2 flight options, leaving GLA at (for me) pretty inconvenient times. When I opted for a stopover in London, obviously all feeder flights from GLA with reward seat availability came up and I could choose the most convenient flight connection – still travelling onwards the same day as stopover does not necessarily mean overnight stay.

          When you do not opt for a stopover BA’s booking sysytem obviously shows you those connecting flights only that seem sensible in their eyes, it can be really odd at times.

          • Just tried this out for GLA – NYC in October and it brought up a load of flights to LCY, which don’t normally see, however it was all LCY flights! Then needed to get to LHR.

            Then for LHR to NYC it brought up a whole range of options, direct and via Boston and Toronto.

            A rather mad set of results on this search, but looks a great tip when it works out and will add this to the tricks for searching reward flights.

          • Yes, that’s fine because it’s 2 sectors, but what I need is GLA-LHR-XXX-YYY. Could I ever do that on ba.com? Perhaps I am just confusing it with aa.com ehere you can, albeit with a limitted range of partners.

  7. what are the taxes like compared to BA flights to America for say Manchester to Philly, are they a similar level , or cheaper like on Virgin? We want to go to US next year family of 4 ecomomy but can’t decide whether to go with Virgin or use Avios.

    • I would imagine that BA will ensure the taxes are the same as BA flights. Virgin taxes are likely, for economy, to remain £100 per person lower.

    • Lady London says:

      And Tesco points convert to Virgin at a better rate, than to Avios

  8. Another important consideration when using BA website and being offered differing airlines for the same route – they don’t all cost the same avios and same fees. Perhaps I discovered one of the more extreme examples, this on the KUL to HKG route (direct flight, no stops):

    Business class
    Return ticket with MAS: 40,000 plus £112
    Return with CX: 40,000 plus £55

    Mix it up and fly out with MAS, return with CX (as one booking): 70,000 plus £83!

    But book them as individual flights to get the pick of the best aircraft (certain CX flights use the new long haul cabin, and MAS have one A380 on the route) and you get it:

    Using CX to HKG: 20,000 avios and £28 plus
    MAS to KUL: 20,000 avios and £54

    So, booking this way costs the same 40,000 avios and £82! I actually chose this option to get the CX long haul business cabin and the MAS A380 First class cabin (which obviously then required more avios to use first), seeing as the opportunity was there.

    • Interesting, I never do returns but will look out for such issues if I do. Thanks for the tip. I flew MH from HKT-KUL-LHR-GLA in December taking the a380 F. It was fantastic, my best ever flight and the service was great, mind you I slept for 9 hours. Paid only 70k AA miles and IIRC about £93 tax and fees.

    • Why would you ever book a return on Avios, since it’s always at least double the one-way?

      I can only think of if you’re not BA Gold and you want to change / cancel BOTH legs, you only need to pay once, but not sure if that is true or not

      • The point is to not assume booking a return flight is the cheapest method, sometime mixing up the airlines out and in can give a better result.

        Raffles has given a post on this on the past for a flight to Spain with a mix of BA and Iberia flights.

  9. Just to say and I wrote to Simon Calder about this as he did an article in the telegraph that you get ‘free connection’ from the regions using Avios. Same as saying in this article people in the regions are not ‘disadvantaged’ because you are and this is why!

    You are allowed 2 legs per sector in the current BA Avios scheme. I should mention it used to be 3 legs per sector in the old scheme. I used this once to do MCO>MIA>JFK>MAN on a return sector of. A redemption booking. You couldn’t do this now in fact as it’s too many legs.

    Last year I booked MAN to ALC via LHR. At the time I went the route was via MAD. So going LON>MAD>ALC was the only redemption. I went business so 18000 tier point return. I always check the London route first but I generally come from Manchester. When I added this to MAN>LHR>MAD>ALC it went up to 36000 and fee doubled!

    At first I thought it was a bug and so made a call. BA even got their technical IT people involved and then we all found out it was because I had exceeded 2 legs! Which was the new limit and not 3. In addition the system favoured the cheaper domestic for one booking and tried it charge me a full business redemption for MAD to ALC! So I had to manually do MAN>LHR in end to get best deal!

    So to sum up travelling from a region is not at all ‘Free’ you are simply using up a leg. And you do get disadvantaged if you need another Leg as part of the trip out if London. So you are actually disadvantaged than if just going from London.

    • They could fix this quite easily if they wanted. For example, on AA I believe that if you use the multisector search and include gateway cities it will price them up and recognise them as free stopovers rather than two separate redemptions. If they can do this there is no reason why BA cannot price up domestic-LHR and LHR-domestic etc as free connections allowing a further two sectors. Currently this is making me crazy. Last night I though I might get around it by using a stopover at LHR but no joy with that either. It looks like I have to wait and see if BKK-LHR-GLA becomes available with BA or pay two separate redemptions for BKK-HEL/HKG/KUL/DOG/AMM-LHR-GLA which are all readily available at the moment.

      • Lady London says:

        Is EDI any better if it’s close enough by land to GLA to use? Are there any minor Scottish airports you could also use?

        • Dependa where you live, but EDI is not even convenient for Edinburgh! GLA is the more user-friendly; you can turn up 45 minutes before departure and it’ still stress-free. Edinburgh has more flights to more places and presumably now a better lounge. Fast track at EDI, or lack if it in the real sense is a PITA. With QR EDI is now one stop to almost all of their destinations so can do the two sectors ok but at higher cost.

          • I’ve always found Fast Track at EDI pretty good, TBH. More time to spend in the nice new lounge as a result! :-)

          • Do you get it with BA? My reflections were ftom fays I was flying BD and LH when it seemed only easyjet and some parking arrangement had access.

          • Yep, no issue getting in with BA/OW status. Sadly if flying KL to AMS then Sky Priority doesn’t get you in though. Not sure re flying UA.

    • Talking about being disadvantaged: You are REALLY disadvantaged if you live near a regional British airport which is not served by BA anymore (as Raffles said “British Airways sold its regional operations to Flybe a few years ago…”), for example SYY, LSI, BRR, BEB… If you are very lucky, you can find a reward flight from those to GLA (4500 Avios on avios.com), but you can’t even get SYY-GLA-LHR on ba.com using Avios… I might move to London one day 😀

      • Maybe you should vote for Scottish independence :p

        • Well, there is talk of scraping/reducing APD!

        • Haha John, I have never thought about the impact of Scottish independence on my travels! Surely we would get a few more international non-stop flights from GLA or EDI. If Alex Salmond’s dream comes true, one day I might be writing a comment on HFP while sitting at the Loganair lounge in GLA waiting for my my first flight to LAX on Loganair’s brand new A380 (travelling in F, of course). Hope they will be a OneWorld Alliance member by then… 😀

          • Maybe Alex will bring back Caledonian Airways, there just isn’t enough tartan on planes these days.

          • In a sense it is probably not as far-fetched as it sounds. If EK can fly from Milan to New York and make it work then why not Glasgow to Canada?

  10. Aurigny fly from Stansted too :-)

  11. Also a reminder of Prospero’s now truly excellent resource, inspired by Raffles, to find best value Avios redemptions from alternative airports by splitting the booking (Avios+Avios or cash+Avios):

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1527161-selecting-redemption-destinations-edges-pricing-bands.html

    Often a low-cost hop from a regional airport can save big chunks of Avios and fees. We really need an app to combine this collective wisdom.

    • Yes, I am trying to think of a way of getting these charts used more widely. However, I don’t want to abuse the copyright of the FT images, and as they are all in the same FT post it is difficult to link directly to one chart.

      I will think of something, even if it means recreating the charts to avoid the copyright issue. (Prosero wouldn’t sue me, but I don’t trust Internet Brands so much!)

  12. timezonehopper says:

    Hi Raffles

    there is a direct MAN-ORD with AA too (I’ll be on it tomorrow!).

    • timezonehopper says:

      Oops sorry, I had an earlier version of this page loaded in my browser, I see that someone else beat me to it.

      • We were in the cheap seats on this flight a few days ago (20k AA miles + ~£75 each) – hardly anyone on the flight… made it so much more bearable! :)

        One thing to note is we did NOT get pizza pre-landing!!!! Gutted, one of the best things about AA economy to Chicago, though can’t remember if we usually do it on a 757 from MAN :(