How Rick used his Avios for a round-the-world trip before devaluation

Practical ‘how I used my miles’ stories seem to be popular with HFP readers, so when reader Rick sent an email to show me a complex trip he had booked, I asked if I could run it as an article.  I have edited it so please blame me for any errors!  Remember that most of the Avios prices quoted in this article will increase on April 28th.

“I wanted to let you know about a trip I’ve booked – to travel around the world – just in case anyone is stuck with ideas of what to do with their Avios points and, in my case, 50,000 American Airlines miles …

With the Avios devaluation on the way, I thought I would try and make the best use of the points that I have. I have more than two weeks of vacation to use and the original plan was to visit Japan for the first time.  It turned into a round-the-world trip!

I had 53,000 American miles and 130,000 Avios points. My initial idea was to use the AA miles to go from Helsinki to Tokyo with Finnair in business class (avoiding UK taxes), and then backtrack with Avios, using Japan Airlines or Cathay, ideally stopping off at Doha for a couple of days, and then back to England.

That was the initial idea.  This is what happened in the end:

I didn’t have enough AA miles in my account to fly from Helsinki to Tokyo in business class.  I was preparing to book an economy seat when I started playing around with a few other destinations.

I discovered that I could fly from London to Dubai in a Qantas A380 in business class for just 30,000 AA miles plus a couple of hundred pounds of charges.

Qantas A380

However, as the American Airlines scheme is region based, you can add on segments within a region for minimal cost. With Newcastle being my closest airport, adding on a free NCL to LHR domestic flight would have been the obvious choice.

I had a better idea.  I had, separately, been planning a trip to Athens.  Athens to Dubai via London priced at just 30,000 American Airlines miles plus £89.   I pay less tax and I get a flight to Athens in Club Europe as well as my Qantas flight.

That gets me to Dubai.  There are loads of daily flights between Dubai and Doha – I can pay for one of these in the future or do a 4,500 Avios redemption on Qatar.

Qatar 350
I would then need to get to Tokyo from Doha. I’ve not been to Beijing before, and I discovered that you can now enter Beijing visa free for 72 hours. And the cost – in Avios points – of flying Doha to Beijing to Tokyo is only 10,000 more than the direct Doha to Tokyo.  So, it would be stupid not to go via Beijing? Right? I’ve not been to Beijing before either.

Doha to Beijing in business class on Qatar is 40,000 Avios points plus £110.  It is 20,000 Avios points plus £30 to get from Beijing to Tokyo, in business class, with Japan Airlines.

JAL Japan Airlines

Job done.  I had my original plan of a week in Japan and a few days in Doha, and I had managed to add a few days in Athens and a few days in Beijing too.

Now I needed to get back home. Or rather Estonia, as I’d like to attend a conference in Tallinn next spring.

I had 23,000 American Airlines miles left. Playing around with the AA system, and knowing that you could have multiple US segments and multiple European segments,  I managed to book Honolulu to Los Angeles to London to Helsinki to Tallinn (all economy) for the princely sum of 20,000 American Airlines miles and £31.90. I kid you not.

And, of course, there are plenty of Japan Airlines flights from Tokyo to Hawaii.

So, a ten day trip to Japan and Qatar has turned into a three week trip with extra visits to Greece, LA and Hawaii:

Newcastle to Athens in economy class – 10,000 Avios plus £18, flying BA
Athens to London to Dubai in business class – 30,000 AA miles plus £89, flying BA and Qantas
Dubai to Doha – to book
Doha to Beijing in business class – 40,000 Avios points plus £110, flying Qatar
Beijing to Tokyo in business class – 20,000 Avios points plus £18, flying Japan Airlines
Tokyo to Honolulu in business class – 40,000 Avios points plus £60, flying Japan Airlines
Honolulu to LA to London to Helsinki to Tallinn in economy class – 20,000 AA miles plus £32, flying AA and Finnair

…. and fingers crossed, I’ll get to the conference with a couple of days to spare too :)”

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

Is the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels loyalty scheme worth a look?
BA American Express bonuses increased to 9,000 & 25,000 Avios
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Actually, many of the best value redemptions on this itinerary are with AA, whose programme will not devalue (I hope!) on April 28th. If it does, I would expect that to be done without notice.

  2. Paul Irving says:

    How do you book the HNL trip to Helsinki for so cheap, I would love to move som MR points over and do this as HNL to LAX is 12,500 Miles on its own.

    • Avios charges by sector (ie flight). AA charges between start point and end point, however many flights are involved (within the rules).

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        Indeed, my upcoming award on QF (using AA miles) has some time in NZ tacked on, as it cost exactly the same (80k each way in First) as Australia from LHR. Booked it up in anticipation of a devaluation, as James67 says below.

        The miles were easy to come by though, 35k from the credit card last year, the majority of the remainder from flying (AA, US, BA & AY credit at 100% flown miles as a minimum, QF at 25%, with 100% bonus for PLT/EXP – I expect this to devalue at some point too!).

        • Paul Irving says:

          So LHR in first to NZ is only 160,000 return in first? Wow. What is it in biz class?

          • 120k AA return in business IIRC – this is why all the US bloggers travel in F so much, the difference in redemption cost is minimal compared to when using Avios!

          • [See response to comments below]

          • Sorry – so are you saying you use Avios to book AA redemptions here on other airlines?

            Raffles (as I can’t take the comments deeper!) – no. You CAN use Avios to book AA flights but at the BA pricing bands and only via ba.com. Apart from Etihad and a few minor partners, any redemption you can book using AA miles can be booked with Avios but the pricing and taxes will be totally different.

            Note that AA is widely expected to undertake a massive devaluation, to match United and Delta, once the merger with US Airways is complete.

          • And I checked on the AA website for a LHR > AKL return in F. Came back as Qantas via DXB…

            Raffles (as comments blocked going deeper!) – it will probably price it differently though. As Andy says below “Europe to South Pacific is only transitable Asia and not Middle East.”

          • Yes, QF is a special case although they don’t permit stopovers en route, it’s only the all in one services to/from LHR I think? So I think it therefore wasn’t of use to Rick.

    • James67 says:

      You cannot transfer MR pointd into AA miles so you would first need to get them some other way such as purchasing them during current promotion, transferring in from SPG or taking out the credit card if a better sign up promotion comes along. I expect AA will devalue markedly sometime this year.

  3. Great article however I’m curious about what websites were used to achieve this? I’ve always just used the BA website as I assumed this was the easiest way but after seeing this I’m guessing this isn’t the case?

    • Well, if you are spending AA miles you’ll have to start off with the AA website.

      • No. You need to check AA partner flights on BA and Qantas web sites then phone AA to book . AA no longer charge the phone booking fee for partner flights that can’t be booked online

        • You really should check your facts before correcting someone… You can book the AA itinerary from this post on AA.com without having to call anyone. You can also book Qantas on AA.com.

  4. erico1875 says:

    With all the doom and gloom relating to points collecting, this cheered me up.

  5. well done ! Great story!

  6. A great story – thanks for sharing Rick. I hope you get some OpUps for the Y flights.

  7. Well done to Rick! Great story and hope he has a memorable trip!

  8. Mikeact says:

    Excellent, that’s the way to do it !

  9. Mr Bridge says:

    out of all of these flights, how much of your ‘vacation time’ was spent at secutiry, immigration and customs

    • Trip length is not specified, it could easily be weeks if not months. But even if less than 2 weeks, time spent at airports will be minimal. I mean, I’ve been to Australia for the weekend to attend things… … keep things in perspective: Just because something involves lots of flights, does not mean someone is wasting their time.

    • He wanted to go to all of those places. Doha and Beijing were not necessary but saved probably at least £500 over cheapest alternative which might have been in Y.

      • I’ve just booked another Middle East review trip for December which will be one day flying, one day on a beach, another day flying. Not a hardship given the tickets I have booked!

  10. Inspirational ! Thanks for sharing Rick and for publishing Raffles. More of the same please… With all the recent changes a number of us may need to rethink why we are in this game. This type of story opens my mind to alternatives. Headforpoints to the rescue again !

  11. It’s horses for courses I guess, but I don’t think I’d backtrack ATH-LHR-DXB with 3.5hrs of CE and use up 30k AA in the process. ATH-DOH J would only be Avios and less hassle (4hr QR A330 old-J). Those 30k AA would the. Let you upgrade all that Y flying back from HNL to J.

  12. What's the Point says:

    Slightly smaller scale, but I am happy with the following for next March/April (Mrs WTP + I)

    LHR to DOH in CW (outbound 2for1) 40,000 Avios
    DOH to MLE Qatar Econ for 25,000 Avios
    MLE to CMB Sri Lanka Econ for 9,000 Avios
    CMB to MCT Sri Lanka Econ for 20,000 Avios
    MCT to LHR in CW (inbound 2for1) 40,000 Avios

    Total Avios spent 134,000 + £1,328 in taxes. Across 19 days.

  13. Phillip says:

    Any reason why Rick didn’t add the DXB-DOH segment to the AA redemption (Athens to Doha via LHR and DXB)?

    Aadvantage is a fantastic programme for redeeming at the moment, however, there is no doubt a devaluation is on its way now that the merger with US is being completed. It just remains to be seen what degree of slaughtering will happen.

    • You can’t transfer in the Middle East (I think ….)

      • You can transfer within the region that bookends the award. The AA region restrictions only come into play when you are transiting a third region, eg Europe to South Pacific is only transitable Asia and not Middle East. I’ve booked FCO AMM AUH using AAdvantage just fine.

        Maybe Rick wanted a stopover in Dubai though?

  14. Simon85 says:

    Excellent deal and food for thought given all the doom and gloom surrounding avios redemptions post-devaluation. Wouldn’t want to fly all that in economy myself though!

  15. Hi! It’s Rick here! I just thought I’d reply to a few of the questions and comments:

    1. On ‘how I did it’: I used the interactive map on the OneWorld website, and much of it was due to trial and error! I used the OneWorld map to find city pairs, then tapped those city pairs into the BA website to find out how much Avios [and taxes] would be needed, and then tapped the same pairs into the AA website to find out how many AA miles [and taxes] would be needed.

    2. The trip is for spring 2016, and, as I didn’t want to be in planes the whole time, I’ve budgeted 3 nights in Athens and Beijing, 6 nights in Japan, 6 nights in Doha/Dubai area, 3 in Beijing, 3 in Honolulu, and 3 in Tallinn.

    3. On backtracking from Athens to Dubai instead of Athens to Doha: in hindsight, this would have been better. The Qatar flight would have been 20,000 Avios plus £105. What swayed it was that I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to spend in Qatar, and haven’t been to Dubai for a few years or so. I’ve ‘left my options open’ with this bit. Also, the LHR > DXB segment is on the Qantas A380, which did appeal too, for the 30k miles and £89 from Athens.

    4. On not adding Doha to the Dubai flight with AA: again, it’s because I wanted to leave options open Doha/Dubai, and couldn’t ‘stopover’ in Dubai on the AA ticket, [at least I couldn’t work out how to do so].

    5. Everything was booked using AA website [for AA mile rewards] and BA website [for BA Avios rewards]

    6. On the trip back from HNL to TLL: at one point, I was going to use the 50k AA miles to do this in business class. My logic at the time was: HNL to TLL in business for 50k, OR HNL to TLL in economy AND ATH to DXB in business for 50k. And, also, with this trip, being 11 months away, I wanted to try and keep options open, and limit future losses [in case some bits of it need cancelling or changing].

    7. I didn’t spend much time on this – 3 hours last Sunday morning. If I had more time to spend planning, I would probably have done things a bit differently, and combined reward bookings with cash bookings too. In the end – the taxes are pretty low, and, apart from previously visiting Dubai [and transiting in Doha], I’ve not visited any of the other cities before. So what all started out as a trip to Japan, turned into something a bit bigger!

    • mikeact says:

      Sadly, the key to this for me is AA. I now regret giving them up when I moved back to the UK and locking into KL/AF instead.

    • HI Rick, welldone! I am just trying to replicate your itinerary out of curiosity and got some other nice ideas/deals on the way on AA BUT as a starter, i get charged 17.5+20k for the HON-LAX-LON sectors+10k each for HEL/TLL. how to make one single redemption for 20k from HON to TLL?

      • got it, i was segmenting the flight rather than choosing HON-TLL straight away.

        anyone knows if it is possible to get CX via AA from EU? trying but the only options i got are Finnair/BA working to Asia.

  16. Rick

    Well done for organising this and for writing about this.

  17. AmandaB says:

    Oh boy! This looks so complicated to me! In the US there are companies that help you get the best value from your miles, and advise on routes etc, for a fee of-course. Does anyone know of a similar award booking service for the UK market? Every time I book an award I wonder if I could have got a better deal……Thanks

    • Phillip says:

      I think you’ll find there isn’t particular appetite in the UK for such services because most UK Frequent Flyer programmes are simpler than the US ones. That said, the complexities of US programmes does mean more options.

    • AmandaB ! What a great idea for a UK business opportunity. How I wish somebody could make this work if only for those of us time and idea poor!

    • Reason it works in U.S. is the number of convertible currencies – Amex plus Chase plus SPG is more popular. If all you have is Avios there isn’t much such a service can offer you.

    • BlueHorizonUK says:

      There is one launching soon, site currently in beta. http://bluehorizon.travel

  18. Phillip says:

    I agree that AAdvantage redemptions play a big part in this overall trip, but don’t underestimate the saving of booking the Avios redemptions now. Longhaul, premium cabin redemptions on partners are affected the most and the two 40k redemptions on Qatar and Japan Airlines will cost 60k each from 28 April. That’s a saving of 40k Avios between them by booking them now!

  19. Lady London says:

    Wondering would ATH-DXB have been cheaper just buying a cash ticket. Then saving those AA miles to upgrade HNL-TLL with all those stops, into Business. That’s a h*** of a trip and I enjoyed hearing about it.

  20. Sounds like a cracking trip. I hope you enjoy it, Rick.