The general mantra about using airline miles, especially those like Avios which impose hefty fuel surcharges, goes like this – ‘redeeming for Economy flights is a waste of miles’.
In general, of course, this is true. When I was looking at Lufthansa flights to Salzburg for our February holiday, it wanted over £200 in tax for an economy short-haul redemption, a truly ludicrous figure.
British Airways managed to knock this on the head for short-haul redemptions by introducing Reward Flight Saver. By capping taxes on European flights at £35 in Economy / Euro Traveller, you will usually be getting around 1p per Avios of value.
This is ‘real’ value as you would otherwise have bought the ticket for cash – not ‘finger in the air’ value based on some notional value of how much you would pay for a business class seat.
Because many of us do not look at economy long-haul flight prices, the hike in pricing for peak season in the last year or so may have passed you by.
You also need to remember that long-haul economy redemptions using Avios points actually got cheaper in the devaluation last April as long as you choose an off-peak date. Fuel surcharges have also come down by £60 over the last 18 months.
Today I thought I would see if we really have been unfair in dismissing economy redemptions as poor value. (We haven’t been unfair in dismissing them as uncomfortable, of course!)
Here is a sample of British Airways pricing from their Low Fare Finder tool.
These are the CHEAPEST economy return tickets available during August at the present time. Remember that these flights may be at inconvenient times or inconvenient days of the week. I compare the cash cost to the ‘Avios plus taxes’ cost.
New York – £432 or 26,000 Avios + £301
Miami – £542 or 32,500 Avios + £301
Las Vegas – £771 or 32,500 Avios + £327
San Francisco – £627 or 32,500 Avios + £327
Barbados – £566 or 32,500 Avios + £271
Mumbai – £542 or 32,500 Avios + £297
Hong Kong – £814 or 39,000 Avios + £314
Singapore – £591 or 45,500 Avios + £320
The ‘pence per Avios’ score comes out like this:
New York – 0.50p
Miami – 0.74p
Las Vegas – 1.37p
San Francisco – 0.92p
Barbados – 0.91p
Mumbai – 0.75p
Hong Kong – 1.28p
Singapore – 0.60p
OK, some of these are poor. Getting 0.5p per Avios for the New York flight is no better than redeeming them for a hotel or wine, unless you value the ability to cancel that comes with an Avios ticket.
Some of the others are very good. 1.37p to Las Vegas, 1.28p to Hong Kong, 0.92p to San Francisco – I would be very happy with any of these. I do say consistently on Head for Points that I value my Avios at 0.75p so I know that I will never lose money when I redeem. I would certainly be willing to burn Avios on these routes if I wanted to travel and was faced with those cash prices.
Remember too that the prices I quote above the cheapest possible flights BA has during August. With Avios you might get a better timed flight that would cost more for cash than the prices I show.
BA, of course, has already worked out that these deals are pretty good. From January 2017, off-peak dates are being changed. No longer will Tuesday and Wednesday flights be off-peak every week. I am pretty sure that there will be zero off-peak days in August 2017 even though, ironically, with no full fare business travellers the planes are already flying on low yields.
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